Monthly Archives: October 2012

Citizens United meets “Breaking Bad”

By Christopher B. Daly 

Now comes news that certain people have

1. created an organization that meets the technical definition of the kind of non-profit that can funnel unlimited amounts of money into U.S. politics without having to identify the donors.

2. perhaps (according to documents found in a meth house in Montana, fer chrissake) skirted the legal requirement that they steadfastly avoid coordination of their efforts with any actual politicians.

Hmmm…. does that seem: surprising? shocking? dismaying? inevitable? All of the preceeding?

I would say that ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s profoundly wrong ruling in the 2010 Citizens United case, this kind of thing was entirely predictable. (All except the meth house; that is a nice touch.) In brief: the story involves a conservative group opposed to clean energy is organized into something called the American Tradition Partnership. According to news accounts and Montana election officials, ATP may have violated campaign finance laws, based on documents found in the meth house.

For the full story, watch Frontline tonight on PBS (before public broadcasting’s enemies destroy it), or read about it at ProPublica. You can also follow it in the pages of the Missoulian, a newspaper based in Missoula, Montana, which (luckily!) still maintains a bureau in the state capital of Helena trying to keep an eye on government and politics. A hat tip to Mike Dennison of the Missoulian — and keep up the good work. Or, check out the coverage in the Billings Gazette.

p.s. Don’t miss this handy interactive info-graphic from ProPublica, which shows who is giving what amounts to which causes.

p.p.s. Memo to the conservative SCOTUS bloc: thanks a lot.



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College rankings

are obviously problematic, but not when they make your own school look good. Here is a recent global survey, weighted toward schools whose graduates are in demand in the worldwide economy.

It was no surprise, I suppose, that the top 5 were, in order: Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, and Stanford. What came as a pleasant surprise was the No. 17 global ranking for the school where I teach, BOSTON UNIVERSITY. 

In fact, if you go through this list just looking at U.S. schools, the schools rank this way:

Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Princeton, and then . . .  B.U.!

That would make B.U. the seventh-best university in America (at least in the eyes of the “thousands of recruiters” who participated in this survey, which was “compiled by Emerging, a human resources consultancy based in Paris, and Trendence, an institute that researches employer branding, personal marketing and recruitment” — pardon me, but I think I am allergic to half the words in that description of those two outfits).

This all sounds very sketchy, but I have to admit that I like the results.


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Not to be missed

By Christopher B. Daly

Jill Lepore’s new book gets a smart, enthusiastic review today in the Boston Globe from writer and editor Kate Tuttle (a former student of mine). Lepore’s book, The American Story, is a compilation of essays about Franklin, Jefferson, Paine and others who shaped this country through words, songs, speeches and poetry. Sounds like a great match of author and subject. Enjoy.

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For Fox News chief: 4 more years

By Christopher B. Daly

Politics aside (now, how often do you see that phrase in a presidential campaign season?), let’s give Roger Ailes of Fox News his due. He did the following:

–had an original idea

–got someone else to fund his idea

–built a news outlet from scratch

–made it profitable

–made it hard to ignore

–took home $21 million in salary and bonuses from News Corp. last year.

On that set of facts, he deserves to be ranked with Horace Greeley, Ted Turner, or Arianna Huffington. (I know, I know: there are other facts that I have not introduced into evidence here. I’m just saying. . .)

Ailes, who is 72, signed a new contract with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. that extends his work life (and his ultimate control over Fox News) through the 2016 elections.

Roger Ailes (Jennifer S. Altman / LA Times)

Roger Ailes (Jennifer S. Altman / LA Times)

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For the record

New York Times top editor Jill Abramson is engaging in the newspaper’s version of a “town hall” meeting, fielding questions posed by members of the general public. (Never mind that the questions were vetted and that both the questions and the answers sound buffed; this is still a useful exercise for all parties.) It’s called Talk to the Times. Now’s your chance.

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Newsweek: R.I.P.

By Christopher B. Daly 

Another legacy news institution dies. The latest print publication to fail to make the transition to a digital ecology is Newsweek — a fixture on the American scene since its founding in 1933. After decades as a profitable division of the Washington Post Co., the weekly news magazine peaked at a paid circulation of just over 3.1 million a week, in 2001. Less than a decade later, with circulation plummeting and debts mounting, the Post company sold Newsweek for one dollar, just to try to stop the bleeding, and the magazine merged with the Daily Beast. 


Newsweek was important as an alternative to the Luce empire’s older and bigger TIME magazine in the weekly news-magazine market, and it did some fine reporting and photography over the years. 

Technically, Newsweek is ceasing to publish in print. It will go online-only and be folded into the Daily Beast website, founded and run by Tina Brown.

Here’s a collection of Newsweek covers from today’s Daily Beast site.


p.s. I hate writing these obits for legacy media, and I hope this is the last. — CBD


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Is the grass greener over the paywall?

by Christopher B. Daly

It’s probably too soon to start celebrating (or re-opening closed news bureaus), but there may be some reason for optimism about  the future of journalism. Specifically, there is new evidence that paywalls  are effective in getting people to pay for real news. Here is a trend-spotting piece in the WSJ. The takeaway:

. . . paywalls have begun to give newspapers a way to slow, and in some cases reverse, circulation declines, raise prices and open up a new source of revenue.

More broadly, charging for digital access also allows newspapers to reduce their reliance on volatile advertising toward more stable circulation revenue—a story that investors like to hear, analysts say.


And here is something I had not noticed until this article prompted me to check. Look at what has happened to the stock of the New York Times Company in the last six months.


Hmmm… could this be the beginning of something? From a low of just over $6 a share back in May, Times stock is up to nearly $11 a share  — almost double in six months. That’s enough to make me wish I had bought some (back in May, of course).


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