Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Making The Best Of Weather Stories

The Bane of Many a Reporter's Existence Also Offers A Chance to Show Your Chops With a New Spin on the Tried and True
When it's an unseasonably warm day or an unexpected cold snap arrives, the smart reporter knows to hide. For that's when the city editor comes a courtin', looking for you to get out to the nearest ice cream shop to see which flavors are moving or calling the local Home Depot to see if people are rushing in to stock up on road salt.
We've all done these stories as reporters because we have to, or we just didn't look busy enough.
But you can derive small satisfactions from these journalistic facts-of-life when you can actually find something different to say. To wit, this dispatch from Sabra Ayres at the Anchorage Daily News, about how fog is keeping lawmakers from their appointed rounds in Juneau:

In Sitka, [Senate Majority Leader Gary] Stevens and the other passengers were unloaded and instructed to wait out a weather break. Several took the opportunity to indulge in the Sitka airport's famously good pies.
"I highly recommend the banana cream pie," Stevens said.
More waiting. More pie slices were brought out. Finally, the passengers were given a choice to take a flight to Ketchikan or wait out their luck in Sitka.
Stevens and his wife headed to Ketchikan, where they were held for three more hours, this time without the pies.

From The Headlines You Don't See Every Day Dept:

From the Honolulu Advertiser Web site:

Man, 49, Reports Gang Rape

Kickin' Ass Doyle McManus May Need To Convince Himself Of His Own Words

Bravado by L.A. Times Washington Bureau Chief May Be Difficult To Pull Off

Among yesterday's comments about Dean Baquet becoming The New York Times' Washington bureau chief and an assistant managing editor, came these saucy words from Doyle McManus (above), D.C. bureau head honcho for Baquet's former employer, The Los Angeles Times.

[T]o quote one of our most incisive newsroom philosophers -- we'll just go out and kick their ass. We've done it before; we can do it again.
Not to take anything away from the L.A. Times and the often-estimable work of its bureau, but judging by the way Tribune keeps cutting -- especially with the increasing unlikelihood of a sale anytime soon -- and it will become increasingly difficult to plant a foot on the gluteus maximus of Baquet & Co.
Right now, the bureau is chock-full of correspondents who have largely been insulated from the worst of the pain inflicted on the editorial staff as the Times' circulation continues to shrink. That could very well change. Hopefully, McManus knows something we don't. In any event. we wish him and his charges luck.
As he knows first-hand, Dean Baquet plays for keeps.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Will Storm Field Clear Up the Weather Picture at WCBS-TV

Now That He's Out In The Cold in the Dead of Winter, There's An Opening At Two of His Old Haunts
Ah, the tangled web that New York TV meteorologists weave. These guys and gals sure know how to move all over the dial, sometimes whether they like it or not.
The latest exhibit is Storm Field, he of the legendary weather pedigree, courtesy of Dr. Frank, but who has made his own mark in New York on channels 2 and 7, before a 10-year stint at WWOR-TV, channel 9. His tenure there came to an abrupt end on Wednesday. As is often the case, it didn't end well. But then again, TV general managers often have to check their souls at the door before they get their corner office.
The Daily News reports Storm's replacement is Audrey Puente, who was herself dumped by WCBS/Ch. 2, and replaced by John Elliott, late of MSNBC, who must have got a boatload of cash to sign onto the ratings trainwreck that is the station's morning news.
Still, Ch. 2 does have one weather slot open on the weekends, which is being filled by Jeff Berardelli and Liz (Ibby) Carothers for now. Might Storm brighten the skies on West 57th? Never know. Then again, Ch. 7 has an opening on weekend mornings.
A lot may depend on station economics, and whether they want to still pony up for a fourth meteorologist. Ch. 2 has shown it's not in the habit of rushing to fill openings. Also, Storm won't exactly be working for AFTRA minimum, though he might shave a few dollars off his asking price if nobody in the market comes calling before long.
Either way, Storm's ouster shows there is no sentiment in the TV news business when there is so much money to be made and lost. That the talking heads we watch often get the ax in the quest for another tenth of a ratings point, is an accepted if lamented fact, one that's a lot more predictable than the weather.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

