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Tuesday, Dec 18

Morning Media Newsfeed 12.18.12

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Richard Engel and NBC News Team Freed from Captors in Syria (NBC News)
NBC News' chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and members of his network production team were freed from captors in Syria after a firefight at a checkpoint on Monday, five days after they were taken prisoner, NBC News said early Tuesday. "After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed. We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country," the network said in a statement. NYT The identities of the kidnappers and their motives were unknown. But their kidnapping once again highlights the perils of reporting from Syria, which is said by the Committee to Protect Journalists to be "the world's most dangerous place for the press." The Washington Post It is not known exactly who captured Engel and his crew. The names of the crew members were not released. A YouTube video posted last Friday, bearing the title "Journalists, like dogs, stuck in a trap," showed Engel and five other men sitting on the floor of a spartan room. Writing on the wall expressed support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the NBC statement said the group's captors were not believed to be aligned with any pro-Assad group. CBS News Engel has extensive history reporting on and living in the Middle East. He was reporting on the war from inside Syria when he was captured. His work has won him numerous awards, including five News & Documentary Emmys. According to NBC, Engel speaks and reads fluent Arabic and can comfortably transition between several Arabic dialects spoken across the Arab world.

Pew: Nearly 60 Percent of Americans Following Newtown News (TVNewser)
A new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reports that 57 percent of Americans are following the latest news out of Newtown, Conn. closely. That is a significantly higher percentage of people than the shooting in Aurora, Colo. earlier this year, and the shooting in Tucson, Ariz. last year. It was a lower percentage of people than those following the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, however. Yahoo! News / AP The Connecticut school shooting rampage compelled Hollywood to air disclaimers before violent television shows, swap some programs for others, cancel film openings and present somber specials on daytime TV shows that are usually more focused on entertainment. The responses came in addition to news specials on Friday's killing of 27 people, most of them school children, in Newtown, Conn., by a gunman who later took his own life. FishbowlDC In the midst of heated coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings this weekend, some journalists got hammered in ways they least expected. For example, ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper began tweeting out the names and ages of the children murdered in Connecticut. (An example: "Charlotte Bacon was six.") He separated them out into 20 different tweets for dramatic effect. And that he got, "please stop," said Clear Channel's Colby Hall, formerly of Mediaite. Poynter / MediaWire There was plenty of media-bashing following the tragedy, much of it reflexive and evergreen, from the suggestion that reporters shouldn't name the killer to criticism of reporters for interviewing children (Poynter's Al Tompkins told The New York Times he was "touched and impressed" by the coverage he'd seen, and he hadn't seen any inappropriate interviews). Oddly, there was less of an outcry about the fuzzy facts, many of which were investigators' words, reported accurately. Is that because the news-consuming public now expects a few "i"s to be crossed and a few "t"s to be dotted at first? NYT / Public Editor's Journal On Friday morning, as the story broke, the Web was filled with erroneous reports -- not only from regular people on Twitter, but also from major news organizations. The worst of those may have been the false identification of a young man named Ryan Lanza as the gunman, including the circulation of his Facebook photo and some of his posts from Facebook. As we now know, the shooter, Adam Lanza, was the brother of Ryan Lanza. Thus, there was layer upon layer of extraordinarily damaging false information. The Washington Post / Erik Wemple NBC News joined a raft of news outfits, including The Washington Post, that pushed the Ryan Lanza misinformation. "I'm sure that every news organization that printed 'Ryan Lanza' regrets it," says NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams. "I don't know what to say beyond that. I don't like to report things that are not accurate." Law enforcement officials who'd whispered the wrong name, says Williams, "were genuinely concerned about it when they learned" the truth. Forbes / The Not-So Private Parts Both the police and the media screwed up, but the publicity involved in the media screw-up was incredibly damaging for the innocent party. Ryan Lanza became a hit-and-run victim of the media's desire for speed in disseminating information. CJR / Darts and Laurels As bigger outlets from all over the world swarm Newtown to cover an unfathomable tragedy and as legacy outlets and prolific tweeters alike spat out misinformation and rumors, the Hartford Courant had the best account I've seen so far. Its coverage continues to be excellent: patient, accurate, and compassionate. As recent Connecticut transplant Megan Greenwell wrote: "You cover something differently when it's yours."

