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Archive for June 2005

What would censor Weller today?

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If you admire and respect the human race and wish it to survive, then the words of George Weller — appearing in print 60 years after they were first written — are chilling:

NAGASAKI, Saturday, Sept.8 (odn) — In swaybacked or flattened skeletons of the Mitsubishi arms plants is revealed what the atomic bomb can do to steel and stone, but what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki. Look at the pushed-in facade of the American consulate, three miles from the blast’s center, or the face of the Catholic cathedral, one mile in the other direction, torn down like gingerbread, and you can tell that the liberated atom spares nothing in the way. The human beings whom it has happened to spare sit on (illegible) One tiny family board their platforms in Nagasaki’s two largest (illegible) hospitals, their shoulders, arms and faces are strapped in bandages.

Showing them to you, as the first American outsider to reach Nagasaki since the surrender, your propaganda-conscious official guide looks meaningfully in your face and wants to knew (sic): “What do you think?”

What this question means is: do you intend saying that America did something inhuman in loosing this weapon against Japan? That is what we want you to write.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 22, 2005 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Repurposing for dummies

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I knew that the End of Civilization As We Know It was nigh when the word repurpose entered the newsroom.

It arrived on the heels of the much-anticipated and heralded convergence of media. In practical terms, newspapers and television stations in the same market would “team up” on stories and cross-promote each other. A print reporter’s story would be repurposed as a broadcast piece on the local TV station’s newscast. Ditto the b-cast reporter’s piece: repurposed for print or, eventually, the Web.

In this Brief Time We Have Before The End Of Everything, technological innovations in all forms of media have accelerated repurposing. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 16, 2005 at 3:11 pm

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Profiteering on the Prince of Pop?

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His Weirdness’ local newspaper, the Santa Maria Times, calling the trial “a piece of history,” is selling that history at a buck a pop.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — The Santa Maria Times, a morning daily, published an extra edition about the verdict in Michael Jackson’s molestation trial with a banner headline reading “NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS.”

It was marketed as a commemorative edition, a $1 souvenir for readers in a city whose residents have enjoyed or endured the spotlight of celebrity trial.

About 6,000 copies of the 8-page color edition were printed and “we sold a bunch down at Neverland ranch” to fans, said Tom Bolton, the newspaper’s executive editor.

Sales were brisk even through the edition costs twice as much as the regular morning paper, which has a circulation of about 20,000.

Hawkers were “coming back and basically dropping bags of money,” Bolton said.

“It’s just one of those events that people are connecting with,” he said. “And it’s a piece of history.”

I can’t blame any newspaper for trying to make hay while the sun shines. But when readers later think of a newspaper as “sensationalizing” news to make a buck, the Times might want to remember the true cost of this “special edition.”

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 15, 2005 at 3:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Confessions of a smart-ass …

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Every time I begin to think I’m smart — really smart — I usually end up regretting it.

I ought to be smart, I tell myself — after all, there’s a bunch of letters after my name that say so. When that happens, I remember C. Wright Mills, a mid-20th century sociologist who coined the phrase “second-hand world.” Mills wrote:

The first rule for understanding the human condition is that men live in second-hand worlds. They are aware of much more than they have personally experienced, and their own experience is always indirect.

The quality of their lives is determined by meanings they have received from others. Everyone lives in a world of such meanings. No man stands alone directly confronting a world of solid facts. … Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 13, 2005 at 3:13 pm

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No more secrets …

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A Vermont Democrat and a Texas Republican are trying to prevent fellow members of Congress from keeping secret how they keep secrets.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced June 7 S.1181, a bill that would prevent members of Congress from making “stealth exemptions” to the federal Freedom of Information Act. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 9, 2005 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Chasing the Fox

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As CNN winds up its celebration of its 25th anniversary, consider:

For the past three and a half months, CNN has had a crew and reporter at the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria, Calif. That’s every day. That doesn’t serve the public interest — on several levels.

Says CNN/US news chief Jon Klein: “We committed to a reporter and crew there every single day. I have not found it to be a very satisfying meal. CNN ought to do stories nobody else has. We did what everybody else did. It was the safe thing to do.”

