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Newsreader's anger over Paris story
Dan Glaister, The Guardian
Did the release of Paris Hilton from a Los Angeles jail merit the media attention it received? That question reached a critical point for one US cable news presenter when she refused to read out the lead item on a popular morning breakfast show.
"I have an apology," presenter Mika Brzezinski told the host of MSNBC's Morning Joe programme, "and that is for the lead story. I hate this story. I don't think it should be the lead."
Taunted by her co-presenters, Brzezinski proceeded to tear up the script, attempting to set light to it before finally putting it through a shredder. "You have changed the world," mocked host Joe Scarborough."Yes I have," replied Brzezinski, "at least my world."
The exchanges, broadcast a few hours after the early morning release of the celebrity heiress, have become an internet hit, with an edited clip of the show viewed 250,000 times on YouTube.
Throughout the exchanges Brzezinski appeared angry at the inclusion of the item as the lead in the morning's news and at the action she is taking. At times she held her head in her hands, at others she appeared close to tears, her face bearing an exasperated expression.
(29 June 2007)
Three cheers for Mika Brzezinski, and boo-hiss to the hacks around her at MSNBC. -BA
Comment from Michael Tomasky at the Guardian (We'll always have Paris):
It would be nice to think Brzezinski represents the vanguard of a trend, but one leading US media observer cautions against getting one's hopes up. "What you're seeing in the media culture in this country is an almost crazed effort by traditional media to shore up an economic model that has been shattered by digital technology," said Alex Jones, the director of the Joan Shorenstein Centre for Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. "And that means anything that will produce ratings."
Mr Jones added that "there's always this sort of breast-beating after 'silly season' moments like this", and said nothing ever came of it. But Brzezinski's act, he believed, "goes to something deeper: the feeling that people who consider themselves to be serious journalists did not sign on to do this sort of baloney".
UPDATE: More from Richard Adams
Hilton and Brzezinski do have something in common, both being blonde, telegenic and the daughters of influential fathers. But any similarity ends there: while Paris is the scion of a wealthy socialite Rick Hilton, the 39-year-old newsreader is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, a foreign policy heavyweight in Washington and a former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter.
In 2001 Brzezinski was working in New York as a correspondent for CBS News, and on September 11 was assigned as the network's "Ground Zero" correspondent. She was broadcasting live on CBS in front of the World Trade Centre when the south tower collapsed.
But suspicions remain that Brzezinski's moment of madness was staged, although the worried reactions from her co-hosts when she attempted to set fire to the script on air suggests she wasn't acting.
The Murdoch Factor
Paul Krugman, The New York Times via Common Dreams
In October 2003, the nonpartisan Program on International Policy Attitudes published a study titled "Misperceptions, the media and the Iraq war." It found that 60 percent of Americans believed at least one of the following: clear evidence had been found of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda; W.M.D. had been found in Iraq; world public opinion favored the U.S. going to war with Iraq.
The prevalence of these misperceptions, however, depended crucially on where people got their news. Only 23 percent of those who got their information mainly from PBS or NPR believed any of these untrue things, but the number was 80 percent among those relying primarily on Fox News. In particular, two-thirds of Fox devotees believed that the U.S. had "found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization."
So, does anyone think it's O.K. if Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns Fox News, buys The Wall Street Journal?
The problem with Mr. Murdoch isn't that he's a right-wing ideologue. If that were all he was, he'd be much less dangerous. What he is, rather, is an opportunist who exploits a rule-free media environment - one created, in part, by conservative political power - by slanting news coverage to favor whoever he thinks will serve his business interests.
In the United States, that strategy has mainly meant blatant bias in favor of the Bush administration and the Republican Party - but last year Mr. Murdoch covered his bases by hosting a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton's Senate re-election campaign.
...Defenders of Mr. Murdoch's bid for The Journal say that we should judge him not by Fox News but by his stewardship of the venerable Times of London, which he acquired in 1981. Indeed, the political bias of The Times is much less blatant than that of Fox News. But a number of former Times employees have said that there was pressure to slant coverage - and everyone I've seen quoted defending Mr. Murdoch's management is still on his payroll.
In any case, do we want to see one of America's two serious national newspapers in the hands of a man who has done so much to mislead so many?
(20 June 2007)
Wall St Journal staff stay away in protest
Demonstration against Murdoch takeover plans
Katie Allen, The Guardian
Wall Street Journal staff across America refused to turn up to work yesterday in protest at rapidly advancing takeover talks between Rupert Murdoch and the paper's owner, Dow Jones.
The protest came as it emerged that Mr Murdoch's News Corp had agreed with Dow Jones on a special committee that would be responsible for the hiring and firing of key editors at the Journal and the company's other news businesses.
The Independent Association of Publishers' Employees (IAPE), representing more than 2,000 Dow Jones staff, said Journal reporters chose not to show in the morning but were planning to be back at their desks in the afternoon to get today's edition out.
"The Wall Street Journal's long tradition of independence, which has been the hallmark of our news coverage for decades, is threatened today. We, along with hundreds of other Dow Jones employees represented by IAPE want to demonstrate our conviction that the Journal's editorial integrity depends on its continued independence," they said in a statement.
The union said the protest was also designed to remind managers that "the quality of its publications depended on a top-quality professional staff". The statement reflected a row over planned cuts to health benefits and limits on pay.
"We hope this demonstration will remind those entrusted with the future of Dow Jones that our publications' integrity must be protected and sustained from top to bottom," they said.
(29 June 2007)
The Wall Street Journal produces some of the best journalism in America. If Murdoch takes it over, our collective IQ will go down by a point or two. -BA