Saturday, 19 July 2008

U.S. considers opening a diplomatic post in Iran

PARIS: The Bush administration is considering establishing an American diplomatic presence in Iran for the first time since relations were severed during the 444-day occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran nearly three decades ago, European and U.S. officials said.
The idea would be to open a so-called interests section, rather than a fully staffed embassy, with U.S. diplomats who could issue visas to Iranians seeking to visit the United States. But the officials, who spoke Thursday on the condition of anonymity under diplomatic rules, cautioned that the idea had not been approved by the White House and could be delayed or blocked by opposition within the administration.
The proposal comes as the White House is adopting new tactics in dealing with Iran. With six months left in office, President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appear to be looking for new ways to reach out to the Iranian people as the administration tries to bring a peaceful resolution to the impasse over Iran's nuclear program.

NB: No mention here of the NYT being scooped yesterday on this story by The Guardian. Interestingly, the dateline for this story is Paris, home of the International Herald Tribune and one of the key sources is an unnamed European diplomat. My guess would be British?

Spot the difference....again.

Are the people at the International Herald Tribune on holiday? Perhaps they are at

Spot the difference between these two articles at today, one with a nice photo of 99 year-old Hazel Homer, one without.

In the U.S., a rise in medical efforts to treat the very old
By Anemona Hartocollis
Published: July 18, 2008

Doctors debate rise in surgery for the very old
By Anemona Hartocollis
Published: July 18, 2008

I wonder if this is all part of the global 24 hour news room, perhaps people in HK putting up a NYT article, with a headline, then the folk in Paris doing the same with another headline, without checking what their colleagues in HK have done. Or two people working on Health and Science and not speaking with each other?

Probably by the time you get to read this, this error will have been corrected, because the folk at do read Think!

But there it stands at 0742 CET.

The Global Edition...for people who live in Southern California

This article in the IHT really does reveal the difference between a newspaper for a global readership and cut and paste of one for people who live in the United States.

The tasty twig, a barbecue tradition

LAMB on rosemary skewers has to be one of the oldest recipes in the world. In ancient times, the meat could just as easily have been goat, or something wilder, and fish was no doubt also a candidate. The idea of cutting branches of rosemary and using them as skewers must certainly have occurred to humans soon after they figured out how to build fires.
Rosemary grows wild as a large, hardy shrub throughout the Mediterranean and places with similar climates, like California, Chile, South Africa and parts of Australia. Figs grow in these same climates by the zillions. And it didn't take Escoffier to figure this one out: figs are good — no, fabulous — when grilled.
The combination with another ancient food, olive oil, is amazing.
I can't improve on what our ancestors did, but here are some points to consider.
Use lamb shoulder when possible; it's fattier and grills better than chunks of leg. Grill the lamb and the figs — nice and ripe, left whole — separately, since the lamb will take a little longer to cook than the figs. The heat can be about the same for both, moderately hot.

If you live in Southern California, you already know where to find rosemary; elsewhere, you may have to look around a bit, or perhaps settle for a package from the supermarket. You want branches with woody stalks, if possible. But if the stalks are too flimsy to poke through the lamb, run a pilot hole through with a skewer. You might throw together a little basting sauce of lemon, garlic and a little more rosemary. I do, but I know that the skewers are just fine without it, and have been for thousands of years.

I don't live in Southern California, but I do have resemary growing outside my study door this morning. The article just makes me feel alienated as an International Herald Tribune reader.

I know it's summer and all that but this is too much

Spot the difference between this article by International Herald Tribune journalist Pfanner, which appeared July 6th, 2008:
'Green' marketing loses buzz and credibility
By Eric Pfanner
Published: July 6, 2008

with this one which appeared July 18, 2008 on

Cooling off on dubious eco-friendly claims
By Eric Pfanner
Published: July 18, 2008

Nice new headline however, which does add to the IHT's credibility.

Friday, 18 July 2008

U.K Press being first...and getting it wrong

Here's the flipside to the aggressiveness of UK newspapers...and why I don't read them:

Briton wins libel suit in case of missing girl
LONDON: A British suspect in the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann in Portugal last year won £600,000 in libel damages Thursday for "the utter destruction" of his life.
The 10 British newspapers involved in the case had accused Robert Murat, who lived in the resort where Madeleine vanished in May 2007, of being involved in the girl's disappearance.
The Portuguese police questioned Murat soon after Madeleine disappeared from her parents' vacation apartment in Praia da Luz and later declared him a formal suspect, but he was never charged and denied any involvement.
"The newspapers in this case brought about the total and utter destruction of mine and my family's life and caused immense distress," Murat said Thursday outside the High Court in London. "I am pleased that the publications concerned admitted the falsity of their allegations and I can now start to rebuild my life."
Murat frequently spoke to reporters in the days after Madeleine disappeared from her bedroom and said she looked like his daughter in England. His mother's house was about 150 meters, or about 500 feet, from the McCann family's apartment.

