No News From Iran? Journos Are Fleeing In Droves

iran-protestsComplain all you want about Fox. Rage about the fact the White House has foolishly decided it’s a smart idea to return Fox coverage fire with (White House?) fire. At least we don’t live in Iran.

The Iran election and the subsequent protests, which took place back in June are starting to feel like another lifetime. Not a surprise considering President Ahmadinejad’s brutal crack down on both the protesters and the press. Today the New York Times reports on what life is like now for journalists remaining in the country. One short word: brutal.

The editors of some opposition blogs, which reported the killings and the mass burial of protesters, have gone into hiding, and their whereabouts are not clear. The homes of some journalists, like Mr. Maleki, have been ransacked.

Mahmoud Shamsolvaezin, a veteran journalist and media expert in Tehran, estimated that 2,000 Iranian journalists had lost their jobs recently. He said about 400 of them had approached him for reference letters so they could get work abroad. “Journalists are leaving more than other groups because the government has closed newspapers and it has intimidated and terrorized them,” he said in an interview.

Side note: Judging by the byline on the article (Nazila Fathi) and dateline (Toronto), the NYT’s own journalist in Iran may have been part of the mass exodus. As we noted back in June, Fathi was the Times eyes on the ground during the protests and the fact she is filing this story from Toronto suggests she too was able to make a safe exit from the county.


NYT Metro Desk Cancels Newspaper Subscriptions In Order To Better Pay Freelancers

Picture 3At some point the New York daily tabloids are going to become a luxury instead of a necessity. That day has apparently arrived at the New York Times Metro Desk. The Observer is reporting that the Metro Desk has been informed that as of today all magazine and newspaper subscriptions have been canceled, meaning if you want the paper you now gots to pay for it.

The extra money the paper saves will apparently going to go towards freelancers, also known as, former employees of the city’s ever-shrinking media industry. As NYO’s John Koblin notes, cost-cutting measures such as these have become so common that even the Times wastes little space on cushioning the blow. From the memo:

Folks,

You all know how tight budgets have become. They are getting tighter. Because of that we have decided to cut all subscriptions to newspapers and magazines that come in from the news dealer. If you wish to read any of the tabloids or out of town papers, either purchase your own or share with co-workers who purchase them to read on their way to work.

Please note, too, that any subscriptions you have regularly purchased and expensed may not be reimbursed anymore. Please check with me before you pay for anything. Most periodicals, including the tabloids and other daily newspapers, are available online through Ebsco masterfile which you can get to through the Research Dept’s web page.

Sorry about this but the money we spent on these papers can be put to better use like paying freelancers. As always, thanks for your cooperation and understanding.


Media Does Letterman A Favor By Boring Public To Death With Incessant ‘Scandal’ Coverage

LettermanIs the journalism industry so down-at-the-mouth these days that David Letterman is the only thing standing between it an utter irrelevance? Probably not, but you’d be forgiven for drawing that conclusion based on how much ink the Late Show host’s love life continues to generate. Two of the country’s top media columnists devoted inches to Dave and his (apparently) consensual, unmarried, behind-closed-doors activities.

New York Times’ David Carr acknowledges that thus far Letterman has appeared to escape the worst repercussions of a sex scandal; namely loss of advertisers and viewers, but warns tougher days could be ahead:

There are two issues, the first having to do with media dynamics: will the drip, drip, drip of coverage of the legal case eventually erode his standing as someone suitable to tuck us in every night? And second, could his pratfall hurt his comedy?

Mr. Letterman’s hero Johnny Carson thrived in people’s living rooms at the same time that he worked his way through three divorces; his lack of skill in marital matters never seemed to diminish his appeal. But Mr. Carson lived in a very different media epoch, when there was no Gawker, the tabloids were far tamer and TMZ were just three letters of the alphabet.

Carr goes on to note that Gerald Shargel, the lawyer for Robert Halderman, is a pitbull who will stop at nothing to produce dirt on Dave. So far of course it seems like the excess in coverage, especially coming after Roman Polanski’s arrest and numerous political sex ’scandals’, has only succeeded in highlighting the absurdity of the coverage Letterman has received. An irony that the Washington Post’s Howie Kurtz touches on, and appears to sort of defend.

But what made Letterman think he could offer an open-ended admission about sleeping with subordinates without sending the media into a frenzy? [What indeed!] Perhaps he sees himself as occupying a different realm — an entertainer who pokes fun at politicians for sexual shenanigans, not a public figure whose own dalliances are deserving of such scrutiny.

The Ensign story is complicated and not very visual. Letterman is far more famous. So the comic is turned into media fodder and the officeholder largely stays under the radar…But Letterman left too many blanks in the picture — how many women, over what period of time? — and reporters rushed to fill them in.

