31 March 2006

Prayer doesn't work

In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery.

Associated Press

I doubt this will send shockwaves around the UK but get ready for the Christian right-wing backlash in the States.

Savage words

1903: Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!!

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colussus"

2006: Twenty-nine percent of all inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens. No, Mr. Bush, they do not all come here to work, they do not all come here to work. They come here to work the system, sell drugs, rape, and kill on contract. Don't lie to us.

Michael Savage, Talk Radio Network (Courtesy of Media Matters)

Wow. If you thought that newspapers such as the Daily Mail in Britain were hostile to immigrants then you need to listen to some of the views of the right-wing media in America, who make no attempt to convey any sense of being unbiased. The blatant hostility towards anyone or anything that may challenge their power will only serve to create bigger divisions in society.

ITV owns a little too much of Arsenal

Further to the Arsenal/ITV story, in ITV's recently released annual report the broadcaster lists its"interest in ordinary share capital" in Arsenal as being 10.05%. This figure contravenes the upper limit of 9.9% that media companies may invest in football clubs. This rule was brought about following the attempted takeover ofManchester United by BSkyB. Arsenal are reported to have been advised to inform ITV of the conflict (although, as far as I'm aware, ITV have not been reported of the need to inform their viewers of the conflict of interests when broadcasting Champions League football).

Source: The Guardian

29 March 2006

Selective media keeps gatekeepers in control

On Good Morning America, correspondent Dan Harris reported that "[t]he latest national poll says 31 percent of Americans believe the media make things in Iraq sound worse than they are." But Harris failed to inform viewers that in the same poll he cited, a majority of Americans -- 59 percent -- said that the media describe "things in Iraq" either "accurately" or "better than they are."

Media Matters (full story here)

The audacity of the media to be selective in what they choose to report is staggering at times and just shows the extent of their power that they can continually get away with it. Luckily Media Matters will always be keeping a close eye on things should the rest of us miss it.

George Mason reaps rewards of basketball success

An interesting anecdote for anyone who derides athletic scholarships and claims they don't give anything back to the university: George Mason University has earned $4 million worth of media exposure just for making the 'Final Four' of the NCAA basketball. The potential earnings that would come as a result of winning the tournament must be staggering.

28 March 2006

But what is a blog?

If you don't know this by now .... here you go.

Brokeback Mountain wins surprise award

I bet nobody saw this coming.

ITV love you Arsenal, they do

If you are watching the Arsenal v Juventus game tonight on ITV and wonder why the coverage is always so favourable to the north London team, despite their lack of British players, please bear in mind the network has a 10 percent stake in the club.

27 March 2006

Stopping the media moguls down under

Murdoch and Packer won't be happy.

Old keep buying up the new

The old media's acquisition of internet sites continued today with the news that media group Independent News & Media has puchased internet property site PropertyNews.com, which covers Northern Ireland and theborder counties in the Republic. The website is the most popular in Northern Ireland with 10 million page impressions in February 2006.

24 March 2006

Let them blog

I’ve been reading some of the mass media’s attacks on blogs recently and the thing that struck me was a sense of superiority and also fear on their part. It’s as though they have had enough of people (who usually happen to be bloggers themselves) claiming that blogs will replace the mainstream media. Their critiques of blogs generally tend attack the quality of writing, spelling mistakes and dismal content. If the latter is all true, why are they acting as if they are in fear of their livelihood? Numerous (well at least a few) journalists probably play Sunday football and may have once had dreams of playing it professionally. However, you don’t see Wayne Rooney showing up to watch them and laughing at the standard of play. He knows he is better and doesn’t worry about them replacing him at Manchester United. I doubt he loses much sleep over the handful of fans that choose to watch these matches over his own either. If a player is good enough to play at a higher level he will probably end up moving up to a better standard. The same applies to quality blogs - although, like sport, it doesn’t always happen. They will be read by more people and become more mainstream as a result. But will they replace newspapers? No, they will just be another addition to the ever-increasing amount of information out there. So if someone wants to blog, let them enjoy it and, if you don’t like what they have to say, don’t read it. The only newspapers that should feel threatened by an individual blogger will be of an extremely poor standard and probably don’t deserve to survive anyway.

The beginning of the end

Could this case spell the end of free speech on the internet? Caroline Keane, a partner at media law firm Wiggin LLP, doesn't think it will open the floodgates, but I believe that it will make people more afraid to put forth their opinions. As Mark Stephens highlights the libel laws we have at present cannot be applied to the internet in the same way that they do to the mass media. The power of the internet lies in it being (relatively) unchecked by government and this case has the potential to strike fear in users everywhere.

