Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Two Sides of Journalism

Today I came across two interesting, almost contrasting, news items in the NYT. While one talks about the loss of media consumers and advertisers in New Orleans (due to massive exodus of its residents after the Hurricane Katrina's devastation), the other talks about Yahoo setting up an exclusive multi-media website to report on wars around the world.

In the first case, an entire population has been displaced by a natural disaster, leaving the New Orleans media companies (7 TV stations!) high and dry without any audience or advertisers. In the second case, Yahoo is creating a new audience selling the powerful images of devastation brought on by war!

An Uncertain Future for Media in New Orleans

Newspapers and television stations, as many people know, have been losing readers and viewers for years. But in New Orleans over the last two weeks, when news was precious, the local media's customer base - and its advertisers - literally vanished, exiled from home in a vast diaspora beyond the reach of telemarketers and ad salesmen.

New Orleans media outlets, including The Times-Picayune and seven television stations making up the nation's 43rd-largest media market, have been left to contemplate a surreal future of unknown duration in a city devoid of functioning businesses, with no goods to advertise and almost no people to buy them. As a plaintive Times-Picayune headline put it Friday, "Few Souls Remain in Shell of a City."

And yet the owners of The Times-Picayune, which had a circulation around 270,000 before Hurricane Katrina struck, and the seven television stations, which served about 670,000 households, were unflinching in their commitment to the deluged city - making plain the difference between the manufacturers of widgets and the gatherers of news.

Yahoo Hires Journalist to Report on Wars

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Yahoo, in its first big move into original online video programming, is betting that war and conflict will lure new viewers.

Lloyd Braun, the former chairman of ABC's entertainment group who now oversees Yahoo's expanded media group in Santa Monica, has hired Kevin Sites, a veteran television correspondent, to produce a multimedia Web site that will report on wars around the world.
Mr. Sites, who has worked as a producer and correspondent for NBC and CNN, is probably most notable for a videotape he shot for NBC of a marine shooting and killing, in a mosque in Falluja last year, an Iraqi prisoner who appeared to be unarmed. That video generated a storm of outrage in the Arab world, and spawned both a military investigation into the incident and controversy about Mr. Sites.

The Web site, called "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone" (hotzone.yahoo.com) will focus entirely on Mr. Sites's travels as a war correspondent and will use nearly every kind of format the Internet allows. His reports will begin Sept. 26.

Speaking of Yahoo, there is a fierce competition going on among Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to dominate the cyberspace as much as possible. The results will not only be interesting but will decisively shape the future.

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