Murat's lawyer, Louis Charalambous, said that tabloid newspapers in Britain published a series of "made up" allegations. The court heard that these included claims Murat had an interest in child pornography and might have been part of a pedophile ring involved in Madeleine's abduction.
Publishers of the newspapers, with a combined circulation of 15 million copies, apologized, admitted the claims were untrue and agreed to pay the damages. The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail and The Sun were among those sued.
Charalambous said his client had watched silently as "the worst elements of the British media" destroyed his good name and reputation.
"The behavior of tabloid journalists and their editors has been grossly irresponsible, demonstrating a reckless disregard for truth," he said.
It is the second time that British newspapers have been sued over their coverage of the case.
In March, Gerry and Kate McCann, Madeleine's parents, won £550,000, or $1.1 million, in damages from The Daily Express and The Daily Star over stories suggesting that they might have killed their daughter.

Are American newspapers aggressive enough?

The NYT does a stand-up job of off the news reporting, publishing long self-lacerating reports about when it has been duped, but twice in one day, we have brining to my attention big stories about the American 'pouvoir' coming from UK newspapers.

Here's another one:

White House calls Bush fund-raiser's actions 'inappropriate'
WASHINGTON: The White House has disavowed the actions of a major fund-raiser for George W. Bush's presidential campaigns who was caught on videotape apparently trying to trade access to top administration officials - including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - in exchange for six-figure donations to Bush's library foundation.The fund-raiser, Stephen Payne, founder of Worldwide Strategic Partners in Houston, was shown suggesting the donations in a video posted Sunday on the Web site of The Times of London, which filmed him surreptitiously as part of an investigation into corruption in foreign governments.Payne, apparently believing he was talking to a representative of the former president of Kyrgyzstan, was shown saying that he could arrange meetings with top administration officials but that a meeting with the president himself would be difficult. The newspaper also posted photographs of Payne cutting brush with Bush at the president's ranch in Texas and shooting skeet with Cheney."I think the family, the children, whatever, should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library," Payne says on the tape, adding: "It would be like, maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, not a huge amount but enough to show that they're serious. They haven't started raising the money yet, but they will in the next couple of months."Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, called Payne's actions "inappropriate" and said that he did not represent the library or the foundation raising money for it.

Just one small question: Today is Friday, the article above refers to a posting made on The Times of London site last SUNDAY.

This is what I mean about getting it right, not being first. Were they checking to see if the story was legit? Or simply being too deferential, too cautious, too slow, too late.

Being right, if not the first.

If the story below turns out to be true I think there are going to be some pretty embarrassed faces at the Washington bureau of the NYT, not to mention the WP and a host of others.

As an IHT reader, as a fan, I am pretty frustrated that this story gets broken on Thursday, today, and I read about it online today at Presumably it will be in tomorrow's International Herald Tribune?

The NYT likes to be right, not the first. We'll wait and see....

Paper says U.S. to establish Tehran presence
LONDON: The United States will announce in the next month that it plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years, a London newspaper said on Thursday.
In a front-page report, the Guardian said Washington would open a U.S. interests section in the Iranian capital, halfway towards opening an embassy.
The unsourced report by the newspaper's Washington correspondent said: "The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a U.S. interests section in Tehran, a halfway house to setting up a full embassy.
"The move will see U.S. diplomats stationed in the country."
Senior U.S. diplomat William Burns said in testimony to Congress last week the United States was looking to opening up an interest section in Tehran but had not made a decision yet.

Merrill sale would give a value to Bloomberg LP

After more than two decades, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and one of his earliest business partners, Merrill Lynch, are parting company in a deal that finally places a public value of the mayor's private company, Bloomberg LP.
That figure: At least $22.5 billion.
Bloomberg is expected to buy Merrill Lynch's 20 percent stake in Bloomberg LP, the financial data and news provider he founded, for about $4.5 billion, people briefed on the deal said Wednesday afternoon. The sale will be handled through the blind trust that manages the mayor's fortune

More please from the likes of Rami G. Khouri

Ironically, the day I post about the lack of American voices on the Opinion pages, and tapping into the IHT's publishing partners, this piece in today's International Herald Tribune from IHT publishing partner The Daily Star's editor-at-large.

