Monday Morning Edition 11/23/09

WORRY: HAS ST. PETE TIMES SOLD OUT TO SCIENTOLOGY?

The Poynter-insulated St. Petersburg (Florida) Times sold its Governing magazine to the e.Republic magazine group — a company owned by members of the Church of Scientology. This raises red flags because The Times is the most significant media organization to risk challenging the Church in recent years (a courageous action, given the Church’s proclivity for strong-arming questioning media). The Times has run numerous articles focusing on the Church’s real estate holdings and headquarters operations in the St. Pete area. Additionally, one of the most respected Web sites that reports extensively on media news and ethics — the non-profit Poynter Online — is part of the St. Pete Times family. (It was from Poynter Online that I first learned of the sale.)

And then there’s concern for Governing magazine itself, and a fear (acute this week given renewed concerns over developments at the Unification Church-related Washington Times) of its independence being sublimated to the mission of advancing Scientology’s agenda.

On your very first day as a new hire at e.Republic, you’re given a copy of Speaking From Experience, a management training book written by the late L. Ron Hubbard…

All new hires are required to not only read the book, but also take a course based on its contents [which] have the higher goal of “improving conditions in your business, your life and on Earth in general.”…

Company executives deny they’re trying to spread Scientology. Dennis McKenna, who founded e.Republic in 1983, says the Hubbard-based training is completely optional and adds, “In 18 years we’ve never had a complaint.”

But perhaps that’s because some employees don’t feel like they can complain. Some of those within the company who are not Scientologists say that the executives at e.Republic are so close to Scientology that they don’t understand where the “training” ends and the religion begins. Which could become a problem when you consider the company’s business.

Over the past 18 years, e.Republic has essentially become the principal information source on governments’ adoption of technology. The company’s conferences draw everybody who’s anybody among the government “digerati.” Its magazines, notably its flagship, Government Technology, have become the industry bibles of the government techno-nerd set. For instance, if you want the latest news on whether governments will supply online access to court files, you’ll find it in Government Technology. Another e.Republic offshoot, the Center for Digital Government, provides research and consulting to state and local governments.

More on this in a future post.

This post was significantly corrected and supplemented at 11:33 am ET.

_______________________

CIRC EVEN WORSE: New audit rules count readers twice. [Greenslade]

Until this year, newspapers that sold print/digital subscriptions in a single package could only count them once. Under new rules from April onwards, individuals who got the bundled subscription deals could be counted twice.

COSTLY POST: Depressed woman says she lost health benefits after posting a happy photo on Facebook. [Mashable]

THE COST OF FREE DISTRIBUTION: London Standard’s analysis. [Newspaper Innovation]

McCLATCHY ON KINDLE: Announcement made on Facebook. [Editor & Publisher]

DAVID POGUE’S GIFT GUIDE: e-Book readers.

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