Associated Press

Journalists 'Under Attack' Worldwide, Says AP President

The president and CEO of The Associated Press says journalists around the world are "increasingly under attack" by people trying to influence and control the news.

Gary Pruitt touched on the recent death of AP photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus. She was killed in Afghanistan, and her colleague Kathy Gannon was seriously wounded. The women were covering the run-up to the country's elections.

Pruitt says the increased dangers to reporters and the growing secrecy of governments make journalists' jobs more challenging but also more important.

Media Giants Struggle To Win Over Latino Audiences

Reaching the nation's 55 million Latinos has become gospel for mainstream media giants, but capturing this fast-growing, mostly US-born audience is proving tricky to networks and websites.

For every success story there is a flop. One challenge: Many in the audience today are second- and third-generation Latinos, and often they eschew a Latino-only box, even as they crave more stories that include them.

NBC Asks Gifford Not To Plug Her Wine On 'Today'

Booze may be an oft-mentioned topic when Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are hosting the fourth hour of the "Today" show, but one alcoholic beverage they won't be talking about is Gifford's new wine line.

Gifford said NBC has asked her not to plug her new Gifft chardonnay and red blend on the show.

"They let me announce it and then they've asked us to please not discuss it right now," Gifford said. "We're in the middle of the big takeover of a major corporation. I think they just want to be -- and rightfully so -- very careful. Everybody wants to dot i's and cross t's and you notice the wine is still sitting there but they've just asked me to be a little careful while they're under great scrutiny and I'm happy to do that."

A representative for "Today" said, "We love and support Kathie Lee and as always, we let her comments speak for themselves."

US Secretly Created 'Cuban Twitter' To Stir Unrest

In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a US government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company's ties to the US government.

McSpedon didn't work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the US Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in US humanitarian aid.

The plan was to develop a bare-bones "Cuban Twitter," using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba's strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo -- slang for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet. Documents show the US government planned to build a subscriber base through "non-controversial content": news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize "smart mobs" -- mass gatherings called at a moment's notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society."

Jesse Jackson readies campaign to highlight Silicon Valley's scarcity of blacks and Latinos

The Rev Jesse Jackson plans to lead a delegation to the Hewlett-Packard annual shareholders meeting to bring attention to Silicon Valley's poor record of including blacks and Latinos in hiring, board appointments and startup funding.

Reverend Jackson's strategy borrows from the traditional civil rights era playbook of shaming companies to prod them into transformation. Now he is bringing it to the age of social media and a booming tech industry known for its disruptive innovation.

"We're talking about a sector that responds to future trends," says Ronald Parker, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, a group of current and former African-American Fortune 500 executives who work to increase diversity at the top levels of American business. "He's speaking at one organization. I'm sure the people at Hewlett-Packard have and will continue to put some focus on it. Whether it will accelerate is to be seen. But it's a start."

Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., president and CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, says Jackson is shining a light on the fact that technology companies don't come close to hiring or spending what is commensurate with the demographics of their customers. "Hopefully, what Rev Jackson is doing will bring attention to the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It's high time that gets addressed," Graves says.

Majority Of Americans Have More Confidence In News Organizations Than Social Media

Americans of all ages still pay heed to serious news even as they seek out the lighter stuff, choosing their own way across a media landscape that no longer relies on front pages and evening newscasts to dictate what's worth knowing, according to a new study from the Media Insight Project.

The findings burst the myth of the media "bubble" -- the idea that no one pays attention to anything beyond a limited sphere of interest, like celebrities or college hoops or Facebook posts. "This idea that somehow we're all going down narrow paths of interest and that many people are just sort of amusing themselves to death and not interested in the news and the world around them?

"That is not the case," said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, which teamed with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research on the project. People today are nibbling from a news buffet spread across 24-hour television, websites, radio, newspapers and magazines, and social networks. Three-fourths of Americans see or hear news daily, including 6 of 10 adults under age 30, the study found. Nearly everyone -- about 9 in 10 people -- said they enjoy keeping up with the news. And more than 6 in 10 say that wherever they find the news, they prefer it to come directly from a news organization.

No Consensus On How To Notify Data Breach Victims

The data breach at Target that exposed millions of credit card numbers has focused attention on the patchwork of state consumer notification laws and renewed a push for a single national standard.

Most states have laws that require retailers to disclose data breaches, but the laws vary wildly. Consumers in one state might learn immediately that their personal information had been exposed, but that might not happen in another state, and notification requirements for businesses depend on where their customers are located. Attorney General Eric Holder has joined the call for a nationwide notification standard, but divisions persist, making a consensus questionable.

