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Archives: March 2005

Tom Brazaitis, 1940 – 2005

tomb.jpgTom Brazaitis, who covered Washington for nearly three decades for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and co-authored the 2000 bestseller Madame President with his wife Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift, passed away yesterday. He was 64.

His paper called him “heart and soul” of the Washington bureau since the days of Watergate, who “brought insight and decades-long experience in the nation’s capital to bear in his mince-no-words, proudly liberal columns in The Plain Dealer’s Forum section on Sundays.”

The Plain Dealer explains that his colleagues will remember that “less visible to readers was his coolness under the deadline pressure of the news business. In a noisy media pavilion he could watch a presidential candidate’s acceptance speech and, within the hour, file a clean and accurate assessment for the next day’s newspaper, then head out to discuss politics over dinner.”

The Washington Post remembers “In some respects, Mr. Brazaitis was a Washington anomaly. He was relatively low-key in the world of punditry, seldom appearing on television with the exception of C-SPAN and making occasional visits to the public radio program ‘The Diane Rehm Show.’”

Brazaitis (pronounced “Bra-ZI-tis”) died of kidney cancer, a struggle that he wrote eloquently about in the Plain Dealer.

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SABEW Names Top Business Stories, Writers

If you don’t know what the acronym SABEW stands for, you probably won’t be interested in this post. Anyway the annual winners of the Best of Business contest by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers are out today, and a number of Washington journos and publications are on the list.

USA Today won an overall excellence award for the fifth year in a row, and won an award for its special project on internet security.

The Post won a breaking news award for its coverage of the Fannie Mae debacle, and the paper’s Neil Irwin, one of the Post’s rising stars, won one of the awards for enterprise reporting with his August 16 article “D.C. Slow To Reduce Its Ranks Of Jobless.”

No word yet on what Irwin will do with the Corvette plaque that comes with the award.

A Note From Ted Koppel

Ted Koppel’s letter to Nightline’s email list this afternoon:

March 31, 2005

Over the past 25 years, my “Nightline” colleagues and I have produced somewhere between 6,000-7,000 broadcasts. Many of them have been forgettable (if you’re in a charitable frame of mind), some have been good, and a few have been very good indeed. I will always remember, with enormous pride, the programs we’ve done on prisons, as part of our “Crime and Punishment” series; our focus on race relations — “America in Black and White”; and our early attention to the devastating impact of AIDS in America and in Africa. I like to believe that our series on apartheid in South Africa made a difference and that we helped in some small way jump-start a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians through our Town Meetings in Jerusalem. It is still troubling that so little attention is being paid to the ongoing wars in Congo, where more than 3 million people have now died as a direct or indirect consequence of the fighting. But for one brief week we were able to shine a light on that troubled nation. It’s the sort of subject a responsible news program should cover. Did we stir up a little controversy with “The Fallen,” our tribute to U.S. military deaths in Iraq? Yes, but that, too, is an appropriate function of a serious news program.

It is my hope, as my friend and executive producer, Tom Bettag, and I plan to relinquish the reins of “Nightline” late next fall, that this broadcast will flourish for many years to come. We will be leaving it in the hands of a hugely talented staff. My on-air colleagues, Chris Bury, John Donvan, Michel Martin and Dave Marash are among the finest television journalists I have ever known.

This, though, is turning into a premature farewell. Tom and I have eight months left and that works out to about 160 programs left to do. I look forward to participating in most of those and then to joining all of you as a loyal viewer of “Nightline.”

Thanks for watching.

Ted Koppel

Gossiping is Hard Work

It’s Thursday, which means that the Post has let Richard Leiby loose on the public again. Beyond finally leaking that he receives daily talking points from Karl Rove and outing Fishbowl’s Golden Idols (you know who you are), Leiby today spilled the beans on why the Post has always struggled with its gossip column:

Authentic gossip is what it’s always been: second-hand stuff, overheard conversations, blind quotes from anonymous sources like doormen and waiters. It’s generally dead wrong. Which is why the Post won’t print it. We spend hours and hours making phone calls to find out if what we hear is actually TRUE.

