MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO MAKES CUTS
Minnesota Public Radio, one of the largest public radio networks, will cut its budget and jobs this year.
MPR President Bill Kling said the network’s budget would grow by 6 percent in the 2002 fiscal year, which began last July, instead of 15 percent as expected.
Up to 13 people were being cut from a work force of about 350, but the network will have 15 more jobs than it had in fiscal year 2001, which ended June 30.
“Like all media companies here and nationally, we are feeling the effects of the recession because of an extreme reduction in advertising budgets,” Kling said.
Although MPR does not accept regular advertising, it does get revenue from businesses that underwrite programs and are mentioned on the air.
MPR, known for “A Prairie Home Companion” and other popular productions, said it still plans a major expansion of its St. Paul headquarters and production facility, The Associated Press reported.
MPR has 31 stations in Minnesota and surrounding states and nearly 87,000 paying members, more than any community-supported public radio network in the country.
TWO TENNESSEE STATIONS ELIMINATE LOCAL NEWS
Citing budget constraints, two Kingsport, Tenn., television stations stopped producing local newscasts in February.
George DeVault, president of Holston Valley Broadcasting Corp., said ABC affiliate WKPT-TV and UPN affiliate WAPK-TV would instead produce half-hour interview programs at least five days a week, The Associated Press reported.
Five jobs will be eliminated by the change, but DeVault said the company is “working diligently” to find jobs at another news organization for the workers.
DeVault said current business conditions, Federal Communications Commission regulations and the end of compensation from networks have “made it impossible for many small stations to maintain a traditional local news effort and still produce a modest profit for their shareholders.”
Holston Valley radio news will not be affected, DeVault said.
BAY AREA VIEWERS LOSE NBC NETWORK
More than 100,000 television viewers in the San Francisco Bay area no longer can watch NBC programs now that the network has cut ties with a local station that emitted stronger signals than its new affiliate.
As of Dec. 31, NBC dropped its affiliation with San Francisco-based KRON after the network bought KNTV in mid-December, according to The Associated Press. San Jose-based KNTV’s signal is too weak to blanket the San Francisco Bay area’s other major cities.
Unless they had cable or a satellite dish, many viewers in San Francisco and Oakland lost their NBC access. More than 2 million of the 2.4 million television households in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market have cable or a satellite dish, but others rely on antennas to catch the signal, according to NBC.
Even before NBC’s switch, the AP reported that 100,000 households could not get NBC programs from KRON due to the Bay Area’s mountains or other impediments.
Station managers say they hope to boost KNTV’s signal within a few years.
FOX SPORTS NET CUTS SHOWS AND JOBS
Fox Sports’ nightly “National Sports Report” and six editions of “Regional Sports Report” are being canceled in a major overhaul at Fox Sports Net.
The local evening shows are being eliminated in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, New England, Florida and Ohio. Rainbow Media Group, which owns and operates affiliates there, pulled the shows.
The changes will result in cutting 81 full-time employees across the six regional networks, Rainbow said Jan. 16.
FSN said it planned to run sports news breaks twice or four times an hour from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., beginning in mid-February. The reports would be shorter and similar to the updates heard on radio.
FSN, which went on the air in November 1996, reaches 78 million U.S. homes, about 8 million fewer than ESPN. Its ratings from 7-10 p.m. grew 8 percent from 2000 to 2001, according to The Associated Press.
WINSTON-SALEM NEWS DEPARTMENT ELIMINATED
Because of a weak broadcast signal that hampered advertising sales efforts, Sinclair Broadcast Group has shut down the news operations of WXLV-TV, the company’s ABC affiliate in Winston-Salem, N.C.
As many as 35 people will be laid off at the station, which serves the country’s 44th-largest TV market.
“We tried to make a go of it,” said Will Davis, group manager for Sinclair. “If the economy didn’t do what it did in 2001, we’d be OK.”
WXLV, which ran news at 6 and 11 p.m., had ranked fourth in the market in ratings and revenue.
Sinclair has unsuccessfully sought permission from the FCC to move WXLV’s broadcast tower to give the outlet better reach in Greensboro, the largest city in the market, MediaWeek reported.
WXLV is the third Sinclair station to eliminate news in just over a year, following ABC affiliate KDNL in St. Louis and NBC affiliate WTWC in Tallahassee, Fla.
