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Archives: February 2005

Gannon: ‘It’s a making lemonade thing’

We talked to Jeff Gannon, a.k.a. Jim Guckert, for quite a while this afternoon about life and the media, and–oh yes–that whole Talon News scandal. It had been a couple of weeks since he called, so we had a lot to catch up on.

As for his interactions with the other side of the media, Gannon says he’s not having any fun. He says that most of the television coverage and the media coverage has been “dismal,” although he singled out CNN’s Anderson Cooper for his remarkably “unfair” “ambush” interview. “I told them specifically I wasn’t going to do an ambush interview, and it was taped and cut up, and it portrayed me in a very detrimental light,” he says, “I was playing defense from the first question.” While he says that his interview with NBC’s Campbell Brown was probably his best, “the most important points never made it to air.”

On the other side, he says that the print coverage of his situation has been a lot better than the television. “Howard Kurtz did hard-nosed stuff, but I thought I was treated fairly. Kurtz kept it in the proper perspective,” Gannon says, adding, “he [reports] with much grace and aplomb. I have a lot of respect for him.”

We also talked with Gannon about the Larger Meanings of this story: “It has given journalism a wake-up call that it needs to look at the new media. The online journalists are doing the work that the mainstream media used to do,” he said. “These online guys are doing good stuff–even the people who are digging up stuff on me did great work.”

“This has really stirred up a very healthy debate about journalism: Who’s a journalist? What’s journalism?… We’re really moving the ball forward on some new ways of information gathering.”

Gannon says he thinks that the big questions surrounding his situation are still unresolved–as witnessed partly by the White House Correspondents’ Association meeting today on credentialing. He says he wonders whether institutions like the White House or Congress might move towards a “Gannon clause” or a “Gannon standard” in determining who represents a journalist.

Beyond the current saga–which he says he’s not sure it has run its course, and which sources tell Fishbowl is far from over (TIP: stay tuned to Congress!)–he’s looking to move ahead by launching his blog and by considering his future–whether it’s in journalism or somewhere else. “People are interested in what I have to say now,” he says, half-laughing.

“I’m a positive-looking guy. It’s a making lemonade thing,” he says. “I’ll always be a punch-line out there, and I’ll be that guy, but over time that fades. I’m looking forward to that happening.”

Yea, us too.

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Memo From Kurtz To D.C. Re: Snow — Deal

While Howard Kurtz covered a lot of ground today in his weekly chat, he has never spoken words more true to Fishbowl’s ears than his discussion of the snow currently falling outside our window:

Manassas, Va.: What do you think about all of this weather hysteria the weathermen cause?…

Howard Kurtz: Washington is the most incompetent snow city on the planet, and local TV can turn a few flakes into a paralyzing storm. The one forecast last weekend never, um, materialized. I’ll withhold judgment on this one until I see how evening rush hour goes.


Washington, D.C.: I agree that 6″ of snow shouldn’t shut the schools or the city down. However, there are two things to consider. School districts have been sued by parents for endangering their children by opening schools when snow was predicted. The other thing to consider are the area drivers, many of whom never have driven in snow or never were properly educated how to drive in snow.

Howard Kurtz: Well, maybe it’s about time they learned. My sources say that it will snow here EVERY YEAR for decades, at least until global warming gets worse.

He also took questions on Gannon, CBS, the lots of stuff about online vs. dead tree news.

WHCA Comfortable with Status Quo

The board of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) met today, and, as reported earlier, they took up the issue of credentialing in the wake of Jeff Gannon.

Knight Ridder’s Ron Hutcheson, the president of the WHCA, said that after discussing the issue amongst the board they adopted a statement that affirmed the association’s desire for the credentialing process to remain open and independent.

“The bottom line is, while we do not consider Gannon a legitimate journalist, we basically consider his appearance in the briefing room part of the price we pay for a system that tilted toward access,” Hutcheson wrote.

Hutcheson said that the board also agreed that while they haven’t seen any evidence of such yet, the association would raise a strong objection to any sign of political bias in the credentialing process.

(Full WHCA statement after the jump.)

Read more

XM Hikes Rates

Florida Avenue-based XM Satellite Radio announced today that, in its first rate increase since its 2001 launch, it will be hiking its prices in line with what competitor Sirius charges: $12.95 a month, up from $9.95 a month. Subscribers do have the option of “locking in” the old rate for up to five years if they’re willing to pay in advance.

Just so that we’re clear: You can now pay more for the privilege of not listening to Howard Stern or NASCAR. As we say, money well spent.

ABC Snaps Up Liz Marlantes

Liz Marlantes, formerly a national political writer for the Christian Science Monitor, will join ABC News as a general assignment correspondent based in the network’s Washington, D.C. bureau, according to our cousin TVNewser.

You might remember Liz as one of the three up-and-comers on the campaign trail Howard Kurtz profiled last year, where he explained, “With a master’s in English literature from Oxford, she was hired by the Monitor with no journalism experience, and fairly bubbles with enthusiasm.”

She’s already had an impressive stint as a TV commentator, but alas she already knows that the glamour of TV is not all it is cracked up to be:

“I’ve had people contact me from the campaigns: ‘Hey, saw you on TV,’ ” Marlantes says. “The fact that people recognize you by face makes you easier for people to talk to. I thought now maybe they’ll give me all this great information — and that didn’t happen.”

Welcome to George Stephanopoulos’s Hell, Liz.

Samuel T. Francis, 1947 – 2005

Former Washington Times editorial page writer/deputy editor/acting editor Samuel T. Francis died earlier this month, according to a belated Post obituary. His funeral was held Saturday in his native Chattanooga.

