Disturbing holding back of news

The Cleveland Museum of Art, a magnificent organization, has recently had a troubled time with three directors and four interim heads in the last fifteen years, a high rate of turnover for museums. Yesterday it announced a new director William Griswold but in a long article that had a lot of positive things about him, Plain Dealer reporter Arts reporter Steven Litt inserted this odd and unexplained passage.

Under an accord with the Cleveland museum and the Morgan, The Plain Dealer agreed Thursday not to publish news about Griswold’s impending appointment until 10 a.m. Tuesday — after the Cleveland board of trustees voted to accept the search committee’s recommendation.

The museums said that The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal agreed to the same conditions.

So the papers had the news but sat on it for nearly a week? Why should a news organization agree to such an arrangement? It is not as if there was any investigation going on that warranted secrecy. This is the danger when newspapers don’t face any real competition.

The PD has long been accused of being too cozy with the local elites. Their publisher (Terrance C. Z. Egger) also sits on the board of the museum and was accused of being the reason the paper sat on the story about the last director who resigned after it was revealed that he had been having an affair with a staffer who died under mysterious circumstances and were scooped by the local alternative weekly newspaper Scene. That newspaper also reported on the new director William Griswold and added this last sentence: “The 53-year-old Griswold, for what it’s worth, lives with his partner of 23 years, Christopher Malstead.”

Cleveland elites are a pretty traditional bunch. The fact that they hired an openly gay person to head one of its most esteemed civic gems tells us how far we have come, even if the state of Ohio still bars same-sex marriage.

The New York Times, Jill Abramson, and the NSA

The New York Times has been at the receiving end of much media attention following the unceremonious dumping to Executive Editor Jill Abramson, with all manner of stories being floated as reasons for her canning. Was it due to poor management style? Was it because she complained that she was being paid less than her male predecessors? Was it because those who worked for her were complaining about her? Was it because, as Michelle Goldberg writes, she sent a reporter to London to investigate the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and the way that the BBC failed to cover it, which might have implicated NYT CEO Mark Thompson who was the head of the BBC at that time? Was it because, as Ken Auletta says, she was planning to bring in a deputy managing editor to work alongside managing editor Dean Baquet, the person who replaced her, and that he was unhappy with this move?
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When technology clashes with copyright

There is an interesting case that is being heard today before the US Supreme Court in which technology and copyright laws come into conflict. It concerns a firm named Aereo that is marketing a small antenna that can be connected to your mobile device that can then pick up programming that is being broadcast over the air by the TV networks. In other words, you are no longer tethered to your TV but can watch anywhere and even record and save for later viewing.
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Treat press releases about science with caution

Journals frequently send out pre-publication copies of what they think are important papers to science journalists under an embargo, where they are free to research the topic and gather material to write articles, but not publish them until the release date that the journal specifies. This enables journalists to write articles that put the research in context and provide alternative and critical views on the research in a timely manner. In the hands of good science journalists, this practice enables the general public to get a reasonable sense of what new research reveals.
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Great moments in marketing

If you are marketing a juice that consists of 99% apple and grape juice, 0.3% pomegranate juice, and 0.2% blueberry juice, what would you put on the label? If you are Coca-Cola, you call it “Pomegranate Blueberry” of course, because then you can take advantage of the fact that currently pomegranate juice is being marketed as the hot new healthy item, whether that is true or not.
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Using sex to sell news

Sex sells. That is something that the advertising agencies discovered a long time ago. So it should not be surprising that TV channels should want to use sex to gain audiences, especially during the periods when ratings are being calculated. But at the same time, news stations tend to have older viewers who, at least on the surface, like to think of themselves as upholders of old-fashioned morality. Thus has emerged one of the most obvious media tricks to have your cake and eat it, and that is to have an ‘in-depth’ news story closely examining some aspect of sex while deploring it.
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