TV Guide Shortens The Year For Its Subscribers

Jeers For Its Lame Explanation For Telling Readers Their 52 Issues Actually Run Out in November
I long ago stopped needing TV Guide for its listings, which have become all but irrelevant in the 500-channel universe. Used to be you could actually get some useful synopses of upcoming shows every week. But digital cable took care of that.
Still, the magazine does have its merits, even if it gets overly gushy about Grey's Anatomy and American Idol (but keep those 24 and Lost tidbits coming!)
Matt Roush's criticism is usually spot-on, and Michael Ausiello's column is alternately tart and reverential, but in a good way. My go-to every week, though, is the Cheers and Jeers column, lauding or lamenting the best and worst on the tube.
So, here's a Jeer, and this one goes straight to TV Guide itself.
It was without hesitation that I renewed my subscription, which expired in January. Yet, when I checked the address label for my new issue, it said I was good only until mid-November in 2008 instead of January.
What gives? The magazine is offering this, to put it charitably, rather incredible explanation: whenever the magazine has more than 24 pages of listings, it considers that a double issue, which may happen up to six times annually. Thus, while your subscription might be for 52 issues, that won't get you to the end of the year.
Dunno which Einstein in the publishing suite thought up that whopper, but apparently if you call TV Guide customer service and start yelling, they'll give you the issues you're really entitled to rather than just the ones the magazine thinks you should get.
Of course, most people don't read their subscription labels so they won't know until it's too late that TV Guide and its ilk are trying to pull a fast one. Get into the habit. As I have found out more than once, you might be surprised as to what you find.

New York Times Shows It's Not Easy Describing Big Easy Population

Adam Nossiter, who generally has been doing bang-up work as The New York Times' main man in New Orleans, has an item in Sunday's paper about the population in the Crescent City that may never be recovered post-Katrina.
But he may have stretched a little too hard to make a point, and in the process, underestimated the potential gravity of the problem.

The low population figure, 191,000, which was reported by the Louisiana Recovery Authority in November last year in the most credible survey to date, was about half the 444,000 count in a Census estimate before Hurricane Katrina.

Actually, it's about 43 percent, not quite about half. Granted, some people will continue to return and edge that number higher. But Nossiter goes to great lengths to point out that many of those caught up in the hurricane disapora are those least able or inclined to start over again in New Orleans. And this was a city that was already losing 1.5 percent of its population a year before Katrina, the article notes.
As the Nagin administration continues to show signs it's without a clue, that exodus is likely to continue unabated, especially as the problems so long endemic to New Orleans, high crime, crappy schools, a crumbling infrastructure and racism that is persistent if not less pernicious than it might have been, continue to fester.
About half? Maybe, but anyone like myself who's been through areas like the Lower Ninth Ward, Lakeview and Gentilly recently, are dubious that will happen anytime soon.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Buzz Bissinger (Maybe) Tells Stephen Smith and John Grogan To Buzz Off

"Friday Night Lights" Scribe -- Or Reasonable Facsimile -- Tells Columnists To Take One For The Team and Take Off
We're doubting it's really him, but someone writing as Buzz Bissinger was one of the many people chiming in with comments on Daniel Rubin's blog at, where he threw a sanctimonious pity party for his 71 colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer who got pink-slipped (see below posting).
Bissinger, or someone like him, called on star columnists Stephen Smith and John (Marley and Me) Grogan to throw themselves into the funeral pyre to spare two of their less handsomely remunerated colleagues now out on the street.
The real Bissinger, before becoming the celebrated author of "Friday Night Lights," was a Pulitzer Prize winner for the Inky in 1987.
The would-be Bissinger in the blog said Smith doesn't need the Philly dough because he's Mr. Ubiqitous on various ESPN platforms. But he saved most of his venom for the best-selling Grogan:

Grogan has become rich beyond all imagination as a result of Marley. According to Bookscan figures, the hardcover edition of Marley and Me has sold 1.758 million copies. Bookscan only accounts for about two-thirds of all sales since such outlets as Wal-Mart and Costco are excluded. Given that Marley has sold enormously well in these places, it is reasonable to assume that his sales are in the range 2.5 million. Assuming the standard royalty rate of 15 percent, Grogan has profited somewhere around $8.125 million from his hardcover sales, excluding royalties from the new $29.95 gift edition (69,469 sold to date according to Bookscan), excluding paperback profits since the paperback has not come out yet. When all is said and done, Grogan will make well over $10 million on his book, More power to him, but if he has one tenth of the morality he shows off in his insipid columns, he will quietly retire from the Inquirer so someone's job can be saved.

