Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What's Up, Murdoch? He Takes #1 Slot in Top 10 Newspaper Industry Stories of 2007

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What's Up, Murdoch? He Takes #1 Slot in Top 10 Newspaper Industry Stories of 2007

Article excerpt

Herewith my annual list of the top ten newspaper industry stories -- not all of them grim.

10. Bilal Hussein

The Associated Press photographer, first detained by U.S. and Iraqi military in 2006 for undefined terror-related crimes, spent the entire year (and more) in jail and recently went to court to face charges that remain unclear. The Iraqi snapper, whose gripping photo of insurgents on the attack helped the news cooperative win a 2005 Pulitzer, drew international attention and support for his cause with several organizations (especially the AP) demanding his release and one group collecting 2,200 names on an online petition. Elsewhere in Iraq, dozens of more Iraqi and foreign journalists were killed amid continuing violence.

9. Newspaper Guild Election and Battles

Linda Foley had essentially run The Newspaper Guild unopposed since taking the presidency 12 years ago. She was continually re-elected with no major opposition. But with the newsroom union facing tough battles in the age of job cuts, economic problems and more newspapers trying to break local units, a clear opponent arose in Secretary-Treasurer Bernie Lunzer.

Although the election is not slated to occur until late spring 2008, the battle began months ago with dueling Web sites and increased rhetoric between the two factions. Meanwhile the guild found tough contract battles this year in Philadelphia; Toledo and Dayton, Ohio; York, Pa.; and Rochester, N.Y. MediaNews Group, which has been taking a hard line in York, actually pulled the plug on the Guild unit at its Oakland (Ca.) Tribune's Alameda Newspaper Group after merging it with a non-union sister chain.

8. Conrad Black Guilty

Lord Black, whose Hollinger International newspaper empire stretched across most of Canada -- as well as controlling dailies from The Jerusalem Post to the Chicago Sun-Times -- was convicted in July of mail fraud and obstruction of justice for his part in defrauding shareholders and skimming profits. Sentenced to six and a half years, and forced to pay a $125,000 fine, Black was one of several Hollinger executives brought down in the scandal, which was the second for the Sun-Times after its well-publicized circulation fraud problem years ago.

7. Federal Shield Law Gets Farthest Ever

For the first time, a bill that would create a federal shield law made it through the House of Representatives and a U.S. Senate committee, then on to the Senate floor. That occurred in October when Sen. Arlen Specter's Free Flow of Information Act was approved and put before the full body for review. A companion bill passed the House in October, 222 to 194, but also needs Senate approval. A full vote is still pending.

Previous versions of the proposed law, which would offer shield protection now available in 39 states to those in federal courts, had been knocked out during committee in the past. Although President George W. Bush has said he would veto such a law, this level of success gave press freedom advocates the most hope ever in the wake of anonymous sourcing cases of recent years, ranging for the Valerie Plame scandal to the BALCO steroid stories.

6. Cross-Ownership Ban Partially Lifted

The Federal Communications Commission, overturning a 32-year ban, voted just this week to allow broadcasters in the nation's top 20 markets to also own a newspaper. The change puts new power in the hands of major media outlets to keep their multi-platform revenue streams going, and editorial outposts growing.

It may well set the stage for a full lifting of the cross-ownership ban especially as the growing web world gives anti-ban voices more ammunition to claim cross-ownership is not the monopoly it once was. On the other hand, citizen protest of lifting the ban remains high.

5.Twin Cities

If job cuts and other economic reductions weren't enough for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Star-Tribune of Minneapolis, there was the multiple fallouts from the sale of the Pioneer Press to Star-Tribune owners McClatchy. …

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