AOL TO CLOSE SPORTS CHANNEL CNN/SI
AOL Time Warner Inc., the world’s largest Internet and media group, said that it plans to close sports cable network CNN/SI in the fall, The Wall Street Journal reported.
It was not known how many of the channel’s 190 workers would lose their jobs, but many of the 190 jobs associated with CNN/SI will be absorbed into CNN as part of the sports department for a new sports network, according to Reuters.
AOL will shut down CNN/SI sometime next fall, whether or not it closes the pending deal to make the network 50-percent owned by the National Basketball Association (NBA), The Wall Street Journal said in its Jan. 10 online edition.
CNN/SI is available in about 19 million homes but was never able to seriously challenge ESPN’s market dominance, the newspaper said.
As the NBA’s impact on broadcast television lessens, it has been looking for ways to extend its reach via cable.
HIGH COURT INTERNET RULING GIVES CABLE VICTORY
A federal agency can control rates that cable companies pay to install their high-speed Internet lines, the Supreme Court ruled Jan. 16.
The decision is a victory for the cable industry and could affect the availability and cost of online services, The Associated Press reported. Cable television companies pay utilities to attach wires for high-speed Internet service to the utilities’ poles.
A federal appeals panel had ruled that the Federal Communications Commission did not have the authority to regulate pole rental fees for Internet service, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision.
The cable industry had paid about $5 a pole annually to string and operate its wires with government regulation of the rates, according to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. After the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2000, one utility began charging $38 a pole, the association had said.
Association official Dan Brenner said the Supreme Court ruling “overcomes a potential impediment to broadband deployment, especially in rural areas.”
Justices also said cellular telephone companies are entitled to pay government-limited rates for attaching their equipment to utility poles.
COURT UPHOLDS BAN OF NEWSRACK FEE
A federal appeals court has upheld a judge’s order blocking Atlanta’s airport from requiring newspapers to sell only from city-owned newsracks bearing advertisements for Coca-Cola.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 4 that the city’s plan violated the First Amendment because it required the Coca-Cola advertising and illegally imposed a monthly fee of $20, more than the administrative cost of maintaining the news boxes, The Associated Press reported.
The judges also said that by choosing which newspapers could lease the newsracks, the city could infringe on speech and press freedoms.
City Attorney Susan Pease-Langford said the city may ask the full 12-member court to reconsider the ruling.
The case stems from a 1996 decision the city of Atlanta made when it was renovating Hartsfield International Airport in preparation for the Olympics. Officials adopted a policy to remove all boxes that newspapers had placed there, and then lease publishers city-owned boxes carrying advertisements for Coca-Cola.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today and The New York Times sued, claiming the plan violated First Amendment freedoms of the press.
JOURNALIST GROUPS SUPPORT REPORTER
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, SPJ and several other media organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a Minnesota sports reporter who was held in contempt for refusing to reveal anonymous sources who made critical comments about a high school football coach.
In November, a Ramsey County District Court judge ordered Wally Wakefield, a reporter for the weekly Maplewood Review in suburban St. Paul, to pay a $200 per day fine when he refused to identify confidential sources for a story written five years ago.
Minnesota has a shield law that generally protects reporters from revealing confidential sources. However, the law includes an exception for defamation cases in which a court can order disclosure.
“Any time a reporter is forced to identify a confidential source, the ability of the public to receive valuable information about important issues is threatened,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of Reporters Committee. “If the district court’s ruling is not reversed, journalists who are not parties in defamation cases can expect to be hauled into court with very little weight given to the interests of the press and the public in maintaining a free flow of information.”
The amicus brief argues that the defamation exception should apply only when the reporter is a party to the lawsuit. The Minnesota Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Minnesota Newspaper Guild Typographical Union also joined the brief.
ACLU SUES KEY WEST POLICE CHIEF
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Key West’s police chief on behalf of a newspaper publisher arrested after he ran articles alleging a cover-up of police wrongdoing.
Dennis Cooper, publisher and editor of the weekly Key West The Newspaper, stated in the Dec. 21 suit that Police Chief Gordon “Buz” Dillon arrested him illegally and violated his First Amendment rights. Cooper is seeking unspecified damages, according to The Associated Press.