Gosh, don’t you hate those moments where journalists are honest about how boring their jobs are most days?

More Details on Koppel Departure

Howard Kurtz updates with a bunch of details about Koppel’s departure:

“I really don’t think there’s anything else at ABC I would find as interesting or as challenging,” Koppel said in an interview, adding: “Of course it’s difficult. . . . It will be very hard to leave friends and colleagues behind. But in the words of an old song, you’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.”

Network sources say the 65-year-old Koppel was offered the opportunity to become host of ABC’s “This Week,” the Sunday morning program that has struggled in the ratings under George Stephanopoulos, but was not enthusiastic about joining the crowded Sunday field and turned it down….

Asked if officials at the Disney-owned network, who tried to replace him in 2002 with comedian David Letterman, were creating a situation they knew he would reject, Koppel said: “I can’t entirely disagree with that interpretation. I think David knew when he cited those conditions that they would not be exciting to me.” But he said he did not feel that he was being forced out.

What we’re wondering over at Fishbowl HQ: What will this mean for the future of ‘This Week’? The switch of Koppel to Sunday morning and Stephanopoulos to weeknights had seemed a match made in heaven, but with that opportunity gone, what will ABC do?

FLASH: Koppel To Leave ABC, Nightline

koppel.jpgThe following email was sent by ABC News President David Westin to ABC News staff this morning:

After 42 years with ABC News and 25 years as anchor and managing editor of Nightline, Ted Koppel has advised me that he intends to leave the network at the end of his current contract, which expires on December 4th of this year. His long-time executive producer, Tom Bettag, will also be leaving.

Ted, Tom, and I have had ongoing conversations for almost five years seeking to ensure Nightline’s continuity and to create an orderly transition. All of us are optimistic that both goals can and will be achieved. Ted and I have discussed a number of options under which he might have remained at Nightline or in some other capacity at ABC News, but Ted believes this is the right time for him to leave. As much as I will regret his leaving, he is firm in his conviction, and I respect his decision.

There will be ample opportunity, closer to the time of their departure, for me to express fully what Ted and Tom have meant to ABC News and to network news overall. For 25 years, Ted Koppel and Nightline have represented the best of what we can achieve in reporting on the important and difficult issues of our day — all done with the utmost intelligence and integrity. By making this announcement well in advance, Ted and Tom have provided us with the time we need to segue to the next chapter in the illustrious history of Nightline.

Is there more to this story? What lies in Ted Koppel’s future? Does this mean Nightline will stay on the air through December? What’s going on at DeSales Street today? Are Nightliners clicking ‘send’ on those resumes they’ve been polishing for the last couple of months?

Email us with thoughts or further rumors: garrett AT mediabistro DOT com.

The End of the World As We Know It

anamarie.jpgThere are times in this job that we can’t even begin to respond to news items. It’s been nearly two hours since we first saw this and we’re just now picking ourselves up off the floor. The involuntary twitching is settling down, and the puddle of drool is drying.

Rush & Molloy in the Daily News. An earth-shattering rumor. Perhaps aimed at disspelling the idea that Lloyd Grove might come back to the Reliable Source. Perhaps meant merely to send shudders through the L Street newsroom. Perhaps meant just to make Nick Denton giggle hysterically while Ben Bradlee collapses in a sobbing heap as he imagines his baby–his magnum opus of a news organization, his journalistic masterpiece–imploding in a spray of anal sex jokes and awkward innuendos. Perhaps it’s meant as some sort of cruel day-before-April Fool’s day prank.

Whatever the reason, prepare to avert your eyes and cover your kids’ ears. This item is about as non-work-safe as it gets:

Are the Washington Post’s editors brave (or crazy) enough to turn their “Reliable Source” gossip column over to the saucy blogger known as Wonkette? Ana Marie Cox has proclaimed that her strength is humor, not reporting. But we hear she’s more than curious about the job that columnist Richard Leiby is vacating. The expletive-loving gadfly made it her business to be in NYC Tuesday for the party celebrating The Post’s acquisition of But Post publisher Donald Graham appeared to slip out before she could lob a charm grenade at him.

