Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Now That The Bun's In The Oven, Campbell Brown Puts Herself On Hiatus

A belated mazel tov to Campbell Brown and husband Dan Senor for their upcoming family expansion.
Brown, who's wrapping up her tenure on "Weekend Today" before heading to CNN (all but announced) in an as-yet-undefined role, made it official on Sunday's program.
No word yet on a due date or the gender. Apparently, she wants to find out, while the hubby prefers to wait.
Outside the Brown household, the larger question is what does this mean for Brown vis a vis CNN.
The betting line had Brown uprooting Paula Zahn from the 8 p.m. slot, although her arrival could presage a larger rearrangement of the anchor chairs (Lou Dobbs in prime time, anyone?). If Brown is on the shelf for a few months, will CNN wait for her to come back, or will they move quicker on Zahn and put another anchor in as a place holder? Or none of the above.
Bashing Zahn has become a little too fashionable as of late, especially when her ratings have improved though her numbers most nights still put her behind Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann and Nancy Grace (also preggers albeit with twins).
Merely swapping out Brown -- however engaging and talented she might be -- for Zahn may not be what CNN needs in that slot to make a serious dent. Which is why the cajoling of Dobbs by CNN brass may have already begun.

The Sun Blares Its Blair Exclusive As Tony Bids Toodle-Oo

Murdoch's Busty Tab Nabbed A Sit-Down With Dubya Last Month. Did He Ever Read Page 3?
You don't read The Sun, Britain's raciest and -- not coincidentally -- best-selling tabloid for its insightful political coverage.
Instead, Rupert Murdoch has the bread for this cash cow buttered with a heavy dose of sports, gossip and, of course, the Page 3 girls, whose revealing profiles can make being squeezed like a sardine during a rush-hour ride on the Underground a tad more tolerable.
But as it turns out, Sun Editor Rebekah Wade nailed a softball interview with Dubya last month in the Oval Office, where he waxed poetic about Tony Blair's impending departure, which happened this morning.
"Blair ain't my poodle, says Bush" blares the Sun headline.
Indeed, Bush says Blair's more of a pit bull who can talk circles around him.

“Tony’s great skill, and I wish I had it, is that he’s very articulate. I wish I was a better speaker. This guy can really . . . he can talk ... We have different speaking styles, of course. He’s much more kind of lofty and eloquent than I am."

Don't we know it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trouble In Paradise: Antigua and Other Caribbean Nations Show How A Free Press Has A Price

Discouraging Words Are Discouraged As Islands Refuse To Let Sunshine In

The feisty blog Barbados Free Press brought our attention to an item from about how Antigua gave the boot to the editor of the local daily paper, the Antigua Sun, under the guise of immigration violations.
This happened, despite the fact that Vernon Khelawan is a citizen of the Caribbean Community and Common Market, where people who live in any of the 15 member nations are supposed to be able to travel freely.
The government also deported Lennox Linton of the privately owned Observer Radio.
In case you were wondering, Antigua's constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of the press, but Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer doesn't seem to concerned about that for now.
Regrettably, incidents like these are hardly shockers in the Caribbean Basin, according to Barbados Free Press.

Folks in larger countries do not realise the power that small island governments have over their citizens and their local media. If a reporter or a citizen says the wrong thing or asks the wrong questions in Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia or a host of other Caribbean islands, they probably won’t have their leg broken when they answer the door in the middle of the night…

But their wife or brother will be fired from their job for no apparent reason. Or that building permit that their sister wanted won’t come through. Or their good friend’s computer servicing company will suddenly find their government supplier designation “under review.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sippy-Cup Battle Looks Good on TV, But Real Story Isn't Being Told

