Thursday, June 30, 2005

Kenneth Tomlinson and monitoring of NPR and PBS guests

NPR ( reported this morning that the chairman of Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, secretly hired a consultant last year to monitor the comments made by guests on four NPR or PBS programs.

According to the report, the consultant, Frederick W. Mann, has conservative ties and was asked to analyze the political ideology of the guests. The report added that not only was the ideology of the guests checked but so too was whether they explicitly supported Bush administration policies.

The CPB has refused to release the official report, which was obtained by NPR and is available at (Access the "Monitoring PBS and NPR" link from the NPR home page and look for the "Mann Report.") The NPR report indicates that Tomlinson paid the consultant $14,000 but he did not seek approval from the CPB board before making the decision. He also, according to the report, failed to tell his senior staff about the expense.

Has Tomlinson finally crossed the line in his self-described effort to make public radio and television more balanced in its coverage?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Podcasting continues to be a newsmaker

From the International Herald Tribune...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

When the scientific community and governments collide

This blog generally is limited to comments and stories about the broadcast journalism world. However, this posting relates to a new study about the nation's milk supply that is being published in an academic journal despite strong reservations from the U.S. government.

It likely will not surprise the reader that I (as an educator) support the decision to publish this study. I was reminded as I read the story about a 2002 ABC News report that highlighted how easy it was for an ABC reporter to have a canister that could have been enriched uranium shipped into the country. The report by Brian Ross was excellent, and I regularly use it in my classes as a means of explaning various reporting techniques. However, I digress...

Ours is a society that is built on the notion of a free press and a free exchange of ideas. Only in the most unusual of circumstances should an argument be made that information obtained by a journalist or an educator or even a private citizen should not be disseminated to the public. I believe that this study about the nation's milk supply is not one of those times.

I welcome your comments.

Monday, June 27, 2005

RTNDA argues for shield law for journalists

I concur with RTNDA's position. Anyone not?

This press release was sent from the RTNDA office....

Supreme Court Ruling Underscores Need for Federal Shield Law
WASHINGTON—In the wake of today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to consider appeals on behalf of two reporters who have refused to divulge their confidential sources, the Radio-Television News Directors Association urges Congress to speedily enact a federal shield law for journalists.
The high court’s action leaves standing an earlier federal appeals court decision that says Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of The New York Times must testify before a federal grand jury about their confidential sources. The two had refused to reveal their sources to investigators trying to figure out who leaked the name of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media. They face up to 18 months in jail. RTNDA joined an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court on behalf of Cooper and Miller.
"The court’s decision makes the need for Congress to pass the Free Flow of Information Act all the more compelling," says Barbara Cochran, RTNDA president. "It is up to Congress to recognize that an informed citizenry and the preservation of news sources are of vital importance to a free society."
Cooper and Miller are two of the reporters who have recently faced orders from federal judges to reveal the identity of confidential sources. Local television reporter Jim Taricani of WJAR-TV in Providence, RI, spent 121 days under house arrest earlier this year for refusing to reveal his confidential source in an investigation of corruption in local government.
To date, 31 states and the District of Columbia have shield laws. The Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rick Boucher (D-VA), gives reporters the same protections against compelled disclosure of confidential sources by making existing guidelines mandatory, according to a statement issued by the legislators.
The Radio-Television News Directors Association is the world’s largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTNDA represents local and network news professionals in broadcasting, cable and other electronic media in more than 30 countries.

New Pew Reserarch Center survey

Good news and bad news for the media can be found in this report...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

VOA outsourcing?

The Chicago Tribune reports that more than a dozen Democratic senators are not happy with Voice of America because of its plans to shift some of its news operation overseas. Here is the report.,1,7229611.story

Any comments?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Potential finding cuts for CPB

Democracy Now aired an interview with three people who have clear opinions about what the proposed cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would mean for PBS stations across the country. The link to the transcript of the interview is contained here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

PBS and its editorial standards

PBS is making changes to its editorial standards. The link is provided below.

Was this move necessary? Or was it made in response to political pressure? Or both?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nielsen ratings and smaller markets

I was e-mailed this story by a friend...comments are welcomed!

Who Needs Ratings? Why Some Local TV Stations Abandon Nielsen
A media critique by Wayne Friedman, Monday, June 13, 2005

SMALL LOCAL TV STATIONS ALREADY find themselves in a death spiral ofcompetition, and some say Nielsen isn't helping by cutting the engine. Increasingly, many are losing ground to local cable operators on oneside and the Internet on the other. So, a number of small marketstations - from DMA's ranked 50 to 140 -- are canceling their NielsenMedia Research contracts, according to a Broadcasting & Cable article.

B&C doesn't put a count on it, just an assumption, that stations increasingly can do without Nielsen. Nielsen says that stations drop offthe grid periodically, then later get back on. But this environment may not be business as usual.

For years, Nielsen's credibility has been called into question,especially its handwritten diary method, which can be rife with inaccuracies, according to research experts. More recently, bigger markets complain its new local people meter (LPM) technology - intended to replace its diary - undercounts young and minority viewers; some bigger market Univision stations didn't buy Nielsen for six months. So, if you are in a small-market, say the 75th designated market area or below, struggling to even reach fourth place, what do you have to lose by cutting back some costs?

Small market stations pay anywhere from$50,000 up and major markets pay upwards of $1 million. These stations say they can use other research tools, other selling points such as program 'environment' to entice advertisers. Walking into a small local agency when your station is in fourth or fifth place, with a Nielsen book under your arm isn't much help in gaining business or increasing share. Local ad agency or media buyers are already buying up Nielsen - and using it against you.

Ironically, local stations hope to benefit from the competition's future technology tools. Local cable operators' digital set top cable boxes promise to offer a more accurate assessment of viewer information. And yes, by the way, both have mutual interests -- local stations, lest we forget, are carried on those cable systems. Poor Nielsen. It gets it on both ends. Not just for its age-old problems of the diary method, but with LPMs, the supposedly new and improved technology that will rid the business of the out-of-date diary method. Viewers still don't fill them out correctly, sometimes Nielsen has recruitment problems, and diaries sent out by Nielsen sometimes don't get to the intended Nielsen homes in time.

Years ago, one TV consultant who was working for WPIX in New York told me an eye-opening story about an old New York City woman who was a 'Nielsen home.' She couldn't get her TV to work and was a little befuddled. But she didn't call up Nielsen to fix the problem. She called WPIX. That's when a consultant - sort of tongue-in-cheek - gave her some interesting self-serving advice: "Well, the first thing you need to do is leave your TV set on 24 hours a day on WPIX," he said. "It'll clear things right up."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

CJR takes CNN and others to task

Those of us who have concerns about news coverage in general and international news coverage (or lack of same) in particular certainly noted this report.