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White Noise: News from inside the media bubble

by Brian Clarey, Jordan Green and Amy Kingsley

FOIA schmoia

When an American – journalist or citizen – wants information from the White House, she files a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of Administration which, ideally, expedites the request by procuring the documents or records or e-mails or what have you. But according to a motion filed by the Justice Department last week – three days before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ resignation – the department that handles FOIA requests is not subject to FOIA itself. In response to a lawsuit filed by nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington seeking information about an estimated 5 million e-mails deleted from White House servers between March 2003 and October 2005, the Justice Department asserted that, even though the Office of Administration has responded to internal FOIA requests in the past (and even has an officer assigned to FOIA requests), it does not fall under FOIA’s definition of “agency” and is therefore entitled to a modicum of… let’s just say it out loud: secrecy.

– BC

Read a muthaf#$*in’ book

The Associated Press released poll results last week revealing that one in four American adults did not read a single book last year. Participants reported reading an average of four books, meaning that half read more and half read less. Residents of the West and Midwest read more books on average, but Southerners who do read tend to read more. Mostly romance and religious titles, according to the AP. Despite the shameful numbers, publishers still raked in some $35.7 million last year. So that must mean that folks in other countries are picking up our literary slack, or maybe that stacks of Suzanne Somers’ Ageless: The Naked Truth About BioIdentical Hormones are languishing in the promotional warehouses of quack doctors everywhere.

– AK

Whitfield on school resegregation

Greensboro public intellectual Ed Whitfield’s writing about racial desegregation in public schools has stirred some discussion across the nation among political progressives, thanks to his Aug. 13 contribution to The Huffington Post blog, and a subsequent pick-up by ZNet. Whitfield notes that most white progressives greeted the Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down race-based diversity plans in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. with dismay. Whitfield suggests the discussion so far has been mired in “well-meaning but often arrogant assumptions.” His own experience comes into play. Whitfield and his sister chose to attend then-recently desegregated Little Rock Central High School in the early- to mid-1960s. Two brothers chose to attend black Horace Mann High School. “What the Harvard Civil Rights Project and folks like [education writer] Jonathan Kozol have been saying for years about the resegregation of schools does not make sense to me,” Whitfield writes. “Their fundamental argument is that the inherent inequality of black schools was proven by the [Supreme Court’s] ’54 Brown decision, and that black children can only get a good education if they are in a classroom situation with middle-class white children who will fight to assure the quality of the education in those classrooms. What happened here to the ‘agency’ of the black community? What happened to the ability of black parents to look out for the education of their children?”

– JG

Publishing from the ground floor

The new 46-story Hearst Tower at 300 W. 57th St. in Manhattan, a geometric hive of steel and glass built in 2006 atop the six-story structure commissioned by publisher William Randolph Hearst in 1927, houses all of the Hearst publications and communications companies inside its tinted walls. It is an architectural wonder – the first green building to be completed in New York City, winner of the 2006 Emporis Skyscraper Award and holder of a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating. Of particular note is the atrium, which features long escalators that ascend through a three-story water feature. And, according to New York Magazine, the escalators are set at such an angle that male Hearst staffers have been gathering at their base to look up the skirts of female staffers headed for the upper floors.

– BC

Our industry in crisis

The Winston-Salem Journal announced last week the elimination of its separate weekday business section. Instead, the paper will fold business news into the local section. In addition, the paper will combine some of the Sunday sections, and will trim five employees, including two from the newsroom. The Journal joins a long list of papers responding to changes in the marketplace with staff reductions. Like the News & Record, which announced layoffs earlier this summer, the paper cited increased competition from websites and decreased revenue from advertisers. According to the article in the paper, the Journal is going to devote more of its resources to developing its online products.

– AK

Strictly for research purposes

A Seattle Times employee was fired for surfing pornographic news aggregator fleshbot.com on his office computer, which we learned about by surfing fleshbot.com.

– BC

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