What's a news executive to do when his newspapers are about to go behind a paywall and he needs to make sure the risky business decision isn't later revealed to be foolish?
Clamp down on transparency of course!
At least that's what News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch is doing.
Robert Andrews of PaidContent writes:
With nearly a month to go before News International raises its first paywall in June, both Times Online and Sun Online have stopped publishing their user numbers through the ABC in the UK.
March monthly figures for UK newspaper sites were issued Thursday - but both Murdoch sites are absent.
ABC confirmed to paidContent:UK that it is still auditing the publisher's traffic numbers - but it is keeping the figures private at News International's request and, at present, publication is not due to resume next month.
This means it will be hard to see exactly how many readers Times Online will lose when it starts charging £1 a day and £2 a week starting June.
The thinking goes a little something like this: If people know how many users currently visit your website and they find out how many users continue to visit your website once the paywall goes up, then they will be able to determine precisely how successful (or not) your decision to put up that paywall was in the first place.
Yesterday, the New York Post ran a piece by gossip columnist Cindy Adams under the headline "Sexual harassment: deal with it." Today, Women's Media Center president Jehmu Greene fired back in a statement given to the Huffington Post:
The author is blurring the lines between sexual harassment and sexual assault, when in fact one often leads to the other. There is no "right way" to handle sexual harassment or assault, but discouraging women from reporting those crimes is clearly archaic and deflects responsibility from the perpetrators. The under-reporting of sexual harassment and assault promotes an atmosphere of fear rather than of open dialogue about the issues. We should be focusing on the empowerment of women through programs like HollabackNYC which encourages women to identify their assailants, rather than regressing to a "just deal with it" attitude that disrespects and undermines the strides we have made in recent decades.
As Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp noted Monday, "[t]he battle is on" between Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and the New York Times:
The Wall Street Journal launched its new 'Greater New York' section today with all the fanfare of a political campaign kick-off.
Taking over the grand ballroom of The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, the Journal feted dozens of guests with a breakfast of bagels, quiche, coffee, Danish and other goodies. Large screens in the room promoted the new section's name, while top guns Les Hinton, CEO; Robert Thomson, managing editor; and Michael Rooney, chief revenue officer, headlined the event.
As the New York Observer's John Koblin writes in a post on the Media Mob blog, later Monday evening Murdoch downplayed the WSJ's ability to "kill" the Times at a Gotham Hall "launch party of The Journal's Greater New York section." The News Corp head also managed to get in a jab at Times publish Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s expense:
With the war starting, we wondered what Mr. Murdoch thought about Times publisher's Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s reaction to the whole dust-up involving what happened at Sir Martin Sorrell's apartment a few weeks ago, when Mr. Sulzberger and Journal editor Robert Thomson met for the first time. (Mr. Thomson described their conversation to us in an interview, and Mr. Sulzberger, through a spokesman, said Mr. Thomson lied.)
Mr. Murdoch's swatted the air disgustedly with his right hand, and said, "He should get a life."
The Times recently ran an ad campaign in which it provided stats about its dominance over The Journal with women readers in the New York area. What did Mr. Murdoch think?
"Bullshit," he said. "We have more women readers-total-than they do nationally."
Did he feel he could kill The New York Times?
"You can't kill The New York Times," he said. "It'll be here forever."
I guess if anyone should know about the ability to "kill" off a news outlet, it would be Murdoch. After all, this is the same News Corp chief that has presided over the decline of many newspapers and other entities like MySpace. As Newser.com's Michael Wolff noted in February, News Corp has "shouldered" the "losses" of the Times of London and the New York Post "for more than 30 years (representing, quite possibly, the largest aggregate loss of any media properties ever.)"
Like father's employee, like son?
Rupert Murdoch's son James reportedly crashed the London offices of The Independent because the paper had produced promotional ads stating, "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
The Guardian reports:
But [Rupert's] son James seems less ready to turn the other cheek, as it were. And this would seem to be the most plausible explanation for why Murdoch the younger, the chairman and chief executive News Corporation Europe and Asia, caused a media sensation on Wednesday by striding across the editorial floor at the Independent newspaper to berate its editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner.
