PENTAGON PROMISES GREATER WAR ACCESS
Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson, acknowledged “severe shortcomings” that sharply limited reporting of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan in the fall and has pledged greater efforts to ease constraints on reporters in the field.
Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, issued a memo Dec. 6 to the Washington bureau chiefs of major news organizations.
“We owe you an apology,” Clarke wrote.
She pledged more public affairs officers with more seniority would be deployed in Afghanistan “to provide better and faster access to our troops there.”
The small pool of journalists in Afghanistan with a Marine detachment were barred from virtually all reporting of American casualties from a U.S. bombing raid gone bad on Dec. 5, according to Editor & Publisher.
The seven journalists at Camp Rhino, as the Marine base is known, were not allowed to interview survivors of the air strike that killed three soldiers. The reporters also could not talk to the doctors who treated survivors or the pilots who flew them to the base.
LAWMAKERS THREATEN TO BAN TV LIQUOR ADS
Lawmakers have asked NBC to reverse its decision to begin airing advertisements for distilled alcoholic beverages on television. On Dec. 20, lawmakers threatened that if the network does not cooperate, they would look into banning such ads, The Associated Press reported.
NBC lifted its voluntary ban on liquor advertising in mid-December, becoming the first major broadcast network to do so. It said it would start accepting ads for distilled beverages, breaking a longtime tradition of refusing the commercials to avoid being branded as socially irresponsible.
NBC has said it would require hard liquor advertisers to run public service messages about drinking for four months before their commercials air and would not accept commercials with active professional athletes.
Kassie Canter, an NBC spokesperson, said the ads will run only after 9 p.m. and when 85 percent of the audience is at least 21 years old.
Spokespersons for CBS, ABC and Fox said they were not planning to change their advertising policies “at this time,” according to the AP.
VIEWERS TUNE TO CABLE FOR BREAKING NEWSMAGAZINE ADS DROP AFTER ATTACKS
After Sept. 11, the plunge in last year’s magazine advertising significantly worsened, resulting in the worst quarter in more than a decade.
The December 2001 issues of 168 monthly magazines contained 17 percent fewer ad pages than December 2000. Five monthlies lost ad pages for every title that gained, according to Media Industry Newsletter, a publication that tracks the magazine business.
“It’s a terrible end to the year,” MIN editor in chief Steven Cohn said. “The December issues showed the first impact from Sept. 11 in a year when magazines already were hurting because of the big slump in technology advertising.”
It’s the first quarter in more than a decade that monthly ad pages declined by double digits – in this case by 11 percent. After four strong years, the monthlies’ total ad pages will be down 7.6 percent in 2001.
FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTS YAHOO
In an important Internet policy case, a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., ruled that Yahoo Inc. does not have to comply with a French order that it prevent users in France from seeing Nazi-related content on the Web site.
Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled the First Amendment protects content generated in the U.S. by American companies from being regulated by authorities in countries that have more restrictive laws on freedom of expression. He said that many Internet users in the United States often make postings or create content that would violate laws in other countries.
Greg Wrenn, Yahoo’s deputy general counsel, said, “It means that the ability of people in the United States to make information available on the Internet is ultimately going to be governed by the First Amendment, regardless of where it’s accessed, not the lowest common denominator of accepted content in all countries.”
France’s Union of Jewish Students and the International Anti-Racism and Anti-Semitism League sued Yahoo Inc. in 2000 for letting swastika flags and other Nazi collectibles be sold on its auction pages. French law bars the display or sale of racist material, according to the Dow Jones news service.
DECISION COULD HURT ONLINE JOURNALISTS
Free speech advocates are concerned that a federal appeals decision could have a chilling effect on online journalists who use hyperlinks to direct readers to relevant, newsworthy sites that contain illegal material. The critics are even more worried about an emerging double standard in the way courts treat traditional print publishers and their online offshoots, especially when it concerns printing a controversial address in a newspaper vs. linking to it from a Web page.
The New York Times reported that the high-level judicial guidance on the law of linking came about in a relatively overlooked part of a Nov. 28 decision in the so-called “ DeCSS” case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan ruled in favor of the Motion Picture Association of America in its lawsuit against Eric Corley.
The earlier injunction barred Eric Corley and his company, 2600 Enterprises Inc., from posting a software code designed to crack DVD-movie copy protection on their Web site and from knowingly linking their Web site to any other site on which the software, called DeCSS, is posted.
