Tagged: media

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SCOTUSblog’s Sisyphean Stone

UnknownMore troubling news for SCOTUSblog:

“This was a morning of ironies.  At 9:30 a.m., six members of the blog staff were live-blogging the Supreme Court’s orders, followed by opinions at 10 a.m.  There were 10,000 readers.  The Standing Committee of Correspondents chose that time to release its ruling denying our appeal of its revocation of our press credential.  We learned about it from Twitter.”

“Today, it settled on the fact that practicing lawyers publish and write for the blog.  The Committee takes the view that the blog is not editorially independent from my law firm or from other lawyers who write for the blog.  As a consequence, the Committee found, the blog violates two independent requirements under the Committee’s Rules: any credentialed publication must be editorially independent from an organization that (i) “lobbies the federal government”; or (ii) ‘is not principally a general news organization.'”

“Notably, the Committee finds that no editorial policy can establish editorial independence.  The publication’s own rules cannot overcome the taint created by its personnel.  So the Committee recognizes our rules forbidding any staff member from being involved in the coverage of any case in which the law firm is involved.  But because the firm and the publication are not “separate” in terms of who works for each, the former has the capacity to “influenc[e] editorial content.”  The Committee explains that it would reconsider its decision only if the blog were “to separate itself from Goldstein & Russell and any other lawyer or law firm who is arguing before the Supreme Court” (emphasis added) — Tom Goldstein

Bottom line: “The next step is for us to appeal the Committee’s decision to the Senate Rules Committee.  We do not know how long that will take.” (see link above for full statement)

Disclosure: I am the book editor for SCOTUSblog.  I have not, however, discussed this post or any other with anyone from SCOTUSblog.

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Hearing on National Security Leaks

On Wednesday morning the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and National Security held a hearing on the recent national security leaks.  I have just finished watching a video of the hearing so you won’t have to (you can thank me later).  Experts testifying included President George W. Bush’s homeland security advisor Kenneth Wainstein, American University Professor Stephen Vladeck, George Mason Professor Nathan Sales, and US Army (Ret.) Colonel Kenneth Allard.

As the witnesses pointed out, this is the third time in a year and a half that Congress has called for testimony on national security leaks.  The sheer frequency of the hearings indicates that Congress should really try to figure out how to reform the Espionage Act, but I am not going to be holding my breath waiting for this to happen.  Today’s hearing raised some interesting questions but unfortunately provided little guidance on how Congress might revise the Espionage Act.

Not surprisingly, Republican members of the Subcommittee largely used this hearing as an opportunity to rail against the lack of a special prosecutor to investigate the most recent national security leaks, while Democrats spent their time pointing out the most recent leaks were nothing new because leaks have been going on since the founding of this country.

The most interesting part of the hearing from my perspective was the Republicans’ attacks on the media for publishing national security secrets.  As I had mentioned in one of my first posts, almost all of the hostile reaction to the most recent round of high-profile leaks was initially directed at the leakers themselves and not the media entities that published those leaks.  Well, no more.  Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas began the attacks on the media at the outset of the hearing when he said that newspapers publish national security secrets not because they are committed to transparency but rather because they want to increase circulation.  Colonel Allard happily jumped on the media-bashing bandwagon, stating that the N.Y. Times “abuses its position” and that David Sanger’s reporting was “the equivalent of having a KGB operation running against the White House.”  (Colonel Allard also had one of the best quotes from the hearing: “In wartime, I am as opposed to the free flow of information as I am to the free flow of sewage.”  Yikes!)

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The Hidden Dynamics of the Media System

I’m flattered by Concurring Opinions’ request that I contribute to the blog this month. My expertise is not in the Law. It relates to the strategies and dynamics of media industries—particularly the processes at the intersection of marketing, digital media, and society. My aim in these contributions is to show how new, often hidden dynamics in the media system raise crucial issues for people concerned with the growth of an optimal media system for society.

What would such a system look like? I suggest that a good society should have a balance between what might be called society-making and segment-making media. Segment-making media are those that encourage small slices of society to talk to themselves, while society-making media are those that have the potential to get all those segments to talk to each other. So, for example, Latino Perspectives, a magazine for Latinos living in Phoenix and Tucson, may be considered segment-making; the same with the Univision television network. By contrast, People magazine and CBS television, with their interest in broad national audiences, can be called society-making.

A hallmark of the twentieth century was the growth of both types in the United States. A huge number of ad-supported vehicles—mostly newspapers and magazines—served as a way to reinforce, even create identities for an impressive array of segments that advertisers cared about, from groups of immigrants just establishing a presence in the country to the Jay Gatsby-esque luxury market, and more. At the same time, some ad-sponsored newspapers, radio networks and—especially—television networks were able to reach across these groups. For those who hope for a caring society, each level of media had, and continues to have, its problems. Segment-making media have sometimes offered their audiences narrow, prejudiced views of other social segments. Similarly, society-making media have marginalized certain groups, perpetuated stereotypes of many others, and generally presented an ideal vision of the world that reflects the corporate establishment sponsoring them at the expense of the competing visions that define actual publics. Nevertheless, the existence of both forms of media offers the potential for a healthy balance. In the ideal scenario segment-making media strengthen the identities of interest groups while society-making media allow those groups to move out of their parochial scenes to talk with, argue against, and entertain one another. The result is a rich and diverse sense of overarching connectedness: this is what a vibrant society is all about.