Cooper had printed articles stating that a Key West police officer had lied under oath and an internal affairs officer had not conducted an investigation before clearing him of wrongdoing.
In addition, Cooper gave his evidence to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which began its own investigation of the officers, the AP reported.
Last June, Cooper printed an article about the FDLE investigation and an editorial criticizing Dillon for not taking action against the officers. The day the editorial appeared, Dillon obtained a warrant charging Cooper with violating a state law that makes it a misdemeanor for anyone involved in an internal police investigation to disclose information before it has been entered into public record.
Two weeks later, prosecutors dropped the charges because the law had been declared unconstitutional 10 years ago, the suit says.
COURT SEALS PORTIONS OF AUTOPSY REPORT
A district court judge in Golden, Colo., has ruled that graphic portions of the autopsy of Dylan Klebold, one of two Columbine shooters, will remain closed at the request of his parents.
Autopsy reports are not exempt under the Colorado Open Records Law, but a trial court may find that they can be withheld if disclosure would do “substantial injury to the public interest,” according to The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
In the Jan. 2 ruling, Judge R. Brooke Jackson rejected arguments by the Rocky Mountain News in Denver that the Klebold autopsy should be released because it could shed light on whether Klebold killed himself.
Jackson said the public’s interest in release of records on the Klebold death was irrelevant and that he would consider only whether the public has a substantial interest in withholding the records.
He noted that the Klebolds, like the parents of the victims, would be hurt by the disclosures. He said the community’s interest in not inflicting further pain upon parents who have lost a child would include the Klebolds.
Parents of Eric Harris, the other shooter, did not object to release of his autopsy report, and it was subsequently made public, RCFP reported.
TAMPA, SARASOTA CREATE NEWS-SHARING AGREEMENT
Two neighboring media organizations in south Florida have created a precedent-setting, story-sharing agreement.
In announcing the convergence, Richmond, Va.-based Media General Inc. and The New York Times Co. said a partnership will extend across three platforms – their newspapers, Web sites, and TV stations in the area around Tampa Bay on Florida’s Gulf Coast – for “content sharing, cross promotion, and co-sponsored events,” according to a joint release by the companies.
Media General’s The Tampa Tribune, WFLA-TV and TBO.com and The New York Times’ Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which owns SNN, Channel 6, and heraldtribune.com, will share their stories with each other. It is the first agreement of its kind, The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV8 reported.
Although the agreement costs nothing, it also does not save either company money, said Tampa Tribune Publisher Steve Weaver.
Sarasota Herald-Tribune Executive Editor Janet Weaver, who is not related to the Tribune publisher, said, “There’s an interest in some Tampa stories in Sarasota, and vice versa. There were only positives, as far as being able to extend the reach of both organizations’ journalism. So we can get more notice for the stories we’re doing here.”
The agreement could extend to sharing advertising, Steve Weaver said.
NEWSPAPERS CONTINUE TO CUT JOBS
The employee-owned Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, with a weekday circulation of 214,651, has 40 fewer employees after the newspaper carried out job cuts in early January. Editor & Publisher reported that the paper cited declining advertising revenue, caused by the recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as the reason for the reductions.
The Idaho Statesman in Boise laid off 19 workers and made two production changes in January, citing the worsening economy, according to The Associated Press. The Gannett newspaper employs 410 full- and part-time workers. Advertising revenues have declined in 2001 and are expected to be down well into 2002, the newspaper said.
Also in January, E.W. Scripps Co. executives told employees the company is eliminating 17 jobs at the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo., and its sibling semiweekly Broomfield Enterprise. The four Daily Camera newsroom positions that are being eliminated had been vacant for some months. The 33,718-circulation daily reduced head count last summer through a voluntary early-retirement offer, according to Editor & Publisher.
In Minnesota, the St. Paul Pioneer Press is offering buyouts to 24 employees in its circulation and editorial departments after a year when it had to endure dozens of staff cuts. The latest cost-cutting effort comes after 52 workers took similar offers to leave the paper, Editor & Publisher reported. In explaining the need for the additional cutback, Pioneer Press Publisher Harold Higgins said, “Business continues to be weak.”