Belarus media highlight the power of the gatekeeper

Evey night since the recent election results were announced, thousands of Belarussians have been gathering in Minsk to protest the "rigged" election. However, by the morning the thousands of oppositionists have dwindled to a few dozen defenders at a makeshift camp braving the cold. While the former scene might be familiar to any westerners watching the coverage on TV, those watching the events unfolding from their living rooms in Belarus will only be aware of the latter. The country’s opposition is now worried that the encampment has been used to discredit their whole movement. A reminder to us all that, although the internet has changed things, the power still remains in the hands of the gatekeepers.

23 March 2006

Future of blogging

Original article.

Reuters chief Tom Glocer seems to agree. He told the recent Online Publishers Association conference: "I believe the world will always need editing... the role of old media companies in the new-media age is that of content facilitator, tools provider and editor."

I've made this point before but I think the future role of the old media will always be as the main source of content (Glocer downplays it slightly by saying they are just facilitators). However, I'm not sure if their role as editors will be as necessary or even relevant with so many new sites popping up. These websites use numerous news outlets as sources and make their own editing decisions in the process - in regards to what to write about and what to leave out.

Belarus media ignore demonstrations

Not surprisingly the state-controlled media in Belarus has given very little coverage to the recent demonstrations.

Sun uses TV soap-stars to explain budget

Today’s Sun uses TV characters from soaps such as Eastenders and Coronation Street to put the budget into perspective for its readers. Fair enough you might say. However, I have two questions. How do they know Dot Cotton (pictured) earns £4,000 a year at the laundrette, Little Mo makes £3,100 as a cleaner, Ian Beale earns £38,000 from the cafĂ© and chip-shop, and Les Battersby makes £10,000 as a cabbie? Which leads me to my second question – how do Dot and Little Mo live in London on those salaries?

The Sun uncovers more than it realises

"American college halls of residence - called sororities for girls, fraternities for boys"

Today's Sun looks into the world of initiations, highlighting the "boozy rites and sex orgy ceremonies" in "US college halls". I don't think the Sun realised what they have uncovered here - that the dorms are in fact fraternity and sorority houses secretly run by the university. Most parents will be shocked to learn where their tuition fees are going.

22 March 2006

Oyster-cards to drive newspaper sales?

There is speculation that Transport for London may enable Oyster customers to purchase newspapers with their cards. The convenience factor, particularly during rush-hour, could drive sales across the board if this measure is introduced. It may also have a negative knock-on effect on Metro's distribution figures.

Family blames Scientology for daughter's death

The family of a woman who was stabbed to death by her schizophrenic Scientologist son, who had been told by the cult that vitamins and not drugs or psychiatric treatment were the best way to treat the disease, have taken out an ad in LA Weekly.

"Thanks, Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology for your expert health advice on mental health (which led to Elli being killed by the schizophrenic son she was told to treat with vitamins instead of psychiatric care)," the ad read.

Scientologists believe that psychiatry is an ancient alien civilisation’s plot to drug and enslave humanity (which may go some way to explaining Cruise's recent antics).

Bush passes on the buck

George Bush has said that it would be for "future presidents and future governments of Iraq" to deicde whether US troops should withdraw from Iraq.

"Every (war) plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy," Bush said.

Racism rife in France

Disturbing findings from a report commissioned by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, which found that 30 percent of French people consider themselves to be somewhat racist. This was up from 25 percent a year ago.

Sun offers readers chance to be a Lord

It’s always paid to be close to Rupert Murdoch (pictured) but now it appears you just have to buy his newspaper and you can join the upper reaches of society. The Sun is today offering two readers the chance to be transformed into a Lord and Lady. The paper has obtained a Lordship and Ladyship of the Manor dating back to the Middle Ages. Hurry though - you only have until Saturday to tell the Sun, in no more than 20 words, why you’d be the perfect Lord or Lady.

Guardian named Newspaper of the Year 2006

The British Press Awards have named the Guardian as the Newspaper of the Year 2006. The award comes on the back of other awards such as World’s best-designed newspaper (Society for News Design) and Best newspaper on the internet (Webby awards). During the period January to December 2005 the Guardian gained 154,000 readers – a rise of 14.4%. However, the Times, the Telegraph and the Indpendent all still carry 'Newspaper of the Year' banners across their front pages.

21 March 2006

Defending the blog

Not everyone wants to attack blogs and The Napa ValleyRegister argues that, despite reports to the contrary, blogging is still in its infancy.

