Reuters runs false report, says AP (& Newspapers to offer free bibles)

August 05, 2007

* Disney stubs out its last cigarette
* BBC credibility slipping fast in UK



1. Reuters runs false report of Afghan rescue operation, says AP
2. Newspaper subscribers divided over plan to offer free bibles
3. Condé Nast expanding into India
4. BBC credibility slipping fast
5. Taliban in first heat-seeking missile attack
6. Oprah tops list of highest-paid TV stars
7. Advertising falls at NY Times, Tribune
8. Disney stubs out its last cigarette
9. NY Times, NBC to collaborate on election coverage

[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch contains recent items about the media in general – most are not specifically connected to the Middle East – written by myself and published in the last few days on the National Review’s media blog. The National Review is the most read online opinion publication in America.

These are likely to be of interest to the large number of journalists who subscribe to this list.


(August 4, 2007)

The Reuters news agency issued a report at 7:42 a.m. EDT Wednesday that an operation aimed at rescuing the South Korean hostages held by the Taliban in Afghanistan was under way.

A full-length story on the rescue was put out by Reuters at 7:51 a.m. Both stories quoted Khowja Seddiqi, a district chief in the area, as the source.

At 9:31 a.m., Reuters sent notice that “the official quoted in the story did not make the comment reported.”

It takes the Associated Press (whose own foreign coverage is far from exemplary) to take a critical look at its rival:

An erroneous report Wednesday that an operation was under way to rescue 21 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan played widely in the media, raising questions about whether reporting such maneuvers in real time might put the operation itself at risk.

... CNN’s Kiran Chetry, at 8:29 a.m., said that Reuters had reported that a rescue operation had started. Fox News Channel’s Steve Doocy said there were “some wire reports today that the army over there is dropping leaflets on towns saying, you know, you better get out because we are about to launch an operation to try to liberate these people.”

ABC News ran the Reuters report on its Web site, although spokesman Cathie Levine said the network had – incorrectly, it turned out – confirmed the report. It was couched on “Good Morning America,” where it was reported that a rescue operation “may be getting under way.”

A report on BBC News was led: “Fighting has erupted in the area where a group of South Korean hostages are being held by the Taliban, suggesting an operation has begun to free them.”

... Reuters declined to address the issue [of why they had got it so wrong], other than to note that its original report had been sourced to an Afghan official.

For more on Reuters, see here.



(August 3, 2007)

Everything from detergent to DVDs are packaged with the Sunday newspaper. So why not Bibles? A Christian ministry aims to deliver New Testaments to newspaper subscribers around America as part of an effort to find innovative ways to spread its Christian message. But to its surprise some Christians have joined non-believers in objecting.

The Associated Press reports:

The Colorado-based International Bible Society-Send the Light is planning on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute Bibles with 11 newspapers during 2007 and 2008. New Testaments would be packaged in pouches on the outside of newspapers, much like soap or other sample products.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram announced in May it would deliver more than 200,000 New Testaments the last Sunday of the year. David House, the newspaper’s reader advocate, said he received about 70 e-mails split between backers and those opposed to packaging the scriptures with newspapers.

... Some of the outcry has come from one of the least likely sources – Christians. Bob Ray Sanders, the Star-Telegram’s vice president and associate editor, said some worried that the Bibles tossed on the lawn with the newspaper would be thrown away because most people already own a Bible.



(August 3, 2007)

Condé Nast, which is to launch an Indian edition of the high-end fashion magazine Vogue on September 22, has announced plans to follow this up in India with other titles: Glamour, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair and Wired.

The magazine group is attempting to tap into India’s growing affluence, in a country where many still living in dire poverty.

The print run for Vogue will be 50,000 copies. Rival Elle already has an Indian edition.

In China, Vogue broke even in its first year.



(July 28, 2007)

The BBC is finally beginning to admit that some of its programming is full of untruths. But it has yet to fully acknowledge the extent of the problem in its foreign news coverage. This cartoon from the Daily Telegraph, Britain’s highest circulation quality daily paper, sums up the problem.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Philip Davies asks: “Is funding a training programme to tell your staff not to lie and cheat viewers a good use of license-fee payers’ money? Perhaps you need to look at your recruitment process if you have to train them on such fundamentals as not lying or cheating?”