Why did it take Klein three and a half months to figure that out? Perhaps because he’s trying not to lose ratings points to other cable news channels (meaning, of course, Fox News Channel). Last week’s May ratings numbers brought no comfort to Klein.

According to Nielsen Media Research numbers, more than twice as many viewers were tuning into Fox News Channel as to CNN. On average, in a 24-hour period 1.4 million people tuned into Fox while 610,000 watched CNN. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 8, 2005 at 3:58 pm

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Who will play the pope?

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I’m just too naive. I shoulda seen this one coming …

From Sunday’s online Broadcasting and Cable:

ABC vs. CBS in John Paul II Mini Race

By Staff — Broadcasting & Cable, 6/5/2005 11:40:00 PM

CBS appeared to have the field to itself when the network leaped into developing a miniseries about the life of the late John Paul II within days of his funeral this spring. But given the extraord­inary appeal of the Pope’s story, maybe the latest news on the papal miniseries front was inevitable.

Now ABC is rushing a rival production into the works. And it appears that the network has already made up the ground it lost by letting CBS make the first move. ABC already has a script ready to go and is set to start shooting later this month. That could mean the finished project would be ready to air as early as the November sweeps. CBS, which has not scheduled a start date for its production, will have to hustle to keep up.

The friction involved in competing projects extends beyond the network level: Key members in both production teams once worked together on the miniseries Jesus that aired on CBS in 2000. Ettore Bernabei, president of the Italian production company Lux Vide, is driving the CBS Pope project, while Jesus executive producers Lorenzo Minoli and Judd Parkin are working with ABC.

Unlike the scene at the Vatican a few weeks ago, the smoke rising from this competition won’t have anyone cheering.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 6, 2005 at 12:04 pm

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The Americanization of the universe?

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House majority leader Tom DeLay, who ram-rodded congressional redistricting in Texas in 2003 to favor (who else?) Republicans, appears to want to redistrict the universe as an American preserve. And so, it seems, does NASA’s new administrator.

According to a CNN story, earlier this week, on a tour of Johnson Space Center with DeLay, NASA chief Michael Griffin said:

If you ask anyone in this country, ‘Do you believe that the United States should cede the moon to say the Chinese, Europeans, Russians, whoever?’ I bet you the answer would be, ‘No.’ “

DeLay backed that reading of NASA’s mission — defined by Griffin as a belief that a majority of people

want to make sure that as humankind expands into space the United States is there in the forefront.

So how do we pay for it? DeLay had no specifics but noted that war and federal budget pressures should be no barrier. He said: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 4, 2005 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

That strange sucking sound …

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If you’re an advertiser, you want your ad placed in an environment highly amenable to persuasion.

That’s no news to anyone in either the ad biz or the news biz — especially in the U.S.

But it was to me, lo these many years ago, as I placed a story about a fatal airliner crash on an inside page … wherein rested an ad for a major American airline.

When I arrived at work the next day, the publisher (he of the beefy red, angry face), chewed me out and showed a copy of the ad contract with said airline. In as many words, it said: If you place news on a page with our ad that shows the airlines in a negative light (like a plane crash?), then pull the ad.

So I’m a little less than shocked when British Petroleum and Morgan Stanley try to tear down the “church vs. state” wall between advertising and editorial. Frankly, that wall has been porous for a very long time. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 2, 2005 at 5:04 pm

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For sale: Your newspaper’s front page

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You’d expect a furor to emanate from the newsroom. But, aside from a few Romenesko letters, the full-page ads on the front pages of the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press last week brought nary a peep from either newsroom — or, apparently, any significant place in NewsroomLand. (See the E&P story.)

According to E&P:

Marshall Field’s approached Detroit Newspapers — the retailer was shopping the idea around to newspapers in other cities as well — and that the agency gave the idea “thoughtful consideration” before agreeing to run the ads on [May 25].

The front-page wraps carried a red, white and blue flag theme to hype a Memorial Day sale.

Neither newspaper’s editor would comment on the wrap’s effect on single-copy sales, newsroom attitudes about the wrap and future front-page ad sales. (Odd: Newspaper editors always want information about other industries but are adamantly closed-mouthed about their own.) Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 1, 2005 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized