Friday, May 30, 2008

Barack Obama Elected President --- In Europe

Daily Telegraph Poll Finds McCain Tarred By Bush Brush Although Most Polled Don't Think Much About the U.S. Regardless of Who's In Charge.

Alas, they can't come to the polls here in November, so Europeans have to settle for opinion polls to voice their sentiments about who should be the next president.
Barack Obama, to little surprise because of his opposition to the Iraq war, comes out well on top, with 52 percent, in a poll conducted by the Daily Telegraph in Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia.
Conversely, just 15 percent would pull the lever for John McCain, who's viewed as nothing more than a Bush clone by many. That's well behind "neither man" or "don't know" in some of the countries polled.
In other words, more of the same for the nation many of those interviewed view as a "force of evil."
If McCain gets elected, it'll be interesting to see whether those nations' leaders feel much the same.

Honda Reaches For The Sky and Finds Advertising Gold

Difficult Really Is Worth Doing In U.K. Three-Minute Live Ad That Keeps Channel Surfers and DVRs At Bay

The prospect of a three-minute TV ad in the U.S. is unheard of for many reasons, including costs and painfully short attention spans. It's enough to get people to sit still to watch the Super Bowl spots, let alone the average commercial between segments of "Cold Case" or "According to Jim."
So, what was Honda thinking when it aired a three-minute ad on Britain's Channel 4, an ad, that for good measure, was being broadcast live? Probably, that they'd get a lot of publicity.

Good thinking.

The key to pulling off the spot, which cost only about $1 million to put together and air, was having some very skilled skydivers do what they do best. Watch what happens next.
And in a rare feat of ratings magic, more people tuned into Channel 4 while the ad, which had been well-hyped in the British media, was on.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All The PR In The World Won't Save You When You Do Something That Really Sucks

A Shocker: American Airlines Finds Sympathy In Short Supply When it Announces Charge for First Checked Bag

Nowadays, we no longer have low expectations about the airline industry. Low expectations would be cause for celebration.
No expectations rule the day, except for paying for a ticket, getting a seat and then hoping the plane actually takes off and lands at your destination.
Of course, all that's not a given.
But even as the airlines try to prove otherwise, there are still a few aspects of air travel that would be held sacred. That includes not forking over cash to check just one bag. Now that American Airlines would like to disabuse you of that notion and hit you up for $15 for that privilege, it also wants your understanding.
The explanation certainly makes sense: The airline's cash is being sucked through the nozzle of a jet-fuel truck. And those pesky low-fare airlines, to boot, just won't leave us alone. We need to raise cash in every way possible, or soon our fleet will be based permanently in the Mojave Desert. Yada, yada, yada.
Somehow, the airline seems shocked that no one dropped by to give them a hug and tell them "There, there, it's OK, here's your $15. Now go save that company of yours, you big lug!"
"We understood that consumers would be frustrated with another fee," Mike Flanagan, senior VP at Weber Shandwick, American's public-relations shop of record told Advertising Age. "Precisely for that reason; we did our best to communicate the full impact that oil is having on our business."
So, while Flanagan & Co. essentially did what they're paid to do, the net effect was zero. No one disputes that current oil prices are a deal-breaker for airlines. But passengers simply don't care anymore. American would have been better counseled to try and find the money in a less-visible way.
Passengers would be placated if American simply raised fares, like they've done consistently this year to buffet fuel price spikes. No one would be happy about paying more, but at least you can understand the rationale of fuel surcharges in the current environment.
Instead, charging for checked bags for non-elite fliers implies we're all in this together. We're not.
In recent years, airlines took away free food, charged you to buy a ticket if you didn't get it online, added onerous change fees and tacked on higher charges for transporting pets and unaccompanied minors, for starters. And then you get to sit in a cramped plane that's filled to the brim because airlines have reduced flights to save money.
What American shouldn't get or attempt is $15 each way for the first checked bag. This isn't the answer to their money problems, nor even part of an answer. But it could be what helps fliers determine when enough is really enough.
And no amount of PR will be able to explain that away.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Michael Savage Goes Punk To Talk About Ted Kennedy

Reactionary Talker Puts On Dead Kennedys Track "Not to Mock Ted Kennedy. It's Just Appropriate, That's All."