The appeals court held that the injunction did not violate the First Amendment rights of Corley, who publishes a magazine and affiliated Web site devoted to news about hackers. The latter part of the decision dealt with Corley’s links to the DeCSS code.
The federal appeals court said a hyperlink contains a speech component and an additional “nonspeech” component – some computer code – that can bring the content of the linked Web page to the user’s computer screen at the click of a mouse.
This instantaneous, functional nature of the hyperlink distinguishes it from its non-electronic print cousin, said the court, because a hyperlink to digital material can result in “instantaneous worldwide distribution [of prohibited material] before any preventative measures can be taken.”
PHILADELPHIA REPORTERS CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT
A Camden (N.J.) County judge has charged four Philadelphia Inquirer reporters with contempt for an article about the first trial of Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, who has been charged with soliciting the 1994 murder of his wife, Carol.
Judge Linda G. Baxter of Superior Court set Jan. 11 for a hearing on whether Neulander can be retried for capital murder, The New York Times reported.
Neulander’s lawyers argue that he should be exempt from the possibility of the death penalty in his second trial because his first trial for the 1994 murder of his wife ended in a hung jury in November.
Meanwhile, Baxter ordered the reporters to come before the top judge at the Camden County Courthouse on Jan. 16. They must tell Assignment Judge Francis J. Orlando Jr. why they should not be found in contempt of court for publishing the jury forewoman’s name after the trial.
Baxter had prohibited the media from naming or identifying any juror, according to The Associated Press.
Baxter also asked the attorney general’s office to consider whether to bring a contempt charge against Philadelphia magazine writer Carol Saline. During deliberations, Baxter reprimanded Saline for speaking with a juror. Saline told Baxter she had not intentionally violated the order barring contact with the jury.
NEWSPAPER CHALLENGES JUDGE’S BAN ON CLOLOR
A California newspaper says a judge’s order barring it from using color photographs of the defendants in a murder case is unconstitutional and tantamount to censorship.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune filed papers in mid-December challenging Judge Jerald Lasarow’s order that the newspaper run only black-and-white photos of the defendants to avoid influencing the jury pool.
The defendants, Lisa Ann Platz and James Csucsai, have been charged with kidnapping and murder in the death of Platz’s 9-year-old daughter, who was found dead with her throat slashed in a tent on Sept. 21.
The judge’s order came after defense attorneys asked to have the defendants appear in court in street clothes, instead of orange jail jumpsuits, so potential jurors who saw the photos in the newspaper wouldn’t presume Platz and Csucsai were guilty.
Although Lasarow denied the motion, he ordered the newspaper to run only black-and-white photos of the two, according to The Associated Press. Lasarow also prohibited the newspaper from running any photos of the defendants showing “jail-type insignia.”
James Houpt, an attorney for the Tribune, said the order has “constitutional violations of the highest magnitude.”
JOUNRALIST CHARGED WITH IMPERSONATION
A Santa Monica, Calif., journalist has been charged with impersonating federal officials to get documents in a case against two Japanese scientists accused of stealing research material.
On May 17, Avi Lidgi, 27, falsely identified himself three times to get a list of the government’s exhibits faxed to him, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Lidgi, of the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, got the secret list from prosecutors and defense attorneys, according to The Associated Press.
A Cleveland, Ohio, grand jury indicted Lidgi on charges of pretending to be a federal prosecutor and an assistant to a federal judge.
Lidgi faces up to three years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted.
He told The Plain Dealer he was unaware of the indictments and that his newspaper fired him.
The AP reported that Lidgi was a staff member of the Los Angeles bureau of the Yomiuri Shimbun, which has more than 10 million subscribers. The newspaper issued a statement saying it prohibits employees from falsely identifying themselves and that Lidgi acted on his own.
KANSAS COMPANY CONVERGES NEWSROOMS
Although a lot of newspapers are collaborating with local TV and online news operations in the name of convergence, few have gone so far as to move in together, and those that have tend to be in larger markets.
One exception is in Lawrence, Kan., where, in mid-fall, World Co. united the news functions of its 19,065-circulation Journal-World, its Web site and its 6News cable TV operation.
Convergence is one way for the family-owned company to stay competitive, according to Editor & Publisher, noting that bigger newspapers are based in Topeka to the west and Kansas City, Mo., to the east. Fully converged newsrooms such as this one are rare today, though.
However, with the federal media cross-ownership ban seemingly on the way out, Al Tompkins, who teaches convergence at the Poynter Institute, predicts they’ll grow more common.