Friday, April 29, 2005

"Heaven" May Be A Ripoff, At Least The Movie Version

ANOTHER GO-ROUND FOR RESTON'S PLAGIARISM CLAIMS AGAINST RIDLEY SCOTT AGAINST HIS CRUSADES EPIC "KINGDOM OF HEAVEN"

The Associated Press finally got around yesterday to airing James Reston Jr.'s claims that Ridley Scott ripped off the first 100 pages of one of his books as the basis for Scott's latest cinematic bloodletting starring Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson.
http://www.manyonline.org/AboutBoard.htm
That means most of the rest of the media is finally getting around to picking up a story that first made its rounds in The New York Times on March 28, although most of the backbiting has been confined to the trades.
http://movies.nytimes.com/2005/03/29/movies/29king.html
Fox says Reston's claims are baseless, and Scott claims never to have read Reston's book "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionhearted and Saladin in the Third Crusade."
At the very least, "Kingdom of Heaven" is a catchier title.
If Reston does go ahead and sue -- he'll probably take a gander at the box office first -- good luck, especially since he wrote about historic events. While Scott will never be confused with a biography maven, he is an old hand at planting a foot in the past, real or imagined (read: Gladiator).
Since Reston's book had been pitched to Scott for a movie in 2001, he's claiming it was a bit too much of a coinky-dink that a Crusades movie just happened to come out with Scott's name attached after he took a pass on a screenplay based on Reston's book. It all sounds like a lot that's open to interpretation. Translation: Only the lawyers will come out winners if Reston takes to the courts.
One revealing nugget came from variety on April 19, which reported Reston would love to be included in any stories or features about the film, even though he may sue. Just a hunch: Scotty Jr. shouldn't expect any help from Fox publicity toward that end.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Murdoch To Newspapers: Drop Dead

BUT RUPE MAY BE SPEAKING WITH FORKED, RIGHT-WING TONGUE FIRMLY IN CHEEK; FOX CHIEF KEEPS PECKING IN MEDIA HENHOUSE

In the latest New York Observer, Richard Brookshier makes note of Rupert Murdoch's recent comments to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, where proclaimed they were presiding over a dinosaur medium in danger of soon becoming one giant fossil. Decreed Rupe:

"We need to realize that the next generation of people accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different set of expectations .... Unless we awaken to these changes and adapt quickly, we will, as an industry, be relegated to the status of also-rans."

Fair enough. And Murdoch has been nothing if not prescient over his career. Yet, it's easy to wonder how he can muster the courage behind his convictions. After all, if newspapers are such a dog of a medium, why is he content to lose, by some estimates, at least $40 million publishing the New York Post?

That's a steep price to merely be the conservative bulldog barking up a storm in a left-leaning town. If Murdoch truly believed newspapers should be put to sleep, he could exercise greater dominion over the newscasts on the two TV stations he owns in New York. But it's just not the same and Murdoch knows that.

Those who incur the Post's wrath can take comfort in knowing most TV viewers will not have seen the 10 p.m. news on channels 5 and 9. But friends and enemies are bound to catch up with the latest screeds in the Post, either by plunking down a quarter for the tab, or by migrating to the paper's very popular Web site. Suffice to say, that's an ego trip Murdoch will be making for a long time to come, no matter how expensive it gets.

And don't you think he gets more than a frisson of excitement looking at the still-thick circulation numbers in the UK, where The Sun and its bodacious, bare-breasted babes on Page 3 http://www.page3.com/ and the weekly trashfest contained in The News Of The World http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/ handily outsell all comers?
In fact, News Corp. still puts out 175 newspapers on three continents with a circulation in the neighborhood of 40 million.
That's a lot of readers, and a lot of money. Murdoch will e buying newsprint by the tanker-load well into his dotage. Newspapers may be old media. But they still work. And nobody knows that better than Murdoch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Not All Critics Juiced By New Bruce

STILL, MANY ARE BEWITCHED BY SPRINGSTEEN'S "DEVILS AND DUST" AS THE BOSS SHOWS HE'S BORN TO DO A LOT MORE THAN RUN IN THE U.S.A.

