by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 25th 2011 6:03am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 23rd 2010 5:53am
NPR Takes Down Vision Media's Claims; Will Vision Media Sue NPR -- Or Does It Only Sue Small Operations?
from the we-shall-see dept
Instead, it later sued the small site 800notes.com, because some people there had written negatively about Vision Media TV in explaining who was calling from Vision Media's phone number. Paul Alan Levy, from Public Citizen, who is defending 800Notes, also found himself targeted, after Vision Media sought to bar him from posting public documents about the case on Public Citizen's website -- an attempt that failed. Of course, it did help Levy find more info about the company, including that similar pitches have come from differently named companies, using the same address as Vision Media TV, that pitched (instead of Hugh Downs), Walter Cronkite and Mike Douglas -- both of whom ended up suing the company, claiming they were misled by the company.
Levy says he's asked Vision Media why it never sued the NY Times over its article, and the company's lawyer responded "I should have," but supposedly the statute of limitations had already passed. Well, now Levy is pointing out that Vision Media has a second chance to sue a big media player, since NPR just did a devastating takedown of Vision Media TV and its practices:
"They are selling something that they generally cannot deliver," says Garry Denny, program director of Wisconsin Public Television and a past president of the professional association of programming officials for PBS member stations. "In fact, they are probably not carried by any public television station around the country."To be fair, the article and Vision Media point out that the videos can be useful as marketing materials or infomercials even if they don't appear on public television -- but the whole pitch involving Hugh Downs is where things get questionable. His contract only lets him be involved if the stuff is on public television, and the marketing focuses on Downs involvement, even if that's unlikely to happen for most organizations who pay up -- which certainly suggests misleading marketing:
Officials at PBS and at PBS member stations in California, Colorado, Kentucky, New York, South Carolina and Virginia were all aware of the Hugh Downs spots. Yet not one knew of a concrete instance in which the spots featuring Downs appeared on their stations or those of others. PBS and its member stations say they adhere to guidelines banning marketing programming paid for by subjects of the programs.
According to both Downs' agent and Vision Media's Miller, the retired anchor's contract limits his involvement to public television. Yet for many people approached by Vision Media's cold-calling pitchmen, he's by far the strongest selling point.Others, who did buy into the videos, claim that the pitch about public television was what got them interested in the first place:
One of the firms recently pitched is Portland, Maine-based Putney Inc., which develops generic drugs for pets. "Hugh Downs! I know that name," said Jean Hoffman, Putney's CEO. "We were of course pretty excited, pretty interested, and pretty eager to cooperate."
It seemed like a splendid opportunity, until Hoffman and her colleagues started to bore in on the details. "They send the signal that they're doing a story" as journalists, Hoffman said. "Then, they try to sell us what under questioning was revealed to be advertising."
Robert Biggins is past president of the funeral director trade group and owner of a funeral home in Rockland, Mass. He said Vision Media's promise of a presence on public television and the involvement of Downs were crucial.So, if Vision Media's lawyer said he wished he had sued the NY Times over a very similar article from a couple years ago, will he now sue NPR? Or is it easier to focus on small sites with much smaller budgets?
"He brings a credibility in reporting," Biggins said. "I felt that dealing with an organization that he's so intimately involved in gave us the opportunity to share our message, and to do so in a warm and gracious manner."
If their spots did not air on public television, Biggins said, "That would be a serious concern."
The National Funeral Directors Association provided NPR with a copy of the contract it signed with Vision Media. The association paid $22,900 in 2007 for the production of different versions of the spot, plus an additional $3,000 as a "location fee" -- presumably for travel costs. The contract and additional material from Patrick Wilson of American Artists, the segments' distributor, stated the "estimated reach is over 40 million households" on public television stations. The brochure also suggests the spots will reach 84 million households nationwide on cable -- the overwhelming majority of all homes subscribing to cable television.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 16th 2010 8:48am
from the reporting-by-getting-your-hands-dirty dept
Given that, it seems like the Planet Money crew has hit on a rather brilliant idea. Back when this whole thing started, of course, much of the focus was on the so-called "toxic assets," the derivatives made up of slices of mortgages that had been packaged and repackaged together in creative ways -- in theory to minimize the risk, but in reality, often putting all of the risk in one big basket made to look artificially safe. The focus on toxic assets has mostly fallen off the mainstream press radar, but the folks at Planet Money decided to check in on those toxic assets and dig into what a toxic asset really means. But they were having trouble getting their heads around what a toxic asset really is, how it functions and how to best explain it to their audience.
