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White Noise: News from inside the media bubble

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Fulmore makes front page

Over the weekend of Feb. 1-2, we carried the anxiety of knowing that Officer Julius Fulmore was the source of the Rev. Nelson Johnson’s allegation that the disbanded Greensboro police special intelligence unit had destroyed files related to the Klan-Nazi killings. We felt we had an obligation to publish what we knew, but we also thought that by holding off we could gain more information by conducting background interviews. By the following Tuesday, we wondered how our competitors could possibly not know, given the small number of candidates and the gossipy nature of the police department. We posted our story at 7:02 p.m. on Wednesday. By the next morning, the News & Record had almost exactly the same story in their print edition on the front page below the fold. Their reporter asked similar questions of Fulmore’s lawyer, Amiel Rossabi, who speaks deliberately and gave him almost exactly the same quotes. The same background information from Fulmore’s lawsuit against the city was also included in the News & Record story. It’s old news by now, overshadowed by the dispute between Rossabi and the city’s legal department about whether Fulmore alerted assistant city attorneys in the fall of 2005 about the alleged file destruction. But we know who broke the story, and more importantly, the News & Record does, too.

– JG

Alt-wars

The San Francisco Bay Guardian prevailed in its predatory-pricing lawsuit against Village Voice Media-owned San Francisco Weekly last week with a judgment worth $6.9 million, which could be raised to $15.6 million under California’s triple-damages law. The Guardian accused the Weekly of conspiring to put it out of business with below-cost pricing, evidenced by the fact that the Weekly had lost $25 million since 1995, when it was bought by VVM, formerly New Times Media. A published statement on the Guardian’s blog read, in part: “[T]he verdict sends a clear signal to small businesses, independent newspapers and the alternative press that a locally owned publication has the right to a level playing field and that a chain can’t intentionally cut prices and sell below cost to injure a smaller competitor.” VVM called the trial “an expensive lesson in laws, lawyers, and lawsuits, and how one man’s obsession manipulated the system,” and vows to appeal, challenging the validity of the state’s Unfair Practices Act, so this thing could concievably get even nastier. Said Michael Lacey, Village Voice Media executive editor, “We have not sought to injure the Bay Guardian; we just don’t want to read it.”

– BC

Democracy by imperial fiat

Ineptitude may have trumped duplicity in the Bush administration’s Palestine policy, a new piece in the April issue of Vanity Fair by Editor David Rose suggests. The 2007 civil war between Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah, which resulted in Fatah’s ouster from Gaza, was probably the worst possible outcome from a US perspective. Calling the debacle “part Iran-Contra, part Bay of Pigs,” Rose cites an October 2006 US State Department “talking points” memo as evidence that the Bush administration tried to engineer a Fatah coup against Hamas. The administration’s problem was that Hamas had won a resounding victory over US-backed Fatah in January 2006 legislative elections. The so-called “Quartet,” made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, then demanded that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. The State Department memo handed down marching orders to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Hamas should be given a clear choice, with a clear deadline:… they either accept a new government that meets the Quartet principles, or they reject it. The consequences of Hamas’ decision should be clear: If Hamas does not agree within the prescribed time, you should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government explicitly committed to that platform.” In anticipation of Hamas’ rejection of such pressure, the memo promises, “If you act along these lines, we will support you both materially and politically.” On June 7, 2007, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published leaked information about an Egyptian arms shipment to Fatah that had been engineered by Abbas and Lt. General Keith Dayton, US security coordinator for the Palestinians. Hamas preempted Fatah’s plans to consolidate control and in less than five days of vicious fighting drove its rival from Gaza.

– JG

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