Media Literacy/Bias

Double standard: missing black women still get less media than whites

Jan Ransom, Black Politics on the Web

Average looking men, women and children from a variety of economic, social and ethnic backgrounds made up the more than 105,000 active missing persons in America last year, according to the National Crime Information Center. However, national media operations often fail to present what is in fact a very diverse missing persons population – African-Americans. And some observers believe race is the factor.

“There is a culture in America that tends to sympathize with the blond White woman instead of the braided black woman,” said Ernie Suggs, vice president of print for the National Association of Black Journalists. “There has always been a certain level of interest, a certain fascination with White missing persons … Americans identify with who they want to be.”

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The only way a reporter ought to look at a climate skeptic is down.

Alex Steffen, Worldchanging

Having wasted 20 years here in the U.S. on a completely non-factual "debate" about whether fossil fuels were implicated in climate change, it's a bit shocking to see this story by Azadeh Ensha, where an industry-funded spokesperson is allowed to get away with the statement, "It is beyond dispute that any connection between meat production and global warming is a false one."

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Do newspapers matter? Evidence from the closure of the Cincinnati Post

Sam Schulhofer-Wohl and Miguel Garrido, Princeton University

The Cincinnati Post published its last edition on New Year's Eve 2007, leaving the Cincinnati Enquirer as the only daily newspaper in the market. The next year, fewer candidates ran for municipal office in the suburbs most reliant on the Post, incumbents became more likely to win re-election, and voter turnout fell. We exploit a difference-in-differences strategy -- comparing changes in outcomes before and after the Post's closure in suburbs where the newspaper offered more or less intensive coverage -- and the fact that the Post's closing date was fixed 30 years in advance to rule out some non-causal explanations for these results. Although our findings are statistically imprecise, they demonstrate that newspapers -- even underdogs such as the Post, which had a circulation of just 27,000 when it closed -- can have a substantial and measurable impact on public life.

Read the complete paper here (pdf).

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The State of the News Media 2009

Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism

The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its latest annual report on the State of the News Media. The complete report examines trends in newspapers, online media, local TV and cable news, magazines and citizen journalism. As the report's introduction states at the outset, "some of the numbers are chilling..."

Newspaper ad revenues have fallen 23% in the last two years. Some papers are in bankruptcy, and others have lost three-quarters of their value. By our calculations, nearly one out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone, and 2009 may be the worst year yet.

In local television, news staffs, already too small to adequately cover their communities, are being cut at unprecedented rates; revenues fell by 7% in an election year—something unheard of—and ratings are now falling or are flat across the schedule. In network news, even the rare programs increasing their ratings are seeing revenues fall.

Now the ethnic press is also troubled and in many ways is the most vulnerable because so many operations are small.

Only cable news really flourished in 2008, thanks to an Ahab-like focus on the election, although some of the ratings gains were erased after the election.

Perhaps least noticed yet most important, the audience migration to the Internet is now accelerating. The number of Americans who regularly go online for news, by one survey, jumped 19% in the last two years; in 2008 alone traffic to the top 50 news sites rose 27%. Yet it is now all but settled that advertising revenue—the model that financed journalism for the last century—will be inadequate to do so in this one. Growing by a third annually just two years ago, online ad revenue to news websites now appears to be flattening; in newspapers it is declining.

What does it all add up to?

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Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable

Clay Shirky,

Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to on usenet; a 2000-person strong mailing list also reading pirated versions; and a teenager in the Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.” I think about that conversation a lot these days.

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Fairness Doctrine vote proves conservative noise machine still strong as an ox but twice as dumb

Harold Feld, Tales from the Sausage Factory

Conservatives take joy where they can these days, so no surprise they are busy patting themselves on the back for attaching to the DC Voting Rights Bill an amendment to prevent the FCC from reviving the “Fairness Doctrine.” It makes an interesting case study on a number of levels. First, how does the conservative echo chamber still manage to get a Democratic Senate to vote for an item pushed by conservative talk radio 87-11?

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Under weight of its mistakes, newspaper industry staggers

Howard Kurtz, Washington Post

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recalls getting "a feeling in the pit of my stomach" when he learned that the Rocky Mountain News was shutting down.

"Even when they were uncovering corruption in the city, even when they were embarrassing us or causing us discomfort, they were making the city better," he says. "It's a huge loss."

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New study finds that network TV election coverage favors Republicans

[Indiana University press statement]

A visual analysis of television presidential campaign coverage from 1992 to 2004 suggests that the three television broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- favored Republicans in each election, according to two Indiana University professors in a new book.

Their research runs counter to the popular conventional notion of a liberal bias in the media in favor of Democrats and against Republican candidates.

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Obama may lift media ban on military coffin photos

Washington Post

Every week, Air Force cargo jets land and taxi down the runway at Dover Air Force Base, Del., carrying the remains of fallen U.S. troops. After a chaplain says a simple prayer, an eight-member military honor guard removes the metal "transfer cases" from the planes and carries them to a mortuary van.

The flag-draped coffins are a testament to the toll of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of the sacrifice borne by those who serve in the military and their families. But this ceremony, known as the "dignified transfer of remains" and performed nearly 5,000 times since the start of the wars, is hidden from public view by the Pentagon.

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Hanson Hosein on Twitter, Tom Brokaw and new journalism

John Cook, TechFlash

An independent filmmaker and former war correspondent for NBC News, Hanson Hosein has seen a lot in his 39 years. He's been bombed on the Israeli border and won an Emmy for reporting in war-torn Kosovo. Through it all, there's been one constant: the need to tell stories.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey