America’s struggling newspaper industry just can’t take a trick. Already facing huge losses, cost cuts, nasty and sustained falls in advertising (some of which, like jobs, has probably gone online for ever), now comes a further blow: the huge Marriott Hotel is cutting its free national papers for guests each day.

The hotel will supply either The Wall Street Journal or USA Today (The New York Times or other big papers in some markets). But in some markets, Marriott will not be supplying any papers at all.

The US Justice Department has also weighed in with a cost cut of its own: it’s only small, but it’s an indicator of what is to come. In a list of 121 programs they want to cut from the current US budget,  President Obama’s bean counters revealed plans to phase out buying newspaper ads to publish property forfeiture notices. The Department estimated that killing off newspaper advertising would save $US 6.7 million over five years.

Federal regulations require the Department to advertise all pending court actions in which the government is seeking to seize private property as part of criminal and civil proceedings. The Justice Department has traditionally advertised these forfeiture notices in newspapers, but it’s now has created its own website on which to publish them: www.forfeiture.gov. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Unfortunately, this could be the first of a trend. Governments everywhere publish notices, job ads and so on in papers large and small. Now that a senior government department has made the first step, could all those regulations, job ads and so on end up on the websites of various governments, with only token newspaper advertising to attract attention?  — Glenn Dyer

Student scams journalists. A 22-year-old Irish sociology student managed to trap a good slice of the worldʼs media, including Australian outlets by messing with a Wikipedia entry. Shane Fitzgerald explains :

Just how reliant reporters are on the world wide web was the question that suddenly gave me the idea of carrying out an internet hoax. The global world is connected through the internet, and news reporters are relying on this resource more than ever. I wanted to prove that this was indeed the case, and show the potential dangers that arise.

His trap was simple. On March 30, he saw a report that French composer Maurice Jarre had died. He jumped into Wikipedia, and made up a fake quote for the composer: “One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack,” I wrote into the Wikipedia entry. “Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head and that only I can hear.” He notes:

While I expected online blogs and maybe some smaller papers to use the quote, I did not think it would have a major impact. I was wrong. Quality newspapers in England, India, America and as far away as Australia had my words in their reports of Jarreʼs death. I was shocked that highly respected newspapers would use material from Wikipedia without first sourcing and referencing it properly.

The Sydney Morning Herald today issued this apology:

Duncan Riley

The Huffington Dilemma. The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is currently considering “The Future of Journalism.” Chairman, failed 2004 US Presidential Candidate, John Kerry said prior to the first hearing on Wednesday that he believes that the death of newspapers is a threat to democracy, never a good sign when a hearing is supposed to look at the issues objectively before making a call (well, in theory anyway.)

Among those testifying on the first day was Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post. Huffington presents somewhat of a dilemma as an advocate for new media. The Huffington Post is without doubt highly successful and influential in the United States (it has similar traffic to news.com.au ), and she is to be congratulated on initiatives such as the establishment of an investigative journalists fund. But likewise, The Huffington Post is also one of the biggest sites (if not the biggest) that doesnʼt pay its contributors, outside of a small pool of staff reporters. Itʼs a fact that undermines the core message that the internet offers a strong future for journalists and media alike. — Duncan Riley

The Age is recycling stories. An article about the ‘feud’ between The Simpsons and Family Guy did the rounds of Fairfax media two weeks ago, starting at  The Sydney Morning Herald on April 20, Stuff.co.nz on April 21st and  The Age online on April 22. The same article was republished — without major changes — for the cover story on yesterday’s Green Guide:

Though judging by a Fairfax search , it was originally published in print by SMH on April 20. The Age.com.au picked it up at that time for syndication on its site. But yesterday was the first time The Age published it in print.

News veteran Jim Waley savages Channel Nine . Dumped Nine news veteran Jim Waley has broken his silence and damned his former TV home, which he says is now “fighting for its life.” Responding to reports that he has been hired by Sky News – just as it fired experienced newsreader John Gatfield – Waley said that he no longer watched the network which once named him among the who’s who of news. Gagged until January, under the terms of his Nine termination settlement four years ago, Waley yesterday offered sympathy to 6pm newsreader Peter Overton and “those who have the responsibility for turning it around”. — Daily Telegraph

Amazon launches Kindle DX . Amazon launched the Kindle DX reader yesterday in the US. This new device is being touted by some newspapers as a device which could help save newspaper publishing. Amazon said that three newspapers, The New York Times , The Boston Globe and The Washington Post , will offer the Kindle DX from mid this year at a reduced price to subscribers who sign up for long-term subscriptions. The Kindle is not currently available here as it operates through a wireless network and the Australian marketplace reportedly presents some challenges in this regard. — Australian Newsagency Blog

US senators consider options for ailing newspapers . The US government could provide tax breaks for newspapers or allow them to operate as nonprofits to help the struggling business survive, Sen. John Kerry said Wednesday. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Congress can help the industry hit by a collapse in advertising revenue, debt that is getting harder to repay and the drift of print subscribers to free online news websites. Without newspapers, Kerry and other lawmakers said at a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday, there will be too few journalists investigating governments, companies and individuals. “I think there are definitely some things we can do to encourage, to help the situation without stepping over any line,” Kerry said. — Reuters

Joan Collins and the great Banksy hoax, coming soon to a screen near you . The upcoming web-only film/documentary, Banksy’s Coming to Dinner looks downright crazy. The elevator pitch is that actress Joan Collins gets a request by the reclusive, mysterious artist to have her throw a dinner party for him so that he can finally reveal his true identity. Only catch is the thing was all a big hoax, completely unknown to Collins and the other guests until the Daily Mail uncovered the truth. Here’s the trailer:

This will either be an absolute disaster of a film or the best thing you’ve ever seen — and nothing in between. We can’t wait to see it. — Media Bistro

Ewok slaves play magical organ in Coke ad . Here’s one of the weirder Coca-Cola commercials you’ll see:

A homeless-looking hipster dude wheels a box up a hillside, unpacks it to reveal an intricate organ with a bunch of Ewok/Spongemonkey type creatures inside who grunt and sing when given squirts of Coke from a series of jets activated by the organ’s keyboard. Four more hairballs play as a little band down below. Soon, the music attracts a whole load of young hippie types, who slog up the hillside and dance in the grass, which starts sprouting bottles of Coke. Make of it what you will. By Mother in London. — AdFreak

Swine Influenza panic induces meat advertising reassurance:

Peter Fray

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