As expected, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has officially become the new owner of the Washington Post after buying the paper for $250 million in August. Publisher Katharine Weymouth made the announcement today in an emailed memo that staff reporters Tweeted around Tuesday afternoon: “The sale of The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos is now complete. We are officially under new ownership, and a new era for The Washington Post begins.”
The Washington Post confirmed in an editor’s note today that its website had been hacked Thursday morning after a days-long phishing attack on Post writers. Hacker group The Syrian Electronic Army appeared to be responsible. “For 30 minutes this morning, some articles on our web site were redirected to the Syrian Electronic Army’s site,” the note confirmed. “The Syrian Electronic Army, in a Tweet, claimed they gained access to elements of our site by hacking one of our business partners, Outbrain. We have taken defensive measures and removed the offending module. At this time, we believe there are no other issues affecting The Post site.” The hack comes a day after the New York Times website was down for two hours. The paper blamed that outage on a “server issue”.
Users of the Washington Post website will be charged an unspecified fee this summer to read more than 20 articles or multimedia features per month. The daily announced plans today to go behind a metered paywall. Those exempt from the paywall include home subscribers and “students, teachers, school administrators, government employees and military personnel” who access the digital edition at school or at work.
Despite leaving Fox News last month, Sarah Palin is not joining Al Jazeera America as a talking head. She is, however ,certainly mocking a Washington Post report today incorrectly claiming she was. “Hey @washingtonpost, I’m having coffee with Elvis this week. He works at the Mocha Moose in Wasilla. #suziparkerscoops #idiotmedia,” the former GOP VP candidate wrote on Twitter today. Earlier in the day, the Post ran a seemingly unbelievable story by blogger Suzy Parker on its website saying Palin was heading to the new U.S. version of the Qatar-based network. Parker’s story cited a February 4 report on the Daily Currant as its source for Palin’s new gig. The story quoted the conservative former Alaska Governor as saying Al Jazeera “told me they reach millions of devoutly religious people who don’t watch CBS or CNN. That tells me they don’t have a liberal bias.” However, what the Post didn’t realize was the Currant is a news parody website and the original story was meant to be funny and not at all factual.
The bears are back. After a relatively calm week, stocks prices across the board — including in media — are tanking today following reports that point to rising unemployment and inflation, and weakness in manufacturing. An hour before the market close, the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and NASDAQ indexes for media stocks each were down at least 5.4%. Among the Big Media giants CBS is -10.7% followed by Time Warner (-6.1%), Sony (-5.7%), News Corp (-5.2%), Viacom (-5.2%), Comcast (-4.8%), and Disney (-3.2%). Elsewhere on our watch list, Pandora Media (-12.9) is taking the biggest hit with LIN TV -9.4%. Others falling at least 8% include Gannett, Live Nation, Entercom, IMAX, Radio One, McGraw-Hill, and Discovery. Those off at least 7% include Cablevision, Amazon, TiVo, Netflix, McClatchy, Coinstar, Arbitron, and Scripps Networks. And companies down at least 6% include Barnes & Noble, Washington Post, E.W. Scripps, Sinclair Broadcasting, Outdoor Channel, and Dish Network. The only gainers are Lionsgate (+0.3%) and Cinedigm (+1.3%).
Media stocks likely will take even more punishment if the economy weakens. When times are bad shares of companies with high fixed costs, lots of debt, and that depend on ad sales, fall more dramatically than the overall market, Needham & Co analyst Laura Martin says today. She says that Discovery may be the best media stock to own now — but adds that it would be even safer for investors to own a fund of stocks that mirrors the S&P 500.
WEDNESDAY AM UPDATE: Los Angeles management told editors at a meeting this morning that, yes, more layoffs are planned. But management is claiming the 40 number is too high, and no film writers are involved. If anyone’s job has been saved because of adverse publicity, then great. (I’ve added a question mark about the Calendar staff cuts. But two prominent film writers were targeted, trust me.) Now I’m told there will be a big push LA Times-wide in coming months to turn staff writers into freelance writers.
