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Archives: January 2005

The Exodus Continues

We’re beginning to fear that all of these reporters abandoning Washington know something we don’t.

Word tonight that the AP’s Chief Political Writer Ron Fournier and U.S. News and World Report Political Editor Roger Simon have both been appointed Fellows for the spring semester at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. They’ll be joined by Mary-Beth Cahill, Brad Carson, and Maggie Williams of Clinton fame (PDF press release here).

With the departures at this rate, will there be any reporters left for Fishbowl to cover?

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[sic] E&P’s Washington Press Core

We’ve been working today on pulling together some information about tomorrow’s launch of the free Washington Examiner, but we’d thought in the meantime we’d thank an eagle-eyed reader for this typo from what our source called “the bible of the industry”:

New ‘Examiner’ To Join Washington Press Core Tomorrow

By Jennifer Saba

Published: January 31, 2005 1:00 PM ET

NEW YORK Residents of the Washington D.C. area will have one more newspaper choice to add to the growing list of dailies peppering the capitol and surrounding areas. Tomorrow is the official launch of the Washington Examiner, the free tabloid-size daily from Philip Anschutz’s Clarity Media.

It’s 6 p.m. now — any bets on how long the typo remains?

Here’s a PDF of the screenshot.

‘Naturally High on the News’

cafbeer.jpgIn his regular chat on WashingtonPost.com today, and in between discussing such weighty subjects as Condi Rice, Cheney’s parka, and John Kerry, Howie Kurtz offered this nugget:

McLean, Va.: So, Howie, will the advent of caffeinated beer enhance the newsroom experience for the hard boiled hard bitten hard drinking reporters in the nation’s newsrooms?

Howard Kurtz: I’m naturally high on the news, so I don’t need artificial stimulants.


Since our cousin Fishbowl NY has already chosen a slogan, we’re wondering whether we should co-opt Kurtz’s line: “Fishbowl DC — Naturally High on the News.”

Is Anybody Left?

It seems like we’re spending the whole day writing about people who are leaving D.C., but Wonkette (who herself announced today that she’ll be taking February off), reviewed Saturday’s going away party for AP White House vet Scott Lindlaw.

Lindlaw, who has been at White House since Bush took office (so sorry, man!), wrote his goodbye column on Inauguration Day. It’s worth reading to the end to get to the part where he refers to Bush as a “caged animal.”

Expanding on Wonkette’s point, we went to a party last spring that also involved fake press credentials. We ask you: How lame is it that those are a regular party favor in D.C.?

The Big Newsroom in the Sky

Two obituaries of note today to D.C. media types:

Bill Shadel, the first host of CBS’ Face the Nation and later an anchor at the upstart ABC, passed away Saturday, according to the AP. Among his many journalistic moments of note, the Seattle Times says, were that he and Edward R. Murrow were the first reporters to arrive at Buchenwald, that he moderated the third presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960, and that he spent 12 straight hours in the anchor chair during John Glenn’s 1962 orbit.

ABC’s The Note also reported this today:

Leo Meidlinger, an immeasurably talented producer for ABC News in Washington, died over the weekend. Leo made his Note debut in 2004 by writing arch production bus vignettes, but his presence at ABC News was of course far larger. He was a key part of ABC News’ coverage of virtually every major event since 1972. Kind, patient, generous to younger workers and possessed of a wonderful sense of humor marinated by life experiences few had, Leo was truly an original. And he was a fabulous and fair news producer. We will miss him, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and our colleagues.

UPDATE: We’ve heard from a bunch of readers today who have fond memories of working with Leo. If you have a favorite story or memory to share, email us: garrett AT mediabistro DOT com.

Buzzing about the WaPoCo

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The Washingtonian’s Harry Jaffe’s new Buzz looks at how the Post is packing its corporate board with some of the world’s wealthiest people. Melinda French Gates, wife of the world’s richest man, has recently joined the second richest man, Warren Buffett, on the ten-member board. Buffett has been on board since Gerald Ford took office, and now owns about 22 percent of the company.

Jaffe also reports that Melinda Gates bought a cool million in WashPostCo stock last month, which at $919 a pop, means that later this week she’ll be getting a dividend check for about $2,035.

Beyond the fat paycheck, Jaffe summarizes the benefits as follows:

Strengthening the ties between the Post Company and Microsoft could reap profits for both. The Gates family could use a stronger presence in Washington should it run into regulatory trouble again.

The company would “look kindly” at opportunities to expand the existing cable-TV and Internet ties, one Post executive said. One natural extension of the marriage would be to bring Microsoft into Kaplan, the Post Company’s fast-growing education business, which conducts some classes online.

He also wryly notes that the Post’s reporters–like much of the rest of the world–uses IE as its web browser. And that, like the rest of the world, they find it crashes a lot. Perhaps the Post would do well to go open source.

Times’ Kit Abandons D.C.