No Water-Gate Here: Baby Or Not, This Time The TSA Got It Right

A preface: I've had enough rotten experiences at airport security lines like almost all of us. So, you won't see me reflexively rushing to the defense of the TSA, even if they did reimburse me $150 for a destroyed bag without giving me a hassle.
This weekend, the agency was once again on the wrong end of the spotlight, when network news programs showed video of a woman named Monica Emmerson -- who just happened to be a former Secret Service agent -- having an angry confrontation at Reagan National Airport in Washington after being told she couldn't take a sippy cup for her baby filled with water through a checkpoint.
The donnybrook kicked off when Emmerson then either dumped out the water on the floor, or as she says, accidentally spillled it. Eventually, she cleaned it up. But the damage was done. Amid this version of Water-gate, she and her 19-month-old missed their flight.
And that should have been the end of it, except for the fact that Emmerson made a big stink of what happened by posting in a local forum, and soon the blogosphere took hold of the story. The TSA then responded by posting a video of the incident on its Web site, to show its agents did nothing wrong. So vehemently did the TSA believe in its position that it placed the video under a heading blithely labeled "Mythbusters."
ABC tried to present a balanced report by saying "in a tense environment, some argue that passengers need to be more aware — and that the sippy cup mom may have acted inappropriately."
The problem phrase here is "may have." The video was provacative enough and relatable to millions of beleaguered travelers. Yet, in the end, it really shouldn't have been much of a story, if any at all.
The real news here may be that the TSA got this one right. As is stated clearly at, "[p]rescription medications, baby formula and milk (when traveling with an infant or toddler) are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces...."
Not water.
We don't know if this was explained to ex-agent/pissed-off Emmerson. Either way, her reaction was not the one warranted or deserved. The mere presence of the incident being caught on tape didn't make it any more newsworthy.
I came up against this rule myself traveling with my toddler earlier this year at LAX. If there had been milk or juice in my son's sippy cup, that would have been fine. But it was water, and that it was verboten was conveyed to me in a matter-of-fact, even apologetic way.
I've long since shrugged off incidents like these as just one of the many annoyances of flying today, rather than throw a hissy fit. You won't win the argument nor should you.
I've actually noticed an increased level of professionalism and courtesy among TSA personnel, who had been more prone to make up rules as they went along and treat passengers like cockroaches who stood in the way of their coffee break.
Which is not to say they are perfect, but on this day at Reagan Airport, they were right.

Campbell Brown Heads Uptown, Tired Of Being Consolation Prize At NBC

Being A High-Paid Weekend Anchor and Fill-In Just Doesn't Cut It
NBC News has been quick to publicly claim its love and affection for Campbell Brown, the co-anchor of "Weekend Today" and designated Brian Williams fill-in on "NBC Nightly News." They've done everything short of putting Xs, Os and gold stickers on her paycheck as her contract comes up for renewal next month.
Thing is, Brown has shown she has the chops to be more than the scrappy utility player off the bench. Which is why she felt rightfully felt wronged when NBC threw open its vault to snag Meredith Vieira to replace Katie Couric on "Today," when they already had Brown lying in wait, and who could have been had for a lot less.
So, now comes news from various sources, including The Washington Post, that Brown is on the verge of leaving 30 Rock and head west to the Time Warner Center, where CNN has its New York digs.
NBC could match any offer, but likely won't, as any Brown deal will likely be in the seven figures, and as John Siegenthaler and Stone Phillips found out the hard way, the network isn't inclined to pay those sums any more to anyone but those perched on the top shelf. To be sure, Brown belongs there but there just isn't any room.
So, it's likely off to CNN, which is likely bad news for Paula Zahn, whose ratings have been decent, yet still pale in comparison to "The O'Reilly Factor." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes how CNN has been patient, perhaps to a fault, nurturing Zahn's show since she jumped from Fox News Channel in 2003.
Brown's arrival could be the impetus CNN needs to do something about that, namely move "Lou Dobbs Tonight" to 8 p.m. to take on O'Reilly, leaving Brown to slip into Dobbs' slot at 6 p.m. or to get a 7 p.m. gig if CNN revamps Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room," which now runs 4-6 p.m. and 7-8 p.m.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Getting Steamed About LG Steam Dryer Spots

So With All This Whizbang Technology, Why Fake The Star Attraction?
As someone who's been appliance shopping lately, a TV spot I caught a couple of days ago for the LG Steam Dryer grabbed my attention.
Thoughts of sending the iron to my dustbin vanished as the announcer extolled the virtues of the Steam Fresh feature, which injects steam via a pump and cartridge system to reduce wrinkles on dry clothing without water.
Pretty cool, huh. And you'd think that for the privilege of shelling out as much as $1,400 for the machine you'd get to watch the steam in motion. You do in the commercial. Only thing, up flashes a "steam simulated" sign.
Fake steam? Now I'm steamed! Really Puts The Service Into Service Journalism

Violet Blue's Open Source Sex Column Source of Some Really Probing Journalism

Give, the web portal for the San Francisco Chronicle a lot of credit. It's anything but boring.
Case in point: The online column Open Source Sex from Violet Blue offers advice that, suffice to say, would not have been proffered by Ann Landers.
To wit, the column on how to safely fly with sex toys, which is one you won't see in too many papers outside San Francisco. Their loss.
A particularly helpful hint: check your fetishes at curbside along with your baggage.

