Monday, October 29, 2007

Kai Ryssdal is the King of Naps

So That's How You Spell His Name; "Marketplace" Host Recalls His Start on the Financial-News Dawn Patrol

When I first heard the "Marketplace Morning Report" during breaks of "Morning Edition" on NPR, I initially assumed the newscasts were taped the night before. But then I heard how the European markets were doing "at this hour" and how the Nikkei and Hang Seng had fared overnight.
Then I wondered how the host, Kai Ryssdal, could be so damn upbeat, given he was broadcasting from Los Angeles, where it was the dead of night.
Ryssdal tells the Miami Herald some of his sleep secrets:
I rolled out of bed at midnight and was at work at quarter to one. It would give me two hours to figure what was going on in the world. I would work until noon. Grab a three-hour nap, get the kids from school. I'm married with three kids.
We'd do homework, put the kids to bed and have time with my wife. And then sleep from nine to midnight. So I would have two three-hour naps.
I think we made it work. I had taken a job with my eyes open and understood it was an overnight shift.

Ah, so that's it, keeping your eyes open, something this night person had a hard time doing when he got stuck doing morning drive during more than a decade in radio.
Ryssdal's hours have been a little more sane for the last two years, since he took the reins of the main "Marketplace," which tapes at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time. We emphasize a little. He gets up at 4:45 a.m. to start trolling for news. Old habits die hard, but the dedication uniformly shows up in what goes on the air.
So, belated props for all those years of providing a little public-radio pep, something current Marketplace Morning Report co-host Doug Krizner could use more of. Someone hook this guy up to a Starbucks I.V., stat!

There Is Such A Thing As a Free Lunch (Or Dinner) If You Blog About Food

It's no secret that bloggers are more prone to flattery, flackery and freebies than those toiling in the MSM.
After all, few of us get rich from blogs. Hell, few of us get anything, carpal tunnel and tsouris excepted.
But there are enough blogs being taken seriously that some businesses will do just about anything to get a favorable plug. And they aren't shy about getting said plug.
On exhibit is a New York restaurant chainlet called Smorgas Chef, which was decently reviewed in Zagat, but could clearly use a few more fannies in their seats, given they are prone to offering 1,000-point reservations on (never a good sign of prosperity).
Smorgas Chef wants publicity, and it's willing to pony up some free herring and gravlax for the privilege. On its Web site, it openly courts food bloggers and reviewers to "write anonymously, objectively and without 'special treatment' that could influence their experience."
You know, special treatment like the promise of a free meal, which comes after the blogger sends in a copy of their review and a receipt from their meal. That gets them a free second meal for up to what was spent on the first visit.
Bloggers can write about whatever they want, the restaurant implores, but "you should cover the usual subjects, like food, presentation, ambiance, tempo, and of course service."
Thanks for that prescient tip, my skoal brothers.
At the bottom of the page, it says "reservations are recommended."
If you do follow that recommendation, make them on Open Table and get those 1,000 points.

Merrill Lynch O'Neal Fallout: 'Times' Dukes It Out With 'Journal' To Write the Best Financial Bodice-Ripper

Call It A Draw: As O'Neal is Shown the Door, Fascinating Portraits of a Ruthless Warrior Conquered and the Mess He Made

With Merrill Lynch Chairman and CEO Stan O'Neal valiantly trying to make a graceful exit after losing the confidence of his board of directors, that meant some financial journalists were in an unaccustomed role of working on Sunday.
Landon Thomas Jr. and Jenny Anderson in The New York Times showed it was time well-spent, offering up an unflattering, but compelling look at an often-brilliant but flawed leader done in by his own arrogance.
At times the piece reads more like a treatment for a melodrama than another sordid chapter in the subprime mortgage mess that left Merrill's portfolio $40 billion in collateralized debt obligations wilting on the vine.
Twice, he came close to leaving the firm and was notorious for his propensity to fall into a funk when things were not going his way. A golf fanatic — his handicap is nine and he belongs to four country clubs — he often plays alone, in addition to the usual rounds with clients and a circle of friends outside Merrill.

Over at The Wall Street Journal, Randall Smith wasn't cutting O'Neal any slack either. Seems O'Neal wasn't a big fan of collaboration.