Once again the point needs to be made that you can't lump all bloggers into the same category when it comes to heaping criticism on them. New York Time reporter Judith Miller has said that bloggers aren't "real" journalists and are unable "to distinguish between the straight and the slanderous". I'm sorry Judith have you met every blogger in the world and read every single one of the 30 million blogs out there? Her arguments are as credible as claiming that every Muslim is a terrorist or every American is obese (both of which I've heard).

Challenging autocracy in the Middle East

The Middle East apparently fails to grasp the power of the media.

With most media power concentrated in the west we need Arab networks and newspapers to stand up and show that the Muslim world does not condone recent acts of violence in the name of Allah. Al-Jazeera has mistakenly become strongly associated with Al-Qaeda in many westerners' eyes (not least President Bush). It is widely believed internationally that inhabitants of the Arab world are given limited information by their governments and media, but Al-Jazeera has been one of the few channels that is a trustworthy source. Along with the rest of the Arab media it needs to continue presenting fair, unbiased news and we need more channels to emerge to challenge the autocratic governments that still prevail.

Media count the cost of reporting on Iraq

Reporters without borders have announced that more journalists and media staff have been killed during the Iraq war than during any conflict since the Second World War. A total of 84 reporters and media staffers have been killed in the Iraq war, including eight this year, according to the media advocacy group. That is already 21 more than the 63 journalists killed during 22 years of conflict in Vietnam.

South American media face daily threats

"Although the news media continue to carry out their public-service missions robustly in other countries, individual newspapers and journalists have faced a variety of direct and indirect efforts by governments, politicians and powerful interests to constrain them," the Inter American Press Association said.

Disturbing news from South America where some of the media are avoiding any reference to drug activities out of fears for reporters’ safety.

20 March 2006

It's all gone quiet down under

If you don’t like a news story one way of avoiding the issue is to not print it. This seems to be the decision the Australian press have taken to the ‘national tragedy’ of not having won any gold medals in the men’s swimming (which is taken very seriously down-under) at the Commonwealth Games. Neither The Age or the Herald Sun, the daily newspapers in Melbourne, made any mention of the men’s events on Sunday. Even Australia’s loss of the 4 x 200m freestyle relay for the first time since 1950 was deemed unworthy of a by-line. All of a sudden the Aussie newspaper industry's favourite pastime of Pommie-bashing has temporarily disappeared.

Piers Morgan launches kids newspaper

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan (pictured) is launching First News, a national weekly newspaper written by adults for children, in May 2006. Morgan is the terrifyingly-titled “editorial overlord” in a joint venture with Nicky Cox, who set up the children’s magazine division at BBC Worldwide.

“They needed somebody they thought would send a message that it was a serious newspaper,” said Morgan.

Just as long as he's careful what he prints.

The media can all get along

Finally some common sense about the differing, not competing, roles of bloggers and the mainstream media.

Lukashenko wins by a landslide

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) is on his way to claiming a landslide victory in elections according to government-approved exit polls, which indicated he had collected more than 84% of the vote. Oppositionists claim the results were rigged and 5,000 people defied government warnings and gathered in a main central square in Minsk. The Wall Street Journal Europe reports that oppositionists had their websites blocked yesterday and police were also hindering travel to the capital, in a bid to keep the protests from gathering strength.

It is important now that the West issues a quick and widespread condemnation of the voting process. As I discussed yesterday we have a part to play and the Guardian has today taken up the cause.

19 March 2006

Blogs come under sustained attack

I have discussed this before but I think Marie Cocco makes a legitimate point when she says that blogs are the least trusted source of news. Of course one man or woman's opinion does not always carry as much weight as one that has been fact-checked by a legitimate media outlet. However, this does not necessarily make it any less valid. Many blogs are full of strong opinions, often based on rumours and innuendoes (an argument that could often be levelled at the mainstream media too - particularly the tabloids), but there are good sites out there that offer legitimate alternative viewpoints that you might not always find within newspapers, whose owners have outside business interests. There seems to be a growing campaign at the moment to hit back at blogs, amidst a fear that some newspapers may collapse under the weight of choice. However, as I said before I believe blogs have a different roll to play to the mainstream media in that they are almost entirely opinion and based on reaction to the news (almost like an advanced form of the letters page - except, perhaps terrifyingly for the media, they cannot be edited). The mainstream media will always be needed to report the news and only those that fail to provide content of a high quality will disappear. Too many newspapers have relied on Associated Press or Reuters' stories and that is why sites like Google News are viewed as such a threat. They need to look to newspapers like the Guardian that, as well as adapting to the internet age, are also excellent at breaking the news too.

