Thursday, February 28, 2008
Some radio stations nowadays change formats about as often as we change socks.
That's their business, even if such moves are often misguided and made in a panic. But usually left out of the equation is the impact on those who work at the station, especially the jocks.
Format changes usually lead to the unemployment line.
So when classic-rock station KYYS in Kansas City changed its moniker from KY-99.7 to a so-called "quality rock" format as 99.7 The Boulevard, out went the staff. Only thing: some of them didn't go quietly.
In fact, four of them, including Max Floyd, the morning show co-host who was still plugging along at 67, are suing Entercom, the station's owners, for age discrimination.
Now anyone who's worked in radio knows you could be tops in the ratings one month and be out on your ass the next. Civil-service jobs they ain't.
When formats change, stations often want a fresh start. It's also a way to cut payroll. Floyd's been in the market forever and no doubt pulls in a fair share of shekels.
But here's the rub. It appears the format change, in this case, was little more than broadening the playlist and including a few more artists. It's not like KYYS went from classic rock to classical.
When he was first dumped last month, Floyd told a local TV station: "I was here in '74. I've won an Emmy -- it's been a great ride. I hope I didn't stay too long at the dance."
Sounds like Floyd now thinks he still has a few moves left in him.
They didn't disappoint, with a humongous AP photo on the front page, which accompanied a long obit, editorial by neocon Sun founder Seth Lipsky, an excerpt from an early Buckley book and an op-ed from American Spectator founder, Sun contributing editor and Buckley groupie R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
Tyrrell was friends with Buckley for 40 years, so a reverent and eloquent paean to the man was to be expected. More jolting, however, was the next to last line of his piece.
"And so the baton is passed. On the conservative side it passes from Buckley to Ann Coulter."
If so, it probably tells you as much about the conservative movement as you need to know.
Monday, February 25, 2008
You just knew Jimmy Kimmel wasn't going to give his squeeze Sarah Silverman the last word in the Matt Damon sweepstakes.
And we're all the better off for it, as the nine jillion people who will watch it online -- and those still awake when it was on last night -- shall attest.
The life of a TV critic? Pretty cushy. The networks send you advance screening copies. You watch them at your leisure, more or less, then you bang out a review.
Sure, a lot of what you watch sucks, but it still beats working night rewrite or being holed up in police headquarters waiting for something to happen.
But occasionally you might be called upon to review something that's live and crank out something pithy on deadline. Adam Buckman of The New York Post had to do that for the Oscars last night. Thumbnail assessment: thumbs down (note: online and print editions are somewhat different).
Buckman had it in for Jon Stewart and his mild political shtick -- no big surprise given the Post's right-wing stances and Stewart's usual skewering of same. Buckman got all hot and bothered about such quips as: "Oscar is 80 this year, which makes him now automatically the front-runner for the Republican nomination."
Was last night one of Stewart's best moments? Hardly, but more than enough to make you forget David Letterman and Whoopi Goldberg if not Billy Crystal.
And while Buckman was correct about the ceremony having the perennial stink of self-congratulation, he did demonstrate he probably needs to turn off the TV once in a while and get out more.
"[Stewart] never directly acknowledged what many of us at home were thinking, which was that, as a group, this year's nominated films stunk so badly that few of us were actually interested in going out and seeing them."
Actually, many film critics were lamenting how tough it was to pick top-10 lists last year because of the bumper crop of movies made here and abroad. And since when does box-office success equate with Oscar worthiness?
For example, raise your hand if you went to see that movie about Edith Piaf, "La Vie en Rose," the film for which Marion Cotillard won a Best Actress Oscar last night," Buckman screeches. "
Edith who? Marion who? I figured as much."
So, he never heard of Edith Piaf and all movies with subtitles bite the big one. Nothing like an informed critic to rile up the masses.
By Buckman's standard, "Saw III," "Norbit" and "Transformers" should instead by vying for Best Picture. Obviously, he's more than a little peeved about the ending for "No Country for Old Men." But that's no reason to take a dump on all of moviedom,
And about that Stewart joke? Betcha McCain got a few guffaws out of that, provided he hadn't already turned in for the night. Buckman reads like he wishes he could've done the same.
