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White Noise: News and happenings from inside the media bubble

by Brian Clarey, Amy Kingsley and Jordan Green

Tear down that wall! or, Maureen Dowd wants to be free The national newspaper of record last week announced plans to eliminate its Times Select program, a function on its website that apportioned “premium content” in the paper edition of The New York Times behind an online pay wall. It’s good news for people who get their information over the internet; all the really good columnists – Maureen Dowd, Jim Dwyer, Thomas L. Friedman, Nicholas D. Kristof, George Vecsey and Frank Rich among them – lived behind that pay wall for so long they were risking becoming irrelevant in the ongoing virtual debates. The news hit the street just after the Rupert Murdoch/Dow Jones deal went through, and right before it was revealed that Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, busted months ago for making payments to a source for one of his stories, seems to have given the source more cash than he initially let on. Eichenwald acknowledged that he gave $2,000 to Justin Berry, an underage male internet prostitute and porn star, in June 2005, but court documents show that Eichenwald contributed another $1,100 to Berry’s business in the same month. Still… Maureen Dowd. – BC

Greensboro blog co-opted Greensboro journalist Ed Cone scored an exclusive interview with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, for an article posted on the internet trade journal CIOInsight.com about use of the web in 2008 presidential campaigns. In it, Edwards talked about the internet as a means to obtain media exposure, saying, “In some ways, it’s the way we have to go. We can’t make John black; we can’t make him a woman. Those things get you a lot of press, worth a certain amount of fundraising dollars. Now it’s nice to get on the news, but not the be all and end all.” Influential news aggregator Matt Drudge linked to the piece on his website, DrudgeReport.com, excerpting just the second sentence of the quote in red letters. From there the quote became something of a football, generating attention from CNN, ABC News, Radaronline.com, Fox News, The Atlantic, USA Today, New York Times political blog “The Caucus,” Media Matters… pretty much everybody. And of course, none of them except for CNN, NBC and National Public Radio actually spoke to Cone to get the full story. It goes to show how a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on, particularly with a red-letter item on Drudge. – BC

Wingo! An Aug. 8 story in Boston alt-weekly The Phoenix suggests that, contrary to conventional wisdom, acquisition by Rupert Murdoch does not automatically translate into degraded journalism. When Hearst was anxious to divest of the faltering Boston Herald in 1982, Murdoch swooped in. “Step One was changing the layout from four columns to seven – better for packing the pages with short, easy-to-read stories,” writes The Phoenix’s Adam Reilly. “Step Two was changing the paper’s ethos, from the subdued tabloid style cultivated under Hearst to something more authentically Murdochian – edgy, sensationalistic and shameless. ‘I remember [new managing editor Les] Hinton saying to me, ‘Every page should look like it’s having a nervous breakdown,’ [old hand David] Rosenbaum recalls. ‘And that’s what we did.’ (Case in point: a single page had a political story, a piece on a fatal school-bus crash – and an item on Wingo!, the numbers game imported from Murdoch’s Post.)” And there’s more: “Every night we’d meet at JJ Foley’s,” former reporter Kevin Cullen recalls of evenings spent at the Herald’s favored drinking spot, “and wait for the first edition of the Herald and the Globe, to see what they’d have and what we’d have that they didn’t. And we felt like we beat them every day with something. It was a battle with them every fucking night.” – JG

All Murdoch, all the time What to make of presidential candidate John Edwards’ ardent criticism of Rupert Murdoch? As reported by McClatchy Newspapers and other outlets, Edwards led an effort to persuade Democrats to boycott a presidential debate by Murdoch-owned Fox News, and more recently publicly opposed the Australian media mogul’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal. Should someone who aspires to run the nation’s executive branch be in a position to arbitrate the ownership of our media? At the very least, shouldn’t it be left up to the regulators at the Federal Communications Commission? It turns out that Edwards collected a $900,000 check from the Murdoch imprint HarperCollins for his 2006 book, Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives. Hefty book contracts for politicians are often considered a financial gamble, and Murdoch has also published tomes from then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The worry, then, is that these book contracts comprise a kind of creative bribery to powerbrokers in a position to help a major media owner. If that was the idea, it doesn’t seem to have panned out with the former senator from North Carolina – which does not seem to have escaped Murdoch’s attention. A recent headline for the Murdoch-owned New York Post read: “EDWARDS IN A BIZ HATE & $WITCH.” – JG

That’s what we’re talkin’ about In the face of continued threats, the publisher of editor Chauncey Bailey vowed to continue the work of the slain journalist, who had been investigating the finances of Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland when he was killed on Aug. 2. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb told mourners at Bailey’s funeral that he would expose the truth about “the forces connected to this assassination…. It ain’t over. This community will know what Chauncey Bailey and I were working on. I want us to make his untimely, forced exodus our genesis, our genesis of renewed advocacy for investigative journalism.” – JG

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