Thursday, April 27, 2006

Shon Gone

Gables Goes From WCBS-TV To Points Unknown
Shon Gables is officially history at WCBS-TV/2, according to the New York Post.
That's what's called not-unexpected news in the news business, given that she was among the parade of anchors shuffled off the morning newscasts. So, while a station flack said Gables was offered other slots to remain an anchor, she chose to bolt instead.
Presumably, another anchor slot meant working weekends (Mary Calvi had moved to noon and 5 p.m.), which might not have seemed so appetizing, after being a major domo during the week albeit on a bottom-rated show.
Of course, doing weekends on Channel 2 has been akin, as of late, to having one foot out the door. Michael Pomeranz, after getting moved from mornings to weekends, ankled for a weeknight gig in the Twin Cities.
Then there's Todd McDermott, who did weekday shows before being exiled to the weekends. He left in 2004 and can now be seen on WUSA in Washington, with former Channel 2 sports anchor Brett Haber.

Honeymoon In San Jose For Singleton Could Be Short-Lived

As One Columnist Resorts to Butt-Kissing, Harder Reality Lays in Store
Now that Dean Singleton has locked up a good chunk of the Bay Area newspaper market with the purchase of the San Jose Mercury News and three other papers unwanted from the McClatchy purchase of Knight Ridder, the waiting game begins.
Specifically, to see whether it's the Singleton who resuscitated his hometown Denver Post by adding staff (though not as many as he promised), or the Singleton who buys a paper and then napalms the newsroom to cut costs.
The Mercury News shouldn't necessarily be expecting more staff cuts -- Knight Ridder did that quite nicely, thank you -- they and the other minions in Singleton's MediaNews empire have been put on notice that the status quo has got to go.
To wit, this passage buried in the N.Y. Times report about the purchase.

He said it was time to start giving consumers what they want, which was more entertainment news and 'less long series that we love to do but our readers hate to read.'


Maybe Singleton is still smarting over the fact that the arch-rival Rocky Mountain News -- which the Denver Post has a joint operating agreement for business operations -- recently won two Pulitzers.
Even if he's right, and I'm not sure that he is, such pronouncements could signal a sea change in newsgathering at the Mercury News and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, another large KR paper being acquired.
Meantime, Singleton has an ally in Merc News columnist Mike Cassidy, who while he tells us he rooted for someone else besides Singleton to take over his beloved newspaper, he'll butt-kiss like there's no tomorrow now that Dean-O is signing his checks.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Following The Bouncing Puck In The New York Times Sports Department

Multi-Tasking For The Sake of Multi-Tasking?
OK, it's swell for the N.Y. Times to double-staff the Devils-Rangers series with two staff reporters. After all, this is a newspaper that had one writer during the season covering the sport, even though there are three teams in the metro area.
Jason Diamos was the Rangers beat reporter, while the Devils and Islanders were mostly relegated to wire coverage.
Which then raises the question of why Diamos isn't covering the hometown series. Instead, he's in Buffalo, writing about the Sabres in today's edition.
Instead, Lee Jenkins, currently flitting from sport to sport and acquitting himself rather nicely, and Jets writer Karen Crouse are covering the home teams.
I'm sure if you quizzed the Times brass, they'd point with pride to how versatile their reporters are, resulting in seamless coverage.
But if you assigned a reporter to cover a team for a whole season, it would stand to reason you'd want his insight, expertise and access at a time when interest of the team is heightened. If not, then there's no point to having a beat reporter.
Even more curious, Joe Lapointe, who once served as the Times' national hockey writer, at a time when such a position existed, was off covering the Yankees instead. Multi-tasking for the sake of multi-tasking doesn't necessarily serve the reader better.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss: Goodbye and Good Riddance, Scott McClellan

The not-unexpected resignation of Scott McClellan as Bush Mouthpiece-In-Chief will likely not be greeted with hoops and hollers within the White House press room.
This is an administration so totally on message -- skewed, distorted and out of step as it might be -- that any semblance of candor will be snuffed out with extreme prejudice.
Reporters knew McClellan was just the servant boy for all the prevarication emanating from the West Wing. But he turned into something more, as he uttered inane soundbite after bite, refusing to provide illumination on even the most innocuous of subjects.
Chances are they'll get someone else dripping with contempt for the Fourth Estate from the get-go, just the way Dubya likes it.
Remember when Mike McCurry beget Joe Lockhart in the Clinton White House? Hardly a barrel of laughs or warmth emanating from the podium following that transition.
Look for more of the same this time around. Much more.

Monday, April 17, 2006

News Flash: Brad Pitt Knows How To Read!

To The Literate Go The Spoils
The N.Y. Times had a short piece today about how Glamour was giving itself a bit of a journalistic makeover, with a monthly column by Marianne Pearl, widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
At the end, she mentions how Brad Pitt's making a movie about her book that's a memoir of her life with Danny.
And just how did Pitt's production company become the one to snag the rights? Simply, "he was the only one who had read the book."
Imagine that.
Of course, disinterest in reading books is hardly alien to Hollywood. After all, many an author on a book tour has been confronted by talk-show hosts and interviewers who may have read the dust jacket or press release, but couldn't be bothered to have at least cracked the spine of the hardcover.
Larry King, for one, makes no secret of not reading the books of authors he's interviewed, but nobody at CNN has the guts to tell him that's nothing to be proud about.
Pearl probably figured that if Pitt could be bothered to read the story of her life and the legacy of her husband, then he might actually care enough to get the story right rather than see it head off the rails with some garden-variety producer and turned into the next Lifetime Movie of the Week.
Here's hoping she's right.

New Painter Of Word Pictures for Mets Radiocasts Makes An Impression

Tom McCarthy, Battle-Tested in Philly, A Cool Customer In Flushing Hot Seat
New Yorkers have been fortunate to have not had to endure baseball broadcasters in recent generations who are relentless homers that look at the diamond with rose-colored glasses even when the Mets and Yankees are stinking up the joint.
Of course, the obvious exception was Phil Rizzuto, but the Scooter was excused because, well, he was the Scooter, you huckleberry.
The latest addition to the Mets' radio booth keeps the high quality of those broadcasts firmly intact. Tom McCarthy, ex of Phillies broadcasts, replaced Gary Cohen, who has made a seamless transition to SportsNet NY for the Mets TV games.
Cohen and Howie Rose had created a warm rapport over the last two years on radio, melding an intimate knowledge of the team with a smooth, authoritative call of the game and an unforced sense of humor. These were two guys who had grown up watching the Mets, and sometimes sounded like they were pinching themselves for having the jobs they did, but never let their professionalism flag or call attention to themselves more than what was on the field (John Sterling, call your office).
McCarthy and Rose are still navigating their chemistry, but not by much. There's still a sense of familiarity to be acquired, but McCarthy (also a boyhood Mets fan growing up in Brick, N.J.) pretty much already has the fit of a well-worn glove. A silky voice reveals a broadcaster who does his homework, and look out for just the right detail and when to feed off an observation made by Rose.
Besides calling a game, Rose and Cohen were two guys who just liked to talk about baseball. The pair possessed an easy banter, a stark contrast to the many years when Cohen shared the booth with the beloved Bob Murphy.
Rose loses none of that with McCarthy, who may find himself with his biggest audience yet, now that he's covering a team that, as of this early writing, just happens to have the best record in baseball.

A New Day Dawns At WCBS-TV, But Did Anybody Notice?

New York TV Station With Anemic News Ratings Shakes Things Up -- Again
If you tuned into WCBS-TV/2 News this morning, you witnessed the beginning of the station's extreme makeover for its low-rated newscasts.
Gone was the conga line of anchors, weather guy, sports dude and traffic lady all trying to get a word in edgewise.
Instead, it was a mere two people at the anchor desk -- the relocated Maurice DuBois from the 6 p.m. news, was joined on mornings by newbie Kate Sullivan (above), most recently of the ABC affiliate in Little Rock.
DuBois cannot be too thrilled by the change. After all, he left WNBC, where he helmed the dawn patrol for the better part of five years and left, in part to escape those hours and a higher profile, though going to channel 2 is not the best way to go about that.
For now, he'll soldier on until his agent can find another gig that doesn't involve waking up at 2 a.m.
The attractive, affable Sullivan began her tenure unobtrusively and mistake-free for the short time I watched. Give her credit for not looking too shell-shocked that she made the leap from the capital of Arkansas to the media capital of the world in one fell swoop.
Still, it remains to be seen whether any of this will make a difference. The show used to be dubbed the .2 Morning News, given its desultory Nielsens. Not much has changed, which is one reason News Director Dianne Doctor was given the boot last week.
As for the rest of what was the Channel 2 morning circus: Mario Bosquez, according to the Daily News, will now be a reporter, Jim Ryan will be a contributor to the morning show instead of an anchor, while the role of the third anchor, Shon Gables, is not clear, though the word from the gaggle at is that we've seen the last of her on WCBS. Still, her bio remains on the station's Web site.
Dave Price had already stopped doing the weather in the mornings, though he'll still be on the network's "Early Show" in that role. He's replaced full-time by Audrey Puente.
Sports guy Duke Castiglione had left last March. Weekend sportscaster Deucis Rogers filled in live, but it's not clear if that's his new gig, or they just wanted a live body to interact with the new anchor. Just as likely: whomever anchored at 11 will tape packages for the following morning, which is what Channel 2 does on the weekends since Tina Cervasio decamped for NESN.
As for the rest of the newscasts, Roz Abrams gets a new partner and one new time slot, anchoring the noon and 5 p.m. shows with former weekend anchor Mary Calvi. Cindy Hsu, who had the noon gig, will now report on family issues.
That leaves Jim Rosenfield and Dana Tyler, Channel 2 Superwoman. Rosenfield moves from 5 to 6 p.m., while Tyler keeps 6 p.m. and gets back 11 pm. to team up with Rosenfield.
This is all the handiwork of station general manager Peter Dunn, who is after more steak, less sizzle, hence the departure of such racy one-time staples as "Shame On You" and Kirstin Cole's reports on filthy restaurants.
Channel 2 used to throw a really large carrot in a desperate attempt to lure viewers, namely half the commercials. Unclear whether that's still in play, as it did little to improve ratings. But consider the latest changes, at least in the morning, an upgrade.
Gone is the noise, which will hopefully be replaced by the news.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

With Flacks Like These, Who Needs Enemies

From Our Pot-Calling-The-Kettle-Black File, the Voice of Jayson Blair Weighs In on Jared Paul Stern
At least give Ted Faraone credit for being something of a straight shooter, which is not the norm for publicists. Faraone reps Jayson Blair, among others, and wrote in a letter to Editor & Publisher that his prevaricating client should not be painted with the same broad brush now tarring and feathering Page Six badboy Jared Paul Stern.
Of course, Blair, the NY. Times' former nonpariel fabricator, might wince at how Faraone defends him. Alas, the truth can be a real bitch.
Wrote Faraone: "He was an undiagnosed manic-depressive going through a breakdown that he was trying to hide from his bosses. He couldn't keep up with the job as he melted down. That is why he resorted to plagiarism and fabrication. He was not extorting anything from anyone."
Which is what a good flack does, drawing those distinctions and spinning them into utter nothingness. Blair may have been journalistic scum, but at least he's not journalistic scum who's also possibly facing felony charges.
Lest you think Faraone has totally taken leave of his senses, he does come back to Earth in the next sentence: "Being nuts is no excuse, as the medicated Jayson will tell you."
Then again, when will you ever again believe anything Jayson Blair says?

Making The Transition From Fart Jokes To Steve Inskeep

Former Howard Stern Listeners Lost In The Wilderness Find Radio Oasis at NPR
The Los Angeles Times takes a look at where the millions of Howard Stern fanatics who didn't migrate with him to Sirius are lending their ears.,1,7251780.story?coll=la-headlines-entnews

Morning talk radio tends to be dominated by conservatives, but Stern's audience tends to be centrist to liberal in political orientation, for which NPR is a better fit, analysts say. And both shows emphasize lifestyle, quirky or offbeat takes on the news and appeal to baby boomers, they say.

Which doesn't mean "Morning Edition" co-hosts Steve Inskeep (above) and Renee Montaigne will start belching on the air, expound on their bowel movements, extol the joys of pleasuring oneself or ask their guests to get naked anytime soon (though if dollars fall short on the next pledge drive, you never know).

Still, all parties have a lot at stake. Stern/Sirius need to pull in a boatload more listeners to justify plunking down a half-billion for the King of All Media's services four days a week. That will take time, not to mention a lot more cars coming equipped with Sirius to make the investment truly viable.
CBS Radio will get pimp-slapped in the ratings for the foreseeable future and may not have a viable exit strategy for its Arbitron woes. Which is why execs may swallow their pride and open up their wallets to welcome back Opie & Anthony, booted for putting on the air a couple allegedly having sex (probably didn't happen) in St. Patrick's Cathedral who are now in a comfortable exile at XM Radio, which will share O&A for the right price.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Vieira Si, Brown No

Meredith Replaces The Katie At "Today," But Campbell Brown May Come Out The Winner In The End
OK, sometimes we're wrong. This space predicted Meredith Vieira wouldn't make the leap from her double duties at "The View" and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" to wake up in the middle of the night to kibitz with Matt, Al and Ann.
But maybe it was the prestige. Or, maybe it was the reported $10 million a year NBC Big Cheese Jeff Zucker dangled in front of her.
Don't get me wrong. Despite Vieira having been on hiatus from hard news for more than a decade, she has enough cred from her past experience at CBS News to credibly carry the first hour of "Today" when hard-news dominates.
And she's more than prepared for the cooking, fashion, child-rearing and other fluff that is a morning-show staple, having logged thousands of hours as one of the yentas on "The View."
But did NBC really need her that badly to fork over that kind of dough? Probably not, but at least they put themselves in a position to ensure the show won't be weakened after Katie Couric apparates to CBS. And that's really all that matters when you have a show that's a solid number one.
As for Campbell Brown, co-hosting "Weekend Today"and being the prime sub for Couric during the week and Brian Williams on "NBC Nightly News" is hardly a gig to cry crocodile tears over. But clearly she had paid enough dues to merit a nod as Couric's successor.
With her contract reportedly having a year to run, look for her to either extract a big fat raise from the Peacock Gang or get wooed in an extremely serious way by the other networks. As a recent bride, she's probably not inclined to become a bridesmaid at work.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Radio Rookies Show Pledge Dollars Hard At Work At WNYC

Congrats to WNYC and its corps of Radio Rookies for winning a Peabody Award today. The rookies are high-school students from New York City who put together compelling first-person essays about their lives and the world around them, unfiltered by the demands of commericalism and slick sound bites.
It's the very notion of what public radio could and should be. The Peabody was for the class of 2005, but you can hear the latest batch, which ran in February, at

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Katie Couric, Savior, Or So We're Led To Believe

But Is The Queen Of The Morning The One To Lead CBS To Ratings Glory In The Evening?
Don't get me wrong, I don't envy those who wake up in the middle of the night to go to work so we can get the news over our coffee and Special K. Been there, done that.
It's a tough gig, not just because you're dog tired, but because so much money is at stake. Morning drive is when many radio stations pay most of their bills, while on TV the news keeps starting earlier, because the audience keeps getting bigger and more lucrative.
Which is why Katie Couric is such a big deal. "Today" brings in an estimated $250 million in profit for NBC, its biggest cash cow. That Couric has been at the helm while the show has been number one for over a decade can be chalked up to more than just coincidence, and is why she rakes in at least $15 million a year.
It's also why NBC is willing to throw a few million more to keep her from bolting to CBS, where she can chuck her alarm clock and watch the morning shows instead of being watched. Bill Carter, Howie Kurtz, et al. are reporting today that Couric to CBS is all but a done deal, and NBC has graciously thrown in the towel.
For the Couric investment to pay off, CBS needs to siphon off not only viewers from NBC, ABC and the cable newsies, but also attract new viewers who've long since stopped sampling the evening news or never have in the first place.
The universe of viewers at that hour keeps shrinking, in large part because so many of them are dying off (the average viewer is in the neighborhood of 60) and not being replaced by younger stock.
In the end, she is the steward of a news broadcast that, despite a change in anchor and an executive producer loaded with vision and news smarts, still isn't markedly different than its brethren.
It will be for the better if Couric is given a role in changing that, not to mention using her wattage to get the big gets not only for the Evening News, but for "60 Minutes," where she'll no doubt do some moonlighting.
As long as Les Moonves, puts some more money in the news division budget to pay for Couric, rather than siphon money from other resources, the habitues of the CBS Broadcast Center will be living in most interesting times.
Over at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, all eyes then turn to the chair next to Matt (now I finally get top billing) Lauer. Once again, we cast our vote unequivocally for the newly betrothed Campbell Brown (Mazel tov).
Natalie Morales gets the close-second consolation prize, playing an active role as newsreader/substitute host, with Ann Curry moving full-time to Dateline, where she can actually do some reporting -- a role she's often excelled at.
As for Meredith Vieira taking the gig and reportedly giving it serious consideration, says USA Today: Still don't see it happening. "The View" is too lucrative and cushy a job as there is in TV, while she's under contract to host "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" for another year.
Morning news queen and game-show host don't appear to go hand in hand nowadays, even if there's precedent with the likes of Hugh Downs doing double duty on "Today" and "Concentration." Different time and situation.
With Brown, you already have a proven entity -- through her "Weekend Today" and fill-ins on "Today" and "NBC Nightly News." You don't really need to sell the audience on her.
No question, Vieira has plenty of news chops from her CBS days -- even if they've been in storage for the better part of a decade -- and she could certainly handle her share of fluff pieces in her sleep.
Which is where we started. Does a 52-year-old mother of three teenagers really want to drag herself out of bed to appear on a program where the spotlight will never glare brighter and her every move and miscue will be parsed for signs of weakness?
In the end, Vieira -- assuming she gets a job offer from Jeff Zucker -- may well decide it's simply better to collect a fat check serving as a referee for Joy Behar and Star Reynolds and asking some egghead if he wants to use his final lifeline to phone a friend.

Must-See TV, Memphis Style: Prime Time Gets Hit By A Tornado

Stations Go Wall-to-Wall When Wicked Weather Strikes When Towns Are In Danger of an Extreme Home Makeover
When you come from New York and travel the country, you realize how news that's a non-factor back home, is front and center once you stop dialing the 212 area code.
Case in point: The wife and I were in the Memphis area over the weekend for some R&R and copious amounts of barbecue. On the way to our hotel in West Memphis, Arkansas, the Emergency Broadcast System interrupts the gospel on WDIA to alert us to a tornado warning for the area.
We get to the hotel just in time to see the sky turn black, the wind pick up and quarter-sized hail pound our rental car. Thinking it wise to wait out the storm before heading out to dinner, we turned on the TV and quickly realized this was not a drill.
The Big Four affiliates were going wall-to-wall with storm coverage, putting their Doppler, VIPIR and all matter of digital weather gizmos into overdrive.
To hear that a tornado was traveling near the I-40 corridor and realizing you were about 20 yards from the interstate was a bit jarring to say the least.
West Memphis made it through OK, but others didn't. Funnel clouds tore through towns in western Tennessee, as well as eastern Arkanas and Missouri, which are in the Memphis viewing area. By morning, at least 20 were dead, along with the usual injuries and destroyed structures that come when gusts are over 100 mph come suddenly and with little or no warning.
The Memphis stations generally did a yeoman job of keeping viewers informed, with the CBS affiliate WREG-TV getting an ever-so-slight nod for having its weather team working as an especially well-oiled machine throughout the night.
The ABC affiliate, WPTY, stood out, but for breaking away at 9 p.m. to show Grey's Anatomy, the network's ratings king. You could argue that the worst was over by then, and ABC24 could jump back in as events warrant or simply wait for the news at 10. Or, you could be more cynical and say the station didn't want to sacrifice any more ad dollars and counter-program. A tough call either way, but the beginning of their 10 p.m. show, with stumbles, miscues and somewhat-dated tape was hardly worth the wait.
As for "Desperate Housewives " fans in the Mid-South, the station informed viewers, somewhat cryptically, they're out of luck because of "complex legal reasons."
The same fate may lie in store for other Sunday staples like "Cold Case," "The Simpsons" and "Extreme Home Makeover," which unfortunately has some new source material.