Friday, December 23, 2011

Morning Brief: House Republicans decide its best to move on, while PolitiFact chooses to circle the wagons; the FCC set to try and loosen media rules again

The NYT has already buried the story on its website – House G.O.P. Leaders Agree to Extension of Payroll Tax Cut – a sign that the whole House GOP fiasco was much ado about nothing. In the end, realizing that they looked foolish and isolated, the House Republicans reversed course and said it would now approve a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.

The key, from the GOP's perspective, was to get the issue off the table as quickly as possible – and to get the story off the front pages as quickly as possible. They will have to deal with this morning's papers, but most newspaper websites have already moved on (only the WaPo seems to be keeping the story upfront, as the actual vote, possibly a voice vote, is set for later today).

If the House Republicans realized they were better off beating a hasty retreat, PolitiFact is trying a different tactic: digging in its heels and taking swipes at its critics. The St. Petersburg Times property caught the attention of the media world by giving the GOP a huge Christmas present by saying that the 2011 Lie of the Year was the claim that Republicans voted to end Medicare.

Writing on their website, Bill Adair goes after critics and quickly digs himself into a corner: critics of the decision are wrong because those who think PolitiFact made a bad decision are merely biased journalists who read and listen to biased news sources, calling such behavoir " life in our echo chamber nation".

Unfortunately, attacking the credibility of critics is a bit silly, isn't it? After all, the issue of the decision itself, which Adair fails to even try to justify except by saying that their competitors made the same choice (echo chamber?).

The whole silly mess reminds me of the way Poynter, another property associated with the Times, handled the Romenesko mess: dig in and deny. 2011 is not ending well for either institution.

The FCC is set to ease limits on cross-ownership of media properties in one market, according to a story this morning on the BusinessWeek website.

As the story points out, this is the second attempt to loosen media ownership rules, and it is bound to be met with similar objections as the first.

But while many think that media companies like Gannett might be helped by loosening the rules, I would predict that those who would take advantage of the ability to own multiple media outlets in a market might be companies that might employ a roll-up strategy: PE firms. Many existing media companies have scaled back their M&A efforts, concentrating on low cost new media properties rather than television stations or daily newspapers.

First the FCC has to successfully rewrite those rules, and beat back any challenges in court.

The new owners of the Chicago Sun Times have brought in Timothy Knight as CEO. Knight is the former publisher of Newsday where, as the NYT said at the time of his departure two years ago, he endured "a turbulent five-year tenure that included a circulation scandal, downsizing and changes in ownership and management."

Reports of the sale to a group of local PE executives mostly center on the possibility of a more technology driven approach by the new management team.

“This isn’t a newspaper acquisition. This is the creation of a technologically-enabled content company,” Knight is quoted as saying in the Sun Times story on the sale. “The platform, the brands that the Sun-Times has across Chicagoland are outstanding and unmatched.”