Does Dobbs Encourage Attacks on Latino Immigrants?

The U.S. cable ‘news’ networks become ever more bizarre. Now CNN has agreed to run an advert from Media Matters attacking Lou Dobbs during his show. The group slams him for his outspoken support for the ‘birthers’ movement’s claim that Obama was not native born and therefore shouldn’t be U.S. President. Senior CNN executives looked as if they might order Dobbs to back off: CNN’s President recently sent out a network-wide memo urging anchors and producers to treat the ‘birthers’ cautiously. But Dobbs has continued to ignore the memo and there have been no consequences.

Media Matters isn’t the only group unhappy with the toxic nature of the Lou Dobbs Show. The National Council of La Raza, the Latino civil rights organisation, has long been frustrated with the nature of Dobbs’ coverage of immigration and border issues: whenever Dobbs launches on one of his rants about immigrants, especially those from south of the Rio Grande, arson attacks on La Raza offices increase and there is a noticeable jump also of phone threats.

La Raza is currently considering how best to proceed: the group fears that if  it makes too much of the correlation between attacks and threats and Dobbs’ coverage, that will merely embolden him.

A Passport to Make Phone Call

Why did innovative Apple go into business with AT&T, a company that makes GM appear cutting-edge? Last week, I got a new I-phone – great. Alas, AT&T is the exclusive carrier in the U.S. and what a nightmare company to deal with. Now I learn that to be able to make an overseas call and have international service I have to fax (!?) AT&T a copy of my passport, a utility bill, etc. Now that is 21st century! And people wonder why old US companies need the taxpayers to bail them out. This customer is off – back to T-mobile.

Paying For What?

Business Week is planning to experiment with a pay wall for online content. Well, kind of. But it is clear they are hedging their bets and by doing so the magazine is communicating uncertainty. According to MediaWeek  , Business Week content will be available for free but subscribers will get a more “interesting experience”: the subscriber-only view will be print-like in presentation. That is turning the clock back to the late 1990s. In the UK, the now defunct Bonnier newspaper Business Am was the first to introduce an online print presentation, followed a few weeks later in the U.S. by the New York Times. But it wasn’t wildly popular with the online crowd. The reason being? The traditional masqerading as the innovative is a turn-off. Traditional media is still at sea about how to exploit fully digital platforms.

Business Week is hedging bets also by trying what Newsweek and Time have been trying for ages now in different forms: being more forward-leaning with their stories.  But Newsweek and Time just have not been able to pull it off in my mind. They are not good at picking the stories of tomorrow. Business Week also plans to do more on the instant business news front. Heaven knows why — that is a crowded field with Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, the FT and Wall Street Journal. The magazine would be better served — and would better serve readers – by concentrating on what it used to do well: in depth and investigative pieces that draws together politics and business and economics.

One innovation the magazine has just introduced online does have potential. It has created a business social net. The building of community is a good way forward, that is if practitioners, economists, commentators, etc, are brought together exchanging ideas and thoughts. But will that be enough to pay the magazine’s bills?

No Wonder the Newspaper Industry is in Dire Straits

Maybe it will seem unsympathetic to some if I question why anyone should be guaranteed a job for life. I admit I am sitting on the terrace of my small house in Italy enjoying a vacation. But I worked damn hard for this house and never had a job guaranteed when I was a newspaperman. As some of you will be aware, the Boston Globe’s Newspaper Guild looks like it will agree to a demand made by the paper’s owner for the end of lifetime job guarantees. Apparently, 190 members enjoyed that privilege. The bigger question — not one being asked by US newspapers as far as I can see —  is why they had those guarantees in the first place. It reminds me of the nonsense in the UK during the 1980s and earlier when the print unions and the National Union of Journalists controlled the British newspaper industry — to the detriment of the economic health of newspapers. 

Poor old newspapers – challenged by the Internet and let down by managements and unions.

Nice To Know You Are Appreciated

Fifteen editors have been shown the door at the Baltimore Sun — part of the  Tribune Co’s cost-cutting measures. In the case of the fifteen they really were shown the door with security guards ready to escort them from the building.

I had sympathy for Sam Zell when he tried to explain a few months ago to the Tribune bureau in DC that they had too many reporters in the capital. I know that comment will make me unpopular among old media hacks. But the plain fact is that US newspapers have on the whole been overstaffed for years by comparison with UK and European papers — and please don’t tell me that the quality of the US publications is better (Not that I am saying that all European papers are superior to their US counterparts). I still think that the Tribune’s flagship paper in Chicago is over-staffed, even after the recent cuts there. After shedding 53 editorial positions, the news-gathering staff remains at 430. That is a huge number by comparison with the Daily Telegraph or The Times in London.

However, showing good staff the door in the way that happened today at the Sun is tacky.

But the question is why was the Sun not reformed and changed years ago. Of all the metropolitan papers in decline, the Sun has been the most extreme in terms of huge circulation losses and fall-off in advertising revenue. It was clearly heading for demise. And to be frank the paper was increasingly thin and unreadable and boring. It didn’t give you a sense of Baltimore nor of the rapid social and economic changes that have altered the face of the city. The Sun had poor leadership — as with many of the metropolitan newspapers it sat on its laurels and enjoyed its virtual monopoly. The managements of US newspapers have been lacking in vision and innovative thinking, as much as the managements of the US car companies.

What is doubly sad about Baltimore, though, is that belately it did have a challenger: the Baltimore Examiner, which was a zesty newspaper that was enjoying significant increases in advertising revenue. That paper was closed by its ownership in favour of keeping the Washington Examiner open, a paper that is finding it much harder than its sister did in drumming up advertising revenue and a publication that can’t hope to see off the Washington Post or undermine a revived Washington Times.