Monday, 17 November 2008

RUPERT MURDOCH ON THE FUTURE OF NEWSPAPERS

Ken Berwitz

You may like Rupert Murdoch and you may not.  But I think it's fair to say that you would have to respect his knowledge of the newspaper industry (which he grew up in and has been involved with his entire adult life).

Here, from www.cnet.com,  is how he views the future of newspapers.  The bold print is mine.

Murdoch to media: You dug yourself a huge hole

Posted by Charles Cooper

With newspapers cutting back and predictions of even worse times ahead, Rupert Murdoch said the profession may still have a bright future if it can shake free of reporters and editors who he said have forfeited the trust and loyalty of their readers.

"My summary of the way some of the established media has responded to the internet is this: it's not newspapers that might become obsolete. It's some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper's most precious asset: the bond with its readers," said Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp. He made his remarks as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Australian Broadcast Corporation.

Murdoch to journalists: Shape up or risk extinction

(Credit: Dan Farber)

Murdoch, whose company's holdings also include MySpace and the Wall Street Journal, criticized what he described as a culture of "complacency and condescension" in some newsrooms.

"The complacency stems from having enjoyed a monopoly--and now finding they have to compete for an audience they once took for granted. The condescension that many show their readers is an even bigger problem. It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product. Newspapers are no exception."

The 77-year-old Murdoch, recalling a long career in newspapers that began when his father's death forced him to take over the Adelaide News in 1952, said the profession has failed to creatively respond to changes wrought by technology.

"It used to be that a handful of editors could decide what was news-and what was not. They acted as sort of demigods. If they ran a story, it became news. If they ignored an event, it never happened. Today editors are losing this power. The Internet, for example, provides access to thousands of new sources that cover things an editor might ignore. And if you aren't satisfied with that, you can start up your own blog and cover and comment on the news yourself. Journalists like to think of themselves as watchdogs, but they haven't always responded well when the public calls them to account."

To make his point, Murdoch criticized the media reaction after bloggers debunked a "60 Minutes" report by former CBS anchor, Dan Rather, that President Bush had evaded service during his days in the National Guard.

"Far from celebrating this citizen journalism, the establishment media reacted defensively. During an appearance on Fox News, a CBS executive attacked the bloggers in a statement that will go down in the annals of arrogance. '60 Minutes,' he said, was a professional organization with 'multiple layers of checks and balances.' By contrast, he dismissed the blogger as 'a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing.' But eventually it was the guys sitting in their pajamas who forced Mr. Rather and his producer to resign.

"Mr. Rather and his defenders are not alone," he continued. "A recent American study reported that many editors and reporters simply do not trust their readers to make good decisions. Let's be clear about what this means. This is a polite way of saying that these editors and reporters think their readers are too stupid to think for themselves."

Murdoch's comments come at a time when the media landscape looks increasingly bleak both for print-based and online news organizations. A recent report by Goldman Sachs predicted that advertising pressure will continue because of the declines in the auto and financial industries. Online outlets are also feeling the impact. On Friday, TheStreet.com shut its San Francisco office

Despite the blemishes, however, Murdoch said newspapers can still count on circulation gains "if papers provide readers with news they can trust." He added they will also need to embrace technology advances like RSS feeds and targeted e-mails. The challenge, according to Murdoch, will be to "use a newspaper's brand while allowing readers to personalize the news for themselves-and then deliver it in the ways that they want."

"The newspaper, or a very close electronic cousin, will always be around. It may not be thrown on your front doorstep the way it is today. But the thud it makes as it lands will continue to echo around society and the world," he said.

Having put forth Mr. Murdoch's views, but in recognition of the fact that many people consider his newspapers (excepting the Wall St. Journal I would think) as sensationalist rags, I'd like to tell an anecdote about him.  I wasn't there, and it may or may not be true.  But it's such a good one that I can't resist.

Years ago, Mr. Murdoch attended a high-profile gathering in New York.  One of the other guests was Marvin Taub, the CEO of Bloomingdales which, at that time, did no advertising in Murdoch's New York Post.