"We're stuck with the state-by-state approach unless some compromise gets done at the federal level," said Peter Swire, a privacy expert at Georgia Tech and a former White House privacy official. Despite general agreement on the value of a national standard, there are obstacles to a straightforward compromise:

  • Consumer groups don't want to weaken existing protections in states with the strongest laws.
  • Retailers want laws that are less burdensome to comply with and say too much notification could cause consumers to tune out the problem.
  • Congress is looking at different proposals for how any federal standard should be enforced and what the threshold should be before notification requirements kick in.

[March 10]

US Network To Scan Workers With Secret Clearances

US intelligence officials are planning a sweeping system of electronic monitoring that would tap into government, financial and other databases to scan the behavior of many of the 5 million federal employees with secret clearances, current and former officials said.

The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers, and draws on a Defense Department model under development for more than a decade, according to officials and documents reviewed by the AP. An administration review of the government's security clearance process is expected to support continuous monitoring as part of a package of comprehensive changes. Privacy advocates and government employee union officials expressed concerns that continuous electronic monitoring could intrude into individuals' private lives, prompt flawed investigations and put sensitive personal data at greater risk.

Supporters say the system would have safeguards. Workers with secret clearances are already required to undergo background checks of their finances and private lives before they are hired and again during periodic re-investigations. "What we need is a system of continuous evaluation where when someone is in the system and they're cleared initially, then we have a way of monitoring their behavior, both their electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress. Current and former officials familiar with the DNI's planning said the monitoring system will collect records from multiple sources of information about employees. They will use private credit agencies, law enforcement databases and threat lists, military and other government records, licenses, data services and public record repositories.

The proposed system would mimic monitoring systems already in use by the airline and banking industries, but it most closely draws from a 10-year-old Pentagon research project known as the Automated Continuous Evaluation System, officials said. The ACES program, designed by researchers from the Monterey (CA), -- based Defense Personnel and Security Research Center and defense contractor Northrop Grumman, has passed several pilot tests but is not yet in full operation. The ACES project and clearance-related Defense Department research cost more than $84 million over the past decade, documents show.

[March 10]

Ellen's Oscar Celeb Selfie A Landmark Media Moment

Ellen DeGeneres' celeb-studded selfie from the most-watched Oscars telecast in a decade was a landmark social media moment at a time online conversation is boosting television viewership and vice versa. It's also a murky example of what is or isn't product placement in a hyper-marketed world. Would the world's most retweeted photo have been shot by an iPhone if Samsung hadn't been a commercial sponsor of the Academy Awards?

The Oscars are generally the most-watched TV event of the year after the Super Bowl. The ratings provide further evidence of how big event programming is a growth engine for broadcast networks, in large part because of fans watching the event and conversing with friends on tablets and smartphones.

Twitter said that some 14.7 million tweets mentioning the Oscars or prominent actors and films were sent out during the telecast, and Facebook said there were 25.4 million interactions about the show. Social media was clearly a driving force and is why live events on networks "have become basically the currency," co-producer Neil Meron said. "What it's all about right now is creating a conversation, and social media allows for the conversation as it's happening," he said.

Next Up: TV Ads Just For You, Dear Voter

The days when political campaigns would try to make inroads with demographic groups such as soccer moms or white working-class voters are gone. Now, the operatives are targeting specific individuals. And, in some places, they can reach those individuals directly through their televisions.

Welcome to Addressable TV, an emerging technology that allows advertisers -- Senate hopefuls and insurance companies alike - to pay some broadcasters to pinpoint specific homes. Data geeks look at everything from voting histories to demographics, magazine subscriptions to credit scores, all in the hopes of identifying their target audience. The advertiser then hands over a list of targets and, without the viewer necessarily realizing it, the ads pop on when viewers sit down to watch a program if their broadcaster has the technology.

"This is the power of a 30-second television commercial with the precision of a piece of direct mail targeted to the individual household level," said Paul Guyardo, chief revenue officer at DirecTV. "Never before have advertisers had that level of precision when it came to a 30-second commercial." At the same time, NBC and parent company Comcast are opening the door for advertisers to target specific households using video-on-demand services in 20 million more households. The communications giant is not yet ready to implement the targeting during live broadcasts, though. And GroupM, which handles about one-third of the world's ad buys, recently formed a division to handle such addressable advertising.