Mr. O'Neal's aloof management style was on display at the firm's quarterly operations-committee meetings ... Instead of fostering freewheeling interchanges, the meetings were often staged and choreographed, with formal presentations to which Mr. O'Neal would ask questions but rarely entertain discussion....
Also visible at such meetings was Mr. O'Neal's open disdain for Bob McCann. The popular executive had left Merrill but returned in 2003, after an O'Neal purge had thinned the ranks at the top, and took over the firm's core army of 16,000 brokers. If Mr. McCann made an observation at a meeting, Mr. O'Neal would often barely acknowledge it...

Double ouch. If the truth hurts, then O'Neal is in need of a big bottle of Anacin pronto.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times got on the board with a story on the Web site yesterday, but decided to stick with a perfunctory news account devoid of nuance or detail that couldn't be learned anyplace else.
Which meant FT editors had to read the Times and Journal to figure out just how juicy this story really was.

This Wasn't The First Time Lesley Stahl Ticked Off A World Leader

Like Sarkozy, Yeltsin Also Stormed Off In a Hissy Fit Back in 1992

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hasn't been in office long, but he's amply demonstrated over the years how he's very much the publicity whore. But only on his own terms.
Lesley Stahl showed how she found that out the hard way on last night's "60 Minutes."
It looked like Stahl sacre bleu it when she asked him about rumors that his wife left him -- again.
Right before the question, we see Sarkozy pimp-slapping his press secretary on camera for even scheduling the interview. So, the guy's already in a foul mood and loaded for bear. And totally disinclined to play out scenes from his marriage with an American reporter, and a woman to boot.

"If I had to say something about Cecilia, I would certainly not do so here."
"But there’s a great mystery. Everybody’s asking," Stahl pleaded. "Even your press secretary was asked at the briefing today."
"Well he was quite right to make no comment. And no comment. Merci."
Then he ripped out his earpiece and left the room, after muttering "Bon courage."

Not exactly worth the shlep to Paris, if you ask me. Given Sarkozy's temperament, Stahl had to have known such a reaction was possible. But maybe that's why she asked the question.
A more-innocent line of questioning by Stahl sent a 1992 interview with Boris Yeltsin off the rails. She's at his dacha while he's playing tennis. He sits to chat and then accused CBS of being in cahoots with Mikhail Gorbachev to doctor a video that made him look soused, as if producers needed any help in that regard.
Yeltsin then storms off, despite on-camera pleas by no less than Don Hewitt to come back. Yeltsin angrily demurred.

Again, sometimes the better story is in what's not said during the interview. And Yeltsin blowing off steam as well as the interview turned out to be one of "60 Minutes" most-memorable moments.
Sarkozy won't qualify on that account, but it was easy to see why Stahl must have had an acute case of deja vu.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Dark Lord Of Newspapers Descends on Connecticut

Reporters at the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Should be Afraid. Very Afraid

On Thursday came word that Tribune had finally unloaded its smallest newspapers, the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time to a joint venture of Hearst and MediaNews for $62.4 million.
Then yesterday, the next shoe dropped, when it was revealed that MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton addressed the newsrooms and told employees they would have to reapply for their jobs. But don't worry, we'll probably rehire most, if not all, of you anyway.
We'll see.
This is not Singleton's first foray into Connecticut. He already owns the Danbury Times and the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport, along with six weeklies.
Here's a telling quote from yesterday's Advocate story on the acquisition: "The newspapers will continue to run independently, but the ability to collaborate 'makes it very exciting for our advertisers, our readers and our employees,' said Singleton...."
Employees should be excited only if Singleton was using excited as a synonym for nervous, if recent history is a reliable guide.
MediaNews is the dominant chain in the Bay Area, owning every major newspaper except for the San Francisco Chronicle, which just happens to be owned by Hearst.
In August, Singleton combined operations of the unionized Oakland Tribune and four other newspapers in Media News' Alameda Newspaper Group with those of the non-union Contra Costa Times and other smaller newspapers.
By doing so, MediaNews contended that unionized employees now made up a minority of staff at the combined operation, so the company would no longer recognize the union. The NLRB is now involved in this dispute and the unions are keeping the PR heat on.
Why does this matter in Connecticut? Because reporters at the Advocate are unionized. Gannett was set to buy the paper in March, but walked away from the deal when an arbitrator ruled it had to honor the union contract rather than force employees to reapply for their jobs and negotiate a new deal.
Given Singleton's union animus, you can bet that the UAW, which represents the Advocate is girding for battle. It's no stretch to see how Singleton could merge the operations of his four Connecticut dailies to dilute the union's strength, just as he did in the Bay Area.
As it is, pressmen and mailers at the Advocate and Time will lose their jobs by the end of the year, as printing of the Advocate and Time will be shifted to Bridgeport and Danbury. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Same goes if you're a reader, as Singleton has slashed and burned his way through the newsrooms at his California properties to make more money. That includes fewer reporters and a centralized copy desk, which has been responsible for some notorious boners.
No reason why he couldn't do that in Connecticut, but there are many reasons, as has been proven in California, for why he shouldn't.
But solid journalism and recognition for the hard work of dedicated employees are usually distant constellations in Singleton's media galaxy. What really does matter? For starters, the $1.83 million Singleton made in the most-recent fiscal year.
Somebody has to pick up that tab, after all. Union contracts make that a lot harder.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meet FEMA's Newest Lunkhead, Mike Widomski