In the name of all things holy, please say it ain’t so.

Tina Brown: Get More Elite

In her regular column today in the Style section, Tina Brown expands upon her rant from The Week’s Opinion Awards a few weeks back:

It’s time for the media elite — that new cussword — to stop moaning about [the] irreversible trend [of how you can't get real news anywhere anymore]. It lost the fight because it wasn’t elite enough. Elites are supposed to lead, but mainstream media and the conglomerates that own it are the most docile followers of all. Like the Democrats in Congress, we are a craven crowd. We go panting after the 25-to-54 demographic and the networks panic if a show devoted to foreign affairs or the world of ideas pulls down the ratings for a lousy hour or two.

The news cycle has evolved into a pattern that strobes between overkill and silence, but reality has not ceased to exist. As our eyes are exclusively focused on a hospice in Florida or an apartment in Atlanta, you wonder uneasily: What’s going on beyond that wall of noise? The earthquake off Indonesia this week was like the sudden recriminating cry of the tsunami victims who lost our interest: “Remember me. I’m still here.”

It’s always so great to see the elite of the media elite engage in self-flagellation, isn’t it? Just in case you were wondering how Ms. Brown is following her own advice, here’s a segment teaser from her most recent “Topic A with Tina Brown” show on CNBC: “Seventeen magazine’s Atoosa Rubenstein joins Tina to talk on mixing makeup tips and dating advice with inspiring words from the Bible…. and how adding a new Faith section to the teen magazine was good for the bottom line.”

Ohmigod. That’s so fascinating. It’s, like, totally elite.

Fight the Magazine Wars, etc., etc.

If you’re not a regular reader of the D.C. Examiner (and we don’t know too many people who are), you may not be aware of how staggeringly boring Karen Feld’s gossip column is on an almost daily basis. It’s sort of like what Wonkette would be if you took away the sex jokes and the “humor.”

Today Feld breaks the big news that there are three new luxury magazines coming to the city. (You might remember that from the Post’s giant article on Monday or from reading just about anything else about Washington in the last two months.) In her item today, Feld even gets many of the details right, except that one of the magazines is called “D.C.” not Modern Luxury, which is the company that’s publishing it. Also Jason Binn’s Niche Media is publishing the magazine, but Paige Bishop is the publisher.

Stay tuned, though, for bigger and better things. Personally, we can’t wait for her report on all the unreliable rumors around the future of the Reliable Source column. Maybe once she clears that off her plate, she can get to work on an item for next week about two bloggers getting married.

Kurtz: Bloggers To Get Married

It’s almost an endless source to amusement to watch traditional media and the establishment respond to the bizarre world of blogs. No one is quite sure what to make of them or the pants-less unwashed freaks that write them. Today Hotline launched the “blogometer” to keep readers up to date on what’s happening online, and yesterday a friend forwarded us an invite to a blogging panel put on by the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce (click here for the amusingly clueless invite).

Howard Kurtz is taking the genre one step further by taking us deep inside the personal lives of people he admits he doesn’t understand and that you’ve never heard of. Reporting breaking news, Kurtz’s column today points out the “apparent” matrimonial plans of two random bloggers:

Finally, I don’t know the backstory here, but two bloggers are apparently getting married. Frank J of IMAO writes:

“Having found a girl crazy enough to put up with me, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. Thus I proposed on Saturday evening (and she said yes!). Probably didn’t notice, but I had butterflies in my stomach all last week leading up to this…

“I feel like I should thank everyone in the blogosphere who helped me along. I started this blog to get my say out there, and never really thought I’d find a wife.”

Frank’s fiance, Sarah of Mountaineer Musings, recounts the proposal. You were expecting maybe that such things would remain private?

Um, thanks for that, Howie. Be sure to keep us posted if there are updates.