First Woman Is Denied Oxygen, Then Plane Supposedly Doesn't Have Any --- Result: Dead Passenger, Cannon Fodder For Hungry Media
You can be sure the PR staff at American Airlines is walking a perilous tightrope this morning.
On the one hand, you don't want to appear callous when a passenger dies on one of your flights, as Carine Desir of New York did Friday on a Haiti-JFK run after complaining she couldn't breathe.
At the same time, the airline is facing accusations that two oxygen tanks were empty and a defibrillator that could have saved her life wasn't working. Which means the potential for a nasty lawsuit is high.
Conclusions were no doubt drawn by lots of people who watch the story lead off Eyewitness News on WABC-TV right after the Oscars, which features an interview with the woman's tearful cousin, who was on the plane with her when she died.
All American would initially say Sunday was that doctors and nurses on the plane tried to save Desir. But first came another PR bombshell -- Desir had asked a flight attendant for oxygen and was initially refused. That was followed by allegations that all the medical equipment on the 757 was faulty, which American is denying, as the Airline Biz Blog in the Dallas Morning News notes:
We are investigating this incident, as we do with all serious medical situations on board our aircraft, but American Airlines can say oxygen was administered and the Automatic External Defibrillator was applied.
Among the preflight duties of our highly trained Flight Attendants is a check of all emergency equipment on the aircraft. This includes checking the oxygen bottles -- there were 12 in this particular aircraft.
We stand behind the actions and training of our crew and the functionality of the onboard medical equipment.
But nothing about the flight attendant who turned down Desir and relented only after other passengers spoke up.
While it's probably not a good idea for American to get into a he-said-airline-said battle, it's also vitally important to provide an on-camera spokesperson to at least explain what kind of equipment is onboard, emergency SOPs and that crew members are trained for these situations.
That can be done without having to refute address the actual incident except to say that all protocols were followed, assuming that's actually the case.
A prepared statement is no longer enough. By giving Desir's family unfettered access to
local media, especially in the New York market, you risk losing any control of the story, which can get very expensive when it comes time to settle the lawsuit that's sure to be filed in the days ahead.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Admittedly, I'm more of a reader of the New York Daily News online nowadays than in print. But I picked up a copy of the paper yesterday to help pass the time during a flight and stumbled upon what looked like an advertorial, similar to two others that were in the paper.
But on closer examinaton, there was no disclaimer like "advertising supplement to The Daily News" attached.
Instead, it was full-fledged article about sleep apnea by Katie Charles for what purports to be a regular column called "The Daily Checkup," which is actually weekly.
The problem: while there's lots of information about sleep apnea, its symptoms and risks, it quotes throughout but one doctor, Allison Schecter of Mount Sinai Hospital, who also gets a rather out-sized photo in the middle of the one-page spread.
No disputing Schecter's bona fides, but since when does an alleged health reporter content herself with a single source? And why would one or more editors think that was also OK?
This wasn't an aberration. On Feb. 13, Charles wrote an article about heart disease with a single source from, you guessed it, Mount Sinai, complete with big picture. It even had a fluffy headline -- A Mount Sinai cardiologist makes sure your heart's in the right place.
The hospital didn't have to buy an ad, it had the News write one up for them in the guise of an article. Just doctor ordered, maybe, but an editor?
What gives, if not just the fact the Charles and her editors are extremely lazy? There's no sign or disclaimer that the News and Mount Sinai are working together on a health series, a dubious proposition in and of itself. But if so, it's an arrangement that should be disclosed.
If it's just a coinky-dink that two Mount Sinai docs are profiled, fine. But there's nothing wrong with a little shoe leather on the health beat, just like what's demanded at the News by those working in the police shack, covering the Yankees or Bloomberg.
Having a single source means you're not getting the whole story, no matter how authoritative the source. It's a hospital flack's wet dream, which usually equates to lousy journalism.
In its current form, The Daily Checkup should check out.
