Monthly Archives: March 2012

Math for journalists (cont.)

By Chris Daly

How long can Newt Gingrich last in the Republican primary? I don’t know (the future is not my field), but here is one way to look at it.

So far, he has received $10 million from the Adelsons. According to Fortune, they are worth about $25 billion.

Let’s do the math on that one:

1/10th of $25 billion = $2.5 billion

1/10th of $2.5 billion = $250 million.

So, a figure of $250 million equals 1% of the Adelson fortune. Let’s keep going.

1/10th of $250 million = $25 million.

Half of that = $12.5 million.

So Adelson has given less than half of one-tenth of 1 percent of his fortune to Gingrich. At this rate, he could give Gingrich $5 million a week for 50 weeks and just end up giving away 1% of his fortune. Meanwhile, of course, if Adelson is invested broadly in the stock market, and if the “Obama rally” continues, Adelson will “earn” more than that amount by not doing anything at all.

In other words, the super-rich can bankroll an entire presidential campaign and hardly even notice — certainly nothing that would change his tax bracket.




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Media & politics: France v U.S.

By Chris Daly 

In France, the regulations that guarantee equal time to all major political candidates seem to be taken quite literally. Today’s Times has a story that tells of the lengths that French media regulators go to in order to follow the letter of the law. Candidates’ appearances are timed to the second and compared to each other to ensure that no one gets an unfair advantage.


The Times story compares this system to the “Fairness Doctrine,” which the FCC used to enforce on American news media. Actually, the French system sounds more like a different FCC policy, the “equal time rule,” which went out in 1960.

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, Covering America, about the end of the “equal time” rule in 1960:

In the fall of 1960, many Americans were still in the process of getting to know Jack Kennedy. Just forty-three years old, he represented the World War II generation, declaring himself ready to take over from Eisenhower, the very man who had commanded the young troops in wartime. Kennedy was not only young, he was also rich, good-looking, and married to a very photogenic wife. With his distinctive accent, his cool demeanor, and his ironic wit, he was well suited to the new medium that was about to make its mark on American politics in a dramatic way—television. Just in time for the 1960 election, Congress had passed a law repealing the FCC’s “equal time” rule, which had required broadcasters to give equal amounts of air time to all candidates for office, including fringe candidates and cranks. In 1960, for example, there were more than a dozen political parties offering candidates for president. It would have been impossible—and perhaps illegal—for a broadcaster to hold a debate that excluded any of them. In a step that went a long way toward perpetuating the dominance of the two major parties, Congress decided to lift that ban for the 1960 campaign and to have the FCC study the issue. When the new law was signed on August 24, 1960, the way was clear for the networks to approach the Democrat Kennedy and the Republican Nixon and offer them an exclusive one-on-one format for the first televised presidential debate in history.

The challenger, Kennedy, promptly agreed. . .


CBS News/Getty





And here’s a longer excerpt that addresses the rationale for using government power to regulating broadcasting in the first place, despite the Constitutional ban on governmental limits on free speech.

Meanwhile, though, with the proliferation of stations sending out signals in the mid-1920s, there arose what some people considered a problem. In more and more places, radio signals were interfering with one another, causing static and defeating the whole purpose of broadcasting. To make matters worse, some broadcasters built supertransmitters intended to overwhelm any weaker signal operating at the same frequency. In response, some broadcasters would move their signal to a different frequency, to avoid being “jammed” by a more powerful rival. As a result, listeners would have to search around the dial to find their favorite station. By 1925 there were some ten thousand stations sending out signals, with no sign of any slowdown. The existing law required a license, but it did not allow the government to deny one to anybody. Hoover and many broadcasters saw this “chaos” on the airwaves as a major crisis. The result was a drive for federal legislation.

But first there was an issue to be addressed: What business did Congress have regulating this area in the first place? Specifically, what about the free speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment? Didn’t the Constitution explicitly state that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press? Certainly, it was argued, when the Founders drafted that language, they meant to protect all speech, in all media. In the 1780s, when Jefferson and his contemporaries used the word “press,” they were referring to the entire array of mass communication then in existence: books, magazines, and newspapers. Now that a new medium had come along, why shouldn’t that technology enjoy the same protections granted the traditional print press, and for the same reasons? Radio could play an equally important role in our constitutional scheme as newspapers or magazines, but only if it was equally free.

