Saturday, January 01, 2005's Top Ten Media Stories of 2004

--Two thousand four was a pivotal role for the many facets of the media business. Here's a look at the most influential developments within the biz. See the online version of this article for links to larger stories about each item.

#1 -- The internet comes of age. Political parties turned to email and the web to fund, run, and spin for their operations. Blog was the most-searched for word on the Merriam-Webster dictionary search, making it "word of the year." Blogs played a crucial role in the ouster of political and media bigwigs like Tom Daschle and Dan Rather and gave the public access to the same exit poll numbers that the legacy media had. ABC launches a cable channel that is also streamed through the internet and to

mobile phones.

#2 -- New campaign regulations impact media and politics. Rules banning soft-money caused Democrats to farm out ground operations and advertising to ostensibly independent groups. Third-party ads proliferated despite promises they'd disappear. Swiftboat Veterans for Truth made one of the most effective ad buys in media history.

#3 -- Americans gravitate toward opinionated media. Democrats flocked to broadcast networks, CNN, and John Stewart while Republicans preferred Fox News Channel, AM radio and online publications like The movies with the most buzz were about the death of Jesus and sins of George W. Bush. Talk radio continues to be so popular, FNC and liberal Democrats tried to get in the act.

#4 -- Second Iraq war raises issues. Battlefield reporting changed with the embedded journalist program. Reportorial reliance on anonymous sources changed with the revelation of faulty worldwide intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs and the demands of liberal journalists to know the sources of conservative columnist Robert Novak. Media coverage of casualties and soldier misconduct also provoked debate.

#5 -- Conservatives discover utility of government media apparatus. After years of trying to dismantle agencies like the NPR, the FCC, and PBS, conservatives finally decided to stop letting liberals have all the fun, launching new PBS shows and using the FCC to respond to complaints of indecency.

#6 -- Retirements, deaths. Two thousand four had plenty of media bigwig exits ("Friends," Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, "The Simpsons"). The deaths of important world figures Ronald Reagan and Yasser Arafat received extensive media coverage.

#7 -- New technologies impact all facets of media. In January, Kodak announced it would stop selling almost all film cameras in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. To the chagrin of makeup artists and pornographers, HDTV gained momentum throughout the year. Flat-panel displays replaced cathode ray tubes for most computer buyers. Subscription radio and portable music players sold extremely well. DVDs of television shows became highly popular.

#8 -- Digital rights debate becomes more important. Governments, citizens, and companies begin to seriously discuss to where to draw the line on issues like copyright infringement, trademark violations, online privacy, software openness. The music and movie businesses started suing alleged largescale music pirates.

#9 -- Video games hit the big time. Media companies finally start to realize the money-making potential of computer gaming. Consumers react positively, spending more on games than on movies for the first time. Sequels like Grand Theft Auto 3 and Halo 2 sell like wildfire, earning over $100 million in sales in just one day.

#10 -- Demographic research advances by leaps and bounds. Refined polling methods, database integration, natural-language analysis tools made it easier and easier for businesses, organizations, and governments to analyze public opinion from mailing lists, blogs, online bulletin boards and more. Search engine Google debuted an entirely-computer generated news service allowing the public to do the same with the press.

King Features, Rather Agree to Continue Column

--Dan Rather will continue to write his weekly column for King Features Syndicate after he ends his 24-year tenure as anchor of the "CBS Evening News."

"He wants to continue the column," King Managing Editor Glenn Mott told Editor and Publisher, adding that the syndicator wanted the column to continue.

So who runs Dan's column anyway? About 50 newspapers according to E&P. Last we heard, the only major paper to do so is the Houston Chronicle, of Dan's adopted hometown.

Who Should Replace Rather?

--Inspired by The Media Drop and not wanting to skew their results, is conducting our own reader poll asking the question, "Who should replace Dan Rather?"

You can vote on any of our news pages. Use the link above to discuss your picks.

* John Roberts
* Scott Pelley
* Tim Russert
* Katie Couric
* Brit Hume
* Anderson Cooper
* Aaron Brown
* Keith Olbermann
* Someone else
* Cancel the show

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