Archive for the ‘Newspaper demise; newspaper history’ Category

Feds Bully ‘Die Hard’ Filmmaker McTiernan Into False Statement Plea

July 14, 2010

Rollerball Poster

A noted Hollywood filmmaker faces prison after a conditional guilty plea July 12 in a wiretapping case so interesting that it deserves two alternative news accounts.

Here’s the version provided to the vast majority of Americans by Reuters, via such conduits as ABC Entertainment:

Die Hard film director John McTiernan pleaded guilty to lying to law enforcement officials in connection with the racketeering case of a private detective who represented many Hollywood stars.

A trial for McTiernan had been expected to begin on Tuesday in Los Angeles on two counts of making false statements to federal agents and one count of perjury. McTiernan, 59, originally pleaded guilty in 2006 to a charge of knowingly lying to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the criminal case against private detective Anthony Pellicano, who has since been jailed.

But the film director later withdrew his plea, saying he had received poor legal advice, had been drinking and was jet-lagged from traveling when FBI agents questioned him. Federal officials again charged McTiernan with crimes in 2009, leading to Monday’s guilty plea. A judge set a sentencing date of Oct. 4….

I’ve written at least a hundred variants of this kind of traditional guilty plea story while covering federal courts fulltime from 1976 to 1980 for the Hartford Courant. But times have changed, and IMO the essence of McTiernan’s case is better conveyed this way:

Yet again, federal authorities abused their vast powers for their greater glory by manufacturing a crime and ruining a defendant’s career ─ at needless expense to federal taxpayers.

Too tough a verdict? You be the judge. First, kindly note that McTiernan’s plea was “conditional” on his appeal, a fact totally omitted by the Reuters story and thus by such headlines around the nation as that by the July 13 Washington Post, which blares: “John McTiernan is headed to jail.”

Wiretappers Unmasked
In 2002, a federal investigative team led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders and FBI agent Stanley Ornellas exposed a scheme whereby the famous LA private eye Pellicano systematically broke wiretapping laws to help his clients in big-dollar entertainment industry battles.

In 2004, Howard Blum and John Connolly authored an in-depth overview for Vanity Fair entitled, “The Pellicano Brief.” It described Pellicano’s “A-list” clients and a pivotal raid of the detective’s offices by the feds, who seized guns, $200,000 in cash, plastic explosives and hand grenades on their way to winning a 15-year prison term for the PI.

The article didn’t mention McTiernan among the detective’s many famous clients. But we now know that McTiernan by then had sampled Pellicano’s services in 2000 by paying him $50,000 for a two-week investigation of fellow moviemaker Charles Rovan as the two struggled for creative control over their film, Rollerball, which was destined to be a box office flop.

Fast forward to early 2006. More than three years after the big raid on Pellicano’s office, none of the “A-list” Hollywood stars, managers, producers and lawyers had been jailed.

As sometimes happens in such situations, authorities sprang a perjury trap on McTiernan, who was famous for directing such action films as Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for Red October. In a perjury trap, authorities can create a crime by inducing a target in an unguarded moment to forgo the right to silence and give a false statement about an embarrassing matter that might otherwise not provide a basis for a criminal charge.

The concept became notorious after Independent Counsel Ken Starr relied on it to try to save his otherwise failed Watergate investigation of Bill Clinton by surprising the president at a grand jury with unrelated questions about Monica Lewinsky.

The Lewinsky case illustrated how reporters and readers alike tend to focus, understandably enough, on the sensational specifics of a scandal without reflecting that a perjury trap is often unfair. Why? Almost anyone has done something embarrassing. So, it’s just not right for authorities to use all-out tactics to create a crime by trapping some miscreants instead of focusing on whether the underlying activity is criminal.

Unfair or not, these kinds of traps are generally legal under the vast discretion that we provide to authorities. Here’s how the one against McTiernan unfolded, according to court records:

After returning ill from a film shoot in Thailand and after drinking McTiernan received an evening phone call at home from Ornellas, the FBI’s lead agent in the Pellicano case. Towards the end of a brief conversation, McTiernan falsely denied that he’d engaged Pellicano for illegal services.

McTiernan was promptly indicted, pleaded guilty to false statement, and received four months in prison and $100,000 fine as the first big-name Hollywood defendant nailed in the case. U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, a 2003 appointee of President Bush, denounced McTiernan at sentencing for what she called his arrogance.

The defendant changed lawyers, and won a 2008 federal appeals court decision that enabled him to withdraw his guilty plea. Authorities responded with a new indictment that increased the defendant’s liabilities by reconfiguring the original false statement into two separate felonies, plus a perjury charge arising from his pursuit of his appeal.

These maneuvers increased McTiernan’s potential prison sentence to multiple years if he dares offend authorities further by proceeding to trial. I’ve reviewed the jury instructions approved by the judge, which almost guarantee a guilty verdict by limiting the defendant’s ability to argue that he wasn’t in a position to know if the person asking him questions by phone really was an FBI agent. McTiernan’s work inevitably brings calls from imposter “reporters” and others seeking details about such stars as Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

McTiernan doubtless didn’t ingratiate himself with authorities by helping found a non-profit, Project Save Justice, which filmed a 2009 documentary entitled, The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove. The film, available for free use in schools and for other free viewing on the project’s website, powerfully documents the travails of U.S. victims of political prosecutions. The movie and a congressional report have helped publicize academic studies showing that local Democrats were investigated at a nearly 5:1 ratio during 1,200 DOJ official corruption probes during the Bush administration around the nation

McTiernan describes his background as being a moderate Republican. But the director, like many in the civil rights field, including at my bipartisan Justice Integrity Project, has come to see since 2008 that the Obama DOJ is permeated also by a win-at-any-cost mentality that transcends traditional party divisions.

After Monday’s hearing McTiernan’s attorney, Oliver E. Diaz, noted that his client’s conditional guilty plea maintains his right to appeal numerous per-trial motions filed by the government and granted by the judge. Diaz, a Republican former Mississippi Supreme Court justice, himself had been one of the Bush DOJ’s political prosecution targets before twice being acquitted of federal corruption charges. The Diaz story is described in the Project Save Justice documentary, at his subsite at the Justice Integrity Project, and in a Harper’s article by Scott Horton.

Last month, McTiernan failed in his attempt to recuse the judge, a Republican whose courtroom comments suggest that she despises the defendant. Part of the issue seems to be that some federal authorities become personally offended if defendants use up courtroom time by failing to plead guilty, as do 95 percent of those accused.

I saw something similar up earlier this year in covering the sentencing of Republican former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

His Democratic federal judge seemed to become almost unhinged in denouncing the defendant, citing such factors as Kerik’s making more money than the judge and prolonging proceedings by not pleading guilty. The judge has now quit the federal bench to join a law firm with an annual per-partner compensation of $2.1 million. The hypocrisy has inflamed Kerik’s supporters around the country, as illustrated by this Oklahoma criminal justice site.

The good news is that solutions shouldn’t be hard to devise. My three suggestions are:

First, authorities should focus on underlying crimes, not creating new ones to save face. If we as a society hate illegal surveillance let’s focus directly on that and its perpetrators, who are far more numerous and effective than John McTiernan’s two-week foray into those dark arts in 2000.

Second and much more important, lots of these trial problems would go away if judges would encourage both sides to proceed with proportion. For authorities to insist, as they did, that McTiernan spend at least a year in prison if he pleads guilty inevitability stretches out the proceedings at vast cost to everyone. To what purpose? Do taxpayers really have unlimited funds for these kinds of selective prosecution jihads?

This spring, authors Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell cited my recent article about Dr. Cyril Wecht in their best-selling book American Conspiracies. Until a Pennsylvania judge threw out the case last year, the feds forced Wecht , in his late 70s and in the twilight of his distinguished career, to spend $8.6 million in legal fees. This was largely to defend himself from 43 federal felony charges that on 43 occasions when he’d sent personal faxes costing his county a total of $3.86 — yes, that’s less than $4 — during his 20 years as a county coroner. Even after all the charges were dismissed the federal prosecutor had the gall to run for Congress last fall. But the public seems to be getting wise, and she was defeated.