Instead of the piece being distributed by Agence Global, when will we see the foundation of something called IHT Global for this type of syndication?

SUDAN AND THE ICCWhose crimes against humanity?

Rami G. Khouri is editor-at-large of The Daily Star and director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Distributed by Agence Global.
We stand before a decisive moment, brought on by the call on Monday by a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court for a warrant to arrest the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on 10 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his policies in Darfur. This is a moment of historical reckoning for the leaders and people of the Arab world. How they respond to this challenge may well determine whether the region collectively shows its desire to affirm the rule of law as its guiding principle, or moves deeper into the realm of dysfunctional, brittle and violent statehood.It is a classic example of how the Arab world is politically tortured and ethically convoluted by its twin status as both victim and perpetrator of various crimes and atrocities. Bashir is being accused and may be put on trial. But, on another level, many in the Middle East and elsewhere will ask if this move is a new form of racism and colonialism that applies different standards of accountability for different countries.The critics of the ICC should not be dismissed as hopeless despots, nor should the court's potential indictment of Bashir be dismissed as neocolonialism administered through the UN Security Council that asked for the investigation in the first place.The ICC's 10-page summary of Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's request to arrest Bashir is well worth reading as a starting point for considering whether this move is appropriate or not.
The chilling details in the prosecutor's summary of the case revolve around charges that include acts of murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, rape, attacks on civilians and pillaging towns and villages. They state that Bashir "masterminded and implemented" a plan to destroy three of the largest ethnic groups in Darfur - the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa - by using the armed forces, the Janjaweed militias, and the entire government apparatus, to specifically and purposefully target civilians.The charges state that over 35,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced, and refugee and displaced persons camps were also attacked and harassed, in a policy aimed at destroying these people as distinct groups or tribes. Rape has been a common tactic, they allege, with one third of rape victims being children.

The Owlet

Over the years there have been many in-house organs for the International Herald Tribune. I fondly recall now-publisher SDJ introducing a glossy quarterly called IHT Tid-Bits (or something like that) - not sure if it's still alive or what the latest incarnation is.

Under Lee Huebner there was something called The Owlet (named after the owls that famously decorated the no-doubt climbable facade of the New York Herald building; one of which was retrieved and sat in the IHT's publisher's office and probably still does).

If anyone has complete back copy sets of either of these journals I'd love to hear from you.

Here's a taste of the engaging content of The Owlet from December 14, 1992, reporting on the latest monthly managers' meeting:

"Innovative ideas which met with success provided the recurrent theme for his meeting. The first to be discussed was the '1992' supplement series, just ending this year after five years and some 20 million francs in added revenues. Lee Huebner congratulated Bill Mahder, Axel Krause and everyone else involved in this impressive accomplishment."

Yes, the days of the franc, of Axel, of Bill before he turned into an accountant, profits even.

Which were generously spent on big annual global sales bashes, which sadly, the cost-cutting Peter Goldmark put an end to.

(His first vain-glorious move was to end the employment of the publishers' 24/7 standby chauffer, something I believe only Suzy Menkes now has).

I think the last really interesting venue for these sales conferences (before we all ended up, as a result of a barter deal, at a shockingly awful hotel at EuroDisney) was Istanbul.

I failed to attend much of the conference but spent a few very enjoyable days exploring Istanbul. This I must confess.

Where are they now? Previous publishers.

This came up in an email from a previous IHT employee who wrote that "Lee [Huebner], as you may know , is now director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University in Washington."

Well, actually I didn't know that previous publisher Lee Huebner is the director of this School, but I do now.

So what happened after Lee?

Richard McClean - ex-FT (didn't make the top slot there so came to the IHT and first non-American publisher)
Peter Goldmark Jnr - ex-a bit of everything and not much to do with major newspapers
Richard Wooldridge - ex-UK provincial newspapers, mate of McClean, previous COO, interim publisher until arrival of:
Michael Golden - NYT family owner member, now back in NY.
Stephen Dunbar Johnson - ex-FT again, and second British publisher.

I think Richard Mc. spends most of his time playing golf and spending time in the South of France, but know little more than that. I always presumed he was M16 just as previous editors of the IHT were rumoured to be CIA/OSS (more on that another time).

Peter had much to prove after his Charge of the Light Brigade resignation when the NYT bought out the WP. Now working for a major environmental group in NY on their clean air project.

Richard W. : I don't know, other than he talked of 'consulting' and lives in Burgundy, France.

Michael Golden - don't know what he's up to; have to check NYT Company web site.

