Muck(rakers) and “Pink Slime” Don’t Mix: ABC Sued Over Beef Ingredient Story

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From Columbia Journalism Review:

“At least four journalists and a writer have been ordered to hand over documents to attorneys representing the largest manufacturer of “pink slime,” the latest development in Beef Products Inc.’s $1.2-billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News and others.

Three journalists from Food Safety News were served subpoenas Wednesday compelling them to turn over correspondence with ABC and other defendants, according to publisher Bill Marler. Dan Flynn, editor of the site, reporter James Andrews, and former reporter Gretchen Goetz all were ordered to send emails and notes to BPI lawyers.

CJR confirmed that subpoenas were also sent to Michele Simon, a prominent writer on food policy, and Michael Moss, a New York Times writer whose 2009 reporting on contaminated meat helped him win a Pulitzer Prize the next year. In a phone interview Friday, however, Moss said his order had been stayed due to action by Times attorneys.

“Lean, finely textured beef,” which is referred to by critics as “pink slime,” is leftover trimmings that are spun in a centrifuge to separate out of the fat, then treated with ammonia to kill any pathogens. The lean trimmings are then used by restaurants, grocery stores, and other food sellers to lower the cost of the ground beef they sell. In late 2009, The New York Times ran a series of pieces that cited dozens of cases in which things like E. coli and salmonella had been found in BPI’s meat. (…)

BPI alleges that news reports between March and April 2012 amounted to “a month-long vicious, concerted disinformation campaign” that cost the company more than $400 million and resulted in more than 700 layoffs and the closing of three of its factories.”

Israel-Hamas Conflict Boosts Al Jazeera America Ratings


From Ad Week:

“Al Jazeera America has seen a major boost in its ratings over the last two weeks, with the network’s coverage of the Gaza conflict drawing some 3 million unique viewers per day, 1.4 million of them in prime time, according to the Baltimore Sun. The hike represents a 30 percent increase in the network’s overall audience and a 40 percent increase in its prime-time audience.

It’s a major triumph for the year-old network, which has struggled to gain traction with American audiences since its much-ballyhooed debut last August. As of April of this year, the network had only been drawing an average of 15,000 viewers in prime time, 5,000 of which were in the target 25 to 54 demo, according to The Wrap. Such low numbers led inevitably to layoffs, and in April the network cut between 60 and 100 of its employees.

Journalism professor and author of The Al Jazeera Effect told the Baltimore Sun: “When Al Jazeera America first debuted and was getting very weak ratings, my sense was that they needed a story they could own, that people would have to come to them for.” With correspondents throughout Gaza and Jerusalem, and coverage of protests across the world, the network seems to have finally proved itself a major contender in the American TV news space.”

X.It Only note: While one could say the conflict has been Al Jazeera America’s version of CNN’s Flight MH370 coverage, this has not prevented the network’s CEO from contemplating another round of layoffs.

U.N. Rep: Meet The Press Question Related To Alleged Hamas Bombing ‘Unfair’

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From TV Newser:

“On “Meet the Press” Sunday, a guest called out David Gregory for being “unfair” in his line of questioning.

While speaking to UN Relief spokesperson Chris Gunness, Gregory showed video which was posted Sunday morning by the Israeli government, claiming that rockets had been fired by Hamas from a UN school earlier in the week.

Gregory said that NBC hadn’t yet verified the video, but asked Gunness, “is this accurate; could this be happening without the UN’s knowledge?”

“To be fair to me, to bring me on a live program and expect me to comment live on air on pictures I haven’t actually seen, I think anyone looking at this program would agree that’s really unfair,” Gunness said. “I mean, if I can see it, I’ll happily comment on it.

”Later in the show, Gregory clarified: “The UN has reviewed it, tells us that they have confirmed in their view the video does not show rockets being fired from a UN administrative school in Gaza. So this is a back and forth that we’re not able to settle at this point.”

Reddit Reluctantly Becoming An Adult


From New York Times:

“The company is trying to jump-start its advertising business, as well as bolster some smaller moneymaking efforts. Its challenge is to figure out how to become a real business without changing the essential nature of the service and alienating its powerhouse constituency of 114 million intensely loyal monthly users.

“One of the things you have to be careful of when you have a site that’s 100 percent community-driven is how best to support that community and not make them feel like you’ve sold out,” said Kevin Rose, general partner at the venture capital firm Google Ventures. “You just don’t want that community to blow up on you.”

Mr. Rose knows a little about this. He co-founded Digg, a link-sharing site similar to Reddit that had millions of visitors at the height of its popularity. Tweaks to Digg’s advertising strategy and site design ended in a mass exodus of its users.

Trying to avoid that fate, Reddit is moving slowly. The company already hosts a gift exchange, for instance, in which Reddit takes a cut of purchases made through participating vendors. There is also Reddit Gold, a premium membership program that users can purchase and award to one another.

