Last NYT Reporter In Iran Flees To Canada

0624iran2Here’s some news that has nothing to do with Sarah Palin. We’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog before the New York Times reporter Nazila Fathi, who during the protests over the Iran election this past June was often the only reporter on the ground reporting for the Times.

Last month Fathi penned a piece for the NYT about how Iran journos were fleeing the country in droves and we noted that “judging by the byline on the dateline (Toronto), the NYT’s own journalist in Iran may have been part of the mass exodus.” Turns out she was. The Toronto Star has picked up the story.

Understandably, Fathi didn’t want to insert herself into the story. In fact, it’s a story she never wanted to write. But in many ways, hers is the story of Iran’s recent spiral into lawlessness and, perhaps worse, hopelessness. It’s also the story of how, with depressing regularity, Canada is becoming a safe haven for the world’s exiled journalists. It’s not easy monitoring events from 10,000 kilometres away. But covering Iran from Toronto is still easier than it was in Tehran when Fathi was holed up in her apartment, watched by security agents, her phone and Internet connections compromised.

The article also details the circumstances that lead to Fathi’s departure from Iran:

Fathi was the last Times reporter left on the front lines as activists and dissidents were rounded up, interrogated and tortured. Among them was another Iranian-Canadian dual national, Maziar Bahari, Newsweek’s reporter in Tehran until he was picked up in late June at the height of the unrest. Bahari, 42, was released a month ago after his family posted bail. He remains in exile in Britain.

And who can forget the torture and death of yet another Canadian dual national, photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, in Tehran in 2003, which has strained bilateral relations ever since. Against that backdrop, Fathi took the warning signs seriously. A surveillance team took up position outside her family’s apartment, as Basiji thugs and Revolutionary Guard enforcers wrested control of the streets from idealistic protestors.

Whenever there were protests, “I kissed my children” before going out, Fathi told me. Later, one of Fathi’s old government sources alerted her that a sniper would take her out if they could ever identify her in public. “I stopped going out … I was practically under house arrest.” One day, the surveillance team followed her husband and children in four vehicles, then cut him off suddenly and approached their car. It was time to go.

Hard news comes at a hard price, and with the departure of Fathi (among many others) it would appear that both the public and major news outlets are now even more dependent on the sort of citizen journalism we saw last June for first hand accounts of life in Iran.

Condé Nast Gets Wired Ready For Apple Tablet (In Case There Is One)

Wired Apple cover

Just as Condé Nast celebrates the acceptance of the special, digitized issue of GQ into Apple’s App store, the company is now hoping and praying the rumors of an Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Tablet will come true next year. Just in case, CN is readying a digital version Wired magazine, ads and all, for the awaited Apple gadget, MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka reports. Ultimately, the plan is to create a template for all 18 of CN’s titles.

Not that anyone should assume CN has any inside word on Apple’s plans, as the publisher’s CEO Charles Townsend says the company isn’t offering any clues. In any case, CN wants to make sure that its digitized mags can fit any of the other large touch-screen products that are definitely coming to the market. CN will rely on new software from Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE), which is working exclusively with the publisher on this. Other mag owners are expected to get the digital mag software sometime next year.


AOL IPO Roadshow Begins Tonight; International Cuts Coming But Looking For Partners; ICQ For Sale

Armstrong At Paley Center

AOL (NYSE: TWX) CEO Tim Armstrong did a hurried Q&A session at the Paley Center this afternoon and then had to rush off to being the IPO roadshow, which starts tonight here in Manhattan, presumably at some glitzy event here in the city. He didn’t say anything he hasn’t before, but hinted at some contraction in the international market, at least in terms of direct presence. he said AOL is in about 40 countries now, but in 2010 would probably be in less markets directly; as a result, it is looking for local international partnerships, he said. Left unsaid: the big upcoming AOL cuts would also likely include international, presumably.

Update: Now Kara is reporting that ICQ, the highly popular instant messaging platform, is for sale. One guess on a possible buyer: South African media giant Naspers, which has been buying up international digital properties across Europe and Asia, and owns a stake in the biggest Chinese IM platform Tencent as well.

New Newsweek’s Palin Photo Controversy: Did Photographer Breach Contract?

So, have you heard about this Sarah Palin sexy-lady photo from Runner's World magazine that's festooning the new issue of Newsweek and causing Palin to go bonkers on Facebook, because of "the sexism?"

Maybe you have, because the news has been doing a story on it every quarter hour, because of "the ratings!" Well, whether or not you think the cover is intended as an insult or if you buy Newsweek EIC Jon Meacham's serving of incomprehensible word-soup that he proffered instead of an intelligible explanation, there are bigger problems now because, as Jeff Bercovici reports over at Daily Finance, the original photographer may have violated a contract by selling the image to Newsweek:

That photographer, Brian Adams, could not immediately be reached, and his agent, Kelly Price, declined to comment, saying, "I keep all of my clients' business private." But a spokeswoman for Runner's World confirms that Adams's contract contained a clause stipulating that his photos of Palin would be under embargo for a period of one year following publication -- meaning until August 2010. "Runner's World did not provide Newsweek with its cover image," the spokeswoman said. "It was provided to Newsweek by the photographer's stock agency, without Runner's World's knowledge or permission." The spokeswoman declined to say whether Runner's World intends to respond to Adams's breach of contract with legal action.

Bercovici has more on the whole who-knew-what-and-when questions that revolve around this contract matter, so hie thee hence.

