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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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July 14, 2008 10:13 AM

Foxpaper

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Here is an interesting little story in the New York Times. Roger Ailes has followed his boss, Rupert Murdoch, into the newspaper business. Ailes, chairman of Fox News, bought the weekly paper in his hometown.

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June 24, 2008 5:03 PM

Enough already!

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Tired are they who create content of making others money. The folks at news-outlets have long watched their work get scooped up by companies like Google, who turn around and package it with adverting.

Last week a news-outlet did something about it. The Associated Press put the screws to bloggers using AP stories. Brier Dudley had a good column on the AP vs. bloggers story in Monday's newspaper. He followed up the column with a post on his blog looking at what others in the industry are doing about content being used by others for a monetary gain.

Continue reading this post ...


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June 19, 2008 10:18 AM

Away from the blog

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I am back from Belgrade and on vacation for the next couple of days. I will try and post some wrap-up thoughts about IPI's Congress. If not Daily Democracy will be back Monday.

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June 17, 2008 9:40 AM

Are profits killing news?

Posted by Ryan Blethen

BELGRADE, Serbia - That question was addressed by a panel of media executives from Europe and Turkey. The panelists - Vuslat Dogan Sabanci, CEO of Hurriyet; David Montgomery, CEO, Mecom Group; and Michael Ringer, Chairman of the Board of Ringler AG - sounded upbeat about their companies and the future of news in Europe and Turkey.

I am an optimist, but had trouble accepting some of what they were shoveling. Of course American newspapers were bashed. Ringer the most forceful when he said that Americas regional newspapers are terrible. A very broad and easy statement for somebody to make, especially somebody whose newspaper company dominates Switzerland. He went on to say that similar European newspapers are much better when compared to American newspapers. Sure there are some bad American newspapers, just like there are plenty of bad European newspapers. It would have been helpful if he used some examples of why American newspapers are not good. He did not. Instead the statement was left to dangle as the conversation moved on.

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June 16, 2008 6:16 AM

The press in the Balkans

Posted by Ryan Blethen

BELGRADE, Serbia - Two speeches and a panel at the International Press Institute's Congress did much to answer questions I had about the press's role in the Balkans. The speeches and panel also raised many questions.

The Congress began in Serbia's House of the National Assembly with welcoming statements from the host committee, IPI's director, and the Serbian president, Boris Tadic. It was impressive that this nation's president was willing to speak to a group of journalists. That would not happen everywhere.

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June 14, 2008 3:49 AM

Kalemegdan Park

Posted by Ryan Blethen

BELGRADE, Serbia - I spent Friday exploring Kalemegdan Park, which is between old Belgrade and the merging point of the Sava and Danube rivers. The park's main attraction is the Belgrade Fortress.

According to my tour book the first fort on this site was built by the Celts and expanded by those that followed, which included the Romans, Serbs, Turks, Serbs again, and Austrians. Sitting on the edge of the fortress wall it is easy to see why whomever controlled Belgrade utilized the location. There is a wonderful view of the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers with a great green plain extending to the horizon.

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June 13, 2008 4:24 AM

The not so White City

Posted by Ryan Blethen

BELGRADE, Serbia - I am told that Belgrade, or Beograd, translates to English as the White City. First impressions can be misleading and I am assuming my first impression of Belgrade will develop the more time I spend out of the hotel.

I arrived Thursday afternoon just ahead of a nasty storm. I watched from my hotel room as a black wall of clouds swallowed the drab apartment buildings that bleed into the gray horizon. While eating dinner in the hotel bar I was told that the old part of the city is gorgeous. I bet. I find that the old sections of most European cities are attractive, or at the very least interesting because of age as opposed to the relative newness we Americans are accustomed to.

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June 12, 2008 9:37 AM

Blogging from Belgrade

Posted by Ryan Blethen

BELGRADE, Serbia - Three things come to mind when I hear about this country. The 1984 winter Olympics, the recent Balkan wars, and the Yugo. All these things are now history or are glancingly related to Serbia because of it was a part of the dissolved Yugoslavia.