So they bought a toxic asset.
Literally, the four reporters on the team, along with their producer, each pooled about $200 of their own money, in order to buy $1,000 worth of toxic asset. They'll be tracking whether or not they make their money back, and if they make anything on top of that as well (any profits will be donated to charity). The podcast itself is fascinating, as two of the reporters spend a couple days with a company called Mission Peak Capital, based out in Kansas, which has been analyzing and buying up toxic assets. They go through the whole process of analyzing and bidding on a few of these things until they find the one they wanted. Mission Peak bought the whole asset for $36,000, marked down from $2.7 million, and then sold a $1,000 sliver to the team at Planet Money.
The Planet Money folks have set up a detailed interactive website that goes into great detail about what's in the asset -- probably a lot more detail than most previous owners of the asset knew about themselves -- as well as how much they've made and how long they have until the asset runs out for them (as more of the houses whose mortgages are included in the asset get sold, they get closer and closer to being kicked out of getting any of the remaining revenue).
The story itself is fascinating, but what really drew me to it is what a great example of modern reporting this is. This goes way beyond what we normally think of as reporting, and breaks down that mythical "impartial reporter" barrier in a very effective and useful way. Some people have suggested that the reason why journalism may be struggling these days is that people can go directly to sources themselves (or sources can broadcast themselves) without needing an intermediary to "write the story." Of course, that doesn't mean the role of a journalist goes away, but it changes drastically. In this case, the team at Planet Money has realized that in order to "report" on this story, they need to become the source themselves, and open that up wide to their audience. It's a fascinating and incredibly effective modern form of journalism, and I can't wait to see where they take it. They're already planning to try to track down some of the mortgage holders whose mortgages are in the asset, as well as homeowners and former holders of the asset. Even if you're not that interested in the details of a toxic asset, it's hard not to find the whole thing incredibly compelling. It's useful and educational interactive storytelling at its finest, which is what true journalism should be.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 26th 2009 2:38pm
from the you'd-think-they-know-better dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 9th 2009 3:39am
from the nice dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 4th 2009 12:27pm
from the modern-media dept
The thing is... when I heard the original broadcast that caused the problems... I actually really liked it. Davidson is a smart and knowledgeable guy who's spent an awful lot of time digging into issues around the economic crisis to get to the bottom of them, and he had a reasonable point that he was trying to make, based on all of that knowledge -- and he challenged Warren on it. The reason I liked it was that it was a reporter actually challenging someone on something, rather than simply letting it stand. This is something that has been missing from reporting in many cases. It's what Jay Rosen has referred to as "he said/she said" reporting -- where a reporter asks questions to elicit a story from multiple parties, but never tries to ascertain if either story is true -- but just presents what the various people say. Davidson wasn't doing that. He was actually claiming that it seemed like Warren was trying to stretch the purpose of her job to do something that didn't necessarily fit in the role. And it was great to see a reporter actually say to someone "that's not true" because it felt like someone was finally getting challenged (no matter whether you feel Warren is in the right or not).
It was quite clear what Davidson's position was -- he laid it out -- and he challenged Warren, and it made for an interesting discussion. The whole idea that reporters must "keep their opinions to themselves" doesn't seem to make much sense. If someone is talking to a reporter and saying stuff that the reporter believes is wrong, don't they owe their audience the courtesy of digging deeper? I was impressed by Davidson, and am actually a bit disappointed that he backed down so quickly. It actually makes me wonder how much Planet Money will push back on people who state stuff that the Planet Money team feels is wrong in the future.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 14th 2008 8:01pm