[UPDATE AT BOTTOM]
Some Cincinnati Enquirer editors apparently are upset at this week’s CityBeat article about that newspaper’s new “social media strategy” and have flocked to its savior du jour — Twitter — to complain.
The article outlined how the strategy calls for The Enquirer to rely on unpaid labor to fill gaps in its news and entertainment coverage, make better use of the Facebook social networking site, require staffers to use Twitter to provide frequent updates about what they’re doing and create a Web site for news without The Enquirer’s name to lure readers who don’t like the newspaper.
National Public Radio announced Wednesday that they were cutting their workforce by 7 percent. This in an effort to made their budget, which was projected in July to create a $2 million deficit but, after the steep downturn in the economy, was projected to reach $23 million.
Day to Day and News & Notes will both be cancelled, and other jobs will be eliminated throughout the organization.
After WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange voluntarily turned himself into British authorities today, he was denied bail and remains in custody until at least Dec. 14, according to The Guardian newspaper in London.
Assange, 39, was told by London Metropolitan police about new charges he faces in connection with two sexual encounters he had in Sweden. "He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010," the newspaper reported.
The corporate parent of The Enquirer is offering a voluntary “early retirement” buyout proposal to rid the company of some older and more highly paid employees.
Robert J. Dickey, president of The Gannett Co.'s U.S. newspaper division, announced the buyout offer Thursday in a memorandum to employees.
Local public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting its doors for good by the end of the year, ending nearly 25 years of public service.
The organization’s demise is a result of the city eliminating funding for Media Bridges in its latest budget, which was passed by City Council in May.
“It is with great sadness that I must announce that Media Bridges will close its doors by the end of 2013. The city has made it extremely clear that we will not be receiving any more funding from them. While we have tried many other avenues for revenue it has become clear that we will be unable to sustain operations beyond 2013,” Media
Bridges Executive Director Tom Bishop announced Tuesday in the organization’s newsletter.
The shutdown will be a steady process, with Media Bridges completely closing once its channels are transferred or Dec. 13 — whichever comes first.
The city’s budget cuts were originally considered in December, but City Council managed to restore some funding to keep the organization afloat. Prior to the partial restoration, Bishop had called the cuts a “meteor” to his organization’s budget.
City officials previously defended the cuts to Media Bridges, citing city surveys that ranked the program poorly in terms of budgetary importance. For the surveys, the city used meetings and mailed questionnaires to gauge public opinion.
But Bishop claims the surveys’ demographics were lopsided against low-income Cincinnatians, the income group that benefits the most from public access programs like Media Bridges.
For both the meeting-based and mail-in surveys, Bishop’s claim checks out. His concern is even directly acknowledged and backed in the documented survey results for the meetings: “Twenty-two percent of meeting participants earned less than $23,050 per year, compared to 40.8 percent of the population at large who earn less than $24,999 per year. While this is not representative of the population at large, the data does indicate strong participation from low income residents.”
Meanwhile, wealthier Cincinnatians were much better represented, with 11 percent of meeting participants making $150,000 or more per year despite only 6 percent of the city at large belonging to that income group, according to the survey results.
The same issue can be found in the mail-in survey: Only 22 percent of respondents made less than $25,000, while 10 percent made $150,000 or more.
“It’s ridiculous that they would call that representative of the city of Cincinnati,” Bishop says.
Instead of using its skewed survey results, Bishop argues the city should have looked at the 2010 Spring Greater Cincinnati Survey from the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research. In that survey, Cincinnati respondents were asked how important it was to provide recording equipment to citizens and neighborhoods so they can “produce educational and public access programs for cable television.” About 54.3 percent called it “very important,” 33.9 percent labeled it “somewhat important” and 11.7 percent said it was “not too important.”
City officials also defended the cuts by claiming that funding was only provided as a “one-year reprieve” after Media Bridges lost state funding that came through Time Warner Cable, which successfully lobbied to end its required contributions in 2011.
Bishop disputes the city’s claim, saying Media Bridges and its staff weren’t informed that the city funding was meant to be temporary — at least until it was too late.
Media Bridges is a public access media organization founded in 1988 that
allows anyone in Cincinnati to record video and sound for publicly
broadcasted television and radio. It also provides educational programs for people new to the process.
Although Media Bridges is closing down, the city is still funding CitiCable, which, among other programming, broadcasts City Council and county commissioner meetings, through franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner.
Anyone who looked at the front page of today's Cincinnati Enquirer saw a prominent advertisement along the bottom featuring an image of a treasure chest and announcing, “Roadshow is in town all week in Cincinnati!”
To the uninitiated, it might appear as if the popular TV show Antiques Roadshow is taping an episode in the Queen City. The program uses a similar image and logo, after all. And that’s exactly why WGBH-TV in Boston filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 23 in Illinois against the company that placed the ad, Treasure Hunters Roadshow.
Treasure Hunters used the ad to publicize its event this week at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Unlike Antiques Roadshow, Treasure Hunters doesn’t appraise items and tries to buy some antiques that people bring in for the lowest price possible.
WGBH, which produces the show seen on PBS outlets across the nation, including WCET-TV (Channel 48), alleges the company is guilty of trademark infringement through its name and marketing tactics. It has sued the Illinois-based firm and its owner, Jeffrey Parsons, seeking an injunction to prevent use of the name and image.
As first noted by Bill Sloat on his Daily Bellwether blog, the flap over “fair use” issues has received extensive media coverage in Illinois.
Ironically, The Enquirer ran the ad just days after its editor, Tom Callinan, wrote a column criticizing unnamed blogs, Web sites and radio stations of unfairly and illegally using the newspaper’s content.
“(O)thers are profiting from our work,” Callinan wrote. “We're no longer willing to idly watch our good efforts stolen.”
As a result, The Enquirer is using a software program called Attributor to track users of its contents, gauge if the use is improper and issue warnings to alleged violators.
“In an attempt to track down such content parasites, The Enquirer and Cincinnati.Com now employ technology that scours the media landscape for illegal use of our content,” Callinan wrote. “In recent weeks, we have sent warnings to several blogs, Web sites and radio stations.
“We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.”
Callinan didn’t, however, attribute that last line to Network, the Oscar-winning 1976 film about a banal media outlet run amok in pursuit of profits and ratings. The line is uttered by unhinged TV talk show host Howard Beale, famously played by Peter Finch.
Several local bloggers were upset by Callinan’s column, calling it heavy-handed and reminding them of Big Brother with its weird “we’re watching you” vibe. They’re wondering who – exactly – he’s alleging has made improper use of the newspaper’s content. Several blogs often post items commenting on news reported by The Enquirer or criticizing its coverage, but they generally attribute the newspaper and help drive Internet traffic to its site.
Sloat e-mailed Callinan asking for more details, but the editor remained vague.
“(T)he recent ones have been small blogs and websites who may simply not know better. I don't want to out them. We handle it with automated warnings (via a program called Attributor) and it usually goes away without escalation,” Callinan responded. “My threshold for getting into a public outing of the issue would be pretty high — repeated incidents, warnings and letters from our lawyers. Just hasn't risen to that level.”
Of course, if the problem hasn’t risen to that level, why write such a high-profile and accusatory column about it?
So far, The Enquirer hasn’t reported on the lawsuit against its advertiser. Maybe the dispute “just hasn’t risen to that level” either.
2010 already is beginning to look a lot like 2009 at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In a memo issued Dec. 1, an executive with The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s Virginia-based owner, wrote that newspaper employees must take another five-day, unpaid furlough within the first quarter of the year. Bob Dickey, Gannett’s U.S. community publishing president, blamed the continuing weak economy.