Wednesday, December 27, 2006
But breaking news sometimes has a way of pushing back those deadlines. Ford's passing didn't rise to that level for papers like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, whose editions that arrived on my doorstep this morning failed to note.
At that hour, the front page is locked up for copies that are going beyond the city limits. The exception for late news at that hour is sports, as evidenced by the Times recounting the Jets' win late Christmas night that appeared in Tuesday's papers.
You would think, though, that because the sports section has a late close, the Ford obit could have been stuck there, with a quick refer inserted in a box on A-1 to at least cover you for the early edition, saving the banner head for the late city edition.
But even the Times wasn't quick enough to act, which means you have to read its exhaustive obit online. Which may be what editors intended.
Long gone are the days when you had to rely on the print version to get your news, and the Times and the other 400-pound print gorillas have continuous news desks for that reason. Still, if you automatically assume that people will rely more on their computer instead of the front page for their information, then before long fewer people will feel compelled to read that front page and the rest of the paper, the very engine that's driving the Web sites in the first place. Which, of course, means the print versions need, more than ever, to stay relevant. And the first step is to get the most important news of the day into the paper, even if it means pushing back those crucial deadlines a few minutes.
The death of a president would certainly qualify on that account.
CBS told viewers about the death of the 38th president, with a crawling headline while "The Late Show" played on. And that was it. No special report. Can't interrupt the network's $30 million man. Don't deprive us of Stupid Pet Tricks, though that dachsund that could put himself in his cage was pretty damn good.
The network supposedly learned its lesson 10 years ago when there was no anchor in the broadcast center on the Saturday night over Labor Day weekend when Princess Diana died in Paris. NBC and ABC, along with CNN, had blanket coverage. CBS affiliates were left to wallow in their local programming.
Belatedly, CBS scrambled to put on a perfunctory special report anchored by Vince DeMentri, a local anchor in New York who had just finished his newscast.
The TV news division had taken the weekend off, and it showed. Ironically, it was CBS Radio -- with correspondents Adam Raphael in London and Elaine Cobbe in Paris -- that was first with the confirmation that Diana was dead.
But that episode led to wholesale changes at CBS, including having a correspondent in the building at all hours in case the network had to go live. So how does the death of a president not give rise to that? The network had an obit ready to go. It could get its consultants and correspondents on the phone and cobble together some information. Bill Plante, Bob Schieffer and Mark Knoller come quickly to mind.
But it didn't. Once again, the decisionmakers at CBS News decided to go on holiday and turn their Blackeberrys off. When you work at a network, you don't wait until morning to report the news. The radio news division certainly didn't, cranking out three updates an hour all night. Their colleagues at TV couldn't muster anything close to that effort.
NBC could at least claim it had an excuse, namely MSNBC. But rapid channel surfing as news of Ford's death broke betrayed no hint that the network interrupted "The Tonight Show" when it could have simply simulcasted MSNBC to alert viewers in all time zones about what happened. But there was no apparent game plan -- no black book to consult when such an emergency occurs. You can't assume people will automatically gravitate to cable when news breaks. Own the story unless told otherwise. "Today" more than made up for the network's lapses last night, but it was way too late in the game.
The cable networks acquitted themselves well as the news broke. MSNBC had Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and Andrea Mitchell on the phone weighing in. But why couldn't they have done the same on the Peacock?
ABC got lucky, sort of. "Nightline" was on in the East Coast when Ford's death was announced. At least it covered the news in real time, but only to a point. "Jimmy Kimmel Live" went on as scheduled.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Matthew LaClair would prefer to be just another junior at Kearny High School in New Jersey. Unfortunately, his history teacher David Paszkiewicz won't let him.
In a story that's gaining in national traction, especially after yesterday's New York Times piece, LaClair recorded the teacher telling his students that if they didn't accept Jesus they would go to hell. For good measure, he proclaimed there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark, and that there was no scientific basis for evolution. And let's not forget, Paszikewicz intoned, only Christians would be allowed in heaven.
"Basically, what he said is this is the truth," LaClair told Brian Lehrer on WNYC. (Click here for the interview).
The sad part about the Times story was to find out that LaClair has become a pariah for having the temerity to protest when the church-state boundary was repeatedly trampled on by Paszkiewicz, who's a youth church minister outside of school. LaClair has lost friends and even received a death threat.
Paszkiewicz was described by the school's principal as an "excellent" teacher, even though he appears to have a rather fuzzy knowledge of the Constitution. Judge for yourself from these clips.
And judging is what many people in Kearny, a blue-collar, perhaps too-close-knit town about 10 miles from Manhattan, are doing.
The level of hate directed at LaClair and his father Paul, a lawyer now considering suing the school district is startling and scary. Reading the message boards at Kearnyontheweb.com make the town seem more like a 21st-century version of Salem.
Give Paul LaClair a lot of credit for giving as good as he got on the boards, and for shredding Paszkiewicz and the district that tolerates his proselytizing, in a letter to the local paper, The Observer.
For now, school officials are hiding under the "it's a personnel matter" excuse to decline to say what actions they belatedly took against Paszkiewicz, who likely would have continued on his "fire and brimstone" approach to history were it not for LaClair.
But the fact that they dawdled in the face of incontrovertible proof of Paszkiewicz's pedagogical malfeasance, and that so many people have blindly rushed to support him, tells you a lot more than you need to know about Kearny.
The odd part, this whole episode may be the best education Matthew LaClair's ever received in Kearny. Suffice to say, he deserves a lot better.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Those who admit nowadays to being fans of the New York Knicks were incensed enough by James Dolan, owner of the Knicks and chairman of Madison Square Garden, when he dumped the peerless Marv Albert as the team's play-by-play announcer in 2004.
Besides providing game calls against which all others are compared to, Albert was unfailingly honest with his audience, sometimes too much so, as far as the Knicks were concerned. Dolan, with his typical cluelessness and ignorance of Knicks traditions, preferred a cheerleader instead.
That's something Albert never was nor will be, which is why he now calls Nets games on YES and other NBA games for TNT.
Those who work Knicks games on the MSG Network nowadays are more given toward spin, sycophancy and utter lack of peripheral vision, as Bob Raissman reminded us in his Daily News column on Sunday. It's a shame given that bootlicking broadcasters are not standard issue in New York, unlike in many other cities.
So, it was refreshing that Albert's play-by-play replacement Mike Breen -- an exception to the above -- not hold back on Saturday night when the Knicks and Nuggets squared off to fight instead of shoot hoops.
“Another dismal evening at Madison Square Garden, and this one turned ugly not only from a basketball standpoint," is one of the Breen quotes chronicled by Richard Sandomir in The New York Times.
Or, how about:
"This is turning into some kind of disaster" or "Just makes you sick to your stomach."
Not exactly a cheerleader, huh? But since Breen grew up idolizing Albert, as many announcers did, you wouldn't expect anything less.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Adams has been heard occasionally as of late as a "senior correspondent," which is the same title NPR wanted to give Bob Edwards when the put him out to pasture.
Adams, though, actually files reports -- Edwards quit to go to XM before that could happen -- and is also busy writing books.
Actually, Adams' stint is in keeping with the NPR spirit. Many of its stars keep popping up either co-hosting or filing special reports, including Linda Wertheimer, and the nonpareil Susan Stamberg.
The Coop is doing five stories for 60M this year, though it's unclear if his arrangement with CBS gives him free rein to recycle those segments for his own "Anderson Cooper 360" on CNN.
But that's just what he did last night. Yes, CBS did get first dibs on the interview. Nonetheless, have to wonder if they were expecting a rival to get a second crack at the story.
Not exactly giving comfort to the enemy, especially when the correspondent works both sides of the fence.