One might argue reporters would have rushed to fill even minor fractures in Letterman’s story regardless of what Letterman had said. Also? At least the “realm” Letterman is occupying is not of the high horse variety, the same of which cannot be said of, for example, Howie Kurtz.


Future Of The Magazine Industry? Special Issues, Lots Of Special Issues

body-issue-espnMagazines, it hardly needs to be said, have not been doing too well lately. Magazine Death Pool, a site that ghoulishly tracks the deaths of magazines and lays odds on the next to fall (they currently have it out for Entertainment Weekly), notes that 2009 has seen the ends of Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, URB, Golf Inc., Southern Accents, Pink, Modern Jeweler, CSI, Vibe, Giant, Nickelodeon Magazine, Children’s Digest, Trump Magazine… and that’s only going back to May.

So what’s a survival-minded magazine that doesn’t want to go Web-only to do? According to the New York Times, one strategy has emerged as a favorite to combat ad page extinction: special issues. Preferably involving seminude athletes.

The TimesStephanie Clifford reports that even though ESPN: The Magazine has seen a 24 percent decline in ad revenues month-over-month for the first six months of 2009, its Body Issue (which we’ve written about before) “is the biggest October issue, in terms of revenue, that ESPN has ever had.” And they’re not alone: People, Sports Illustrated, Us Weekly, and even the likes of Golf and Disney’s FamilyFun magazine (”toy-of-the-year honorees”) have honed in on special issues focusing on a preordained theme or gimmick as a reliable way to appeal to advertisers.

One thing Clifford doesn’t focus on explicitly is a common thread that runs through a number of the magazines she mentions: they’re weekly or bi-weekly. By definition, every issue of a monthly magazine that knows what it’s doing should be distinct, if not wrapped around a single theme. But magazines that run more than once a month run aground of a problem that’s only gotten worse since the rise of the Internet as a news source: they’re usually too slow to tell you any news that you don’t already know, but their arrival isn’t rarefied enough to be anything special.

Even The New Yorker, which has been alarmingly light on ad pages lately, seems to be struggling with this, but if it went monthly, it would no longer enjoy its current privilege to help shape the news cycle each week. When we last wrote about ESPN’s Body Issue, we called it a “‘naked’ play for sales,” but noted that “desperate times call for desperate measures;” special issues are definitely a desperate measure, but it seems hard to dig weeklies out of the hole they’re in otherwise.

Of course, all of these magazines could be overlooking a key strategy lately favored by a certain newsweekly: alarming headlines, seemingly written by a moonlighting New York Post editor, about killing granny and racist babies.


Keith Olbermann Fact-Checks NY Times About Babe Ruth Baseball Footage

olbermannWhen we hear talk about the mainstream media spending more time fact-checking, we don’t usually think of baseball. But that’s exactly what it meant for Keith Olbermann, who chimed in about a front-page New York Times article from Friday’s paper about a newly surfaced piece of home video showing Babe Ruth at bat and striking out while Lou Gehrig waits on deck at Yankees Stadium.

But with this sort of vintage footage baseball wonks, like Olbermann, have to use every piece of evidence available if they want to nail down all the details of the film — the date, location, lineup, score, etc.

The first Times‘ article — which is more concerned with the science of pinpointing historical footage than the details of the new Ruth video in quetsion — mentions that the film was probably shot in 1928 and doesn’t identify the opposing team.

“Uh, fellas, I’m standin’ right here. The acknowledged ace amateur unidentifiable photo identifier, certified by the Hall of Fame for crying out loud!” wrote Olbermann on his Baseball Nerd blog, expressing some playful chagrin that the Times didn’t contact him to help flush out the details of the footage.

Now that Olbermann has given the footage the full treatment with his basbeball archaelogist’s eye, producing two posts on the subject for his blog, the Times has run a follow-up to the first article with the findings of Olbermann and others’ research:

But none gave it the full scrub like Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC broadcaster and baseball blogger, and Tom Shieber, a senior curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The two, working separately, came up with the same conclusion. They believe that the game in question took place on Sunday, Sept. 9, 1928. Probably. Nick Trotta, the manager of library licensing for Major League Baseball Productions, said archivists would not be able to devote their attention to the clip until after the World Series but did not dismiss Olbermann and Shieber…

Olbermann and Shieber agree that one quick glance reveals that the game was not opening day, the World Series (where the Yankees beat the Cardinals in 1928) or July 4: That is because there is no bunting. The Yankees loved bunting, and still do, festooning the Stadium for all big games.

Bunting like decoration-bunting, not like baseball-bunting. Looks like Olbermann knows plenty about both.

Read: Ruth Video Is Under Further Review [NYT]
Babe Ruth Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before [NYT]