18 March 2006

Belarus tightens media control

The increasing state control of the media in Belarus doesn't receive the same coverage bigger nations like China or potential Middle Eastern enemies' control of media outlets gets - but it is probably as bad as anywhere right now. In the past 12 years the Belarussian president (Alexander Lukashenko - pictured) has all but eliminated the independent media and it is important that this story receives as much coverage on the web as possible to keep the repressed citizens of Belarus informed. The US and EU should be commended for their efforts to provide Belarussians with alternative news and individual bloggers also have an opportunity to increase the pressure on the Belarussian government.

Aussie journalist cites 'friend's e-mail' to criticise media

I think you need to do a bit better than cite one anonyomus soldier's (who is also a "friend") opinion as evidence that the media's reporting of the situation in Iraq is grossly exaggerated. I am not a big fan of using anonymous sources in power to beign with, but to base a criticism of the media coverage's in Iraq on a friend's e-mail strikes me as a little unprofessional.

Dunleavy compares gays to nazis

"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?" said John Dunleavy, head of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, in an interview with The Irish Times. "People have rights. If we let the [Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization] in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"

And you thought Pat Robertson's comments were provacative.

Times Gazette calls for media censorship

"I’ve never liked the pack mentality. There’s no fun in every dog chasing the same rabbit."

Rory Ryan, Times Gazette

But its is fun when the rabbits turn round and start chasing the dog Mr Ryan.

Mr Ryan seems to have conveniently forgotten the time when the post-9/11 Bush administration censured the media by throwing "unpatriotic" McCarthyism's at anyone who dared question them. Surely the Republicans had to know it would come back to bite them at some point.

Malaysia doesn't want business mixed with media

So the Malysian information minister, Datuk Zainuddin Maidin (pictured), believes that people with business interests should not get involved in the media field because it can erode the ethics of journalism.

Mr Maidin I'm afraid even in Malaysia it's already happened.

Dawn of a new media age

Everyone is predicting the dawn of a new age for the media and down in Australia the government is attempting to find the next big thing. I like the "radical" idea that perhaps this new media policy should serve the public, instead of the big players like Murdoch. I don't recall hearing the Catholic Church being descibed as cutting edge in recent times but the Pope seems to agree with the report's radical idea.

17 March 2006

Moss, Jordan battle over 'Mum of the Year' award

Among the nominees for this year's 'Celebrity Mum of the Year' are Katie Price, aka Jordan, and Kate Moss (pictured). I guess they could have always gone for this mum .

Mirror exposes 'vulture' hospital porter

The Daily Mirror today condemned a hospital porter (Ayman Shalash - pictured) as a "vulture" for offering pictures of one of the the drug trial victims in return for £2,000. While this is certainly a reprehensible move I wonder whether the story would be different had the Mirror got hold of the pictures. Some of the tabloids the previous day used movie stills of the Elephant Man and it would be surprising if any red-tops could really resist an exclusive first picture.

'I'm no blogger' cries Clooney

"George Clooney does not make statements," said Clooney's (pictured) publicist Stan Rosenfield. "He answers questions."

Aside from the fact the site should never have claimed it was his blog unless he specifically wrote it, Clooney's main gripe seems to be that he doesn't want people to think that he posts his opinions on the internet. Heaven forbid a major movie star could be associated with such a geeky activity as blogging.

By your own words you condemn yourself

I was interested to read Oliver Kamm's comments in The Times today that "even the best blogs are parasitic on what their practioners contempuously call the 'mainstream media'" (which is exactly their point - to deliver opinion). Kamm goes on to say that "almost by definition, they are the preserve of those with time on their hands". Then at the end of the article: "The author's blog is at oliverkamm.typepad.com" These comments may yet come back to haunt him.

Glazer plays a dangerous game with United's youth

Malcolm Glazer’s (pictured) costcutting at Manchester United has extended to the club’s squad after it emerged that some fringe players in the squad had to pay £72 each for tickets to watch the Carling Cup final. The Football League said that it gave each club 100 free tickets but United subsequently allocated 70 complimentary tickets to sponsors and other guests. Players such as Richie Jones, who played in three matches in earlier rounds, are understood to have been forced to purchase their own tickets along with several directors, scouts, coaches and senior staff. The order is understood to have come directly from the Glazers.

