Monday, December 31, 2007

Thanks And All The Best

The blog's been a tad quiet during the holidays, though for the most part, so was most of the media I take time to laud and lambast.
I'll catch you on the flip side of next year, but just wanted to take the time to thank the thousands of you who've stopped by to read, ruminate and respond.
May we have a happy healthy and anything-but-boring (but for the right reasons) 2008.
Take it easy but take it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Snark, Australian Style

Proof That Foreign Journalists Have Even More Contempt for Our Celebrities Than We Do -- Thanks a Lot, Jamie Lynn Spears!

Watch how this Australian reporter from 7 News almost drowns in his sarcasm. Not that it's unjustified or anything, but he's loaded for bear and loving it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Do They Fact-Check Frommer's Guidebooks, Or Are They Just Plain Lazy....

....Not To Mention Deceptive and Woefully Out-of-Date

In planning a just-completed trip to Walt Disney World (a super-swell time was had by all), I turned to Frommer's as one of the two guidebooks I'd use to plot our travels.
Over the years, I've often turned to Frommer's as a reliable information source, providing a range of choices of attractions, hotels and restaurants in all price ranges. The books are usually filled with commentary written by seasoned travelers who are not hesitant to highlight the shortcomings of a destination as well as its virtues.
But in communing with The Mouse, the Frommer's Walt Disney World and Orlando 2008 came up woefully short, and highlights the need to not rely on a single guidebook for a trip. Fortunately, we had also brought the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2008, the Big Kahuna of WDW books that provided information that was not only more useful but refreshingly current.
Ironically, both books are put out by Wiley, which has a variety of travel imprints under its corporate umbrella.
But when it came to the Frommer's version, somebody isn't minding the store and lays waste to the claim that the book is "completely revised." Because it's not.
If it was, then author Laura Lea Miller wouldn't tell readers that one option to get to Orlando would be taking Delta's subsidiary, Song Airlines. Which would be difficult, given that Song ceased operating as a distinct entity in May 2006, a fact that Delta first announced in October of 2005.
The Soarin' ride at Epcot receives extremely scant mention, even though it's been open since 2005, and is one of the top attractions at WDW.
Things are even worse at the Frommer's Web site, which lists daily admission to the parks at $59.75, and parking at $8 (it's $71 and $11, respectively). And it provides links to rides and attractions that don't exist and none that those that do -- including the aforementioned "Soarin," and the best show in all of the parks --"Finding Nemo -- The Musical."
You know going in that some items in any guidebook will be dated by the time it gets to the printer, let alone bookshelves. You take that for what it's worth and plan accordingly. But there's scant evidence that Frommer and Miller have updated this guidebook in any meaningful way over the last two to three years.
The book boasts that Miller, a freelance writer whose name appears on other Frommer's Disney and Florida books, makes several trips a year to Central Florida.
The question is, where is she going once she gets there, as it sure as hell doesn't appear to be Disney World.

Philly Anchor Finds New York Isn't City of Sisterly Love

Alycia Lane Won't Be Getting Invited To A Gay-Pride Parade Anytime Soon

KYW-TV Anchor Alycia Lane is in hot water for allegedly ripping a New York City police officer a big one and, in the process, calling her a "dyke bitch."
I don't really have a horse in this story, but just wanted a good excuse to print her picture.

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Daily News, which broke the story of Lane's arrest, is reporting that she won't be appearing on the air anytime soon, despite the end of a three-week "vacation." That uncertainty's been enough to prompt Lane to hire a lawyer -- to salvage her professional future. Presumably, she also has one for her possible future in the criminal justice system as well.

Dates Disappear Next to Datelines at New York Times

Another Anachronism Bites The Dust

See what happens when you take a week off, and you barely look at a newspaper during a vacation?
The New York Times has dispensed with another vestige of its past, telling the date a story was filed next to the dateline, assuming it was not in New York City.
On the one hand, this tradition was quaint, given that you could assume most stories in the paper were written the day before.
But sometimes it provided the ability to boast, like when a late-breaking story from one of the Asian bureaus could make it to the late editions. Then, editors would insert the actual day as well as the date to let you know the news still had its fresh-story smell.
Dates were also kept on even when the story was several days old, especially if a correspondent had two stories in the paper that day. That way, you wouldn't have to figure out how a reporter could have researched and written stories from Omaha and Houston on the same day. Times reporters may be good, they're just not that good.
Perhaps this is a concession to free up even an eeensy bit of space since the paper slimmed down its page width earlier this year.
But it may also be another sign of bringing the paper even further into the 21st century, as when the Times also eliminated the "Special to The New York Times" bug under all out-of-city dispatches.
Indeed, the front page took another bold leap today with its front-page feature picked up from the Times-0wned International Herald-Tribune on Laotians hired by the CIA to fight during the Vietnam War who are still being hunted by the Laotian government.
The story took up four columns at the top of the fold, and took over the space on the right rail where the lead story ordinarily resides. The Times has often splashed features on A-1 during slow news days, but never at the expense of the lead.
But it was a good package with which to try something different and roast another sacred cow at a newspaper that has rigidly stuck to the same diet for too long.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Saturday Early Show on CBS In A State of Flux --- Again

Ugly Stepchild of News Division Loses Its Only Permanent Anchor -- and Ira Joe, We Hardly Knew Ye

It's not enough that the "Saturday Early Show" on CBS is in the ratings basement, which is in keeping with its weekday brethren.
The show's Web site is buried well within CBS, no surprise given that the news division regards it as both an afterthought and pit stop for its anchors.
In the last year or so, Russ Mitchell (who needs his Web site bio updated) and Tracy Smith, the most recent anchors have decamped to other duties in the news division. Indeed, they are worthy of bigger and better things. But the network kind of forgot, or chose to forget, to replace Mitchell.
After a succession of guest anchors, WCBS-TV's Chris Wragge has more or less stepped into that breach, but has not been named a permanent host.
Smith was replaced in June by Maggie Rodriguez, who will now get to watch the program, as she ascends to the weekday "Early Show" to take over for the departing Hannah Storm next month.