"Remember that if they're confiscating toenail clippers and eyebrow tweezers, they're definitely not letting you bring the fuzzy handcuffs, tit clamps, leather flogger or unusually shaped vibrator on the plane."

Advice I'll be sure to take to heart next time I'm traveling without the kids.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why Editors Shouldn't Try To Make Excuses For Layoffs

Trying Times In The Triad for the Greensboro News & Record Leaves Editor Attempting to Convince Readers He'll Do More With Less
Pink slips to prevent red ink are becoming common in newsrooms nationwide, including the Greensboro News & Record, where 18 reporters and editors were among the 41 who were axed last week.
So, at least give editor John Robinson credit for trying to put a smiley face on the bloodletting.
Like others at newspapers that have experiences similar losses, he failed miserably.
On his blog today, Robinson was unconvincing in explaining what happened and how the paper will move forward. Let's parse a few of his missives, shall we?

Talented folks left the building, and we'll miss them. This hard business decision brings us in line with many newspapers across the country.

So what Robinson appears to be saying is everyone else is doing it, so why can't we? Too bad, there's no one to give Robinson the equivalent reply I used to get from my Mom as a kid, some variation of "if everyone else jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you do it too?"
No one's forcing you to lay off anyone John; it was a business decision to prop up profits at the expense of your staff, plain and simple.

I respect the folks who left too much to suggest that we won't miss them in the newspaper. Our challenge is to make sure that we are producing the journalism that helps you understand and engage with the world.

Robinson then says the paper will organize around three themes. The first -- public service journalism -- is what Robinson rightly calls the "core reason we exist." He tells us that means "unique" stories, more investigative enterprise and community news."
But if you just slashed nearly 20 percent of your staff, who's left to do investigative reporting? And if you do free up someone for that, doesn't that mean other important stuff gets left by the wayside?

The second Robinson tenet is "audience-centered" journalism because -- news flash -- people are reading the paper online.
We will move faster to where you are so that we can get you what you need, when and how you need it.

Who's we? And with your staff threadbare, how can they move if they're constantly tethered to their desks?

Finally, he says the News & Record will be about "community building," on the belief that "there's a role for the newspapers to build community."

Of course, the last way to build community is to pull reporters out of those communities, which is what has happened. Robinson says the paper will continue its emphasis on "local, community-level news." But whether there's anything left worth reading about is a larger question that Robinson is in no position to answer.

However, given what's happened at all the other papers the News & Record has imitated, it's not hard to draw conclusions, none of which leave you sanguine about the quality of newsgathering in the Triad.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Will It Just Be The San Jose Mercury If There's Nobody Left To Cover the News?

"Lean Dean" Singleton Strikes Again, As He Prepares to Suck Lifeblood out of Silicon Valley's Prime News Source (Yes, Still)

Nobody at the San Jose Mercury-News who agreed to a draconian contract last year really should have expected that would be the end of their new owner's designs on reducing costs even further.
And now William Singleton has sadley proved them right, according to Grade The News. With a proposed 24 percent cut of the newsroom staff, he continues his campaign of killing the newspaper in order to save it.
No one disputes the Merc's days as a cash cow long ago dried up way before Knight Ridder packed it in, sold the paper to McClatchy, which then flipped it to Singleton's Media News. But it's a safe guess that the Merc still makes money, although Singleton keeps tight-lipped about those things.
It then becomes a question of how much profit is enough, especially in the challenging -- to put it charitably -- climate newspapers find themselves in.
And with Singleton pretty much achieving a newspaper hegemony by owning all the major titles in the East Bay, he's should have already wrung enough efficiencies out of his titles without having to gut his California flagship further.
Alas, he's proving us wrong, allowing him to prove that morale at the Merc could somehow sink even lower than it has.
Meantime, the staff has little to go on but the bromides from newly installed editrix Carole Leigh Hutton, telling them to chin up.
"This is a tough business these days, but it remains the very best profession, and we should all remain proud of our contributions to it."
Too bad pride doesn't get you to the head of the line at the unemployment office.

David Gregory Getting A Little Too Chummy Over At The White House?

During yesterday's NBC Nightly News, White House correspondent David "Stretch" Gregory reported on the impending departure of Bush communications czar/nonpariel spinmeister Dan Bartlett.
It got a little uncomfortable from my side of the TV when he referred to Bartlett on second reference as "Dan."
Which is fine if he's calling up Bartlett for a comment or running into him outside the press room and saying hi.
But even if the two of them carpool and play squash together once a week, "Dan" is still "Bartlett" to the rest of us. And for Gregory when he's on the air.