TUESDAY: More bad news for newspapers: I’ve learned that the Los Angeles Times expects to make as many as 40 layoffs before the end of this year, and it’s likely that two senior film writers with well known bylines will be cut. (Yet the newspaper just hired a Hollywood Reporter film hack on the cheap. It’s all about dollars and cents there these days, not quality.) Meanwhile, The Washington Post just announced it will close its Los Angeles Bureau by December 31st. Looks like Hollywood will be covered entirely out of the paper’s headquarters now.
Story is here about the entertainment Tuesday night. A Chicago native, Jennifer Hudson belted out the national anthem for the Obamas at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
I’m running Washington Post Style columnist Tom Shales’ review of the 80th Academy Award broadcast. Because he agreed with me about last night’s show. (And even if you dislike what I wrote, remember that he has won a Pulitzer for his TV criticism…)
Oscar Viewers Got Clipped, In More Ways Than One
By Tom Shales
The Washington Post
Monday, February 25, 2008; Page C01
The 80th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, televised live on ABC last night from Los Angeles, went clip-clip-clipping along. This is not a good thing; the show was so overstocked with clips from movies — from this year’s nominees and from Oscar winners going back to 1929 — that it was like a TV show with the hiccups.
There were hardly any emotional moments from winners on the stage and there was little in the way of drama for viewers who watched, especially those who stayed with the tedious drag all the way past 11:45, when it finally drew to a close. Javier Bardem, who won for Best Supporting Actor in the Best Picture winner, “No Country for Old Men,” did move the crowd when he concluded his speech with a message to his mother in his native Spanish. She was sitting in the audience, surrounded by the usual suspects and celebrities.
No acting prizes were given out until the second half-hour of the show, a poor piece of showmanship — as was hiding kids’ favorite Miley Cyrus, star of TV’s “Hannah Montana,” backstage until 9:50 p.m., when many of her biggest and youngest fans
I hear there’s a frenzied Hollywood bidding war going on today over the No. 1 book on The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes Of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell. Studio toppers are interrupting their vacations to try to get this book which was sold to Little Brown by superagent Ed Victor for a seven figure advance. How interesting that liberal Hollywood is hot for this patriotic tell-all by a proud conservative.
According to The Washington Post review, it’s the true story of American heroism and Afghani humanity, of morality vs survival. In June 2005, Petty Officer turned combat-trained Navy SEAL Luttrell led a four-man team into the mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to kill a Taliban leader thought to be allied with Osama bin Laden. On foot, the SEALs encountered two adult men and a teenage boy. A debate broke out as to whether the trio should be summarily executed to keep them from alerting the Taliban. Luttrell opted to spare the Afghanis’ lives. About an hour later, the Taliban launched an attack that killed all the SEALs except Luttrell, who was sure that the three Afghanis he let go turned around and betrayed his team.
Over the next four days, terribly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains until an Afghani village took …
Does Karl Rove think liberal Hollywood celebrities are second-class citizens? Well, it sure seems so, judging by what happened last night at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. See Update. As you may know, it’s a star-studded event where Wilshire meets Washington (as well as the infamous, like American Idol‘s Sanjaya). But the most interesting dust-up occurred when two of Hollywood’s most prominent environmentalists, singer Sheryl Crow and An Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David, managed to talk to Karl Rove at the Hilton Washington gala about global warming. News accounts called the exchange ”suitably heated”. As Rove walked away, Crow said, “You can’t speak to us like that, you work for us.” Then Rove shot back, “I don’t work for you, I work for the American people.” To which Sheryl replied, “We are the American people.” The Washington Post account is here. Crow’s and David’s is here. (It’s interesting how different both versions are. For instance, the WP implies the two women ambushed Rove. But the duo say they were introduced to him.) Meanwhile, you may have heard that Dubya last night passed up an attempt to be funny because of the Virginia tech tragedy (but not four years of war). Rich Little was mediocre at best. David Letterman, who said he couldn’t attend due to yoga practice, contributed a videotaped “Top 10 George W. Bush Moments”. But, as Editor & Publisher pointed out, no …