Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Delicate Marketing Dance: DNA Testing Goes Mainstream

So Where Do These Kits Go In the Drug Store, the Condom Aisle?

I stumbled upon an ad the other day for a swab-at-home DNA Paternity Test from a deftly named company called Identigene.

Apparently, it's the only over-the-counter test of its kind. As such, it's a little weird to see a product like this being touted in a magazine let alone on a store shelf. Then again, we don't think twice anymore about ads for condoms, douches or vaginal-itch cream.
Ads like these, for better or worse, have become a fact of life -- literally so, for Identigene.
In case you were wondering, the collection kit goes for $29.95. The test itself is another $119.
Sort of.
As the kit's website points out, there's a difference between this test and a legal test, in other words, one that would be admissible in court. The testing methodology is the same; the only is it involves an independent party who would verify identification and witness the collection. That'll run you another $250.
Interestingly, Identigene is playing to people who want both outcomes. On the home page is a link to the ABC show "Find My Family," a Kleenex-fest where long-lost family members are reunited, kids looking for birth parents, etc. Identigene provides the DNA testing for the show.
Next to that link is one for a New York Times magazine from November about men who find out through DNA testing that they weren't the father of their children after all, and how a negative paternity test isn't necessarily the end of the story.
Either way, Identigene is there to help -- for $149-$399, of course.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New York Post Gives Us The Sizzle and Steak on Plane Bomber

And the winner of front page of the day is.....

Of course, it's easy to have a laugh now, but.....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Decision by Wall Street Journal to Cancel Wine Column Leaves a Bad Taste

Departure of Dorothy Gaiter and husband John Brecher Leaves Big Hole in Journal's Lifestyle Coverage

The Wall Street Journal wine column from husband-and-wife team extraordinaire Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher was destination reading for me every weekend in the Wall Street Journal.
As I became more interested in wine, I always looked to them to help become more educated about vintages and varietals, a massive undertaking that Dottie and John pulled off impeccably. Obviously, they knew a lot more about wine than you or me, but were never uppity about their expertise. Their knowledge was easily imparted, freely shared.
So, it was with more than a measure of sadness that they mentioned, almost in passing in Saturday's column, that it was their last one. No explanation, but as the Vinography blog adeptly notes, most likely an economic one.
Until now, I had appreciated the Journal's decision to keep the wine column humming, as I noted in a posting last year. After all, the paper had to pay two salaries as well as the tab for the dozens of bottles of wines sampled for each column. But the couple showed they were worth it.
Dottie and John were nothing if not thorough. Maybe too thorough for Murdoch's beancounters.
What made their column truly great was how their passion for wine was intertwined with their love for each other. Discovering wine and telling us about their great finds was a grand adventure for them that we were privileged to be a part of.
Their column and family life often intersected -- a trip to Disney World with their daughters also included sitting at the chef's table and drinking expensive wines at the resort's top restaurant -- meant readers felt like we knew them as well. That's why I'm referring to them by their first names, just like they did in the columns.
Whether it was a $6 bottle of Vinho Verde or a $1,500 Chateau Latour, they showed us how drinking wine can at once be a deeply personal, fun, and wholly subjective experience. Their "yuck" could have been your "delicious," or vice versa, and that was perfectly fine.
Dottie and John often got some of their biggest responses for the annual "Open That Bottle Night," which occurred at the end of February, and encouraged people to uncork some wine that had a special meaning or significance. This communal gathering celebrated wine for wine's sake, not to glorify oenophilic snobbery.
That's something you can't take for granted nowadays in wine journalism. All the more reason to hope that Dottie and John land elsewhere. I'll drink to that.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Business Like Snow Business on New York TV

Nothing Like a Blizzard to Get the Competitive Juices Flowing, But....

From my perch in Westchester County, the first big snow in the New York area was so-so.
We got a mere eight inches, compared to the rest of the family blitzed by at least 21 inches on Long Island, where Newsday captured this picture. Other areas got more. In other words, the kind of story that keeps people glued to their TVs. Nothing like having reporters do live shots in a blinding storm to tell you it's snowing so you don't have to find out for yourself.
Not surprisingly, the stations trotted out a lot of their first-string anchors and weather guys. Chuck Scarborough is usually anywhere but a studio on a Saturday night, but there he was on WNBC-TV with Melissa Russo, while regular weekend co-anchor DeMarco Morgan was booted outside to do stand-ups from Times Square. Talk about being big-footed.
WNBC has slashed and burned its staff, and shed many a veteran reporter as it cut costs concurrently with its plunging ratings. But it was relatively game last night. While I didn't see it because I have DirectTV, the station had a continuous storm broadcast on one of its digital side channels anchored by David Ushery.
From what I can gather it was solid, public-service journalism, more akin to what you'd get from an all-news radio station. But what WNBC really should have done was put that broadcast on the main channel. It's not like there was a compelling need to run WWE wrestling when the area was being bodyslammed by the snow.
I didn't find out until almost after the fact but WNYW/Fox 5 trotted out Ernie Anastos and Rosanna Scotto for a 9 a.m. broadcast this Sunday. It may have been lightly attended given the station normally is running religious programming in that slot, so if you weren't watching the 10 p.m. news the night before, you were likely somewhere else. Like WABC/Channel 7, the usual clock cleaner in New York when it comes to news ratings and staff.
The station had the equivalent of a weekday complement of reporters in the field, with at least eight checking in for live spots, with two weather anchors, including weekday mainstay Lee Goldberg pulling duty Saturday and Sunday.
The coverage was solid, workmanlike fare if somewhat limited by the predictable nature of the story itself. But they made the most of what they had. The only one who came up short was weekend weather anchor Heidi Jones, who was dispatched to the LIRR station in Mineola to report on the myriad delays on that system.
Only problem: Jones really didn't know what she was talking about. First, she kept talking about suspensions of service at places like Far Rockaway, Long Beach and West Hempstead. True, but those are also the names of branches on the line, which meant about 20 stations had no service. She repeatedly showed she didn't know the difference and nobody bothered to correct her.
Ditto for when she kept talking in the present tense about a train that broke down overnight, and how passengers were still stuck on the train when reported the train had been towed to a station and passengers were placed on another train.
That's when producers come into the picture. If a reporter is stuck doing stand-ups, somebody actually has to be making calls to ensure the information is correct and current. It was a rare misstep for a news operation that otherwise sets the table for how TV news is covered -- or not -- in this market.
P.S. Memo to the staff at NBC New, the website for channel 4: this picture was taken in Maryland, not New York. Thought you might want to know.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fairies Sprinkling Dust at Wall Street Journal

Must Be Something in the Air on Sixth Avenue

More than one person was grasping for the same , ethereal analogy in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
On Page B5 in a story about The Limited's success with its Bath & Body Works division, Limited big cheese Leslie Wexner is quoted as saying the results are not "just fairy dust."
Then on Page B6, a story about Peter Ligouri being hired by Discovery Communications to be its COO quotes him as saying "The biggest challenge is having the magical fairy dust."
Because, after all, you don't want the unmagical fairy dust.