A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Odds and Ends

By Quill

Missouri newspaper turns the page

The University of Missouri daily newspaper, The Missourian, is attempting to combine the best facets of online and print newspapers with a 10-week experiment, Peter Johnson reported in USA Today on March 1.

The Missourian’s online version, called an EmPrint, will feature pages that are entirely contained on the computer screen and that are taller than they are wide. Users will be able to “flip” the pages using side tabs, according to Johnson.

EmPrint’s designer, Roger Fidler, explained the need for a new version of online newspapers: “There’s a large niche out there that is not being filled, of people who have an appreciation for what a newspaper can provide but who are also much more digitally attuned these days.”

The study will look at how popular the online version is with both readers and advertisers and will become a permanent fixture at the university next fall if the experiment proceeds well, Johnson reported.

Court: reporters’ phone records are protected

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled that The New York Times has a right to protect its confidential sources by refusing to turn over its reporters’ phone records to a federal prosecutor, John Mintz reported in The Washington Post on Feb. 25.

That same day in The New York Times, Adam Liptak quoted part of Judge Sweet’s written decision as stating, “The reporters at issue relied upon the promise of confidentiality to gather information concerning issues of paramount national importance, The government has failed to demonstrate that the balance of competing interests weighs in its favor.”

Gail Appleson noted in a Feb. 24 article for Reuters that the case stemmed from the government’s quest for the reporters’ phone records in relation to the sources they used for various articles they wrote about Islamic charities.

Second shield bill introduced in Senate

A second shield-law bill, dubbed “The Free Speech Protection Act of 2005,” was introduced in the U.S. Senate within days of the first, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported on Feb. 17.

The bill introduced by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., followed an initial legislative attempt by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., to establish a shield measure that would protect journalists from prosecution for refusing to reveal confidential sources, the RCFP reported.

Dodd’s bill differs from the first in that it provides an absolute privilege to journalists concerning their right to conceal sources. It also expands the definition of a journalist and provides a wider classification of those who would be able to petition for protections under the shield law, the RCFP noted.

Survey brings light to journalists’ lives

An online survey conducted by the Poynter Institute revealed that work-life balances are both prevalent and troublesome for many journalists, Jill Geisler reported in Poynter Online on Feb. 28.

The survey’s findings were based on the responses of 750 journalists and revealed that various complaints such as “long hours, pressure to do more, missed vacations, (and) staff cutbacks” are leaving many journalists thinking of finding another profession.

Those most likely to consider leaving journalism are women, journalists of color and young journalists, according to the survey.

The survey also revealed that a majority of respondents were worried that if they acted on their work-life balance anxieties it would prove damaging to their career.

Army officer illegally closed hearing

An Army officer broke the law when he conducted a closed-door investigative hearing in relation to the 2003 murder of an Iraqi air force commander, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported Feb. 24.

The Denver Post fought the decision by Capt. Robert Ayers to close the hearing, which was to determine if three U.S. soldiers should stand trial in the slaying of Iraqi commander Maj. Gen. Abid Hamed Mowhoush. The RCFP reported that the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the newspaper.

The Court ruled that Ayers should have made the closure more narrow in order to protect classified information but should not have extended a blanket closure over the entire hearing, the RCFP reported.

Press stymied at Jackson trial

Restrictions on the media placed by the judge in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial will prevent an atmosphere similar to previous celebrity criminal trials, Paul Farhi reported in The Washington Post on Feb. 23.

Among restrictions imposed by Judge Rodney S. Melville are the banning of all television cameras and the setting aside of only seven seats in the courtroom for the media, according to Farhi.

The absence of cameras will mean that the public will not be able to watch all of the trial action unfold, as they were able to in previous trials such as O.J. Simpson’s, Farhi noted. Similarly, those associated with the trials, such as lawyers, witnesses, the judge and the accuser, will not become as well-known to the public.

Farhi also reported that Melville had banned all electronic communication devices, forcing reporters to hurry from the courtroom to their cameras outside whenever breaking news occurred.

Baltimore Sun suit against Gov. dismissed

The Baltimore Sun’s lawsuit against Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich was dismissed by U.S. District Judge William Quarles, The Associated Press reported in Editor and Publisher on Feb. 14.

The newspaper’s suit stemmed from a ban the governor placed on two Sun reporters that prevented all state employees from speaking with the two journalists. The governor claimed that the reporters were not objective, AP noted.

Italian journalist rejects U.S. account of shooting

The Italian journalist wounded by American troops in Iraq after her release by insurgents rejected the U.S. military’s account of the shooting and declined to rule out the possibility she was deliberately targeted.

According to a report in The Boston Globe, The White House said it was a “horrific accident” and promised a full investigation. Meanwhile, an autopsy performed on the agent who died trying to save Giuliana Sgrena reportedly showed he was struck in the temple by a single round and died instantly as the car carrying Sgrena sped to the Baghdad airport.

The shooting that wounded the 56-year-old journalist and killed Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari as they were celebrating her freedom has fueled anti-American sentiment in a country where people are deeply opposed to U.S. policy in Iraq.

NBC remains first in ratings game

Despite the departure of longtime anchor Tom Brokaw, NBC Nightly News has remained No. 1 in the ratings war for prime time network news watchers, Jacques Steinberg reported in The New York Times on Feb. 27.

There was some initial questioning as to whether new NBC anchor Brian Williams would be able to hold on to Brokaw’s lead, Steinberg reported. NBC’s main competition has been from ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. And though NBC retains an overall lead, some statistics suggest that the race may be tighter between Williams and Jennings in some other respects, according to Steinberg.

Steinberg noted that in the 25-54 year old demographic, Jennings had cut down Brokaw’s previous lead by almost two-thirds. This is especially relevant because that is the demographic sold to advertisers, Steinberg noted.

However, Steinberg noted that in a trend that has been in effect the past 10 years, all three major networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) lost viewers over a three-month span compared to the same period the previous year.

FCC backs off on indecency claims

A Veterans Day broadcast of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan did not violate decency laws federal regulators ruled, according to Todd Shields in Mediaweek.

Shields reported that the Feb. 28 decision by the Federal Communications Commission was made despite the film’s vigorous use of harsh profanity.

Shields quoted FCC Chairman Michael Powell as explaining that, “This film is a critically acclaimed artwork that tells a gritty story. The horror of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels.”

The complaints were filed by the American Family Association, a group that actively makes complaints in relation to broadcast material it finds offensive or indecent.

Shields also reported that the agency rejected other complaints that were more sexually related in connection with television broadcasts of Will and Grace and Arrested Development.

Miller, Cooper ordered to testify or face jail

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling of contempt against The New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time reporter Matthew Cooper. Both refused to testify in the Valerie Plame case, Carol D. Leonnig reported in The Washington Post on Feb. 16.

The ruling was unanimous by the three-judge U.S. Court of Criminal Appeals for the District of Colombia Circuit and brought Miller and Cooper closer to serving jail time for their refusal to reveal their confidential sources in relation to the case of the outed CIA agent, Leonnig reported.

Leonnig also noted that the panel’s decision was the first in more than three decades in which a federal court explicitly addressed a journalist’s supposedly inherent right to protect unnamed sources.

Lawyers for the reporters’ news organizations stated that they would continue their appeals all the way to the Supreme Court is necessary, Leonnig reported.