In common with so many of the unpleasant episodes involving angry young men in modern London, it was a squall about reputation and respect. The newly relaunched Independent had produced a series of relatively innocuous promotional ads assuring readers: "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
There is no evidence that Murdoch senior has even seen the ads, but witnesses report that directly upon seeing Kelner, who was supervising the final production stages of that night's paper, Murdoch the younger began angry remonstrations. "What are you fucking playing at?" was his opening gambit.
The episode left experienced journalists shocked. "They strode in like a scene out of Dodge City," said one. "Murdoch scanned the room, you could almost hear him saying 'Where is he?'"
It looks like the younger Murdoch may be a big fan of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly who has become infamous over the years for ambushing those critical of the conservative network.
Think Progress notes that in discussing the story of six gay and lesbian service members who "handcuffed themselves to the White House fence" in protest of the President's slow movement on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), Fox & Friends co-host had this to say (emphasis added):
I want to get your take on something that happened at the White House earlier this week, because, of course the message from the Obama administration is of course they will be the most transparent White House ever and there was this incident where some members of the military, at least dressed up like that, were handcuffing themselves in an area where typically protests happen and the police chased reporters away and basically said they could not cover the event that was happening.
It's just another example of Fox News' love/hate relationship with the LGBT community. Off-air the network offers workplace protections and health care benefits to LGBT employees and their spouses while on-air its hosts and contributors are dismissive and at times downright homophobic towards the community.
In fairness though, we shouldn't really hold Carlson accountable for such a statement. After all, she's not a real journalists, she's just "dressed up like" one.
Last week we posted a link to Fox News host Mike Huckabee's interview with College of New Jersey newsmagazine The Perspective in which the former Arkansas Governor drew "parallels between homosexuality" and drug use, incest, and polygamy while also defending his home state's ban on same-sex couples becoming adoptive or foster parents saying, "we should act in the best interest of the children, not in the seeming interest of the adults...children are not puppies."
Taking exception to the Fox News personality's spiteful homophobic rhetoric, the Food Network's Hearty Boys -- Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith -- have invited Huckabee over for dinner in their Chicago home.
On Monday, I wrote at length about Fox News' love/hate relationship with its LGBT "friends" noting that "a review of Fox News' employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image."
Perhaps if Huckabee breaks bread with McDonagh and Smith they can pick his brain about the very real dichotomy that exists at Fox News between its on-air and off-air treatment of LGBT people.
You may know me from Food Network. My partner, Dan Smith, and I are The Hearty Boys. We're Chicago caterers, restaurateurs, cookbook authors and most importantly, dads. Dan and I have been in a stable, monogamous, loving, positive, nurturing and healthy relationship for 13 years. We were blessed to adopt our son, Nate, at his birth 4 1/2 years ago.
Sir, your comments likening my parenting my son to adopting a pet are beyond hurtful and dangerous. My love, passion and commitment to Nate is not one iota different than what you have for John Mark, David and Sarah. Our son is loved and cared for just as much. He feels just as loved and cared for. He is a happy, well adjusted little guy whom I fiercely love.
Mr. Huckabee, I invite you to spend the evening with us at our home in Chicago next time you come through. You need to understand and see firsthand what a family like ours is like. We are no less a family than yours, and in fact, we are healthier and more stable than most.
Americans are no longer going to sit silent as our families are attacked. And even though I find your comments reprehensible and irresponsible, I will open my home to you and pray that we might help you better understand the damage you could inflict.
It's no secret that Fox News doesn't live up to its "fair and balanced" slogan, especially when one considers its coverage of the LGBT community. In fact, much of its coverage is openly antagonistic and downright homophobic. On issue after issue of importance, the network, its hosts, anchors, contributors, and guests offer up lies, misinformation, and right-wing spin that only further stigmatizes the gay and lesbian community.