SDJ - working bloody hard.

Non-American Columnists - Would the NYT allow it?

In response to my previous posting on American Exceptionalism, a Think! reader wrote to me, with this to say:

"The IHT needs to find its own voice, and it can do that AND still be the global edition of the NYT. Lord knows, the NYT could benefit from some non-American columnists itself."

Excellent point -- but will the Times allow it?

That is the fundamental strategic question as regards how the owners and publisher of the IHT see the International Herald Tribune.

Is the purpose of the global edition of the NYT to project American/NYT voices and opinions internationally, or is it to become what was once referred to as 'the world's daily newspaper', treating the U.S.A as any other country it covers.

Cost-wise, the columnists and editorial run in the IHT also appear in the NYT. So is the decision being led by that consideration, viz. this is the content we've bought and paid for, let's use it in the IHT, rather than a deliberate editorial decision, viz. what we are doing here is deliberately projecting American voices and opinions internationally.

If cost is the motivation, it's a strange way to run a newspaper. Not much different from an in-house aggregator.

If projecting American voices internationally is the goal, isn't that the job of the State Department/CIA/Voice of America? Certainly not the job of an independent newspaper.

If the motivation is indeed to project the voices of Americans and opinions of the NYT editorial board, then that's a cause for concern.

In today's globalized information world, in today's globalized world, what is the rationale for the leading American newspaper of record ONLY to engage Americans as columnists and editorial writers, even if it were just for domestic consumption in the U.S.A, and irrespective of the IHT?

Aren't NYT readers, let alone IHT readers, being somewhat short-changed in terms of the perspectives they are continually served up (American only, as far as columnists and editorials; largely American, as regards opinion page contributors)?

Most national newspapers are basically parochial, and being parochial (as a business) in today's world is the fast-track to going out of business. Because parochialism simply isn't relevant anymore.

I once did a study on the nationality of contributors to the opinion pages of the IHT (columnists excluded) and to that of its primary competitors - the FT and the WSJ. As much as I regret to report this, if you want more international opinion, you'd be better off reading one of those two newspapers.

And with the WSJ now owned by Murdoch, he can use the cost-led in-house aggregator model to get opinion pieces from the UK and Australia, to name just two countries.

Whatever the reasons for the dominant American perspectives (of differing shades, admittedly) this issue needs to be addressed and be understood internally, and by readers: why is there so much American editorial and opinion; why doesn't or couldn't the IHT have its own editorial board based out of Paris?

The IHT are happy to serve up Boston Globe editorials, but failed, even at the height of the so-called success of its 'publishing partnerships' to run editorials from newspapers it deemed worthy of publishing with in Europe and Asia.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

American exceptionalism

In tomorrow's newspaper, already on , Tom Friedman will be asking "Which world would you prefer?"

One where America is unpopular and weakened or one where Russia and China are the big dogs on the block with too much power?

"There was something truly filthy [my emphasis] about China and Russia's vetoes of the American-led UN Security Council effort to impose targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe's ruling clique in Zimbabwe," he writes.

His sense of history and perspective is extraordinary in its American exceptionalism.

I think most of the IHT's readers would prefer a world in which America doesn't veto resolution after resolution about Israel's occupation of Palestine and forces the enactment of those that have been passed.

One where the American president doesn't assert executive privilege "to prevent Attorney General Michael Mukasey from having to comply with a House panel subpoena for material on the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity", after all his fine talk of prosecuting those who revealed her identity.

One where rampant unregulated capitalism is bailed out and a flurry of regulatory measures are introduced to the US financial system at the very moment its wheels begin to come off, when we are on the very edge of systemic failure of the world financial system. Talk about locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. You're going to curb short selling now?

One where the American government refuses to use diplomacy and only sends a senior official to participate in international talks with Iran when its hand is forced by its need to send more troops to Afghanistan (and deal with nuclear- armed-already-Pakistan) putting us back to October 2001.

One where the American government doesn't execute people, and listens to the World Court.

That's the world I believe most IHT readers want (all of the above articles have datelines 16 July, 2008), and it needs non-American columnists to reflect those aspirations, writing out of Paris, London, Asia, anywhere but Manhattan.

My sense is that these American (lack of international popularity) polls which Friedman refers to in his piece, and recognizes the truth of, are actually a break on the global growth of the IHT, even more so now it is branded the global edition of the NYT.

It is imperative that the IHT begins to engage non-American voices as part of its line up of key columnists to balance the likes of Brooks & Friedman etc, even with Krugman, Kristoff and Rich, and Cohen somewhere in the middle.

