Monthly Archives: March 2013

More on WWII photo censorship

Here is a new  Times “Lens” blog, with more on LIFE magazine photographer George Strock.

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.



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Should Murdoch be able to buy the L.A. Times?

By Christopher B. Daly 

Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch is not finished trying to acquire more news outlets, despite his unsavory legal problems.

His latest target is the L.A. Times, the paper that the conservative Otis and Chandler families used to spearhead the phenomenal growth of LA (and, not incidentally, their family own’s fortunes). A story in today’s NYTimes provides an1923.04.22-Los_Angeles_Times_Front_Page update.

Here’s the situation: Like most big newspapers, the LATimes is in financial trouble, so its owner (the Tribune Co.) wants to sell it. One of the few buyers of newspapers is Rupert Murdoch.

Here’s the problem: Murdoch already owns two television station in Los Angeles, KTTV and KCOP. Like all holders of broadcast licenses in the United States, the two stations are subject to regulation by the Federal Communications Commission. Decades ago, the FCC idealistically promulgated rules that limit the ownership of tv and radio stations and that limit the “cross-ownership” of broadcast entities and newspapers in the same market. The idealistic impulse was to try to keep ownership diverse and prevent anyone from monopolizing the market for news and opinions in a given part of the country.

Here’s the wrinkle: Murdoch runs his News Corp. by basically using his many profitable broadcasting properties (starting with Fox TV) to subsidize his many money-losing newspapers (starting with the New York Post). His next step is to divide his company in two: a broadcasting division and a print division. If he pulls that off, he may be able to skirt the FCC rules.

Stay tuned.



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Filed under broadcasting, Fox News, Journalism, media, Murdoch scandal, regulation, Tribune Co.

A trial about secrets, tried in secret

By Christopher B. Daly 

No getting around it: the Obama administration is badly abusing its power in its handling of the “Wikileaks” case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. Forget about Manning for the moment. The issues involved in his case are of great interest to the general public. We have a stake in whether he receives a fair, public trial. If his case were in a civilian court instead of a military court martial, none of the shenanigans outlined in David Carr’s column today in the New York Times would be tolerated — or, at least, they would be corrected on appeal.

The military’s handling of this case is embarrassing our country in the eyes of the world, and it insulting to the citizens of the United States. I don’t know if he is guilty or not; I don’t know if the military is railroading him or not. But I know for sure that it appears as though the military is railroading the guy, and that is bad enough.

Just a sample from today’s Carr column:

imgres3Finally, at the end of last month, in response to numerous Freedom of Information requests from news media organizations, the court agreed to release 84 of the roughly 400 documents filed in the case, suggesting it was finally unbuttoning the uniform a bit to make room for some public scrutiny.

Then again, the released documents contained redactions that are mystifying at best and at times almost comic. One of the redacted details was the name of the judge, who sat in open court for months.

A disgrace.

Update: the AEJMC, the country’s biggest group of journalism scholars and educators, just issued this statement on prosecuting leaks.

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Filed under Journalism, media, Politics, President Obama, Wikileaks

Another Newspaper Landmark Closes

By Christopher B. Daly 

Of course, there are sad stories about the closing of the landmark building on Biscayne Bay that has housed the Miami Herald for the past 50 years. 


BUT, it should also be noted that the hulking Herald building was essentially a factory — a walled-off manufacturing plant. First and foremost, it was designed to receive raw materials (newsprint arrived in barges; hence, the dock) and turn them into finished products (i.e., each day’s paper, which left the plant on trucks).

What is the purpose of such a building in the digital age? Newspapers should be thinking of themselves as being in the information-processing business, not the paper-processing business. They should be in cool, glass offices right in the centers of their cities. They should look like Apple stores, not like power plants or auto factories.



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Not to be missed

Thanks to the Library of Congress for its National Recording Registry, which is compiling some of the greatest sounds ever recorded. Here is the page for the latest recordings, including Janis Joplin, Ornette Coleman, Junior Wells, Wild Tchoupitoulas and lots of other great stuff.

Be sure to click on link near the top to listen to the audio montage.

Only complaint: it’s going to take a long time to listen to them all.



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A baby picture of our universe





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America’s history of censorship

By Christopher B. Daly 

A recent obituary reminds us that during World War II, President Roosevelt created and operated a wide-ranging and largely effective program of censorship of all news media. The news is the death, at age 94, of Cal Whipple, who was a Pentagon correspondent for LIFE magazine during the war. It was Whipple who persuaded the military to re-examine its policy of banning photos of dead U.S. servicemen. Eventually, the top brass referred the matter to the president, and Roosevelt personally intervened. (It might have made more sense, of course, for LIFE’s publisher, Henry Luce, to take up the matter with the president — but for the fact that Luce was a Republican and quite a FDR-basher by 1943.) The result of Whipple’s efforts was this stunning photo by LIFE’s George Strock:

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.