Still, this might not be the kind of precedent CBS envisioned setting, and one they didn't have to visit when Christiane Amanpour was doing similar duty.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Hardly a shock that George Riggs, publisher of the San Jose Mercury-News would call the tentative contract he reached with The Newspaper Guild a "good deal for both sides."
While, yes, the number of threatened Guild layoffs was reduced from 69 to 27.51, the upshot is those who are lift will be kicking in serious dollars for health care, losing their pension plan and getting annual 2 percent pay increases.
It's not so much a win-win, as it is a win-save face, which was reflected in the glum assessment by Guild officer Luther Jackson: ``I think we did the best we could in a very tough strategic environment.''
And he's right.
Which is sad.
Assuming ratification, what remains to be seen is the effect on the layoffs on top of the cutbacks already suffered at The Merc, the one-time pig in doo-doo of the newspaper world during the dot-com boom now slashing and burning its way to survival.
There's still a passionate if dispirited bunch of journos there, as evidenced by the Save the Merc Web site. Now we'll see if they'll be allowed to practice great newspapering again, or, as MediaNews, might prefer, fill in the blanks in the spaces where there are no ads.
Those left in the newsroom have to find a way to still care. Same goes for the Merc's readers.
Monday, December 04, 2006
The Newspaper Guild at The San Jose Mercury-News reached a deal with owner William "Lean Dean" Singleton.
The best you can say about it is, it could have been worse. Just ask reporters at The San Francisco Chronicle, who agreed to a deal that was just that.
Let's take a look at the more salient details, posted on Romenesko, to see how that once-proud Knight Ridder flagship fared.
--A two-year deal in which the number of Guild layoffs is reduced from 69 to 27.51 (don't ask how they came up with .51) and that the paper has guaranteed there will be no layoffs until at least June 30.
Which means come July 1, all bets are off, except for the one that staff will likely be further trimmed, if circulation and advertising patterns continue as expected. The Guild knows that, so does the Merc. If anything, it gives vulnerable reporters and editors time to look elsewhere before they're tapped on the shoulder.
--A $1,000 signing bonus to ease the pain of now ponying up about 20 percent of the cost of health insurance. That will more than offset the average 2 percent annual pay increases during the contract. Sure, it sucks, but the Merc newsroom is now among the many feeling this pinch.
--Ditto for the frozen pension plan, which will now be replaced by a 401K, with a 50 percent match up to a six-percent employee contribution.
--Victories, if you want to call them that, was the dropping of management's insistence of eliminating the "evergreen clause," which keeps the terms of an expired contract in place while negotiations continue; no 40-hour workweek and no "management rights clause." But those are things that employers throw into the soup during negotiations, with little or no expectation that they become bargaining chips. That's labor relations biz.
Could the Guild have done better? Armchair quarterbacks might say yes, but then again this is a sickly industry that shows no signs of getting better.
The real losers might be the Guild members over at the Philadelphia newspapers, which are still trying to iron out a deal on wages, benefits and pensions after settling on non-economic issues. The union had been threatening a strike but backed off amid signs of progress. But management may be emboldened by what happened at the Merc, the Inquirer's and Daily News' former corporate sibling.
The Guild in Philly may talk a good game, but ultimately they may have no choice but to swallow hard and accept a deal that's not to their liking, just like the reporters at the Merc will likely do.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The end of this Wall Street Journal interview with Philadelphia Newspapers major domo Brian Tierney is revealing:
WSJ: You are in the midst of negotiating with some of your unions , and there is concern at the Inquirer about editorial layoffs. Do you think advertisers care about staffing levels and depth of coverage? If you cut back on resources, do you think advertisers will complain or grow more wary?
Mr. Tierney: I haven't met an advertiser out there who thinks ... that the secret to being better is to necessarily have a lot more people doing it.
Further evidence, as if we needed more, that advertisers have any clue about the media they participate in. And, so it seems, newspaper publishers.
True, you could conceivably do more with less, but the Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News have done with a lot less, and it shows. The newsroom continues to shrink along with circulation. Does anybody think about cause and effect? Not Tierney, who tells the Journal he's content to let his papers focus on neighborhood news and high-school lacrosse scores than the big-picture enterprise pieces that won the Inky a rafter full of Pulitzers.
The man who was supposed to be Philadelphia's newspaper savior is instead solely focused on saving money. But there are enough tombstones in the newspaper graveyard to show that being pennywise is always pound-foolish.
The question remains as to whether Tierney will realize that before it's too late.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
At least give Boston Herald owner Pat Purcell credit for not calling it quits, at least not yet, in trying to right the listing ship that is his also-ran Beantown tabloid.
Staff cuts, pay freezes, selling off suburban newspapers, Purcell is pulling out all the stops to keep pace with the Globe, even though the gang at Morrissey Street is also reeling from a circulation freefall.
Still, they persevere over at Herald HQ, where Kevin Convey's been elevated from Managing Editor to Editor after Ken Chandler fled back to New York to become a consultant to corporations on how to polish their image in the media.
As more people find newspapers dated, irrelevant, dense or unnecessary in an age of Internet instant gratification, the only red ink will be stanched on the balance sheet will be to stop putting black ink on newsprint.
It may not happen now, maybe not even in five years. But there will be a time when papers like the Boston Herald, i.e. dinosaurs otherwise known as the second paper in a two-paper town, will cease to exist.
The staff of the Philadelphia Daily News should be all but resigned to that reality. Ditto the Chicago Sun-Times. You don't want it to happen, you'll give it your best, but you know it won't be enough in the end. Sad, but inexorably true.
Meantime, enjoy the ride. The Herald, to its credit, is still pumping out news items you won't see in the more staid Globe, like this bitch-slap of Jill Carroll, who apparently segued effortlessly from journalistic hero to uppity primadonna.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Judith Regan no longer has to utter her lame mea culpas about interviewing him for a two-part Fox special and paying him $3.5 million to essentially own up to what most people assume he did 12 years ago.
Fox pulled the plug on the special, in the face of a revolt from affiliates, not to mention Bill O'Reilly, and deep-sixed the book, though Regan Books will likely still have to pony up the cash for the advance.
Reportedly, O.J. hasn't seen that money yet, which no doubt cheers the Brown and Goldman estates, who've been dunning Simpson for cash from the civil trial that he's never made an effort to pay.
So the right move has been made.
Now comes the harder questions. Like what was Regan thinking when she green-lit this travesty?
Fox may have been the home of the likes of "When Animals Attack" but didn't Peter Ligouri and the other programming honchos even give pause before they put this show on the schedule? Sure, the network's fall ratings have been in the toilet, but you can't go trolling for Nielsens in the gutter.
It appears the Foxies belatedly got some religion in the last week, as they put on a united front of "no comments" as just about every TV reporter in the land wanted to get their side as story after story was written effectively slapping the network upside the head.
Of course, they'll be chastened. At least until the next sweeps in February. Somehow, Kevin Federline -- "As You've Never Seen Him Before!!!!" could be coming to a Fox station before long. "Kevin -- How I Didn't Do It Or Much Of Anything" should be riveting television.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Now the axe is visiting local newsrooms at the network's O&O's. Gawker.com and Broadcasting & Cable are reporting that longtime stalwarts at WNBC-TV news, Jane Hanson, Joe Avellar and Dr. Max Gomez have uttered their last on Channel 4.
No sentimentality here. There was nearly a half-century experience at the station between the three of them, with Hanson dating back to 1979.
Imagine a lot anxiety is ruling the roost at WMAQ in Chicago and KNBC in Los Angeles, among other outposts. If you know of any staff excisions, please do tell.
Alas, 'tis the season for these sort of things. If misery loves company, then it's going to be positively smitten over at 30 Rock.
Monday, November 13, 2006
The timid church mice that populate The New York Times copy desk are up to their usual no good.
Numerous transgressions have revealed they tread carefully, or not at all, when it comes to the sacred cows at the paper, namely star critics and columnists who are often unchecked regardless if what they write might be inane, obtuse, incoherent, or just plain wrong.
Or borderline bigotry, in the case of John Tierney.
The sort-of conservative columnist used his column Saturday to provide his three cents about Borat.
Not to worry, he laughed in all the right places and he gives appropriate props to Sacha Baron Cohen.
But he couldn’t walk out of the multiplex feeling sorry for the fine people of Kazakhstan, and what all us xenophobes might think of their land.
They’re depicted as rapists and prostitutes, bigots and idiots. I instinctively side with comedians when the antidefamation police come after them, but in this case I sympathize with the Kazakhs angry at becoming the new global Polack joke. The country has enough problems as is.
Gee, thanks, John for being a First Amendment paragon. But since when did it become OK to put ethnic slurs in an Op-Ed column? Why was it so important for Tierney to straddle his bully pulpit and use “Polack” when he just as easily could have used “Polish?”
Readers could have still given Tierney the knowing glance and validation he was so desperately seeking without having to hurt and alienate an entire ethnic group.
This is not a case of the politically correct police paying a visit to West 43rd St. By any measure, Tierney wouldn’t have gotten away – or so we hope – with using other slurs. Swap out “Polack” with “Wop,” “Kraut” or “Mick.” Even the see-no-evil copy editors probably would have flagged those. Maybe Tierney and the Times view “Polack” as sounding more benign, even playful than the others. But it’s not.
Tierney surely knows that, yet he put the insult in there anyway, almost as if he was daring his editors to take it out. Being of the spineless variety, they declined to take the bait.
Shame on them. And Tierney.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
A good number apparently wrote in criticizing the network's calling of the Ohio governor's race when polls in some area remained open.
One writer wondered why. But hosts Michelle Norris and Melissa Block were only there to read, not to respond.
One good place to turn would have been NPR's ombudsman. Alas, William Marimow lasted in that job all of two weeks -- after previously being NPR's vice president of news -- before decamping Wednesday to take on the role of executive editor/executioner at his beleaguered hometown paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
It's a much different newspaper than the one where he one two Pulitzers in 1977 and 1985. The glory days have been replaced by a desperate owner looking to slash and burn through the newsroom to achieve cost savings.
Before long , that ombudsman job is gonna look like one cushy gig. Good luck.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
This has actually been out in circulation for a while, but I first caught up to it over the weekend in reading the October issue of Business Traveler magazine and haven't seen anything else on this dustup. It's a doozy and definitely worth your attention.
One reason a magazine like Business Traveler exists is to give its presumably well-heeled readership a glance at what life is like at the front of the plane before they plunk down some serious coin for a seat, or convince their employers to do so.
In each issue the magazine reviews the service on several long-haul itineraries. Its reviewers get to deal with the jet lag so you don't have to.
The reviews offer an opportunity for airlines to get some seriously good press in a publication that reaches a critical mass of potential customers. Or not.
Pity MAXjet, one of the airlines offering an all-business-class service between JFK and London for less than what the major airlines charge.
Nice concept, bad execution, according to Adam Rodriguez's account. Among his grievances was being plagued by flight attendants who first ignored him or were downright surly, especially the head purser on the London-JFK run.
When I displayed the temerity to request a double Bloody Mary, she turned me down flat. I pointed out -- respectfully enough, I thought -- that I typically ordered the same cocktail in other airlines' business-class cabines ... "I don't give a shit," she explained. "I'm quitting next week."
Later, Rodriguez asked this genius for a new digital entertainment player, which all passengers get but which Rodriguez and other passengers found continually malfunctioned.
"Honey, if you don't like it, take a nap," Janet shouted at me as she ordered a colleague to confiscate my unfinished tray of food, while she whisked away my water bottle and my entertainment system. She added that if I objected, she would have security meet me at arrival and detain me for hours."
Rodriguez managed to avoid the shackles after getting an apology from the captain on that flight from hell for Janet's behavior and gave him a business card with the CEO's email address.
Soon after, he was contacted by Lori Tucker, MAXjet's spokeswoman and later received an email apology from the airline's CEO Gary Rogliano.
Judging by the portion printed in the magazine, Rogliano was sufficiently obsequious and contrite. But here's where it really gets good.
Rodriguez wanted to follow up with Rogliano after getting the email. But Rogliano made the fatal mistake of shunting Rodriguez over to Tucker, an experienced PR pro out of Dallas who apparently took leave of her senses and proved herself in need of a remedial course or three in media relations.
First, Tucker tried to dissuade Rodriguez from running his review by offering free MAXjet tickets to the magazine's staff. Rodriguez demurred. That put Tucker into desperation mode, as Rodriguez recounted.
She said that she had been directed to do "whatever it took" to keep this story out of the magazine, and noted that MAXjet had received other bad reviews that she felt were unfair.
I subsequently offered to give MAXjet an advance draft of our article so that it could respond in print. Ms. Tucker replied she was only interested in keeping my unfavorable review out of the magazine ... Ms. Tucker actually threatend to accuse our group of being drunk or on drugs during our flights, and warned ominously that someone would be "looking into our background" to "see who we were."
Kudos to Rodriguez for not caving in, especially because most of the magazine's advertising is from airlines.
A dunce cap to Tucker for attempted bribery. That she even attempted such a maneuver is likely evidence she's been able in the past to wine, dine and comp travel journalists, who collectively have never put ethics high on their to-do lists. That Rodriguez refused to take that bait must have sent her running for the Advil.
As for Rogliano, he doesn't seem too hot and bothered by this episode. A look at the latest MAXjet press releases show they've emanated from Tucker & Associates, although the media contact is not Tucker.
Which might be the best move MAXjet has made in a while.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The Tribune Company, to no one's surprise, refused to blink.
The beancounters in Chicago decided to turn L.A. Times Executive EditorDean Baquet into a hero-martyr by showing him the door.
As usual, great timing on Election Day.
Apparently populism has no place in the newsroom, especially when the man at the barricades is senior management.
Clearly, given Baquet's open and rather vocal defiance of cuts demanded by Tribune, it was not a question of if but when he'd be deposed.
Of course, there could be Baquet II if a local billionaire like David Geffen steps up to buy the Times even though Tribune has said it's not for sale.
As for who's left? Well, publisher David Hiller is promising no layoffs -- at least not this year. Hardly reassuring, and a fate that what is still one of the nation's best newspapers doesn't come close to deserving.
Monday, November 06, 2006
The front page of today's New York Times sports section has a dispatch from Clifton Brown on last night's Colts-Patriots game played in Foxboro, Mass.
All well and good. Then you go to the bottom of D-5 for a second-day story about Saturday night's Floyd Mayweather-Carlos Baldomir bout in Las Vegas. It was also written yesterday by Brown.
Which means he finished the piece early Sunday morning after pounding out the main story earlier for the late editions, hopefully got a few hours of sleep, then bopped over to McCarran Airport for the first flight out to Boston in time to get to Gillette Stadium for the football game, which the Colts won 27-20.
And you thought being a sportswriter was glamorous. Buy that man a double espresso pronto.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
C.J. Chivers has proven to be one of the more gifted foreign correspondents for The New York Times, one who often gets out in the field and comes back with intriguing portraits that desk jockeys more comfy with press releases and official sources never get to see.
The latest example today for the Moscow-based Chivers was his travels with a Navy medic operating just outside of Falluja. In Petty Officer Third Class Dustin Kirby, Chivers hit pay dirt.
In one course, an advanced trauma treatment program he had taken before deploying, he said, the instructors gave each corpsman an anesthetized pig.
“The idea is to work with live tissue,” he said. “You get a pig and you keep it alive. And every time I did something to help him, they would wound him again. So you see what shock does, and what happens when more wounds are received by a wounded creature.”
“My pig?” he said. “They shot him twice in the face with a 9-millimeter pistol, and then six times with an AK-47 and then twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. And then he was set on fire.”
“I kept him alive for 15 hours,” he said. “That was my pig.”
“That was my pig,” he said.
You don't get that from a briefing inside the Green Zone.
And you feel safe concluding there are a lot of others like Kirby out there. The Republicans know it. John Kerry knows it. Which is why the firestorm he ignited by flubbing a word in a bad joke needs to go away and fast. In its own way, the Times, by putting this story above the fold on the front page, reminded everyone that sniping in Washington is always trumped by snipers in Anbar Province.
To be sure, the Times knows what it has in Chivers, a one-time Marine recruiter who came to the Times from the Providnece Journal-Bulletin. His reporting from Afghanistan helped the paper secure its 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its 9/11 follow-ups.
If you want to see what Chivers can do outside a war zone, check out his trip deep into Kazakhstan in early winter to report on the importance of the horse and how the locals use every part of it for food and sustenance, just like they have done for thousands of years.
That story moved nearly a year ago and left a deep impression for both its detail and effortless prose. Today's dispatch will do the same.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that in Maine, a state with two seasons -- July and winter -- you'd find a skeptic or two when it came to global warming.
Still, it's troubling when that skepticism turns to intolerance, especially when it comes from the general manager of two TV stations, as The New York Times reports.
Michael Palmer, who runs the ABC and Fox affiliates in Bangor, decreed that no global-warming stories will heat up the airwaves he oversees, likening hype over global warming to scares over killer bees and Y2K.
As for all the incontrovertible evidence? Feh. Science, schmience. Don't need any of that hooey Down East. Guess until he can put out the garbage in February without pulling on a parka, we'll
have to hear about global warming from every other news outlet in Maine.
Thanks, Mike, for taking on the experts. Oh, and call your office. The Luddites would like you to fill out the membership application that's been sitting on your desk.
Implosion Alert: Newspaper Circulation Continues To Tumble While Good Ideas On How To Stop The Slide Are Hard To Come By
To no one's surprise, just about every major metro newspaper took another body blow with release of the latest FAS-FAX circulation numbers.
The one exception: The New York Post, which for the first time is selling more copies than The Daily News, though that rather Phyrric victory comes only because it sells for a quarter in the city compared to a half-buck for the News, and Rupert Murdoch is content to underwrite losses that may run north of $40 million a year.
Still a win's a win, no matter how expensive.
You have to think that folks at such places as The Los Angeles Times (down 8 percent), Boston Globe (down 6.7 percent) and Philadelphia Inquirer (down 7.5 percent) would have liked to have any good news, regardless of its price tag right about now.
Consider their plight, despite remaining profitable albeit less so in years past. The Times is likely facing more Tribune-mandated trims, with or without Dean Baquet at the helm.
The Globe just extracted a contract from The Newspaper Guild, which largely ties pay increases to revenue.
Meanwhile, staff at the Inky and its sibling The Philadelphia Daily News took a strike vote when new owner Brian Tierney said he needs cuts and fast because cash flow fell far short of what he expected and those darn bankers want their notes paid on time.
Which is why these and other papers need publishers with a clue. The natural tempation would be to slash and burn their way out of this morass. Lower overhead might be nice, but that's often accompanied by a diminished editorial product, giving more people than ever less of a reason to pick up the paper.
Pretty soon the papers will need a tourniquet instead of a Band-Aid. But eventually they'll be no one left to stop the bleeding.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Comedy Central will unveil next month a show about two buddies. Did we mention that they're also testicles?
Uh, yeah. Not a misprint.
"Baxter & McGuire" is among the network's forays into original broadband programming. Suffice to say, it's one that's not ready for prime time, or even late-night fringe, for that matter, when Comedy Central sometimes goes uncut on weekends. Rare is the media buyer who'd have the balls to put his client on a show like this.
The two three-minute segments I watched are moderately amusing, even if they might hit a little close to home for some guys. To wit: one segment has our heroes turning blue during an episode of coitus interruptus. To the extent that can be funny, it is.
This is how stupid Percy Jordan is. First, he's arrested for murdering New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum.
After an accomplice, his cousin Michael Hamlin, pleads guilty to second-degree murder, Jordan could have copped to that plea and maybe stand a chance of getting out of prison before he died. That's unlikely to happen now.
Jordan inexplicably decided to take his chances at trial, and was convicted of first-degree murder with a minimum sentence of 30 years to life, despite overwhelming evidence against him, not to mention Hamlin's testimony.
Beyond losing a journalist who had contributed so much to his peers better understanding the inner workings of the government and who had so much left to offer, the tragedy of his death is compounded by the fact that he could have been saved.
But a misdiagnosis at the hospital -- Rosenbaum's traumatic blow to the head from Jordan striking him with a pipe was mistaken for intoxication -- and an indifferent and incompetent response from paramedics helped seal his fate.
That's led to a lot of reforms and soul-searching in D.C. over how to properly respond to emergency calls. Sadly, that will also be part of Rosenbaum's remarkable legacy.
Friday, October 20, 2006
A front-page story in yesterday's New York Times reported on the latest politicial sex scandal Israeli style.
Juicy stuff. Too bad the lead was written in a way few but the most erudite and those cramming for a spelling bee could know. In other words, in a way totally opposite to how you're supposed to write a newspaper article, even one in the Times.
The first paragraph of the story by Dina Kraft, headined "Israel Warriors Find Machismo Is Way Of Past" starts off:
For decades it was widely accepted that some of Israel’s top military officers and government ministers considered sexual encounters with female employees a seigneurial right.
To save you a trip to the dictionary, seigneurial is an adjective pertaining to a seignior, another word for a lord, especially a feudal lord.
True, the Israeli military had its share of macho leaders who may have viewed it as part of their portfolio to drop their pants with any comely teenage secretary in their midst in order to cement their Zionist credentials.
Israeli women studies professor Avigail Moor notes in the article that: "Young women serving in these high-status platoons were almost led to believe that it was something that spoke highly of them if they were chosen to be a sexual partner of a high commanding officer.”
But hardly to the level of a lord being serviced by his vassals.
And even if that was true, a word like seigneurial doesn't belong on the front page of a newspaper. Copy editors at the Times often forget that the paper's mission is to inform readers, not to show off how smart they are.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
If you're a fan of hard news, you had to be cheered recently when NBC opened up a Beirut bureau around the time when Israel and Hezbollah squared off.
Then came word last week that the network was opening -- actually reopening -- a bureau in Bangkok, to supplement its efforts in Asia.
Since the broadcast networks foreign efforts had become rather dessicated over the last two decades, this was a most welcome reversal of fortune.
We'll see how long it lasts, after NBC big cheese Jeff Zucker (above) announced the network was cutting 700 jobs company-wide, including its 11 news divisions.
The cuts are no surprise to NBC insiders, who just have to look at the ratings numbers to know something would eventually be up.
While the Hollywood Reporter says Telemundo and NBC News Channel will be among those hardest hit, no show will be immune, if layoffs at other networks are a guide. And that includes on-air talent, according to the AP.
Fasten your seatbelts.
Read NBC's official announcement here:
You knew it would happen. Local rich guy swoops in to buy his city's newspapers and promises big things. Only thing: Rich guy paid a lot of money and there's that little matter of the $350 million in debt he rang up in the process.
So, to no one's surprise, he's rattling union cages, threatening layoffs, pension freezes and other calamities.
Such is the situation faced by the staffs at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Philadelphia Weekly reports.
It's good to be the king, but Tierney somehow forgot he has to make the monthly installments on his crown. Right now, he thinks his serfs should help pick up the tab. Grab those pitchforks now.
Yet another reason why employees at The Los Angeles Times should stop pining for one of the billionaires who's been sniffing around the property to become their savior. They won't. They can't. Newspapers are a business, not vanity projects. You become a valuable public commodity only after you break even -- and pay off the bankers.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Many people who work at CBS News Radio tend to stay a good long while (though I managed all of 7 1/2 years), which is why so many there acutely feel the loss of Christopher Glenn.
Many of them arrived early in their careers to listen and learn from a man who long ago was already cementing his legend.
My friends Steve Kathan and Paul Farry have tributes to Chris today at CBSNews.com. Steve is filling in this week as the anchor of the "World News Roundup," the signature radio broadcast at CBS, which Chris anchored at the time of his retirement in February, and which Paul produces.
It's a show that often leaves its competition in the dust come radio awards time. Just two days ago, Paul picked up an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association on behalf of the show, whose authority and legacy will be forever burnished by the booming bass of a voice that was Chris' calling card.
Also weighing in with his usual eloquence is my buddy Greg Kandra, a writer for Katie Couric, who also spent time in the radio newsroom working with Chris.
"He had a voice that mingled cognac and cigarette smoke -- he was an inveterate, ceaseless smoker -- and both Chris and that famous voice seemed ageless."
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Beyond the sadness over the unexpected passing of Christopher Glenn at age 68, I was surprised to hear he had died of liver cancer. Same would go for anyone who worked with him at CBS.
For Chris loved his cigarettes, which he would puff away prodigiously in Studio 3 of the CBS Broadcast Center -- when that was still allowed -- while doing "The World Tonight." Sometimes, he might even take a drag before telling his listeners about the latest warning about smoking from the Surgeon General.
Later, when smoking was verboten inside the building, Chris would waste no time scurrying outside for a nicotine fix. At least you knew where to find him.
Beyond the cigarettes, though, you always knew you were working with a special talent, as I noted when word of his retirement was announced in January. For those of us who had spent our careers at CBS working with him, not to mention having grown up hearing him on one of the 5,000+ "In The News" segments he did, it was hard to imagine a broadcast day without him.
But on Feb. 23, he called it a career, and was happy in retirement, by all accounts.
A shame that his induction into the Radio Hall of Fame in less than three weeks will be posthumous. Then again, he was modest about his immense talent, more abashed than anything else about the tributes heaped upon him when he left the air.
Now it's time to sit back and remember. Better yet, sit back and listen.
You may not have known Chris Glenn, but if you hear some of his work, you'll know a lot.
P.S. Kudos to Brian Williams for a nice tribute to Chris on "NBC Nightly News."
Monday, October 16, 2006
Not "companion." Not "lover." Not "life mate."
Instead, we got husband, which, of course, is accurate given that Studds lived in Massachusetts, where two men can live in wedded bliss.
The AP, whose obit was used by the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, also referred to Dean Hara as husband, as did the Boston Globe, but not the Washington Post, which instead used the phrase "who married Mr. Studds in 2004 shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts" when referring to Hara.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, a usually-more-enlightened paper, also couldn't bring itself to call Hara a "husband," rewriting the AP obit to use the "who married Mr. Studds shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004" terminology.
In the news business, they're called "weasel words."
For those newspapers' gay readers and employees, they're probably calling them lame.
Steve Lyons Scapegoated: Announcer May Be A Lunkhead, But Is Fox Any Better For Pandering to Show How Enlightened It Is?
No Offense, Jose Mota
Steve Lyons shouldn't have been fired by Fox Sports for making comments offensive to Latinos on Friday night's ALCS broadcast. He should've been dumped long ago for being uninteresting, stating the obvious and not providing viewers much of a clue that he once made his living playing baseball.
Richard Sandomir in The New York Times summed up what led to Lyons's ouster:
Lou Piniella, a guest analyst working with Lyons and Thom Brennaman, noted that the Oakland Athletics could not expect shortstop Marco Scutaro to continue to produce runs as he did when he drove in six during the division series against Minnesota.
Piniella said that expecting similar production would be “like finding a wallet on a Friday night and looking for one on Sunday and Monday, too.” Four minutes later, they had moved to different subjects and Piniella said something in Spanish. “The bilingual Lou Piniella,” Brennaman said.
Lyons said: “Lou’s habla-ing some Español there, and I’m still looking for my wallet. I don’t understand him, and I don’t want to sit close to him now.” The three laughed and continued calling the game.
Dumb, yes. A firing offense? Debatable. Then again, Fox had already suspended Lyons once before for a lame-brained crack at Shawn Green, a Jewish player, for not practicing on Yom Kippur. Apparently at Fox, it's two strikes, yer out.
Lyons was replaced for what turned out to be the final game of the series on Saturday by Los Angeles (I first typed California, then Anaheim)Angels analyst Jose Mota, who does the color on the team's Spanish-language broadcsts, but also does some Fox gigs.
No knock on Mota, who knows his stuff and seamlessly blended into the booth with Brennaman and Piniella. Still, you have to wonder if Lyons had trash-talked another ethnic whether Mota would have been there.
Fox gave itself cover by quickly importing a seasoned and informed voice, but the ethnic link to Mota and the lunkhead Lyons' remarks were a little too obvious. Fox could find a better way to say it's sorry than by pandering.
Lyons could have company on the unemployment line. Lamar Thomas, the analyst on Comcast's airing of that Miami-F.I.U. free-for-all where 31 players were suspended for fighting, may be guilty of providing a little too much color to the broadcast.
To wit, this missive, which is among those being aired out of rebroadcasts of the game:
''Now, that's what I'm talking about. You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked. You don't come into the OB playing that stuff. You're across the ocean over there. You're across the city. You can't come over to our place talking noise like that. You'll get your butt beat. I was about to go down the elevator to get in that thing.''
So far, he's being promised with "disciplinary action." Stay tuned to see if Thomas is allowed to coming down with a bad case of brain freeze and do his best contrite routine before he's shown the door.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Air America is bankrupt, fiscally speaking.
A lot of reasons why you shouldn't feel bullish about their future, but you should root for them anyway.
If you'd like to see just how much they owe -- and it's a lot to a lot of parties -- The Smoking Gun has the filing.
In the end, the concept of an all-liberal cum progressive talk network going 24/7 might not be a going concern. But as some posters on the New York Radio Message Board have suggested, AAR might be worth more in pieces than as a whole entity.
In other words, syndicate the most popular hosts, Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, etc., and don't tie down affiliates to carrying all the programming.
There are enough talk stations out there who would welcome some fresh voices, especially if they're shut out from carrying reactionary gabbers like Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity and Beck in their market.
Now's the time to test the waters, because the ship is sinking fast.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Chris Wallace Realizes That Being A Jackass To The New York Times Wasn't Such A Good Idea, After All
The Chris Wallace-Bill Clinton donnybrook refuses to go away, thanks to Wallace, who doth protest way too much.
Wallace crossed the line from legitimate questioner to partisan attack dog when he ambushed Clinton with questions about Osama Bin Laden and then played the role of hurt puppy when his motives were called into account.
Which may have put him in a sour mood when Deborah Solomon interviewed him for The New York Times Magazine and was asked what political party he belonged to.
"None of your business," came the reply.
Which was obnoxious if nothing else, and disingenuous to boot, as The Washington Post tells us. Shock! The Fox News Sunday host is a Democrat, albeit a reluctant one.
"The reason I'm a registered Democrat is that in Washington, D.C., there is really only one party," Wallace fessed up to the Post. "If you want a say in who's going to be the next mayor or councilman, you have to vote in the Democratic primary."
The Post helpfully points out that there is a Republican and an independent on the district council. But I guess Wallace's ego is apparently too bruised to worry about getting the facts straight. Bill Clinton certainly feels that pain.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Police say an aircraft has crashed into a building on Manhattan's Upper East Side at 72nd Street and York Avenue. It is near Rockefeller Center.
No, it's not. For those of you unfamiliar with Manhattan geography, Rockefeller Center is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues from 48th-51st streets.
In other words, nowhere close to Rockefeller Center, as if that was ever relevant in the first place.
It's a fact that someone at the AP should've gotten right, given that until a couple of years ago its HQ was located at, yep, Rockefeller Center.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Sometimes, you read stories that you're glad you weren't the reporter sent to cover it. This is one of them. Thank you, to Andrew Harding of the BBC for this, um, package, which first ran on Sept. 23, but is definitely worth catching up to.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Former WCBS-TV anchor hottie resurfaces on "The View" and is preggers with number two
Good reviews in the Daily News for Shon Gables, the former Channel 2 anchor, who resurfaced yesterday and today on "The View" in a guest-host role.
One nugget of news: She's expecting number two, though no word on who the father is. Gables' first child was with Bryan Abrams of now-defunct boy band Color Me Badd, who Gables sued last year for being a deadbeat dad.
You can color Abrams more or less broke: He now works in an Oklahoma City tire store.
Gables, judging by my mail, has been missed by many Channel 2 viewers, where she co-anchored the low-rated morning news. The show had grown unwieldy with too many anchors sitting at the desk trying to get a word in edgewise, and the entire crew was swept aside.
The station reportedly offered her a weekend gig, which she turned down and Gables hasn't been seen since until yesterday. But apparently she's been busy.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Here's how the news business works nowadays. First, Miami Herald editor Tom Fiedler gets into a lather about charges from his own reporters that the paper caved into anti-Castro forces because the paper's Spanish-language version El Nuevo Herald, rehired journalists who also just happened to be on the Radio Marti payroll.
Fiedler's idea of a retort quickly bit him in the ass, as yesterday's Herald reported:
In staff meetings Tuesday, Miami Herald reporters asked whether the paper was caving to critics. Editor Tom Fiedler dismissed that notion, saying the ''22 people who listen to Cuban radio'' were being stirred up by ''little chihuahuas nipping at our heels.'' He later apologized for his choice of words.
Today, Fiedler put on his ashes and sackcloth to apologize. At least he didn't say his own staff quoted him out of context.
I used an unfortunate term, intending only to refer to the persistence and sharpness of the commentary. My intent was not to offend anyone, although I now realize that I did.
Miami New Times provides the context Fiedler left out of his three-paragraph sorrow saga. That includes a denial that the Monday resignation of Herald publisher Jesus Diaz Jr. was due to community pressure over the Radio Marti fiasco and a critical column by Carl Hiaasen that Diaz was on the verge of killing until his bosses at McClatchy intervened at Hiaasen's behest and threat to quit.
Bottom line: Fiedler, a Herald institution, has been doing everything but somersaults to show he's contrite. Time to move on. The anti-Castro faction will bray regardless of what the paper does. For now, the Herald, which has been nothing if not beleaguered in recent years, needs the steady hand of a seasoned leader rather than the turmoil that making him walk the plank would bring.
New York Mets fans, in addition to being blessed with the best team in baseball this year, are also treated to a crop of play-by-play announcers who are at the top of their game.
Gary Cohen, who had established himself as the nonpariel radio voice of the team, effortlessly made the transition to the SNY-TV booth and made the analysis of Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling that much better.
The end of the season should have meant Cohen's year was over in the booth. The Mets and WFAN had other ideas, as he's doing an inning each of play-by-play and color on radio. That means the regular first-rate radio team of Howie Rose and Tom McCarthy get a little less mic time, which they are no doubt underwhelmed about.
It was good to hear Cohen again on the radio, especially his gripping call of David Wright's two-run double in the sixth yesterday, but that would have been McCarthy's inning to call. Instead, he provided authoritiative color.
McCarthy, in his rookie season on Metscasts has been consistently excellent. There are those who say he sounds like Cohen, something I don't hear. But it's a most favorable comparison and one McCarthy has said he takes as a high compliment. McCarthy's profile is diminished only in a way listeners can't see. He went on Weight Watchers and dropped 130 pounds.
Mets fans who caught yesterday's game on ESPN heard another familiar voice, Gary Thorne, who was paired with Bob Murphy on radio during the Mets' last championship season in 1986, and did a second stint with the team on TV for a dozen years until 2003.
Too bad the Murph's no longer around to witness this team. Here's to an October filled with happy recaps.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Such were the writings of R.W. Apple, the not-so-gentle giant of The New York Times, who died today of cancer at age 71.
Because of the roilling changes in the newspaper industry, seeing another reporter with as checkered a career is unlikely at best. Few are the correspondents who roam the world, then help define modern political coverage, while then settling into a more comfortable life as an eminent grise, churning out pieces on travel, food and architecture from wherever the mood struck him.
Todd Purdum's obit of Apple is an elegant account of a complex, irascible man that is thankfully atypical of the drearily perfunctory treatment the Times has given many of its own departed. But Apple deserved no less.
With his Dickensian byline, Churchillian brio and Falstaffian appetites, Mr. Apple, who was known as Johnny, was a singular presence at The Times almost from the moment he joined the metropolitan staff in 1963. He remained a colorful figure as new generations of journalists around him grew more pallid, and his encyclopedic knowledge, grace of expression — and above all his expense account — were the envy of his competitors, imitators and peers.
There are many journalists who want to be like him. Too bad, they'll never get the chance.
To get a taste of what Johnny Apple, was most passionate about, this interview from PBS' Newshour offers a nice flavor.
However, this profile from the Seattle Times from 2004 reminds us that Apple was ever the newsman first, gourmand second.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Maybe it was the Amish angle -- and their peaceful, bucolic lives violated by a deranged gunman and that the girls held by Charles Roberts were shot in the head execution-style.
Perhaps it's the desire of foreign media to seize upon the recent school shootings as a symptom of what's wrong with the U.S. Or, it could be a story that dozens of correspondents could get to without a hassle.
Whatever the reason, the British press has been playing it big, including The Guardian, The Sun, The Times as well as the Daily Telegraph. The Independent, whose front page blared "Horror At The Schoolhouse," was also among those who did the obligatory sidebar on the Amish and their 19th-century ways.
Elsewhere, Corriere Della Sera also gave the shootings prominent play, though they were essentially shrugged off by Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung.
However, the shootings were the lead stories on the home pages of the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail in Canada, and also got big play in Australian media, although some readers Down Under were wondering what the fuss is all about. One wrote to The Age in Melbourne:
I am starting to get sick of Australian news picking up on these shootings in the US, as they have no bearing on my life here in Australia. Easy access to guns + the worst social and economic disparity between citizens will always lead to this sort of scenario. The fact is that there are many murders every day in the US. Is 'THE AGE' going to publish all of these?
Well, yes. If it bleeds, it leads, after all.
Many others chimed that the U.S. was "nutters" for allowing guns to be so easy to get. For many they were saddened by what happened, but hardly shocked. Which could be part of the problem.
If it happens often enough, does it stop becoming news? Think about how briefly U.S. military fatalities are mentioned nowadays and you don't have to wonder too hard about that.