Murdoch approached Taub, introduced himself, and asked "How come you don't advertise in my newspaper?" 

The answer?  "Because your reader is my shoplifter".


BYE-BYE TO SECRET UNION BALLOTS?

Ken Berwitz

Let's start with the fact that I am a strong proponent of most unions.  I believe that unions are far and away the best protection a working person has from corporations, whose interest is in getting the most work for the least pay. 

I don't blame them for wanting this any more than I blame working people for wanting the most pay for the least work.  Both sides, understandably, operate in their own self-interest.  But without unions, the working person has no leverage against the company he/she works for.  It isn't a fair fight.  And it has to be.

That said, however, we have to be honest and acknowledge that a great many unions are corrupt.  And a great many unions have "leadership" that, for reasons of political partisanship and/or personal gain, doesn't always operate in their members' best interests.

With this in mind, I hope you are as disturbed as I am by the following information brought to us by Scott Johnson at www.powerlineblog.com.  The bold print is mine:

An undemocratic agenda, part 1

The proposed legislation that a Democratic Congress with enhanced Democratic majorities stands poised to pass ranges from the destructive to the abominable and the tyrannical. Indeed, much of it -- like, for example, the Fairness Doctrine -- is all of the above.

Another such bill is organized labor's Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800). In terms of truth in labeling -- another feature it shares with the Fairness Doctrine -- this bill could have been inspired by 1984's MInistry of Truth.

The bill is designed to put an end to the secret ballot on which workplace unionization is based under federal labor law. Rather, union certification would be premised on the signing of cards supporting unionizatoin by a majority of employees.

Under federal labor law, the signing of authorization cards by 30 percent of an employee unit is the predicate to a secret ballot election following a campaign in which both labor and management make their cases to the affected workforce. According to data compiled by the National Labor Relations Board, in recent years unions have lost about 40 percent of such elections.

The Heritage Foundation has posted a superb backgrounder on the EFCA. The backgrounder provides a wealth of information on the defects of a card check system as a substitute for secret ballot elections.

The American people themselves would never buy a system that is predicated on the abrogation of secret ballot elections, but they might get one. It would represent the biggest change in federal labor law since the adoption of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, if not since the adoption of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

Newspaper articles discussing the EFCA -- such as this Los Angeles Times article -- focus on the abrogation of the secret ballot. Yet the EFCA would also work another change that is almost equally profound and rarely mentioned in such articles. It goes unmentioned, for example, in the Los Angeles Times article.

As the Heritage backgrounder explains, section 3 of the EFCA would require companies and newly certified unions to enter binding arbitration if they cannot reach agreement on an initial contract after 90 days of negotiations. Thus arbitrators would be empowered to impose the terms and conditions of employment for newly unionized workers. Neither companies nor employees could appeal the arbitrator's ruling regarding terms, and the contract would last for two years.

I'm afraid that the EFCA may not the worst of what the Democrats will have on offer in the next Congress, but it is bad, and it would be a mistake to forget about it before the Obama administration comes to power.

Are you comfortable with this?  I know I'm not. 

And, if you are, how about doing it for our state and national political elections too.  That ok with you?  Oh, it isn't?  Then why is it ok for union workers to be vulnerable to a this kind of shaft job?

I will wait to see what President-to-to Barack Obama has to say about this.  Let's see which side wins out in an Obama administration:  the union bosses who wield the power and influence, or the union workers who, if EFCA passes, may feel as though they're paying dues to one of the entities that they're supposed to be protected from.


NICARAGUA: FOLLOWING THE VENEZUELA MODEL

Ken Berwitz

Daniel Ortega is the dictator of Nicaragua. 

Yes, I know he won a very odoriferous election in 2006 (the article I'm about to show you doesn't discuss how much it reeked, but it did.  Not surprisingly, therefore, jimmy carter happily proclaimed it fair and square.) 

But he has now stacked the deck so blatantly and so completely that there no longer can be even a pretense of fairness.

