Wednesday, April 29, 2009

we're still out there

It's Day 100 for Obama. I'm sure you haven't missed that. Not with the saturation coverage on CNN, the top of the fold representation in lots of our papers, and of course the prime time press conference tonight (during sweeps, omigod) featuring, oh, what's his name, President Barack Obama.

I'm not sure what day it is for Roxana Saberi. I think it's day 90. That's the number of days she has been imprisoned in Tehran, basically for doing her job as an independent reporter.

News as of late has not been that good.

Roxana's 8 year sentence still stands. The three judge tribunal overseeing the appeals process for the Revolutionary Court still refuses to accept Roxana's expanded legal team, and has not provided them both access to Roxana, nor access to the court. So much for jurisprudence, let alone a fair trial.

While Iran watchers have known for years that there are several factions leading Iran, it is now ever more clear that neither the Grand Ayatollah Khameini nor President Ahmadinejad rule, and that an unusually independent and harsh judicial court renders justice as it sees fit.

This does not bode well for Roxana, even with today's overture from the British Foreign Minister, the publicity following Tuesday's protest in Paris, and her continued hunger strike.

Many stateside entities are doing all they can to free Roxana Saberi. Stay posted through media and sites like Simply put, do something, keep attention focused on this travesty of justice, and the life of this innocent woman.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

recession depression

Just back from some time on the road….a few days in New York managing a group of German journalists through programs and meetings, and then off to Vegas for a reunion for American journalists who have participated in the RIAS Berlin exchange program.....before jumping into the annual RTNDA@NAB convention.

At each stage of this short trip, there were clear and obvious signs of not only our economic recession, but great change within our media world.

In New York there were of course crowds, but not the dense crowds during Easter holidays of springs past. These crowds were from those school groups that hadn’t canceled their reservations, those Europeans who still find America, and even New York, to be a bargain shopping bonanza, and those who don’t seem to have to be at the office, so they might as well linger in bars and cafes longer than otherwise useful.

Hip east Village restaurants were surprisingly quiet. Wall Street bars had a late week buzz, though it might have been more the drink specials than the climate. Even opening day for two new NYC baseball stadiums had ticket scalping, but no surplus of tickets or excessive gouging.

Vegas is a whole other story. This city is in denial. Friends who live and work there, regardless of whether they arrived last year or thirty years back, each don’t understand why the rest of the country would deny a trip to sin city. Well, they don’t see it as sin city, regardless of personal behavior of manner, but they still fail to comprehend that people are cutting back, reducing discretionary spending, and not likely to hop on the next plane to drop real money at gaming tables or in laps for dances.

Staying at the Hilton for several days, I was at first literally overrun by children. In Las Vegas. In the lobby and ground level of the hotel. At times walking through the casino. And in what must have been a makeshift day care center in the adjacent room for my first night. Families with kids for some reason finished out the holiday week with a few days on the Strip. Dramatically reduced hotel rates might have been the real reason. But this is a different crowd than what is usually seen in Vegas. And getting there was no different. For the first time in my experience, there was not one line at the McCarren rental car counter. Not one. The shuttle bus was rather empty as well. Airport staff acknowledged that there has been less traffic this year, and even with a weekend arrival, there wasn’t the usual bustle and hustling that is standard for this city.

And as for the big event, the annual RTNDA@NAB convention, officially the NAB has indicated that there numbers were down 20% from last years 100,000 attendees, they are still listed in the Las Vegas convention center log as bringing in !40,000 media folks each year. So it’s down a far cry from previous years. While 80,000 is nothing to dismiss, they were not attended to as in the past. No grand parties. No lavish banquets. Nothing that would elicit a news piece from ABC’s Brian Ross, or a defensive response if asked by your boss what you were doing in Vegas.

Even more significant was the traffic at the RTNDA convention. There were fewer booths on their floor, fewer news directors at the workshops, and an even more obvious array of students eager to claim their first jobs in the business than in years before. Another thing missing was the mid-career reporter. In previous years there were dozens if not a hundred or two reporters, soon to be up on their contract, using the convention as an opportunity to showcase themselves for news directors and station groups. There may have been a dozen out there this time, and I think I met just about all of them by the end of the convention’s first day Monday.

I won’t go so far as to say it was depressing, though if this recession holds, and news groups and corporate news managers decide nothing was missed by not attending workshops and programs at this year’s convention, then getting these folks to attend next year will be even more difficult.
The news future is here already. We just haven’t begun to accept it. It’s more of less, it’s multimedia, and it’s no longer siloed. Now, to get the print, electronic, and online folks together for annual meetings and programs, that would be something worth attending.