A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Odds & Ends

By Quill

CBS refuses to run Schwab ad

Now that their sales practices have come under fire, Wall Street stock brokerages seem to have found an ally in CBS-TV, according to The Associated Press.

The network has refused to run a Charles Schwab commercial making fun of an industry sore spot – allegations that commission-driven brokers sometimes recommend stocks known to be poor investments.

Analysts said CBS’s decision illustrates the power of Wall Street’s financial clout at a time when revenue-starved media outlets are reluctant to alienate major advertisers.

However, CBS spokesman Michael Silver said Merrill Lynch’s advertising relationship with the network did not sway CBS.

The other television networks are airing the Schwab commercial, which is part of a new advertising campaign that was launched May 16.

The ad features an executive urging brokers at an unidentified firm to tell customers that a stock is “red hot” even though the fundamentals “stink.” The derogatory language echoes descriptions used by Merrill Lynch analysts in e-mail discussions of stocks recommended as good investments to the firm’s customers, the AP reported.

In May, Merrill Lynch paid $100 million to settle allegations that it recommended the stocks of troubled companies in order to win lucrative investment banking fees.

San Francisco-based Schwab said the commercial wasn’t triggered by the early April revelation of the Merrill Lynch e-mails.

‘Evergreens’ turn on writers

Keeping a story under wraps for too long can be risky, and these ‘evergreens’ sometimes can turn on you, just as one did with the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The newspaper ran a nice feature on a toymaker in June without knowing that he had died a week earlier.

In a small obituary buried in the B section the next day, the Union-Tribune acknowledged that the body of the 65-year-old toymaker had been discovered at his workshop on June 7. He had been dead for several days, apparently from natural causes, Editor & Publisher reported.

This sort of thing has happened before.

In her book “And So It Goes,” former TV news anchor Linda Ellerbee explains how the NBC show “Overnight” once ran a timeless story that had been on the “hold” shelf for a while. The station that submitted the story called to say the reporter had died six weeks earlier.

“They just thought we’d like to know,” Ellerbee said.

Israel to keep CNN, BBC on air despite protests

YES, a leading Israeli satellite company, said it would continue to carry CNN International, as well as BBC World, despite public calls to pull the two news channels off the air for alleged pro-Palestinian bias, Reuters reported.

Israeli news media had indicated that a consortium of cable companies and YES were considering dropping CNN.

“We are not censors and will not decide for our subscribers what to see and what not to see,” CEO Shlomo Liran said in a statement.

But a director of the satellite provider, Ido J. Dissentshik, said he would propose taking BBC World out of the basic package of channels the Israeli satellite company offers subscribers and make them pay separately to watch it, according to Reuters.

At least partly in response to protests about its coverage from Israeli government officials and viewers, CNN adopted a formal policy in June to avoid the use of videotaped statements by Palestinian suicide bombers.

Executives at the Cable News Network dismissed reports that CNN might be removed from the air in Israel and said it retains strong relationships with Israel’s satellite and cable distributors, The New York Times reported. However, Eason Jordan, the top news executive at CNN, flew to Israel in late June for consultations with Israeli officials about covering the conflict.

A quote from CNN founder Ted Turner triggered the anger expressed by the Israeli public and media.

In a recent interview with a British newspaper, Turner equated Israeli military actions with the suicide bombers, saying, “I would make the case that both sides are engaged in terrorism.”

The remarks, published on the morning of a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 19 people, also led Israel’s three cable companies to weigh taking CNN off the air. He later apologized for the statements that were printed in The (U.K.) Guardian.

Meanwhile, cable news’ turf war tumbled into the Middle East in June when YES added Fox News to its lineup, just one day after Turner’s inflammatory remarks, according to Reuters.

Bush postpones auction of airwaves

President Bush signed a law postponing the June 19 scheduled auction of space on the airwaves for wireless telephone and Internet services.

Wireless companies sought the delay because they need the airwaves but worry that the spectrum to be auctioned might not be open to them for many years, or could prove too costly to obtain.

Station owners such as Paxson Communications Corp. wanted the auctions to go forward now. Many stations planned to make money by relinquishing their airwaves early to the license winners.

As part of the transition to digital TV, broadcasters are required by law to give up the spectrum. But they don’t have to relinquish their hold until January 2007 or whenever digital TV reaches 85 percent of the television market, whichever comes first, The Associated Press reported.

