Category Archives: Media Industry

World Press Freedom Index 2015

Reporters Without Borders said it had found a “worrying decline” in the freedom of the press in 2014 across the world, and that the EU had received its largest ever spread of rankings.

The report has been published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders, an international nonprofit organization registered in France that defends freedom of information and has consultative status with the United Nations and UNESCO.

See The World Press Freedom Index 2015.

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Walter Cronkite Biography

Harper Collins just came out with a new, substantial biography of Walter Cronkite.

From the publisher’s release: “Douglas Brinkley presents the definitive, revealing biography of an American legend: renowned news anchor Walter Cronkite. An acclaimed author and historian, Brinkley has drawn upon recently disclosed letters, diaries, and other artifacts at the recently opened Cronkite Archive to bring detail and depth to this deeply personal portrait. He also interviewed nearly two hundred of Cronkite’s closest friends and colleagues, including Andy Rooney, Leslie Stahl, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Brian Williams, Les Moonves, Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, Bob Schieffer, Ted Turner, Jimmy Buffett, and Morley Safer, using their voices to instill dignity and humanity in this study of one of America’s most beloved and trusted public figures.

For decades, Walter Cronkite was known as “the most trusted man in America.” Millions across the nation welcomed him into their homes, first as a print reporter for the United Press on the front lines of World War II, and later, in the emerging medium of television, as a host of numerous documentary programs and as anchor of the CBS Evening News, from 1962 until his retirement in 1981. Yet this very public figure, undoubtedly the twentieth century’s most revered journalist, was a remarkably private man; few know the full story of his life. Drawing on unprecedented access to Cronkite’s private papers as well as interviews with his family and friends, Douglas Brinkley now brings this American icon into focus as never before.

Brinkley traces Cronkite’s story from his roots in Missouri and Texas through the Great Depression, during which he began his career, to World War II, when he gained notice reporting with Allied troops from North Africa, D-day, and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1950, Edward R. Murrow recruited him to work for CBS, where he covered presidential elections, the space program, Vietnam, and the first televised broadcasts of the Olympic Games, as both a reporter and later as an anchor for the evening news. Cronkite was also witness to—and the nation’s voice for—many of the most profound moments in modern American history, including the Kennedy assassination, Apollos 11 and 13, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and the Iran hostage crisis.”

Here is Patt Morrison’s radio interview with Douglas Brinkley.

ISBN: 9780061374265; ISBN10: 0061374261; Imprint: Harper ; On Sale: 5/29/2012; Format: Hardcover; Pages: 832; $34.99.

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For Sale? For Real?

This morning a company based in the Los Angeles area made history: for the first time, a commercially developed launch vehicle had sent a commercially developed capsule to the space station. (There was global media coverage).

And this is the Los Angeles Times at my local newsrack this morning.

Photo: Reinhard Kargl. Click to enlarge.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the complex strategies and business of newspaper publishing. I am only a humble journalist writing about science and technology. But even I can see that this presentation is no remedy for stagnating sales.


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Journalist Toll Of 2011

Given the public uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the military campaigns in Afghanista and Pakistan, and the drug conflict in Mexico, last year was particularly bloody. Reporters sans frontières has released its annual tally.

66 journalists and 2 assistants were killed in 2011, which is slightly more than in 2010.

1,044 journalists were known to be arrested, which is almost double the number of 2010. The hotbeds were certainly the events of the “Arab Spring” during 2011. But reporters were also arrested, summoned to court and interrogated in connection with the demonstrations in Greece, Belarus, Uganda, Chile and the Occupy Wall Street protests in the USA.

“In some countries, bloggers have taken on a central role,” says Michael Rediske, the head of the German section of Reporters Without Borders. “Especially when conventional media are strongly censored or international journalists are not allowed into the country.”

But the organization warns that Internet activists reporting in blogs, on Twitter or via Facebook have increasingly attracted the scrutiny of authorities and of violent groups. Five Internet activists are reported to have died in 2011, three of them in Mexico. 199 bloggers were arrested, and 62 were physically assaulted.

Rediske also points out that the number of countries with Internet censorship has risen from 62 to 68.

The most dangerous countries for journalists in 2011: Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Mexico.

