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A 9/11 Takeaway: Media Consolidation in Action

12:51 pm in Media by dakine01

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A couple of years ago, just before the 10 year mark after the 9/11 attack, I wrote this blog post, “A Personal Reflection on September 11, 2001.” If you haven’t read it, please go and do so and I’ll wait for you. It won’t take too long.

You’re back? Cool. But just in case you didn’t want to take the time to read, I want to quote my final paragraph:

The other thing that has stood out in my mind since September 11, 2001, besides wondering about the folks I passed each day going to and from work, was seeing the affects of media consolidation. Like many people, my attention span is not always able to stay with one thing for all that long sometimes. I recall channel surfing that morning and afternoon. I think except for Turner Classic Movies and maybe the Weather Channel, most every other cable and broadcast network available was broadcasting their parent’s top news anchors. TNT and TBS were with CNN. ESPN, ESPN2, Disney Channel all had ABC News. CBS News was on MTV, VHI, BET and the other Viacom networks. Fox News was on FX, Fox Sports, National Geographic, and some others. NBC News was on USA, Bravo, MSNBC, CNBC, and others. I had sixty some channels available to me on the Springfield cable system yet there were only five news sources showing.

This has been the biggest takeaway for me from that day — the media consolidation where the local cable system had over sixty available channels yet only five available news options. We see it in some respects each and every Sunday with the Sunday Talking Heads but those shows are generally speaking to the inside the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, Politicians, and Courtiers. For most of us, it takes a day of tragedy such as September 11, 2001 to really see media consolidation in action.

While there has been some movement of individual cable networks between and among these five major media companies, and even sales from one owner to another (such as GE selling NBC/Universal to Comcast), the following links will give you a good idea of who owns what in the media these days. I am using the wiki for most of these links out of standard laziness.

Time Warner Assets (parent of CNN)

Viacom Assets (CBS)

Disney Assets (ABC)

News Corp Assets (Fox)

Comcast Assets (NBCUniversal)

Columbia Journalism Review has this list of the above companies as well as many other media companies that extends beyond just the cable networks I have been talking about here.

I do not have a solution. I wish sometimes that the various news divisions within these organizations still reflected the pioneers of broadcast journalism. Even as he sometimes did commercial shows, Edward R Murrow brought in depth reporting. Walter Cronkite did a few appearances in network shows and movies but maintained his credibility. NBC gave us Chet Huntley and David Brinkley then John Chancellor. I would hesitate to designate any current news anchors from these big 5 broadcast media groups as an heir to these men. Instead of a Huntley or Brinkley, we get Disco Dave Gregory and his dance party. Instead of a Howard K. Smith or Harry Reasoner we get The Clinton Guy Shocked by Blow Jobs (h/t Mr Pierce).

Infotainment at best. Pablum for the masses for the most part.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Final Pre-election Jobs Reports

3:23 pm in Economy, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Employment Population Ratio, Participation and Unemployment Rates (calculatedriskblog.com)

This week has seen the final jobs reports that will be available to make a possibly measurable impact prior to November 6. Wednesday’s report from ADP had 162K new private sector jobs. Yesterday’s (Thursday, October 4) Jobless claims report had a slight increase to 367K new jobless claims and 4 week rolling average of 375K new claims. Finally, today’s (Friday, October 5) Bureau of Labor Statistics report has an increase of 114,000 jobs for September and the jobless rate falling to 7.8%.

It seems the fall in the overall unemployment rate has some folks on the right, led by Neutron Jack Welch, claiming the numbers have been cooked. David Dayen at FDL News puts it this way:

Because data is just fungible to the political leanings of whoever confronts it, we predictably saw a number of conservatives question today’s jobs report, suggesting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics fudged the data to help the President’s re-election campaign. Leading this charge was former GE CEO Jack Welch on Twitter. I think the government should make a deal with Welch – they’ll admit to massaging the data if he cleans up all the PCBs in the Hudson River personally.

On a more serious note, this is really pretty outrageous, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, whose department includes the BLS, is right to be insulted. The BLS is a civil service agency that until recently was still run by a Bush appointee. It now has a career bureaucrat in charge. The political team plays no role whatsoever in the derivation of or announcement of the jobs data. And if, despite all this, BLS cooked the books, they’re terrible at it, because they shifted the data in the household survey without corresponding in the establishment survey.

