TorStar for sale?

Will the Toronto Star, Canada’s biggest newspaper, be in play on the stock market? The Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson and Gordon Pitts examine that question in a piece about how some of the heirs of the family trust — the Thalls — plan to sell. Earlier, the TorStar had a (remarkably) small story about the issue.

Could the TorStar’s Atkinson Principles go the way of the once-vaunted independence of the Wall Street Journal? Hard to imagine. But until this summer, the very idea that the venerable Wall Street Journal could fall into the hands of global press baron Rupert Murdoch was unthinkable, preposterous even. 
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Media have tribes?

The latest Pew Research Center study on how Americans regard their news media will be a downer for many professional journalism: distrust, division and the emergence of media tribes. I suspect a similar Canadian study would have similar results.

An excerpt from the study:

The American public continues to fault news organizations for a number of perceived failures, with solid majorities criticizing them for political bias, inaccuracy and failing to acknowledge mistakes. But some of the harshest indictments of the press now come from the growing segment that relies on the internet as its main source for national and international news.

The internet news audience – roughly a quarter of all Americans – tends to be younger and better educated than the public as a whole. People who rely on the internet as their main news source express relatively unfavorable opinions of mainstream news sources and are among the most critical of press performance. As many as 38% of those who rely mostly on the internet for news say they have an unfavorable opinion of cable news networks such as CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, compared with 25% of the public overall, and just 17% of television news viewers.

The internet news audience is particularly likely to criticize news organizations for their lack of empathy, their failure to “stand up for America,” and political bias. Roughly two-thirds (68%) of those who get most of their news from the internet say that news organizations do not care about the people they report on, and 53% believe that news organizations are too critical of America. By comparison, smaller percentages of the general public fault the press for not caring about people they report on (53%), and being too critical of America (43%).

Hat tip: Janet Tate’s press notes, Society of Professional Journalists
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Canadian-Somalian journalists killed

A report by the CBC  says two journalists killed in Somalia today had lived in Ottawa before returning to Somalia in 1999 to help build an independent press.

There are numerous reports that Mahad Ahmed Elmi and Ali Iman Sharmarke were the targets of deliberate attacks in Mogadishu on Saturday. They operated Horn Afrik Media Company, which CBC noted was “a station that has criticized both the government and Islamic militants in Somalia.” At least two other journalists were also injured, in the latest of a wave of violence against media in which six journalists have died this year.

Here’s a Reuter’s report on the Globe and Mail site.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, who knew both of the journalists, said in a story on that organization’s web site, “Moments before Ali Imam was killed, he had told journalists about the movements silencing the Somali media who were talking about the poor conditions for Somali people today … Pressure has been mounting on Somali journalists. They have been victimised for not reporting on the issues of interest to certain groups.”

Here’s an excerpt of a press release calling for “international action” to confront the targeting and killing of journalists in Somalia, from the International Federation of Journalists:

The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) has demanded urgent international action to confront the targeting and killing of journalists in Somalia following a brutal double attack in which one media chief was shot dead and another killed only hours later in a car bombing while returning from the funeral of the first victim.


“These savage killings are an indicator of the perilous conditions facing journalists in Somalia, where political chaos and lawlessness threatens all independent journalism,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It’s time for the international community to focus again on the crisis in Somalia. So long as journalists are targeted no-one is safe.”

Reporters Without Borders “expressed horror at the murder today of two well-known Somali journalists – Radio Capital Voice director Mahad Ahmed Elmi, shot dead on his way to work in Mogadishu, and Ali Iman Sharmarke, director of Horn Afrik, killed by a bomb soon afterwards. Six media workers have been killed in Somalia so far this year.”

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Reuters’ “sinking feeling”

Busted by a 13-year old.


After a boy in Finland noticed pictures carried by Reuters looked like subs in the movie Titanic, the news agency was forced to admit the provenance of the images. Reported the Guardian: “footage it released last week purportedly showing Russian submersibles on the seabed of the North Pole actually came from the movie Titanic.”

Here’s the Guardian story. (Free, but registration needed)

Rubbing salt in the wound, the Guardian added:

The incident is doubly embarrassing for the agency since it follows a case in August last year in which it published an image by a freelancer of Israeli bombings in Lebanon that had been dramatised using photo manipulation, with the addition of smoke rising from allegedly burning buildings.

After that gaffe, Reuters promised to tighten up its controls on material being put out in its name.

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Na, na, na: My way is BETTER!

A website is a website is a website, argues Steve Safran in this column:

The more tools we keep giving journalism, the more journalists keep arguing over the tools. What they don’t see is the toolbox …. News isn’t about our internecine squabbles over how to present it. We’re killing each other over methods. We’re backstabbing over choices of presentation style. We blame the audience for too much dislike of the media — but then we show them we can’t stand each other, too.

Hat tip to Mark Hamilton.
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Morin new CRTC commissioner

Former Radio-Canada journalist Michel Morin was appointed this week as commissioner with the Canadian radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. Morin retired from Radio-Canada two years ago, after 34 years as a journalist, including as the chief editor of TV news for Radio-Canada and the French language news network RDI.

Here’s the CBC story.

Here’s the CRTC press release.

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Corporate control of information

A couple of interesting items this week about corporate control of public information:

A major U.S. telco censored two lines in a telecast of the band Pearl Jam. The lines were critical of U.S. president George W. Bush. From the response on Pearl Jam’s web site:

AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.

And a Washington Post writer, Rob Pegoraro, has a critique of our dependence on Google’s search engine:

The technology used to figure out what pages people want to see also helps companies calculate what products people might want to buy, and therefore what ads to display for them. Do you really want one company controlling that show?

Pegoraro takes a look at other search techniques, it’s a worthwhile read for any journalist.

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Yahoo grilled over role in Chinese jailing

The behaviour of Yahoo and Google in China has long been controversial, because of allegations that the companies comply with Chinese censorship. Now Yahoo is on the hot seat before a U.S. congressional committee.  An excerpt of a story in the Financial Times:

A US congressional committee is investigating whether Yahoo intentionally misled Congress over its role in exposing the identity of a Chinese journalist who was sent to prison for a decade.

The House foreign affairs committee announced the probe last week after new documents showed possible discrepancies in Yahoo’s 2006 testimony at a congressional hearing about its co-operation with Chinese authorities in the case against Shi Tao. The Chinese reporter and editor was arrested after posting material on a website about a government crackdown on media and democracy.

Michael Callahan, Yahoo senior vice-president and general counsel, said last year that the company had “no information” about the nature of an investigation by Chinese authorities when it divulged identifying information about the activist.

But the Dui Hua Foundation, a California-based human rights group, released documents that disputed Mr Callahan’s version of events.

Hat tip to Janet Tate’s Press Notes at the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Info-porn: enough already

From a report on the CBC web site: A survey conducted this July shows nearly nine out of 10 adult Americans believe there is too much coverage of celebrity scandals.


Here’s the Pew report.

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Climate change: misreporting?

A story by Mike De Souza of CanWest concerns a report blaming mainstream U.S. media for “stalled international efforts to reach an agreement to fight climate change.”

An excerpt of the story:

The report, in the latest edition of a magazine published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said there are multiple examples of major American media organizations watering down recent warnings from peer-reviewed scientific literature about the consequences of global warming and the human-produced pollution that is causing it.

The watchdog group based its analysis on a comparison of American and British headlines and articles about the release of a series of international reports that assessed the latest peer-reviewed on climate change.

Oddly, the report by FAIR seems to be available only in print, not on the Internet. 
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