The Nets: well, they're the Nets and they're in New Jersey. Despite being for years the best local and more-interesting team to watch, The New York Times decided they were no longer worthy of a beat writer and only cover home games with whatever reporter doesn't have anything else to do at night. On the road, it's the A.P. or bust.
The Knicks beat reporter at the time is Howard Beck, who reliably covers a team that keeps finding new ways to define pathetic. Beck has been with them home and away, serving more as the chronicler of the soap opera called As Isiah Turns, than reporting on meaningless games.
Yet, there he wasn't in today's Times.
Beck was instead dispatched to the Meadowlands to cover the overtime thriller won by the Nets, for the first time without Jason Kidd, who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks.
Instead, it was the Knicks who got the wire-service treatment. The Times couldn't even muster a stringer for the game. Maybe just as well. The Knicks lost by 40 points to the Philadelphia 76ers.
But that the Times wasn't there to record the carnage was telling, not just of the trainwreck of a team, but the ever-tightening budget at the sports department, which has already decimated its hockey coverage, despite having three local teams in playoff contention.
If the assumption is that now that spring training is started, New Yorkers no longer care about any other sport, well, that's a lousy assumption, and one of many poor judgments by the Times, whose chieftains may like to think they consistently put out an eclectic, thorough sports report.
Again, a lousy assumption.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Yeah, yeah, I'm late to the party with this clip, but if you haven't seen Sarah Silverman's raunchy ode to doing the nasty with Matt Damon, now's your time to join the millions on You Tube who've partaken over the last two weeks.
And if you have seen it already, then you'll know you'll laugh again.
Watch it with someone you love. Not.
Why Is This Man Smiling?
I'm not sure whether to congratulate Russ Stanton for being named the next editor of The Los Angeles Times, or to feel sorry for him.
Stanton gets to become the third editor in less than three years at what is still one of the nation's top newspapers, despite Tribune's best efforts.
And he takes the helm just a day after publisher David Hiller announced up to 150 job cuts at the Los Angeles Times Media Group.
Stanton, a 10-year Times veteran who most-recently served as Innovation Editor, has no choice but to play the role of good soldier.
Hiller, as shown by the ouster of
Stanton's predecessor, James O'Shea, will likely keep Stanton on a short leash. That smile you see above could be quickly wiped out if the Times is asked to make a disproportionate sacrifice to help pay down Sam Zell's debt service.
Still, Stanton may be the one who is in the best position to meld the print and online versions, which could very well determine the future viability of the paper, as it continues to hemorrhage readers and advertisers as the California economy grinds to a standstill.
For now, I'm skeptical about how much he can accomplish given the Sisyphean task that awaits. But if you care at all about quality newspapers, you have no choice but to root for him. Every other editor and reporter at the Times would do well to follow suit.
The Daily News in New York has never been shy about wearing its heart on its sleeve. You'll never see the journalistic equivalent of a shrinking violet on the copy desk.
That's not always for the better, especially when they feel Rupert Murdoch's flame lapping at their butts and they try to out-Post the Post.
So, a bit of hype about the News' eventual move to printing the entire paper in color by next year should be expected.
Not to be expected was the florid prose that I sure as hell nobody on the city desk actually wrote and was instead left to one of the newspaper's over-eager flacks.
The first two paragraphs set the sorry tone:
The Daily News is writing a new colorful chapter in its storied history with the announcement today that it will build America's most modern newspaper print center!
By the end of 2009, the Daily News will be produced in 100% color on new industry-leading presses, guaranteeing and reinforcing its future as the country's leading tabloid and enabling its millions of readers to enjoy the city's first major daily newspaper in full color.
Cue barf bag.
How hard would it have been for a News reporter to write even-handedly about this admittedly significant event without serving as a shill.?
I did it as a reporter for the Bergen Record some 19 years ago, when I was assigned to cover the opening of the paper's newest plant in Rockaway, N.J.
Did I feel a little weird interviewing publisher Mac Borg about his new baby? Did he seem a bit bemused that someone from his paper was doing something besides offering hearty congratulations? Yes, on both accounts.
But I covered the event like I would any other story, nor would it have been expected or accepted that I would do otherwise.