“If we’re thinking this hard about the user experience, why can’t we try a little harder about the monetization?” said Alexis Ohanian, a Reddit founder and a member of its three-person board.

The main focus, though, is advertising, a small but growing effort. Four months ago, the company added staff to its sales team, which now has seven people. (…)

Ms. Pao and other Reddit officials declined to give specifics on how the push to gain ad dollars is going or to share any of the private company’s revenue numbers. But last year, the company decided to continue spending on expansion while remaining unprofitable, according to a person familiar with Reddit’s finances, who declined to be named because of continuing ties to the company. For Reddit, a large campaign from an advertiser runs in the $100,000 range, according to this person, while a good-size single ad sale is around $20,000. (…)

“People on Reddit want to be anonymous, and at some point these brands want to have a real relationship with their customers,” said Brian Blau, an Internet analyst with Gartner Research. “Can Reddit deliver that over time?” (…) Continue reading

Comcast Low Income Internet Plan Badly Run Says Advocate Group


From Ars Technica:

“A California nonprofit says that a Comcast Internet service program for poor people is too difficult to sign up for, resulting in just 11 percent of eligible households in the state getting service.

Comcast had to create the $10-per-month Internet Essentials program in order to secure approval of its acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011. About 300,000 households containing 1.2 million people nationwide have gotten cheap Internet service as a result, but the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) complains that the signup process is riddled with problems, a charge Comcast denies. (…)

“Comcast makes the sign-up process long and cumbersome,” CETF claimed. “The application process often takes 2-3 months, far too long for customers who are skeptical about the product in the first place, and have other pressing demands on their budgets. The waiting period between the initial call to Comcast and the CIE [Comcast Internet Essentials] application arriving in the mail can stretch 8-12 weeks, if it comes at all. After submitting the application, another 2-4 weeks elapse before the equipment arrives. Many low-income residents do not have Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and are required to travel long distances to verify their identities because Comcast has closed many of its regional offices. Recently, some potential subscribers with SSNs were rejected over the phone and told they had to visit a Comcast office. Comcast has a pilot effort in Florida that should be expanded to allow customers to fax or e-mail photocopied IDs as proof of identification.

“This is false, Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas told Ars today. “Once we receive a fully executed application we can provision service in about three to five days,” he said. CETF has “brought us customers in the past, and we diligently look through every single one and try to resolve it to the best of our ability and will continue to do that if there are additional customers they haven’t brought to our attention,” Douglas said.

CETF also wrote that Comcast has violated program rules by conducting credit checks. “Comcast conducts credit checks for some customers, contrary to CIE rules,” the CETF filing said. “Dozens of clients are receiving letters from Comcast saying that they have failed a credit check. Comcast specifically states and advertises no credit check is needed for CIE. This has repercussions beyond obtaining broadband service. The act of performing a credit check can negatively impact the consumer’s credit worthiness. Initially, some CIE service representatives told customers they could pay $150 deposit to avoid a credit check, also contrary to program rules.”

Douglas acknowledged that problem, chalking it up to a “technical error” in which a credit check was incorrectly triggered by an automated process. “That was an error we made, and we have tried to make right with any customer who was impacted,” Douglas said. “We have reached out and apologized to customers and tried to resolve the problem in each and every instance.” In cases when a credit check was performed by mistake, “we worked with the credit reporting agencies to have it removed from the applicant’s record, and we worked with the partner organization to communicate that back to the applicant.””

Tech Site Editor: U.S. Gov Has Personal Info After I Visited Travelocity Nine Years Ago


From Ars Technica:

“In May 2014, I reported on my efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, I wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked.

But instead of providing what I had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So I appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time.

The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. My own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I’ve ever used; some of them also contain:

  • The IP address that I used to buy the ticket
  • My credit card number (in full)
  • The language I used
  • Notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change (…)

Continue reading

Smart Shoe Works As GPS, Vibrates Directions


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“An Indian company has come up with a sleek solution to wearable technology that is entirely useful and doesn’t involve reading any tiny screens. The Bluetooth-enabled Lechal smart shoes vibrate to give people directions and tell them where to turn as they travel along.

The shoes sync with a user’s phone, and an app that piggybacks on Google Maps allows the shoes to keep track of where they’re going. Once you have input your destination and chosen a route, you can tuck your phone away and run or walk along with the left or right shoe buzzing to nudge you into turning.

The shoes have been designed and developed by a company called Ducere based in the city of Secunderabad in India, although they will be manufactured in China. As with many technological innovations that have found their way into our homes and onto our bodies, the smart shoes were originally designed for medical purposes — in this case to guide the visually impaired (in Hindi Lechal means “take me along”).”