Now the Federal Communications Commission will have to determine when that auction and another for channels 60 to 69, currently set for January, should be held.

An exception was made for some frequencies of particular interest to rural areas in need of wireless service – Congress said those frequencies should be auctioned late this summer.

Congressional committees have been discussing how best to allocate the nation’s available airwaves between wireless companies, emergency service providers and the Defense Department.

Reporters fined, sentenced for talking with jurors

Four Philadelphia Inquirer reporters were fined $1,000 after being found in contempt of court for disobeying a judge’s order not to interview or identify former jurors in a high-profile New Jersey murder case. Three of them also were sentenced to several days of community service.

Camden County Superior Court Judge Theodore Z. Davis, who found the reporters in contempt on June 17, handed down the sentences June 20.

The reporters, George Anastasia, Joseph A. Gambardello, Emilie Lounsberry, and Dwight Ott, were each fined $1,000, the Inquirer said.

In addition, Lounsberry, Ott, and Anastasia were sentenced to 180 days in jail, but those sentences were suspended. Instead of jail time, Judge Davis ordered Lounsberry and Ott to perform 10 days of community service. Anastasia was ordered to perform five days of community service.

Inquirer Editor Walker Lundy, who slammed the punishment, said that the sentences would be appealed.

“I’m stunned that in this country you can be sentenced for asking somebody a question,” Lundy said in a statement. “I do not believe this will stand.”

In December, the reporters were charged with contempt for violating Superior Court Judge Linda Baxter’s order not to interview or identify in print jurors from the murder trial of Rabbi Fred J. Neulander. The rabbi, whose trial ended with a hung jury last fall, is accused of killing his wife in a case that has received international attention, The Associated Press reported.

Neulander will be retried later this year.

‘must carry’ laws affect Satellite companies

The U.S. Supreme Court in June refused to hear an appeal asking it to consider giving satellite television companies the decision-making power to choose which local stations to air.

Justices rejected the companies’ arguments that they had a free speech right to broadcast what they want.

Satellite companies, like cable TV systems, now will have to follow the same “must carry” rules.

In 1997, the high court ruled 5-4 that cable TV systems could be forced to carry local stations. The rule protects small, independent broadcasters and keeps companies from dropping the less popular ones and adding new channels, according to The Associated Press.

Under the Federal Communications Commission rules, satellite companies must run all local stations if they choose to carry one. However, the companies still can decide not to carry any local stations at all.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association argued that satellite companies are different from cable systems.

Most Americans have either cable or satellite television service, and the Bush administration said the rules should be comparable for both.

The Bush administration told the court that satellite customers would need a separate antenna to be able to pick up some local stations if the satellite companies were allowed to pick the most popular among local stations.

More media companies cut jobs, publications

As Reuters began cutting 650 management jobs this summer, Dow Jones stopped publishing Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly and Ziff Davis shut down Smart Business.

News and information provider Reuters is slashing management jobs in an attempt to save $150 million a year, The Associated Press reported.

Reuters made the announcement in late June and said the elimination of senior and middle-level posts around the world would “reduce organizational complexity by removing layers of management.”

Reuters employs about 19,000 people worldwide and has eliminated 1,800 jobs in the past year as part of a campaign to streamline operations and reduce costs.

Reuters, which provides news and data services to the media and financial markets, has been hurt by the global economic downturn. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks also had a major impact on the company, costing about $24 million in lost revenue, The Associated Press reported.

On July 1, Dow Jones published the last issue of Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly, which provided North America with business news from the Asian-Pacific region for 23 years, according to the AP.

Wall Street Journal spokesman Steve Goldstein said the Asian Journal Weekly was “a very small weekly publication that was printed in America to people who had an interest in Asian issues. It’s no longer productive to put out that publication.”

Although circulation had increased 63 percent in the past five years, from 8,526 in 1996 to 13,900 in 2001, Goldstein said the growth of Dow Jones’ global operations and the Online Journal made continuing with the weekly impractical.

Meanwhile, Ziff Davis published its last issue of Smart Business in June. The business technology magazine, formerly known as Smart Business for the New Economy and before that, PC Computing, never really took off.

The 800,000-circulation monthly was hammered last year by the dot-com bust, Mediaweek reported, and Ziff executives did not see a turnaround anytime in the near future, according to Mediaweek.

In addition, readers and advertisers never really embraced the May 2000 repositioning of PC Computing to a tech-style Fortune or Forbes.