WSJ Parody; Pan Am and UPI; and Reuters Hot Car

Guardian Unlimited today offers MoveOn.org’s parody (PDF) of what Rupert Murdoch will do to The Wall Street Journal. It fills the WSJ‘s front-page format with pro-Republic, anti-Democratic party headlines and excerpts from the Murdoch’s “Fair and Balanced” Fox TV News Network.

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Speaking of parodies, the story that United Press International is cutting 11 staffers in its Washington, D.C., bureau, including its lone White House correspondent, hit me with all the impact of another story last week: that Pan Am will stop flying to there from New Haven, Connecticut. Who are these companies fooling but themselves.

There is a Pan Am airlines. Or, at least, there are some folks who bought the Pan American Airlines name and logotype years ago and have started a very small airline that mainly flies between the a former air force base north of Boston to Trenton, New Jersey; Elmira, New York; and nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It’s certainly in no way connected or related to the legendary Pan American Airlines, the dominant U.S. international airline that went bankrupt in 1991. But it wants people to think so.

There is a United Press International. Or, at least, there is the Reverend Sun Yung-Moon’s Unification Church, which operates a very small news service employing perhaps a dozen people who appear to work mainly from their homes (the Unification Church also owns the Washington Times newspaper, which at least has a building). This UPI can perhaps claim some distant relation to the legendary United Press International news service that employed 1,200 reporters in 184 news bureaus worldwide. The legendary UPI was sold during 1982 to two Kentucky entrepreneurs who bankrupted it three years later. The bankruptcy court sold it to a Mexican publisher whose manuevers bankrupted it again in 1985, when the bankruptcy court this time sold it to the owner of the Financial News Network. That owner sold it to some Saudi investors, shortly before he went to federal prison on a felony conviction for securities fraud. And the Saudis later sold it to the Moonies. So, I guess you could say the company currently called UPI is related to the legendary old UPI through two bankruptcies, a felony conviction, and at least consecutive five sets of owners. The new company would like you to think it’s the same company.

I wish the current entity called Pan Am would ground its airplanes, remove the legendary logotype and name from those planes, and rename the company and its aircraft something else. At least the current entity called UPI is doing something similar by closing most of its last known office and leaving the White House (now if we can only get what’s left of the compay to change names). [Disclaimer: I worked for the old UPI from 1983-89, when it still had some air beneath its wings.]

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I yesterday mentioned that the Boston Herald, rather than using its own presses, is negotiating with Dow Jones to print it. Today comes news that the Boston Globe will print two newspaper that compete with it, The Patriot Ledger and The Enterprise, two Gatehouse Media dailies in towns near Boston.

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When a news company gets funding, does that validate it’s business plan or purpose? Not necessarily, but many journalists mistake so. Too many journalists confuse finance and business.

The aim of business people is to generate profits from the operations of businesses. The aim of financiers is to generate a profit by buying or selling businesses. Those are different aims. There is also a third class of people called entrepreneurs who start businesses they hope will generate a profit or be bought by financiers (or by the public if the comnpany’s equity becomes sold on the stock markets). Entreprenuers very often sell part of their nascent businesses to financiers to get enough funding to fund the business until it’s profitable, likely to be profitable, or otherwise becomes attractive enough for the majority of its stock to purchased by financers or the public.

Most financiers aren’t dumb, but few have expertise in new-media, particularly new concepts in new-media. They sometimes invest in new businesses founded on unsound plans, even when the newest new-media concept underlying those plans may be solid. ‘If the concept isn’t sound, then why would those companies be funded by tens or hundreds of millions of dollars?’ goes the circular logic. Remember the huge funding given to ‘Push’ technologies during the mid-1990s or to the cuecat scanner technology at the turn of the millennium, etc.? Many trade journals heralded that funding as proof that those technologies and business plans were sound.

I hope that the $10 million funding that Associated Content received this week and the $10.6 million that NowPublic received last week is spent wisely. I hope they’re more of a ‘slam-dunk’ than Backfence was.

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Earlier this year, I wrote about how online journalists now comprise the second largest category of journalists who are killed, wounded, or imprisoned each year, fewer of them print journalists, but more than broadcast journalists. So, I’m sad to hear that Abel Mutsakani, editor of ZimOnline, an independent Zimbabwean news service based in South Africa, was shot last weekend. He is in serious condition with a ruptured lung and a bullet lodged near his heart. The Guardian reported that Mutsakani was parking his car near his home when three men attacked him. Nothing was stolen in the assault. Mutsakani was once managing editor of Zimbabwe’s Daily News newspaper, which was banned in 2003 by the government. He moved to Johannesburg and set up ZimOnline, providing coverage of the social and economic strife back home

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Video letters-to-the-editor are an interesting experiement at the Sacremento Bee. Back when I worked in daily newspapers (1977-83) we’d receive but not publish some real rabid printed letters-to-the editors. I can only imagine the video equivalents: Hand gestures instead of four-letter words. But it’s great to see a newspaper publish (broadcast?) the rational ones.

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Kudos to the Associated Press, Agence France Presse and l’Equipe last week for helping Reuters at the Tour de France last month. Photo District News reports:

Reuters photogs seem to be having a lot of bad luck these days. Four Reuters photogs went to shoot the Tour de France and were dealt a series of mishaps, ranging from photog Eric Gaillard’s brand new Canon Mark III and lens being stolen to photog Vincent Kessler having to undergo tests for suspected coronary irregularity. And then, Mal Langsdon got an Instant Message from Reuters’ student-assistant (and Mal’s son) Ian Langsdon saying, “S–t, S–t, we’re on fire!” referring to the Renault the team was driving. But, even in the photo world, the race must go on. So many outlets published the Reuters’ photogs’ pix of their burning car, and the Associated Press, Agence France Presse and l’Equipe shared their production until Reuters could resume coverage.

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