Media Convergence

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Journalism Selections #3


Like Romenesko, I've been fascinated with the recent events at the Miami Herald and its Spanish-language counterpart, el Nuevo Herald, in the wake of the scandal over Radio Martí and TV Martí. Over the past week or so, the following has happened:

(I have not had to keep track of this many entanglements and scandals since high school. )

What originally seemed like a straight-forward story - violation of company policy followed by punishment - has erupted into a full-fledged debate over newsroom ethics and racial sensitivity. Last week I applauded Díaz and The Herald for refusing to cave into what I called "irrational sentiment". This week, after hearing that Díaz tried to squash Hiaasen's column for being potentially inflammatory, I'm inclined to revoke my earlier statement.

(Besides, if you ask me, the column was classic Hiaasen - just who does Díaz think he's dealing with here?)

I imagine that the notoriously vocal anti-Castro faction in Miami probably had a lot to do with putting pressure on Díaz, but it also seems like the staff of el Nuevo Herald was pretty upset as well. Fiedler certainly didn't help matters by referring to the paper's Cuban critics as "Chihuahuas". I tend to agree with those who are critical of his statement - calling someone of Hispanic origin a Chihuahua is not that different than calling a person of African origin a monkey.

I also thought this blog entry by CBS News' Valerie Hyman was excellent. In it she succinctly lays the blame for the increasingly sorry state of local television news today at the feet of Wall Street:

Here's what happens: election years make local TV stations happy. Dueling candidates bring in hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of advertising dollars to local stations. The problem is, when the "off" year rolls around, as it will in 2007, Wall Street demands higher profits than it got during the election year.

So 2007 is supposed to be better than 2006.

It can't happen.

But the corporations that own those stations will do their best to satisfy Wall Street anyway. Rather than fight the notion that news is a commodity like corn and pork bellies, CEOs of those media corporations keep figuring ways to get Wall Street the profit it wants.



Eric Alterman linked to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that calls out the business media for overstating the health of the economy. The proof that is so often offered up is that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is at an all-time high. Putting aside the faultiness of measuring a nation's economic health based on indicators like the Dow Jones or GNP, it turns out that business reporters weren't even citing this fact accurately. Rather than adjusting the Dow Jones to reflect inflationary discrepancies, they made their evaluations based on current-year prices. As the CBPP put it:

To fail to adjust for inflation, and to say that the Dow has passed its previous peak, is like saying that a worker whose wages are a couple of cents an hour above where they were six or seven years ago is better off today, even though the purchasing power of his or her wages has fallen significantly.

Had these overzealous business journalists done their reporting properly, they would see that the Dow Jones is actually down 17% from its all-time peak. Considering that most people (myself included) have a barely-above-rudimentary grasp on topics related to economics and business, it's critical that business journalists report accurately and fairly, rather than grasping for the sexiest possible headline.



Jay Rosen gave an interview to Slashdot, one of the most well-known online geek communities. In it, he answered several questions related to his new project, NewAssignment.Net, as well as other forms of "open source journalism". I learned a lot more about open source journalism as a result of this interview, but what I found most interesting is the fact that Rosen even had this interview with the members of an online community in the first place. Online communities and blogs are often seen as the red-headed stepchildren of mainstream culture and media, something only used by computer geeks, so I see this as yet another movement towards legitimacy for online communities.


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