A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Odds & Ends

By Quill

Journalists discuss benefits of embedding

U.S. military brass and many journalists found the process of embedding reporters in combat situations positive enough to use it again in the next big American conflict. This was largely the sentiment of those involved in a Military Reporters and Editors conference that met in October in Crystal City, Va., a Washington, D.C., suburb near the Pentagon.

Rear Admiral T. L. McCreary said the program will – on a long-term basis – maintain a “fascinating appeal” for the military. McCreary is a former spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Navy’s current chief information officer.

Many in the press were happy with the program but acknowledged that it better benefits the larger news organizations.

“It takes some numbers to make this thing right,” said Joseph Galloway, senior military correspondent of Knight-Ridder News, as reported by Agence France Presse.

Michael Gordon, chief military correspondent for The New York Times, said stories covered from the angle of an embedded reporter should be complemented by accounts taken from, perhaps, the enemy’s point of view. He admitted, however, that this is only feasible for the larger news organizations.

Study: FNC viewers show ignorance

Regular viewers of Fox News Channel are four times as likely to hold untrue positions about the Iraq war when compared to consumers of the Public Broadcasting System or National Public Radio, a University of Maryland Study released in October showed.

The university’s School of Public Affairs conducted the study, which was conducted from June through September and surveyed 3,334 Americans who receive their news from a single source, according to the Baltimore Sun. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford Foundation co-sponsored the study.

The survey respondents were judged on three basic responses: Saddam Hussein was directly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; weapons of mass destruction had (as of June-September) been found in Iraq; and that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had been favored by world opinion.

“When evidence surfaces that a significant portion of the public has just got a hole in the picture … this is a potential problem in the way democracy functions,” Clay Ramsay, research director for the Washington-based Program on International Policy Attitudes, told the Sun.

Colorado paper bows out of Kobe coverage

The media frenzy surrounding the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case in Eagle, Col., prompted one Colorado newspaper to largely bow out of Bryant coverage altogether.

Editors of the Aspen Daily News sent no reporters to cover Bryant’s preliminary hearing in Eagle Oct. 9, a move that displeased Aspen owner Dave Danforth, who co-founded the newspaper in 1978.

A front-page editorial said the paper was opting out of the “media mob,” The Associated Press reported. Editor Rick Carroll said the newspaper would cover stories only if they related to a settlement or verdict or if there was some connection to Aspen.

After announcing the decision, the newspaper almost immediately received more than 50 e-mails in support of the move, Carroll said. Many eventually ran in the “Letters” section on the newspaper’s Web site.

“I fully understand what they are saying, but we are no more going to change pack journalism than we are going to cure obesity,” Danforth told the AP.

Army ends its form letter campaign

The U.S. Army ended a brief campaign in October of sending identical letters to American newspapers, letters signed by individual U.S. soldiers that extolled the successes of the American occupation of Iraq.

An Army spokesman reported Oct. 14 that the unit distributing the letters had been instructed to stop.

At least 11 small and large newspapers throughout the United States printed the letters, commissioned by the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, who were stationed in northern Iraq’s town of Kirkuk in October, the Boston Globe reported.

Gannett News Services were the first to report that the form letters were identical to one another. They revealed that soldiers were not writing the letters, but instead senior military officers had issued them in an effort to spin a more positive message about the war in Iraq.

Wal-Mart carries weight in mag biz

In the days before Wal-Mart flexed its muscle in numerous sales areas, magazine publishers hardly gave the nation’s largest retailer a second thought.

But the giant now dominates conversations on everything from publishers’ hopes for new launches to worries about the vitality of their checkout titles.

Wal-Mart has become the single biggest retailer of magazine newsstand sales in the United States, accounting for about 15 percent of that market, according to Advertising Age.

Its conservative approach to potentially racy covers has publishers squirming. In May, it dropped magazines Maxim and Stuff from its newsstands, citing customer complaints, and did the same with EMap’s FHM.

Such concerns have become commonplace in the publishing world. Jack Kliger, president-CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Media US, which publishes Elle and Car and Driver, told Advertising Age: “I had someone pitch me a magazine – a somewhat sexy idea for a magazine.” All well and good – save for the one unspoken question hanging in the air. But before Kliger could ask, his suitor addressed the concern. “We have a solution to the Wal-Mart-sex question,” the individual said.

