Study highlights check-splitting in Va. gift reporting – The Washington Post.
This Washington Post story examines a legal practice that splits the cost of a gift from a lobbyist to an elected official. The cost of an expensive dinner divided by nine clients that the lobbyist represents becomes a cost below the $50 reporting threshold in Virginia. Some say “splitting the check in that way undermines the spirit of disclosure rules.”
The story uses real examples and on-the-record sources to examine the procedure. The story is a nice model of public-affairs reporting.
This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine.
You have to read this. Nanotechnology from 1,600 years ago. The description of pregnancy test kits helps readers understand the potential.
College Football’s Most Dominant Player? It’s ESPN — NYTimes.com.
The New York Times looks today at the influence ESPN has in college football — scheduling and the inspiration of conference realignments.
But this story illustrates a wider point. People will pay for content. But do people think of that cable subscription as part of their entertainment budgets or their budgets for news and information? (As if we Americans follow budgets!)
Can journalists figure out how to encourage people to pay for news in the way they pay for cable tv premium channels? There’s a lot of money out there:
Today, nearly 100 million households pay about $5.54 a month for ESPN, regardless of whether the subscribers watch it or not, whether they realize it or not. This year, ESPN will take in more than $6 billion in subscriber fees. Today, nearly 100 million households pay about $5.54 a month for ESPN, regardless of whether the subscribers watch it or not, whether they realize it or not. This year, ESPN will take in more than $6 billion in subscriber fees.
That’s a lot of money. The story points out what goes on within college football to get some of that money. But I still think the wider questions remain: What will people pay for, and why?
N.F.L. Pressure Said to Lead ESPN to Quit Film Project — NYTimes.com.
The Post sale gave a chance to understand a bit more about the business of journalism. Today’s New York Times story is another. Journalism values independence from sources. Disney owns ESPN. The NFL contract pays the bills by attracting advertisers and audience. But this brain-injury reporting stretches allegiances.
The Post, the sale and the news business – The Washington Post
People ask me about what will become of journalism. (It will endure or the democracy crumbles, I reply.) In reflecting on the sale of The Washington Post, long-time newsman Walter Pincus gives a condensed history of news profits. (See the link above.)
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has bought the paper, much like the wealthy Eugene Meyer bought it in 1933. Meyer didn’t see a profit for 20 years. Pincus explains:
Like most owners of local U.S. newspapers, Meyer was already successful and never saw newspaper ownership as a money-maker. Instead, as [Philip] Graham put it, the family thought of the newspaper as a public utility and if it ever made as much as 7 percent on its gross income, it would be deemed a success.
Then the acquisition of television and radio stations and the conglomeration of media companies into chains sent profits to the 25 percent range and family companies went public and were beholden to stockholders rather than only rich families.
Now the publicly held Post has sold once again to a rich man, and maybe he’ll see the news organization as a public good. Journalism’s duty is to tell the truth and serve the public. We often fail. But as we go, so goes the democracy.
Pincus’ column is worth reading for the history in the first take, but the second half bears a debatable supermarket metaphor and is weak on the past decade. Pincus has been at the Post more than 50 years. He’s seen plenty.
The Washington Post will be sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. (Link goes to photo gallery but starts with an advertisement.) Newspapers always have been owned by wealthy people. The old First Amendment joke was “The press is free to those who own one!” Free to very few people. Now that even I can “own” this blog press, the number of voices is great. That, coupled with some big media with funds to investigate and pursue stories that challenge special interests, could make for a robust public square. But the people have to complete the loop. A free press must have a responsive public.