Good thing we have liberal media watchdogs like Media Matters to listen to guys like Michael Savage, so we don't have to.
The group posted the nastiest bits from the rabid right-wing radio host, who took aim at Ted Kennedy, for whom he has held deep reservoirs of hate over the years.
The May 20 show opened with audio of Kennedy singing segueing into news reports discussing his brain-cancer diagnosis mixed with a clip from "Kindergarten Cop," where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character says "It's not a tumor."
What a cutup, that Savage, who then played a track by punk-rock icons the Dead Kennedys (above) to make some semblance of a point.

SAVAGE: Play "California Über Alles" by the Dead Kennedys, dedicated to the one I love. "I am governor."
["California Über Alles" plays]
I'm sorry. I like it. I'm having fun today. I'm not celebrating. I feel good. I've always liked punk rock music.


You know I'm playing the Dead Kennedys not to mock Ted Kennedy. It's just appropriate, that's all.

Well, if you say so. And if we weren't convinced, this was how Savage attempted to feign sympathy:

The guy sounded like he was off for years, I'm sorry. When he would give that -- he gave a speech about a year ago, I forget the topic. He could not finish the speech, Kennedy couldn't. Feinstein had to come from the side and speak to him like from the wings, like the queen of diamonds.

Which is more emblematic of the contempt Savage feels for Kennedy, and epitomized on his Web site, where twol hysterical screeds that do everything short of calling for the Massachusetts senator to be lined up and shot for his liberal misdeeds. That includes this drivel from Beowulf Rochlen, Savage's Executive Producer.

"Does a man who spent his entire political life destroying the fundamental tenets of American morality become miraculously rehabilitated simply because he enters the hospital? ... Too many so-called conservative commentators have forgotten what Ted Kennedy has done to our language. Too many fawning media lackeys have forgotten that Ted Kennedy has succeeded in nearly destroying our culture."
Our culture.

All of a sudden another song title comes to mind. Remember California Uber Alles from above? Just swap out California for Deutschland -- circa 1935.

Extreme Home Headache

Sure, it's great Ty Pennington and the Gang Can Build Something Grand. But Then Someone's Gotta Clean The Place. Idaho Winner Says Thanks, But No Thanks

For Eric Hebert, his life went from "Extreme Home Makeover" to Extreme Pain In The Butt.

The Sandpoint, Idaho, man had his plush home built for him by the ABC program, which featured his plight of being a single dad to his dead sister's children. Hebert told the Bonner County Daily Bee the house costs a lot to maintain, and is a bear to keep clean.

Although Keely’s (one of the kids) room and its adjoining bathroom are plush, it is difficult for her to keep the room clean. They spent last weekend cleaning her room to prepare for showing buyers. However, Hebert did not have time to put away the vacuum cleaner and it sits in the middle of the upstairs hallway floor.

Reality bites back indeed.

If you'd like to say your house was on TV, and you don't mind living in northern Idaho, the 3,678-square-foot spread can be yours for just $529,000.

The Parade to the Exit Continues at WCBS-TV

Jim Rosenfield Latest Victim of Cost-Cutting at Channel 2. Good for Him.

The news department at WCBS-TV in New York ran off the rails a long time ago. Its newscasts usually dwell at or near the basement in most dayparts, which means management panics and tries anything to goose the Nielsens.
Then management gets fired, and they're replaced by a new agenda, shifting priorities and, lately, budget cutting as local TV falls victim to slumping advertising, just like any other medium.
The latest victim, according to The Daily News, is veteran anchor Jim Rosenfield, who's been a steady in the New York market at both Channel 2 and WNBC-TV.
Rosenfield was refreshing among anchors, in that he was a bit of an everyman, who was as comfortable working stories from the field as he was reading a Teleprompter.
Which meant he was a valuable asset to whatever station employed him.
Which means absolutely nothing when your salary gets to a certain level and your ratings, through no fault of your own, go soft.
So, Rosenfield is extricated -- even if not on his own volition -- from a trainwreck of a station. It'll be interesting to see if he can land a gig in the Big Apple again. There are no obvious openings on other stations, most of which are doing their own cutbacks. And as the May sweeps wrap up, there are bound to be more to come.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When A Newspaper Doesn't Tell The Whole Story

The Smoking Gun Picks Up Where LaCrosse Tribune Leaves Off in My Space-Child Porn Arrest