I don’t know how things are done in the NFL but if the dressing room is not happy then you cannot hope to have a successful club. The youth policy has always been the driving force behind United’s success and by treating the younger players this way Glazer is playing a very dangerous game. Sir Alex Ferguson might be wise to explain to his boss that creating a disillusioned squad with low morale will cost a lot more in the long run than the few thousand pounds he saved.

16 March 2006

Non-PC quote of the week

Steve Auckland (pictured), Metro's managing director, showed he wasn't afraid of alienating a cross-section of his audience this week:

"We clearly pick where we're going - we don't want grandmas picking Metro up."

In the brutal world of free newspapers its all about pleasing the advertisers.

How to get a balanced version of the news

Jeffrey Milyo (pictured), an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia, has found the perfect solution for those who want to get a balanced version of the news. Based on the results of a UCLA-led study which attempted to objectively quantify bias in a range of media outlets and then rank them accordingly Milyo concludes:
"If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox's 'Special Report' as ABC's 'World News' and NBC's 'Nightly News,' then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news."

Best set aside a little extra time in the evenings then, you may have a long night of watching the news ahead.

Murdoch creates 'MySun'

The Sun is planning to tie in its website with the recently acquired MySpace.com community and networking site to create a ‘MySun’ online readers’ network. The plan is to allow readers to go to a MySun portal and create their own web pages, blogs, as well as share pictures and video clips with friends using MySpace.com software. News International considered linking MySpace.com with the TimesOnline but thought that the Sun provided a better audience.

Rupert Murdoch (pictured) is attempting to show that at 75 he is still one step ahead of his competitors with this latest move. Not only does the deal have the potential to bring a younger generation back to newspapers, albeit online, but it allows them to increase their interaction with the site. There is too much choice on the web to keep people on the same website unless they can do things beyond reading information. MySpace.com and Facebook.com have proved to be so immensely popular because people can interact with the website and network with others. However, the move could always backfire with younger users resenting the newspaper trying to take over 'their' site and force-feeding them advertising. In the past successful websites have often lost their appeal once big corporations take them over.

The deal will certainly be met with a lot of scepticism but then when hasn't a move made by Murdoch been met with opposition and criticism? Time and again he has proved the critics wrong so don't be surprised if Murdoch’s latest gamble once again leads the way forward for the media.

15 March 2006

How much is an Iraqi life worth?

Eleven members of an Iraqi family were killed in a US raid on Wednesday, police and witnesses said. The US military said two women and a child died during the bid to seize an al Qaeda militant from a house. Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said US forces had landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including the five children.

How can stories (which seem to be reported on an almost daily basis) like this not lead the news? Can you imagine the outcry if the American police killed just one innocent person in the process of trying to arrest a fugitive? Is an Iraqi life worth less than an American? Clearly to the military it is, but why aren't the media up in arms over these stories? How the US can justify taking even one innocent child's life to arrest (or kill) an al Qaeda militant is beyond me.

Robertson rages against 'demonic' muslims

Once again Christian evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson has sparked outrage by claiming that "the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen whether you like it or not, is world domination" and that it was "not a religion of peace". Robertson, the founder of CBN, recently suggested that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez , and said the stroke that left Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a coma was God's punishment for Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Robertson said the pictures of Muslims protesting over the publishing of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammed "just shows the kind of people we're dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with".

Of course Christianity has never attempted to conquer and convert unbelievers. Which religion was it again that Eric Rudolph said inspired him to bomb Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta on 27 July 1996? Perhaps Robertson should look more closely at his own religion before he makes sweeping conclusions about other ones.

14 March 2006

News International looks to blame anyone but themselves

The gay news website, PinkNews.co.uk, that suggested the footballer Ashley Cole (pictured) was the alleged subject of News of the World story has been warned it could face legal action from the paper. PinkNews.co.uk discussed the News of the World story and internet rumours speculating on the identity of the individuals concerned. It also reproduced a pixelated version of a photograph used by the News of the World that claimed to be of a Premiership footballer and a well-known music industry figure, comparing it with a photograph showing Cole and DJ Masterstepz at a party. Lawyers acting for the News of the World told PinkNews.co.uk that the paper and its stablemate the Sun were reserving their rights to issue proceedings against the website under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978. This could potentially involve the website in the libel action brought by Cole against the papers.

This seems to be a straightforward case of News International sulking over the fact that they are being sued for printing a scandalous story even though they didn’t publish any names and are now looking for someone else to blame. Much of the newspaper’s content is based on innuendos and rumours and if they lose this case it could have major ramifications for the tabloid newspaper industry as a whole. The PinkNews.co.uk was guilty of nothing except exploring the story that the News of the World printed and unless Cole’s lawyers want to bring them into the proceedings News International should face up to the consequences of their actions alone.

