Monday, April 30, 2007

Franken, My Dear, Doesn't Give A Damn

Veteran CNN Political Correspondent Doesn't Go Quietly
Not having your contract renewed by your employer after 21 years can give you a case of the nasties.
Such is the case for CNN vet Bob Franken, who U.S. News and World Report says left but not before taking a swipe at Wolf Blitzer.
The precise contents of that note have yet to be leaked.
Franken, it seems, wanted one more presidential campaign on his formidable resume, while the network preferred him to be more of a "utility player."
Franken told colleagues his services are wanted elsewhere. That may very well turn out to be MSNBC, which could use some reportorial heft for its campaign coverage to go with its talking heads.

Another Inconvenient Truth: Going Green Can Make Advertisers See Red

Some Will Find Out the Hard Way That the Truth Is Out There, or, If You Think Bloggers Are a Pain in the Ass Now, Just Wait
Not a shocker when advertising and the unvarnished version of the truth don't necessarily go hand in hand. There's not a marketing class out there that teaches how to be fair and balanced, and for good reason.
But however well-intentioned or greedy they might be, companies are finding out that when it comes to going green, their marketing playbook goes out the window -- and hopefully into a recycling bin.
A piece from Advertising Age notes how corporate America can learn all-too-quickly that if they want to huff and puff about being a friend to the environment they better deliver the goods or risk being put to pasture -- which is treated with organic pesticides, of course.
"You become a bigger target," notes Chipotle marketing honcho Jim Adams. "When the underdog becomes the top dog, you want to knock them down."
Speaking about targets, Target got caught in its own bullseye, and was dinged by the group Rainforest Relief for using precious tropical wood in its outdoor and children's furniture.
More than ever, Madison Avenue will find that telling the truth can be especially inconvenient. But doing it right can go a long way toward improving the bottom line, where green turns into greenbacks.

Friday, April 27, 2007

What We Learned From The New York Times Dining Section

Our usual Wednesday routine with The New York Times is to skip over to the Dining (In, Out) section to see who restaurant critic Frank Bruni savored or skewered.
This week's victim was Morandi, Keith McNally's seemingly ill-conceived attempt at an Italian bistro, which has gotten a rep for being more crowded than good. Sounds like it was lucky to have gotten one star.
But for those who ventured further in the section came this morsel:

---A short item on The Silver Palate, and its feuding founders included a revelation from veteran food writer Florence Fabricant that she coined the name "on the spur of the moment and without any monetary compensation." And what she doesn't tell you is that her "Bravo!" blurb appears among the raves for the 25th anniverary of The Silver Palate Cookbook. For which she presumably did not get any monetary compensation for either.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Just When You Thought They Couldn't Come Up With Another Radio Format, Along Comes Lone Star

Clear Channel Dumps Classic Rock in Dallas for Hybrid of Outlaw Country, Americana and Southern Rock. Oh, Yeah. Fewer Commercials, Too

No doubt, Clear Channel is as responsible as any company for the dumbing down of music radio, where any sparks of creative programming are snuffed out by focus groups and station managers too scared of a hiccup in the Arbitrons to try something truly different.

Which makes today's transformation of its Dallas classic rock station KZPS all the more remarkable. Instead of just playing the same 400 dinosaur tracks ad nauseum, the station is now a unique hybrid complete with non-Nashville country, southern rock and the AAA artists who rock a little harder, not to mention Willie Nelson being the voice of the station.

A playlist sample, as provided by Radio & Records:

ZZ Top "Heard It On The X"

Willie Nelson "Ten With A Two"

Allman Brothers "Blue Sky"

Lynyrd Skynyrd "I Know A Little"

Old 97's "Barrier Reef"

John Mellencamp "Rain On The Scarecrow"

Bob Dylan "Someday Baby"

Johnny Cash "Folsom Prison Blues"

Molly Hatchet "Gator Country"

Arc Angels "Living In A Dream"

Pat Green "Take Me Out To A Dancehall"

Stevie Ray Vaughan "Pride And Joy"

Jimmy Buffett "Hello Texas"

Drive-By Truckers "Let There Be Rock"

Ian Moore "Nothing"

Hank Williams Jr. "Family Tradition"

Pretty cool mix. It shows a human being was actually thinking about the music (in this case program director Duane Dougherty).In addition to some of those artists, I caught Travis Tritt, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle -- even the Ozark Mountain Daredevils singing something else besides "Jackie Blue -- during an afternoon listen, made all the more tolerable by the paucity of commercials.