Palin photographer breached contract with sale to Newsweek [Daily Finance]

Newsweek Defends Provocative Palin Cover

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The Day The Dish Stood Still: Andrew Sullivan Blacks Out For Palin

daily-dish-stood-stillReaders of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish know that, among other things, he and his team throw new material up at a blistering rate. According to Google Reader, Daily Dish averages 308 posts a week. Today, he’s briefly shutting the blog down for only the second time in ten years to do something most bloggers wouldn’t deign to do: read Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue in its entirety.

From The Daily Dish:

[Palin] is a deeply disturbed person which makes this work of fiction and fact all the more challenging to read. And the fact that she is now the leader of the Republican party and a potential presidential candidate, makes this process of deconstruction an important civil responsibility. We take this seriously as we always have. We want to be fair to her, and to her family, and to the innocent people she has brought into the spotlight. And we are not reporters. We are merely analysts trying to make sense of evidence already in the public domain, evidence that points in all sorts of directions, only one of which can be true…

…And we have had the book for less than a day. We feel we owe it to you to get it right – or as right as we can – until we post or publish anything.

Palin recently called Sullivan out via Facebook for his Trig birtherism. Sullivan claims to have “simply asked” Palin to provide proof that she was really Trig’s biological mother, but he did also blog about it relentlessly for more than a year.

As Ben Smith points out, Sullivan is a hugely influential political blogger and may have had a large role in “creating the Obama narrative.” His embrace of a relatively fringy position is all the more important, then, for keeping it alive.

Sullivan’s dramatic proclamation opens him up to ridicule, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll find a smoking gun. More likely, tomorrow he’ll turn out an AP-like fact check that picks at inaccuracies real and perceived.

Still, Sullivan and his crew deserve a little credit for pausing to actually read Going Rogue, which is something that many bloggers — and straight reporters — didn’t bother to do.

(h/t Wonkette)

Could Google’s Phone Be a Net Neutral One?

Carl Howe speculates that if Google is going to release their own phone, it’d be unsubsidized and unlocked, able to run on any major carrier’s network. That would still be contrary to what Andy Rubin said last month, and still strikes me as something that would antagonize existing Android handset makers. And you’d still have to pay for a monthly voice and data plan, the cost of which isn’t likely to be any less than the plans for subsidized phones.

But, if this is what Google has in mind, perhaps Google itself would be willing to “subsidize” the cost of the phone to some degree in anticipation of mobile advertising revenue. There’d have to be some sort of hook like that, because a starting price of $400 or $500 just isn’t going to cut it against subsidized iPhones and Droids that start at $99.

Conde Nast’s Offering for Apple’s Mystery Tablet: Wired Magazine

Here’s yet another content creator that’s convinced that Apple has a tablet device in the works: Conde Nast says it will have a digital version of Wired magazine ready for the rumored gadget by the middle of next year, and will eventually create similar versions for all of its 18 titles.

But Conde, like other publishers, says Apple won’t actually talk to the company about its plans for the device — or even acknowledge that it has plans. (One possible exception is the New York Times (NYT), where editor Bill Keller refuses to talk about possible talks with Steve Jobs and Co.)

Conde’s plan, meanwhile, is to create digital version of its magazines that will work on all of the upcoming tablets, using new software from Adobe (ADBE). Those tablets aren’t actually on the market yet, but the publisher says it’s confident that we’ll soon see multiple versions of machines that feature large color touch screens and wireless connections.

So who’s going to make those gadgets? Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend says his company is working closely with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and that it has also been communicating its plans to Apple (AAPL). But Townsend made a point of saying that Apple executives themselves refuse to acknowledge that they’re actually planning a tablet: “They’re not talking to anybody openly,” he says.

Adobe is creating a publishing tool for the new format, as well as magazine reader software that  may come preinstalled on the devices, or may require a download. The software company says it is working exclusively with Conde now, but will offer its tools to other publishers next year.

Conde says its work with Adobe won’t preclude it from joining the “Hulu for magazines” storefront/distribution joint venture it has been discussing with Time Warner’s Time Inc. (TWX) and other publishers. “Those discussions are ongoing and important and imminent”, Townsend says.

OK. So what will Conde’s magazines look like once the tablets appear? The publisher has been showing a demo video to advertisers, industry executives and employees, and I’m trying to convince them to show it to the rest of the world.

But until then, you can get a sense of it by checking out the publisher’s first attempt to port a magazine to the iPhone, which was released today at the iTunes app store.

Like the iPhone version of GQ’s December issue, Conde says its tablet magazines will feature all of the same content that the print version does, including the original advertising, with the ability to view the pages in their original form or in formats designed specifically for the device. It will also import multimedia content, like videos, and offer the ability to sync up with social networks and other Web sites.

Conde also thinks the business model for its tablet mags will mirror that of its iPhone app. It intends to charge readers for each title, and it plans to convince the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the magazine industry’s standards board, that its online sales are equivalent to newsstand sales. That will allow it to charge advertisers the same rate as it does for print ads.

If all of this works, it’s a dream scenario for Conde and other publishers. The magazine industry gets to keep the revenue streams its print publications generate, without having to make the “analog dollars for digital pennies” discount that the Web requires. Meanwhile, Conde gets to bask in the benefits of digital — lower distribution costs, more engagement with its readers.

Or put another way: Publishers hope that the new devices will repair all the value destruction the Web has wrought.

But all of this assumes that consumers, who’ve shown no inclination to pay for this stuff on the Web, will be willing to pay for it once it appears on devices no one owns yet. We’ll find out soon enough.