Sorry, I couldn't take off work to scoot down to Tower Records to get my copy of "Devils and Dust" this morning. Not worth the schlep when you can get it four bucks cheaper online. No offense, Boss. He still challenges, delights and enraptures me like no other musician. It's just that I can get by for a couple of days on downloads of the title cut and tonight's VH1 Storytellers meditation on his 13th album.

For the critics who have gotten the full listen, there is a mix of hosannas and ho-hum. Some genuinely love the brooding tracks, others suspect they've heard this before and done better, no less.

Sean Daly in The Washington Post encapsulates the conflicts felt by many a Springsteen fanatic. They're happiest when he's a rockin', but then there are those slow, quiet songs. Fear not.
"[T]he blue-collar bard has managed to make an album that is both personal and accessible, good news for fans who feel guilty that "Tom Joad" was listened to once and never again."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/25/AR2005042501567.html.

But Jim Farber in the New York Daily News is among those who find those ghosts still linger, which can make "Devils and Dust" an endurance test more than a musical monument.
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/story/303148p-259531c.html

Unfortunately, "Devils & Dust," like "Tom Joad," mainly finds Springsteen in a murmuring rut. While other players appear on the CD, the focus remains on Springsteen's rickety guitar and broken vocals. Both seem so weighed down by their dire subject matter, they're often squashed.

Jeepers. I guess that mean no trips down Thunder Road in a Pink Cadillac for us.

The AP's David Bauder is more blunt. He says the album is just plain "boring" and a blip at best in the Springsteen canon that can be easily forgotten.
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=1675&dept_id=18179&newsid=14414969&PAG=461&rfi=9

Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times noted it's easy to see how these meditations can be akin to taking foul-tasting medicine for some fans. But he found the album "pleasantly inviting," even though "songs give us the bare bones Boss croaking like a guy from Jersey imitating a guy from Oklahoma over a sad and naked acoustic ."
http://www.suntimes.com/output/entertainment/cst-ftr-bruce26.html

In Detroit, where Springsteen kicked off his latest tour, the Free Press' Brian McCollum noted the album title may have helped inspire a dose of old-time religion in Springsteen.
[I]it's been a spirituality of the opaque sort: the perpetual hunt for redemption after the fall, or for catharsis amid the muck. Here he gets direct, calling straight out to God..."
http://www.freep.com/entertainment/music/sjlede24e_20050424.htm

In what was more of a homily than a review, Michael Riley in The Asbury Park Press -- Springsteen's hometown paper -- took the album's spiritual themes maybe even further than the Boss himself intended. Which may not be much of a reach for Riley, given that he's also an ordained Baptist minister.
"The broken souls in "Devils & Dust" pray hard and often, even if they don't realize it, even if they give voice to those prayers in wishes and vows. "
Amen to that, I think.
http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050424/ENT04/504240322/1031/ENT

Dan Aquilante of the New York Post liked the album, sprituality and all, but seem disappointed that Springsteen, a loud John Kerry supporter, has made an essentially non-political statement with "Devils and Dust."
"Even the title track, inspired by the invasion of Iraq, isn't political, it's personal. The songs opens with Springsteen plaintively singing, "I got my finger on the trigger, but I don't know who to trust ... I feel a dirty wind blowing devils and dust."
http://www.nypost.com/entertainment/45151.htm
Which obviously leaves his Democrat-chewing bosses at the Murdoch-owned Post crestfallen.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Golden Boy Mitch Albom Tarnished, But Gets To Keep Job

GUTLESS MANAGEMENT DECIDES FICTION IN THE "FREE PRESS" NOT SUCH A BAD THING AFTER ALL, AS LONG AS IT'S WRITTEN BY A SUPERSTAR COLUMNIST

The Detroit Free Press brass had their chance to take a stand. Instead, they cowered under their desks for fear of what might happen if they canned columnist-superstar Mitch Albom for penning a column about something that never happened but written as if he was there.
Albom's been on paid leave since April 7, the newspaper launched an "investigation" into what happened. Over the weekend, Free Press editor and publisher Carole Leigh Hutton wrote in a note to readers that Albom and four editors would be disciplined, and that the column would return.
"We took into account many factors, including the seriousness of the offense, the importance of our credibility, the history of those involved and Albom's 20 stellar years at the Free Press," Hutton wrote.
Which meant she left many questions unanswered, and still has. She clammed up when quizzed by Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp. Pressed on why Albom wasn't fired for writing about something that didn't occur, she said only "I didn't think that was the appropriate discipline in this case."
And that's about all Hutton would offer, except to promise that the Free Press would publish an article at some point to explain what happen.
Then again, this was the same paper that spiked a bad review of Albom's latest book "Five People You'll Meet In Heaven," so don't get your hopes up.
And remember, Hutton is editor AND publisher. It's not just about the integrity of the news product, especially when your bottom line could fall through the trap door. And in a city like Detroit, whose two papers have since precipitous circulation drops, you can't lose whatever edge you may have.
And one of the few the Free Press may possess is Albom, who by all accounts has a genuine following and has justly built his street cred as a revered media titan in the Motor City. Until now.
The Free Press doesn't want to find out the hard way if giving Albom the boot will siphon away even more readers. After all, what's the use in having credibility if nobody's reading the paper, right?
The Free Press assumes most of its readers are in forgive-and-forget mode. And they may be right. So it really should come as no surprise the paper will welcome back Albom with open arms, or at least make sure the door doesn't hit him and his outsized ego on the way back in. But it's sad and pathetic all the same.
Look for Albom's next column and see if the words "I'm sorry" appear. Now that would be something worth reading about. Assuming, of course, it was true.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Weekly Read Out---Internet Hunting, Icebergs 101, and a Tax On Chewing

Everything you wanted to know about icebergs, but were too cold to ask, courtesy of Daniel Engber at Slate:
http://www.slate.com/id/2117097/
You'd think gun-lovin' Texans would have no problem with Internet hunting, that is controlling a gun from a computer to blast away at varmints. But the Lone Star State apparently wants you to do your killing up close and personal, as Nancy Vogel writes in the Los Angeles Times.
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-liveshot21apr21,0,4157569.story?coll=la-home-headlines.
Singapore's saying I told you so: Now it's Liverpool that wants to make life difficult for chewing gum manufacturers.
http://society.guardian.co.uk/localgovt/news/0,8368,1466659,00.html.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Newspapers Looking For Love And Readers

THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING! BUT ONE DAY YOU MAY ONLY BE ABLE TO READ ABOUT IT ONLINE

Gone are the days when owning the local newspaper was essentially a license to print money. The Internet and shifting readership habits saw to that.
Not to worry, the 1,450 daily newspapers in the U.S. are not on the fast track to extinction -- yet. With more than half of us reading some 58 million copies daily, there's still plenty of paper to recycle.
Still, those numbers keep slipping despite many papers' yeoman efforts to keep themselves compelling and relevant. Of course, that hasn't meant diddly to shareholders still feasting on the spoils from the glory days of earlier decades. Witness the cutbacks at the Los Angeles Times, despite winning seven Pulitzers in the last two years alone.
A lot of hand-wringing has been going on this week in San Francisco, at the annual conference for the Newspaper Association of America, where attendees have gotten used to hearing bad news. Among the latest nuggets: A report that newspapers could lose $4 billion a year to the Internet in classified ads within two years.
One NAA official took a glass-is-half-full approach: "It's not too late to recover, but the door of opportunity is closing quickly."
http://www.adage.com/news.cms?newsId=44826#
You can forgive those in attendance if they're not convinced about that. After all, how many of them have cut their newshole, staff and other expenses because the money doesn't just roll up to the door like it used to? Classified ads are virtually pure profit. If they go away, so does the holiday bonus, or worse.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Cardinals Bless The Media By Picking Frontrunner

REPORTERS BREATHE SIGH OF RELIEF AS FAVORITE WINS VATICAN HORSE RACE

No doubt correspondents at the Vatican had plenty of B-matter already written on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he emerged from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Benedict XVI. It would have been interesting if a dark horse had emerged as a consensus candidate, and reporters had to instead scratch their heads and scramble to write a few fresh grafs before hitting the send button.

But Ratzinger it was, which allowed The New York Times to hit the web at 1:35 p.m. ET. with a bylined article from Ian Fisher and Christine Hauser, whose name was swapped out for religion writer Laurie Goodstein in a writethrough 10 minutes later, and sent to the bottom of the story.
The Times took a wire-serviceish approach in the lead, allowing the context to follow later:

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope today, taking the name Benedict XVI, then telling a wildly cheering crowd from a balcony on St. Peter's Basilica, "I entrust myself to your prayers."

Perfectly serviceable, and not as dry as the Washington Post lead that followed 10 minutes later.

The Los Angeles Times, though, tried to set up right away what was to come, or not to come, from the Vatican, calling Ratzinger a "hard-line doctrinal watchdog."
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-041905pope_lat,0,3525431.story?coll=la-home-headlines.

Visitors to the Chicago Tribune Web site were told the paper was putting out an extra edition this afternoon, which may explain why it used AP copy in its initial Pope dispatch.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-pope,1,2407790.story?coll=chi-news-hed. So did the Philadelphia Inquirer, although they trotted out an analysis of Ratzinger that was already in the can, where David O'Reilly notes the legacy of John Paul II won't be fading anytime soon.

Tradition and orthodoxy will surely be the hallmark of the Ratzinger pontificate. He not only condemns homosexuality as "an intrinsic moral evil" but has suggested that Catholic altars should face east, to Jerusalem.
http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/special_packages/pope/11433617.htm
To paraphrase The Who: Meet the new pope; same as the old pope.

Boston Globe readers had to go past photos of yesterday's Boston Marathon and click on a small icon for breaking news to find out about the pope, a curious omission given the number of Roman Catholics who live in the area. Early on, the Globe relied on the AP and didn't glom on to its corporate cousin, The Times.
USA Today might have been better off sticking with the AP, rather than cobbling together a staff-wire hybrid on its Web site that led off with this mess:

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a high-profile conservative, Tuesday was elected the 265th pope of the Catholic Church and chose the name Benedict XVI.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-04-19-newpope_x.htm
Holy Father, get me rewrite.






Monday, April 18, 2005

The Best Show on TV Can't Get "Arrested" By Nielsen

A bittersweet night on Fox yesterday, when the season (and please let it be just that) finale of "Arrested Development" aired.

The show was its usual hilarious self, but I couldn't help but be a bit wistful given that Fox hasn't decided whether "A.D." will be back for another go-round this fall. Right now, it's not looking good for the 6 million or so of us hopelessly devoted to the misadventures of the hapless Bluth clan.

Sure, the show's won three Emmys and a Golden Globe, yet it's caught in a time-slot purgatory and a lead-in from "The Simpsons" that doesn't deliver up enough devotees.

Fox launched a kill-the-show-in-order-to-save-it approach to A.D., cutting the 22-episode season order to 18. Then network big cheese Gail Berman said she was doing the show a favor so it wouldn't have even lower ratings during May sweeps. Gee, thanks, Gail. Sort of.

Fox says it doesn't want to deep-six "A.D.," so now it wants listeners to left-click their sentiments at http://www.getarrested.com/ in order for us to show proper fealty and get others of like mind to follow suit. Hey, whatever it takes, I'm on board. Barring that, I'm sure HBO wouldn't have a hard time finding a slot given that most of their shows are signing off or withering on the vine.

Which brings me to Kansas City Star TV critic Aaron Barnhart, whom I'm normally a big fan of. In his latest column posted on his TV Barn blog, http://www.tvbarn.com/archives/028745.php, Barnhart regrettably regards "A.D." as overpraised.

"Arrested Development” is a likable if not quite lovable program, solidly entertaining but more in the league of “Scrubs” than of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the two shows I think it would like to be when it grows up.

Ouch, Mr. B. I'm actually a big "Scrubs" fan, too. Dunno, but all the abusurdities, parodies, in-jokes and irony that pile up there and on "A.D." provide a good chunk of the laughs I'm able to dredge up on the network schedules (Cable is a whole different animal).

Giving the network credit for putting the show on the air in the first place and keeping it on the air despite mediocre ratings is no longer enough. Can Fox do better in "A.D.'s" time slot? Of course not. Does it matter? Ditto.