Was this ever in doubt? A Lexis-Nexis survey found that when there's breaking news, blogs are the last place people turn.
Only 6 percent go to blogs or other so-called "emerging media" when the ca-ca hits the fan.
Well, yeah. Bloggers are not exactly known for their newsgathering, rather they gather their own thoughts after others have gathered the news.
Did somebody really need to find this out?
But good news for the 25 quadrillion blogs out there. The topic of greatest interest is popular entertainment, for which blogs, user groups and chat rooms are the most frequented sources after lifestyle media.
So someone get Nick Denton off the ledge now.
Washington Times Wants To Scalp Hastert, But Its Conservative Compadres Decide Not to Go Scapegoating -- For Now
The Washington Times made some of headlines of its own this morning by calling on Speaker Dennis Hastert to clean out his office for overlooking/covering up/trying to ignore Mark Foley's email courting of teenage male pages.
Give the editorial board credit for ganging up on Hastert, given the also-ran Times' vaunted status as the GOP Beltway house organ.
Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.
That's gotta hurt, Denny.
But Hastert still has some friends -- for now, at least -- over at the Wall Street Journal, where Paul Gigot is likely jabbed with electric cattle prods should he ever stray from the party line. Today is no exception, where an editorial notes that sure what Foley did was "odd and suspect," but:
Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert's head are the same voices who tell us that the larger socieity must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys. Are these Democratic critics of Mr. Hastert saying that they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts' decision to ban gay scoutmasters? Where's Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that one?
Where are the Non-Sequitur Police when you really need them?
They're pretty steamed over at the conservative Chicago Tribune, which brings up Hastert's past as a high-school wrestling coach, which should have made him aware of how easily determined predators can get too close to children.
If Foley committed a criminal offense, he won't go unpunished in state or federal courts. But remember, those who knowingly enable predators are guilty of their own sordid offenses. They have to answer too.
The Trib slammed Hastert for running to the Department of Justice for a Foley probe, when he's better equipped to get one done himself and pronto.
Mr. Hastert, you don't need a squad of FBI agents to tell you how you and your colleagues in the House reacted when they first learned that Mark Foley had crossed a line that ought never be broached.
Hastert may have thought he'd get caught some slack by the leading media outlet back home. But cutting slack is why he's in this mess in the first place.
Hastert would be wise to heed the lesson of another Foley, this one Tom, the former Democratic Speaker of the House. Foley had the dubious distinction in 1994 of being the first sitting Speaker to be defeated for re-election since 1860. That was for different reasons, including the GOP tsunami that swept over D.C. during those mid-terms. But still. There's plenty of time until Nov. 7.
Monday, September 25, 2006
The staff of the San Jose Mercury-News was understandably anxious when as part of the breakup of the Knight-Ridder empire, the newspaper was acquired by MediaNews, which is owned by William Dean Singleton, a man with cash who likes to slash.
When the sale was announced April 26, the Newspaper Guild's Save The Merc Web site reacted with predictable alarm.
Still, most in the newsroom were willing to at least let the guy try to right the listing ship in Silicon Valley, especially when he initially was saying all the right things.
Now it's contract negotiation time, and the Guild now sees that it's the same old same old with Lean Dean, who's rattling the sabers to get reporters and editors to cave into a draconian contract now or face the ax later.
After what happened to reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle, who voted to cut their pay, and gave up sick days and vacation time after being threatened with extinction by management, it's going to be ugly -- and that's on a good day.
And not to say I told you so, but I got the heebie-jeebies when this was first announced. This is not a time where I'm happy to be vindicated.
So you're Chris Wallace, and you have an interview set up with Bill Clinton to talk about his Global Initiative. But instead, you want to talk about why he didn't incinerate Osama bin Laden while still residing in the White House.
So you're Bill Clinton and now you're pissed off at Chris Wallace, which is why Wallace sounds less than credible when asked about Clinton ripping him a new one on camera.
"All I did was ask him a question, and I think it was a legitimate news question. I was surprised that he would conjure up that this was a hit job," Wallace said.
Wallace set Clinton up with a few softballs on his Global Initiative, then launched into a familiar Fox device, a variation on "people are saying," to legitimize the following question
"When we announced that you were going to be on "Fox News Sunday," I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I've got to say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president?"
Let's deconstruct the first part of that. "I got a lot of e-mail from viewers." Most of it was from employees at the RNC and Heritage Foundation.
"And I've got to say I was surprised." That I didn't get more.
Of course, one could argue Clinton should have known what he might have been in for appearing on Fox, which was the official Impeachment Channel, after all. I mean, who really cares about yeoman efforts to curb genocide, AIDS and global warming?
What Clinton may not have expected was that he'd be interviewed by Wallace, who acts like he still needs to show his daddy that's he got a set of stones too. This wasn't the time or place to affirm that.
And if you don't believe me, read the transcript of the Wallace-Clinton dust-up and decide for yourself, more than what Fox usually allows you to do.
In its determined slide toward mediocrity and embarrassment, The New York Times sports section provided more grist for the mill.
The latest tomfoolery from sports editor Tom Jolley and Co: Print box scores for only the New York teams and those still in the hunt for a wildcard.
The games themselves were relegated to tiny paragraphs at the bottom of D3. Granted, there may be little interest in the New York area for who got how many hits in the Angels' 7-1 thrasing of the A's, beyond those in Fantasy leagues.
But printing box scores is one of those until-now sacrosanct things. You did it because there was a game report to render and this was the best way to do it. End of discussion.
Instead, the Times thought it more prudent to offer us complete agate on an LPGA tournament, the Dover 400 for the dozens of NASCAR fans on the Upper East Side, and the results of every tennis tournament from Albuquerque to Calcutta. Literally.
Not enough money, you say? The Times' 3Q financials will come in much lower than expected? Yeah, we know. But at the same time that it can't print all box scores, this is the same paper that spends thousands of dollars to send three staffers to the Giants-Seahawks game in Seattle and print all of three stories. Then again, sidebars on the games readers care about the most have never been the Times' strong suit.
Instead, it used up its precious football allotment for bylined stories on the Colts-Jaguars and Bears-Vikings game. That's right, the Times is really a national paper that just happens to live in New York, a notion the sports department seems to run away with whenever it gets the chance.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Eater.com, a blog that does a workmanlike job of covering the comings and goings at New York's five zillion restaurants, had contributions recently from an owner of Freeman 's, a popular Lower East Side hangout most notable for being in an alley. You gotta know where to find it and plenty of hipsters and wannabe hipsters have done just that over the last two years.
So has New York Times restaurant slayer Frank Bruni. The missives on Eater from William Tigertt of Freeman's dwelled first on when Bruni was spotted in the restaurant, fretting over the menu and then hoping for the best after Bruni called with some questions along with Times fact-checkers.
He wrote on Monday:
It makes me sad to think that tomorrow night I will sitting in my office in front of a computer clicking reload on the New York Times webpage until carpal tunnel syndrome sets in. I would much rather be carousing dive bars with my co-workers, self-medicating our jitters, and celebrating whatever victories and setbacks the past two years of New York has thrown at us.
Which is why it will be interesting to see what Tigertt will write next, given that Bruni's review in today's Times gave the restaurant zero stars, saddling it with the kiss-of-death "satisfactory" rating. Such reviews make for good reading if not eating.
The folks at Eater, unabashed fans of Freeman's are fulminating. They had been expecting a one-star review, with a two-star assessment a distant possibility. "[H]is sticking Freemans with a Satisfactory this week is somewhat inexplicable in that it reads mostly as an "I told you so" wrist slap."