The IHT needs to find its own voice, and it can do that AND still be the global edition of the NYT. Lord knows, the NYT could benefit from some non-American columnists itself.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

NYT/IHT reporters deserve better headlines

And while we're on the subject, NYT/IHT journalists operating in situations of enormous peril, deserve better headlines.

As illustrated by this article:

Reporting in a danger zone: Held first by the Taliban, and then by Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: The first sign of trouble came when a bearded young man shouted at us and pointed angrily at the small camera bag we had with us.
He and three other men were the first Taliban we had encountered during our stay in the tribal area of Mohmand. It was Thursday, July 3. We were just about to leave a marble quarry in a taxi with a local tribesman who had shown us how the quarry had been reopened by the Taliban and was generating new income for them.
The quarry is in an area where the Taliban exert significant control.
The men let us go, but our relief did not last long. About 10 minutes later, we were stopped again, by another group of Taliban. The group forced us to drive with them deeper into Mohmand, away from the road that would have taken us back to safety in Peshawar.
One Taliban member rode a motorbike, another rode in our car with a rifle, and two rode in a Taliban vehicle behind us.
We arrived in midafternoon at a mud house with several rooms that served as a makeshift prison. A member of the Taliban came to question us, but kept it brief. Mainly he wanted to know why one of the phones contained the telephone numbers of paramilitary men from the Frontier Corps, the local government militia.
The Taliban have a tense relationship with the government, which intermittently tries to exert control over the tribal areas through force.
A few hours later, senior members of the Taliban came to ask more questions.
We explained that we were journalists, a reporter and a photographer, which was why the phone would have Frontier Corps numbers. (The phone also contained the number for Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban, the umbrella group of Pakistani Taliban.) One of us, Pir Zubair, stressed his family ties in South Waziristan to show that he was part of the tribal society that lives in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
We were assured that if it could be proved that we were telling the truth, we would be released. We were treated well, and given food and water. Unlike the inmates, we were not manacled, but our money, phones and cameras were confiscated.
On Saturday morning, a visitor who had come to meet with the Taliban saw us and said that news had quickly spread that we had been captured and that the BBC radio service, which broadcasts in the local Pashtun language, had said we were being held on suspicion of spying.
Later that day, however, one of the men told us: "You work with The New York Times."
Within several hours, the head of the Taliban in Mohmand, Abdul Wali, came to see us, along with Yousaf Shah, an uncle of Pir Zubair's who had driven from South Waziristan to secure our release.
Wali told us there had been a misunderstanding, and that now that the Taliban knew we were journalists, we were free to leave. Our equipment and money were returned to us.
As we left, the spokesman for the Taliban in Mohmand, a man known as Assad, said he had received so many phone calls from Pakistani and international journalists asking for our release that he had worn out two cellphone batteries.
Soon after we left, we were greeted by tribal elders whom the government had brought together to help negotiate our release.
We drove toward Ghalani, the regional capital, where we stopped at the compound of the political agent of Mohmand, the most powerful government official in the area. There, a second interrogation began, lasting from midnight to 3 a.m. It was conducted by representatives of several branches of the government.
They asked nothing about the Taliban but were interested in our movements over the past three days. They asked us biographical questions, particularly of Akhtar because he came from Karachi, a different part of the country. We were treated well during our stay.
Even though the interrogation was completed by Sunday morning, we were kept at the compound for another 36 hours for reasons that were never explained. Appeals were made to the senior official in the Pakistani Interior Ministry, Rehman Malik, and other government officials for our release.
An appeal to the United States Embassy in Islamabad to ask the Pakistani authorities to release us was rebuffed. Kay Mayfield, the senior spokeswoman, said that it did not appear that we were in physical danger and that there was nothing constructive the embassy could do since we are Pakistani citizens.
We were released, finally, on Monday afternoon.

Just for the record: the problems of American editors writing headlines for the IHT

Just for the record, and as fairly reported, if not the lead the para of various articles, Sunday's rush assualt on an American forward operating base in Afghanistan killed the following people:

  • 9 American soldiers
  • 17-22 civilians in airsupport missions called in by the Americans less than 1 mile from their base
  • numerous Afghan soldiers and police
  • numerous insurgents

There was also a suicide bombing day that killed 25 people, 20 of them civilians, in southern Afghanistan.

This year may have been "the deadliest for allied troops in Afghanistan since the U.S. intervention in 2001. Casualties for American and allied troops in the last two months have been higher than those in Iraq in the same period."

But equally, "nearly 700 Afghan civilians were killed in the first five months of the year, a marked increase on previous years, United Nations officials have said."