Link: Reporters Without Borders (English Site)

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Fired: Jim Ladd, America’s Last Unrestricted Radio DJ

As a result of an industry shakeup and a series of corporate mergers and acquisitions in the American media landscape, legendary Los Angeles radio DJ veteran Jim Ladd has been fired from his post at KLOS (95.5 FM). Ladd was the last mainstream DJ in America who had complete control over the music he played.

In the North American radio world, it has become common to generate playlists by computer algorithms. The software tracks programming, marketing and demographic trending data. In essence, this means that most on-air personnel has little or no creative choice left, but must pick from a programming list generated by a corporate computer system and designed to please the advertisers.

Explanation for those of you not connected to the media industry: commercial broadcasting in America views programming and creative personnel as cost of doing business. Their only purpose is to make viewers and listeners stick around for the commercials, which is the real product the industry is selling. And in case you are wondering why American commercial stations tend to play the same music tracks over and over: the computer generates playlists designed to attract a specific target audience, because specifically targeted commercials are more attractive to advertisers, and therefore command higher prices.

Since the fall of FCC restrictions that once existed to preserve diverse and independent ownership of commercial radio stations, a huge consolidation wave has set in. Today, commercial stations are usually owned by larger multi-media corporations.

Case in point: KLOS was owned by Nevada based Citadel Broadcasting (which also owned KABC), which in turn was just taken over by Cumulus Media, headquarted in Atlanta, GA.

The Los Angeles area is the largest radio market in the United States.

My take: The bean counters running commercial media conglomerates are killing network TV and terrestrial radio with their blatant lack of understanding for emerging technologies. There is now a whole new generation of people completely married to the Internet and to their mobile devices.

I could, for example, download a BBC news program or a program on Chinese opera into my iPhone, then listen to it on my car stereo on the way to work. Or, with wireless Internet, I could stream tens of thousands of radio programs from all over the world — on my phone. At home, I could do the same over my WiFi network. There are even dedicated Internet radio sets which plug into an Internet router (or connect to a WiFi network) instead of a regular antenna. (For example:

With all these options, why should I listen to an impersonal, bland computerized playlist and unappealing commercials from a local, terrestrial broadcaster who plays the same tracks over and over? (If I like these tracks, I probably have them in my iTunes already).

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Photojournalists At Work

Somehow it seems that these guys were having more fun than their counterparts from today. I love the ties! (Seriously — I collect vintage ties from the 1930s to the 1950s).


Waiting for the shot at Lincoln Heights jail house, circa 1948. Photograph © Los Angeles Times Archive. Click to enlarge.

This pictures is from the Los Angeles Times archive. See more more from the series here.

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Sharing Audio Files

I have long been wondering why there isn’t something like YouTube – but for high quality sound files instead of video. Now there is. The German firm SoundCloud has just opened offices in San Francisco.

SoundCloud allows users to upload just about any audio format, host it in the cloud, and share it over social networks, private sharing, or HTTP embedding. Listeners can be allowed to post comments, re-share a file, download or purchase files.

The service was originally created for musicians who wish to share their files, but I think it will also be extremely useful for radio reporters and those who want to embed sound files in their blogs or social media sites. In addition, direct web sharing can turn a small portable device into a sound recorder with virtually unlimited recording capacity.

SoundCloud is a lot simpler and more flexible than other audio file hosting services, for instance the one offered by AvidAudio, the makers of ProTools.

Unique is also that SoundCloud offers simple apps for portable devices. For instance, the iPhone app places a ‘record button’ on the iPhone, which allows direct recording to the cloud.

There are also plenty of related apps for the iPad, one of which turns the iPad into a portable recording and sound editing studio, which allows direct recording to the cloud.

Basic SoundCloud accounts are free.

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The Journalist Toll of Covering the Revolution in Egypt

76 journalists imprisoned
52 journalists physically attacked and injured
1 brutally beaten and gang raped (Lara Logan, CBS Television)
1 killed (Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ta’awun)

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists, CBS and others.

Personal addendum: I find it objectionable, irresponsible and revolting that TV execs allow women to cover war zones. You are not convincing me that this is necessary to produce good reporting. I believe the motives are political correctness and, above everything else, the hope for better ratings.

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