Finally, we’ve got to find new ways of providing oversight. The U.S. Senate rubber-stamps most federal prosecution and judicial appointments. The Senate provided unanimous approval, for example, for the judges overseeing both the McTiernan and Kerik cases. Congress rarely enforces subpoenas on sensitive oversight matters anymore if DOJ doesn’t want to comply. And the traditional courthouse news reporter that I used to know in olden days have disappeared for cost reasons, replaced by visiting stenographers from wire services who primarily amplify whatever information federal authorities want to emphasize.

But if the public must be burdened with multiple information sources at least they should be entertaining. In that spirit, we’ve presented above, Rashomon-style, two different accounts of the same crime story. The first is the one that went out on the wires, and the second is my opinion-style commentary.

Even more on target than Rashomon is a telling comment by the Sally Field character in Absence of Malice, the 1981 film about the interplay of federal prosecutors and reporters. My perspective on it has changed. Upon its release, I denounced it to my friends as an unwarranted slur on the news and legal professions. Live and learn, and I’ve highly recommended it for the past two decades.

At the end, Field’s character comments about a news story that omits vital context in describing her: “It’s accurate,” she says. “But it isn’t true.”


DC Regulators Host Unique Debate On News Industry’s Future

December 3, 2009

Washington, DC ─ More than 70 communications experts this week debated how consumers can protect their interests despite the decline of traditional newspapers and broadcasters.

Increased government support for news-gathering was the key topic in the path-breaking two-day conference entitled, “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” hosted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Dec. 1 and 2.  Industry speakers ranged in clout from News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch to web-based start-ups much like Connecticut Watchdog.

“It’s good that we can have an honest discussion” of the relationship between law and business opportunities said Reed Hundt, a 1990s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The Democrat said that long-standing fears of government meddling with the news media would have made such a conference “unthinkable” previously during his decades in Washington since he left Yale Law School in 1974.

Some tension is inevitable.  “The news media is here in part to make life miserable for public officials,” said Steven Waldman, an FCC official just three days on the job as a senior advisor to its chairman Julius Genachowski after a career as an Internet entrepreneur and reporter for such publications as Newsweek and the online edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The FTC conference speakers and their videos are on the workshop section of the FTC website:

Many speakers noted that traditional media are reacting to declines in their advertising by cutting coverage of vital public affairs. 

“We cannot risk the loss of an informed public and all that means because of this market failure,” said U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-California), who added that any proposed solutions through his committee would require bipartisan support.

Murdoch complained that Internet-based rivals infringe the copyrights of traditional media, hurting the public.  Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post (for which I write also) responded that every news operation uses content from others under longstanding, court-enforced “fair use” standards, and that innovation is helping the public.  

Aneesh Chopra, assistant to President Obama for technology, said the new administration is relying on technology and inputs from the public in unprecedented ways.  He cited as examples communication on such consumer needs as health care options and such public affairs concerns as lobbying for federal contracts.

National Public Radio President and CEO Vivian Schiller said her network’ success provides a model for public/private funding.  Even so, the network’s local coverage should be enhanced by more federal money, she said in arguing that funding doesn’t mean government control. 

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, countered that improper political interference in public broadcasting has been documented in recent years.  Even so, he advocated more federal funding for news organizations and infrastructure, along with more “firewall” protections for journalistic independence. 

Historians noted that federal policies on infrastructure development, copyright, taxation and antitrust have long assisted the news media.

The conference’s final panel included the founders of two web-based start-ups from Connecticut.  Branford Eagle editor Marcia Chambers, who is also journalist-in-residence at Yale, began her news site as a column four years ago.  She plans to work with others to “reinvigorate state coverage.” 

Paul Bass, editor of the New Haven Independent, said he started with $80,000 in funding after leaving his longstanding job at the Advocate, and now has an annual budget of close to a half million dollars.  Bass, also executive director of the Online Journalism Project, said that interactive journalism enables community “conversations” never previously possible.