Ten-Country Comparison Suggests There's Little or No Link Between Video Games and Gun Murders (The Washington Post / WorldViews)
The search for meaning is a natural response to any tragedy, and the latest U.S. mass shooting is eliciting questions about, among other things, the potential role of violent video games. After all, with kids and increasingly teenagers spending so much time hammering away at simulated shooters, is it any wonder when they pick up actual guns? Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod lamented on Twitter, "In NFL post-game: an ad for shoot 'em up video game. All for curbing weapons of war. But shouldn't we also quit marketing murder as a game?" National Review / The Campaign Spot "Shoot 'em up video games" are played by millions of people, selling millions of copies. There have been 62 mass shootings since 1982, according to one count. So we have an activity that is not proven to stir a murderous impulse in its users (certainly some mass killers did not play video games, i.e, Nidal Hassan); roughly one million "shoot 'em up video games" are sold for each mass shooter. The Atlantic Wire With gun-related murders and video game consumption plotted on a graph, you can see that the United States has a high rate of murders but, compared to somewhere like the Netherlands, a relatively low rate of video game spending per capita. The Washington Post's Max Fisher shows that the trend line for the graph actually has a downward slope, meaning more video games does not mean more gun violence. BuzzFeed Most of all, we can let the media say it loud and clear: Adam Lanza played games. Probably violent ones. Stating that fact is not a problem. Pretending that it doesn't -- or rather, absolutely can't -- tell us anything about a person? That is.

TV Network Aimed at Millennials Set for Summer (Yahoo! News / AP)
Participant Media plans to launch a cable network aimed at viewers 18 to 34 years old with programming it describes as inspiring and thought-provoking. The as-yet-unnamed network is set to start next summer, the company announced Monday. It has acquired The Documentary Channel as well as the distribution assets of The Inspiration Network, giving it an initial reach of 40 million cable subscribers. Entertainment Weekly / Inside TV Participant Media has been involved with films such as An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., The Help, and Lincoln and concentrates on movies that promote social change and action. They now want that message to come to television. NYT / Media Decoder Evan Shapiro, a former president of IFC and the Sundance Channel, who joined the company last spring, will run the new channel. "The goal of Participant is to tell stories that serve as catalysts for social change. With our television channel, we can bring those stories into the homes of our viewers every day," said Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant. LA Times / Company Town The company is jumping into the crowded cable landscape at a challenging time. Pay TV distributors, who are struggling to keep a lid on skyrocketing programming costs, have been wary about adding new channels to their lineups. Participant, a private independent company, also lacks the leverage of a major media enterprise when negotiating with cable operators.

HBO Orders Bill Clinton Documentary, Martin Scorsese to Direct (TVNewser)
HBO has ordered a documentary chronicling the life and career of former President Bill Clinton, with Martin Scorsese serving as the film's director. The film is being "made with Clinton's full cooperation," the network says, and "will explore his perspectives on history, politics, culture and the world." LA Times / Show Tracker "President Clinton is one of the most compelling figures of our time, whose world view and perspective, combined with his uncommon intelligence, make him a singular voice on the world stage. This documentary, under Marty's gifted direction, creates a unique opportunity for the president to reflect on myriad issues that have consumed his attention and passion throughout both his presidency and post-presidency," said HBO chief executive Richard Plepler and programming president Michael Lombardo in a joint statement. The Washington Post / The TV Column The Clinton pic continues an HBO tradition. Back in June, HBO telecast 41, a look at the life of George Herbert Walker, POTUS from 1989-93, produced by Jerry Weintraub, the former United Artists CEO and a Bush family friend. Jeffrey Roth directed that one, which was made with Bush's full cooperation. Before that, there was HBO's Reagan in February of 2011.

Nielsen Creates New Metric Based Entirely on Tweet Data (AllTwitter)
Do you watch TV while cruising online? If so, you're not alone. Forty-two percent of Americans watch TV while they're on their laptops, smartphones or tablets. And Nielsen, in its quest to "provide clients the most complete understanding of what consumers watch and buy" is teaming with Twitter to create a new metric based entirely on tweet data. Gizmodo The question is: Will that make ratings more or less effective? Should programming be a slave to the few thousand people who hook boxes up to their TVs or to people who enjoy snarking about shows they might not even like or watch? Or will it even matter at all?