The worst examples of Fox News coverage on LGBT issues can be found after the jump.
A review of Fox News' employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image. The dichotomy reminds me a bit of the recently outed state legislator with the staunchly anti-gay voting record.
Republican California State Senator Roy Ashburn was arrested for driving under the influence after reportedly leaving a Sacramento gay bar with an unidentified male passenger. Several days after circumstances surrounding his arrest and personal life spread in the media, Ashburn announced that he was gay and that he would continue to vote against the LGBT community because that's what the constituents from his conservative district would want.
Perhaps Fox News really is taking a page from Ashburn. Just as the California legislator has quietly acknowledged the fact that he's a gay man, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) has quietly been offering workplace protections and benefits to its gay and lesbian employees.
According to an examination of the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) employer database, News Corp. (Fox News' parent company) has had a policy protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation since at least 2005 and has offered health care benefits to same-sex partners since at least 1999. Time Warner (CNN's parent company) and General Electric (NBC/MSNBC's parent company) offer not only these basic protections to gay and lesbian employees, they appear to go even further.
The HRC's Corporate Equality Index rates Time Warner and General Electric with 100 percent and 80 percent, respectively, while News Corp. has yet to complete the survey that HRC uses to establish its index. News Corp. would give us a better understanding of how it treats LGBT employees on a variety of other important issues by completing the survey, but the media company does deserve credit for at least offering some very basic protections and benefits for gay and lesbian employees.
Lack of a Corporate Equality Index rating notwithstanding, News Corp. has taken its support for LGBT employees a step further by sponsoring the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) which describes itself on its website as "an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues." In fact, the program from the organization's annual conference last fall in Montréal included an ad from News Corp. stating: "The networks of Fox News honor NLGJA for its commitment to fair and balanced reporting. From your friends at Fox News Channel, Fox Business, News Corporation."
Reached for comment over email, NLGJA managing director Michael Tune said, "We try to have as expansive a network as possible in order to reach into every newsroom to accomplish our mission. News Corp. is a major employer of journalists nationwide, and NLGJA has had a very open and supportive dialog with them over the years regarding fair and accurate coverage of the LGBT community."
Tune added, "NLGJA's Rapid Response Task Force was created to respond to coverage of the LGBT community that is not fair and accurate. When we reach out to a news provider, it is often with the help of our member employees or other contacts within a company." He continued, "Often the relationship we have built with a company through its support of NLGJA makes it easier to work together."
I sought out Fox News' Brian Lewis, executive vice president of corporate communications, and Irena Briganti, senior vice president of media relations, last week for comment on the conflict between the network's public posturing against LGBT equality and its support for LGBT employees, but I've not yet received a response.
Just as Sen. Ashburn plans to continue his history of voting against the LGBT community to appease the homophobic conservative district he serves, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) shows no signs of pulling back on the homophobic red meat it has fed its public -- the conservative audience that drives its ratings.
That ultimately is what's truly sad about News Corp.'s relationship with its LGBT "friends." The media company gives its employees decent protections and benefits while making the lives of the very same employees more difficult in the long-run by broadcasting homophobia and misinformation that harden anti-LGBT views and slow the movement for full equality under the law.
As an avid viewer of several NBC prime-time programs -- 30 Rock and The Office among them -- I've grown accustomed to the "green" themed programming that pops up each year on the network and other NBC Universal outlets as well.
The Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick has an interesting piece out this week looking at the "eco-friendly" programming:
In just one week on NBC, the detectives on "Law and Order" investigated a cash-for-clunkers scam, a nurse on "Mercy" organized a group bike ride, Al Gore made a guest appearance on "30 Rock," and "The Office" turned Dwight Schrute into a cape-wearing superhero obsessed with recycling.
Coincidence? Hardly. NBC Universal planted these eco-friendly elements into scripted television shows to influence viewers and help sell ads.