Then again, Mort Zuckerman's ego, from all I can gather, is considerably more out-sized than Borg, not exactly the meekest of men. Amid all the hoopla, Zuckerman was too busy patting himself on the back to sanction putting real news in The News.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
As I sit here tonight in an Albuquerque hotel hearing how lousy the weather is back home in New York, I shuttle between weather.com and accuweather.com for any glimmer of hope that a winter monsoon won't wash any hope of landing tomorrow at LaGuardia, never a sure thing even when it's sunny out.
For its 90-second online video forecast, forecaster Jim Kosek can often be found doing the New York edition. Which means you can get shtick along with a cold front, as we did tonight.
"What ticks me off?" Kosek says. "What crawls up my backside?
Then he bellows, "WHAT GETS ME FIRED UP? Can't be just snow. Can't be just ice or flooding rain. It has to be a combination of everything." And he doesn't even have to deal with that mess. Kosek's tucked away at Accuweather HQ in State College, PA.
This is also the same guy on New Year's Day who pretended to be too hung over to do a real forecast, or at least assumed most of those watching were too blitzed to care about the weather. Which could very well have been the case.
Give Kosek credit for taking his job seriously if not himself. Now if he could just do something about the weather over LaGuardia....
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
3. Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
4.Tom Petty - Mary Jane's Last Dance
5.Blondie - Call Me
6.The Bravery - Believe
7.Bruce Springsteen - Blinded By The Light
8.The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize
9.U2 - Angel Of Harlem
10.Nickelback - Rockstar
11.Red Hot Chili Peppers - Zephyr Song
12.The Black Crowes - Hard To Handle
13.The Killers - Somebody Told Me
Everyone loves a good human-interest story, especially ones about plucky seniors who refuse to be relegated to the rocking chair. It's a great way for editors to deflect the incessant gripes that they only focus on bad news.
One such item appears in The Oregonian about one Vera Wilson, who has worked at the same book and stationery store for 73 years, and has no plans to retire now that she's 90 years young.
Only problem reading the story online: there's no picture of Wilson.
Two ads, yes. Photo of subject of article: no.
Actually, that's not totally correct, in the sense that The Oregonian actually puts on the web its staff photos from that day's paper. If you go to that link, you can find a snap of Wilson, who indeed looks very much the part of a spry nonagenarian.
That pattern repeats itself with other stories. Why separate those elements? The photos are part of the way you tell the story. They're not just there for window dressing. Keep them with the articles, just like you do in print.
Online readers have enough of a collective attention deficit and are challenged for time without The Oregonian making them do more work to read the full package.
Editor & Publisher reported yesterday how The Daily News in New York is a year into its two-year notification to the Associated Press that it would cancel its core services next year.
The official explanation: the DN is peeved over the two-year termination policy and it's pulling up stakes in protest.
AP regional vice president Linda Stowell told E&P the co-op isn't exactly quaking in its boots. Cancellation notices do crop up, but they get resolved and members almost never leave. For the simple reason that they can't.
I mean, they could, but then how do you fill your paper? Sure, you could head over to Reuters and AFP, which is fine if you need to keep up with the latest out of Burkina Faso or Turkmenistan.
Yes, if something big happens in a large population center, correspondents from The Washington Post, McClatchy or Tribune could possibly fill the gap.
But there's no one else to enter the breach consistently when news happens anywhere else, and no one to get it out faster -- all the more important as readers migrate to the Web and stay there.
As media cut back or eliminate bureaus, stop sending reporters on the road to cover teams and get rid of arts critics, they blithely assume the AP will be there to bail them out. And it almost always is.
The AP knows it, so does The Daily News. Which is why the termination notice doesn't herald a paradigm shift for newspapers, nor does it portend a new business model. The wire is actually the one indispensable component in a newsroom. With it, you know you can always fill the paper with something.
Sure, some editors are peeved about AP's new rate structure, which will bolster breaking news to core members, while putting some other services on an a la carte menu.
But all the bitching and moaning will be just that. Editors know they can't leave when there's an 800-ton gorilla sitting on top of their news hole.