|June 6, 2012|
|J Groups Whiff on O'Dwyer Boycott|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Lucy Dalglish has resigned as executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press after 12 years to be dean of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill J School as of Aug. 1.|
Outgoing chair John Henry praised Dalglish for her contributions and for putting Arlington, Va.-based RCFP on a “sounder financial footing.”
I certainly agree with that! RCFP, with 2010 expenses of $1,098,461, had $6,230,785 in cash, savings and investments, a ratio of 5.67. Associations try to have six months of savings on hand but RCFP has nearly six years of savings.
It’s even richer than the Committee to Protect Journalists, New York, which has $12,361,528 in cash/investments vs. 2010 expenses of $3,604,901, which is 3.42 times the expenses.
What are they doing with all this money? Not helping me is one answer.
I told Dalglish last week that I needed the help of RCFP since the O’Dwyer Co. and I were under a written boycott of the PR Society. Guards blocked me from attending the Assembly, any sessions, the exhibit hall and opening night reception of PRS last October 15-17 in Orlando, I explained, asking how this was possible in America?
Dalglish said, okay, boil this down into one paragraph and e-mail it to her with the person who should get a protest (PRS COO William Murray).
I did so but Dalglish then e-mailed me back that she had spent “considerable time familiarizing myself with this dispute” and it was “not a situation that RCFP will be delving into.”
This is not a dispute. There is no disputing that guards blocked my entrance to conference activities last year.
The National Press Club says I should have been admitted as long as I didn’t disrupt anything. New York State Senator Liz Kruegman has “wholeheartedly” agreed with NPC.
“Delving into” things is exactly what journalists are supposed to do.
RCFP told me last fall that it was concerned with journalists dealing with governments and not businesses. The 990 statement of purpose shows no such restriction. It says the mission of RCFP is to “promote the interests of a free press and protect against abridgements of the press.”
CJP, whose interest and assistance was sought last year, responded by saying it was too busy with other matters and especially journalists involved in “imminent danger.” It suggested I contact the RCFP, saying it could “be able to get involved more quickly.”
The Journalistic Establishment, including the J schools and leading newspapers plus press and PR groups with the exception of NPC, is turning a blind eye to blockage of press coverage.
PRS members have only the vaguest idea of what went on in their Assembly last Oct. 15. Neither I nor any other reporter was allowed in the meeting. No transcript or recording was made available as had been the practice until 2005. The minutes of the meeting have never been published. This is America?
Media, NYFWA, WSJ Are Embarrassed
Elements of this story, including the Rotbart vs. O’Dwyer lawsuit of 1994, are embarrassing to the parties involved, but what news medium ever decided not to cover something because someone’s nose might get out of joint?
In the case of former Wall Street Journal reporter Dean Rotbart, it’s possible WSJ did not want to mention the landmark legal decision won by the O’Dwyer Co. because it brings up the matter of Foster Winans who was mentioned in the Rotbart talk.
Rotbart was editor of the “Heard on the Street” column, succeeding Winans who got 18 months in jail for selling advance word on what would be in the column. It was a sad day for financial journalism.
In a similar case, Rudy Ruderman, who broadcast stock reports for Business Week, was sent to jail for six months on charges of illegally profiting from the information he had. Both Rotbart and Ruderman were members of the New York Financial Writers Assn., which declined to take any stand on the Rotbart vs. O’Dwyer lawsuit and is mum on the current PRS boycott against the O’Dwyer Co.
Tony Mauro, U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for The National Law Journal, who is the new chair of RCFP, has been sent a request for assistance and I am hopeful he will respond.
RCFP’s attitude toward the O’Dwyer Co. has flipped. Jane Kirtley, executive director in 1995, praised the O’Dwyer Co. for winning the Rotbart lawsuit, saying the U.S. District Court decision “supports the rights of the press and their ability to accurately report news.”
An anti-Journalism Establishment community has sprung up in recent years led by Robert McChesney, journalism professor at the university of Illinois and co-founder of freepress.net, a national media reform organization. It hosts savethenews.org, designed to promote “a robust free press in America.”
Says Savethenews: “The modern media culture bears only a faint resemblance to the vigorous and diligent press the Founders envisioned.”
McChesney is the author of 23 books, including "The Death and Life of American Journalism," "The Problem of the Media," and "Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy." He is especially concerned with media ownership and writes for The Nation.
Freepress.com, founded in 2002, is based in Florence, Mass., and had income of $432,499 in 2010 and net assets of $200,094, according to its 990.
J Schools Are “Clueless”
Harper’s Thomas Frank, in a November 2010 column, quoted McChesney as writing him that “the commercial system of journalism is disintegrating…our journalism schools for the most part appear clueless.”
Frank’s own opinion was that “This might be the worst time ever to attend journalism school. And yet if you cast about in those high places where the flame of journalism is supposed to be guarded, you will discover that almost no one has an idea for tackling the big problems in a way that stands a chance of preserving journalism.”
One “knight” riding the rescue currently is financier Warren Buffett, whose company is buying 63 papers from Media General and has announced intentions to buy more.
Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway, which he heads, will focus on papers in cities with a strong sense of community. He feels papers that intensively cover their communities have a good future.
Michael Lewis, in a 1993 cover story in The New Republic titled, “J-School Ate My Brain,” said J schools don’t want to admit that “journalism is as simple as it is…the textbooks, the jargon, the entire pretentious science of journalism only distracts from the journalist’s task: to observe, to question, to read and to write about subjects other than journalism.”
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