First things first. This story involves a couple of teenagers who, let's face it, will probably never be invited to join Mensa. Which doesn't justify what happened, but illustrates that it never had to. Hold that thought.
An item in the LaCrosse (Wis.) Tribune tells the story of 17-year-old Alex Phillips, who's charged with child pornography, exploitation of a child and defamation (who knew that was a crime?) for posting "nude photographs of a 16-year-old female" on his MySpace account.
Now. with this Sahara-like rendering of the incident, it's easy to dismiss Phillips as just another piece of worthless scum caught doing some dumbass things online.
Which may not be far from the truth. But two crucial details are omitted by the Tribune, which The Smoking Gun picked up on.
First, the girl in question was Phillips' ex-girlfriend. Second, she had emailed the pictures, which apparently leave absolutely nothing to the imagination, to his cellphone.
Why the Tribune left out those details, which are available in the police report, can't be fathomed.
The paper did manage to include the best (for lack of a better term) part of the story, namely that when police first caught wind of the photos and contacted Phillips to warn him that he could be arrested if he didn't take down the pictures, his response was: "Fuck that, I am keeping them up."
Guess again.
Needless to say, the ex was not amused. Which is why Phillips is now wearing an orange jump suit and admitting to police -- in what may be the understatement of the day -- that he "probably should not have done this."

John Stossel: A Junkie's Best Friend

Everyone's Favorite Liberatarian Giving His Publicist Agita
Page Six has the scoop on 20/20 loudmouth John Stossel jumping on the legalize-drugs bandwagon.
Not that he wants us and him to become a nation of crackheads, or so he says. Instead, Stossel (couldn't he just go back to doing consumer exposes?), says it's a way to strike back at the drug gangs and cartels before they branch out from heroin to something flashier, like procure nuclear weapons.
You know, the next logical step.
Maybe this is just his way of trying to get hip with a younger demographic. Apparently, getting his own Facebook page wasn't enough.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Hard Facts About The Penis Museum

A Story That's Short and Sweet. Or Maybe It's Long and Lean

Because it's Friday. Because it's raining. Because the Mets are making a big sucking sound and threatening to ruin my summer. Because there's been so much bad news this week.
Submitted for your approval, from the folks at Reuters, the story of the Iceland Phallological Museum. Just because.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Voice of a Mother Reveals The Tragedies Emerging From China Earthquake Zone

Melissa Block Lets Us Feel The Grief of the Many Parents Left Without A Child

"All Things Considered" co-hosts Robert Siegel and Melissa Block continue to file gripping dispatches from the hardest hit parts of Sichuan province still coping from the earthquake.
As we noted yesterday, this is radio news at its very finest.
The hard news has been left to others. Instead, the NPR crew has closely covered the human dimension of the tragedy, which has been magnified by the thousands of children who perished. Their deaths resonate all the more because of China's one-child policy. Parents now have no one to comfort, no one to be comforted by.
Perhaps Block, who has one child herself, felt this part of the story especially tugged at her. Or maybe it's just watching parents awash in sorrow after being told that the worst thing that could happen to them has indeed occurred.
Either way, a report Block filed yesterday left her shaken and near tears, as she described frantic parents holding on to a fraying shred of hope that their 2-year-old son would be found as excavators clawed through the rubble of what was once their home.
If you think that Block's reaction is not how a reporter should act on the job, then I dare you not to feel the same way as you listen. It is raw, genuine emotion. To have done anything short of empathizing would have been dishonest let alone inappropriate. And Block's dispatches have been anything but.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Myanmar, Burma. Burma, Myanmar. Let's Call The Whole Junta Off

Media Here Come Up With Different Answers for What's In A Name, as Cyclone Relief Continues to Be Held Up

Media organizations have been doing their share of hand-wringing over whether to use Burma or Myanmar when doing cyclone coverage. The Washington Post uses the former, while The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, along with the AP stylebook go with the latter.
The U.S. government goes with Burma (except when it's meeting with the country's leaders to get permission to bring in relief supplies) because it doesn't recognize the ruling junta as a legitimate government. That position is at odds with the U.N., Japan and France, among others.
So, if you take the view that nations hostile toward the junta and its repressive ways would choose Burma in the name game, it's curious that media in Thailand, Burma's friendly neighbor, would also use the B-word.
The Bangkok Post said "30 volunteer doctors will help treat Burmese victims of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated much of Rangoon..."
That's right. Rangoon, not Yangon.
Similarly, The Nation, Bangkok's other English daily, noted the Thai prime minister, who had visited Burma, was stranded at Rangoon's airport because of heavy rain.
It appears The Nation appears to have little use for Thailand being buddy-buddy with Burma, as one editorial shows:

