Public interest groups take a critical look at broadband mapping

As the Washington State Legislature considers measures designed to make use of federal broadband stimulus funds for broadband mapping and deployment, a new report urges caution in how such funds are spent. The $350 million broadband mapping program required by the recent federal stimulus bill would be set back if there is widespread participation in it by a group called Connected Nation, according to the report issued jointly by a number of public interest groups including Public Knolwedge and Reclaim the Media.

According to the report, "It would be a setback for our broadband policy if Connected Nation were to take a prominent role in broadband mapping and data collection if it continues on its present policy course because the organization does not represent wise public policy and because it distorts its results."

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Imagining a National Endowment for Journalism

Ted Glasser interviewed by Josh Wilson, On Public Media/Independent Arts and Media

Go big or go home! On Public Media's John Wilson chats with Stanford communication professor Ted Glasser, who outlines a fifty-state strategy with his modest proposal for the creation of a National Endowment for Journalism. Glasser also weighs in on the FCC and its adequacy to the changing media moment, and the importance of developing journalism support structures that can serve basic civic needs, particularly in communities outside of the commercial news-publishing model's target audience.

"We're at the very early stages of talking about [this idea]... One good place to begin would be tapping into the billions of dollars the FCC brings in when it auctions off our airwaves... there's no reason why that couldn't be used to begin to create an endowment for journalism."

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The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers

John Nichols and Robert McChesney, The Nation

Communities across America are suffering through a crisis that could leave a dramatically diminished version of democracy in its wake. It is not the economic meltdown, although the crisis is related to the broader day of reckoning that appears to have arrived. The crisis of which we speak involves more than mere economics. Journalism is collapsing, and with it comes the most serious threat in our lifetimes to self-government and the rule of law as it has been understood here in the United States.

After years of neglecting signs of trouble, elite opinion-makers have begun in recent months to recognize that things have gone horribly awry. Journals ranging from Time, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The New Republic to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times concur on the diagnosis: newspapers, as we have known them, are disintegrating and are possibly on the verge of extinction. Time's Walter Isaacson describes the situation as having "reached meltdown proportions" and concludes, "It is now possible to contemplate a time in the near future when major towns will no longer have a newspaper and when magazines and network news operations will employ no more than a handful of reporters." A newspaper industry that still employs roughly 50,000 journalists--the vast majority of the remaining practitioners of the craft--is teetering on the brink.

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From the blog

Media and Technology at the Seattle Green Festival

Progressive media voices will be out in force for this year's Seattle Green Festival, taking place March 28-29 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Featured speakers include Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), Malkia Cyril (Center for Media Justice), Lawrence Lessig and Laura Flanders (Grit TV). Also as part of the Green Festival, Reclaim the Media is hosting a panel on Sustaining Quality (local) journalism in a New Media Ecology, with Naomi Ishisaka (One America), Stephen Silha (Journalism That Matters), and Sarah Stuteville (Common Language Project). Click here for more information about the festival, including a complete schedule.

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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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McClatchy cutting 1,600 additional jobs

Associated Press

McClatchy Co. is shearing an additional 1,600 jobs in a cost-cutting spree that has clipped nearly one-third of the newspaper publisher's work force in less than a year.

The latest reduction in payroll announced Monday follows through on the Sacramento, Calif.-based company's previously disclosed plans to lower its expenses by as much as $110 million over the next year as its revenue evaporates amid a devastating recession. The layoffs will start before April. Several of McClatchy's 30 daily newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee and The Kansas City (Mo.) Star, already have decided how many workers will be shown the door.

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NTIA gets access to DTV funds; coupons to flow next week

John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

According to the federal Office of Management and Budget, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration now has access to funding to help unclog the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program.

"We apportioned these funds earlier this week; coupons will start being received next week," confirmed an OMB official. The $40 coupons, up to two per household, allow analog over-the-air TV's to display a digital signal. Over a third of TV stations have now gone all digital after more than 400 pulled the plug on the original DTV hard date of Feb. 17.

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Markets have killed the daily newspaper. Let's get creative about the future of journalism

Steven A. Smith, Still a Newspaperman

There has been considerable energy spent on industry blogs in recent weeks debating questions that were, in my view, resolved a long time ago. That it is taking some so long to speak honestly to our problems is either testament to our industry’s notorious, self-focused blindness or confirmation that too many industry leaders were constrained from speaking their minds — speaking their truth — because of their jobs, their bosses, their bonuses or simple reticence to step out in front.

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Hearst threatens to close SF Chronicle

George Avalos, Contra Costa Times

The San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper industry icon, is teetering on the brink of collapse unless it can find a buyer or wring painful concessions from its employee unions. If the Chronicle can't obtain the necessary cost reductions, the paper will be put up for sale or closed, Hearst Corp., the owner of the Chronicle, said Tuesday. The cost savings must occur "within weeks," according to a statement released by Hearst.

"Given the losses the Chronicle continues to sustain, the time to implement these changes cannot be long," Frank Bennack, Hearst's chief executive, and Steven Swartz, Hearst's president, said in a joint release. "These changes are designed to give the Chronicle the best possible chance to survive."

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Protesting racist cartoon, Sharption calls for review of Murdoch's NY media ownership waiver

John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

The Rev. Al Sharpton and several New York city council members want the FCC to pull News Corp.'s waiver that allows it to own two TV stations-WNEW and WWOR-serving the New York market. Sharpton's National Action Network is collecting signatures on an online petition in an effort to get the FCC to review the waiver, arguing it gives the company too much control of the media market. News Corp. also owns the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

The petition drive was prompted in part by a New York Post cartoon that used the killing of a rampaging chimpanzee to criticize President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package, suggesting to some an ugly slur from the nation's racist past. The Post apologized for offending anyone, but Sharpton and others were not assuaged.

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