The 1984 Olympics were held in the Bosnian city Sarajevo. Fears of violent relapse after Kosovo declared itself a nation were quelled when pro-Western parties won parliamentary elections in February. I assume the Yugo went south like the nation it was named after.

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June 11, 2008 2:38 PM

Panel reflections

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The panel I was part of at the National Conference for Media Reform went well. John Nichols did a great job moderating a solid panel that represented a good cross section of the newspaper business. The turn out was decent. I took this picture of the crowd, which grew as the session wore on.

I particularly enjoyed listening to the two panelists sitting on either side of me, Nick Coleman and Joel Kramer. Coleman is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Kramer heads up MinnPost.com and is a former publisher and editor of the Star Tribune.


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June 10, 2008 4:44 PM

The Feed on O'Reilly

Posted by Ryan Blethen

One of my favorite media critics, Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times, has a post on his blog The Feed about Bill O'Reilly's coverage of the National Conference for Media Reform.

Deggans was at the conference and on a panel about media criticism. It was nice to hear him talk about his job. The Feed is regular reading for me and should be for anybody looking for insightful media criticism from a major metro newspaper.

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June 7, 2008 1:56 PM

Newspapers: Not dead yet?

Posted by Ryan Blethen

MINNEAPOLIS - That is title of a panel I am speaking on today at the National Conference for Media Reform. Any casual reader of this blog or my column can guess as to how I would answer that question. I addressed it in my last column.

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June 7, 2008 6:06 AM

Bill Moyers speech

Posted by Ryan Blethen

MINNEAPOLIS - Bill Moyers is giving the keynote speech at the National Conference for Media Reform. His speech can be seen live at the Free Press Web site.

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June 6, 2008 2:13 PM

Media critics

Posted by Ryan Blethen

MINNEAPOLIS - Can a media critic be useful if he approaches his job with a stated political bias? When I say a stated bias I do not mean whether journalists have biases. Everybody has biases, even journalists. Most journalists do not let political persuasions taint news coverage.

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June 6, 2008 9:15 AM

NCMR opening

Posted by Ryan Blethen

MINNEAPOLIS - Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, got the National Conference for Media Reform off to a fiery start. You can take my word for it or watch him and other speakers on the Free Press Web site where they are being streamed.

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June 4, 2008 7:00 PM

Blogging from the Media Reform Conference

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I will be blogging Thursday through Saturday at the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis. There are a lot of big and interesting names on the speakers list including Bill Moyers, and Federal Communications Commission members Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps.

Stay tuned for more from Minneapolis. For more information about the conference go to the Free Press Web site.

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May 29, 2008 11:39 AM

Salesman General

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The lack of media scrutiny around the Pentagon's campaign using retired military generals to sell the Iraq war to American public is a shame. The New York Times broke the story last month. Yet there has been nary a word from broadcasters. Of course the cable news networks are mum because they let these generals prattle on about the upside of Iraq and how things really were not that bad for detainees at Guantanamo.

The Seattle Times has a Democracy Papers editorial today, which can be found here, about Congress wanting the Government Accountability Office to investigate the Pentagon's propaganda machine, which spit out these generals, who like good soldiers, said what they were told to say. The New York Times story also revealed that many of these retired generals work for companies with war contracts.

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May 28, 2008 4:32 PM

Consolidation, unasked questions, TV news & the First Amendment

Posted by Ryan Blethen

"Media consolidation was done with so much debt it has allowed bankers and Wall Street into the tent, resulting in too much of the profits being required to pay off debt. Public ownership of media has not been good for media quality or for the ability of media owners to manage for the future."

Those are not the words of some raving media reformer that might pop up on this blog from time to time. That is a quote from David Rubin, the outgoing dean of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Rubin, who has been dean for 18 years, pointed out the obvious in an interview with the Jack Myers Business Report.

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May 22, 2008 4:50 PM

Consolidation investigation

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. has asked the Government Accountability Office to study media consolidation. The GAO should take up Dorgan's request. A number consumer groups have studied the effects of media consolidation. All the studies have shown that communities are hurt when consolidation shrinks the number of independent voices. It would be hard to imagine the GAO finding any differently.

