Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Art of Artful Phrasing in The New York Times

Jennifer Steinhauer Goes Balls to the Wall Trying to Describe California Budget Crisis

In case you didn't get to the end of yesterday's story in The New York Times about the latest budget woes in the Golden State, you should catch up to how Jennifer Steinhauer bobbed and weaved out of saying what she really wanted to say.

Political posturing infused the Capitol last week, with the governor and the Legislature decrying one another. Darrell Steinberg, the Senate president pro tem, sent Mr. Schwarzenegger a package of mushrooms in response to the governor’s saying the Legislature was “hallucinating” with its budget plan; the governor sent Mr. Steinberg a sculpture of a bull testicle, suggesting something like backbone, only not quite, would be needed to make tough cuts.

Clever and cute.

Should Johnny Gilbert Be Worried?

TV Ad Still Running with Him, Ed McMahon and Don LaFontaine Even Though Latter Two Now Appearing Posthumously

The New York Lottery has had no problem running this ad featuring three storied announcers, even though one of them, Don LaFontaine, has been dead since last year.
Now that Ed McMahon has joined him in voiceover heaven, maybe it's time for this spot to finally be retired.

After all, only Johnny Gilbert, the third announcer in the spot, is around to collect residuals.
R.I.P., Ed. Say hi to Karnac.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ann Curry Is Pissed Off

And If You Care About Foreign News, Maybe You Should Be Too

Heard yesterday at the 140 Character Conference on social media in New York, this broadside from NBC's Ann Curry, who's often popping up in some remote locale when she's not reading the news on "Today."

Here's what's pissing me off. The reason I have to fight every time to do these stories is because the truth is that it's hard to get the majority of Americans or even a significant number of Americans in NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS's world, to care. I think journalism is a battle and I feel the scars and I see the blood on my sword on a daily basis for fights for foreign coverage to be more present in our broadcasting.

Curry had been in Iran to cover the elections there, and has been sent out on just about every major overseas assignment in recent years. So, it's a bit of a surprise to hear she has to convince the brass to put her on a plane when big news breaks on another continent.
Her remarks came amid some testy exchanges on the panel with CNN's Rick Sanchez. For more of that, read here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Are These SNY-TV Ads Racist?

Mandeep and Sharvarish Seem Like South Indian Versions of Stepin Fetchit

Maybe it's just me, but the more I watch a series of spots for SNY-TV, the more I wonder if I'm watching stereotypes gone amok.
They feature two South Asians named Mandeep and Sharvarish, presumably Indians, who own a New York sports memorabilia shop. Some of the ads are nominally funny. Others are merely bewildering.
But what's troubling are the centerpieces of the ads are little more than caricactures that fulfill the worst prejudices of anyone whose only contact with Indians is from the back of a cab or watching "Slumdog Millionaire on DVD.
Judge for yourself:

Of course, you could argue, maybe I should lighten up. But if SNY tried pulling off these ads with a couple of blacks who sounded like they just came off the plantation, or Hasidic Jews one step removed from the shtetl, you might feel differently. And so would SNY.

Wall Street Journal Hearts Cholesterol-Drug Ads

More Health Coverage is Nice, But Ads Shouldn't Be So Intertwined With Editorial

It's great The Wall Street Journal is bulking up its health and fitness coverage in the Tuesday edition of the Personal Journal section.
After all, why not provide more of the news its aging readers can use before they age out. Case in point is a column called Heart Beat by Ron Winslow about all things related to the ticker, that is, the one that doesn't spew out stock prices (remember them?).
The column focused on why it's not enough to simply lower the LDL, or bad, cholesterol; that the HDL/good cholesterol and triglycerides also play a big role and why exercise and diet need to act in concert with statins.
It's a subject near and dear to my, um, heart, given that I pop a Zocor every day.
All well and good content-wise. However, I was a little troubled that the article was flanked by an ad for a new drug called Trilipix, which is designed to be taken with a statin to, you guessed it, raise good cholesterol and lower triglycerides.
Nowhere does the column mention Trilipix. However, the ad should have been placed elsewhere in the section. It's one thing to live in the neighborhood. It's another to be the nosy next-door neighbor.
Even if there's no quid pro quo, it does the Journal no good to leave the impression that there could have been.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Can the iPhone Save Journalism? Nope

Apple's Darling Thrives on Short Attention Spans; Journalists Don't

Atlantic blogger Derek Thompson wondered aloud about whether the new, whizbang iPhone could prove to be an inhaler for the wheezing news industry.
Seems there's an app called Scrollmotion that promises to 220 magazines and newspapers, along with 1 million books.
Of course, you'd be paying for this; a presumably premium selection of articles and news sources aggregated so you don't have to do the heavy lifting.
Trying to apply the iTunes model to news has its own set of problems, as Thompson notes, including the fact that, information is disposable and hardly unique, unlike music you would buy.
But the biggest problem is one of size: are you really going to spend enough time on an iPhone to read enough content you'd pay for? It's fine to check Gmail or Facebook, but to read a column, movie reviews or an analysis of the TARP program, the iPhone is just too small and distracting (all those other apps, oh, la, la) to make reading a meaningful experience.
If you're going to pay for your content -- and sooner or later, all of the good stuff online will cost you one way or the other -- the Kindle, or your laptop or PC is infinitely more commodious to read anything for more than 90 seconds at a time.
For media outlets who don't care how much you read, as long as you ante up for it, such a strategy will only nip them in the arse before long. People will soon realize there's a lot less than meets the eye -- and for good reason.
All of this isn't to say back to the drawing board. But desperate media outlets should be looking elsewhere for a savior. Scrollmotion ain't it.

