Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Things Are Getting Wild at WNBC-TV

The Fur Flies At The Top of 5 p.m. Newscast
Being that we live in and around New York and not some rural outpost, the ears perked up as channel 4 led off "Live at Five" with a woman being attacked by a fox, followed by a story about whether a chihuahua was really killed by a coyote.
Granted, the fox did his bidding in Patterson, N.Y., some 50 miles from the city, while the alleged coyote was well away from the Big Apple in Middletown, N.J.
Still, these aren't normally the kinds of stories that top a New York newscast, though it is sort of a feral version of the "if it bleeds, it leads" school that's usually in session here.
If nothing else, the items serve as a cautionary tale about how big New York's backyard has become and the more people move to these outposts, the more we realize we have to share it with its original inhabitants, like it or not.
And that may be the real news coming out of all this.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Marketers Find Baby Boomers Aren't Dead --- Yet

News Flash: People in Their 50s and 60s Have A Lot of Money To Spend

If you've noticed that the oldies station in your market has disappeared, it's no accident. Or, if it hasn't totally vanished, it's become a "classic hits" station, and one that's forsaken the fifties, and strayed more to music from the sixties to early eighties.
After all, Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, their music is just, well, old.
The same goes for TV. If you're north of 45, there's likely less of interest for you on the networks, and that's by design.
Rather, it's long been the perception of broadcasters and advertisers that by the time you're heading to a half-century or beyond, you're a stuck-in-the-mud when it comes to buying stuff. You'll be brand loyal 'til they ship you off to the nursing home. No sense wasting money trying to get you to switch.
It's baloney, of course, as just about anyone with a few gray hairs can attest, and it finally looks like marketers are getting the memo.
Advertising Age highlights efforts at Unilever to connect to boomers, even though a lot of brand managers couldn't figure out why they should care about people over 50.
As with anything, it all came down to the numbers. And these numbers are huge:

"[B]oomers are likely to retire later, work more after formal retirement and have far more disposable income than any prior generation of retirees. The estimated 78 million boomers in the U.S. spend $46 billion annually on package-goods products, according to Information Resources Inc. Various published estimates have put their total spending power at $2 trillion annually."

And it's not just for Depends and Preparation H, you MBA know-it-alls.

Oldies but goodies indeed.

Union-Hating Gannett Shows Itself the Door in Connecticut

Company That Helped Define Bad-Faith Negotiating With Newspaper Union Walks Away From Stamford Advocate Rather than Recognize Contract

Gannett management doesn't have to deal with unions at most of its newspapers. When they do, the unions and their rank-and-file are often treated more like diseased bugs that need to be terminated with extreme prejudice rather than partners in effecting change who deserve a fair deal.
Not that Gannett is alone in treating newspaper unions like enemy combatants, but the company seems to have taken a perverse pride in making their unionized employees miserable.
Exhibit A: The Newspaper Guild at Gannett's former flagship, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, which has been without a contract for a mindblowing 15 years.
Gannett was set to take the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time off the hands of Tribune. However, the contract had one annoying wrinkle: The UAW represents 34 Advocate newsroom employees. Gannett didn't want to honor their contract, which runs through next year.
An arbitrator told Gannett if it wanted the papers, the contract came along for the ride.
That's where Gannett bid the Tribune sayonara, preferring to walk away from a $100 million-plus transaction because 34 employees, who by their union's own admission, have a "modest" contract, had the temerity to have their collective-bargaining rights protected.
Which now leaves Tribune holding what other buyers may now view as damaged goods, as the company tries to pare down debt following the $8.2 billion Sam Zell buyout.
It's a small victory for labor, which has gotten a severe butt-kicking at newspapers from Philadelphia to San Francisco and many points in between over the last two years. But it's a victory nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fox Shows Why It Pays To Have A OB-GYN On Retainer

Multi-Tasking Manny Alvarez Delivers Babies When He Isn't Writing for

Sometimes getting a scoop is all about being lucky. Sometimes it's about being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it's about both.
Which is how Fox News landed an exclusive on Frieda Birnbaum, who at age 60 is the oldest woman to give birth to twins in the U.S.
So happens that Birnbaum disgorged her two boys at Hackensack University Medical Center (known for its stylish line of Nicole Miller hospital gowns) ,where Manny Alvarez (above) is chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology.
Alvarez just happens to also be the managing editor of health news at And he just happened to also deliver Birnbaum's last child, when she was at the tender age of 54 (ol' Frieda also has two "normal" kids, ages 29 and 33).
Guess which network was the only one to land an interview with Birnbaum (who, judging by the pictures, opted out of the Nicole Miller gowns) and husband Ken? Hint: It rhymes with a kind of smoked salmon that Frieda will be able to eat again now that she's no longer pregnant.
Conveniently, -- or, under the circumstances, understandably -- Birnbaum was too tired to do any more interviews. Which basically left other media forced to quote from the Fox piece or not at all, including the Bergen Record, whose main office is just down the road from the hospital.
At least the paper could chat with Lauren Cohen, a lawyer from Paramus, who was the previous record holder for the last year. Cohen had her twins when she was just a shayna punim at 59.

