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State of the News Media

Will NewsmaxTV Be the QVC of News?

NewsmaxTVChris Ruddy is taking a business built on magazine subscriptions, newsletters, self-help books, and vitamin supplements and adding a cable channel to the mix.

Ruddy, the conservative (but registered Independent) co-founder of Newsmax, talks with BusinessWeek about his latest venture, NewsmaxTV, which, starting in June, will broadcast 9 hours a day from new studios in Boca Raton, FL. “Our goal is to be a little more boomer-oriented, more information-based rather than being vituperative and polarizing,” he says. As for the business, Ruddy says he’s prepared to pay cable systems to carry the channel, and can make money in other ways, including selling Newsmax’s consumer products on TV.

Every viewer is a potential customer for his newsletters and vitamins. He’s also exploring partnerships with other conservative media entrepreneurs, including Glenn Beck and David Smith, CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI), which in 2013 bought Washington, D.C.’s ABC affiliate WJLA-TV from Allbritton Communications. “Cable channels are getting between $2 and $8 per subscriber per month in advertising. My view is I need to make 60¢ per subscriber to break even … if I’m paying about 25¢ per subscriber in programming and 35¢ to the distributor. I already have the infrastructure to easily do this.”

The network will remain free on the Web and hopes to be in about 50 million homes through Dish Network, DirecTV and several cable systems. It will be years before NewsmaxTV will be truly competitive with other cable news networks, especially the one it will emulate most, Fox News which has been the most-watched cable news channel for 12 years.  But Ruddy will still try: “If we take 10 to 15 percent of the Fox audience and they are making $1 billion a year, then we are going to be hugely profitable.”

Top TV Journalism School Adds Documentary Program

MUJournalismIf you didn’t go there, you probably know someone who did. The University of Missouri’s School of Journalism is one of the top programs in the country. And today the school has announced Stacey Woelfel, an associate professor and news director at KOMU-TV for the last 24 years, has been named the first director of the new Jonathan Murray Documentary Journalism Center.

The Murray Documentary Journalism Center is named for Jonathan Murray, the co-creator of MTV’s The Real World, Road Rules, and the Oxygen’s The Bad Girls Club. Earlier this month, Murray, a 1977 graduate of MU, donated $6.7 million to create the Center.

Woelfel will leave his job as news director of the NBC affiliate in September.

“Getting to know Stacey, I’ve been impressed by his quiet determination to get this documentary journalism program off the ground,” Murray said. “Stacey’s successful track record at the J-School and KOMU-TV, and his appreciation for what goes into making a great documentary, make him uniquely qualified to run the center and I am confident he’s the perfect person to pull together the necessary elements to make this an outstanding program.”

The new program will offer a bachelor of journalism degree beginning in the Fall of 2015, as well as a master of arts degree. The Center will also fund research in the field of documentary journalism. Coursework will focus on the history, business models, advocacy and advanced production of documentary journalism.

Should ABC News Have Revealed Jimmy Kimmel Wolf Video As a Prank?

ABC News was aware that a viral video, showing a wolf purportedly walking through the hallway of the athletes village in Sochi, was staged by Jimmy Kimmel. ABC News was told of the stunt as an off-the-record tip, and didn’t feel it had a responsibility to warn other news organizations.

“The world is seeing these kinds of videos more and more, and every news organization has to do its own reporting and own vetting to decide whether or not they want to print, air or say something,” ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider told the AP’s David Bauder. “It is a piece of comedy. We need to keep that in perspective.”

NBC’s “Today” show and CNN aired the video last week, which first appeared on the Twitter feed of American luger Kate Hansen. Willie Geist, who called it “a little bit scary” on Thursday’s show, clarified Friday that they’d been duped by Kimmel. But he says they checked with Hansen before running the item, and she told the show, “it was me.” Bauder talks with news ethicists and purists about the stunt. They conclude that these kinds of incidents add to a growing distrust of the news media.

On Twitter Friday, Kimmel joked the whole thing was an “accident” and “won’t happen again.”

 

CNN Examines Media Coverage of 2013′s Biggest Stories

On “CNN Newsroom” this morning, Carol Costello hosted a panel discussion about media coverage of two of the year’s biggest stories: the George Zimmerman trial and the Boston Marathon bombing.

The panel was made up of CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, Steve Malzberg from the conservative Newsmax and Eric Boehlert from the liberal Media Matters. Although Boehlert mentioned Fox News’ coverage of the Zimmerman trial, the three mostly steered clear of mentioning CNN’s competitors by name. The panel also didn’t address CNN’s coverage of the two stories. Watch:

What do you think of the television news coverage of the Zimmerman trial and the Boston Marathon bombing? Let us know in the comments (but keep it civil, please).

The 10 Biggest TV News Stories of 2013

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 11.51.18 PM

How to describe a year in which TV news had more turnovers than Pepperidge Farm? Business as usual.