My WAG on this is that the adjustment of the number of jobs for July and August probably had as much affect on the September jobless rate as the actual numbers for September. As far as I can see, this opinion piece from Jay Schalin at Fox News pretty much covers the basic point of the “unemployment” figures:

One thing the current economic slump has made painfully clear is that the unemployment rate is an imperfect tool for gauging the health of the economy. Washington should replace it with a more meaningful and useful benchmark: the labor-force participation rate.

The widely publicized unemployment rate, eagerly awaited each month by pundits and policy wonks, has become little more than a shell game in which officials keep the public guessing about the real state of the economy.

Please do go and read the entire piece, he makes some excellent points.

One item that I find still glaringly obvious is that for the most part, most of the people in charge or talking about jobs and the economy have no more clue about what is happening than they do about what the surface of the moon feels like. Just the past few days, I have seen these headlines as I have surfed the toobz (links embedded in headlines):

I think the bottom line point here is any attempt to tie jobs reports, favorable or unfavorable, to the stock market is attempting so much witch craft. There IS no connection or the stock market would not be trading. As Reuters reported back in August, the market is up for the Obama administration by 74% since he took office January 2009:

At 1,400, the S&P 500 on Friday was closing in on a four-year high and was up 74 percent since January 20, 2009, the day Obama took office. Not since Dwight Eisenhower’s first term has a president had such a strong run for their first term.

As most folks reading this know, I am and have been among the long term un/underemployed. The reality for me and many millions of others is, we want to work in decent paying jobs, preferably in our chosen career fields. The dithering in DeeCee from both sides of the aisle, the constant calls for cuts to the budget, “Grand Bargains” to “save” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (especially the non-existent “Bowles-Simpson” plan since there was no formal report and plan adopted by their namesake committee) personally drives me nuckin’ futz. As Mr Pierce often says, “Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money.”

It really is a simple concept. People want to work. We want to work at decent paying jobs with halfway decent benefits and contribute to the overall commonweal of the nation. Working two or three part time barely above minimum wage jobs does NOT fit this definition.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

A Personal Reflection on September 11, 2001

12:46 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

Author’s Note: Please take a few minutes and Join the Firedoglake Membership Program today. FDL provides the tools that help me and others extend our reach with our rants so we need to support FDL when we can.

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was living in Springfield, IL. I had been laid off from my previous employer back at the end of July so my usual routine was to get up, make the coffee, check my email and the various job hunting sites for anything within my skills and career field to apply to, then surf the news sites. That routine stayed pretty much the same, even the week before when I had visited my best friend in Jacksonville, FL for a week, having returned to Springfield on Saturday, September 8.

It was a sunny morning and my then feline companion had joined me at the computer when I saw the first news article about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My first thought was something small like a single engine Cessna or something. Then I saw the reports of a second plane having hit the World Trade Center and knew my first thoughts had been so very wrong.

When I saw the news of the second plane, I turned on the TV and checked CNN. I think I hit there just as the South Tower was collapsing because all I really remember from that point was the confusion. I spent the rest of the morning in front of the TV, watching, just as millions of others around the country. I was sitting there feeling impotent and wanting to do something so contacted the local Red Cross. I wound up going in to their offices and giving blood. Along with a couple of hundred other folks in the Springfield area (my guess is that most blood banks across the country hit their capacity for at least a few weeks after 9/11).

I had spent most of the previous year (2000) officially living in Manchester, CT but commuting into Manhattan on Mondays and home to Manchester on Fridays via Amtrak and living during the week in a furnished studio in Battery Park City. Most mornings, I would walk up South End Ave to the World Financial Center where I would duck into the lobby, up to the walkway over West St and down to Liberty St. The first few months, I had been working down on John St near the South Street Seaport. I would head on up Liberty Street, past the Deutsche Bank Building, crossing over Broadway and down through the financial district. Occasionally, I would go to the local offices of my then employer on Wall St, so would head down past the Stock Exchange (and The Bull) but nothing at that end of Manhattan was much more than a ten to fifteen minute walk. After a few months, I was going over to offices on 16th St, near Union Square, so I would catch the N or R lines of the subway in the basement of the South Tower.

Now, as the name of my blog says, I’m a small town country boy and was not all that happy spending that year in Manhattan. The people I worked with were wonderful, friendly, hard-working people but there was just too much concrete for me, so when the opportunity opened up for Springfield, I transferred there. In a case of “be careful of what you ask for as you might get it,” I’m fairly certain I would not have been laid off if I had stayed with the projects in Manhattan. Yet there I was in the middle of the country, watching my “old neighborhood” on TV.