Here are the particulars, from an article in The Economist:

How to steal an election
Nov 13th 2008 | MANAGUA
From The Economist print edition

Daniel Ortega sets an ugly precedent

NICARAGUA may be a small country but it is an emblematic one. In 1979 the leftist Sandinista movement overthrew a corrupt dictatorship. In response, the United States organised the Contra guerrillas. In 1990 the Sandinistas agreed to hold free elections, which they lost. But their leader, Daniel Ortega, has returned to power, having won a presidential election in 2006 against a divided opposition. Now, armed with an alliance with Venezuelas Hugo Chvez, he seems determined to snuff out Nicaraguas young democracy.

In the months before municipal elections on November 9th, Mr Ortegas government manoeuvred to disqualify two opposition parties from the ballot. It sent police to ransack the offices of the countrys leading investigative journalist, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and those of a womens group. It is investigating another 15 organisations, including Oxfam, a British aid agency, for money-laundering and subversion. Many former Sandinista leaders have split with Mr Ortega, whose approval rating in opinion polls has slumped towards 20%.

For the first time since 1990, independent observers, foreign and local, were refused accreditation to monitor the election. Mr Ortega said that they were barred because they were backed by outside powers. To underline the fact that the Supreme Electoral Council, the supposedly independent electoral authority, is under the governments thumb, its head accompanied Mr Ortega when he voted.

According to the electoral councils provisional results, the Sandinistas duly won 94 of the 146 mayorships at stake. By far the most important is Managua, the capital and home to a third of the population of less than 6m. It has been governed by the Sandinistas for the past eight years. But in the run-up to the vote Eduardo Montealegre, of the centre-right Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), was ahead of the Sandinista candidate, Alexis Argello, a former world-champion boxer. The official count in Managua was suspiciously slow, but with 70% of the votes tallied the electoral council claimed that Mr Argello had won 51.3% and Mr Montealegre 46.5%.

Mr Montealegre, a former banker with an MBA from Harvard University, was the runner-up to Mr Ortega in the 2006 presidential election, which was watched by observers from the Organisation of American States (OAS), the European Union and the Carter Center. On that occasion Mr Montealegre swiftly conceded defeat.

This time he says that he won the election, and that the PLC is being robbed of victory by fraud both in Managua and in Len, the second city. His aides say that the electoral council handed out voter identity cards to those likely to support the Sandinistas while withholding them from opposition supporters. It also withheld credentials from opposition representatives to try to stop them witnessing the count. On election day, many of them were barred from polling stations, some of which closed early. Nevertheless the opposition managed to get hold of copies of the official tally at many polling stations, and it is from these lists that Mr Montealegre has compiled figures showing that he won.

Ethics and Transparency, an independent Nicaraguan group, organised tens of thousands of observers. Refused accreditation, they had to watch from outside polling stations. But the group estimates that irregularities occurred at a third of polling places. Their complaints were echoed by Nicaraguas Catholic bishops. People feel defrauded, said Leopoldo Brenes, Managuas archbishop. The OAS expressed concern while the United States government cast doubt on whether the election was free and fair. Opposition supporters clashed with Sandinistas, each side throwing stones at the other.

Mr Montealegre wants a recount supervised by international observers. The council offered a locally supervised review. Mr Ortega may try to ride out the protests. But European governments are increasingly fed up with the presidents authoritarianism, and are preparing to cut their economic aid (which accounts for a third of the governments budget).

Unless there is a proper recount, an ugly precedent for Latin America will have been set. Electoral fraud is largely a thing of the past in the region, and democracy has become a habit (see article). A bigger test of commitment to the rules will come in state and local elections in Venezuela later this month. Mr Chvez, Venezuelas socialist president, has manoeuvred to disqualify the most popular opposition candidate for mayor of Caracas. He has threatened other opposition candidates with spurious corruption probes. Despite what they claim is a crisis of capitalism, it seems that some of Latin Americas radical leftists fear the verdict of the people.

yugo chavez (I call him "yugo" because his performance reminds me so much of that car) may be a despicable dictatorial thug as Venezuela's head of state.  But he apparently is far more successful as a teacher.  Because daniel ortega has learned very well from chavez that removing the opposition and phonying the vote count is a pretty effective way to insure "victory".