It's usually simpler to cancel a show rather than figure out how it can find an audience. How nice it would be for the gang in Murdochville to not take the easy way out.

Toiletmania---Thailand To Be Next Year's Porcelain King

A recent wire story picked up from the Bangkok Post told of how Thailand would be the host for next year's World Toilet Summit. What a pisser.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=817&ncid=757&e=10&u=/ap/20050414/ap_on_fe_st/world_toilet_summit course, you might find an item about international experts huddling for what could be called Flush Fest (this year's will be held in Shanghai) unless you've happened to use a public toilet in many parts of Asia. Suffice to say, these guys have a lot to talk about.
A visit to www.worldtoilet.org shows what much of the world is up against:

Public toilets serve the male and female but it goes beyond that. What about the visually, physically and mentally handicapped, the child, the elderly, or people with babies, as well as certain religious and cultural toilet requirements? The female visits the toilet 3 times longer than the male; logically they need more toilet cubicles because of the absence of urinals.

And most women in the United States find that just about everywhere they try to pee in public is illogical.

To be sure, there are many places in the United States where the concept of cleanliness being next go godliness has not reached the bathroom. However, the U.S. affiliate for the World Toilet Organization is the Baltimore-based International Paruresis Association, whose reason for being is a disorder that prevents people from urinating in public places or in the presence of other people [not a good situation for Olympic athletes who have to pee on demand while some lucky soul gets to watch].

If you believe the claims at http://www.paruresis.org, 7 percent of the population has bashful bladders. The rest of us just hold our nose and hope for the best.

IN OTHER W.C. NEWS, UPDATED MAY 31.
In Finland, they don't have a problem holding it in, it's what to do after it comes out, thanks to a shortage of T.P. for the W.C.
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1410062.html?menu=

Friday, April 15, 2005

Weekly Read-Out--"Trek" bit players have 15 minutes extended; making love the Green way, a really bad day in New Jersey and pizza wars

The Los Angeles Times found there are some who got to orbit in the "Star Trek" universe are getting their 16th minute of fame, thanks to lots of undersexed men who still live in their parents' basement.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-bitplayers8apr08,0,5077740.story?coll=la-home-headlines
Birds do it, bees do it, and so do a couple of environmentalists who have a found they can hug trees and hump each other for fun, profit and to promote a good cause.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2005/04/13/gree.DTL
Think you had a bad day? The Bergen Record's Rich Cowen reports on a couple of guys in New Jersey who can easily beat you in a game of "Can You Top That?"
http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0NSZmZ2JlbDdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5NjY3OTE1MSZ5cmlyeTdmNzE3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTM Ed Levine just put out "Pizza: A Slice Of Heaven," where he talks about where to find a slice that's a transcendent experience rather than a gloppy mess of sauce, tasteless cheese and rancid dough. Levine traveled the U.S. and Italy in search of that all-defining pie. One place that got the hook was Chicago, whose deep-dish pizza Levine called a good casserole, but certainly not pizza.
As you can imagine, Chicagoans don't like being left out of the pizza pantheon. And though Mike Thomas in the Chicago Sun-Times doesn't mention Levine by name, you can tell right away he has little use for him.
http://www.suntimes.com/output/food/foo-news-pizza30.html

Much About Mitch: Why Don't More Think There Should Be An Albom Cut At The "Free Press"

Maybe I'm missing something. Or perhaps the media have been so beaten down by the Jayson Blairs, the Jack Kellys and their odious ilk to muster sufficent outrage over the fact that Mitch Albom submitted an advance column about something that wound up never happening, but he penned it as if he was right there all along.

Albom made the mistake that even most pimply-faced cub reporters wouldn't attempt, let alone an award-winning, millionaire Friend Of Oprah columnist.

The reaction of editors has been, to say the very least, puzzling. Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp recently polled a bunch of them at the ASNE convention, and only one came right out and said Albom should be canned outright.

"It is dishonest, and if you look at what we do, that is one of the things we cannot afford to do," said Rocky Mountain News editor and publisher John Temple, who nevertheless eqivocated on whether Albom should be ousted.