Which, if the station has its way, will be the way things will pretty much be, even if the sponsors do come a knockin'.

Gone are 30- and 60-second spots, replaced by weaving in plugs or quick mentions of sponsors throughout the programming. It's as if NPR got dropped in the middel of a roadhouse. On top of that, each sponsor gets exclusivity in their category.

So, Coors doesn't have to worry about bumping against a Bud Light spot while you'll hear lots of good things said about Southwest Airlines but no other carrier. Guitar Center and AT&T are the only other ones signed up so far.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the station got a lot of positive feedback from other sponsors, even if they haven't signed on yet, while others blanch at the prospect of surrendering their 60-second spots. Shame.

Of course, a solid Arbitron book or two could change that. And Dougherty and his bosses could then worry more about the music and less about the hiccups.

Why Philadelphia Newspaper Reporters Should Not Be Making Any Long-Term Plans

When Brian Tierney Speaks, Time To Run and Hide

At least give Brian Tierney a little bit of credit. First, he leads a group that buys the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, then quickly realizes he's in over his head and starts dismantling an already-decimated staff and shoves an onerous contract down their throats.
Then he had the good sense to hire William Marimow, a Pulitzer winner during his younger days at the Inky, who had put himself out to pasture as the NPR ombudsman after getting dumped by bean counters at the Baltimore Sun.
So, the ship's righted, right? Nah, given the desultory financial results most newspaper companies are reporting (Tierney's company is private).
Still, in a New York Times article, Tierney is pledging not to take his knife to the newsroom budget, Good luck with that.
This one paragraph is especially telling:

Mr. Marimow has set about reorganizing the newsroom, learning to do less with a lot less. While saying that The Inquirer is a work in progress, he saw “signs of promise,” first in his reshaping of the paper and second in interest expressed to him by former Inquirer editors and reporters in coming back. To make it easier to recruit talent, Mr. Tierney has pledged that there would be no more layoffs.

Quick show of hands: how many Inky and DN staffers believe him? Exactly.

As evidence that the Inky still has the will and the manpower to put out a newspaper worth giving a damn about, Tierney cited the work of a photographer who grabbed a compelling shot after last year's Amish school shooting:

“The photojournalist who took this slept in a car, walked across a field where she wasn’t supposed to be and hid in a tree to get this shot,” he said proudly. “As long as I have folks who are that committed to what we’re trying to do, we are going to be very, very successful.”

Tierney may need a fresh dose of hubris. Given his track record thus far, such enterprising newsgathering will be done in spite of him, not because of him.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"This Is A Columbine-Type Situation. It's Actually Much, Much Worse Than That."

Live Blogging The Virginia Tech Shootings and Other Media Hustles
Interesting, and given the unfolding nature of the story, the best approach by the message board is a litle more disturbing. Instead of a way for people to vent their grief, it's degenerated into an overheated discussion on guns and the Second Amendment.
Meanwhile, CNN has been showing dramatic video taken by a student, though anchors Betty Nguyen and Don Lemon feel the need to pat the network on the back. They told viewers twice within the space of 15 minutes that the video -- taken on a cellphone camera -- has been viewed more than 120,000 times on
MSNBC later had that student -- sans video -- on live for some Q&A, though the better interview was nailed by Allison Stewart, who interviewed student Derek O'Dell, who was shot in the arm by the gunman who invaded his classroom.
It intially looked like Fox News was trying to make a bad situation worse, by reporting that at least 32 were dead, while MSNBC and The New York Timews had 22 killed as of 2:15 p.m. ET, with the AP and CNN holding at 21. But the Washington Post also went with the higher number, which now appears to be the right total, though many media will view it as 31 who were killed plus a dead gunman.
The actual number doesn't detract from the scope of the tragedy, of course. But the rush to be first shouldn't preclude the need to be accurate.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nike Declares That Ignorance, Thy Name Is Imus