Dorgan was joined in his request by Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. The senators want the GAO to examine several issues such as:

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May 21, 2008 4:26 PM

Presidential hopefuls, the Internet, and amnesty

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Some important issues facing the United States have received scant attention in the presidential primaries. Missing has been any meaningful discussion about presidential and federal powers. The Bush administration has done a fine job extending its reach in ways other presidents have not, either because Congress stopped them or they had the good sense to respect for the citizenry.

I want to know what presidential hopefuls Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton think about the current administrations use of warrantless spying, FISA, and extraordinary rendition. Where are the candidates on amnesty for the telecommunications companies that helped the administration's domestic spying? Not exactly topics being discussed by the pundits or posed to the candidates by the press.

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May 21, 2008 3:02 PM

A funny take on the WSJ's new ME

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Portfolio's Jack Flack reads between the lines of the News Corporation press release announcing Robert Thomson's appointment to Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal. The piece is well worth the read.

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May 14, 2008 4:24 PM

Newsday's independence

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In a post earlier this week about Cablevision buying Newsday from Tribune I wrote that I was not sure what the new ownership would mean for the Long Island newspaper. Cablevision is a company I am only familiar with by name.

Since the sale was announced earlier this week I have been reading stories from New York area newspapers to try and get a sense for how Newsday and Cablevision will co-exist. The signs are not good. Stories in the New York Times and New York Observer portray Cablevision's CEO Jim Dolan as thin-skinned and no fan of the press.

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May 12, 2008 3:13 PM

Newsday to Cablevision

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Cablevision beat out News Corporation for Newsday. The Long Island cable company will pay $650 million for the Long Island newspaper. I am not sure how this purchase will work out because I am not familiar enough with Cablevision. I can say that I am glad Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation lost out. The other losing bidder was New York Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman

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May 5, 2008 4:39 PM

Fancher story

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Seattle Times reporter Carol Ostrom had a nice story about Michael Fancher in Sunday's local section. Pleas check it out if you missed it. The piece can be found here.

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May 1, 2008 3:33 PM

NAA's lobbying of Congress

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Newspaper Association of America is lobbying Congress to reject a resolution that would scrap the new media cross-ownership rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last December. Why, you ask, would the association that represents newspapers be in favor of policy that undermines a diverse marketplace of ideas?

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April 30, 2008 5:23 PM

Congressional investigation of the FCC

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Washington Post reported today that Federal Communications Chairman Kevin Martin could be called to testify before Congress regarding his handling of the regulatory agency.

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April 28, 2008 3:48 PM

Carr on the Murdoch's WSJ

Posted by Ryan Blethen

"Inside and outside of the paper, there's no confusion about who the paper belongs to. Not the editors who built it, not the reporters who fill it with articles, but the men who bought and paid for it."

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April 25, 2008 3:34 PM

Coverage of the Pentagon's puppets

Posted by Ryan Blethen

It should not be that surprising that the networks and cable news stations have barely followed up on a report about the Pentagon's involvement with retired military brass acting as independent on air analysts.

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April 23, 2008 3:25 PM

Newsday & Murdoch

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has emerged as the likely buyer of Tribune's Newsday, which is on Long Island. I am writing about this for my Friday column and will also bang out an editorial.

Below are some links to stories about the proposed sale of Long Island's Newsday to News Corporation.

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April 21, 2008 10:00 AM

Media moguls and politics

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Check out the Democracy Papers editorial that ran in today's Seattle Times. The edit can be found here. The piece warns about the dangers to democracy when a media baron like Silvio Berlusconi is elected for a third time as Italy's prime minister.

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April 12, 2008 10:26 AM

The irrelevant newspaper? Not a chance

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In my column Friday, which can be found here, I wrote that the loud chatter surrounding the death of newspapers should be toned down, or halted all together. There is no question newspapers are suffering and some newspapers might not make it. Many more than not will survive. Why do I believe this?

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April 11, 2008 11:36 AM

Olympic journalism

Posted by Ryan Blethen

It appears journalists are jumping hurdles in China trying to cover the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

According to a Washington Post report:

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April 10, 2008 4:12 PM

Daytona for sale

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Daytona Beach News-Journal has been put up for sale. The Davidson family owns a majority the independent newspaper and was forced into a sale through the courts.