A humongous question mark that one media fatcat would really tell two others of his ilk in public to take a hike. But it's such uncertainty that makes the blogosphere such fun.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Crossing The Divide Between Sanctimony and Survivor's Guilt at the Philadelphia Inquirer

When nearly 70 journalists get booted from the Philadelphia Inquirer, that's cause enough for mourning.
And it's no occasion to pile on with empty sentiment.
And as an Inquirer scribe, Daniel Rubin should know better. In his blog on, he properly laments the loss of his colleagues and the diminution of a newspaper that was once great, but now destined to be now and forever an also-ran.
That is, until Rubin gets to the penultimate paragraph of his missive.

I've said to a couple of glum-looking people today that there's part of me that's envious. I know it sounds hollow, coming from someone who has seniority. But this will be saving some people from heartache later, when it's harder to pull up stakes. This is a good time to be looking for other ways to use those peculiar skills they put to work here.

You must be kidding. Here's a guy who has a job, distributing his crocodile tears to dozens of hard-working, talented, decent colleagues who did nothing except get blindsided by three different owners in the course of a year. First, it was Knight-Ridder dismantling its newspaper headline. Then came KR purchaser McClatchy, which promptly put the Inquirer and its sister, the Daily News up for sale. Finally comes millionaire homeboy/flack extraordinaire Brian Tierney, who from the get-go showed he was in way over his head and now wants to balance the books on the heads of those who put out his papers.

So, these reporters and editors who are now exiting for an uncertain future don't need Rubin or anyone else telling them about their peculiar skills. Peculiar skills? What claptrap.
Funny, last time I checked Rubin was not falling on his sword, so who is he to give a pat on the back and tell his colleagues to chin up and start singing "Tomorrow."
I find such sanctimony particularly offensive, having worked at three media outlets where layoffs became a reality. Fortunately, all three times I was spared the ax. But for those shown the door, the last thing they wanted was a pity party. They needed a job, and for the 68 to 71 Inquirer professionals who used to have one and want to stay in the news business, getting one that even comes close to approximating what they did at the Inquirer will be difficult at best.
Empty words like the ones issued by Rubin don't help their cause.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Columnist Scorned

Dan Le Batard Wastes No Time Pimp-Slapping Nick Saban
Any Miami Dolphins fan who took coach Nick Saban seriously when he said he was not looking for a megabucks deal to be the coach at Alabama pretty much got what he deserved.
Saban gave Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga a thumbs-down. Huizenga wisely thought it better to let Saban out of his contract than have a pouty coach running a team who doesn't want to be there.
The sentiment seeping out of South Florida is one of good riddance. Among those most vehemently hoping the door hits Saban on the way out is Dan Le Batard, who gets today's hustle award for posting his column online today rather than making us wait until tomorrow when this is geezer news.

Oh, a man, even one under contract, is allowed to change his mind and listen to other offers, especially those that double his salary. But what makes Saban's behavior so unctuous recently is that he had the audacity to question the questioners with super-sized arrogance even while lying all along to his players and his boss. Huizenga has given this man everything he has wanted -- given him more than any NFL owner anywhere has given any other coach. He deserves better than this. He deserves better than Saban leaving him to answer the hard questions today.

You could make a case that Le Batard is taking this a little too hard until you see the litany of denials Saban has made about the Alabama job, going back to as recently as Monday, as detailed by the Sun-Sentinel.
Among them, this whopper from Dec. 21:

"I guess I have to say it: I'm not going to be the Alabama coach. I shouldn't even have to comment on this. I think I've said this over and over again. What they do with their position is their business."

Funny how the promise of $36 million changes a guy.

And what do the good folks in Alabama feel about all this? Maybe a little nonplussed for the time being.
The Tuscaloosa News, the Crimson Tide's hometown paper, didn't get up the gumption to update its Web site.
Ditto, the Birmingham News, though they had three articles leading up to this morning's decision.
They could take a lesson from the Crimson White, the University of Alabama's student newspaper, where Saban is the lead item on the home page. The school's sports information department was already distributing canned quotes from the players. Apparently, they're excited. They sure as hell better be.