Disaster Chieftains Do A Heck Of A Job With a Fake News Conference

Al Kamen has a priceless item in his latest Washington Post column about why questions at a Washington FEMA news conference Tuesday about the California fire response were soft at best.
The reason: all of those asking the questions were FEMA employees posing as reporters. That must have really cheesed off MSNBC and FNC, which carried some of the briefing live.
The feeble justification for this came from spokesman Mike Widomski, who said the newser was thrown together at the last minute because the agency had been deluged with calls from reporters.
In the end, news organizations were given 15 minutes advance notice. Reporters could dial into the briefing by phone, but would not be allowed to ask questions.
So, FEMA couldn't wait another hour for journalists to hightail it down to HQ to hear FEMA deputy director Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson pat the agency on the back? Guess not. Then he would have had to field questions that included the K word. Can't have that now.
All of this fakery was viewed as no big deal by Widomski, when quizzed by Kamen.

"If the worst thing that happens to me in this disaster is that we had staff in the chairs to ask questions that reporters had been asking all day, trust me, I'll be happy."

Then he must be positively ecstatic, not to mention totally clueless. But such is FEMA.
If Widomski's name is vaguely familiar, that's because he was on the receiving end of one of the most notorious emails that sent at the height of Michael ("Heck Of A Job) Brown's reign of error.
It came from Marty Bahamonde, who was the only FEMA official in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Bahamonde had been sending urgent emails to Brownie about how things were going from worse to catastrophic at the Superdome, and not getting much of a response.
Then Brownie's press secretary wrote that "[i]t is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Gievn [sic] that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more that [sic] 20 or 30 minutes."
To which Baramonde replied to Widomski and another FEMA flack:

"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! ... Just tell her that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move my pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don't stab me in the back while I try to sleep."

No indication that Widomski ever replied. Even he must have known it was best to keep his mouth shut.


FEMA says it's sorry. "Stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It Really Pays To Be Rick Reilly

He's got 10 million reasons to smile

When it was announced a few days ago that Sports Illustrated superstar columnist Rick Reilly was bolting the magazine after 23 years to become a multi-platform icon at ESPN, Reilly made it clear it was pretty much a money thing. Oh, and the fact that he'd get to be on TV a whole bunch didn't hurt either.
But as Keith Kelly reports in the New York Post, it was truly, madly, deeply about the dough-re-mi. Reilly is reportedly pulling in $2 million a year for five years, doubling what he was making at SI. His soon-to-be-former employer had offered $1.5 million. But then there was that TV thing. Seems appearing on just wasn't enough to satisfy his video jones.
So off to ESPN he goes, just as soon as his non-compete expires June 1. And he's departing in spite of once bearing some ill will toward his new employer, whom he told Gelf Magazine read his columns a little too closely.

GM: You mention in the book [Hate Mail From Cheerleaders and Other Adventures From the Life of Reilly, a compilation of his columns] that ESPN has ripped off some of your column ideas. Have you ever complained about it? Why do you think that's such a regular practice in Bristol?

RR: I feel like I've flat-out handed them five or six Emmys. They take columns I've discovered and written—about people nobody's heard of—and do them as though they found the guy, and then they win Emmys for them. The Jake Porter column. The "picking up Butch" column. The Katrina-survivor basketball column. It's endless. And what bothers me, I guess, is that they give no credit, such as, "as first reported in Sports Illustrated." Or at least do one of their treacly, misty shots of the column. But what can you do? Sue? [Editor's Note: In response, an ESPN spokesman tells Gelf, "We learn of story concepts from a wide range of sources and outlets."]

Funny how $10 million can get you to feel differently. That's Reilly you hear laughing all the way to the bank.

Running The Ratings Numbers at XM and Sirius

And You Don't Have To Count Very High; No Surprise or Sign of Trouble?

Arbitron, with a few caveats, has released the first ratings report for XM and Sirius channels. As you'd expect, with nearly 400 channels between them, the audience is rather spread out. And for most channels, Howard Stern, excepted, rather puny. In some instances, only a few hundred listeners may be tuned in at any given time.
In and of itself, that does not come as a shock. But further down the line, the numbers could have some troubling implications, especially if the two companies succeed in merging.
For example, the two XM stations I listen to the most, adult album alternative channels Starbucks XM Cafe and The Loft together pull in just over 10,000 listeners in an average quarter hour. Over at Sirius, the similarly themed The Spectrum notches 3,700 listeners a quarter hour.
If XM and Sirius merge, as the two companies desperately hope to do by the end of the year, it could be hard to make a case for three similar stations that together can't even muster 15,000 listeners, even if they are intensely loyal and may have predicated their decisions to describe largely on the basis of these channels.
XM has already jettisoned one AAA channel, when it combined Hear Music with the XM Cafe earlier this year.
Still, all those small numbers eventually do add up. And satellite radio listeners can register their discontent with their wallets. People choose to pay $12.95 a month for their subscriptions -- they don't need to.
Here's a cheat sheet for the top channels on both services. The first figure is the average number of listeners per quarter hour. The second number is their channel position, followed by their cumulative audience for the week:

1 20,800 The Virus (202) [O&A] 22 16,800
2 15,500 Fox News (121) 485,400
3 9,300 XM Comedy (150) 422,200
4 9,100 ESPN Radio (140) 262,600
5 8,700 Talk Radio (165) [Beck, Ramsey etc.] 154,800


1 96,700 Howard Stern 100 (100) 1,225,100
2 30,700 Howard Stern 101 (101) 502,000
3 8,600 Sirius NASCAR Radio (128) 177,600
4 6,400 Blue Collar Comedy (103) 311,200
5 5,300 ESPN Radio (120) 147,100

1 27,100 The Blend (25) [lite pop] 548,0002
2 5,100 Flight 26 (26) [AC] 713,700
3 24,900 Willie's Place (13) [trad. country] 437,000
4 22,900 Top Tracks (46) [classic rock] 607,600
5 21,800 Top 20 on 20 (20) 1,055,300

1 20,400 New Country (60) 455,900
2 17,700 Sirius Hits (1) [Top 40] 653,200
3 17,600 Octane (20) [hard rock] 357,600
4 14,300 The Pulse (9) [90s hits] 405,000
5 12,300 Big 80s (8) 450,000

Monday, October 22, 2007

Loss of Rick Reilly Another Blow in Sports Illustrated's Fight for Relevance

Rick Reilly's departure from the back page of Sports Illustrated to front and center on ESPN may indeed have been amicable and a case of big bucks being dangled in front of the already well-compensated columnist, not to mention a case of wanting to try something new.
SI big cheese Terry O'Donnell said Reilly was a big talent whom he would "miss personally."
And who the magazine will miss even more.
No doubt, SI is still all about some of the most stunning sports photography anywhere. Its writing is more often than not prescient and engaging. The larger problem, though, is that in the hypercharged 24/7 realm of the Internet and, especially, the blogosphere, long gone is the need to turn to an SI for sports information, analysis and eloquent recaps.
Instead, you turn to SI for destination reading -- the season previews, the excellent "Where Are They Now" takeout from a few months back. And you look for signature columnists, which included Reilly and Steve Rushin, who quit earlier this year after SI wanted him to do other things besides his nonpareil column (if you haven't read any of his books, now would be a great time if you need a Rushin fix).
Take away the guys who make you think, laugh or cry in the space of one page and you've removed much of the magazine's value proposition.
True, Dan Patrick is fully severed from the ESPN mothership that for so long nurtured him and whatever his proclivities were at any given moment, and he will now have a large profile on various SI platforms.
Nice guy, knows his sports, but he's no Reilly or Rushin.
The magazine knows that, too. It remains to be seen if readers will notice, or care.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spirit Airlines Gets See-No-Evil Treatment from Wall Street Journal

Article On No-Frills Carriers Leaves Out Most Important Part of Story

Scott McCartney, who authors The Middle Seat travel column for the Wall Street Journal, is normally a reliable correspondent on trends in air travel.
Which is why it's puzzling as to why in today's column, which dealt with how budget airlines are trying to position themselves in the marketplace, he omitted one crucial incident that left the article frustratingly incomplete.
At least half of the column focuses on Spirit Airlines' effort to reinvent itself as the capo di capo tutti when it comes to cheap airlines.
It squeezes more seats than other carriers onto its Airbus A-319s. Want water or soda? Two bucks, please. Got two bags to check. It'll cost you $20. Spirit's even testing selling the types of items usually found in a minimart, like newspapers, playing cards and aspirin.
McCartney notes that air on the flights is offered for free, "Spirit sometimes jokes."
Har, har.
"Customers will shift airlines over $5 or $10 when buying a ticket, but once they buy, they are willing to spend." opines Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza.
This is the same Baldanza who caused a PR headache when an email intended for a manager was also sent to a couple who had complained about bad service and wanted a refund after they missed their connecting flight.

"Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I'm concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He's never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny."

Needless to say, this spread like wildfire in the blogosphere, where more Spirit horror stories emerged. And despite overwhelming evidence of rudeness and indifference on the part of Spirit employees, airline flackette Alison Russell was resolute, telling the Orlando Sentinel Baldanza had nothing to be sorry for.
Apparently, hubris costs extra at Spirit too.

At the very least, McCartney should have mentioned this imbroglio. As far as I can tell, Baldanza has never commented on it publicly, and McCartney should have tried to get him on the record, as it speaks directly to what really is the theme of his story -- that flying on cheap airlines can come at a price.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fox Business Channel Looks Longingly At Its Future Cousin

Promotes Wall Street Journal on Bag, Even When Its Reporters are Gagged

The bag that held my copy of The New York Times this morning was sponsored by the brand-spanking-new Fox Business Channel, though it was actually touting Wall Street Journal radio reports heard twice an hour on WCBS-AM.
So, while to the uninitiated, it would appear strange that a nascent TV channel would promote reports on a radio station owned by a rival network, it kinda makes sense given Fox and the Journal will soon be corporate cousins once Rupert Murdoch closes on his $5 billion purchase of Dow Jones.
Then again, synergy will have to wait. Dow Jones has an exclusive arrangement for its reporters to be on CNBC -- the dark star of TV business news -- until 2012.
The denizens of Fox Business can read and ruminate about what's in the Journal until then, just like the rest of us.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ann Coulter An Anti-Semite: This is News?

Why Does The Media Help The "Perfected" Conservative Loudmouth Take Foot Out of Her Mouth Every Time She Sticks It In?
Look, the fact that Ann Coulter feels that Jews need to be "perfected" so they can take their proper place in a Christian society should be treated as nothing more than another stupid thing uttered by a woman way too pleased with her own bad behavior.
With Coulter, you don't know whether she believes the things she says, or just likes to get a rise out of us. Or, maybe it doesn't make a difference.
What's more troubling, as Blogging Stocks notes, is that she keeps getting asked back on one talk show or next to spew her invective about Democrats, 9/11 widows and now, Jews. As if we should care.
The issue is, why do talk-show bookers care? Couldn't they find someone buried in their Rolodex who might also be articulate, attractive (with Coulter, that's really in the eye of the beholder) and might actually have something thoughtful to say. You know, not controversial for the sake of being controversial.
Coulter fulminates because we let her. She always has a forum because, as the consummate media whore, she's always willing to bail out a producer on some cable show or another and be near an uplink or a studio at a moment's notice and let her rag on her liberal outrage du jour.
At least Donny Deutsch, on whose little-watched CNBC program Coulter made those statements, knew to be offended:

DEUTSCH: You said, your exact words were, "Jews need to be perfected." Those are the words out of your mouth.
COULTER: No, I'm saying that's what a Christian is.
DEUTSCH: But that's what you said. Don't you see how hateful, how anti-Semitic (that is)?
DEUTSCH: How do you not see? You're an educated woman. How do you not see that?
COULTER: That isn't hateful at all.
DEUTSCH: But that's even a scarier thought.

But Deutsch should have known better than to have invited Coulter on in the first place.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Putting Clues On The Menu at "Kitchen Nightmares"

Gordon Ramsay May Know How To Cook, Just Don't Ask Him For Directions

I finally caught up to last week's episode of "Kitchen Nightmares" on Fox, a show that still manages to be entertaining, even when it assumes its audience is a collective mass of bliterhing idiots.
On the latest installment, chef/mad genius Gordon Ramsay and Co. whipped into shape a restaurant in Bellmore, on Long Island's South Shore, about 25 miles from Manhattan. It's about as suburban as suburban gets.
Yet, in the cutaway shots that give us a break from Ramsay fulminating, restaurant staff members screaming and crying and a chance to crank up some portentous music, we first see a shot of an elevated subway in Queens. Later, it's a shot of a horse-drawn carriage outside of Central Park.
And what does this has to do with Bellmore let alone the fate of the restaurant in question, The Mixing Bowl?
It's the suburbs, people! People live here so they don't have to ride the subway. Why not show the beach or water, both of which are nearby? How about a strip mall? Now that's Bellmore.
Also, once again, we see Ramsay getting off at the Bellmore train station on his way to his date with destiny at the hapless eatery on Merrick Road. Ramsay is fooling no one into thinking he actually spent time with the plebeians who have no choice but to ride the Long Island Railroad. Nice try, though.
On Wednesday, Gordo schleps out to Long Island yet again, this time to the Seascape (not in Zagat's, by the way) in Islip. That's quite a slog on the train, so we'll see if he can instead drive on the right side of the road (literally) to meet his next supplicants.

Friday, October 05, 2007

N.Y. Times Gives A.P. Credit Where Credit's Due

Rare Wire-Service Byline for Reporter Who Made It Into Myanmar

This is one for the clip file.
The New York Times almost never keeps a byline on a wire-service dispatch provided by the Associated Press, Reuters or Agence France-Presse.
Beyond that being S.O.P. at the Gray Lady, the paper is usually not that reliant on the wires for extended pieces, and can turn to its own network of correspondents and stringers.
But the Myanmar junta is making that task difficult, with most stories originating out of Bangkok, and even there news is slow to trickle out, as the military rulers conveniently turned off the Internet just as the monks' protests reached a full boil.
Somehow, though, the A.P. pulled off what appeared to be a bit of a coup when Bangkok hand Grant Peck made it to the Myanmar's new capital, Naypyidaw, and filed a dispatch about what life was like in that remote city. The Times ran the whole story, with Peck's byline on A12.
However, don't fret that the junta is playing favorites with reporters, or that it's even giving the time of day to the press corps. Perish the thought.
Left off the end of the Times' version, but included in the Times-owned International Herald-Tribune, is an addendum that Peck was allowed a "rare visit" to the capital in April.
Still, a nice get.
With what's happening now in Myanmar, we can't know enough.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wall Street Journal's Cranky Consumer Too Irritated To Fact-Check

Diaper Diatribe Against Doesn't Add Up

The normally reliable Cranky Consumer column in today's Wall Street Journal focused on buying diapers in bulk online, a subject that has been near and dear to this correspondent's heart for the last couple of years.
But the article, written by a freelancer named Eileen Gunn, suffered from the same kind of delivery problems it griped about.
Case in point: Gunn writes about ordering a box of 216 size 1 Pampers from for $38.99, but then got hit with a $14.90 shipping fee because she was actually buying the diapers from an independent merchant,
"A spokesman for Amazon said that the company works with its third-party merchants to ensure a good shopping experience," Gunn wrote, "but that their delivery fees and standards are ultimately not under Amazon's control."
All well and good, but the question is why Gunn would have done that in the first place. From my own experience, I have bought Pampers directly from Amazon, which provides free shipping. The diapers in question are available for $39.79.
Moreover, that offer is on the first page after you search for Pampers. You have to drill down to find the BBHealthy offer. True, initially cheaper at $38.99, but then comes the shipping, which would bring the cost to a pricey 25 cents a diaper.
However, if she had bought the Pampers directly from Amazon, it would have been just 18 cents a diaper, just a penny more than the lowest-price site mentioned in the column,
Just as bewildering as the fact that Gunn blew by the Pampers home page on Amazon is the unnamed Amazon spokesman in her article who also couldn't figure out where Gunn went wrong. Instead, he just blubbered about how Amazon "tries very hard to ensure a good shopping experience for our customers."
Which is what happens when you shop for the best price. Only then might you get a little less cranky, not to mention an accurate column.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Flushing Away The Mets' Season: New York Media Still Trying To Make Sense of Amazin' Diamond Debacle

It couldn't actually happen. The Mets would get their act together come playoff time, right? Other teams blow seven-game leads with 17 to play, not these Mets. In your face, Jimmy Rollins.
But here we are, the day after the final chapter in the debacle known as the 2007 season, and now Mets fans as well as the angry mob known as New York sports writers are trying to make sense of it all.
Among the choice words:

General manager Omar Minaya called it "a setback" but pointed out that his team "won 88 games," as if that constituted improvement. Carlos Beltran characterized the team's dismal final 17 games as "a slump." David Wright said it was "a bump in the road."Most ominously, Wright said the team doesn't need a major overhaul, "just a few minor tweaks here and there." And all the Titanic needed was a patch--Wallace Matthews, Newsday

The Mets have the moves in the dugout, but maybe their focus should have been, say, on attention to detail on the basepaths rather than choreography. They seemed bored with their competition at points during the season, and it showed with inattentive play--Adam Rubin, Daily News.

It’s never been more appropriate for a team to play in a city called Flushing--Mark Hale, New York Post.

The Mets had installed extra seating behind home plate for the playoffs, and [manager Willie] Randolph had done a book deal in anticipation of a hearty October run. But in the end Sunday, Shea looked like a place where tumbleweed goes to die--Ian O'Connor, Bergen Record

But enough about what happened on the field. What happened in the stands also mattered. After all, 3.8 million tickets were sold this year. That had to count for something, as Kevin Manahan deftly pointed out in the Star-Ledger.

"Time to go, folks!" one usher yelled. "The season is over. Move it! Now!"
And then they came upon weepy 11-year-old Michael Gambro in Section 41, on the first-base side, tears trickling down the side of his freckled nose.
In the last game of the season yesterday, with a postseason berth on the line, Gambro -- wearing a Jose Reyes shirt and a blue-and-orange No. 1 finger -- had watched his sleepwalking heroes lose, 8-1, to the Florida Marlins. And now, with mom's arm around him, the weight of the worst September collapse in baseball history was breaking his heart... Yes, the season was over, but The Last Fan wasn't ready to go.
"Ma'am," an usher said to Sue Gambro, "you and the boy have to ..." He noticed the tears. "Never mind," he said. "You take all the time you need."

I know exactly how he feels.

Sitting Shiva For The Mets On The Radio

When Bad Things Happen To Good Teams: WCBS Radio's Sports Rabbi Jared Max Finds Clever Way To Make Sense Of Amazin' Collapse

Woke up this morning still in disbelief that my Metsies will be watching the playoffs instead of being part of them following their historical swan dive in the last two weeks of the season.
Fortunately, Jared Max of WCBS Radio found a way to put it all in perspective when he started reciting the Jewish Mourner's Kaddish on his 6:45 a.m. sports report. It might be the only time that the Kaddish could elicit a smile.
Max cleverly carried over that theme for his daily Maxed Out report, a montage recapping the big sports story du jour, and in these parts, there really is only one story.
It's typical of Max, who tends to make the most of his twice-hourly, 90-second reports, with snappy writing, a few knowing smirks, and the voice of the fan always in his head.