Then you have to wonder about guys like Bill Thomas, editor of the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, MI, who called Albom "sloppy," but praised him as "an accomplished writer who is entitled to one mistake."
Thomas is assuming there is just one mistake. But even if it's just this transgression, shouldn't that be enough when fiction masquerades as a column?

To be sure, Albom has engendered less sympathy in the trenches -- to a point. Aaron Bracy, who writes for the Courier-Post in suburban Philadelphia, took Albom to task for further widening the credibility gap between the media and readers, but said if this is a one-time offense, let it pass and have Albom and others learn from what happened. All well and good, but if Albom needs to learn not to deceive readers, does he really deserve his column?
http://www.courierpostonline.com/news/sports/s041505l.htm

Fortunately, the blogosphere has no shortage of seeing this issue for what it is. Among them is Bill Gallagher:

He could have written the piece in a number of different ways or he could have chosen to write about something else. His editors would have taken anything Lord Albom deigned to submit. But it's clear he followed his appetite for mushy, feel-good stuff and fictionalized the scene accordingly.
http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/gallagher209.html

Then there are bloggers who think they know what they are talking about, but stumble badly when trying to spew out their tired left-leaning media conspiracy bromides to explain away Albom. Such is James Joyner's OutsideTheBeltway.com.

I would point out that columns and even straight news stories are written ALL THE TIME as if the story had already happened. It's not unusual to get a story from the wire services or major newspapers written several hours before, say, a presidential speech that already has the quotes (via advance copy) of what the president will say and, indeed, (via reactions to the advance copy) the reaction of Democratic opponents and Republican supporters.
http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/10026

Yes, and no. In his rush to make the facts fit his opinion, Joyner leaves out a crucial element. While the stories are written before the speech is delivered, they say so ("In remarks prepared for delivery tonight, the president said....."). There's no deception. The stories are advancers and everybody knows that up front. If the president deviated from the script, the story can be updated in later editions. Albom didn't provide himself any wiggle room, and when the events he described didn't pan out, he made himself and the Detroit Free Press look foolish.

Joyner then launches a non-sequitur missile when he argues what Albom did was akin to writing obituaries in advance of somebody dying. What he conveniently forgets, or maybe never knew, is that newspapers didn't tell you the pope died before he actually did. Writers of non-fiction don't assume.

In a conclusion that only someone who gives the impression that they've never set foot inside a newsroom could make, Joyner says what Albom did was "not unethical, unprofessional or unusual."

Let's hope Albom's bosses at the Free Press don't feel the same.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

So Why Hasn't Mitch Albom Been Fired Yet?

There are the working stiffs in the newspaper business, and then there are the poseurs, the local legends, the star columnist who may actually be the reason, or one among many that people buy the paper. Mitch Albom is all of these.
Which is why he may actually survive penning a column about something that never happened, but made it seem like he was there the whole time.
If you're tuning in late, Albom wrote in his April 3, Detroit Free Press column about two former Michigan State hoop stars flying to St. Louis for the NCAA basketball championship to root on their former team. Only thing wrong? The players never made it to the game. But to hear Albom tell it:
"[I]n talking to both players ... it was a chance to do something almost all of us would love to do: recapture , for a few hours, the best time of their lives."
Albom rolled the dice, writing a Sunday column on Friday for an event on Saturday. Oops. Now his column is suspended, and Albom's on paid leave while the Free Press investigates what happened.
Maybe I can help them out: Mitch lied.
And he took the newspaper's credibility along his journalistic road to perdition. Not quite Jayson Blair territory, but scary close, don't you think?
But wait, you say. Doesn't Mitch have editors? And why didn't red flags pop up in the newsroom like the cherry blossoms come spring? Excellent questions both. If Mitch gets canned and/or caned for this work, then the editors who slotted for the early Sunday edition of the sports section shouldn't be spared.
One excuse has already emerged, namely they were blinded by Mitch's star power. After all, it's not every paper that has a columnist who also pens runaway bestsellers like "Five People You Meet On Tuesdays With Morrie In Heaven." And has a radio show. And appears on ESPN. Sometimes he even writes for the Free Press.
In the end, that's why we're still talking about Mitch's column in the present tense. Mere mortals would've gotten the boot and an escort from the building by a couple of moonlighting bouncers who'd ensure the door wouldn't hit us on the way out.
Mitch is a brand, and the Free Press needs all the help it can get to differentiate itself from the Detroit News, where the gloating marathon is no doubt continuing unabated.
So, what becomes a legend most may wind up being a trip to the woodshed rather than the woodchipper. And that would be a shame, especially given that the guilty party has been less than contrite and seems more sorry about getting caught than acknowledging his misdeeds.
Getting rid of Albom should be as easy a decision as it was to run his column without question. Payback's a bitch, Mitch.

