Media Notes

BY BENJAMIN ISRAEL// Tony Scott is back on the radio in St. Louis six months after iHeart Radio fired him from his 26-year gig as a disk jockey and commentator. On Saturday Nov. 22, he started a show on Old School 95.5 on Saturdays from 2 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 3 to 7 p.m.

KSDK leading the way to healing

BY TRIPP FROHLICHSTEI// If there is some good that can be found out of all the bad related to Ferguson, part of it comes from Channel 5 (KSDK).

Apparently, it was the first local station to promote a healing effort in the community, well before the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The station launched its “STL Together” effort on August 25. Among other things, the station aired related stories, public service announcements (PSAs) and promoted the idea on social media.

It clearly garnered interest as the station received inquiries about the program from several national media outlets including NBC, ABC and CNN.

“Gone Girl” goes Local in Saint Louis

BY TRIPP FROHLICHSTEIN// St. Louisans who went to see the movie “Gone Girl” starring Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne may have noticed several shots of the media vans parked in front of Dunne’s house. Prominent among them was the Fox2/KPLR 11 van (all of the vans represented real local stations).

So how did that happen? According to Channel 2 spokesperson Suzi Mahe, a member of director David Fincher’s crew called the stations vice president of news Audrey Prywitch to ask permission to use the station logos in the film, set mostly in the Cape Girardeau area. As they talked, Prywitch, who loved the book, asked if they could do more. The crew member told her a live truck would be great. After checking with station general manager Spencer Koch and the engineering department, she discovered they had a disabled microwave truck being taken out of service. The film’s transportation division got the van to the Cape Girardeau area. “No money changed hands—-it was just good promotion.” said Mahe. Indeed it was.

Notes on Ferguson

BY TRIPP FROHLICHSTEIN// No wonder people get frustrated with the media. On a CBS network report, reporter Omar Villafranca reported that Clayton “bordered” Ferguson. After being called to his attention, he later tweeted he made a mistake. He wasn’t alone. Reuters apparently described The Loop in University City as being “downtown.”

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KMOV Channel 4 provided a great example of a worthless live shot on November 17 at 6pm. The story had Robin Smith reporting live on the Ferguson situation. But was she in Ferguson? No, she was standing out in front of the television station. While they did acknowledge she was downtown, it would have been more appropriate to simply have her report from inside the studio. This is the kind of gimmick that causes people to lose faith in local news. It is called being “live for live’s sake.” There was absolutely no reason for her live appearance outside other than for the dramatic affect.

If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle deedle, I’d read The New York Times

BY GEORGE SALAMON// “I think of The Times reader as very-well educated, worldly and likely affluent.” Dean Baquet, Executive Editor, The New York Times
The “affluent” part of Baquet’s quote seems to trouble some of the paper’s readers and was the subject of its public editor’s column on November 9: “Pricey Doughnuts, Pricier Homes, Priced-Out Readers,” (Sunday Review, p.12). Has our national “paper of record” become a voice primarily to the rich? Has it always been so, or has the ravaging rise of income inequality priced The Times out of middle-and-working class readership? And has The Times made attempts to keep readers from those segments of our population? (Did it ever have much of a readership in them is a question that should have been but was not asked.)

Post-Dispatch not tired of Ferguson

BY TERRY GANEY// Since Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown on Saturday, Aug. 9, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published more than 625 stories, editorials and opinion pieces about the incident and its aftermath.

Perhaps no other local event in the region’s history has required such sustained, intense effort by the news organization. And since the results of two government investigations into the incident—one by a St. Louis County grand jury and another by the U.S. Justice Department–have yet to be released, the “Michael Brown case” will be the focus of the newspaper for weeks, months and maybe years to come.

Revisiting the comments section: Can it be fixed?

BY BEN LYONS// When technological optimists began talking about the Web’s democratizing potential in the 1990s (and earlier), they were excited about not only bringing more diverse information to wider audiences at lower costs, but crucially, the Web as a “writeable,” many-to-many medium.
Although there is a certain amount of myth to that out- look, the comments sections of news sites have become a pillar of the wide-open communication space that emerged over the past 15 years. Allowing a space for readers’ comments below news articles served both a democratic narrative and economic logic: it would keep audiences on the page longer, a valuable metric in leveraging ad revenue.

Brave new world? Robot reporters take over beats

BY BEN LYONS// When an earthquake occurred at 6:25 a.m. on March 17, it may have given “robot” journalism its first big break. The early morning tremblor allowed an algorithm created by L.A. Times programmer and journalist Ken Schwencke to report the story ahead of other outlets.

The story took only about three minutes to appear online, drawing information such as the quake’s time, magnitude and epicenter from the United States Geological Survey and inserting it into a pre- fabricated template.

2016 Is approaching and it’ll be time for a change. Again. And again. And…

By GEORGE SALAMON// If watching or reading about the November 4 midterm elections already gave you acid reflux, the next morning’s New York Times could have been stroke inducing: “Did Someone Say ‘2016’? Presidential Contenders Circle” was the headline above an analysis by Jonathan Martin, national political correspondent for the paper.

Unwilling to leave bad enough alone, Martin produced sketches of the dozen leading candidates: two Democrats, one Independent and nine Republicans, reminding us that recycling has replaced what used to pass for each party’s political philosophy. Running Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) against Jeb Bush (R) ought to cause mass renunciations of citizenship and a substantial exodus to Canada and Australia. But it won’t. Instead Americans will accept the parties’ official and advertising slogans that have become par since Dwight Eisenhower (R) convinced the country in 1952 that it was “time for a change” and that he would “clean up the mess in Washington.”

Transparency bots catch congressional information tampering

By BEN LYONS// Monitoring Wikipedia edits made from Rus- sian government addresses, an automated tool caught controversial changes in the wake of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 crash in Ukraine this July. Someone at a state-run TV and radio network, VGTRK, anonymously removed mentions of Russian Federation-sourced missiles, swapping in Ukrainian soldiers as the culprits.

The program, or bot, that discovered the edit then automatically posted to Twitter on its account @RUGovEdits. A similar bot, watching for changes from Boeing IP addresses, discovered edits to the article on Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. The Boeing additions cast doubt on an analysis that found the system’s intercept rate to be low.