HOLIDAY BAD TIME FOR CRISIS COVERAGE
Television coverage of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai exposed the weakness of the broadcast and cable networks in responding to major events over a U.S. national holiday, several media critics have maintained. They were particularly critical of reports suggesting that the cadre of attackers had targeted U.S. and British citizens. In fact, of 183 known dead as of Monday evening only 18 were foreign nationals, five of whom were American (three of them killed at Nariman House, a Jewish center operated by the Brooklyn-based Chabad organization) and one British. Ray Wadia, a media consultant and former CNN International executive producer said in a webcast from Mumbai that local residents who watched CNN coverage were disgusted by the emphasis on Western casualties. "This is an attack on India and Indians first and foremost," he said, On the website of the South Asian Journalists Assn., one writer said that the news media ignored the horrific attacks on the VT train station, where the slaughter began. "A lot of innocent commuters from middle- and lower-income families were gunned down in cold blood, but I guess the news companies did not find it news worthy enough when compared to the high profile Taj [luxury hotel]. By the same token, Pakistan's media outlets were complaining that Indian journalists were portraying the attacks as being supported by Pakistan. Pakistan's The News said, "Indian [TV] anchors and analysts with one voice analyzed the incident purely based on the figment of their imaginations." Numerous writers mentioned the fact that TV coverage often relied on persons at the scene of the attacks submitting video taken with cell phones and camcorders. "The witnesses are taking over the news," veteran TV critic Jeff Jarvis, now a journalism professor at the City University of New York, wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "That will fundamentally change our experience of news, the role of witnesses and participants, the role of journalists and news organizations, and the impact reporting has on events." In the New York Times, Brian Stelter and Noam Cohen wrote: "The attacks in India served as another case study in how technology is transforming people into potential reporters, adding a new dimension to the news media." Meanwhile India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said it would look into charges that Internet and TV coverage provided vital information to the terrorists. For about a half hour the city's deputy commissioner of police imposed a blackout of TV news channels. The blackout was lifted after representatives of the news media filed a protest. (Several outlets ignored the blackout order.)
ROSIE THROWS IN THE TOWEL
Rosie O'Donnell's attempt to breathe life back to the mordant television variety format has failed, something that she has acknowledged on her website. "There will b [sic) no more" variety specials, she said. Her special last Wednesday drew only about five million viewers, fewer than those who watched the ratings-challenged Knight Rider, which the special preempted. It also drew a flood of derogatory notices from critics. Rosie herself summed up: "No ratings/bad reviews/yet still -- a thrill 4 me." The failure of the special was regarded as a coup de grâce to last-place NBC, coming as it did on the final night of the November sweeps.
CBS -- UNWANTED AT ANY PRICE?
Even if Sumner Redstone wanted to sell off CBS Inc. in order to pay off National Amusements' $1.6-billion debt -- something that Redstone has denied he intends to do -- he would be unlikely to find a buyer, Crain's New York Business said today (Monday). It quoted analysts as saying that "nobody would want CBS, even at bargain prices." The analysts noted that even though the network is leading in the ratings race, it relies on advertising for more than 70 percent of its revenue -- making it particularly vulnerable to the current financial downturn. On the other hand, the business publication said, Redstone might find a buyer for his other media company, Viacom, which operates a number of cable networks, including MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central. Spike TV, and BET. Alan Gould, senior media analyst at Natixis Bleichroeder, told CNYB, "Cable network ratings have been holding up much better than broadcast, and cable has that dual revenue stream [from subscriber fees."
NEW BOOK: MURDOCH "DESPISES" BILL O'REILLY
It turns out that Rupert Murdoch doesn't think much of his biggest star -- Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly. In Michael Wolff's The Man Who Owns the News, being published today (Monday), Murdoch is described as sometimes being embarrassed at times by the content of Fox News. In particular, he "absolutely despises" O'Reilly, Wolff claims. Moreover, he says, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, also "loathes" O'Reilly. "Success, however, has cemented everyone to each other." Wolff further claims that Murdoch's decision to buy the Wall Street Journal was partly influenced by a desire to "trade the illiberal, the belligerent, the vulgar, the loud, the menacing, the unsubtle -- for the better-heeled, the more magnanimous, the further nuanced."