News Cycle

A look at the news, politics and journalism in today’s 24-hour media.

Archive for March 2009

FOXNews.com – Iran May ‘Speed Up’ Release of Jailed American Freelance Journalist – Iran | Map | News

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The father of imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi and his wife are going to Iran in hopes of gaining her release.

Reza Saberi says he and his wife, Akiko, plan to be in Tehran by Wednesday.

Reza Saberi told The Associated Press that he has been hearing that Iranian officials are going to “speed up the process” of releasing his daughter, but he said “there’s still some work to do.”

Iran arrested Roxana Saberi was arrested for allegedly doing reporting work in the country after her press credentials expired. Her parents found out about her arrest in a brief phone call from her Feb. 10.

Written by newscycle

March 31, 2009 at 9:23 am

Posted in Roxana Saberi

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Obama’s Dubious Claims at His Press Conference

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FactChecker.org had this observation concerning President Barack Obama’s recent White House news conference:

President Obama sometimes strayed from the facts or made dubious claims during his hour-long evening news conference March 24.

•He said his budget projections are based on economic assumptions that “are perfectly consistent with what Blue Chip forecasters out there are saying.” Not true. The average projection by leading private economists is now for substantially less economic growth than the administration’s forecast assumes.

•He said he is reducing “nondefense discretionary spending” to less than it was under the past four presidents. Not true. His own forecast for the final budget of his four-year term puts this figure higher than in many years under Reagan, Clinton or either Bush.

•He said he was “angry” about “inexcusable” bonuses paid to AIG executives. But he glossed over the fact that his own aides insisted on watering down a Senate-passed amendment that might have prevented payment of such bonuses.

•He repeated that his budget is projected to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his term. That’s true, but deficits also are projected to shoot up again later unless big policy changes are made.
One of the most dramatic claims came not from Obama but from a reporter who asked about children “who are sleeping under bridges and in tents across the country” and who said 1 child in 50 is “homeless.” The truth is far less dramatic. The study he cited doesn’t just count children with no roof over their heads. It also includes those whose families are staying with friends or family members, in hotels and motels, in trailer parks or in housing deemed to be “substandard.”

Written by newscycle

March 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Posted in FactCheck.org, Obama

Stocks Slide as GM’s Wagoner Exits, Financials Drop – FOXBusiness.com

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Stocks opened sharply lower Monday after the surprise announcement from the Obama Administration on Sunday night that General Motors’ chief executive would step down effective immediately.

Written by newscycle

March 30, 2009 at 10:51 am

Posted in Bailout

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Obama Forces GM’s Top Executive to Resign

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The Chairman of the Board has spoken, and the CEO is gone.

President Barack Obama asked for General Motors chief executive officer Rick Wagoner to resign, and he has done so effective immediately, White House officials are telling national news outlets tonight.

Obama is expected to announce his latest auto industry strategy tomorrow, including a response to GM and Chrysler’s plea for more federal money.

“We are anticipating an announcement soon from the Administration regarding the restructuring of the U.S. auto industry. We continue to work closely with members of the Task Force and it would not be appropriate for us to speculate on the content of any announcement,” GM said Sunday night in an official statement to media.

Wagoner has been CEO for eight years and at GM for more than 30. It is not yet clear who would replace him, or what role the administration would play in that process.

Reaction has been swift to the surprise move. “Mr. Wagoner has been asked to resign as a political offering despite his having led GM’s painful restructuring to date,” said U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a Michigan Republican and member of the House Financial Services Committee, told Reuters.

We had feared the Obama administration may force some of the executives out. But we don’t really see how this would make GM the better, stronger company that Obama wants it to be,” said Rebecca Lindland, director of IHS (nyse: IHS – news – people ) Global Insight.

University of Maryland economist Peter Morici, a one-time critic of Wagoner who had called for him to resign but more recently thought he was doing a better job, said the administration has a “PR problem” regarding corporate bailouts.

“They are bailing out just about anybody that shows up and says they need cash. The public has grown weary of it and instead of throwing a banker to the wolves they have decided to throw Wagoner to the wolves,” Morici said.

There was no indication on who would succeed Wagoner, or what Obama’s role would be in picking the new leader for the auto giant.

Written by newscycle

March 29, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Bailout, GM, Obama

Newspaper Layoffs Reach 7,000 in 2009, but Government Bailouts Are Not the Answer

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We’re not done with the first quarter yet and more than 7,000 people have been laid off from positions at newspapers in the United States this year, as detailed in the right-hand column of this web site.

That’s about half the number of people laid off from newspapers last year, according to Paper Cuts, the web site run by Erica Smith, who has been tracking newspaper layoffs since 2007. In 2007, a little more than 2,000 people were laid off from newspapers during the whole year.

