White Noise: News and Happenings from inside the Media Bubble

by Brian Clarey, Amy Kingsley and Jordan Green

Murdoch, the fourth horseman If any one event in the restructuring of the journalism industry has been greeted as a sign of the apocalypse by its practitioners it would have to be the recent announcement of Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of Dow Jones & Co. and its flagship publication, The Wall Street Journal. “People are aghast that this could have happened,” The Los Angeles Times quoted an anonymous reporter as saying. “It’s a sickening realization to know that this really great iconic newspaper is [not only] no longer going to be independent, but is also going to be controlled by a man whose values are inimical to ours.” The whole saga brings up a couple paradoxes. Firstly, isn’t it a little strange that the reporters and editors of one of the nation’s most conservative newspapers are so worried about preserving journalistic objectivity? I mean, isn’t it a tenet of conservatism that the unfettered free market provides all necessary corrections? Then there was the memo circulated by union president Steve Yount expressing disappointment in the sale but assuring that the 2,000 members of the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, Local 1096 “will continue to band together to fight for their interests. That includes negotiating a quality collective bargaining agreement.” You mean The Wall Street Journal tolerates a union? Then there are also indications that Murdoch’s acquisition of the Journal may not result in the degradation of news product so feared by professional handwringers. The New York Times’ Richard Siklos had this to say in an analysis piece published on Aug. 1: “There is little doubt that Mr. Murdoch will directly aim at luring readers and advertising away from The New York Times and The Financial Times, the Journal’s closest rivals. His strategy will probably include aggressively undercutting advertising and investing heavily in editorial content – particularly in Washington and international news – absorbing losses at first to win the longer-term war.” – JG

First rule of the vast right-wing conspiracy… We’re not saying we believe in a vast right-wing conspiracy, but if we did we’d be suspicious enough of a meeting in the White House last week to tie on our tinfoil hats. President Bush met in the West Wing with 10 prominent conservative radio talk-show hosts, a group that included Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, Glenn Beck, Michael Medved and Bill Bennett, for an off-the-record discussion about… well, nobody knows exactly what went down because none of the radio personalities said anything on their shows prior to the visit and none are talking much now save for a few who acknowledged on-air that the meeting did take place. In theory it seems odd for members of the media to agree to an off-the-record conversation with a controversial president, but actually it’s happened before – last year, when Boortz, Hannity, Medved, Mike Gallagher and Laura Ingraham attended a similar conference on Sept. 1. Presumably, coffee, tea and talking points were served. – BC

The (real) death of journalism The Aug. 2 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey came as a shock. This kind of thing doesn’t happen here, right? Bailey, recently named as editor of the city’s African-American newspaper, was gunned down in broad daylight; over the weekend, MediaNews reported the confession of Devaughdre Broussard, a 19-year-old handyman at Your Black Muslim Bakery. Broussard was reportedly angered by Bailey’s reporting on the group. Walter Riley, an attorney for the Post, told MediaNews that Bailey had been working on a story about “the financial status of the organization” and “activities of a number of people who were working in the organization.” For the sake of clarity, Oakland Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan told MediaNews that the bakery was not affiliated with the Nation of Islam. The killing of journalists is relatively rare in the United States, with the most recent death occurring in 2001, when photo editor Robert Stevens died of anthrax inhalation. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the last targeted assassination of a journalist on US soil occurred in 1993 when Dona St. Plite, a Miami radio reporter of Haitian descent, was killed. According to a database maintained by the committee, only three other journalists have been killed in the United States since 1992. In comparison, 13 have been slain in Mexico, 39 in Colombia, 32 in the Philippines, 47 in Russia and 60 in Algeria over the same time period. Bailey’s death puts the United States even with Afghanistan, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Russia and Turkey for the current year – each with one reported killing of a journalist. Of course, Iraq far and away takes the lead with 19 journalists killed in the line of duty since Jan. 1. – JG

(Spit take) When 32-year-old Elizabeth Dewberry left her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler, Butler felt the need to let his grad students in on the situation to “clarify the issues for any of your fellow grad students who ask” in the form of an e-mail. “Put down your cup of coffee or you might spill it,” he wrote. “Elizabeth is leaving me for Ted Turner.” Ted Turner, cable broadcast pioneer, yacht captain, colorizer of classic movies, billion-dollar philanthropist, owner of the world’s largest herd of bison and one-time principle of the Atlanta Braves organization, reminds Dewberry of her abusive grandfather, according to Butler’s dispatch, and she will take her place as one of a… harem?… that is romantically involved with the mogul. “She will not be Ted’s only girlfriend,” the e-mail reads. “Ted is permanently and avowedly non-monogamous.” – BC