Nicaragua is a poor land, maybe the poorest in central America.  Losing any vestige of democratic rule isn't going to improve its situation. 

-------------------------------------

P.S. on a completely irrelevant note, don't you love the way the British spell "maneuvered? 


THE ASSAULT ON ANNIE GROSSMAN

Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I talked about the racial incidents that mainstream media  barely ever report.

Here's another, courtesy of Gary Larsen, writing for www.americanthinker.com, and featured at  www.frontpagemag.com:

Evil on a Minneapolis Campus  
By Gary Larson
American Thinker | Monday, November 17, 2008

Years ago youthful thugs murdered a young man for his high-priced sneakers. Decent, law-abiding folks wondered again What Is This Country Coming To? In another case, not long ago in Minneapolis, a youthful thug was murdered for his designer sports jersey. Evil happens, its very banality -- as political philosopher Hanna Arendt wrote in 1963, coining the phrase "the banality of evil" -- is taking on the mantle of practically normalizing once unthinkable events in a civilized American society.

On election night in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a blue state, comes a criminal horror story short of murder, but no less disturbing. It happened at Augsburg college, a private liberal arts school named after a place in Germany the reformer monk Martin Luther served in the 1500s.

After taunting 18-year old freshman Annie Grossmann for wearing her McCain-Palin campaign button at an election night get-together, and "getting in her face," four women beat her for political views which, obviously, they did not share. Grossmann took verbal abuse at the party, then left for her dorm after it was clear, about 10 p.m., that her candidates had lost. She was followed by the four women into the shadows of a nearby skyway.
 
There she was beaten. The four women, all black, called Grossmann a "racist." She knew none of them. Nor did they know her, to her knowledge. It was that damn campaign button that evidently caused their frenzy. Their earlier taunts proved that. They were, Grossmann said, "rubbing her face in Obama's win."
"Why do you call me a racist when you don't even know me?" she screamed. Made no difference. Grossmann was felled by the largest of the four. She hit her head on the brick wall, and staggered back to her dorm. The other three black women at the beating chucked at this dark manifestation of partisan evil. They walked away laughing, offering no help to their victim. The banality of evil had asserted itself. And at four-to-one, it was also a cowardly act of mindless violence which, presumably, the four thought "normal."
 
Right here, right here in these United States, it happened, in my home state. A cruel re-awakening to the excesses of partisanship, in this case mixed with racism. That it happened on a college campus is hardly surprising. Not today. Campuses ooze with crazed partisan intolerance, places mostly where left-wing academia hold forth, along with politically correct staff, inculcating students with staunch, impenetrable biases, often leading to violent confrontation.
 
(Not surprising at all, at another private "liberal arts" campus in Minnesota, a professor was recently dismissed for stealing McCain-Palin lawn signs and delighting in his crime online. Such is the hubris of the clueless left, maybe beyond redemption.)
 
Freshman Grossmann had been booed roundly at a freshman "mixer" when she identified herself (gasp!) as a Republican. She is from Delta Junction, Alaska, you see, where her mom is a Republican Party leader, a big fan of Gov. Palin. Annie considers her governor to be a role model, something the ardent left must deplore as part of their article-of-faith, damn-conservatives mind-set. Annie's mom, Dawn Grossmann, had sent her daughter a McCain-Palin sweatshirt. Just think: Imagine the consequences if she had worn that on campus, instead of just a McCain-Palin campaign pin.
 
Newspaper reports say the four attackers might not have been Augsburg students. Somehow that makes a difference. Well, to the college, perhaps, concerned with its image. But what were the four thugs doing hanging out at a campus election-night party taunting anyone disagreeing with their choice of Obama? Who stood up for Annie? For principle?
 
She is a member of the college's ladies' hockey team, a hockey player in her native Alaska. She was excused temporarily from practice after suffering a concussion and blurred vision from the attack. Thankfully her injuries are not thought permanent. Psychic scars will remain, though, along with a lesson in intolerance, at the clubbing hands of her hyena-like laughing attackers.
 
