A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Odds & Ends

By Quill

FCC approves Hispanic broadcast merger

The Federal Communications Commission approved the merger of Hispanic TV’s UnivisiÛn Communications and the nation’s top Spanish language radio corporation, Hispanic Broadcasting, on Sept. 22. The action, approved 3-2 along party lines by the FCC, creates a new media superstar.

If the FCC vote was any indication, the measure had both its backers and dissenters. Supporters say the new company will be better equipped to compete for advertising against America’s English-language networks. The approval joins 68 Hispanic radio stations with 32 UnivisiÛn broadcasting networks.

The long-sought-after collaboration has waited over a year for federal approval. The two Democrats on the FCC dissented from their Republican colleagues, saying in a statement that the move has the likelihood “to assume something close to monopoly power,” Mediaweek reported.

Some media researchers were concerned that Hispanics would lose more than they would gain from the merger.

Seattle Times planned to wipe out P-I

The Blethen family, major owner of The Seattle Times Co., had a goal of running the Seattle Post-Intelligencer out of business since 1985, Times Co. documents released in September show.

In a document titled “Strategic Discussion Outline,” prepared for a meeting of the Blethen Corp. in January 2003, two of the family’s long-range goals in 1985 were “no JOA (joint operating agreement)” and “move to a one-newspaper agency,” independent reporter Bill Richards, writing in the Times, reported Sept. 9.

Richards is conducting freelance reporting for the Seattle Times in its dispute with its joint operating agreement partner, the Post-Intelligencer, according to The Associated Press.

Richards obtained the document through King County Superior Court filings by The Hearst Corp. Sept. 8 in Seattle. Hearst owns the Post-Intelligencer.

The two papers are locked in a legal struggle over the future of their JOA. Each company has predicted it could be sold or shut down if the other wins.

Women grads aren’t in newsrooms

The good news for women in journalism is that they continue to take journalism schools and mass-com programs around the country by storm. The bad news?

They’re not being rewarded with jobs.

Statistics compiled by the Boston Globe show that in 2002, women took up 64.1 percent of the desks in journalism programs throughout the country. But the work force still shows male-dominated newsrooms throughout America, and the overall percentage of women in journalism has actually decreased slightly over numbers compiled two decades ago.

For those jobs women are finding, numbers compiled by the University of Indiana’s American Journalist Survey last year found that more than 40 percent of women in journalism are working for news magazines while the smallest percentage (about 20 percent) are working for wire services.

Many more female newspaper editors, as well, are talking about leaving their jobs for editorial positions at other newspapers, or leaving the news industry altogether. Men are reporting much less of the same.

BBC reporter admits Blair coverage mistakes

Testifying at a public inquiry in Britain in mid-September, BBC radio journalist Andrew Gilligan conceded he made several mistakes in original broadcasts that suggested Prime Minister Tony Blair’s aides had exaggerated the case for war with Iraq.

Gilligan admitted that he misidentified source David Kelley as a member of a British intelligence agency. He also admitted to not speaking up when BBC defended many of his claims, including ones he knew were false.

Gilligan was speaking Sept. 17 before an inquiry into Kelly’s death.

Prior to the inquiry, BBC had been embroiled with Blair’s office for more than three months on the accuracy of Gilligan’s report, which presented a potential pitfall to Blair’s credibility. The report in question aired on BBC May 29.

The Washington Post reported that BBC intends to tighten editorial rules, including requiring review by BBC lawyers of potentially sensitive reports and will end unscripted exchanges between anchors and reporters on such subjects.

Fake obit fails to keep man out of jail

In an effort to evade the law and annoy one Minnesota newspaper, Robert Michael Mathison, 50, sent his own obituary to the Pioneer Press. Mathison apparently has a history of such stunts – the charges he was evading stemmed from a case in June where he faked a heart attack upon arrest.