Too Bad The Swoosh Kings In Beaverton Don't Know How to Spell
Tucked inside today's New York Times sports section, among other outlets, is an ad from Nike that's a bitch slap to Imus with a velvet glove.
In small type that takes up no more than a fifth of the page, it starts off:

Thank you, ignorance
Thank you for starting the conversation.
Thank you for making an entire nation listen to the Rutger's team story. And for making us wonder what other great stories we've missed.

That's Nike's spelling of Rutgers, not mine.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't make a big deal about such a thing. Well, actually I would, as it's an inexcusable mistake, given the number of eyeballs at corporate HQ as well as its ad and PR agency honchos who look over this stuff before it goes public.
Here, Nike's trying to be all righteous, as often is its forte. But it just looks dumb when it gets the most basic details wrong, especially in an ad that likely cost north of $50K in the Times, where no one else was apparently reading the copy either.
At least we now know who has the Rutgers shoe contract.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Nappy-Headed Hos" Claim Another Victim On the Radio

Deejay in the Poconos Finds It's Not The Phrase That Pays Now That He's On The Unemployment Line
While Don Imus waits to find out whether CBS Radio will take him back after his two-week suspension now that MSNBC has pulled the plug on his simulcast, it's time to separate the wheat from the racist chaff elsewhere in radio land.
Today's silenced morning yakker is one Gary Smith of WSBG in Stroudsburg, PA. The Pocono Record reported Smith used "I'm a nappy-headed ho" as the "phrase that pays" on his show Tuesday morning.
Oops. Guess comedy takes longer to translate in the Poconos.
Ironically, WSBG's sister station, WVPO, carries Imus and has no plans to drop him. No such luck for Smith, who pissed away a 17-year career at the station and a lot of goodwill with that one remark.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Imus Takes His Medicine, While Sharpton Keeps It Real

The Reverend Says Being Contrite Doesn't Make It Right; Imus Not So Snappy As "Nappy-Headed Hos" Backlash Continues To Slap Him Silly
Now being Don Imus means always having to say you're sorry.

When you're the ringmaster of a national radio show that's also simulcast on MSNBC, , you like to think you can say what you want when you want. Imus has been finding out otherwise since Wednesday, when he called the Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."
Which is how the I-Man found himself dragging his tail this afternoon to the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio program syndicated by Radio One. Sharpton called the comments "racist and diabolical" and made it clear that an apology just wouldn't cut it.
"For him to mainstream this kind of racial hate is something that we must send a message that enough is enough."
Sharpton wants Imus gone. Curiously, so does Bryan Monroe, head of the National Association of Black Journalists, who before Imus appeared, told Sharpton free speech does come at a price.
"I cannot see another way that this saga to end and send this message to America that this thing is OK. It’s not OK to use these words to hurt young ladies just for a laugh," Monroe said.

Sharpton can be just as much of rabble-rouser as Imus, and knows the only reason anyone is fretting over this is because it’s Imus, not some generic morning-zoo loudmouth who thinks bathroom humor is the only way to goose the Arbitrons. That kind of yaboo would have been out on his ass as soon as the words left his mouth. Imus has merely been scolded by his bosses. Sharpton was looking to do more than rap knuckles.

"I will give you credit for showing up," was the nicest comment he could think to utter. And then the knives were sharpened.

Imus admitted what he said was bad, just not bad enough to get him fired. "I think it can be forgiven. But I don't think it should be overlooked," later adding his only agenda was to preside over a comedy show that sometimes runs amok. "Sometimes we go too far. Sometimes we go way too far."
While admitting that what he said was "repugnant and repulsive," Imus insisted that "what makes a difference in this context is what was my intent," which he said was not to make a racist comment.
That argument didn't wash with Sharpton or one of his other guests, Rev. Buster Sawyers, pastor for the Rutgers women's basketball team. "Regardless of whether you’ve been slapped with your left hand or right hand, you’ve been slapped," Sawyers said.