The 30-year-veteran of the news business concluded, “This is the best time to be a journalist.”

Sept. 24 DC Radio Hosts News Expert, Author Alex Jones On ‘Losing the News

September 24, 2009

Will traditional media survive? Should it? These are the questions being addressed Sept. 24 by famed author, professor and media critic Alex Jones on the DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio. The show is broadcast at noon (Eastern time) via the Listen Live! link at (, which includes an archive of past shows.

The guest is one of the nation’s most honored media critics, and this summer authored, Losing the News: The Future of News That Feeds Our Democracy, published to favorable reviews this summer by Oxford University Press. Jones is the longtime media critic for the New York Times and now a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he directs its Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. In the words of Publisher’s Weekly, his new book “argues that the demise of the newspaper industry is corroding the iron core of information that is at the center of a functioning democracy.”

Update is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig. The co-hosts begin the show with an update on Washington policy news affecting businesses nationally.

Radio listeners can call in questions at 866-685-7469 or by email: Update focuses on Washington policy that impacts the nation’s business, politics and quality of life. As listener advisories: Mac computer users need the tool “Parallels” to hear a Windows Media Player, and some companies block radio programs from computers.

About Alex Jones
Alex S. Jones, author of Losing the News (available here) is Harvard University’s Laurence M. Lombard Lecturer in the Press and Public Policy and Director of the Joan Shorenstein Center. He covered the press for The New York Times from 1983-92 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. In 1991, he co-authored (with Susan E. Tifft) The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty. In 1992, he left the Times to work on The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times (also co-authored with Tifft), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, a host of National Public Radio’s On the Media, and host and Executive Editor of PBS’s Media Matters. He is on the boards of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, International Center for Journalists, Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists, Harvard Magazine, Nieman Foundation, Black Mountain Institute, the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, and other professional organizations

Aug. 27 Radio: Internet Society’s DC Plans, Fired Consumer Watchdog Re: Lessons Learned

August 26, 2009
George Gombossy

George Gombossy

Today’s DC Update radio show on Aug. 27 features a leader in bringing new voices to Internet planning and a prominent Connecticut consumer journalist fired after reporting consumer complaints against his newspaper’s largest advertiser. The show can be heard via the Listen Live! link by archive.

The guests for the Thursday, Aug. 27 show on the My Technology Lawyer Radio network will be:

• Dr. Michael Nelson, who is Visiting Professor of Internet Studies in Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture, and Technology Program. A former White House advisor on telecom and Internet policy, he is interim president of the new Internet Society chapter for Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. The chapter is creating a broad-based regional effort for long-term Internet planning without the lobbyist control of most such efforts. Its first event will feature Nelson and other prominent Internet experts on Sept. 14 at the Capitol in Washington. Internet Society membership and the event are free, with details below.

• George Gombossy, who last week launched the “CT” regional news website following a 40-year career at the Hartford Courant. Most recently, he was investigative consumer columnist for three years after being business editor for 12 years The Courant, New England’s second-largest newspaper, fired him on Aug. 3, the day after it refused to run a column reporting that Connecticut’s attorney general was investigating consumer complaints against mattress retailer Sleepy’s, Inc., the paper’s largest advertiser. Complaints included allegations that Sleepy’s was selling used mattresses as new, including one claim of a mattress with bedbugs. The firing prompted coverage last week from the New York Times, AP, CNN and elsewhere. Courant executives denied lowering news standards in any way. Gombossy plans to describe the changes he witnessed at the Courant the last four months, and their impact upon the public.

The Courant is owned by the Chicago-based Tribune Co., which filed for bankruptcy protection in December. Since spring, a management team of the Tribune’s jointly owned Connecticut Fox TV network stations has run the paper. The Tribune has not yet responded to an invitation to appear on the Update show with Gombossy, and has declined all other broadcast invitations to appear with him.

Update is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig. Kreig was a colleague of Gombossy at the Courant for 14 years, and is a co-founder of the Internet Society DC-area chapter.