Fishbowl is launching today on a day when one of Washington’s star reporters is moving on. The Times’ Kit Seelye, who’s spent the last 11 years in the Washington bureau and is a veteran of the last four presidential cycles (including Clinton `92, Dole `96, and Gore `00), is starting a new job today at Times HQ in New York where she’ll be covering the world of media and journalism, taking the beat formerly held by Wesleyan Admissions Expert Jacques Steinberg.

Steinberg, who made some hay on the beat with the Jayson Blair scandal and received laudatory treatment in Seth Mnookin’s new Hard News, is making the switch to reporting on television, as we noted here last week.

We wish Katharine Q., our new “competitor,” the best, but as they say, this town wasn’t big enough for the both of us.

Welcome to the Fishbowl

Welcome to Fishbowl D.C., a blog that covers the ins and outs of media coverage in the nation’s capital. This blog’s goal is to provide an outlet for some offbeat coverage of Washington’s real power brokers.

For all of its monuments, tourists, and dedicated public servants, this is a city that runs on the news: Within the Beltway, tens of thousands of people follow the circadian rhythm dictated by the Note at 9 a.m., the Hotline at noon, and Inside Politics and Last Call at 4 p.m. Similarly thousands of days happen between the morning gaggle and evening’s “full lid,” and for far too many people “the desk” is not something that one sits at during the day, but instead someone who calls during dinner.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever,” and indeed, as anyone who has spent time around Washington can attest, the city is a living embodiment of that observation. Presidents, senators, cabinet secretaries, house representatives, and supreme court justices all come and go routinely, but day after day the thousands of members of the Washington press corps slog on, attempting to explain the sausage making that goes on here.

Tens of millions of dollars go into influencing their coverage, and thousands of press secretaries and communications directors daily dissect their reports and articles. And, boy, all of those flacks have so much to read and do.

Indeed few cities in the world have the concentration of reporters and news organizations that Washington offers. The National Press Club claims over 4,000 members; there are over 1,800 reporters accredited to cover the Senate and the House, and 1,600 credentialed White House reporters. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Washington’s biggest social event of the year revolves around an organization of reporters: For D.C., the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Sundance Film Festival all rolled into one.

Despite the broad power and influence that these reporters and editors wield, there’s surprisingly little coverage of them. Beyond a few columns in weekly and monthly publications and the intrepid work of a few reporters who cover the media industry for major news organizations, the lives of Washington’s true power elite lie largely unexamined, and if you are to believe Socrates–that “an unexamined life is not worth living”–than that’s no fun at all.

In fact there are so many lives to examine that we can never cover it all, so if you have some dirt to shovel or some gossip to dish, feel free anytime to email us at garrett AT fishbowldc DOT com or instant message us at “fishbowldc” on AOL.

Over the coming days, weeks, and months, Fishbowl D.C. will focus its gaze on the true power brokers of Washington–the reporters for whom a trip on Air Force One is a regular ordeal, the editors who decide what makes A-1 and what makes A-34, the Sunday morning talkers who like to claim to set the agenda, and the round-the-clock cable news buzz that more and more dominates political discourse in America. We won’t promise that it’ll be pretty, but we will promise it’ll be fun.

Adios ABCNews Now

We’d be remiss today not to mark the final hours (for now) of ABCNews Now, which goes off the air at 12:01 a.m. tonight for “restructuring.” Our cousin TVNewser covered the news earlier in the week, and here’s the short version:

This TV Week blurb about ABC News Now suggests the future isn’t bright for ABC’s digital news channel. But this much better, much longer Broadcasting & Cable story says otherwise. The channel will be become permanent in the spring, after it takes a “breather” from TV, David Westin says.

“The division will spend the next few months hiring staff, hammering out distribution deals and strengthening programming,” B&C reports. “The network will invest $7 million to $10 million to beef up Now’s technical infrastructure, on-air look and personnel.” Also: “Distribution announcements are expected in the next few months as the company begins negotiations with cable and satellite distributors.”

More from Variety.

So, as they say in Fishbowl’s native Italy, “adieu but not goodbye” ABCNews Now. We’ll see you again soon.

What is Talon News?

After devoting hundreds of words in recent days to criticizing Talon News, Media Matters has decided to back up a little bit. They’re not exactly withdrawing their criticism; no, they decided they needed to actually explain what Talon news was.

Their new expose, “What is Talon News, and why does it have press credentials?,” looks at how the, well, news agency is staffed and run. Their investigation “casts additional doubt on Talon’s claim to be a media outlet and raises questions about whether Gannon should be a credentialed member of the White House press corps.” Media Matters says it’s actually a front for GOPUSA.com.

David Brock’s watchdog group has spent much of the week chasing three articles by Talon’s White House Correspondent Jeff Gannon that, it says, were just about copies of administration press releases. Gannon is, according to Media Matters, “well-known for asking loaded pro-Republican questions at White House press briefings, appears to be more a political organization than a media outlet.”

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