Sharpton was also unimpressed by Imus' recitation of his good works, including the ranch he runs in New Mexico for seriously ill children, saying that doesn't mean he should escape this incident unscathed.
"Unscathed?" Imus shot back. "Don’t you think I’m humiliated? Don’t you think I’m embarrassed?"

Things got even more testy when Sharpton piled on Imus with Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who called herself a "woman with naturally curly, coarse hair" (which some white radio hosts might call nappy-headed).

Imus grew annoyed as he attempted to agree with Kilpatrick's comments. Still, she continued to rip into him as Sharpton chimed in.

"I can't get anyplace with you people," Imus complained.

"What do you mean by 'you people'?" Sharpton asked disingenuously.

Imus, who by the minute appeared to be regretting coming on the show -- was on the verge of accusing Sharpton of race-baiting before they cut for a break.

Which may be what everybody involved in this controversy should take right about now.
UPDATE, 7:30 p.m: CBS Radio and MSNBC have suspended Imus for two weeks starting on Monday, which may give everyone just enough time to calm down . And if you missed Imus on the Sharpton show, but want to hear him spewing sorrow, check out this clip:
And exactly why does MSNBC use the AP to report this news on its own Web site?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Imus To Kiss Al Sharpton's Butt

First He Was Trying to Be Funny, Now He's Trying to Be Contrite
Al Sharpton was leading the charge over the weekend to have Don Imus fired for calling the Rutgers womens' basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Not to be outdone, Jesse Jackson is calling for a protest Monday outside NBC's station in Chicago.
Despite the fact that Imus is too much of a cash cow for CBS Radio and MSNBC to actually be fired over the remark -- bad, but not N-word bad -- the radio cowboy is apparently feeling the heat. So much so, that he'll appear on Sharpton's radio show Monday afternoon to tell everyone he's really, really sorry if anyone was offended. Or so we're led to believe.
By the way, if you didn't hear or see the conversation in question, MSNBC has conveniently offered up a transcript on its Web site.
It could also help explain why Imus' former foul-mouthed sportscaster, Sid Rosenberg, who's been popping up again on Imus' show lately, didn't make a scheduled appearance Saturday on WFAN, Imus' radio flagship, where Rosenberg also served as a sports-talk host. Rosenberg's been relegated to a shift on the number-two sports station in Miami after his off-color mouth and unreliability got him booted out of New York.

Imus: So, I watched the basketball game last night between — a little bit of Rutgers and Tennessee, the women's final.
Rosenberg: Yeah, Tennessee won last night — seventh championship for [Tennessee coach] Pat Summitt, I-Man. They beat Rutgers by 13 points.
Imus: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and —
McGuirk: Some hard-core hos.
Imus: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some — woo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so, like — kinda like — I don't know.
McGuirk: A Spike Lee thing.
Imus: Yeah.
McGuirk: The Jigaboos vs. the Wannabes — that movie that he had.
Imus: Yeah, it was a tough —
Charles McCord: Do The Right Thing.
McGuirk: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Imus: I don't know if I'd have wanted to beat Rutgers or not, but they did, right?
Rosenberg: It was a tough watch. The more I look at Rutgers, they look exactly like the Toronto Raptors.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Imus May Lose The "Nappy-Headed Ho" Demographic, But Not His Job