Will Bunch Avoids Being Thrown Under the Inky's Bus

Give Brian Tierney Credit, For a Change: Philadelphia Daily News Writer Gets to Slam Newsroom Brethren Without Getting Slammed

Philadelphia Weekly has a good piece out on local media badboy Will Bunch, a senior writer for the Philly Daily News.
I think Bunch is kinda cool, and not because he went to the fancy-schmancy private school down the road from where I live and worked on the school paper with Keith Olbermann.
Rather, I like it that he gets to criticize bigger sibling the Philadelphia Inquirer and doesn't wind up on the unemployment line in the process.
Bunch got the Inky brass all hussied up because he ripped the choice of Bush torture-meister John Yoo to be a regular columnist in his Attytood blog. He also had a few things to say when the Inquirer inked former rightie senator Rick Santorum to pen a column.
Of course, that's over at the Inky, not the perpetual-underdog-and-loving-it Daily News. “It might have been a little more complicated if the hire had been at the Daily News," Bunch told Philadelphia Weekly.
All of this doesn't mean Bunch has a death wish. Brian Tierney, the major domo of Philadelphia Newspapers, has remained skewer-free in Attytood. Bunch instead leaves that to blogs like this one. As he said diplomatically: “He’s entitled to have influence on the editorial boards–owners and publishers always have. He pledged not to interfere in news operations and to my knowledge, and I’m pretty plugged in at the Daily News, he has honored that pledge.”

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Sending Good Thoughts to Pyongyang Central Court

Trial of Current TV's Laura Ling and Euna Lee Set for Tomorrow

Unlike the high-profile campaign to get Roxanne Saberi out of Iran, any efforts to get Current TV's Euna Lee and Laura Ling out of North Korea have been well-concealed.
We're assuming there's a good reason for that, given the loose cannons in control in Pyongyang, some of whom would dearly love a propaganda slam-dunk against the U-S.
The pair were detained March 17 and charged with illegally crossing into North Korea from China and other so-called "hostile acts" that could land them up to 10 years in a labor camp.
North Korea has denied diplomats -- in this case, Swedes representing U.S. interests -- since March 30 in contravention of international law. Surprise, surprise.
And we can all guess how a purported trial will turn out. Will Kim Jong-Il and his gang put on a show, convict the two and then give them an unceremonial boot from the country? Or, will North Korea try to scapegoat Lee and Ling while the contretemps over the missile tests rages on? It probably also doesn't help that nobody knows who's really in charge over there and what their agendas might be.
Current is, of course, Al Gore's baby. It's hard to tell whether that's hurting or helping the reporters' cause. The channel has put up a wall of silence about Lee and Ling in the apparent belief that saying nothing increases the chances of not pissing off the notoriously pissy North Koreans.
Let's hope Kim and Co. know that silence doesn't mean Lee and Ling have been forgotten. On that front, North Korea cannot win.
Let's also hope they consider the trial their own little show -- a perverse amusement to brighten their otherwise-dour lives -- and then remember that when the show is over, it's time for the performers to go home.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

No Film at 11: L.A. Mayor Gets the Scoop on Another Local Anchorette

Somehow, KTLA Says Lu Parker Not Ethically Challenged by Bonking Area's Top Politician and Reporting on Him

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa likes the media. Actually, he loves the media, specifically two local anchors.
First, it was an affair with Telemundo's Mirthala Salinas. When news of that liaison broke, so did the mayor's marriage, along with Salinas' career at channel 52.
Now, Mayor V has moved on to Lu Parker at KTLA. Their coupling was apparently news to her bosses, until recently. But according to The Los Angeles Times they don't seem too hot and bothered by one of their anchors doing the mattress mambo with Hizzoner.
"Now that we're aware of the relationship, she will no longer be covering local politics," said KTLA-TV news director Jason Ball. "I have the utmost faith in Lu Parker's abilities."

And lest you think Ball wasn't toeing the station's party line, his boss adds for emphasis:
"There is no concern as to the ethics whatsoever," said General Manager Don Corsini. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a personal matter."
Corsini's answer is very convenient, not to mention unsatisfying.
It's not that Parker isn't allowed a personal life. But to then say her love life can be managed on-air by simply having her read the stories about pileups on the 405 and a triple murder in Watts puts the station in a bind, to say the least.
And what does it say about Parker's judgment, that she and Villaraigosa have been an item since March, yet she, in effect, had to be outed for her station to know about her relationship? In doing so, she compromised whatever credibility KTLA has in the process. Yet her bosses don't seem to have a problem with her choices.
That, in and of itself, is a problem.