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April 7, 2008 3:34 PM

Zell Watch/Media ownership limits

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The New York Times has a story looking at the financial situation of Tribune. The story, which can be found here, mentions that Sam Zell might put Newsday up for sale.

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April 3, 2008 9:40 PM

Murrow Symposium

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The symposium has ended, which means I am back in my hotel room and finally have a chance to write. I could have used the time between the panel I was on and the dinner and award ceremony but I got sidetracked by an incredibly stimulating conversation with a fellow panelist.

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April 3, 2008 10:19 AM

Live from Pullman

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I am in Pullman for the Murrow Symposium, which is put on by the Murrow School at Washington State University. The symposium is capped by presentation of the Murrow award. This year's recipient is Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes. I am on a panel about the FCC and media ownership. The panel, which begins at 1:30, also consists Marilyn Berger who worked for the New York Times and Washington Post, Steve Smith editor of the Spokesman-Review and Jon Rand from the FOX affiliate in Spokane. Here is a link to a story about the event in The Daily Evergreen. Will write about it here. Stay tuned.

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April 1, 2008 9:54 AM

Ben Scott/Free Press profile

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Washington Post has an excellent profile of Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press. The story, which can be found here, gives a nice glimpse into the workings of Free Press and Scott's effort to push the organization to prominence.

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March 20, 2008 11:13 AM

Melding media

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Tribune is consolidating its South Florida television station and newspaper into a single location. WSFL, a CW affiliate, will be moving into the South Florida Sun-Sentinel building.

The fact that Tribune is allowed to own a television station in the same market as the Sun-Sentinel is bad policy. According to a story in the Sun-Sentinel, the newspaper's executives are saying that this arrangement will be good for advertisers and will put the media outlets in a better position to attract a younger audience.

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March 19, 2008 3:58 PM

Approve the disapproval part II

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The House followed up on the Senate's attempt to stop the Federal Communications Commission from implementing rule changes that would allow for massive media consolidation.

The "resolution of disapproval" could stop the FCC from lifting the cross-ownership ban. The rule does not allow a company to own a newspaper, television station, and radio station in the same market. The FCC changed the rule in December allowing a single company to own newspaper, broadcast outlet, and Internet Service Provider in the same market. The FCC claims the change will only touch the nation's top 20 media markets. Not exactly. It was worded in a way so companies that do not meet the criteria can apply for waivers, essentially opening up consolidation in every media market.

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March 19, 2008 11:43 AM

Newspaper ownership models

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The era of independently owned newspapers has passed. That does not mean the model can't make a comeback. An essay in this month's Columbia Journalism Review, which can be found here, looks at one of the few remaining independent metro newspapers and its ownership structure.

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March 6, 2008 3:30 PM

The Anniston Star and media consolidation

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Anniston Star, one of America's great family owned newspapers, is running a series about the impact of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The series, which can be found here and was penned by the newspaper's editor at large John Fleming, shows readers the negative results the legislation has had on northeast Alabama.

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February 11, 2008 4:30 PM

Olympic house cleaning

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Appears as if the People's Republic of China doing more than taking cars off the road to spruce up its image before this summer's Olympics in Beijing.

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February 7, 2008 8:28 AM

Out of the office

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Blogging here at Daily Democracy will be sparse until next week. I am in New York for an International Press Institute (IPI) meeting, which might or might not spawn some entries.

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February 4, 2008 4:58 PM

The New York Post's endorsement against Clinton

Posted by Ryan Blethen

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January 29, 2008 3:11 PM

Open records assault

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In case you missed it, here is a link to the Democracy Paper edit that ran Monday. The edit dealt with another assault on open records. The edit follows a Times story about the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, a public agency, threatening to pull Monroe's liability insurance because city officials wanted to make it easier for the citizens to obtain public records.

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January 29, 2008 9:35 AM

The Root of the Post

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I have believe that washingtonpost.com is one of the best newspaper Web sites. Easy to navigate, and I love their Q&A sessions.

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January 25, 2008 11:31 AM

Is EveryBlock the future for local newspapers?

Posted by Ryan Blethen

A nifty new Web site launched recently. EveryBlock allows people to find the news of their block.