Imus' Employers Are Shocked, SHOCKED, That He Would Utter Racist Jokes
No one tunes into Don Imus expecting happy talk and the I-Man tends not to disappoint. If you listen, you know what to expect, and those who employ him on radio and TV know that all too well.
So, when Imus, after being goaded by his producer Bernard McGuirk, called the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," the howls of protest came from all corners. Imus finally apologized yesterday, but not before MSNBC called the remarks "deplorable" and CBS Radio, which pays most of Imus' freight, said it was "disappointed."
But not enough to fire or suspend Imus. Simple reason: lots of people listen and his corporate overlords make too much money, because people want to hear Imus and his crew insult just about anyone and everyone, not just black women.
That's what 40 years in the radio business, where you've cultivated lots of powerful friends in the media establishment allows you to do.
If a mere radio mortal -- one who wasn't syndicated on 70 stations or had his show simulcast on a national cable network -- had made that remark -- they'd be out of their ass, not long after it left their lips. Broadcast executives love to weasel out of contracts for talent by firing them "for cause."
Imus knows that, which is why his one-time sportscaster Sid Rosenberg is now his former sportscaster for telling listeners that after her breast-cancer surgery, singer Kylie Minogue wouldn't be "pretty with just one titty."
But even then, Rosenberg's ouster came after a slew of less disgusting insults. In the end, it's not that outrageous as long as the ratings are good, as Mark Starr of Newsweek notes.
Which is why we'll inevitably hear Imus apologize about something else, while his bosses just shake their head while counting their money and blessings.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Albany Times-Union Tries To Outdo Itself Trying to be Politically Correct

Ghetto, What Ghetto?
The Times-Union in Albany, N.Y. has been in a lather much of this week over what might otherwise be viewed as a throwaway tag line at the end of a story about a rape near a downtown bar.
As a T-U editor's blog explained, a reporter was sent out to supplement the March 31 article b y Brendan Lyons with reaction from bar patrons about the assault. One person, who lives in a town just outside the city remarked: ``That's the thing with Albany, there's always a ghetto nearby.''
A few things: First off, that's not true, although the heavily minority Arbor Hill and South End neighborhoods are in the vicinity of the bar. Second, even if it was true, the woman raped said she was attacked by a white man.
So, we have a case where someone is tacitly blaming minorities for what happened, even though a person of color was apparently not involved. Debatable, then, whether such a quote should have made its way into the story, even though there always is that temptation to end a story with a saucy quote, relevant or not.
Well, the T-U brass came down square against using the ghetto quote, in a blog entry on April 2 penned by managing editor Mary Fran Gleason titled "We Made A Mistake." She took the unusual and highly dubious step of publicly taking those involved out to the woodshed.

The reporter exercised utterly poor judgment by including the quote when she updated Brendan’s original story. Ditto for the night city editor who failed to delete the quote and for the copy editors who also failed to red-line it.

So much for the buck stops here.

Depending on your Albany frame of reference, "ghetto" is not necessarily code for minority. Hundreds of SUNY Albany (my alma mater) students live off campus in what is commonly referred to as the student ghetto. Nothing sinister intended. It's what everybody called it, plain and simple.
True, the context for the article in question was different. Either way, it didn't merit Gleason's response, especially one so public. These are the types of issues you handle in-house. Newspapers have enough problems without letting their dirty laundry hanging in the breeze. For readers offended by the remark, a proper response could have been issued without having to point fingers. Gleason should know better.
Going by her own standards, she is ultimately the one who has to be held accountable. But that would be too much to expect. Maybe the blog entry should have been titled "We Made A Mistake (Well, Not Me)."

Dumb and Dumber: WFAN Gives Sid Rosenberg Another Bite of the Big Apple

UPDATE 4/8/07: For reasons not yet made clear, Sidney never made it onto the air Saturday. Instead, his scheduled 1-3:15 p.m. shift was filled by Evan Roberts, who was originally down just for 10-1 p.m. As speculated on the NY Radio Message Board, Rosenberg was on the air with Imus during the "nappy-headed ho" discussion of the Rutgers basketball team. Could be a case of guilt by association, or WFAN management regaining their memory.