Even though Burma has failed to comply with good behaviour and governance within Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], the grouping always comes to its defence. When the regime cracked down with extreme violence against the monks last September, Asean kept quiet. Of course, Asean expressed revulsion against the junta's actions to preempt others from doing so ... Thailand is the strongest supporter of the regime. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has criticised the opposition party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Worse, Thailand's Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama naively endorsed and praised the Burmese leaders at every turn.

What's in a name, indeed.

Saying You're Sorry Before You Sued

Boston Herald Eats Crow for Screwing Up Story on Patriots Taping Opponent's Practice Session

When you're the second-place paper in what has become a desultory newspaper town, you need to do anything to get attention. Including, as the Boston Herald proves, admitting your mistakes. This one was a whopper, as things in Beantown go.

Turns out the Feb. 2 accusation in the Herald that the Patriots illegally taped a practice by the St. Louis Rams in 2002 before upsetting them in the Super Bowl was unfounded, according to the NFL. Oops.

Cue the butt-kissing.

Prior to the publication of its Feb. 2, 2008, article, the Boston Herald neither possessed nor viewed a tape of the Rams’ walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI, nor did we speak to anyone who had. We should not have published the allegation in the absence of firmer verification.

Ya think?

Looks like the Patriots are happy with the Herald flogging itself for what the team calls a "completely false and unsubstantiated" story.
At the very least, it's good the Herald owned up to its mistake, something its tabloid brethren in New York are almost always loath to do.

NPR Shows How To Own A Story

"All Things Considered" Hosts Much More Than Opportunistic With China Earthquake Coverage

Can you say enough good things about NPR's coverage of the China earthquake?


Not only were "All Things Considered" co-hosts Robert Siegel and Melissa Block (seen left with producer Andrea Hsu) in China preparing for a week-long series of reports when the quake hit, they were in Chengdu, not far from the quake's epicenter.
Since then, they have been filing -- with extremely able assistance from producers Art Silverman and Andrea Hsu -- astonishing and heart-rending array of reports from the hardest-hit region.

Among them is this dispatch from Siegel, who visited one devastated village. After being briefed matter-of-factly on what the village needs now, Siegel asked the leader about his relatives."

"Is your family all right?" Siegel asked.

"As far as I know, they are all buried," came the reply.

Good for Siegel, that we heard him say "I'm so sorry," before the man started to cry.

Block will also find her rightful place in NPR's pantheon for her play-by-play when the quake first hit (she was doing an interview at a time) and a searing report from the rubble of a school, as bodies of children are brought out and families find out that, yes, they must now grieve.
"Many of these young victims would have been their family's only children. And in row after row their parents sat huddled through the rainy night keeping watch one last time over their babies."
It's the kind of writing that is of the first order for radio news, or for any medium for that matter. It makes you stop, listen, think, and rush home to hug your kids even tighter than you already do.
We already knew Siegel and Block were skilled interviewers and engaging hosts. Because they are normally found in a studio nowadays, we may not have known or remembered that they both logged time as reporters as well. Their instincts have not failed them.
And we are all the better for it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Will You Lick My Swizzle Stick?

Bawdy Bob Stokes and Weather Channel In The Middle of Legal Storm

The Smoking Gun offers up some juicy details on an arbitration ruling in favor of former Weather Channel anchor Hillary Andrews, who claimed that time spent with her co-anchor Bob Stokes was one long episode of sexual harassment.
That included such remarks as "Will you lick my swizzle stick?"
Andrews demurred.
And so it went, she says, for almost three years. And when she complained about Stokes to management and asked to be reassigned, their first reaction was to stick her on the overnight shift. The same thing had allegedly happened to her predecessor, after she was also Stoked.
Talk about a cold front.
Though Andrews contended TWC management favored Stokes, judging by how they treated her, Stokes reportedly got the boot following the arbitration ruling in January.
Which is why, you weather groupies out there (and you know who you are) you haven't seen Stokes on the air in several months. But it's also why you haven't seen Hillary Andrews since 2006, at least on TWC. She pops up now and then as a fill-in on CNN, which might be sufficient if the undisclosed award from the arbitration had enough zeros on the end.