The dramatic departures and arrivals of A-List talent weren’t the only big story of 2013, of course. Two new networks launched. Fox News made some major changes in its prime-time lineup. Serious health issues affected at least three anchors. And CBS’s venerable ‘Sunday Morning’ continued to kick ass on the Sabbath.

Herewith my choices for TV news’ Top 10, in no particular order:

Open mouth, insert foot.

Hosts Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin both left MSNBC after making what could charitably be called offensive comments.

On his November 15 broadcast, Bashir suggested that someone should defecate in the mouth of ex-vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin because of remarks she had made about slavery. Instead, it was Bashir who was forced to eat doo-doo. He resigned Dec. 4.

Actor-activist Baldwin hit the bricks Nov. 26, two weeks after he was caught on video calling a paparazzi a ‘cocksucking fag.’ His weekly show, ‘Up Late,’ lasted exactly five episodes. Maybe replacing ‘Lockup’ was bad karma.

Lara’s theme.

Ace ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Lara Logan was forced to take a leave of absence after her October 27 piece on the Benghazi attack was discredited. Politico says she’ll return early next month. CBS isn’t talking.

A CBS internal inquiry labeled Logan’s report ‘deficient in several respects.’ Among them: Over a full year’s reporting, she and her team somehow missed the fact that her major source, security contractor Dylan Davies, was a liar. Oops.

In a dubious distinction, Logan’s story led to ‘60’ winning Poynter’s Error of the Year award. If you call that winning.

A pair of newbies.

While other networks endured layoffs, two new cable channels debuted — Al Jazeera America on August 20 and Fusion on October 28.

AJA hired hundreds of journalists and staff – including many from U.S. networks. Among them: CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi, its first big-name hire; CNN International’s Joie Chen; MSNBC exile David Shuster and NBC’s John Seigenthaler.

AJA, whose corporate parent is based in Qatar, boasts 12 domestic bureaus and three broadcast centers. It reaches about 48 million homes.

Fusion, a joint production of Disney-ABC and Univision, features news and pop-culture fare targeted at English-speaking millenials. Based outside of Miami, it represents Univision’s first major foray into English-language programming.

Would you like your anchors scrambled or poached?

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Sorry is Easy. In the Case of Martin Bashir, Suspension Seems to be the Hardest Word

Martin Bashir 304Judging strictly by precedent at MSNBC, if Martin Bashir had called Sarah Palin a ‘cocksucking fag,’ ‘right wing slut,’ ‘dick,’ ‘pimp,’ or ‘nappy headed ho,’ he would be on suspension, at the very least.

Instead, Bashir is a free man. All he said about Palin on Nov. 15 was that she should be forced to have someone defecate in her mouth and urinate in her eyes as punishment for her remarks on slavery.

What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty, if one considers MSNBC’s long history of Foot in Mouth disease. In every case, the commentator was either suspended or fired. In every case, the perps have been men, and in every case but one, the broadcast slurs have been aimed at women.

Ten days ago, actor Alec Baldwin was benched for two weeks after he was caught on video calling a paparazzi a ‘cocksucking fag.’ He may not return.

In 2011, Ed Schultz and Mark Halperin were both suspended — Schultz for labelling conservative commentator Laura Ingraham a ‘right wing slut,’ and Halperin for describing President Obama as a ‘dick.’ (Sidebar: If it had been Nixon, Halperin would have been technically correct.)

In ’08, David Shuster served two weeks for saying that Chelsea Clinton was being pimped out to support her mother’s campaign. And in ’07, Don Imus’ description of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as ‘nappy headed hos’ got him fired.

Like all his predecessors, Bashir apologized – the latest to join the celebrity culture of contrition. In a statement Friday, MSNBC said Bashir had also apologized to the Palin family, that he’s “committed to elevating the discourse” and that the network was handling the matter internally.

Still, many critics argue that Bashir deserves harsher punishment.

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Christiane Amanpour: ‘Good Journalism is Good Business’

christiane amanpour newsxchangeCNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke about the state of journalism at NewsXchange, a conference that brings together broadcasters from around the world, Thursday in Morocco. CNN.com has details of her “plea to fund and protect journalism”:

“Good journalism is good business,” Amanpour said, addressing a news industry fraught with concern about falling advertising budgets, challenges from the Internet and fears over the cost of maintaining news coverage. “Without the storytellers there is no business; there is no successful business.”

Amanpour said that politicians were putting increasing pressure on journalists; particularly those from their own national and local media. She called for a recommitment to the principle of the freedom of the press, and a move away from the demonization of journalists themselves.