Since fall 2007, network executives have been asking producers of almost every prime-time and daytime show to incorporate a green storyline at least once a year. The effort now takes place for a week in April and November. Starting April 19 this year, 40 NBC Universal outlets will feature some 100 hours of green-themed programming, including an episode of the Bravo reality series "Millionaire Matchmaker" in which a 39-year-old tycoon with an eco-friendly clothing line goes into a rage after his blind date orders red meat.
While the network says it tries to incorporate green programming throughout the year, the special emphasis twice a year creates an "event" that provides opportunities to advertisers, an NBC spokeswoman says. For instance, a Wal-Mart ad focusing on locally grown produce ran this past November after an episode of the medical drama "Trauma" in which emergency medic Rabbit rescues a window washer dangling precariously from a building; medics are alerted to the situation by a man sitting in his hybrid vehicle.
Behavior placement gives marketers extra incentive to advertise at a time when digital video recorders equip viewers with an unprecedented ability to skip commercials, says Jason Kanefsky, a media buyer at Havas's MPG. "You're not forcing your way into a program in any shape or form," he says. "You're just nodding your head at a program." ABC, CBS and FOX have plenty of product placement but haven't taken the step into behavior placement, network spokesmen say.
Armed with its own data showing consumers are wiling to spend more if a brand seems eco-friendly, NBC in 2007 launched "Green Week," the programming component of a larger "Green is Universal" corporate campaign. That effort brought in an estimated $20 million in advertising revenue from 20 sponsors, according to industry estimates. Many new clients, including the nutrition bar Soy Joy, came on board, NBC says. In April 2008, the network added another week of green-themed programming, when network logos go green and on-air promos tout NBC's support for the environment. But there are no obvious cues to alert viewers to the green emphasis in programming.
Chozick's story got me thinking. Wouldn't it be great if the Wall Street Journal spent 1,500 words (the length of the entire aforementioned piece) on a story delving into News Corps' efforts to go green and how its Fox News Channel spends considerable air-time attacking the science behind climate change and anything even vaguely eco-friendly?
Since the Journal is owned by News Corp, we shouldn't hold our breath. But just in case some Journal reporters happen to be reading (hello there!) I offer the following primer from a column I wrote in February:
Leading the anti-science idiocy is a host of conservative Fox News figures.
Over on the network's right-wing morning show, Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson maintained her long-held passion for dismissing climate science, saying she wanted to talk about the "dichotomy" created by "big snowstorms" occurring while "the Obama administration [is] talking about creating a new federal office to study global warming." Co-host Steve Doocy added to the nonsense, claiming that it was "interesting, though, given the fact that the weather is so rotten right now, and people are going, 'How can there be global warming if it's snowing and it's fairly cold?' "
Interesting observation? Hardly. Idiocy worth ignoring? Absolutley.
Fox News' Sean Hannity dug in deep as well, adding to his extensive history of science denial. The conservative host found it absolutely hilarious that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had "tunneled his way through two feet of snow in D.C." to announce the proposed creation of a new Climate Service office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The very next day, Hannity was back at it, saying, "Global warming, where are you? We want you back" while discussing recent winter storms.
Ironically, Rupert Murdoch -- CEO of News Corp., Fox News' parent company -- stated in 2007 that News Corp. "can set an example" and "reach our audiences" when it comes to fighting climate change, promising to make all of News Corp.'s operations carbon neutral by this year.
Perhaps it's time for Murdoch to call an all-staff meeting and discuss just how they are reaching their respective audiences on this issue, which he has said "poses clear, catastrophic threats."
There is a whole lot more where that comes from -- 247 research items, video/audio clips, blog posts and columns here at Media Matters alone.
At this point we shouldn't expect Rupert Murdoch to have much of a grasp on reality. After all, it wasn't too long ago that the chairman of News Corp defended Fox News host Glenn Beck's comment that President Obama is a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people" by saying, "he [Obama] did make a very racist comment." We're still waiting to find out what "very racist comment" Murdoch was talking about.