Now, if the IHT wants to be a truly global newspaper, the headlines have to change.

Why always this approach?:

9 U.S. soldiers reported killed in Afghanistan

Why not

Up to 22 civilians killed in defence of U.S. base in Afghanistan

Same news, same news reports even: the problem for the IHT needs to be addressed by the subs in Paris writing headlines from a persistently and consistently American perspective.

This has always been a problem for the IHT, but if the NYT has global ambitions it has to harness the respect it has among its potential audience for its reach (see the previous post from about today's newspaper) with a different prism through which to look when writing headlines.

I'm not advocating anti-Americanism, I am advocating writing headlines for the many potential readers of the IHT for whom the presence of the US soldiers in the base was perhaps the reason it was attacked, and for whom the death of at least double the number of civilians in their defence is of equal importance.

In fact all I am looking for is a little moral equivalency on the value of human life when writing headlines.

(Various sources from IHT:

How do you know you're in a blind alley?

How do you know you're in a blind alley?

By William Safire
Published: July 13, 2008

I'll answer that one.

When you continue to publish columns, once a week, by ever older semi-retired columnists out of a sense of loyalty and because you can't come up with fresh young writers to gain fresh young readers.

It took years to get rid of Art Buchwald, and then we had to endure that tedious annual Thanksgiving joke.

Let's hope Safire can be properly put out to pasture soon.

Cycling - got it now?

These little subject groupers like 'The Feed' and the inspired 'The Business of Green' are used more and more.

The one I like best however, is on the sports pages of

In case you don't know from the main headline what the story is about, they use 'Cycling', not once, but twice. Every day, first in caps, then in italics.

Riccardo Ricco wins stage as Tour de France enters Pyrenees

More good news

Ad budgets cut at fastest rate since 9/11
LONDON: Marketing budgets were cut for the third consecutive quarter and the rate of decline is "gathering to a pace not seen since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," The Financial Times said.
The newspaper, citing the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising's Bellwether Report, said on its Web site that only 15 percent of respondents had reported an increase in total marketing budgets in the second quarter of the year, while 27 percent reported a decrease.
"The fact that it is as bad as 9/11 is very worrying because that was a downturn associated with a very dramatic shock," the newspaper quoted Chris Williams of Markit Economics as saying.
"What we're seeing now is a more broad-based, fundamental weakening in demand in the economy as a whole."
The report, which is seen as an indicator of business confidence, is due out on Monday morning.

The Feed

I noticed this article, tagged under the title 'The Feed'.

The man who dared to question ethanol
It wasn't too long ago that a loose coalition of anti-ethanol forces was bemoaning the futility of its fight.After failing to block huge new ethanol mandates in the Senate last December, Jay Truitt, until recently the chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, complained about the "fervor" and "spirituality" that surrounded ethanol on Capitol Hill."You can't get anyone to consider that there is a consequence to these actions," he said, adding, "We think there will be a day when people ask, 'Why in the world did we do this?' "That day has arrived sooner than Truitt, or most anyone else, anticipated.Of course, much of the turnabout is attributable to relentless price increases at the grocery store that have caused many people to argue that the land used to grow corn for ethanol should be used for food instead.

Now, I'm a pretty careful reader of the IHT. What is 'The Feed'? Is this something to do with finally focussing on stories about the global food crisis (as I have been doing on my blog - under ths first photo of the day, for some time).

Or am I just being very slow in picking up on something that has been around for ages? And which means something completely different.

Must find a moment to investigage.

Those Iranian Missiles

For the record, the print edition of the IHT compared the original photo and then the altered one on the front page; they also ran an article inside - what they didn't do on is add that the original photo that ran on with 'the missile story' (and which is still there for all to read, only the photo changed) was wrong and has been changed.

Now this article below.

My takeout is this: no-one is tackling just how easily the MSM, the IHT/NYT included, were duped. Whatever we now talk about, we won't talk about that.

And just as I was stupid enough to believe JMillar/WMD and that Tom Friedman is not a State Department spokesman, I was stupid enough to believe that a photo the IHT ran was reliable, despite the source being the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, despite there being a track record (so I later learnt) of the Iranians doing this sort of thing before.

Once again, the MSM won't ask the tough questions of itself, at least not in front of us, dear readers.