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January 25, 2008 9:31 AM

An editor's farewell

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sam Zell did not waste much time shaking things up at the Los Angeles Times. LA Times publisher David Hiller fired the paper's editor, James O'Shea, who had only been on the job for 14 months.

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January 24, 2008 4:24 PM

Net neutrality and newspaper op-eds

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Two op-eds ran in today's Opinion section of the Seattle Times are worth checking out. One deals with network neutrality, the other with the future of newspapers.

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January 17, 2008 8:00 AM

Journalism & the Olympics

Posted by Ryan Blethen

A recent post on Blogging Beijing resonated with me. Daniel Beekman, a Fulbright researcher in Beijing who is penning the blog for seattletimes.com, wrote about the many journalists that are showing up in Beijing for this summer's Olympics.

I related to many of his observations of "parachute journalism" and the difficulties facing reporters in China. I have been reading stories from China with a much more skeptical eye since returning from a work related trip there in September. It did not take me long to understand the Chinese government's obsession with controlling the message.

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January 15, 2008 1:44 PM

Big Think

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I stumbled across a intriguing new Web site yesterday called Big Think. The site incorporates video interviews with social networking. The line up of interviewees is impressive. Mitt Romney, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the list goes on.

The site's creators have made watching the interviews manageable by breaking them down by question. Click on the person you want to hear from, then click on the question you want to hear answered. Viewers can also participate with comments, and if registered you can submit questions to be asked.

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January 14, 2008 9:49 PM

New blog, Press Here

Posted by Ryan Blethen

There is a new blog on seattletimes.com that complements Daily Democracy. Editor At Large Mike Fancher launched Press Here today. Fancher's blog will shine a spotlight on the collision of the press, public and technology.

I am excited that Fancher has taken on Press Here. It will allow us at the Times to better hear what readers have to say about issues we are obsessed with in the newsroom. Readers will be well served by having a journalists of Fancher's considerable skills writing about the press, public, and technology daily.

Fancher says it better than I could. Head on over to his blog. Enjoy!

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January 14, 2008 11:32 AM

West Seattle Blog

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat had a good column in Sunday's paper about a Web site devoted to West Seattle news. Westneat's column can be found here.

West Seattle Blog feels strangely familiar for a couple reasons. One being that the news is the nuts and blots stuff people need. The second reason it felt familiar to me was the content. I edited a weekly section in my previous gig as an assignment editor in Maine. The section, which was called Your Neighbors, was filled with much of what you find at West Seattle Blog. Small business stories. Stories about class projects. Lot's of traffic related pieces.

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January 14, 2008 10:16 AM

The media and China

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The final installment about my September trip to China ran as the cover to Sunday's Opinion section. It can be found here. The first two columns dealt with college students, and translators. This piece reflected on my experience as an American journalist in China. I will not go into a long summary, but am curious to hear reader feedback. Especially if you have spent time in China.

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January 9, 2008 1:07 PM

Postman v. Blethen

Posted by Ryan Blethen

A couple posts back I suggested that journalists should speak out against media consolidation. My colleague, and fellow Seattle Times blogger, David Postman responded with a different point of view. Here is his comment on my post:

"Ryan, I have to disagree. There is a political line for journalists, and speaking out about consolidation and the FCC is on the other side of that line from good reporting. I think reporters should refrain from giving their political opinions, even if it is something that might help our business.

The Newspaper Guild has spoken out against consolidation. The union and the Blethens are on the same side of that issue I think. There have been instances where the union wanted members to take political stands. There are some who think we should even be able to work on political campaigns.

There have been issues, certainly the estate tax comes to mind, that management of the Times believes is about the survival of our industry. If reporters speak out about consolidation should they also be free to express opinions about tax policy? I don't think so.

We have an editorial page that can do that, and an owner, a publisher, press organizations, the union leadership etc. Adding reporters to the list would only compromise our independence."


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January 8, 2008 12:10 PM

The Simpsons

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Everybody has an opinion about the press. Even The Simpsons. FishbowlDC has a funny post about a recent Simpsons episode that partly deals with the press. I would argue with everybody but Moe's take on journalists.