Monday, April 11, 2005

No Call Waiting: Cell Phones Better Than Sex

A study by BBDO Worldwide finds an alarming number of people will stop in the middle of a sex act to answer their mobile phone.
Which may say a lot about their partners. Or, it may speak volumes about how cellphones are the new heroin. Verizon, Sprint and Cingular have us right where they want us.
Sex? Been there, climaxed that. But that new ringtone from Chingy's latest single? Now you're talking, baby. And it'll respect you in the morning to boot.

As Alice Cuneo notes in Advertising Age: The findings arrive as the wireless industry is aggressively ramping up its effort to promote the cell phone as a content- and advertising-delivering device to potentially rival that of TV or the Internet. Cynics, however, question whether most consumers will want to watch programming and ads on a screen hardly larger than the face of a wristwatch. Wireless content evangelists rebut that the emotional connection between individual consumers and their cell phones is an extraordinary one.

An emotional connection you scoff? See what happens next time you're in bed and it's the Motorola that's doing the vibrating.

http://www.adage.com/news.cms?newsId=44753

Friday, April 08, 2005

Weekly Read-Out--A Pope Scoop, An Overly Erect Statue, Breastfeeding Tigers and a Not-So-Gay Wedding

British tabs are ruthless in being first on a story. But sometimes it's a happy accident when that happens, as one Daily Mail scribe found out when the Pope was shot in 1981.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/pope/story/0,12272,1453353,00.html
Is that a statue or are you just glad to see me? A Dutch homage to the end of the German occupation is not what some folks have in mind.
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1338901.html?menu=news.quirkies.badtaste
Sometimes, a short headline is all you need to click on the story. How about this one? "Woman breastfeeds tigers." Gotcha.
http://www.smh.com.au/news/Unusual-Tales/Woman-breastfeeds-tigers/2005/04/04/1112489391612.html.
I just caught up to this series the Boston Globe put out last year on one family dealing with two weddings. Getting married is stressful enough, but when one is a gay wedding at a time when there was question about whether such unions would be legal makes for a compelling tale, not to mention that the family has enough back stories for a four-part series that's worth the time.
http://www.boston.com/news/specials/bestmen/
It's also interesting to note the Globe's long note on its reporting techniques for the story, including these revealing and refreshing sentences: Unless otherwise noted in the text, all direct quotes were either heard by a reporter or confirmed by two or more parties present when the conversation took place. When someone's thoughts or feelings are described, the source is that person.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Popepourri--All Sorts Of Spin And Sidebars From The Vatican

Here's a lead you likely won't see in any American newspaper, but a winner all the same. From The Australian:

In death, Pope John Paul II has achieved what he failed to in life - bringing the commander in chief of the world's superpower to his knees.

George W. Bush made history yesterday as the first American president to attend a papal funeral, kneeling in silent prayer before the Catholic leader who opposed US intervention in Iraq.

Over in the UK, The Daily Mirror, which usually never resists an attempt to bash Bush, instead had a dispatch from reporter Alexandra Williams, who stood on line for the Pope walk-by.

The look on John Paul II's face was pained. I could not help thinking that his final hours might not have been quite as serene as we have been told.

Peter Popham in The Independent noted that Bush may be seated close to Iran's president Khatami tomorrow at the funeral, putting Dubya remarkably close to one of his "evildoers."

And lest we forget, the Pope is nothing if not big bucks, at least for the landlords and others fleecing the media for prime Vatican views.

