Most broadcast/print media --- finally hearing alarm bells last week --- were slow to recognize a long-in-the-works Federal Communications Commission proposal that would dispatch “researchers” to monitor newsrooms even though the snooping plan surfaced nine months ago but gained major attention after a Feb. 10 warning by Ajit Pai, Republican commissioner with the FCC, who penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, observes Grumpy Editor.
Pai, a lawyer, noted the plan posed great danger to the First Amendment and could be used in “pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.” Following Pai’s revealing op-ed, many journalists and radio/TV talk show hosts termed the plan an attempt by the White House to rein in the media. Also shedding light on the dangers of newsroom monitoring was the American Center for Law and Justice.
After a barrage of broadcast and print criticism, federal officials on Friday released a one-page statement that the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, has been suspended. The study had been set to begin this year in Columbia, S.C. (However, media in that city said the monitoring plan was news to them.)
The CIN initiative included surveying media markets to determine how different demographics get news. It also called for interviews with media owners and editorial staffers on how their newsrooms operate.
Similar to discussions in an editorial meeting, the FCC planned to quiz editors and reporters on how they determine stories to cover and how they should be presented, along with asking reporters about rejected stories deemed important and reasons for the rejections.
Among suggested questions: "What is the news philosophy of the station?" and "How much does community input influence news coverage decisions?"
Veteran journalists regarded this as an initial interrogation step in an attempt to control and intimidate the media.
Ten months ago, unknown to most media, a 78-page “Research Design for the Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” was prepared for the FCC by Social Solutions International, Inc., Silver Spring, Md., which describes itself as “a research and evaluation firm dedicated to the creation of social and health solutions to improve the welfare of underserved populations worldwide.”
Richard Zaragosa, whose Washington law firm represents the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations, cautioned that the suspension does not mean the FCC will not proceed later with the snooping plan.
“Our reading … suggests that they have postponed the survey until it can be reworked, not that they canceled it entirely and permanently,” he pointed out.
In case you missed these…
WHITE HOUSE PRESS CAMERAS SHELVED AGAIN. White House photographers were grumbling again on Friday when locked out from President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. Only a handout photo was provided after the “closed press” event. Some news outlets, including USA Today have nixed using handout photos.
KERRY LOOKS SKYWARD. Secretary of State John Kerry turned “climatologist” and raised eyebrows with a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, declaring climate change is perhaps the worlds’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.
AVOID CRIME, STAY AWAY FROM HOT SUN. Equally strange were amazing, crystal ball precise forecasts the Los Angeles Times gleaned from a study published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management that high temperatures are likely to produce more crime. Between 2010 and 2099, it pinpointed “climate change can be expected to cause an additional 22,000 murders, 180,000 cases of rape, 1.2 million aggravated assaults, 2.3 million simple assaults, 260,000 robberies, 1.3 million burglaries, 2.2 million cases of larceny and 580,000 cases of vehicle theft.” (Of course, not many of us will be around in 85 years to check on the study's accuracy at the end of the century. Hopefully, The Times has put a note in its future file --- for 2099 --- for a follow-up. Also, the crime/high temperature factor portends it being rather dangerous to visit or live in places such as Palm Springs, Phoenix and Las Vegas during simmering periods.)
FILM AT 11? CBS in Miami reported media organizations, including Associated Press and CNN, petitioned a Miami/Dade court for access to videos that reportedly show singer-songwriter-actor-musician Justin Bieber "during the time he was asked to provide a urine sample to Miami Beach Police as part of his DUI arrest” last month.