Late-Night Final Scores No Excuse for Lame Stories Online

New York Times Content to Not Update Its Mets Game Article -- Whatever Happened To The Continuous Newsroom?

For those of us -- and I'm not among them -- who stayed up to watch the New York Mets engage in yet another game where futility reigned supreme, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-4, you likely wouldn't have seen the game story in most editions of the morning papers.
That's understandable, given deadlines, especially for papers delivered in the 'burbs. But that's the beauty of the Internet, right? The story that's not in print is there for you to read online, where pages can be effortlessly updated, right? Not quite.
The New York Times whiffed with its game story by freelancer Billy Witz, which made it into the city final editions, but went untouched online. That meant no quotes, which could have been easily obtained after the story was filed.
The article was all right for what it was, but it's a no-brainer to update it on the web, so we could read manager Willie Randolph's latest mealy-mouthed assessments and a quote from the Goat of the Day, although there were a few candidates last night.
But no such story exists at However, the online versions from The Daily News, The New York Post and Newsday , not to mention The Journal-News, all have quotes.
Again, deadlines are irrelevant online. So, why not update the story? Just one of many questions the Times sports section comes up short answering, though its coverage of the Kentucky Derby and Eight Belles tragedy has been exemplary.
But Tom Jolly & Co. should no better. Baseball is king in these parts, not so much the Sport of Kings.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hockey Star Nearly Loses Spleen, Daily News Loses Credibility

You Can Hear Sean Avery Yelling, "I'm Not Dead Yet!"

Sounds like New York Rangers star/pest Sean Avery is on a slow road to recovery, after suffering a lacerated spleen during Tuesday night's playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The good news is Avery's supposed to make a full recovery in time for next season.

So says The Daily News in today's paper. What the News doesn't say, and doesn't correct in the piece, is that while it's trumpeting it was the first paper with the story -- it also reported Avery had been in cardiac arrest. Not true, as it turns out.

Avery actually rode in a car with a team doctor to a Manhattan hospital after the game, and his life was never in danger.

That's a bit different from cardiac arrest. That the News made that mistake and didn't own up to it --instead letting an online commenter after the latest Avery story take them to task -- is strictly bush league.

Now Will Ben Stein Shut Up?

Polygamy Cult Apologist Cries Out For The Kids, Who Really Don't Need His Help

During his bizarre commentary on "Sunday Morning" on CBS, Ben Stein lashed out at the state of Texas for being all mean and judgmental to the families of the polygamy cult whose kids are now in foster care while the state investigates allegations of abuse.
Stein's bought into the FLDS cult's PR spin hook, line and sinker, to the point that he said Texas was guilty of "Gestapo tactics, pure and simple."
A lousy analogy, to be sure, and as a Jew, one Stein should be more careful throwing around. On Sunday, he bleated:

Why are they being dealt the most drastic punishment imaginable, separation from their mothers and fathers without any reason? The State of Texas has not found one single crime against these children yet. Even if they do find one or two, how can that be as reason for taking dozens, maybe hundreds of children away from their mothers?

The kids here are the victims not of cruelty from their parents but of the incredible cruelty and incompetence from the state of Texas. Look, if there's any evidence of cruelty by these families to these kids, where is it?

Maybe Stein can come back with another commentary, after reading today's Houston Chronicle, which recounts a hearing that revealed that dozens of the FLDS children have had broken bones, and that there are disturbing allegations of sexual abuse of boys.
And this item from the Austin American-Statesman, which reveals that of the 53 girls identified as being ages 14-17, more than 30 are pregnant, or have given birth. In Texas, girls under 17 cannot legally consent to have sex.
Sounds pretty criminal, huh Ben?

Stein was on much safer ground the week before, when he talked about how abandoned pets are also victims of the mortgage meltdown. He advocated tax breaks for people who adopt dogs or cats from shelters. Turns out, he feels the same way about Fido and Fluffy as he does the FLDS kids.
"Not one of them is guilty of anything bad. They're all innocent."
Unfortunately, Stein may no longer be in a position to say the same thing about the FLDS cult. Maybe he can come back with another commentary and explain that away.