Web TV Service Hulu Books $695 Million in Annual Revenue (Yahoo! News / Reuters)
Hulu, the privately held Internet streaming TV service, will generate about $695 million in revenue in 2012 and finish the year with more than 3 million paying subscribers, the company's CEO said on Monday. Adweek Less noisily, though, Hulu has been walking back its free offerings over the last year, keeping the lion's share of its new content behind the paywall and requiring a Facebook sign-in (or site login credentials) for "mature" content. It's a successful strategy.

Will Jimmy Fallon Inherit The Tonight Show in 2014? (TV Guide)
Is Jimmy Fallon in store for a big promotion at NBC? The New York Daily News reports that NBC executives are currently exploring the fate of The Tonight Show once current host Jay Leno's contract expires in 2014. Late Night host Jimmy Fallon, who has been host since early 2009, could be poised to take over the earlier show. HuffPost If Leno's ratings remain strong, pushing him out could present the same problems that occurred with the O'Brien debacle. As described in Bill Carter's The War for Late Night, Leno was confused and hurt in 2004 when NBC brass informed him that O'Brien would take his job in five years, even though Leno's show was solidly No. 1.

Rupert Murdoch Wants Stricter Gun Laws After Newtown, but Fox News Doesn't Get the Memo (New York / Daily Intelligencer)
At 7:58 p.m. on Saturday evening, gun control's newest advocate took to Twitter to call for stricter firearm legislation. "Nice words from POTUS on shooting tragedy," wrote News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch, "but how about some bold leadership action?" Around the same time at Fox News, one of Roger Ailes' deputies was sending a very different message. THR Much was being made online on Monday about a decision by the Fox News Channel to avoid discussion of gun control in the wake of multiple killings at a Connecticut elementary school. An email "edict," as some have put it, from a Fox News executive who didn't want the topic discussed over the weekend has even been making the rounds. One problem with that narrative, though: Fox News insiders say it isn't true, and that, in fact, both sides of the gun-control debate were represented many times throughout the weekend's programming.

Is 'Post-Industrial Journalism' a U.S.-Only Phenomenon, or Are the Lessons Worldwide? (Nieman Journalism Lab)
European media scholar Rasmus Kleis Nielsen says there are big differences between how the media ecosystems on both sides on the Atlantic are shifting -- and some ways Americans can learn from Europeans.

Average Price of eBook Best-Seller Slides Below $9 to Lowest Point Yet (Digital Book World)
As retailers have gained control over pricing for eBooks from major publishers, they've wasted no time in discounting those titles. That discounting, combined with the success of lower-priced eBooks has pushed the average price of an eBook best-seller down to its lowest point since we started measuring it.

The Media in Egypt: Television Wars (The Economist / Pomegranate)
Media critics have long lamented the decline of even-handedness in American news coverage. The fashion for partisan stridency on channels such as Fox and MSNBC, they say, has cheapened the national debate and split the voting public into blinkered, self-reflective camps. But the critics haven't seen the worst. The political jousting on American networks looks like child's play compared with the rhetorical fireworks that now regularly erupt on screens in Egypt.

30 Under 30: The Next Generation of Media Moguls, Machers and Mavens (Forbes / Mixed Media)
These days, inherit a legacy media operation and you're likely to wind up with a pile of debt and a lot of stressed-out shareholders. No wonder the next wave of power players in the news and information industries is full of dynamic young people who are doing it differently -- bootstrapping their own startups, leveraging personal followings into loyal audiences or riding shotgun on fast-growing digital operations at the frontier of news and technology.

Senior Authors Embrace Self-Publishing (Sun Sentinel)
Getting older seems to bring out the author in people. And South Florida seniors are discovering the booming self-publishing industry is their path to every author's deepest desire: a book.

Google Offers Journalism Fellowship (10,000 Words)
Though Google may have contributed to the ailing journalism industry, the search giant will now be offering journalism students 10-week long fellowships. The first of these fellowships will start in the summer of 2013, and is open to both undergrads and graduate students.

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