I know there were people I saw most every day who were injured or killed on September 11, 2001. There was a New York Fire Department Engine and ladder company on Liberty St, across from the South Tower and the Deutsche Bank Building. I’ve never been able to find out what happened to those first responders but I’m sure they were involved in the rescues. Most of the mornings when I was going to Union Square, I was in the offices by 7AM but occasionally, I would have to go to meetings over in Brooklyn and would be back on the subway, connecting to the A line under the towers so that I could get to a 9AM meeting on time. If the attack had come one year earlier, I would have been in the middle of it.

I don’t recall who sent me this picture (warning, it may load very slowly) but the little triangle on the left hand side of the picture sits on top of the building I lived in so you can see the scale of things. It was taken a couple of weeks after the attack.

The other thing that has stood out in my mind since September 11, 2001, besides wondering about the folks I passed each day going to and from work, was seeing the affects of media consolidation. Like many people, my attention span is not always able to stay with one thing for all that long sometimes. I recall channel surfing that morning and afternoon. I think except for Turner Classic Movies and maybe the Weather Channel, most every other cable and broadcast network available was broadcasting their parent’s top news anchors. TNT and TBS were with CNN. ESPN, ESPN2, Disney Channel all had ABC News. CBS News was on MTV, VHI, BET and the other Viacom networks. Fox News was on FX, Fox Sports, National Geographic, and some others. NBC News was on USA, Bravo, MSNBC, CNBC, and others. I had sixty some channels available to me on the Springfield cable system yet there were only five news sources showing.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

My $.02 on Juan Williams

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

Christopher Beam at Slate offers a quick discussion of the Juan Williams firing by NPR and makes a very key point that a lot of the folks whining about the firing seem to have missed:

Can news organizations fire reporters and commentators for anything they write or say?

Pretty much. The default labor contract in the United States is "at-will" employment, which means private employers can fire you at anytime for any reason, good or bad, or for no reason at all. (Slate employees, for example, are "at-will.") There are exceptions for discrimination based on race or gender, say, or retaliation for whistle-blowing. But you don’t have a Constitutional right to keep your job no matter what you say.

And there it is ladies and gentlemen. Employment at will is the world that must of us function under.

Welcome to the world the rest of us deal with Mr. Williams. Welcome to the world of no unions, no contracts and no recourse.

Roger Ailes: Did He Play Rip Van Winkle?

9:28 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

Today’s (1/10/10) NY Times has a profile/puff piece on Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. It’s a somewhat interesting read. It talks about how Ailes confronted Rupert Murdoch when it was rumored that Murdoch was going to endorse Barack Obama for president (Ailes denies that he made any demands but does concede that he did not support Obama). The article even discusses that members of the Murdoch family are embarrassed by Fox News!

However, a second read through shows there are a couple of holes that might have offered some further perspective if the reporters had filled in the information. Ailes is quoted:

“I built this channel from my life experience,” Mr. Ailes, 69, said. “My first qualification is I didn’t go to Columbia Journalism School.

After this quote, the reporters mention how Ailes got his start in politics with Nixon in 1967. They provide a few paragraphs of discussion on his time with Nixon taking him to all of 1969.

Then they cover the next twenty plus years in one sentence:

After serving as a communications consultant for politicians and executives, Mr. Ailes ran CNBC, the business network, in the early 1990s under Bob Wright, then the chief of NBC.

That seems innocuous enough, "… communications consultant for politicians and executives…"

But just who were these politicians and executives? Since this time period includes a whole lot of the life that gave him his experiences, it sure seems as if how Ailes got those experiences would have been a pertinent piece of information for the reader who may not know all that much about Ailes.

A quick check of der Google tells me that Ailes, worked in TV and even produced a musical on Broadway during the ’70s. Then in the ’80s he worked for Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush. Worked may be a bit of an understatement, since Ailes is credited with some of the one-liners that both Reagan and Bush I used in their inimitable self-deprecating styles. (That’s snark, OK?)

And the final kicker is in 1991, Ailes helped Rush Limbaugh get a TV show.

It sure would help folks to better understand the perspective and life experiences of the chairman of the "Fair and Balanced" network if the reporters had provided even those tiny snippets of information in covering those twenty plus years of life spent as a "… communications consultant for politicians and executives…" don’t ya think?