Radio listeners can call in questions at 866-685-7469 or by email: Update focuses on Washington policy that impacts the nation’s business, politics and quality of life. As listener advisories: Mac computer users need the tool “Parallels” to hear a Windows Media Player, and some companies block radio programs from computers.

About The Internet Society, Its New Chapter and Michael Nelson
The Internet Society is an independent international non-profit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy around the world. Details: The Society’s dormant Washington, DC-area chapter re-launched this month with an expanded scope of Maryland and Virginia. New members are welcome, with no cost to join. The chapter’s first event is a discussion of the Internet’s future, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the National Visitor’s Center at the Capitol in Washington. Among the speakers will be Interim Chapter President Michael Nelson, Internet Society CTO Leslie Daigle, Internet pioneer and Shinkuro CEO Steve Crocker, Neustar CTO Eric Burger. The event is hosted by House Government Operations Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY). For details on the event and chapter membership, visit:

Since January 2008, Nelson has researched and taught technology trends at Georgetown. Earlier, he was IBM’s Director of Internet Technology and Strategy after serving as Federal Communications Commission Director for Technology Policy. Previously, he was White House Special Assistant for Information Technology, working with Vice President Al Gore. A leader in many U.S. and international communications organizations, Nelson he earned a Ph.D. in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

About Connecticut Watchdog& George Gombossy
George Gombossy is president of CT, which is in the process of becoming a non-profit, web-enabled regional news site. Gombossy has long been prominent in Connecticut journalism. Working with thousands of readers who sent him complaints and tips, his Courant Watchdog columns resulted in more than a dozen state investigations. During his career, Gombossy led teams of reporters that won dozens of awards, including the George Polk Award and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. Also, he helped win the paper’s first Pulitzer Prize since its founding in 1764. Born in Hungary, he came to the U.S. in 1956 with his family to flee Communism. He volunteered for U.S. Army service during the Vietnam War. Details:

About My Technology Lawyer Radio Show
Scott Draughon is the host and producer of the pioneering My Technology Lawyer Radio Show. The show is affiliated with — an on-demand legal service. Draughon, author of the 2007 book “The Art of the Business Radio Show,” has long experience also in guiding entrepreneurial success through close attention to the dynamics of the marketplace, law, government policy and effective marketing. Details:

About Andrew Kreig
Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author and business strategist. Former president of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 to last summer, he helped foster the growth of wireless broadband around the world. In 1987, he authored “Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper,” using the Courant’s transformation under Times Mirror as a case study of newspaper trends. Documentation for his current investigative reporting is on his website: # #

Aug. 14 DC Radio Features Dr. Cyril Wecht and Gail Sistrunk On Alleged Rove Abuses At DoJ

August 13, 2009

After Tuesday’s revelations from Karl Rove’s testimony about the mid-term firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, my radio show today Washington Update will assess the results with forensic expert Dr. Cyril Wecht and Project Save Justice Vice President Gail Sistrunk.

On the noon (Eastern) My Technology Lawyer Radio segment, Wecht and Sistrunk will focus especially on how political prosecutions affect targets. Providing a first-hand view is Wecht, a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania and party chairman for Allegheny County, encompassing Pittsburgh. Primarily, he is a leader in forensic medical teaching and consulting.

Now 78, he’s also $6 million in debt from legal fees to win vindication from 84 federal felony charges. The former county coroner faced 27 counts of using an office fax machine for personal matters that he estimates at less than $15 total cost to the government, and faced 34 felonies accusing him of a total of $1,500 in disputed mileage reimbursements over five years.

Republican former U.S. Attorney Gen. Dick Thornburgh, a Wecht attorney, has called the allegations politically motivated. After a hung jury in Wecht’s first trial, Republican U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan was forced to drop charges in June during a second prosecution because for lack of evidence. But she continued to denounce Wecht even after that.