Al Sharpton, Call Your Office: Westchester Newspaper Tries to Foment Racial Tension Where None Exists

The Journal-News Pulls A Story Out of Its [Black] Hat

Not that we're in the habit of siding with fatcat developers, but in the case of one Louis Cappelli in ever-tonier White Plains, N.Y., he and his compadres have a legitimate gripe.
The source of their discontent is The Journal-News, the consistently underachieving broadsheet that is the nominal paper of record for New York's northern suburbs (and a former employer of mine from way back when).
The paper is very pleased with itself for an article headlined "What's missing from this Station Square picture? Black people."
Good headline. Lousy story.
Cappelli is among the developers transforming downtown White Plains -- the Westchester County seat -- into a high-end destination. The Station Square project includes fancy office buildings, a shmancy hotel and condo tower, along with a rebuilt train station amid new restaurants and shops.
But what horrifies veteran reporter Keith Eddings is that the renderings for the project don't show any minorities in the scrum of people traveling too and from, unless you look really, really hard. Eddings did.

Using a magnifying glass, The Journal News identified four blacks among 87 people whose race could be determined with some certainty.

Now, anyone who's been to White Plains knows there are plenty of blacks and other minorities who not only live in the city, but work, eat and play there as well. No amount of Photo Shopping will contradict that. So, the rendering might be inaccurate, but it's hardly a paean to white people, as Cappelli's deputy Bruce Berg angrily told Eddings.

"It's intended to show the architectural rendering of the buildings - period, full stop, end of story."

Even though Eddings also noted that photos of another Cappelli project in Yonkers show a racially mixed clientele, he persisted with his dispatch.
Eddings dug deep to find a civil-rights attorney and a former NAACP official to weigh in on "news" the paper was creating itself.
As one OP noted following the story's online version:

You call this journalism? If the publication of this story weren't so tragic, it would be funny. Unbelievable.

Unless, of course, you're a regular reader of The Journal-News.

Monday, May 21, 2007

XM Radio Going All POTUS, All The Time

Now Political Junkies Can Literally Get Their Fix Anywhere; New Channel Available To All -- Public Service and Marketing Gimmick Rolled Into One
XM Radio put the word out today that it'll launch a channel devoted exclusively to the 2008 presidential election called POTUS '08 on XM Channel 130.
XM will do a soft launch next month, with the channel kicking into full-time gear in September.
The effort's a joint venture with C-Span and other unspecified media outlets to provide politically neutral coverage complete with speeches, interviews, debate coverage and call-in shows, for starters.
While conceptually the channel is intriguing, what's equally notable is that it'll be "free to air." That means not only will XM's 8 million-plus subscribers be able to tune in, but so will the millions more who have XM in the car or via a portable device, but have declined to activate the service.
So while the effort can be justifiably lauded as a public service, it's also a way to nudge drivers to click on not only channel 130, but the other 160 or so channels on offer. The channel can also only help XM make nice on Capitol Hill, as it seeks to curry favor for its proposed merger with Sirius.
Public service and ulterior motives. Sounds like a political match for the ages, not to mention the radio.

Scrubbing The Office With Earl: NBC Takes The Com Out of Sitcom

Sweeping Up Sweeps
Even though NBC's ratings have been south of the Nielsen equivalent of the Mendoza Line for some time, Thursdays have still been appointment viewing for me.
From "My Name Is Earl," straight through to "ER," the Peacock keeps me dialed in, or at least keeps my TiVo active.
So, yes, I'm a fan, but nonetheless I was a bit annoyed that when it came to the sitcoms, the network and the show's producers veered away from the funny stuff at the end.
All of a sudden, lovable/goofy Earl was sent to the pokey for a two-year bid after covering up for Joy, who was facing a life term as a three-strike offender when she stole a department-store truck. Surely, the Earlies could have come up with a better finale -- Joy going into labor in the courtroom, a holdout juror smitten by her swollen belly.
Instead, we're now faced with the show's hero -- or sorts -- now a convicted felon instead of a lovable petty thief albeit one who's already been renewed for 25 episodes. Sure, wacky hijinks may ensue behind bars that have nothing to do with soap in the shower -- especially if Givoanni Ribisi's Ralph has anything to do with it -- but you'd like to head into the summer with a smile rather than sorrow for the Lunkhead of Camden County.
"Scrubs" left us with the spectre of J.D. and Elliott hooking up while their girlfriend and fiance, respectively, waited at home. This has never been an endearing match on a good day, and not one we'll be pining for come September.
"Scrubs" has usually had an effective mix of slapstick and whimsy leavened by raw emotions and heartbreak. They even had the temerity to kill off a longtime character (Miss ya, Laverne!) for no good reason other than to meditate on death in a treacly, unconvincing way.
Let's hope the gang at Sacred Heart can lighten up for the last 18 episodes and err on the side of silly for the rest of the way.
At least "The Office" managed to lead us with some hope that Jim and Pam would finally hook up, a stark contrast to last season's finale when that vaunted pair's love went unrequited for all the wrong reasons. This year, Carell & Co. knew they couldn't slam the audience like that again, and at least gave them breathing room for some fresh plot points come fall. Given that they'll be producing the equivalent of 30 episodes, they'll need it all and then some.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Should John Batiste Get A Reprieve From CBS?