(July 28, 2007)

This is clearly a dangerous development.

The (London) Daily Telegraph reports:

Taliban militants have used a heat-seeking surface-to-air missile to attack a Western aircraft over Afghanistan for the first time.

The attack with a weapon believed to have been smuggled across the border with Iran represents a worrying increase in the capability of the militants which Western commanders had long feared.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that the Taliban attempted to bring down an American C-130 Hercules aircraft flying over the south-western province of Nimroz on July 22. The crew reported that a missile system locked on to their aircraft and that a missile was fired.

It closed in on the large C-130 aircraft, pursuing it as the pilots launched a series of violent evasive manoeuvres and jettisoned flares to confuse the heat sensors in the nose of the missile. Crew members said that they saw what they believe was a missile passing very close to the aircraft. The C-130 was not damaged in the attack.

NATO officials, however, are keeping their silence:

“If there was such an incident of the type you describe in Nimroz it is classified,” said a NATO spokesman. “I can’t release it, if in fact it did occur.”



(July 26, 2007)

Talk is not cheap when it comes to Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey earns an estimated $260 million a year according to a list of the highest paid TV stars in TV Guide magazine’s latest issue.

Music producer Simon Cowell, the British judge of American Idol, came a distant second on the list, at a mere $45 million.

Among other high earners: Courtroom chief Judge Judy (Judith Sheindlin, $30 million), CBS News anchor Katie Couric ($15 million), NBC “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer ($12 million) and his co-anchor Meredith Vieira ($10 million), and “Scrubs” actor Zach Braff ($6.3 million).

For more on Oprah Winfrey, see the final entry in the dispatch “Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo” (& Giuliani’s girls vs. Obama’s girls).



(July 26, 2007)

The Associated Press reports:

Newspaper publishers New York Times Co. and Tribune Co. reported lower advertising revenues for the second quarter on Wednesday as the industry struggled with deep losses in several categories, especially classified.

The Times, which also owns The Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune and a group of regional newspapers, posted a 6.9 percent decline in newspaper advertising in the period, while Tribune’s fell 11.2 percent.

Maybe some papers will move to purely online editions quicker than we previously thought?



(July 26, 2007)

The Walt Disney Co. says it will kick the cinematic smoking habit.

It also said it would “discourage” (though not ban) lighting up in the more adult movies made by its Touchstone and Miramax labels.

“A villain can be bad without smoking,” Disney Chief Executive Robert A. Iger said yesterday. “Heroes can be cool without smoking.”

Disney’s move follows Universal Pictures, which initiated a policy in April aimed at reducing or eliminating smoking by characters in films rated for young people.

Research by the Dartmouth Medical School found that 74% of over 500 recent box-office hits, many of them rated PG-13, contained smoking. The study also found that German teenagers who had seen a lot of smoking in Hollywood movies were nearly twice as likely to take up smoking as those who hadn’t.



(August 5, 2007)

The New York Times has announced it will collaborate with NBC News/ on 2008 presidential election coverage. The agreement will allow The New York Times to use NBC’s political videos on its Web site, while will be able to use national political content from on its site.

NBC News and The New York Times will both have first access to breaking news from one another. (Of course, The New York Times is usually last with the news, not first.)

Meanwhile, Business Week’s Jon Fine has some wise advice to The New York Times’s publisher:

“Memo from Jon Fine to Arthur Sulzberger: Understand that no matter which road you take, the next few years will be awful. They will expose you, your family and your paper to scrutiny and criticism as never before... You can stay today’s course, toughing out investor dissent and market disgust and, eventually, land the Times on some currently unknown safer terrain. (That’s the best-case scenario, by the way.) Or swallow hard, sell a bunch of properties, find a billionaire angel or two, make an offer for the 81 percent of the common shares your family does not own, and go private.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.