But the thinking at Eater is Freeman's has a healthy coat of Teflon to fend off even the worst Bruni barbs. Keep that order of grilled Cheddar toast warm for me, in the meantime.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Morning radio DJs don't have to be Mensa candidates to be successful. But at least half a brain would help.
John Hines needs help.
As the clown-in-chief on the morning show on country station K102 in the Twin Cities, Hines and his cohorts were riffing on how Jon Voight was having trouble with the names of the children of his estranged daughter Angelina Jolie, including daughter Zahara Jolie-Pitt.
That's when things headed rapidly downhill, reports the Star-Tribune.
"I don't know what that child's name was, but I said, 'He could have said Chocolate Monkey for all I know and what would the difference be? He's never met the kids.'"
Hines said he didn't know Zahara is black.
Hines says he's sorry if his mouth overtook his brain, but that doesn't qualify him for KKK membership. We'll see if his bosses believe that. Or if they care.
Ah, live TV.
Tonight, Larry King was interviewing Joe Biden about Ahmadinejad's UN speech (summary: liar, liar, pants on fire. Bush did a decent job).
Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer were in the studio with King while Biden was elsewhere.
Ever the inclusive one, King asks:
"Anderson, do you have a question for Joe?"
Monday, September 18, 2006
In the Virginia Senate race, it's the dark horse vs. the guy who rides a horse.
The former would be Democrat Jim Webb, political neophyte cum war hero going up against Bush lapdog George (my Dad was a football icon and thank goodness he named me after him) Allen Jr.
Allen's got more name recognition, more money and the advantage of incumbency, but nothing is forever as the latest polls show.
Ideology aside, Webb should win in a landslide if yesterday's debate on "Meet The Press" is any indication.
From a rhetorical perspective, Webb gave Allen a big-time pimp slap that should convince the Allen camp to stick a prod in their candidate and give him some life.
Webb was plain-spoken and forceful in his opposition to the Iraq war and concisely explained to Tim Russert why he supported Allen in 2000 but not now.
In response, Allen offered up political bromides, using the tired tactic of referring to Webb, who was sitting right next to him, as "my opponent," rather than "Jim" or "Mr. Webb," as if people would somehow forget his name if he didn't utter it.
When Russert repeatedly pressed him on his unyielding support for the war and would he do it again if he knew that the CIA had concluded there was no Saddam-al Qaeda link, he bobbed, weaved and bumbled rather than offer a straight answer.
Allen has been consistent in saying he voted for the war out of loyalty to the country, not Bush, and he went back to that sawhorse yesterday -- never really explaining what the hell that means in the first place.
As for the "Macaca" crack, Allen took himself to the woodshed, even though he denied knowing it was a racist slur. "There was no racial or ethnic intent at slurring .... It was just made up, made up words" and said he had never heard of the word before.
And what about that Confederate flag you once kept in your house along with a noose at his law office?
In the session's "duh" moment, he offered: "I wish I had experiences in life earlier and I would have made decisions differently" and insisted, without conviction but with copious amounts of platitudes that he really, really likes black people and others who don't look exactly like him.
Somewhere, Allen's press handlers must have been looking for a noose of their own. It couldn't have gone any worse for their man.
Somewhere else, those at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee should be looking in their till and give what they have to Webb. It's not often they get a candidate running against an opponent too distracted from the foot that keeps getting stuck in his mouth.
But I doubt that's in the cards. Here's why:
---Ship Without A Rudder -- The Times, even in its diminished state caused by years of budget and staff cuts, is still a great newspaper, routinely winning Pulitzer prizes and the grudging admiration of its rivals. It still stirs the drink when it comes to entertainment coverage, while its vaunted foreign bureaus will now also service most of the other Tribune properties who lost their own bureaus thanks to the beancounters in Chicago. Take them away and most foreign news in those papers will come from the wires, which could include the LA Times via a syndicate, in what would be quite an ironic and sad turn of events.
---Still A Cash Cow--Unless you're a greedy institutional investor who waxes nostalgic about the oceans of black ink flowing from newspapers' bottom lines during the dot-com boom, then a 20 percent profit margin like the one generated by the Times is mighty respectable. The Times is responsible for about a quarter of Tribune's publishing revenue, according to the Journal. Take that away, and the company is much-diminshed, more damaged goods than nimble.
---Economies of Scale--The likes of Ron Burkle and David Geffen have been sniffing around the Times sensing an opportunity, not to mention the lofty goal of making the Times locally owned again (we all know how well that's worked out in Santa Barbara, after all). But when these billionaire wannabe publishers have to negotiate their own deals for such mundane items as newsprint and health insurance, they're on their own. No corporate rates spread over many properties. Then they have to justify the price they paid. That means making a buck. That means cutting jobs. That spells disaster.
It's still possible for Tribune to fold in on itself and be broken into pieces a la Knight Ridder if Wall Street is truly ravenous. But it's doubtful Tribune will facilitate that by getting rid of the Times. At least not yet.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Can't We All Just Get Along? Not!
They're getting testy over at the White House press room, apparently jonesing for the midterms and the hopeful humiliation of the Bushies by a mad as H-E-double-hockey-sticks electorate.
Meantime, NBC White House chieftain David Gregory and presidential mouthpiece Tony Snow are done with their honeymoon. Somewhere, Scott McClellan is cackling rather loudly, following this exchange:
MR. SNOW: Okay, let me -- let's not let you get away with being rude. Let me just answer the question, and you can come back at me.
Q Excuse me. Don't point your finger at me. I'm not being rude.
MR. SNOW: Yes, you are.
Maybe if they had kept going, it would have devolved into:
Q: I know you are, but what am I?
MR. SNOW: I see London, I see France. I can see your underpants.
Q: Your Mama.
MR. SNOW: Your Mama is a leading contributor to MoveOn.org.
Play nice, you two!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Now the second-day stories from Down Under on Steve Irwin's demise are starting the transition from grief to questions to reflection.
Click on the story in the Sydney Morning Herald where police determined Irwin was not "intimidating" the homicidal ray, and you get 31 links to other sidebars, tributes, videos and photos. Also included is a poll asking: "Should video footage of Irwin's death be shown?" As of this writing, it's 58 percent against, by the way.
Over at The Australian, columnist Matt Price sounds a bit bemused, even a little put off, by the worldwide reaction to Irwin's bizarre death, noting it shows how little the rest of the world knows about his country.
In truth, of course, Irwin’s Australia is largely a romantic myth. We are the most urbanised nation in the world, living in increasingly crammed cities on an increasingly crowded coastline. We are, as a rule, terrified of sharks, crocodiles, snakes and spiders, just like everyone else in the world.
Then again, Prime Minister John Howard appears to be buying into the myth, when he said Irwin died in "quintessentially Australian circumstances" and offered up a state funeral if Irwin's family wants one.
But there are the inevitable dispatches that try to knock Irwin's legacy down a peg or two, including one from Mark Coultan in Melbourne's The Age. Writing from New York, he made note of the saturation coverage here and added for good measure: "Irwin was a nightmare for tourism marketers trying to shift Australia's image from beaches and koalas."
Coulter says Irwin's success begat other Discovery Channel staples like Shark Week. More danger = higher ratings, but encouraging irresponsible behavior -- if a bloke like Steve can do it why can't we? -- among viewers that can lead to a bad outcome. His death might give Discovery pause before showing other programs of this ilk. But don't count on that.
Over at 2UE, one of Australia's leading news-talk stations, this was topic one, of course. It was refreshing to listen to overnight host Stuart Bocking actually talk to a caller who felt Irwin encouraged disturbing animal habitats for the better part of seven minutes, and not once shout him down, call him an idiot and hang up spewing epithets.
Conversations on talk radio. How quaint.