No word on who gets Rodriguez' slot.
Then there is the curious tale of the Saturday Early Show's venerable weather reporter, Ira Joe Fisher (above), who has apparently been booted from the show, although if you drill down to the Web site, you still see him listed as being part of the team, which he has been since the show's inception in 1999.
Fisher is apparently still on the payroll, though now he is only heard doing commercial voiceovers on the weekday "Early Show."
Despite Fisher's banishment (which has irked more than a few readers of this blog), new weather guy Lonnie Quinn, also from WCBS, has not been formally anointed.
The suits at West 57th St. are extremely bullish about Quinn, whose arrival pushed WCBS weekday weather guy John Bolaris to weekends.
Bolaris took that hint, and will return to Philadelphia, where he had last worked before New York, to be the chief meteorologist at the local Fox station.

When Ratings Get In The Way of Journalism: A Cautionary Tale Out Of Boise

And We're Not Talking About Larry Craig; "This American Life" Report Shows When "Exclusive" Stories Should be Excluded From a Newscast

"This American Life" may be one of public radio's darlings, but here in New York, we have to work a little harder to join in the love fest. WNYC airs it at 4 p.m. on Sundays, when you are likely to have other things to distract you besides appointment listening on the radio.
Sure, you can get the show on podcast, but you know how those have a way of piling up.
Fortunately, I found myself in the car last Sunday when Ira Glass & Co. unfurled their streams of consciousness.
Both segments are worth catching up to, but the one I'd especially recommend is, in Glass' parlance, Act 2, a 23-minute essay that recounts how Boise TV stations decided to cover -- or not cover -- a story about how a registered sex offender was working at a city ice rink refereeing kids' hockey games.
It sounded lurid, until some reporters dug a little deeper and found the story wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But that didn't stop one station, KIVI, desperate for ratings glory, from pulling out all stops to splash the story on its newscast and, in the process, letting sloppy packages get on the air when both reporters and their bosses should have known better.
The station's news director, Scott Picken, to his credit, consented to be interviewed. Good for him, even though he isn't portrayed in a flattering light and his decision to run as hard as he did with the story is dubious at best.
Picken claims on his blog that he has not heard the piece by Thanh Tan. It's time he did. Ditto for the rest of his staff.

News Flash: Greenpeace Has A Sense of Humor

A Bunch of Assholes -- But In A Good Way

Here's one PSA you're not likely to see on the telly in the U.S. anytime soon. So, we have to leave it to the Brits to show they have a literally cheeky sense of humor when it comes to saving energy.

Impressive Oil Drilling Spread by New York Times Shows How Newspapers Can Bridge Divide Between Print and Online

Starting To Redefine The Newspaper of the Future With More Explanatory Reporting

Features have, of course, long been part of the Business Day section of The New York Times. Sometimes, they are employed to fill space during a slow news day. On other occasions, they follow up to provide crucial and intriguing angles on a story that's dominated the news.
Then there are others that simply tell a yarn worth spinning. Such is the case with today's takeout by oil reporter Jad Mouawad about tensions that stem from Royal Dutch Shell wanting to drill off Alaska's north coast, and fears by the natives about how that could jeopardize their traditions, most importantly, whaling.
Mouawad and photographer Damon Winter traveled to Barrow for a fair and thorough look at the conflict between Shell's thirst for oil and how those efforts could scare off the bowhead whales, a major source of food for the Inupiat people in those parts.
The piece takes up most of the front page of Business Day and, unusually, the section's entire back page. Seven photographs, including a gorgeous mountain shot (above) that made it to A-1, were devoted to the story, which is augmented by an online slide show narrated by Mouawad.
Yes, this is something that's becoming more de rigueur on more media sites, but here is one instance where it was carried out with a lot of thought and deliberation, not just for the sake of doing it.
As we come to rely on newspapers less and less for a look back at the previous day's top stories, such packages may be the only way for newspapers, even the Times, to offer up a value proposition for readers.
The Wall Street Journal has gradually shifted in this direction, an effort that may only be hastened if, as expected, becomes free and needs to differentiate itself from the bevy of other financial sites.
In the end, both readers and reporters win out. It gives us a chance to read stories we might not otherwise get to see. And it gives reporters a chance to get out of the office, away from their comfort zones and examine what's really happening on their beat.
For Mouawad, Barrow is a long way from Gray Lady HQ on Eighth Avenue, or the comfy environs of an OPEC meeting in Vienna. But he and Winter evidently relished this assignment, and its shows in the end result.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fox's Couch Potato: Jim Knox

Maybe FSN reporter Jim Knox and his producers thought it was a good idea to try and deliver a report while leaping onto a couch.
Maybe he should rethink that decision.

What's next, Jim? Beer Pong during halftime?