MoveOn Among Those Calling For General's Reinstatement; Did CBS Buckle Under White House Pressure and Forget Why They Hired Him in the First Place?
CBS had retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste under contract as a consultant to give no-nonsense assessments about Iraq and all things Pentagon.
But last week it gave him the network equivalent of a court-martial when it booted him for appearing in an anti-Bush ad. That's a CBS no-no. The network's standards mandate that those on the payroll not engage in advocacy and it said the ad in question raised money for veterans against the war.
Only thing is, that's not actually the case, as you can see here. True, there is a point of view in the VoteVets spot, but nowhere does it ask for a donation. So, Batiste was fired under false pretenses.
Or CBS (full disclosure: a former employer of mine) is just guilty of hypocrisy, as ThinkProgress trenchantly points out in noting it has former Bush aide Nicole Wallace employed as a consultant, notwithstanding the fact she's quoted left and right (mostly right) in the media bashing Democrats.
Of course, you're not going to get CBS to admit it's OK to advocate as long as you don't dump on the president. But it sure does appear that way, enough so that is mounting a petition drive to get Batiste reinstated.
We won't be holding our breath, but CBS has certainly shown why it should restate its policy or, at the very least, enforce it uniformly. To hire analysts and then penalize them for having an opinion doesn't just defeat the purpose of hiring them in the first place -- after all, Batiste left the Army because he disagreed with Iraq policy -- it's disingenuous and just plain dumb.

Bad Day In San Jose: Naming Carole Leigh Hutton Editor at Mercury-News Heralds Further Slide to Mediocrity

Mitch Albom Apologist Raises Profile After Merc Editor Packs Up For Plain-Dealer
When Carole Leigh Hutton's appointment as executive editor of the San Jose Mercury-News was announced yesterday, she told the staff she was "passionate about journalism" but "pragmatic about where we are."
That last phrase should give beleaguered Merc staffers pause.
When we last left them, Merc reporters were digesting the bitter reality of a lousy contract that was foisted on them in return for a pledge by new owner William "Lean Dean" Singleton to reduce the number of layoffs he'd contemplated.
Through it all, the much-diminished paper soldiered on, though executive editor Susan Goldberg apparently got tired of fighting the good fight and has decamped for The Plain-Dealer in Cleveland, where she'll succeed retiring Doug Clifton.
So that leaves Hutton, who this space last spotted as she was doing her "Animal Farm" routine when she led the Detroit Free-Press, after columnist Mitch Albom got caught writing fiction where a column should have been.
Albom told his loyal minions in an April 3, 2005, column about two former Michigan State players rooting on their team at the NCAA Final Four. Only problem: they never made it to the game. Albom's column was a work of fiction.
So, while mere mortals who toil in journalism would've been fired at warp speed and branded with a scarlet A, Hutton -- who also served as Free Press publisher -- merely placed Albom on paid leave and imposed some "discipline" that she never disclosed.
Because it was Albom, star columnist, best-selling author and media behemoth, Hutton decided to forgive his trespasses. The man sold papers, after all. Who cares if he sacrifices the paper's credibility in the process?
It is such a dubious legacy that Hutton now brings to the Merc. Everyone will be held to account. Except some will be held less accountable than others.
If Merc staffers find themselves questioning Hutton's judgment sooner than later, they'll have ample reason. The truth is out there. Too bad Hutton may not always see fit to publish it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

All Lester Holt, All The Time

Weekend Today Wasn't Enough; Now He Gets To Do Nightly News on Saturday and Sundays Too. Does This Signal A Campbell Brown Exit?

Lester Holt is the new The Man at NBC News. Not only does he get to wake up in the middle of the night on weekends to host "Today," he now gets to go home, take a nap, and come back nice and refreshed to anchor "Nightly News."