A television producer for a European company said that several years ago the owners of a prime building asked him to pay $200,000 for the peak coverage period.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-0504060239apr06,1,853641.story?coll=chi-homepagenews-utl

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Pulitzers: Kudos Give Way To Reality In The Newsroom

Amid the popping of champagne corks, hugs, and high-fives in some newsrooms that produced winning Pulitzer Prize entries was the sobering reality that a news organization that could nurture great work would also take steps to ensure that such lofty journalistic heights would never be scaled again.
Exhibits A and B come from the Tribune Co., whose Newsday and Los Angeles Times won Pulitzers, which is nothing unusual for either paper.
Newsday shared the award for international reporting for Dele Olojede's four-part series on the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide 10 years later. A worthy honor for a reporter who often shone because he was cut loose to do enterprise reporting across continents. But to bask in the kudos that flowed his way for the Pulitzer, Olojede had to make a special trip. You see, he was among the reporters and editors who took a buyout last year, not long after his series was published.
Newsday was cutting bodies to trim costs and let Olojede -- who had become Newsday's foreign editor -- walk. Not everyone who wanted the buyout bucks was as fortunate. Safe to say, it may not have been the way that Olojede wanted to leave the paper he joined as an intern out of Columbia J-School in 1988.
Would Newsday have barred the door if Olojede had won the prize earlier? Hard to say. Tribune's lately been run from its HQ free of sentiment.
The L.A. Times has learned this the hard way. It won the Public Service prize -- the Big Kahuna for the Pulitzers -- and the other half of the International award, for reporting from Russia by Kim Murphy.
The Times, which has won 37 Pulitzers, has suffered for its drops in circulation. The gang in Chicago continues to nip, tuck, squeeze and wheedle savings out of its largest property. So far, the product we see hasn't frayed even if it's in danger of showing signs of wear.
It is telling in the Times' Pulitzer article that it mentioned "Reporters and editors gave a loud and extended ovation to Publisher John P. Puerner, who has been seen as a champion of the newspaper's editorial operations in an era of cost-cutting. Puerner announced last month that he would take a "self-imposed career break" at the end of May, to be replaced by his protege, Jeffrey M. Johnson."
Being good is not good enough. Pulitzer Prizes don't sell papers. That's the problem. And a shame.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Can't Anybody Here Write About This Game? The Wall Street Journal's Baseball Illiteracy

More often than not, the Wall Street Journal does an eminenty decent job covering sports, even when it looks overly priggish when it uses courtesy titles with such items ("Mr. Matsui, nicknamed Godzilla....."), something even The NY Times dispenses with.
Still, somebody was asleep at the copy desk, or just plain clueless, while looking over Stephen Barbara's piece about the possible resurgence of my beloved Mets on the back of yesterday's Personal Journal section.
"More colorful advertising is on its way, with Ray Romano reportedly in talks to do a radio spot."
Actually, Steve, it was beyond the talking stage as of March 25, and you can hear the ad whenever you want on http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050328&content_id=979551&vkey=news_nym&fext=.jsp&c_id=nym.
"I asked Dave Howard of the Mets marketing team if the Mets ownership will continue to buy expensive players..."
Technically correct, although it makes it seem like he's something less than what he is, which is Executive Vice President of Business Operations. If anything, Howard is the head of the Mets marketing team.
"[T]he Mets have hired Willie Randolph as their coach...."
Wrong-O, Steve-O. Sure, Willie was relegated for far too long as a coach while with the Yankees. But he's the manager now, Mr. Randolph to you.

The coach-manager thing is something Steve Hartman screwed up on "60 Minutes Wednesday" during his otherwise-fun piece on why the Detroit Tigers don't deserve his loyalty anymore. He called the team's manager Alan Trammell "coach" and nobody caught it in the editing room?
It was the only blip during a show that made a strong case for why "60W" should live long and prosper and not be sitting in Moonves Purgatory. The Anderson Cooper segment on football players and steroids rightly drew national headlines, and Dan Rather deftly engaged in some friendly sparring with Jack Welch, although the former GE chieftain had to clam up when asked about his ex-wife. A slip of the tongue there would not have accrued to his bottom line.