MILWAUKEE PUBLISHER CLOSES WEEKLIES
As a result of the advertising recession, a subsidiary of Milwaukee’s Journal Communications shut down several weekly newspapers in mid-January, resulting in the elimination of 60 jobs, according to a report in the Jan. 16 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Add Inc. division is closing seven weeklies serving Appleton and surrounding communities but will continue to publish three shoppers. The 60 lost jobs include some part-time positions, according to the Journal Sentinel.
The combined circulation of the papers was 33,000.
One of the papers, The Times of Kaukauna, Sherwood, Buchanan, and Vandenbroek, was established in 1880. Add Inc. started the other titles in 1999.
JUDGE WON’T ALLOW TELEVISING TERROR TRIAL
A federal judge has denied a request for televised coverage of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In her Jan. 18 opinion, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she would not set aside a ban on photographing and broadcasting federal criminal proceedings, The Associated Press reported. The ban “does not violate the constitutional rights of either the public or the broadcast media,” she said.
Brinkema also cited security concerns in denying Court TV’s request to televise the trial in Alexandria, Va.
“Given the issues raised in the indictment, any societal benefits from photographing and broadcasting these proceedings are heavily outweighed by the significant dangers worldwide broadcasting of this trial would pose to the orderly and secure administration of justice,” the judge said in a written order.
Moussaoui’s lawyer, Edward MacMahon Jr., said at an earlier hearing that his client supported a televised trial with some restrictions. MacMahon said a televised trial would provide “an added layer of protection” for a fair trial.
Betsy Vorce, spokeswoman for Court TV, said the network might appeal. Meanwhile, Court TV chief executive Henry Schleiff said he was optimistic that Congress would soon pass legislation permitting cameras in federal courts, subject to the trial judge’s discretion.
Court TV had argued that a federal ban on TV cameras in the courtroom was unconstitutional.
The Justice Department opposed televising the trial, contending that a worldwide broadcast “might assist Al Qaeda in retaliating against the witnesses who testify against it.”
In her order, Brinkema said that the public’s right to access to the trial would be satisfied because some members of both the public and the news media would be able to attend. In addition, daily transcripts would be electronically available.
She also said the presence of spectators, jurors and a judge would ensure the integrity of the trial.
PENTAGON DENIES DECEIVING MEDIA
The Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman has said that reports about military missions in Afghanistan had led to confusion in January, but she denied that the public had been misled or deliberately deceived.
On Jan. 3, Assistant Secretary of Defense Victoria Clarke said, “Over the last few days, there have been a lot of stories about activity in Afghanistan, and I fully admit some of it has been confusing.”
News organizations, including The Associated Press, had reported that Marines in combat gear had left their air base near Kandahar aboard helicopters, and interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said an effort was under way to capture Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., told other reporters there was no such mission, according to The Associated Press.
Clarke restated Pentagon policy on public statements. “We try hard to give you information, when we can, that tells you something has happened when it won’t do any harm to a future operation, “ she said. “But, in general, we’re not going to get into operational details.”
CBS AIRS CLIPS DESPITE PENTAGON ORDER
Most major news organizations abided by an order Jan. 11 from Pentagon officials not to transmit images shot the previous day of masked and chained prisoners in Afghanistan.
However, CBS News had planned to air footage on its Jan. 11 “Early Show” and then reconsidered. The network finally decided to include the grainy clips that were less than 10 seconds long on the “Evening News.”
Spokeswoman Kelli Edwards said CBS News “has evaluated these pictures and made a news judgment to broadcast them in a responsible way, mindful not to jeopardize national security.”
Although CNN did not air its footage, it did show images shot Jan. 9 of masked prisoners.
Photographers and camera crews from CNN, CBS, The Army Times and other organizations were allowed to take pictures of the 20 prisoners in Kandahar as they boarded a C-17 cargo plane for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
However, the journalists had to agree not to transmit the images until military officials gave permission, The Associated Press reported.
A Pentagon spokesman said the decision was made because the Red Cross raised an objection, contending the images would violate international laws on the treatment of prisoners. But officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva said the organization had not contacted the Pentagon about photographs taken in Afghanistan, according to the AP.
“We have not raised this as an issue,” said Vincent Lasser, a Red Cross spokesman. “They may have our stance on the issue in their files, but we did not raise an objection.”
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said, “The Geneva Convention prohibits humiliating, debasing photos. We need to be cautious in case there is a legal action somewhere downstream.”