SAVING SPAIN FROM THE SPANIARDS
Last spring Spain's public television (TVE) apparently fired one of its top directors because he cut away from the live coverage of the Spanish Cup final soccer match to avoid showing fans jeering King Juan Carlos, Queen Sophia and Spain's national anthem. The jeering was carried by TVE's Web site and Spanish public radio.
According to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the game was played in Valencia (about 200 miles east of Madrid) and featured the teams of Barcelona, based in the largest city of Catalonia, and Athletic, based in Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque region. Both regions are known for their dislike of centralized government and have their own language and a tradition of strong separatist parties.
TVE chairman Javier Pons said he considered it an "extremely serious mistake to not let citizens follow events live," and started an internal investigation to see if others were involved in the decision, which he attributed to "human error."
Erroneous or not, the director's decision clearly spared Spaniards from self-embarrassment and preserved the unity of the nation. Bravo.
CHARTERING UNCHARTERED TERRITORY
You know things are bad in the newspaper business when a few months ago the Los Angeles Times sold NBC a page-one column for an advertorial promoting one of the network's new shows. NBC had purchased a five-column ad at the bottom of page one but it supplemented it with a one-column news-story-looking ad just below the fold on the left side of the front page. The fake news story was in a box, was labeled an "advertisement," had a bold headline and used a different typeface than the regular Los Angeles Times news font.
The already demoralized newsroom was very unhappy, and about 100 Times reporters signed a petition which said, "The NBC ad may have provided some quick cash, but it has caused incalculable damage to this institution.. This action violates a 128-year pact with our readers that the front page is reserved for the most meaningful stories of the day.a fake news article on A-1 makes a mockery of our integrity and journalistic standards."
Los Angeles Times' management said "The delivery of news and information is a rapidly changing business, and the Los Angeles Times is continuously testing innovative approaches." The paper said, "That includes creating unique marketing opportunities for our advertising partners, and today's NBC 'Southland' ad was designed to stretch traditional boundaries."
It also appears to have stretched the paper's credibility out of shape, too.
THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS CAN BE COSTLY
Last spring Britain's Daily Telegraph received a lot of kudos (plus a 10% or 87,000 circulation boost) by exposing the lavish habits and questionable expense claims made by British Members of Parliament, several of whom subsequently resigned. But now, according to the French News Agency, it appears the Daily Telegraph had paid a handsome sum to get the information.
When asked about the veracity of these "checkbook journalism" charges, the Daily Telegraph's assistant editor Andrew Pierce said "One of the great rules of journalism is that you don't discuss your sources, so long as you establish the information is reliable and in the public interest."
There is nothing like standing on principle.
LET BOYS BE BOYS-IT'S WORTH THE INCOME
Then there is the ongoing imbroglio between Fox's Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. According to The New York Times, executives of the two networks tried to tone down the feud between the two stars, "expressed regret over the venomous culture" of the competition, and arranged for a cease-fire. O'Reilly allegedly would stop criticizing NBC and its parent company GE, and Olbermann would stop accusing Fox and O'Reilly of "journalistic malpractice."
The Times said that Olbermann and O'Reilly are not known for their "civility," and "in an industry of thin skins, are both famous for reacting to verbal pinpricks." However, both stars denied they were ever part of any agreement and the feud continues-to the ratings benefit of both.
In these days of endless news cycles, vicious cable wars and bloggers running amok, civility does not appear to pay. Go at it boys.
CROATIAN DILEMMA: FREE SPEECH OR BUST?
The Croatian Journalists' Association (CJA) recently denounced Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor's remark that she would not tolerate (in her press conferences) reporters dressed in offensive clothing. She was referring to an RTL Television cameraman who was wearing a T-shirt with the saying "I don't need sex-the government f_cks me every day."
Kosor said she and her cabinet "did not come from the street" and she expected a more professional attitude from the media. The cameraman said it was the only clean shirt he had-but still he lost his job.
CJA said journalists were not guests in the government buildings, but they were there because they had a job to do and they should be able to wear what they wished without fear of retribution. The association said Kosor's remark was aimed at putting "pressure on the media."
One can't help but wonder, though, if that T-shirt was indeed the only clean shirt the cameraman had.
PLAGIARISM IN OLD VS. NEW MEDIA LEAVES SOMETHING TO BE DESIRED
The Associated Press reports that The Harford Courant was caught in a plagiarism scandal last summer when area community newspapers complained that the Courant was rewriting their stories and running them on its Web site. The managing editor of the Manchester, Connecticut, Journal Inquirer said the Courant (part of the now-bankrupt Tribune Co.) clearly could not afford to cover local news "so they steal it from their competitors."
Courant publisher Richard Graziano set the record straight, when he agreed his paper had plagiarized its competition and promised corrective action. But he defended the "aggregation online" of other media work as "legitimate, acceptable and a practice that's been embraced globally." He just regretted the attempt "to carry it into print and we have stopped that."
So according to this creative differentiation, "news aggregation" for Web media is not plagiarism-or does this not pass the smell test?
This column is a regular feature in MEDIAETHICS. Readers with verifiable contributions for future issues (all subject to editing), or comments on the entries chosen for this issue, should send them to Manny Paraschos, c/o MEDIAETHICS.