To document similar cases around the U.S., Sistrunk this year produced a video documentary: “The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove” about the former Bush White House political advisor.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday released long-awaited testimony by Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers about their suspected roles in helping the Justice Department fire nine of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys during a mid-term purge in 2006 that was unprecedented in U.S. history. After fighting subpoenas nearly two years, Rove conceded a role in several firings. These included President Bush’s first New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who had been secretly criticized by Republicans for failing to bring prosecutions against Democratic targets in time for Election Day in 2006.

But in his testimony released Tuesday, Rove denied any direct input on criminal cases before the Justice Department. Also, he denied any contact with key officials, including those directly involved with the U.S. Attorney firings. He specifically denied a role or couldn’t remember details regarding the now-controversial prosecution of Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. More generally, Alabama Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary remains in office following what a Justice Department official described in 2005 as need for “loyal Bushies,” as does Wecht prosecutor Buchanan.

Today’s Update show is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon. On Aug. 15, I’ll moderate a panel discussion exploring these issues in Pittsburgh at the annual Netroots Nation convention for independent journalists. The panelists will be Siegelman, Sistrunk, Wecht and his lead counsel Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates, Thornburgh’s law firm. Details.

Update focuses on Washington impact on the nation’s business, politics and quality of life. We begin the radio show by addressing the capital’s most relevant news developments. A Listen Live! link ( connects listeners to the radio-stream or to archives of previous shows. Radio listeners can call in questions at 866-685-7469 or by email. As a listener advisory: MAC computer users need a tool called “Parallels” to listen to a Windows Media Player. Also, some companies block such programs from their office mainframes.

About Dr. Cyril H. Wecht
Cyril Wecht, who holds both MD and JD degrees, is the former coroner of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. A forensic pathologist, he has served as president of medical societies, professor at medical schools, and author of leading publications and books. Among his current posts, he is founder of a consultancy in his name, staff president of Saint Francis Central Hospital in Pittsburgh, and a clinical professor at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, and Graduate School of Public Health. Also he provides expert commentary to the public about disputes surrounding the deaths of such political leaders as President Kennedy and such celebrities as Elvis Presley. Details.

About Project Save Justice
Project Save Justice educates the public about the U.S. Justice Department. Its current focus is on political prosecutions of elected officials, their families and fundraisers. Research on hundreds of such cases is summarized in a documentary video, “The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove,” produced by film maker John McTiernan (“Die Hard,” etc.) and the organization’s Vice President and Executive Director Gail Sistrunk. The video is available for free at: Sistrunk is a former college president who reopened one of the first campuses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. She holds degrees from Southeastern Louisiana and Loyola Universities.

About My Technology Lawyer Radio Show
Richard Scott Draughon is host and producer of the My Technology Lawyer Radio Show, which is affiliated with — an on-demand legal service. Draughon, author of the 2007 book “The Art of the Business Radio Show,” has long experience also in guiding entrepreneurial success through close attention to the dynamics of the marketplace, law, government policy and effective marketing. Details.

About Andrew Kreig
Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author and business strategist. Former president of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 to last summer, he helped foster the growth of wireless broadband around the world. Documentation for his current investigative reporting is on his website.

Media Bistro Item: Missing Journos in DC

March 30, 2009
Friday, Mar 27

Missing: Journos in DC

MediaJobsDaily reports: While government is undergoing one of its largest expansions in history, there is one area in the capitol that has actually seen declines, the pressroom. According to Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the number of media outlets with a presence in the Fourth Estate on Capitol Hill has declined 72 percent.

Currently 160 outlets report employees with Congressional credentials, in the mid-1980s there were 564 outlets. This isn’t just happening on Capitol Hill either, the number of news organizations with a presence in Washington DC proper has declined by more than half, according to capitol directories.

While mainstream media is shrinking, they are quickly being replaced by niche media outlets that offer specialized and detailed information to an elite audiences, with narrow focuses built around topics such as finance, lobbying and political interests. Many of these organizations, according to Pew, are financed by big companies like defense contractors, oil companies and mobile phone alliances trying to influence policy makers. In addition the number of foreign reporters in Washington has also grown to nearly 10 times the size it was a generation ago and their reports on congressional proceedings are quite different from the ones you might be reading in the Washington Post or the New York Times.