[UPDATE, 9:14 a.m. Eastern, March 28, 2009]: Smith commented on the 2007 total on her web site: “But the 2007 numbers I have aren’t for the whole year — I didn’t start keeping track until June, and I’m sure there were more than that.”

While large metropolitan newspapers such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News have ceased print operations, the most devastating effect will be felt in the small towns across America where weeklies and small dailies have been forced to shut their doors or greatly deduce their staffs.

These communities relied on their local paper for news about school boards, local zoning boards, city councils and area organizations. As regrettable it is that great newspapers in Denver and Seattle are gone, residents in those cities have alternative media sources to get information. People in places such as Mount Vernon, Wash.; Stamford, Conn.; Germantown, Pa.; and Newton, Mass., have seen deep cuts in their local papers or seen them disappear completely. That leaves a void in those communities and others that will be hard to be replace. There is nothing more important to residents than news about what local boards and councils are doing. Democracy itself takes a step backwards without that single watchdog reporter religiously attending meetings or pouring over records. In communities everywhere, government agencies are finding themselves free of the burden of accountability and transparency as newspapers disappear from the landscape.

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney recently wrote a tremendous article in The Nation that explores this notion (“The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers,” March 18).

So this is where we stand: much of local and state government, whole federal departments and agencies, American activities around the world, the world itself–vast areas of great public concern–are either neglected or on the verge of neglect. Politicians and administrators will work increasingly without independent scrutiny and without public accountability. We are entering historically uncharted territory in America, a country that from its founding has valued the press not merely as a watchdog but as the essential nurturer of an informed citizenry. The collapse of journalism and the democratic infrastructure it sustains is not a development that anyone, except perhaps corrupt politicians and the interests they serve, looks forward to. Such a crisis demands solutions equal to the task. So what are they?

Plans of newspapers joining the ranks of nonprofits and/or receiving Obama-bucks in a congressional bailout put the newspaper industry on uneasy footing. Nonprofits (501(c)3) are prohibited by IRS tax code to participate in politics. This could make voicing editorial opinions on politics (or even covering politics for that matter) questionable. It’s also not hard to imagine that a news organization that receives federal or state financial assistance would not be as aggressive as a watchdog.

So, what is the answer? That’s a $64 million question. The free market still has to play out. Journalism is not dying per se, just changing. As it did in the ’50s and ’60s when radio gave way to television, and in the ’80s and ’90s when over-the-air television gave way to cable, newspapers are now giving way to the Internet. Government handouts and tax status changes are not the answer. Entrepreneurs will have to find a way for local communities to get the news they need and deserve.

Written by newscycle

March 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Newspaper Layoffs Reach 7,000 in 2009, but Government Bailouts Are Not the Answer

with one comment


We’re not done with the first quarter yet and more than 7,000 people have been laid off from positions at newspapers in the United States this year, as detailed in the right-hand column of this web site.

That’s about half the number of people laid off from newspapers last year, according to Paper Cuts, the web site run by Erica Smith, who has been tracking newspaper layoffs since 2007. In 2007, a little more than 2,000 people were laid off from newspapers during the whole year.

[UPDATE, 9:14 a.m. Eastern, March 28, 2009]: Smith commented on the 2007 total on her web site: “But the 2007 numbers I have aren’t for the whole year — I didn’t start keeping track until June, and I’m sure there were more than that.”

While large metropolitan newspapers such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News have ceased print operations, the most devastating effect will be felt in the small towns across America where weeklies and small dailies have been forced to shut their doors or greatly deduce their staffs.

These communities relied on their local paper for news about school boards, local zoning boards, city councils and area organizations. As regrettable it is that great newspapers in Denver and Seattle are gone, residents in those cities have alternative media sources to get information. People in places such as Mount Vernon, Wash.; Stamford, Conn.; Germantown, Pa.; and Newton, Mass., have seen deep cuts in their local papers or seen them disappear completely. That leaves a void in those communities and others that will be hard to be replace. There is nothing more important to residents than news about what local boards and councils are doing. Democracy itself takes a step backwards without that single watchdog reporter religiously attending meetings or pouring over records. In communities everywhere, government agencies are finding themselves free of the burden of accountability and transparency as newspapers disappear from the landscape.

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney recently wrote a tremendous article in The Nation that explores this notion (“The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers,” March 18).

So this is where we stand: much of local and state government, whole federal departments and agencies, American activities around the world, the world itself–vast areas of great public concern–are either neglected or on the verge of neglect. Politicians and administrators will work increasingly without independent scrutiny and without public accountability. We are entering historically uncharted territory in America, a country that from its founding has valued the press not merely as a watchdog but as the essential nurturer of an informed citizenry. The collapse of journalism and the democratic infrastructure it sustains is not a development that anyone, except perhaps corrupt politicians and the interests they serve, looks forward to. Such a crisis demands solutions equal to the task. So what are they?