Strike Three Has Long Come and Gone, but the "Sidiot" Is Still Not Out
Some eagle eyes at the New York Radio Message Board noticed a most-curious and troubling addition to sports radio WFAN's schedule tomorrow -- namely Sid Rosenberg mucking up the airwaves from 1-3:15 p.m.
Rosenberg, about whom much has been written about in this space, is currently in exile in Miami, hosting a midday show on the number-two sports station there. At least he was able to find some kind of gig after imploding multiple times during his tenure on WFAN as a talk-show host and the sports guy on "Imus in the Morning."
Rosenberg lost the latter gig after he made a crack about what singer Kylie Minogue would look like after breast cancer, the end of the line of insults, jokes and one-liners that had inexplicably made him an Imus favorite.
Then Rosenberg, a recovering drug and gambling addict, not to mention alcoholic, got himself canned from his sports-talk gig on the FAN after he failed to show up for duties on a New York Giants pre-game show.
Finally, the last straw, but not the last of Sid.
Rosenberg has somehow managed to persevere, not to mention keep working. He's even been heard on Imus recently. And now the Saturday gig on the FAN. You would think enough would be enough. But WFAN is apparently run by gluttons for punishment. Or those who enjoy car wrecks.
Maybe they're hoping Rosenberg will crash again. It may not be pretty, but it could make for great radio. And isn't that all that matters, no matter who gets hurt in the process?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Another Voice of Summer Is Stilled: Remembering Herb Carneal

I never got to hear much of Minnesota Twins announcer Herb Carneal, but knew of his legend that was justly acquired from being the voice of a team for 45 years. That means millions of fans heard his steady, authoritative voice spread across the Upper Midwest calling thousands of games.
Carneal wasn't flashy. He called attention to the game rather than himself. His was the voice of a reporter rather than a radio star. That made him a beloved figure in Minnesota and also earned him a place in Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1996.
Carneal died yesterday at age 83, and with his passing goes one more legend from the days before cable TV and the Internet when radio and baseball were intertwined in a match that has withstood the test of time and technology.
If you want to catch up to some of what Twins fans will miss, the Star-Tribune has some good clips, as does the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting.
Remembrances can also be heard on the site for WCCO, which had been the team's only radio voice unti this year. A nasty divorce over money and promotion sent the team to KSTP, but hearing Carneal on WCCO was part of Minnesota lore.

Enough Already: New York Times Coverage of "Extra Innings" Flap Both Exhaustive and Myopic

Richard Sandomir & Co. Prove There Is Such A Thing As Over-Covering A Story
It's not that New York Times sports business writer Richard Sandomir (left) hasn't written about other topics in the last two months about the flap between Major League Baseball and cable operators over the Extra Innings package. It just seems that way.
And all that ink about a service that affects about 180,000 cable subscribers -- across the country. That's chicken feed in the TV universe, even if the dollars being talked about aren't.
For those of you not scoring at home, the story so far: MLB used to sell Extra Innings, which allows fans who pay $180 or so to watch just about any game they want, to both cable and satellite operators. But this year, the league cut a deal with DirecTV, which offered up $700 million over seven years for exclusive access, while also offering to carry a new baseball channel in 2009. Not so coincidentally, DirecTV also has a 20 percent stake in the channel.
The cable titans cried foul, and offered to match the DirecTV offer, but balked at carrying the baseball channel. So, despite attempts by no less than John Kerry to mediate, Extra Innings is off cable for now, depriving far-flung fans from seeing their teams, unless they, conveniently, subscribe to the package online.
Regardless of the merits of the deal, this dispute has been covered way too aggressively in the Times. Even business columnist Joe Nocera felt compelled to chime in on Saturday and tripped over his own logic while slamming MLB.

Nice going, fellas. The N.F.L. would never do anything this dumb. Of course, that’s one of the big differences between pro football and pro baseball. The football guys actually know how to run their business with some intelligence.

Only thing: the NFL already does something just like this. It has Sunday Ticket, its own version of Extra Innings, which it also sells exclusively --- to DirecTV, which shells out $700 million a year for the privilege.
However, by Nocera's reckoning, that would ostensibly be a "dumb" thing to do, as you keep Sunday Ticket off cable, thereby depriving the cash-crazy league with even more revenue. And given the hassle the NFL has had getting its channel onto many cable system, that should speak volumes.
It has nothing to do with intelligence, only money. And both MLB and the NFL are only trying to suck up as much as they can. That's not dumb. That's business.