Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Brian Tierney Continues To Make The Inky Look Dinky

More Evidence That Philadelphia's Would-Be Media Savior Is Desperately Searching For A Clue
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

Why It Sucks To Be Kevin Convey

Sure, It's Great To Be The Editor of A Big-City Paper, But Not When It's The Boston Herald
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

Fox Squeezes O.J. Off TV and the Bookshelves

Even Rupert Murdoch Got The Creeps From Hearing Simpson's "Confession"
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

The Peacock Continues To Shed: New York Edition

NBC News continues to shrink as promised. First, Dateline correspondents Edie Magnus and Rob Stafford got the boot, the highest profile pink-slippees among the layoffs at the network news shows.
Now the axe is visiting local newsrooms at the network's O&O's. 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

John Tierney's "Polack" Problem

All Of A Sudden It's OK To Hurl Ethnic Slurs On The New York Times Op-Ed Page

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 come
dians 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

"All Things Considered" Lets Listeners Ask The Questions, But Doesn't Provide The Answers

Thursdays is when NPR's "All Things Considered" opens its email inbox to see what comes spilling out from listeners, many of which are not shy in expressing their views.
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

MAXjet Crashes And Burns While Trying To Back Out Of A Bad Story

What Happens When Your PR Person Is The One To Blame For Your Bad PR

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

Dean Baquet Walks The Plank

The Other Shoe Drops At The Los Angeles Times; Will He Put Down Martyr As The Latest Entry On His Resume?
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.
Too bad.
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

I Can't Sleep, I'm A N.Y. Times Sportswriter!

Clifton Brown Gets Some Serious Frequent-Flier Mileage To Make Up For A Lack of ZZZs
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

Going Beyond John Kerry To See The Real War

N.Y. Times Correspondent C.J. Chivers Not Only Provides Gripping Slice Of Life On The Front, But Shows Why Overseas Reporting Still Matters
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.