AOL increases ad budget to remain competitive

America Online announced in October it would more than double its U.S. advertising spending next year to $275 million in an effort to help its troubled brand compete with rising competition.

First reported in the Wall Street Journal, the company added that it also would put its account, previously handled by Interpublic Group’s Initiative Media, up for auction. By October, AOL had spent about $115 million on advertising.

AOL announced it wants to expand its marketing capabilities. For instance, it hopes to move the brand past traditional commercial buying and into areas such as spots on a variety of television shows.

Len Short, executive vice president of brand marketing for AOL, expressed concern that newer, rising products like TiVo have television viewers fast-forwarding programs so they can skip through commercials. While still the country’s largest online subscriber, AOL recently has faced slumping ad sales and consumer defections.

Editor resigns after Castro column is axed

When Gerson Borrero, 52, was told by his paper’s owners not to publish a column by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the editor of the largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in New York City resigned.

Borrero announced his resignation the same day Castro’s column, about Cuba’s public education system, was to appear in El Diario-La Prensa.

The piece had been promoted by the paper a couple days before it was scheduled to run Sept. 29.

“Obviously, it’s a position I am not willing to tolerate. I respect myself,” Borrero told the New York Daily News. “It’s their money, it’s their paper. They do as they please.”

Borrero said since the purchase of the nation’s oldest Spanish-language daily by new owners, “changes are coming, and I saw this as a sign of what’s coming.”

He will stay on at the newspaper as a columnist, a position he was offered when he resigned as editor.

Zimbabwe paper fights persecution

The Daily News, Zimbabwe’s last independent newspaper, is fighting to keep its daily operations alive in the courts and online. Founded in 1999, the paper had an incredibly high readership of about 800,000. But when the paper ran afoul this fall of President Robert Mugabe, its printing press was bombed and many of it editors, reporters and executives were detained by the government.

Mugabe first passed an act that restricted any Zimbabwe media outlet from operating without registering with the government. When the Daily News refused, the Supreme Court shut down its offices, where 127 computers were confiscated.

In an effort to combat the restrictive efforts, the newspaper established a Web site for a small majority of its Zimbabwe readers in South Africa, Online Journalism Review reported.

Despite the efforts, less than 1 percent of Zimbabwe’s residents have Internet access, so international readers and Zimbabweans living abroad will be receiving most of the news.

Boston reporter uses column to ‘come out’

A Boston Herald reporter who said he no longer wanted to be silent about the rampant homophobia in professional sports came out as gay in a column in October.

In the column, Ed Gray, a 55-year-old reporter for the tabloid newspaper, cited anti-homosexual comments made by NFL players Jeremy Shockey and San Francisco 49er Garrison Hearst. Hearst said he “didn’t want any faggots on my team,” while Shockey, a tight end for the New York Giants, called Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells a “homo.”

“I just got to the point where I didn’t want to be silent anymore,” Gray told The Associated Press. “In the sports world, homophobia is tolerated. … It’s the one minority that seems to be fair game.”

Gray primarily covers horse racing for the Herald, but has written on the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. Since his announcement, he fears being treated poorly by the athletes he covers.

Herald sports editor Mark Torpey said the paper stands behind Gray and his decision to come out openly in the newspaper.

Boyd: Newsrooms must stay connected

Newsrooms must strive for more diverse staffs, more accurate content and they must be open to self-examination if they hope to retain credibility, top editors of the nation’s newspapers were told Oct. 16 at the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Convention in Phoenix.

Among those spreading this theme was former New York Times Managing Editor Gerald Boyd, who resigned from the paper last summer in the fallout of the Jayson Blair fabrication scandal.

In light of the scandal, Boyd reminded journalists the importance of maintaining a commitment to diversity in newsrooms.

He was also concerned with what he called “a dirty little secret”: the fact that journalists tend to make better than average pay and be better educated, something that can disconnect them with readers, the Arizona Republic quoted Boyd as saying.

“We’re losing touch with real people,” Boyd said.