Now it seems he's lost touch with reality yet again, this time at a forum tonight in Washington, DC where he attacked the objectivity of rival news outlets in one breath and struggled to name a single Democrat at Fox News in the next.
Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports:
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose empire includes a host of predominantly conservative-leaning institutions, accused his competitors, on Tuesday night, of being the ones with the biases.
Speaking at a forum for the public affairs TV series, The Kalb Report, the News Corp. CEO valiantly declared that his rival networks -- MSNBC and CNN -- "tend to be Democrats" while those at his own Fox News "are not Republicans."
Asked later during the question and answer session to name a single Democrat who worked for Fox News, however, Murdoch struggled.
"They are certainly there... Greta Van Susteren is certainly close to the Democratic Party," he said, after blanking on names first and insisting that Ailes would have a long list. "She doesn't do many political stories. She is just a great journalist... but people who have been involved in Democratic politics and so on, yeah we have people..."
The media mogul was peppered with a host of comments related to bias, and in each case fought the perception that he's made his fortune by catering to the conservative audience. Asked by an official at the progressive watchdog group, Media Matters, for instance, whether it was ethical for officials at Fox to promote the Tea Party movement (as has been documented on some occasion) he replied without hesitation.
"No. I don't think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party. But I'd like to investigate what you are saying before condemning anyone."
From Noonan's March 18 Wall Street Journal column:
Now for the Slaughter
On the road to Demon Pass, our leader encounters a Baier.
Thursday's decision followed the most revealing and important broadcast interview of Barack Obama ever. It revealed his primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan. This furtiveness is not helpful in a time of high public anxiety. At any rate, the interview was what such interviews rarely are, a public service. That it occurred at a high-stakes time, with so much on the line, only made it more electric.
I'm speaking of the interview Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "Special Report With Bret Baier." Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns this newspaper, so one should probably take pains to demonstrate that one is attempting to speak with disinterest and impartiality, in pursuit of which let me note that Glenn Beck has long appeared to be insane.
That having been said, the Baier interview was something, and right from the beginning. Mr. Baier's first question was whether the president supports the so-called Slaughter rule, alternatively known as "deem and pass," which would avoid a straight up-or-down House vote on the Senate bill. (Tunku Varadarajan in the Daily Beast cleverly notes that it sounds like "demon pass," which it does. Maybe that's the juncture we're at.) Mr. Obama, in his response, made the usual case for ObamaCare. Mr. Baier pressed him. The president said, "The vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health-care reform." We shouldn't, he added, concern ourselves with "the procedural issues."
We've noted News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch's problems with the Internet in the past:
Well, News Corp wants you to know that, despite rumors to the contrary, they aren't selling MySpace.
Dylan Stableford of The Wrap's Media Alley blog writes:
On Tuesday, Business Insider reported what has been speculated for awhile now: that News Corp. and its chief, Rupert Murdoch, are dangling MySpace, the once-mighty social network that has fallen out of favor – and pop culture – since Rupe bought the then-popular site for $580 million in 2005.
The report cited a "gossiper close to News Corp. management" who claims the company is peddling MySpace to private equity firms with an asking price of – get this -- $700 million. Tech Crunch followed with a report that an investment bank, Code Advisors, is working on a possible spin-off, despite the bank's denial. (I spoke with one private equity source, who sees just about every large media deal come across his desk, but he hadn't seen a book on MySpace.)
On Wednesday, News Corp. issued this terse statement: "News Corp is committed to MySpace and is not seeking a buyer."
So, the death spiral of the one-time leading social network site continues. Congratulations Mr. Murdoch. Money well spent.