'Molly's' abortion blog debated

This blog will only create a 'back-alley' culture of abortion ...

The news that a feminist blogger has posted explicit directions online for a surgical abortion is disturbing on so many levels. The 21-year old said she had set up the site in reaction to the new South Dakota law (Gov. Mike Rounds is pictured signing the legislation) which all but bans the procedure. Using the pseudonym "Molly Blythe" she admitted that she has had no medical background but has been compiling instructions for several years (at 21?). Whatever your opinion on abortion or indeed freedom of speech this blog represents the ultimate in irresponsible blogging. Even if she were medically trained it would be ludicrous to attempt to instruct women how to perform potentially dangerous surgery. While "Molly" claims that it provides a solution to a "worst-case scenario" where a women has a job that doesn’t "let her leave the state" (surely Americans aren’t so suppressed that they need permission to leave a state now?) it could lead to women opting for self-surgery in order to save money. As long as there are still states that provide abortions legally this website merely has the potential to create a "back-alley" abortion culture.

It was South Dakota that created the underground abortion culture ...

This website acts an important piece of publicity in bringing worldwide attention to the plight of women in South Dakota. Abortion should always be the choice of the individual and, while people are entitled to try and sway people towards the pro-life stance, they do not have the right to take away from women the choice of opting for an abortion. While people may say "Molly" is potentially creating a "back-alley" culture of abortion it is the state that has done that by rewinding the clock to the dark days when women had no choice. While, even Laura Kaplan, who wrote the 1996 book The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service, states that you cannot "learn to do abortions in a correspondence course" this blog has highlighted the illogical decision by South Dakota that can only serve to re-create a dangerous, underground culture of abortions.

Murdoch says power shift is inevitable

Rupert Murdoch (pictured) yesterday sounded the end of the era of the media baron, stating that the power is moving into the hands of the digital consumer. Murdoch said that those launching a blog every second, sharing photos and music online and downloading television programmes on demand are gaining control. The Fox News owner declared that "we are at the dawn of a golden age of information - an empire of new knowledge".

"Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry - the editors, the chief executives and, let's face it, the proprietors," said Murdoch, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday. "A new generation of media consumers has risen demanding content delivered when they want it, how they want it, and very much as they want it. It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy - not just companies but whole countries."

Murdoch admitted he underestimated the power of the web originally but has been converted by the vast array of social networking. The media mogul was not alone in underestimating the power of the internet and the sudden surge in the number of journalists setting up blogs within their newspaper websites is a sign that the mainstream media has caught on en masse. There appears to be an attempt to play catch-up now as the media realises that the internet no longer presents a threat, but an opportunity to reach a wider audience and even increase advertising revenue. The internet revolution will not spell the end of the mainstream media but it could have a filtering effect, in that the sites offering the highest quality content will survive, while those that have the least will disappear.

13 March 2006

Blogs are an addition, not threat to media

The third annual review of the state of American journalism, by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, has found that there are more media outlets than ever. However, despite this, the institute found that they were covering less news. The study found that only 1% of blogs involved a blogger interviewing someone else and only 5% involved some other original work, such as examining documents.

"More coverage, in other words, does not always mean greater diversity of voices," the study said. "Consuming the news continuously does not mean being better informed."

While this study laments the amplification of the same stories it is fails to recognise in many ways the importance of the blogosphere. Traditionally American journalism has worked hard to present their media outlet as fair and unbiased, in contrast to British newspapers which openly side with political parties. However, people want to hear other people’s opinions and how they interpret news stories – even if it is the same story that they have watched or read about. Increasingly it is also becoming obvious that networks like Fox News were presenting a very one-sided analysis of the news and traditionally liberal news stations were failing to question any government decisions. As a result liberal blogs became an important outlet for people to vent their anger and form their own opinion of the news. Rather then look at the wide variety of news sources as ‘overkill’ the media must realise that it provides an opportunity for people to form a true opinion of the news bases on numerous sources.

Additionally, I'm rather surprised that as many 5% of the seemingly endless number of blogs contained original content. Blogs were never meant to be about breaking news and, contrary to some opinion, should not be seen as a threat to the mainstream media. The role of the blog is to provide further analysis and debtate on the day's news and issues. The mainstream media is always going to be about breaking the news. Instead of seeing them as a challenge to conventional media, newspapers should revel in the number of people reading them and wanting to debate their content. Blogs are a new addition to the mainstream media and will never be a replacement.