Francis started as an editorial writer at the Wash Times in 1986, became the deputy editorial page editor in 1987, and served as acting editor for four months in 1991 before going to be a staff columnist. He twice won ASNE’s Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing (1989 and 1990). He has had a syndicated twice-weekly column.

The Post explains that Francis railed against the neoconservative movement and proudly proclaimed himself a “paleoconservative.” As one example, they point to his 1994 column on the 40th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, in which he called the school desegregation decision “the most dangerous and destructive Supreme Court decision in American history.”

More rememberances here.

(Unfortunately, we can’t seem to navigate the Wash Times’ archives to pull up the obit they presumably ran. If anyone wants to pass along a link, we’ll post it.)

UPDATE: Here’s the Washington Times obit.

UPDATE 2: It appears the Post was, well, dead last on this story — the D.C. Examiner’s Editorial Page Editor David Mastio wrote a memorial last week: “In reality, Sam Francis was merely a racist and doesn’t deserve to be remembered as anything less.” The Post appears to living up to Jon Stewart’s motto in this case.

Whose Fault is ‘This Week’?

stephanopoulos.jpgHarry Jaffe’s latest column looks at how ABC is struggling with “This Week.” His case-in-point is an amusingly non-hard-hitting exchange about John Edwards’ caffeine addiction, and he points to how “This Week” has lost 35 percent of its audience since September 2003:

ABC News has pinned the blame for This Week’s low ratings on matters beyond its control: The problem was that affiliates aired it at odd times. The problem was it followed weak programs. The problem was that George was still learning the ropes or getting used to new formats.

After laying out the game board, Jaffe gets right to the point: Is the problem not with the show, but with the host? More on George: “The former boy wonder of the Clinton White House, he’s too cute and fresh-faced, a bit too eager, a little too Barbara Walters to deliver hard news analysis.”

Will the ‘This Week’-'Nightline’ host switch-a-roo actually happen? As Jaffe says, it seems like it’d be good for everyone involved.

Taking Out the Trash

It’s a snowy but beautiful Friday here, and the Fishbowl D.C. world headquarters is quickly devolving into Tetris, World of Warcraft, and blasting music. We also can’t really decide what of the numerous items today we never got around to writing about to post, so we’re going to pull a typical Washington maneuver and dump it all on you.

It’s a proud tradition in Washington to dump a lot of news right at the end of the day Friday, given that Saturday papers are poorly read and reporters want to get to their weekend just like anyone else.

Here are some posts we never got to today:

  • Joel Achenbach’s Achenblog has been really excellent this week. If you’re not reading it, you should–not because it has any great insights into media, but because he has a great voice and comes across as such a real person.
  • The Washington Post’s Q4 earnings came out today, and it’s doing pretty well–21 percent better than a year before on “growth in all divisions.”
  • The always wise and thoughtful Jay Rosen has a great post updating the latest debates over Jeff Gannon and “who’s a journalist.”
  • The new March issue of Washingtonian offers a list of speaking fees (scroll down) for a host of big wigs–including Andrea Mitchell, who gets between $5K and $10K a speech, while Charlie Cook and Mort Kondracke command up to $20,000. Meanwhile William Safire gets $20K to $40K. Also interesting? Bob Woodward and David Broder won’t disclose how much they get. (Sidenote: Don’t miss the little write-up Fishbowl gets in the same section.)
  • Newsweek’s Marcus Mabry has been signed by Rodale to write a book on Condi Rice (she of the boots). The book, titled “Twice as Good: The Souls of Condoleezza Rice,” is expected in sometime in 2008–just in time for a presidential race.

Have a great weekend! Redesign Gets Mixed Reviews

eyetoolswp.jpg DCist points us today to an analysis of the new homepage by Eyetools Research. The image to the left shows how a sample of readers actually viewed the page.

The short version? The top half works well. The bottom half doesn’t. As Eyetools says, the top half “is heavily viewed and read (more so than some other news sites). Good use of line-spacing and white-space. People even scroll. Job well done!” But when it comes to the lower portions, “ineffective line-height spacing and lack of white-space reduce reading. Most of the content is being missed and there is no consistent guidance of eyes to section headings.”

In another post, Eyetools also asks about whether the Post realizes the cost of the poor design of the lower half. Our guess is that they do — now.

Buzzing About ‘The Buzz’

karenfeld.jpg Although you wouldn’t know if you were reading the Post’s Style section, Cafe Milano played host to a big soiree Wednesday night celebrating the launch of D.C.’s OTHER gossip column–the Examiner’s Buzz by Karen Feld.

Examiner Publisher Jim McDonald and Editor-in-Chief John Wilpers toasted Feld (and, of course, her always present toy poodle Campari, who was dressed in a pale blue feathered boa collar.) in front of about 250 guests ranging from Pat Schroeder to Charlie Brotman to John McLaughlin to Al Eisele to Esther Coopersmith and former Senator Larry Pressler.

Guests received “bee buzz bubble bottles” with Karen’s email on them, and those who didn’t want to blow their own could still enjoy the bubblicious fun from mime Joseph Perna.

Even Anne Schroeder from the Post’s gossip team showed up. Noticeably absent? The Reliable Source himself: Quidnunc Richard Leiby.

With competing daily gossip columns now, is D.C. setting itself up for the gossip wars of Page Six and Lloyd Grove? On the other hand, why is it that there are two gossip columns in D.C. called “Buzz“? What about “dish,” “scuttlebutt,” “chatter,” or any other synonyms? Where’s the originality here?