Holt replaces John Siegenthaler, who parted ways with the Peacock, after his bosses realized he was only working two days a week for a fat paycheck and they didn't know what else to do with him. No such problem for Holt.

An NBC press release reveals Holt will also fill-in for Brian Williams, contribute to MSNBC and take on "special assignments" within the news division. And maybe he'll get to see his family every now and then as a reward.

A lingering question now is whether this announcement presages the end of Holt's Today co-host Campbell Brown's tenure at NBC. Her contract is soon up, and the rumor mill has been cranking about her possibly decamping to CNN and getting the Paula Zahn slot.

Brown has also proven to be a valuable backup/intrepid reporter as well as an engaging "Today" host. If she was sticking around, it wouldn't have been hard to give her one of the "Nightly News" slots, similar to what CBS does with Thalia Assuras and Russ Mitchell on weekends.

You'd think NBC would want to hold onto a good thing in Brown, but she might want to sleep in a bit more, especially after getting passed over for the weekday "Today" gig when Katie Couric bolted.

A job at CNN would allow her to throw away her alarm clock.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Missing Ingredient in New York Times Piece on Chef Wannabes Cooking Up Debt

Kim Severson Makes It To Front Page But Loses Steam After Jump

Maybe she was the victim of a space crunch, or maybe it was a case of writing something and expecting we'd take her word for it, but an interesting A-1 piece in today's New York Times by food writer Kim Severson about culinary-school grads who have big debt supplanting their big dreams, came up a little short.
Specifically, this passage:

Certainly, professional training can help cooks move up quickly through the kitchen ranks. And culinary schools have produced many of the nation’s finest chefs.
But some of those chefs equivocate about whether the high cost of some culinary degrees is worth it for someone who just wants to cook for a living.

Good point, but the subsequent quote is from the director of nutrition from the Berkeley School District. Not exactly Chez Panisse.
And no other chefs are heard from.
Which doesn't detract from the cautionary tale of the article. But it would be more helpful to get top chefs to weigh in on whether any of their deputies went to culinary school, and if the education you get is worth the five-figure nut left to digest upon graduation.
Grist for another story, Kim?

Star-Tribune Grows Dimmer In Minnesota

Another Lesson In What Happens When Newspapers Go Private; As Profits Plunge, New Owners Pull Out The Stops To Pull Plug On Staff
From our cautionary-tale file comes news that the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis will shed another 145 bodies from its hardly-bloated payroll, including 50 in the newsroom. Combine that with a previous round of cutbacks a few weeks ago, that means there will be 20 percent fewer editors and reporters at the start of the year.
Thanks a whole heckuva lot, Avista Capital Partners. It was not enough that they bought the Strib this year for $530 million, roughly $700 million less than what McClatchy had paid for it. Instead of bolstering its prized asset, Avista decided it needed an ROI sooner than later and retreated to the suicidal newspaper-think of cutting resources to make the balance sheets sing, thereby giving more people fewer reasons to buy the paper.
Look, no one's disputing that times have changed for the worse for the once-mighty metro dailies. Classifieds have fallen off the cliff, while ads are showing lemming-like tendencies. Meanwhile, readers keep heading for the exits. The Audit Bureau of Circulation numbers show the Strib plunged 4.8 percent daily and 5.3 percent on Sunday.
In other words, ouch.
Strib brass are saying all the right things about bolstering local coverage, and "smarter" in-depth stories, as if to imply that the current enterprise pieces are pretty insipid.
Still, it's another version of "we have to kill the newspaper in order to save it." Brian Tierney has shown how to do this in Philadelphia [and stop puffing your chest, Bri, about the Inky gaining .61 percent in circulation] and Sam Zell may yet do the same in Tribune World.
So why is it that these people want to own newspapers? They're not doing anybody any favors, especially their employees and readers.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Robert Krulwich: The Master Holds Court on NPR

In His Hands, Even Global Warming Doesn't Sound Like Such A Bad Thing
Sure, you couldn't blame Robert Krulwich when he left NPR, where he made topics like economics bother understandable and fun, for the better-paying precincts of CBS, then ABC. There's nothing like a noble calling, and NPR is about as close as one gets in radio, but it wouldn't hurt to earn a proper living at the same time.
Eventually, though, Krulwich could have his cake and nibble on it too. He worked out a deal in 2005 where he'd continue to pop up on ABC, but also get to once again ply his considerable radio craft at NPR, where he's focusing on science. This is what's called in the business a big time win-win.
That was evidenced today by a wonderful piece of what can best be described as audio theatre, as Krulwich told us all about carbon, as NPR kicked off a series in conjunction with National Geographic about climate change. Al Gore's Power Points need not apply.
To hear why radio can still be great, click here:
Indeed, Krulwich's dispatch literally comes alive albeit in the form of a cartoon at Not the typical radio shtick. And that's exactly the point.