War, what is it good for? Lots and lots of money

Anyone who suggested that the war in Iraq has not benefited anybody may be interested to know that the first comprehensive investigation into UK corporate investment in the country has discovered that British businesses have profited by at least £1.1 billion since coalition forces ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003. The report highlights how much is at stake for British companies if the UK withdraws its military protection.

British and, of course, more importantly American company involvement at the top of Iraq’s new political and economic structures means Iraq will be forced to rely on UK and US businesses for many years to come. Even before the lucrative oil contracts are handed out it is clear to see who the real winners have been in the ‘War on Terror’.

12 March 2006

Bush becomes Republican scapegoat

US President George W. Bush (pictured) has has told a conference of the National Newspaper Association that the US needs allies like the UAE.

"They are a key partner for our military in a critical region, and outside of our own country, Dubai services more of our military, military ships, than any country in the world," Bush said.
"In order to win the war on terror we have got to strengthen our friendships and relationships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East."

Unfortunately the one time Bush is right the rest of his party has turned against him. With his time in office running out it appears as though the Republican party has chosen the ports debate as the issue with which to distance themselves from him. Fellow Republicans have seen their President's ratings plummeting to all-time low and are jumping on the Islamophobic public bandwagon while their leader is down. This is almost certainly a calculated move which would not have happened before the last Presidential elections. Bush has been used as a puppet throughout his reign and is now the scapegoat through which the Republicans can kick-start their next election campaign. Unfortunately, US politicians have succeeded in alienating the Arab world as a result of their desire to appeal to the masses in America.

11 March 2006

Murdoch leading the internet charge

Rupert Murdoch (pictured) has been at the fore of leading the media into new areas ever since he took over his father's business in Australia in late 1952. From purchasing major movie studios, to introducing satellite television into Britain, to completely changing the way newspapers were printed in the UK, Murdoch has adopted an aggressive policy of acquistitions on the back of heavy loans and huge debts. However, if you thought that the media mogul might be content with his vast empire then Ross Levinsohn's, president of Fox Interactive Media, address to a tech conference near San Jose, California, will have set you straight.

"Look, we're buying everything," Levinsohn said, before informing the room that he would probably acquire five companies in attendance, despite admitting he was unaware who was there.

It wasn't too long ago that the old media was denying the possibility of the internet ever challenging mainstream media as an effective form of news but it appears that it has changed its tune once again. However, companies should still remain aware of the consequences the last time an internet boom took place.

10 March 2006

Free DVDs fail to halt tabloid market free-fall

Despite the barrage of free DVDs and a world Iraq abuse exclusive, the lastest ABCs reveal that the Sunday tabloid newspaper market in the UK suffered a terrible month en masse. Overall sales in February 2006 were down 4.06% year-on-year, while the mid-market fell 6.91%. How soon will it be before editors realise that giving away free CDs or DVDs are not a long-term solution to declining newspaper sales?

Travel bosses tell Americans to behave abroad

With their reputation plummeting worldwide, US travel bosses are seeking to reverse the perceptions of Americans with a new campaign to advise them how to behave abroad. Roger Dow, chief executive of the Travel Industry Association of America, said advice would initially be given to business travellers in an attempt to save America’s "sinking" global image. The Apis system, which includes other initiatives such as training customs officers in America in how to treat customers, has raised fears of a backlash against US bookings among travel operators.

The US image was suffering as a result of the behaviour of Americans abroad, as well as foreign policy decisions, Dow said.

"It’s an attitude thing – do they find ways of always saying they have something better?" said Dow.

Personally, while I have found it to be true that Americans can appear loud and brash when visiting other countries, Europeans are no less guilty when visiting the US. While Americans often seem to want all their home comforts when abroad, many Europeans adopt a patronising attitude when in the States. Liberal-minded Europeans at the university in which I studied in America were often lamenting the lack of tolerance States-side in comparison to their apparently liberal-paradise back home - while simultaneously constantly mocking their American counterparts for any ignorance concerning global issues. In both cases no one likes to constantly be told that "back home is better because…" by a foreigner in their homeland. While I welcome the initiative (in particular the "customer-service" training for the highly hostile customs officers) I would suggest that before any Europeans laugh at the arrogant behaviour of their American cousins they look at their own intellectual superiority complexes.