Believing is seeing

Newspapers and blogs are once again filled with a story about a digitally altered photograph. A picture of missiles launched by Iran. A picture that purports to show four missiles being fired rather than the three shown in other photographs of the launching. Are we to infer that no missiles were launched? Or just three? Take several steps back. Are we being tricked into thinking that Iran is a bigger threat than it is?
Oddly enough, the effect of all this publicity - including this essay - is to draw further attention to the missiles.
I have asked myself how this controversy over a photograph became international news. Clearly, there are many reasons. But at the center of them all is this question: Are we on the brink of another war? I remind myself that the war in Iraq started with bellicose posturing and photographs. At the United Nations, Colin Powell displayed several photographs of Iraqi sites showing incontrovertible evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Of course, we now know that this incontrovertible visual evidence was false. We don't need advanced digital tools to mislead, to misdirect or to confuse. All we need is a willingness to uncritically believe.
The alteration of photos for propaganda purposes has been with us as long as photography itself. But while digitally altered photographs can easily fool the eye, they often leave telltale footprints that allow them to be unmasked. There are many famous altered photographs, from a Matthew Brady photograph of Abraham Lincoln's head composited on to John Calhoun's body to the endlessly altered photographs from Soviet Russia. An entire book, "The Commissar Vanishes," by David King, is devoted to Soviet whims about who should be included (or deleted) in photographs. In the series shown here, Stalin is accompanied by three officials, then two, then one, as they successively fall out of favor and are cropped and airbrushed into non-existence. (In the end, in a painting based on the photograph, he stands alone.) We understand Stalin's intentions by removing comrades, but what is the purpose of these Iranian missile photographs? They are clearly altered. The question remains: Why, and to what end?
The government of Iran could not have created a more self-serving controversy. It has focused our attention on Iranian military might more than ever. What will we remember - the digital manipulation of this photograph or the missiles streaking into the sky? Will we ask about essential details - the range or the payload of these weapons? All we are left with is a threat in visual form.

The photographs tell us little about the real threat of Iran. The danger here is not in three missiles versus four. We do not understand the intentions behind the photograph - real or digitally manipulated. Is it a threat? A warning? Or a bluff? All we really know about the photograph is that Tehran wanted to get the attention of the world, and it succeeded.
Errol Morris, a filmmaker, writes the "Zoom" column for The New York Times online.

Worst is yet to come for Europe's ad market

PARIS: Not long ago, European advertising executives seemed confident that they could ride out the storm in the U.S. economy and the global rise in food and energy costs.
Now, they and the media owners who rely on their business are worried that European marketers will slash ad budgets, as many of their counterparts have already done in America.
"Definitely, if our clients suffer from higher petrol costs, spending is going to be affected," said Valérie Accary, president of CLM/BBDO, an agency based in Paris owned by Omnicom Group. "So far we haven't seen it, but the second half is a big concern."
Zenith Optimedia, a media buying agency that is part of Publicis Groupe, recently downgraded its forecast for ad spending in Western Europe, saying it would grow by 3.7 percent this year - barely more than the inflation rate. That is still better than the 3.5 percent growth expected in North America, but a reduction of two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous forecast, issued only three months earlier.
That may not seem like a large revision. But the new numbers mask bigger shifts in spending, as advertisers allocate more of their budgets to the Internet, cutting their allocations to broadcast and print advertising.

"If you're in some of the traditional media in Western Europe, you're not going to see much growth over the next year or so," said Jonathan Barnard, head of publications at Zenith Optimedia in London.
Among the big European markets, analysts say Britain and Spain may be most at risk, as their economies slow sharply in response to housing slumps. France and Italy are also showing softness, while Germany is holding up after a wobble early this year.
For some individual media owners, feeling the combined effects of the shift to the Internet and the economic downturn, an ad recession has already arrived. Trinity Mirror, a British newspaper publisher, said last month that advertising had fallen 12.6 percent in May and June, following the recent gloomy reports of some American newspaper companies.

Analysts at Citigroup last week issued a warning about advertising prospects for several big European television broadcasters, including ITV in Britain and ProSiebenSat.1 in Germany, causing jitters among investors in those companies.
While some analysts had speculated that marketers would reduce spending on the Internet in a downturn, deeming it experimental and nonessential, the opposite seems to be happening. In Britain, for instance, Internet ad spending will rise 32 percent this year, according to Zenith Optimedia, a sharp revision from the agency's previous prediction of a 26 percent gain.
Internet advertising is benefiting because it allows marketers to track the effects of their spending, something that is more difficult to do in other media. Agencies that create advertising, like CLM/BBDO, are feeling the effect.
"Clients are saying, 'We don't want big ideas, big projects,"' Accary said. "It's about messages that are effective and right to the point."

