Monday, March 21, 2011

Morning Brief: AT&T and T-Mobile to merge, if FCC gives approval; Detroit News publisher issues apology; readers notice sensational news coverage of nuclear crisis

Assuming the FCC approves, a merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, announced yesterday, would create the largest wireless company in America, with around 38 percent of the market, just ahead of Verizon. Sprint would move up to third, but would trail both companies badly with only 11 percent of the market.
AT&T's announcement came yesterday afternoon, guaranteeing that the news would be the number one business story this morning. The deal, in which AT&T agrees to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG for cash and stock worth approximately $39 billion, is being sold by AT&T as a way of helping T-Mobile achieve 4G LTE deployment.

"This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO, said in the statement released Sunday. “It will improve network quality, and it will bring advanced LTE capabilities to more than 294 million people. Mobile broadband networks drive economic opportunity everywhere, and they enable the expanding high-tech ecosystem that includes device makers, cloud and content providers, app developers, customers, and more. During the past few years, America’s high-tech industry has delivered innovation at unprecedented speed, and this combination will accelerate its continued growth.”

Next comes the FCC approval process, something that could be contentious and may require some concessions on the part of AT&T. But AT&T is already gearing up for the fight as T&T's top policy executive Jim Cicconi was quickly quoted on several websites Sunday defending the deal.

"Obviously we understand the questions and the concerns and we feel we have good answers," Cicconi told The Hill yesterday. "We took a very hard and close look at this and we feel the facts support the deal."

Early Saturday the editor and publisher of the Detroit News, Jonathan Wolman, published an apology to News readers, and to reporter Scott Burgess for editing the online version of a review of the Chrysler 200 after the review had already appeared in print. The editing of the review occurred after a complain was received from an auto dealer who is an advertiser.

Journalists blasted the actions of editors in changing Scott Burgess's review, and Burgess himself "resigned in frustration", as Wolman put it in his apology. But others were less sympathetic to the snarky review that, it seemed to me, clearly crossed the line from review to sarcasm. The editing of a review after printing, and following advertising input struck a cord in many journalists who did not seem as concerned with the original piece itself.

Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall posted a letter from a reader that lambasted the US press, and to a certain degree Talking Points Memo, for its coverage of the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis. The reader, who was not identified, wrote that "the Japanese news coverage has been largely calm, rational, informed, and critical. Some of this is naturally to avoid creating panic, but it has been able to do that because as a whole it has answered many of the questions people have and thus gained a certain level of trust."

He then compared this to the US media's approach to the story: "It also just looks good because there is something so ugly beside it: the non-Japanese coverage. That, I am afraid, has been full of factual errors and other problems. This has not been just Fox News, but also CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and even the New York Times to differing degrees...I for one cannot understand why ABC, for instance, could feature Michio Kaku multiple times over several days when by the time his declarations of imminent disaster, the situation on the ground had already proven him wrong."

This is a subject I wrote about on Thursday morning in the Morning Brief. At the time I wondered if the New York Times's increasingly hysterical tone, using words like "bleak" and "ominous" to describe the situation, was the result of information it had from its sources, or if it was something else entirely.

Now with the military actions in Libya, it appears that suddenly the story in Japan is no longer worthy of such sensational editorial treatment.