Beware of the Arab backlash

Further to the ports story published yesterday, DP World has announced that it will sell its American holdings to a US company, seemingly saving George W. Bush from a dramatic confrontation with congress. The company said that it wished to preserve the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Hussein Ibish (pictured), of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership, said that DP World and the UAE had been forced to submit to "demagogues and populists". American businesses must now be wary of an Arab backlash, with Boeing seen as particularly vunerable having won a $10 billion order from the UAE's flagship airline Emirates in November 2005.

In the US, representative Peter King, Republican of New York, said that Bush had greeted him by saying, "It looks like good news for all of us." Perhaps the majority of Americans will welcome the news but the Middle East’s, and indeed the world’s, perception of it as a fair, democratic nation has probably just dropped a little in the process.

09 March 2006

Church in Kansas sinks to new low

It is difficult to put into words what could possibly motivate a person to use someone’s funeral as a means of protest. However, that is exactly what a small-minded group of individuals are doing in the name of Christianity in Kansas. The Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church has outraged mourning communities by standing outside soldier’s funerals with vile signs that read "God Hates Fags". The group’s message is that soldiers are being struck down by God because they’re fighting for a nation that tolerates homosexuality. Around 60 of the group’s 75 members travel the country to picket military funerals preaching their message of hate at the most inappropriate of times. Recent moves by four states to introduce new laws limiting such protests have been welcomed by the group for bringing attention to their cause. The group plan to challenge the laws as being in opposition to the First Amendment. By sinking so low as to use the death and bereavement of others as a means to preach their message they will instead lose any support they may have received from conservative America and further marginalise the Christian right-wing movement.

Xenophobia surrounds ports debate

Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee voted by a 62-2 margin to bar DP World, which is run by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, from holding leases or contracts at US ports. Now I don’t recall the last time I supported George Bush on any issue but this is clearly getting out of hand. Republicans and Democrats are jumping on the xenophobic bandwagon and basically saying anyone from the Middle East is a potential terrorist. Now please correct me if there are other genuine reasons behind the decision, but as far as I’m aware no-one had any problem when Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., a British company that holds contracts at several US ports, crossed the Atlantic. However, as soon as a Middle East-based business bought them it became an issue. America cannot push the values of democracy and capitalism on Middle Eastern countries and then throw it back in their faces when it affects them. I don’t know the full motives behind President Bush’s threat to veto any legislation emerging from Congress that blocks the Dubai ports deal but I believe that in this case Bush has the moral upperhand.

Ooh, argh not much news at the Daily Star

Now I know that the Daily Star is hardly among the market leaders when it comes to breaking quality news stories but today’s issue really appeared to be struggling for even a bit of celebrity gossip to spice up the usual array of semi-naked teenage girls. On the front page the newspaper lead with the story of a tree that looks like Elvis Presley (to which a further full page was devoted inside) and, on page 17, Joe Mott’s ‘double award winning’ hot section discovers that Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding "does a gruelling 50 sit-ups a day to achieve her perfectly flat tum". One can only wonder aloud how "hard worker" Sarah finds the time to record any hit singles.

08 March 2006

Our governments must win us over first

The US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad (pictured), finally conceded yesterday that the rise of religious extremists in Iraq "would make Taliban Afghanistan look like child's play". Khalilzad told the LA Times that "we have opened the Pandora's box and the question is, what is the way forward?". Well being honest with the public is a good start. An opinion poll published by the Washington Post and ABC News yesterday revealed that four out of five Americans believe civil war in Iraq is likely. Unfortunately, Donald Rumsfeld responded by saying that reports of sectarian violence had been exaggerated by the media and General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, claimed that "attacks are now down compared to last year". If anything the attacks have been downplayed by an American media that, until very recently, was seemingly terrified of questioning the administration's decision to go to war. While the fact that both the UK and US government's lied about weapons of mass destruction was the subject of public outrage in Britain, in America it seemed widely overlooked - as though it were merely a 'side'-issue'. Until their own people begin to trust them how can the two governments even begin to "win the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people?

Newspapers must remember their primary goal

The constant barrage of free DVDs to boost flagging newspaper ratings can’t disguise an inferior newspaper and long-term circulation rates will always suffer. When Sarah Sands was appointed as editor of the Sunday Telegraph she replaced in-depth articles with glossy, lifestyle features and free DVDs. While the give-aways fuelled short-term circulation gains, eventually the sales were back to the level of her predecessor. While the Barclay brothers have been ruthless in dispensing with Sands after just 8 months, it is widely reported that the new editor, Patience Wheatcroft (pictured), will place quality news back on the agenda. Newspapers are slowly waking up to the fact that free DVDs are a short-term answer and to retain, and indeed attract, readers they must remember the primary purpose of media is to deliver content to consumers.