That photo (which I paid Getty Images for the right to use) was followed by many more, all of which brought home the reality of war.

Here is an excerpt from my book, Covering America, about the issue:


   Another special case involved war zone photography. Initially, U.S. military and civilian censors banned the publication of photos showing dead American soldiers or sailors. It was assumed that such images would be bad for civilian morale, and they would probably not bring the troops much cheer either. For twenty months after Pearl Harbor, not a single photo depicting a dead U.S. service member appeared in the news media. Much of the initiative for change came from the editors of Life magazine, which, with a circulation of more than 2.5 million a week,23 had emerged since its founding in 1936 as the nation’s premier showcase for photojournalism. Among its wartime staff were Margaret Bourke-White, Carl Mydans, and Robert Capa. With its large format and glossy paper, Life gave photos their greatest possible impact. In a 1942 advertisement for itself, Life expressed its philosophy: “Never has LIFE glossed over the horrors that stalk in the wake of the Axis aggression, but has shown war as it really is . . . stark, brutal, and devastating.” Even so, the censorship guidelines prevented showing dead GIs, so editors at Life and elsewhere pressed their case for greater candor. In mid-1943 the Roosevelt administration reversed its earlier policy, and in September officials began releasing the first of the somber photos. The most famous was the one printed in Life showing three dead soldiers lying where they had been shot on a beach in New Guinea. The photo, by George Strock, was a masterpiece of composition and understatement. The dead men’s faces were not visible, and their wounds were hidden as well. The editors and the military brass all worried about the public reaction, but they need not have: most letters to Life supported the decision, and there was no measurable drop-off in American support for the war. Ever since, readers on the home front have been given a closer and more realistic look at war. . .

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China’s clean-air subsidy

By Christopher B. Daly 

Having just returned from two weeks in China, I can confirm the point made in a story in today’s New York Times: China’s air is filthy. People routinely wear surgical masks just to avoid breathing in all the particulates. It feels like Pittsburgh or Manchester of the late 19th Century.

Two points:

–China’s energy companies are as short-sighted as our own, lobbying to continue polluting the air. But at least on CCTV I did not see any ads touting the oxymoronic “clean coal.” Coal is coal, and coal is dirty. From today’s Times piece by Edward Wong:

Even as some officials push for tighter restrictions on pollutants, state-owned enterprises — especially China’s oil and power companies — have been putting profits ahead of health in working to outflank new rules, according to government data and interviews with people involved in policy negotiations.


–We in the States should be aware that China is subsidizing our own clean skies by putting up with the pollution that makes their products so cheap. Walmart and other retailers could not stock their shelves with such low-priced goods if China took the necessary steps to clear its own skies. If they really insisted on air that is as clean as that in the US or Europe, China would have to install scrubbers, switch to cleaner fuels, and invest in a lot of new greener technology. In that case, the price of manufacturing would go up, and we would have to pay a bit more for all the cheap stuff we import. Which would not be the worst thing.

Here’s a photo I took in Xi’an, a city of about 10 million in east-central China:

Power plant in Xi'an, China.

Power plant in Xi’an, China.

And here’s a Beijing sunrise:


It really is that bad.


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Shameless self-promotion (Journalism history division)

By Christopher B. Daly

Finally, it’s here: the electronic version of my book about the history of U.S. journalism, Covering America.

Just in time for the anniversary of the rollout of the hardback, this prize-winning book is now available in all major formats:



Apple iBook, (This is the format I am checking it out on, and it looks great.)

Google Play,

you name it.

I am very pleased because I know that some folks have been waiting for the e-book. These formats make the book quite a bit cheaper and dramatically lighter! For people who don’t feel drawn to the ~$50 hardcover, here’s your chance to read Covering America. The book won the 2012 Prose Award for Media and Cultural Studies, and it has been selling well and drawing rave reviews (except for one stinker on Amazon — sheesh).

Enjoy it, and write to me about your reactions. You can comment here, or email me:

CA cover final






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Filed under broadcasting, CNN, Covering America, David Halberstam, FCC, First Amendment, Fox News, history, Huffington Post, Journalism, journalism history, leaks, Murdoch scandal, New York Times, NPR, Photography, Photojournalism, Politics, publishing, Supreme Court, The New Yorker

Hey, Fuck-head: Go fuck yourself!

By Christopher B. Daly

That’s about the state of certain comments by certain people. This piece in today’s Times labors to try to make this sound new. As anyone knows who has gotten involved with a dispute on-line, the comments tend to go straight downhill. I’m not sure what that tells us — except maybe that it stands as confirmation that life really is like high school.

It brings to mind the original comment by the original blogger, Dave Winer. Early in his career as a founding blogger, Dave announced that he would not allow comments on his blog. His reason: If you have something to say, start your own damn blog! The web allows everyone to speak their mind. So there is absolutely no moral imperative to open your site to trolls.

Right here, on my own blog, I say (as we used to say at Medford High) to all trolls:

Ah, go fuck yourself!



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