This is not the first time Grossman met political hostility in the land of Minnesota Nice. Even her bear-hunting in Alaska proved a sticking point. As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a story careful to label the attacks "according to the victim," we find these clarifying paragraphs:
Grossmann's parents, Bruce and Dawn, said that in the weeks leading up to the presidential election, Annie had trouble on campus because of her political leanings and for being a hunter.

Bruce Grossmann said a "PETA person" had to be removed from her dorm room because he was upset by a photo of her with a black bear she had shot. Also, he said, she attended an icebreaker on campus and was booed when she identified herself as a Republican.

"I don't think she was prepared for the close-mindedness," he said. "I told her she needs to take a lower profile [for the sake of] her academic and her sports careers."
Intolerance on modern college (and even high school and junior high) campuses is not new, it is plainly clear, in these supposed bastions of free inquiry. They've become politicized to the core. Free speech itself is imperiled by their codes. Professors rule. Conservatives are muzzled. It runs one-way on most campuses, fiercely anti-Republican and, in general if not more so, wildly against all conservatives. What happened to 18-year old Annie Grossmann was perhaps a double whammy, of racism and ideological hate. Either way, or both, it's reprehensible to its heart-of-darkness core, banality of evil to be deplored by all right-thinking Americans.

Gary Larson is a retired former newspaper editor in Minnesota now residing in Arkansas. He is not the cartoonist of the same name.

There have been countless articles about what it will take for the USA to become non-racist.  I reject these articles out of hand because it is an unattainable goal.  Government cannot make every citizen tolerant of other races.

But there are ways that we move significantly in this direction.  One of them is if decent people see Black on White racism just as negatively as they do White on Black racism. And if media see it as equally newsworthy.


RICK MORAN ATTACKS HOWARD KURTZ

Ken Berwitz

Rick Moran of www.americanthinker.com is angry at Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media critic.  Very angry.

Here is Moran's commentary.  See if you think he has a point:

November 17, 2008

Howard Kurtz Discovers Obama worship in the press

Rick Moran
What makes this piece by Howard Kurtz so remarkably stupid is that he is supposed to be the media critic for the Washington Post and he never saw this kind of slavish devotion to Obama during the campaign?

What's troubling here goes beyond the clanging of cash registers. Media outlets have always tried to make a few bucks off the next big thing. The endless campaign is over, and there's nothing wrong with the country pulling together, however briefly, behind its new leader. But we seem to have crossed a cultural line into mythmaking.

"The Obamas' New Life!" blares People's cover, with a shot of the family. "New home, new friends, new puppy!" Us Weekly goes with a Barack quote: "I Think I'm a Pretty Cool Dad." The Chicago Tribune trumpets that Michelle "is poised to be the new Oprah and the next Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis -- combined!" for the fashion world.

Whew! Are journalists fostering the notion that Obama is invincible, the leader of what the
New York Times dubbed "Generation O"? Each writer, each publication, seems to reach for more eye-popping superlatives. "OBAMAISM -- It's a Kind of Religion," says New York magazine. "Those of us too young to have known JFK's Camelot are going to have our own giddy Camelot II to enrapture and entertain us," Kurt Andersen writes. The New York Post has already christened it "BAM-A-LOT."

Where has this guy been for a year? This is SOP for the Obamamedia. In fact, I would say that they are more constrained after the election than they were in the run up to the vote.

Kurtz asks, "But aren't media people supposed to resist this kind of hyperventilating?" Gee, Howie. Ya think? Maybe if you had done your job during the campaign rather than criticizing people for bringing up Wright, Ayers, and the rest of Obama's questionable friends, you would have seen how incredibly dangerous this worship is getting. Obama will be able to do no wrong and anyone who says differently will find themselvces fighting off charges of racism, or of trying to divide America, or any number of false accusations.

Reap what you've sown, my friend.

So?  Is this making any sense to you? 

I have a feeling you already know my opinion.......


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