An obituary in the Pioneer Press on July 15 read: “Mathison, Robert M. Age 50 of St. Paul Died on July 12, 2003. Loved by everyone; loved everyone. Survived by 3 sons, Shawn, Jeremiah, Ryan and daughter Courtney. Private services.” (sic)

Mathison was in the Washington County (Minn.) Jail Aug. 27 after authorities had realized his obituary was a fake.

The newspaper said police also believe Mathison faked himself as a lawyer named “Mr. Isabella” in sending a fax, informing an area judge that Mathison had passed. Instead of dismissing charges against the “dead” man – which included felony fourth-degree assault and obstructing the legal process with force – the judge simply added the fax to Mathison’s already-loaded court file.

The obituary fee hasn’t yet been paid.

Small paper redefines itself online

A small Kansas weekly sought to innovate when it found its subscribers turning to other news sources and seemingly taking the advertisers with them. The immediate options were grim for The Hesston Record: shut down the 70-year-old weekly or figure out a new way to survive, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

In moving toward a trend it seems many news Web sites are heading, Record Publisher Bob Latta took his paper and stopped printing it as a weekly – then asked viewers to read the paper online only, and for a price.

While the paper still will be printed twice a month, the remainder of the regular content can be found only online. It’s a bold move for Latta, particularly in a town of only about 3,500. But the publisher still believes that the Record is Hesston’s best, and basically only, source of hometown news.

“I think there’s a lot of awareness of the Internet,” Latta told the Journal-World. “A lot of people have computers and are comfortable with them, perhaps more than the normal town. I don’t have anything to base that on, but it’s my impression. It’s also my hope.”

NYT editor becomes ‘standards editor’

In the restructuring of The New York Times following the Jayson Blair fabrication scandal last spring and as a prelude to naming an ombudsman, Allen Siegal was named standards editor of the newspaper in September. Siegal, 63, who will retain his position of assistant managing editor, will help oversee journalistic standards and corrections at the newspaper.

Siegal was the man in charge of overseeing a 28-person committee that investigated the Blair scandal.

The committee called for new positions of public editor (ombudsman), standards editor, and staffing and career development editor.

Siegal will also oversee creation of new guidelines for the use of anonymous sources, bylines and datelines, according to The Times.

He joined the newspaper as a copy editor and worked his way up to a foreign editor position, working on the Pentagon Papers story in 1977. He also has served as news editor, Editor & Publisher reported.

FBI seeks notes from hacker interviews

After an investigation into a computer hacker who broke into the restricted intranet of The New York Times, an FBI spokeswoman warned in September that reporters who had talked to the hacker could have their notes confiscated.

The case offers an ironic twist, given that The Times, assumed by many to be the nation’s newspaper of record, is helping to spearhead an investigation that could lead to journalists’ privilege being revoked.

On Sept. 19, FBI spokeswoman Christine Howard told a Wired News reporter to surrender all notes related to stories about the hacker, Adrian Lamo, 22.

The publication offered a profile of the Sacramento, Calif., native in March 2002.

Howard said her office had gained approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to seek any and all reporters’ notes pertaining to interviews with Lamo. Howard said assertions of Lamo’s guilt can be proven in quotes given to MSNBC, The Associated Press and ComputerWorld.

SF editor asks for political donation back

The business editor of a San Francisco Bay area television station contributed $1,000 to the gubernatorial campaign of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger because his wife wanted to attend a fund-raiser so she could meet the movie star.

After inquires from The Associated Press, Brian Banmiller of KTVU Channel 2 News asked the Schwarzenegger campaign if it could return the money, the wire service reported in September.

Ed Chapuis, news director at the Oakland-based station, told the AP about Banmiller asking for a return of his donation. Chapuis said his reporter “made the right decision” in seeking a return. Banmiller violated no existing station policy, although guidelines for employees would be drawn up, Chapuis said.

Sylvia Fox, a journalism professor at California State University, told the AP the days when reporters didn’t even vote in a political primary in efforts to stave off perceived bias have loosened. “… I do hear more people talking about, ‘Do you have to give up being a citizen to become a reporter?’ “