Along with the Internet, faster-growing developing markets are also gaining a growing share of multinational marketers' ad budgets. Barnard, who recently cut his estimates for U.S. and Western Europe ad spending, also raised the forecast for outlays in the rest of the world. Outside those two regions, spending will grow 11.8 percent this year, up from a forecast of 11.1 percent in March, Barnard said.
Simon Rothon, senior vice president of marketing services at Unilever, the British-Dutch consumer products company, said during a recent gathering of the advertising industry in Cannes that the company had been doing some "focusing of resources" on emerging markets, even as it held overall marketing spending steady through the first quarter.
For Europe, next year was already shaping up as a potentially weak year for advertising, without the stimulative effect of big marketing events like the Euro 2008 soccer tournament. Now some executives fear that all the talk of an advertising recession could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"It's not a disaster yet, but we keep hearing that it may be," Accary said. "Maybe it will be a disaster just because everyone is saying it will be a disaster."

IW: My emphasis in bold, not that the article needs it.

The Power of the New York Times - from a French point of view

Thanks to a Think! reader for brining this article from the online French news and comment site, to my attention.

Naturally it's in French, and if you can't read French, and work for the IHT or the NYT and are involved with the IHT, too bad, shame on you.

Most IHT readers probably can read it, so for those that can't too bad I'm afraid: it's July, it's school holidays and I haven't the time to translate it. Apologies.

But essentially it's a piece on how a seemingly 'good news' front page photo pulls the reader inside the paper to a story of more complex realities about Mongolia, a country like so many typically ignored by the media, but not the NYT, the type of story the written press should be covering, and are not.

(This email from a Think! reader came as a response to my recent post on the over realiance of the IHT on wire stories. Point made. Touche.)

NB: For anyone involved in IHT branding, please note that in its biggest market - France - the paper is forever known as the Herald Tribune, and IHT means very little.

Quand un train arrive à l'heure à la "une" du Herald Tribune

Rue89 Marmite 09/07/2008 12H43
"La Mongolie revient à la vie normale", proclame le titre au-dessus d'une photo de deux hommes à la fenêtre d'un train mongol, publiée mercredi sur quatre des six colonnes à la "une" de l'
International Herald Tribune. Un choix éditorial à première vue osé: un train qui arrive à l'heure à la "une" de l'édition internationale du New York Times?
A y regarder de plus près, pourtant, c'est l'opposé. Le choix de la photo s'explique certes par un premier critère esthétique -la dominante verte du train se voit de loin et casse la grisaille de la page, et on peut imaginer que si les trains mongols avaient été gris ou noirs, ils n'auraient pas eu les honneurs de la première page…
Mais surtout, cette photo -signée Shiho Fukada du New York Times- attire l'œil et l'attention, et renvoie à un
long reportage en page 2 d'Edward Wong sur les récentes émeutes dans la capitale de la Mongolie, Oulan Bator, à la suite d'élections législatives. Une plongée dans les difficultés de la jeune démocratie mongole, coincée entre Russie et Chine, et qui se débat dans un pays complexe et aux conditions naturelles ardues.
C'est la force du New York Times, ça devrait être celle de la presse écrite, que de permettre ce coup de projecteur sur des réalités complexes à l'autre bout du monde, largement ignorées -et de plus en plus- par la plupart des médias. Que cette curiosité soit aiguisée par ce teasing de "une" en forme de "bonne nouvelle, les trains arrivent de nouveau à l'heure en Mongolie" est très fort et bienvenu…
En voyant la "une" de l'IHT, j'ai tout de suite pensé à la récente décision du parlement roumain, fin juin, d'imposer un quota de "bonnes nouvelles" équivalent aux "mauvaises nouvelles" à la radio et à la télévision! Cette décision surréaliste avait fait sourire puis provoqué un tollé, y compris dans les médias roumains, qui,
tel "Romania libera", écrivait:
"C'est une offense faite aux consommateurs des médias que de dire que le bras consciencieux de la loi pourrait nous protéger des 'mauvaises' nouvelles. Mauvaises pour qui? Pour la société? Pour les oligarques? Les informations réalisées par des professionnels reflètent la réalité sans la maquiller. Des nouvelles qui seraient exclusivement bonnes ou mauvaises, nous en avions du temps du communisme. Manipuler les médias en établissant une loi fixant une répartition idéale entre le bon et le mauvais serait la pire des nouvelles pour une société démocratique."
Peut-être la télévision roumaine pourrait-elle commencer par donner la liste des trains qui arrivent à l'heure, pour expliquer, comme le New York Times, pourquoi d'autres n'arrivent pas à l'heure.
Pierre Haski