She described the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama as the most “litigious against journalists that we have had in decades,” making clear it was not just a problem in emerging democracies such as Turkey, Cairo and Sri Lanka. … At the same time Amanpour made clear journalists had a responsibility themselves to protect balance in their work and also not to portray every politician or person in authority as vain or corrupt. “We are also at risk of further tearing down the fabric of civil society by adding to the notion that every form of authority is simply useless; hopeless.”

Do News Correspondents Lose Trust with Viewers When They Turn Up in Primetime?

VegaScandalNorahBlueBloods

Last night, ABC News LA correspondent Cecilia Vega (above, left) played a White House correspondent on the hit ABC show “Scandal.” Vega was one of several people playing White House reporters reporting on, a scandal, presumably.

Last Friday night, “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Norah O’Donnell (above, right) played herself on the CBS series “Blue Bloods.” That scene was even shot in the CTM studio. “Blue Bloods” is set in and filmed in New York City.

The “Today” team has also turned up on NBC’s new “Michael J. Fox Show.” In that series, Fox plays a local news reporter.

Brian Williams went on “30 Rock,” playing himself, numerous times. Feature films often rely on real reporters — sometimes retired, sometimes still active — to play reporters. Lester Holt, now with NBC News, then with WBBM in Chicago, famously asked “How many one-armed men are there around here?” in “The Fugitive.”

The networks tell us there’s no set policy here, but that each request is looked at, and, so long as the reputation of the news organization isn’t at risk, the green light is usually given.

And on the flip side of this, an actor is about to become a cable news host.

But what do you think? Do news correspondents lose trust with viewers when they turn up on entertainment shows?

Why Not All Mass Shootings Are Equal in the Eyes of the Media

A good read from the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi, who contends that, by Wednesday, the media had already moved on from Monday’s massacre at the DC Navy Yard.

On Fox News, the midday panel discussed something called “the Hiccup Girl trial.” MSNBC had the jump on a “brain-eating amoeba” affecting someone, somewhere in Louisiana. CNN, struggling for decency and dignity, coupled coverage of the shooting’s aftermath with live updates about the safe return of an abducted 14-year-old girl in Georgia. This was a day after Britney Spears appeared on “Good Morning America” to announce her new Las Vegas show. “Only on GMA!,” the promo bragged.

The relative non-reaction might be explained by what Monday’s tragedy was not. It wasn’t Tucson, with its six dead and its now-famous survivor, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords. It wasn’t Aurora, Colo., with its ordinary, anyone-could-have-been-there locale, a movie theater. It wasn’t Nickel Mines, Pa., with the horror of dead Amish schoolchildren. Nor was it Columbine, Colo., or Virginia Tech, with so many promising young lives cut short, nor Fort Hood nor Boston, with the specter of terrorism.

And it wasn’t Newtown, Conn., with its monstrous slaughter of small children and the adults who had taught and protected them.

So, even the news of 12 dead people fights for airtime with Britney Spears and the Hiccup Girl.

Move along. Not much to see here. Except your country, circa 2013

Eric Deggans Ready to Talk TV, on the Radio

When Eric Deggans stopped by NPR’s booth at the National Association of Black Journalists convention three years ago, the last thing on his mind was a job.

“I just wanted to say how much I love NPR,” says Deggans, 47, veteran TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.

A friendly conversation with NPR executive Steve Drummond led, a year later, to freelance commentaries. And that led to Deggans’ hire last week as NPR’s first full-time TV critic and correspondent. He begins Oct. 1.

“I’m ecstatic,” says Deggans, author of last year’s ‘Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation.’ “I’m a huge NPR fan. Doing freelance was so much fun, and the people were so cool. This is an amazing thing.”

Leaving the Tampa Bay Times won’t be easy, Deggans says. He joined the paper in 1995 as pop music critic, moving to the TV beat in ’97. In ’05, after a year’s stint on the editorial board, he returned to the arts desk, as media writer. He added TV critic to his title in ’06.

“I really love working here,” he says. “The Tampa Bay Times is the reason I’m the journalist I am now. Everything I learned about the finer points of the job has come from them. They’ve always backed me.

“Ultimately, NPR was such an amazing opportunity to be heard on a national stage, I couldn’t turn it down. I wish I could cut myself in half, and do both jobs.” He is also talking to CNN about a guest-hosting shot on “Reliable Sources,” on which he frequently appears.

Deggans, raised in Gary, Ind., and graduated from Indiana University, says his plan is to remain in Tampa for the next two years so that the youngest of his four children can complete elementary school. At that point, the family will relocate to L.A., he says.

Deggans’ new role will not affect that of David Bianculli, longtime TV critic for Terry Gross’ ‘Fresh Air,’ according to Deggans, nor that of media correspondent David Folkenflik.

“We’ve reached the point as a society where TV is crucial to popular culture,” Deggans says. “NPR realizes that. They’ve slowly built up their critical resources to make sure they were ready to go into that realm.”

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