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January 4, 2008 8:15 AM

Debate column

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The nice thing about having a blog is that I can promote my ink on paper work. I have an op-ed column in today's Seattle Times about ABC News and Fox News banning some candidates from debates this weekend. The column can be found here. I would give more detail but that would defeat the purpose of getting you to the column. Happy reading.

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December 23, 2007 6:38 AM

J-school deans

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The deans of America's top journalism schools called for journalists to become more active in the political discussion of their profession. In the op-ed, which can be found here, the deans write:

"But our profession needs to cast its reluctance to discuss broadcast regulation aside, and to let its voice be heard, loud and clear - on behalf of local reporting. The outcome of F.C.C. policy that matters most to us is not who owns what, but how much news gathering goes on."

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December 21, 2007 9:29 AM

Saddle up, Tribune's new sheriff

Posted by Ryan Blethen

It is official. Tribune is now under the control of Chicago real-estate mogul Sam Zell. The story is here. I assume Zell is sending FCC Chairman Kevin Martin a nice Christmas gift. Martin made it all possible by granting cross-ownership waivers so the deal could be completed.

It is worth reading the Zell profile in last month's New Yorker. The story can be found here.

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December 14, 2007 2:04 PM

Murdoch's Wall Street Journal

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Wall Street Journal is now officially Rupert Murdoch's. News Corporation completed its deal to buy Dow Jones, which is the parent company of the WSJ.

Here is the New York Times story.

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December 12, 2007 9:54 AM

Tribune's new real-estate manager

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I finally read The New Yorker's profile of Sam Zell, which can be found here. For those who do not know, Zell is the real-estate mogul who is buying the Tribune Company, which owns numerous broadcast outlets across the country, and many metropolitan newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The transaction should be wrapped by year end, especially now that the Federal Communications Commission granted temporary cross-ownership waivers for the deal.

Dean Baquet, former Los Angeles Times editor now the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the New York Times, said that the Tribune employees in L.A. want the sale to go through. They should be careful what they wish for. Life at the Los Angeles Times under Tribune has not been easy, but probably will not be much better as a Zell controlled company.

Zell did tell the New Yorker in November that the Tribune newspapers should be run by executives in each city. The hope that company headquarters in Chicago will leave journalists alone in Los Angeles has to be tempered with Zell's past actions, and what others close to him said about his pending purchase of Tribune.

Maggie Wilderotter, chairwoman and C.E.O. of Citizens Communications has been on three boards of Zell owned companies. She told the New Yorker that Zell is not driven by any notion of doing good journalism.

An important part of the Tribune portfolio is TV station. He's buying a media company that has assets other than newspapers.

She continued:

But that's not what drives Sam. His thought process throughout this whole thing has always been about the business proposition. I never, ever heard Sam say, 'I'm doing this because I love the Chicago Tribune,' or 'I'm committed to the city of Chicago.' It would have been totally out of character.

Not exactly comforting words for Tribune's journalists.

The folks at another Tribune newspaper, Newsday, should be even more suspicious of Zell. An unnamed source is quoted saying that Rupert Murdoch is warming up to Zell because he wants a piece of the Long Island paper. A troublesome partnership considering Murdoch's already extensive holdings in the New York City area. Murdoch's News Corporation owns two television stations, the New York Post and will soon have the Wall Street Journal.

Will Zell be a better owner than the current Tribune executives? I have no idea. What is worrisome is Zell's only other experience with the press. According to the profile he bought a 94 percent stake in a Cincinnati radio-station company in 1993. He paid down some debt, brought in new management then went on a buying spree after the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The company went from owning 17 stations to 234. Zell sold the chain to Clear Channel in 1999, making $1.3 billion.

Tribune employees should hold on. They might be in for a turbulent ride.

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November 15, 2007 6:00 PM

Sparse blogging

Posted by Ryan Blethen

My blogging will slow, but not hault starting Friday. Work assingments and Thanksgiving will keep me from posting regulalry at Daily Democracy for the next couple of weeks.

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November 1, 2007 9:14 AM

Fair and Confused, Murdoch and the FCC

Posted by Ryan Blethen

There is a story and op/ed in today's Seattle Times worth reading. The story found here is about Wednesday's Federal Communications Commission's localism hearing. The op/ed found here is part of the Democracy Papers and was penned by Peter Hart. He writes about News Corporation's new business channel. Hart works for FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) and is the author of "The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly."