What are the core drivers that push the media toward or away from this development? I argue that in the U.S. and many other societies, the answer can be found in relationships between media and advertisers. To understand the key contemporary dynamics, I’ve focused a good deal of my recent research on the critical transformation taking place in the advertising system’s media-buying-and-planning business. The idea behind media buying and planning is basic: An agency helps its clients (the advertisers) decide where to place paid messages about their products. Thirty years ago the U.S. media plan for most national advertisers was a rather straightforward one negotiated by a few people and carried out by rather inexperienced clerks. The realistic possibilities involved the big three broadcast television networks, local radio stations, magazines, newspapers, and outdoor.

But with the rise of cable, satellite, game consoles, DVDs, and a panoply of internet-connected digital devices, media buying and planning has become a byzantine activity. The complexity of deciding how to think about and reach desired audiences has led agencies to a shift in personnel. Statisticians and computer engineers increasingly sit at the center of the process. They formulate complex computer programs, crunch numbers, and even create new advertising buying-and-selling technologies with the aim of identifying and reaching the best prospects in the best places.

The money used to purchase advertising is huge. Media buyers funnel hundreds of billions of dollars (allegedly close to $500 billion) to media firms in exchange for space and time worldwide.1 A substantial portion (one industry consultancy says 88%2) of the spending runs through a small number of organizations owned by a handful of agency conglomerates most people have never heard of: WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic, Aegis, and Havas. And that money covers only the formal advertising. Activities such as product placement and “earned media” (an increasingly wide range of public-relations work that may well include coordinating Twitter feeds and Facebook fan pages) raises the total substantially.

Given the amount of cash involved and the fact that advertising provides such a high level of support for so many media industries, the decisions buyers and planners make influence whether media outlets live and how they live—for example, what audiences they should target and how much they can afford to invest in content. The past decade or so has seen the advertising business take a fundamental turn. The emerging media-planning-and-buying system is predicated on neither society-making nor segment-making advertising media channels. Rather, marketing executives along with their engineers and statisticians are building it increasingly around a belief in the primacy of the chosen consumer. The belief motivates them to sort audiences into targets and waste, focus on the individuals they deem valuable, track those people across as many platforms as possible, and serve them personalized ads and other content anywhere they show up.

They are creating a new marketing-and-media world, and the ramifications may well be profound for the individual, for media practitioners and their products, and for society at large. My hope with this month’s posts is that I can elucidate a few of these issues, tie them to current developments, and encourage policy discussions around them. I look forward to your comments.

References
1 See “Worldwide Ad Market Approaches $500 Billion,” eMarketer, June 13, 2011.
2 RECMA, “Global Overall Activity Billings 2010,” http://www.recma.com/files/RECMA_11103_1310117878200_FREE_EXTRACT_-_7_PAGES_-_July_08_A_.pdf , accessed February 1, 2012.

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Another possible reason for the LAT story on NRA v. Chicago

pistolOver at the conspiracy, Eugene Volokh points out an odd fact — while the L.A. Times gives rather extensive coverage to the recent NRA v. Chicago, it gave no coverage at the time to Nordyke v. King, which was a California case. Eugene offers a few possible rationales for this difference:

To be sure, there are possible explanations: Today’s story was by the Times’ Supreme Court reporter, and this case is more likely than the Ninth Circuit case to go to the Supreme Court, for reasons I described here. The underlying controversy in the Seventh Circuit (a handgun ban) is more likely to interest people than the underlying controversy in the Ninth Circuit (a ban on gun possession on county property). And it’s made higher profile by the controversy about Judge Sotomayor’s participation in the Second Circuit’s no-incorporation decision.

At the same time, the broad legal issue — whether state and local governments are bound by the federal right to bear arms — is the same. The Ninth Circuit decision was the one that created the circuit split, and it did tee things up for the Court to consider the Second Circuit’s incorporation case (again, discussed here) — perhaps not perfectly, but still in a way that strikes me as newsworthy. The Ninth Circuit decision is the one that suggests some gun laws may be unconstitutional, which seems to me a pretty newsworthy matter. And the Ninth Circuit case was more local than the Seventh Circuit case.

(In comments, VC readers seem to mostly be of the opinion that the story shows a concerted editorial campaign to promote gun control through skewed news reporting.)

I’d suggest another possible reason — there’s a man-bites-dog aspect of the story which Eugene doesn’t mention; and no, it’s not the cheesy “wow, Republican judges can rule against gun rights” factor. Rather, it’s the fact that incorporation was widely expected to have an easier road than this. Read More