Over the past year, we've posted a few entries here on County Fair about News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch's online escapades:
Now, over on Newser.com, Michael Wolff makes the case that MySpace and the Internet could be Murdoch's downfall (cue the torrent of angry emails and phones calls by News Corp/Fox News publicists that Wolf is bound to receive):
One of the many things that Rupert Murdoch is good at is dealing with failure. It is worthy of a business school case study how News Corp. has so often managed not to acknowledge or be blamed for its messes. This includes DirecTV, TV Guide, his MCI satellite joint venture, his great investment in China, the Times of London, pretty much every newspaper he's bought in the US, including, perhaps most notably, the Wall Street Journal, as well as all of Murdoch's Internet ventures-Delphi, iGuide, Pagesix.com, and, most recently, MySpace, briefly the crown jewel of News Corp.
Sometimes he merely manages failure, as with the Times of London and the New York Post, whose losses he has shouldered for more than 30 years (representing, quite possibly, the largest aggregate loss of any media properties ever). Other times, he declares victory and sells off a troubling asset, as with DirecTV (he spent six years trying to acquire the company, then almost immediately got rid of it). Other times he just disappears the problem, as with most of his Internet investments (who even remembers them?). The job is not to be caught; the job is to keep others from perceiving him as a failure.
Be sure to read Wolff's entire piece here.
From Chapter 1 of Peter Robinson's interview with News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch: [emphasis added]
ROBINSON: David Carr, writing in the New York Times. Carr says that Robert Thomson, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, and Gerard Baker, the deputy managing editor, quote, "The two men have had a big impact on the paper's Washington coverage, adopting a more conservative tone and editing and headlining articles to reflect chronic skepticism of the current administration," closed quote. Fair?
MURDOCH: I don't think it's become conservative, maybe a little more -- a little more balanced. I -- if you read into every story very carefully, it certainly hasn't become conservative. Were there, in the past, a few correspondents there who had a bit of a left-wing tinge or what in the way they covered stories? Yes, probably.
ROBINSON: Can I -- according to the Gallup organization, 20 percent of Americans call themselves liberals. Forty percent call themselves conservative. I think we can accept, given the various polls that have been done through the years, the various newsroom surveys, that overwhelmingly newspapers in this country are dominated by editors and reporters who are liberal. Why shouldn't the Wall Street Journal be quite straightforward about saying we intend to be a newspaper for the rest of Americans, and incidentally that market is twice as large? Or is there a danger in being explicit about it? How do you think that through?
MURDOCH: No, we want to be objective as one can be and as fair as one can be. And we think the rest of the press is monolithically very often unfair. But you forgot to mention the 40 percent of Americans who call themselves independents.
MURDOCH: Now they're the people who don't like either party. They're not about to join the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. This country is, I say, vaguely center right in mood. And if you look at me and a few people, you might say we're a little bit more right than that. But the paper, I don't think is. There's no question that the editorial writers, the opinion writers at the back of the paper of the front section are consistently -- take a pretty conservative attitude. They never endorse candidates, but they look very skeptically at big government and what's going on in Washington.
A conservative newspaper, the Herald was once owned – SURPRISE – by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
I wonder if Fox News Channel will do the right thing and confess to its own "cheerleading" for Brown.
The Financial Times' John Gapper thinks the nasty Rupert Murdoch is… back?
The Rupert Murdoch we all know and love (or love to hate) is an aggressive, insurgent media tycoon who prefers to fight against entrenched media forces and insult them while doing so.
The Rupert Murdoch we have seen in the past couple of years is a humble pussycat who says nice things about how News Corp has to learn to play nicely with the digital generation.
Thankfully, nasty Rupert seems to be back.
Had he every really left? Sure, Gapper is talking more specifically about the business end of News Corp., but surely there's more to Murdoch that one could describe as "nasty."
How about agreeing with Glenn Beck that President Obama is a racist -- errr, made a "very racist comment"?
What about letting Fox News morph from a conservative cable news outlet to an all out partisan political operation?
We could spend an entire day rattling off the evidence that regular readers of this blog are already well aware of, but we'll save our breath.