Both are good pieces. The localism story captures the disorder of the FCC, and its rush to try and change media ownership rules before the end of the year. I believe Hart is going to be proven right about the type of business reporting that will come from a FOX business channel.

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October 26, 2007 2:39 PM

Wildfire reporters

Posted by Ryan Blethen

NPR had an inspiring story this morning about an affiliate station in San Diego and how it has been reporting on the wildfires. KPBS in San Diego is no Clear Channel in Minot, N.D.

A brief history: Minot has become the poster city for how media consolidation has left many communities helpless during an emergency. In 2002 a train derailed releasing a poisonous cloud that drifted to Minot. The city's fire department could not get through to Minot's radio stations. All six local radio stations were owned by Clear Channel. Nobody was at the stations because the canned broadcasts did not require bodies in the studio. One person died, and nearly a thousand were injured.

The coverage by one local radio station has been the opposite of Minot. The NPR story points out that KPBS is pretty much the only station left doing local news in San Diego. Sounds familiar. When KPBS lost their signal for a day they asked, and were allowed, to transmit through a commercial radio station. A commendable act for the corporate station. Too bad it did not have its own team of journalists to inform listeners of what was happening. KPBS is back on the air and doing amazing things. Reporting you can only get from a station that has a focus on journalism and its community.

It is worth checking out KPBS.org to see all the ways they are helping San Diego's displaced and frightened populace. The staff has produced a map using Google's My Map to show what is happening in the region. The station is also using a social networking site to send updates through text messages.

KPBS is a prime example of why independence is important for radio, and for listeners. It also exemplifies why the Internet is a vital component for radio.

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October 26, 2007 11:10 AM

Radio's future

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In my regular column today I write about radio. The news peg was a Wednesday hearing on the future of radio held by the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee.

The committee, which includes senators from both parties concerned about media consolidation such as Democrats Maria Cantwell and Byron Dorgan and Republicans Trent Lott and Olympia Snowe, heard testimony from independent record label owners, and musicians. They also heard from a broadcaster who supports consolidation.

According to Radio World Newspaper the testimony of the independents had an impact. Commerce Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said the committee needs to examine the diversity of media ownership, and consolidation.

It is not surprising that the committee would delve more into media ownership - it is their job. But it is encouraging that senators from both parties have become very vocal on the topic, especially at a time when the Federal Communications Commission is trying to ram bad public policy into law before year end.

For more about Wednesday's hearing go to the Commerce Committee's Web site. Another good source for information about Internet radio, and media consolidation is the Future of Music Coalition, and the Rock the Net campaign.

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October 21, 2007 8:32 PM

Welcome to Daily Democracy!

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Welcome to Daily Democracy, an extension of the Democracy Papers, which is an ongoing project that examines the press and democracy. This space will be used to keep the discussion fresh, and vigorous. I will be writing about the media reform movement, the press, and its place in a democracy. I will also direct readers to related stories, materials, and sources.

Enough with the introductions. There is too much happening to waste time with the pleasantries. The big news on media reform came out of Washington, D.C. last week. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin said he wants the commission to vote on media ownership rules by Dec. 18. Martin is also calling for public hearings on the matter in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 31, and here in Seattle on Nov. 2.

Martin's timing is curious. He seemed content to move the FCC at a pedestrian pace on media ownership until now. Since Martin's predecessor, Michael Powell, the FCC has had a soft spot for the big media companies. Tribune, one of those big media companies, has for some reason been allowed to operate newspapers, and television stations in a number of cities with temporary waivers. Tribune is going through a sale to Chicago developer Sam Zell. Zell and Tribune want to close the deal by year end. Zell wants to keep Tribunes televisions stations. Tribune wants to be able to sell Zell its newspapers and stations in one nice neat package. A Dec. 18 vote would be convenient for Zell and Tribune.

The New York Times had a good story about Martin's plans. It gives some good history about an earlier effort to weaken cross-ownership rules. There are also some good quotes from FCC commissioner Michael Copps, and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

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