By contrast, Hoover and his allies made the case for regulating radio on the basis of what they saw as fundamental differences between the press and radio that placed the two media on different constitutional grounds. First, they said, radio exists as a result of waves that pass through the ether—that is, the electromagnetic spectrum. That spectrum is a unique public resource, and the portion of it that exists above the territory of the United States belongs to the American people. Furthermore, they said, the airwaves were not like the frontier lands of the American past, which were surveyed and sold or given away to settlers. The spectrum could be measured and divided, but it was not for sale. This idea is sometimes referred to as “listener sovereignty,” meaning that the listeners have a collective ownership over the spectrum, which gives the public the right to control it. In addition, said the advocates of regulation, the spectrum has another inherent quality that differentiates it from the traditional press: it has only so much bandwidth. As a result, within any geographic area there is a physical limit on the number of radio signals that can be transmitted without interference. This “spectrum scarcity” means that someone must serve as a gatekeeper, allowing some people to use the spectrum and keeping others out. In radio there is a natural saturation point beyond which no one can enter without harming someone else. For that reason, radio was different from the press, since it is possible to have a practically unlimited number of publications circulating in the same area without impinging on one another. With these arguments, the regulators swept aside any constitutional objections and turned to making laws that would abridge the freedom of the airwaves.

The result was the far-reaching Radio Act of 1927. . .

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Inside the Meme Factory

By Chris Daly 

That’s the working title of my next book, which will document the history of the rise of the network of conservative think tanks and conservative news media in post-War America. Now that I have finished Covering America and launched it, I am eager to push ahead with the new book.

A perfect example of one of the major themes in “Inside the Meme Factory” appears in today’s Times on the front page. An article by Eric Lichtblau explores a dispute among the conservatives and libertarians who finance and run the Cato Institute.

Cato is a Washington think tank that lies near the heart of the conservative “intellectual-journalistic complex” that arose after WWII. The growth and activity of Cato and the American Enterprise Institute and others is a fascinating, largely untold story.

To be continued. . .


Industrialist Charles Koch (Mike Burley/Topeka Capital-Journal)

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Testing my new Hootsuite account. http:/

Testing my new Hootsuite account.

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Elite media?

By Chris Daly 

Newt Gingrich has done it again. On Sunday morning, he was the lead-off guest on “Meet the Press.” (So, no whining, Mr. Gingrich, about being ignored by the media.)

The able, veteran host, David Gregory, led off with the kind of question that such a host is supposed to ask on such a show: he asked about the hottest story of the previous 72 hours, the flap over access to contraception in health insurance plans.

Did Gingrich respond? Did he weigh in on the issue that so many Americans were thinking about?

He did not!

He went straight into political jiujitsu mode and tried to attack Gregory. His reply:

“You know, David, I am astonished at the desperation of the elite media…”

Whoa. Stop the video.

ELITE MEDIA?? What is Gingrich talking about. That is, what is he really talking about.

Gingrich flings that term “elite media” around every chance he gets. He must have reason to believe that it helps him with some sub-set of the U.S. electorate.

Here’s the question I wish Gregory had come back to him with: “What do you mean, Mr. Speaker, by elite media? Is there some other kind? Is there a zhlubby, mediocre media that you prefer? Is there a really dopey, terrible media that is somehow not getting its fair shake?”

What, in other words, does the word “elite” add to Gingrich’s sneering, mocking phrase “the elite media”? He protests an awful lot.

Is not Gingrich, a former professor, part of an elite?

Is not Gingrich, an author of multiple books, part of an elite?

Is not Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House, part of an elite?

Is not Gingrich, TIME magazine’s 1995 “Man of the Year,” part of an elite?

Is not Gingrich, a multimillionaire consultant, part of an elite?

Just to clarify, I entered the word “elite” into an online antonym finder and came up with the following list: common, low-class, ordinary, poor, worst, commoners, plebites, proletariat, low-born, low-life, poor, unprivileged, vulgar, wanting.

Would Gingrich really prefer a low-class, wanting, vulgar media staffed with ordinary proletariat commoners?

Maybe he would.

The official portrait


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William Randolph Hearst’s company at 125

By Chris Daly 

The Hearst Corp has decided to give itself a big birthday — 125.

That is predicated on the fairly arbitrary starting point of March 4, 1887, the date on which young William Randolph Hearst took over the management of his father’s newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner. It’s as good a date as any, I suppose, although it was another two decades before WRH really started building the media empire that still endures. Hearst, naturally, looms large in my new book on the history of journalism, Covering America, since his career lasted from 1887 almost to his death in 1951.

Fun fact: Hearst opposed U.S. intervention in WWI, and he came under attack from Wilson and his supporters. On the defensive about his loyalty, Hearst literally became a flag-waver: he ordered the editors of all his newspapers to print little American flags on the upper corners of every front page.

Don’t miss the great visuals in the slideshow and video in the company’s anniversary page. Hearst Corp., by the way, is one of the biggest privately held media companies in the U.S., owning everything from TV stations to Cosmopolitan and O magazines.

Courtesy, Hearst Corp.

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This is a test

write something

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