Fools Errands

April Fools Day brought the wits and wags out of the woodwork.

There was the release from Tribune saying that it had changed the name of the company to ZellCoMediaEnterprises, playing on fears of the changes contemplated or wrought by new owner/chairman Sam Zell.

The gag extended to the Web site, where the home page was remade to reflect the new name and had such elements as a tip jar to help out reporters and a scrolling debt ticker moving at lightning speed. I wonder how funny that was to some Tribune and ex-Tribune reporters.

Then there was the story on VideoNuze suggesting ABC had been purchased by Steve Jobs, with Disney using the proceeds to fund broadband-delivered video webisodes. Perhaps not as outlandish as it might seem.

We also got a release on a massive new intellectual property bill, the "Assuring Protections and Remedies

for Intellectual Property Laws Act of 2008."
  that Public Knowledge complained about in a press release, saying anyone would have to be a fool to vote for the bill and  calling it a "tragedy wrapped in a travesty," as well as a "travesty wrapped in a tragedy."

The bill, S. 4108 (get it?) was a poke at a bill that toughens copyright enforcement and creates an IP czar in the White House.

I haved mixed feelings about fake news stories. I am OK with Nestle sending out press releases and free candy bars with the name "Butterfinger" changed  to "The Finger," though corporations rarely play so fast and loose with the brand as to give "The Finger" to news operations like CNN, which got the release and candy and reported the spoof on-air.

But I have always thought that news operations should avoid purposely giving anyone a reason not to believe what they report.

But, hey, maybe that is just me.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.