Plans of newspapers joining the ranks of nonprofits and/or receiving Obama-bucks in a congressional bailout put the newspaper industry on uneasy footing. Nonprofits (501(c)3) are prohibited by IRS tax code to participate in politics. This could make voicing editorial opinions on politics (or even covering politics for that matter) questionable. It’s also not hard to imagine that a news organization that receives federal or state financial assistance would not be as aggressive as a watchdog.

So, what is the answer? That’s a $64 million question. The free market still has to play out. Journalism is not dying per se, just changing. As it did in the ’50s and ’60s when radio gave way to television, and in the ’80s and ’90s when over-the-air television gave way to cable, newspapers are now giving way to the Internet. Government handouts and tax status changes are not the answer. Entrepreneurs will have to find a way for local communities to get the news they need and deserve.

Written by newscycle

March 27, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Newspaper Layoffs

Obama’s Press Conferences: Mores Show, Less Transparency

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President Obama faces journalists, at least the ones he preselects.

President Obama faces journalists, at least the ones he preselects.

President Barack Obama has had two press conferences so far, and both of them were more of an exercise in public relations than they were a demonstration of a free and aggressive press seeking answers to tough questions from the leader of the free world.

As a campaigner, then-Sen. Barack Obama was a master at conveying his message, one of hope for Democrats and change for everybody during the next four years. One of the cornerstones of his campaign was that he pledged to open up the White House and be a more transparent president than his predecessor. But the reality of the first two months of his administration has not borne that out.

His own web site is a head scratcher. The page that listed his transparency promises now has the message “The page you requested is not available right now.” His press office has stonewalled journalists from offering up basic information such as the president’s daily schedule and the spelling of a press officer’s name. During the first week on the job he did a walk-through of the White House press room and was stunned that reporters fired questions at him. A reporter had to audacity to ask about the deputy defense secretary whom Obama has appointed. The appointee had lobbied for Raytheon, but Obama’ had just issued new rules against lobbyists coming to work for him. Obama responded: “I came down here to visit. I didn’t come down here — this is what happens. I can’t end up visiting you guys and shaking hands if I am going to grilled every time I come down here.”

Well, that accelerated his learning curb. Stay away from reporters who are trained to ask tough questions, and limit appearances to “web town-hall meetings” or news outlets that are either friendly or not accustomed to dealing with the president and willing to accept any condition to get an interview. This policy has been so fruitful for Obama that he is constantly avoiding White House Press Corps reporters. He originally cancelled the traditional head-of-state photo-op-and-question session when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited, only to arrange a short Oval Office opportunity when Brown requested it. Recently he was given a “Newsmaker of the Year Award” by a newspaper association during a White House ceremony that was, ironically, closed off to working journalists.

It all plays into his communication strategy that was developed during the campaign: Bypass the media when you can and go straight to the public via the Internet or other methods. It worked like a charmed as he ran for president because he was not challenged on it. Candidates can do that, it’s their choice. It was brilliant, and he pulled it off flawlessly.

But presidents need to be accountable. If the last eight years taught us anything it should be that.

So the communication strategy now continues at press conferences. Reporters are preselected. Traditionally, reporters at a press conference, especially at the White House, aggressively raise their hands to be called upon. Generally they are allowed a follow-up question. These follow-ups are often tougher questions than the first because they zero in on a point that the president may have slipped up on while answering the first question.

But now as reporters are preselected, aggressive questioning is minimized. There is no need to be forceful when asking a question if you know your time will come. The questions then tend to be softer, easier for the president to handle. (Reporters with tougher questions tend to be more aggressive in getting answers, this method of lining up the questions eliminates that). Heck, if you’re not on the preselect list, your actually playing into his hands. The image of a full room of reporters is a plus, even if 90 percent of them have not business being there except to sit in a chair and stay quiet.

He also has the advantage of picking questions from reporters he knows are not going to upset his message too much. By picking B-list agencies such as cable outlets and magazines, he further increases the chances he can stay on message. In his first press conference he got a question about A-Rod for goodness’s sake. Robert Gibbs couldn’t have been more pleased.

The president promised transparency. The American public deserves transparency in a time when trillions of their money is being spent on questionable bailouts. Manipulating the press and dragging your feet on the basic release of information is not the way to go about it. It’s time Obama kept his promise and provided an open and robust opportunity to face sound, tough questions from journalists who know how to ask them.

Written by newscycle

March 27, 2009 at 7:48 am

Posted in Obama, White House Press Corps

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