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Archives: May 2005

Sinclair Okays “The Fallen”

Baltimore’s Sinclair Broadcasting Group has decided that since this isn’t an election year, it’s okay for ABC to honor the men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Sinclair Broadcast Group applauds ‘Nightline’ for paying tribute to those servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by reading their names on Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor our fallen heroes,” the group said in a statement yesterday.

NBC’s Shapiro: In or out?

TVNewser is collecting the rumors swirling about NBC News President Neil Shapiro–who may or may not be fired as we speak…

Who’s Right?

Did the Washington Post just catch Newsweek Syndrome?

In a top-of-the-page headline today, the Post trumpeted “Military Was Set To Down Cessna: Authority Granted As Plane Strayed Deep Into Capital.” The lede of the article, by Spencer S. Hsu and John Mintz, was pretty unequivocal: “Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gave military officials the authority to shoot down, if necessary, a small plane that wandered into restricted airspace over the nation’s capital May 11, according to two senior federal officials.”

Fast forward to this afternoon’s New York Times afternoon update: “No Order to Down Stray Plane, Pentagon Says.” The article, written by Matthew L. Wald, is equally unequivocal: “Top military and civilian officials convened a conference call on May 11 when a private plane strayed deep into forbidden airspace in the District of Columbia, but they never reached the point of authorizing jet fighters to shoot down the plane, a Pentagon spokesman said today.” The Post’s sources are “clearly misinformed” Pentagon spokesman Bryan G. Whitman told the Times.

Beyond the “two federal officials,” the Post sources only “a senior federal law enforcement official briefed on events” who “corroborated” what the others said.

This is clear-cut case: Either Rumsfeld did give the order or he didn’t. Who got their leg pulled here? The Post or the Times?

> One e-mailer writes: “This smacks of Nixonism if indeed the Rumsfield did put out the order. I wouldn’t put it past the Bush administration to use the doubts in media raised by Newsweek to implicate any media outlet that runs items it doesn’t want to see in print. They have that much more public opinion behind them because public opinion in media is so shaken. I’m worried about what they’ll get away with.”

> Another: “My take is Rumsfeld did give the go, then the WH came down on him and he went into denial mode.” Hmm. We mused whether that was what happened with Newsweek too.

Migrating To Malkin

michellemalkin.jpgIt’s just too darn easy these days to do research for an article. Google seems to be making original reporting obsolete.

Ralph Hanson, a journalism professor at West Virginia University, recently received a personal lesson in journalism in the age of the internet when a friend mentioned seeing his quote in a column by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin. The only problem was Hanson had never spoken with Malkin. What was going on?

His retrospective column in today’s Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, tracing back how his quote ended up in Malkin’s column and how its context skewed a little bit with each new version, is a good cautionary tale about how journalism is being changed by the idea that everything on the web is fair game for others’ use–or misuse as the case may be.

As Hanson concludes, “Anytime I tell people I’m a journalism professor, they immediately tell me a story about how a journalist got his or her story wrong. My experience was different. What I found was that the original reporter got the story right. But like a children’s game of ‘telephone,’ the story slowly got distorted the more times it was retold.”

What’s the line between fair use and plagiarism these days, anyway? Somewhere it separates between Jayson Blair and Michelle Malkin, but how close either was to the line is anyone’s guess.

NYT To Trim Staff

The NYT announced today that it will be trimming about 190 jobs, including about a score of “voluntary” departures from the newsroom.

No word on whether Nagourney and Bumiller will be “voluntarily” leaving to start their long-dreamed of margarita bar in the Turks and Caicos.

Sunday Show Hypotheses

We’ve received a lot of responses to yesterday’s post on ‘Face the Nation’ and its dropping ratings.

Some of the ideas we’ve heard:

> The only people in D.C. who get up at 9 a.m. to watch the Sunday shows are administration and Hill types, and they’d rather watch Chris Wallace than Clintonite George Stephanopoulos–hence the poor ratings for ‘This Week’ locally and the weak ratings for FNS nationally.

> The format for ‘This Week,’ with more different segments and shorter guest interviews, is resonating with viewers tired of the ‘Face’ and ‘Meet’ models of an exhaustive interview with one person.

> Bob Schieffer is doing too much between the Evening News in New York and the show here in D.C. on the weekends. His questions aren’t as on point as they once were, and viewers are noticing.

> TVNewser reports that the bad ratings for ‘Face’ appear to be leaving some CBS execs on edge.

Any other ideas/thoughts out there?

Sinclair Will Air “The Fallen”

Lisa de Moraes reports today that Nightline’s decision to air “The Fallen” on Memorial Day evidently meets with the approval of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the nation’s largest owners of television stations.

Sinclair blocked last year’s pre-Memorial Day airing, calling the reading of the war dead’s names an “action [that] appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.”

Moraes writes: “This year, a source within the Sinclair organization, who insisted on anonymity, told The Post’s John Maynard that the stations have been told by the parent company that they may run ‘The Fallen’ ‘because the reading of the names coincides with Memorial Day.’”

Names & Faces Publishes Something Interesting!

Names & Faces, the Post’s stand-in gossip column until a new Reliable Source is named, has in its first week of rudderless existence managed to steer generally pretty clear of anything approaching gossip. Perhaps the worst part is that it has remained largely devoid of news regarding Things That Happen in Washington Itself.

Today, though, it contains some Real Life News regarding social chatter in the city–two items in fact.

  • First yesterday’s National Press Club speech by Pat Mitchell, the president of embattled PBS, which has been locking horns with the administration and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, one of its major government-sponsored funders over whether the network is appropriately conservative.

    Following Mitchell’s remarks, Business Week’s Rick Dunham, president of the NPC, presented the PBS president with the traditional plaque and mug. The red-faced part? The plaque listed Mitchell as an employee of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

  • Second, in party news: Kofi Annan and wife partied Monday night at the Georgetown home of First Media Couple Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. They were joined by the regular crowd: Koppel, Blitzer, Matthews, Mitchell/Greenspan, Matalin/Carville, and others.

So congrats to Names & Faces for being interesting. Today.

Time To ‘Face’ the Music?

Last week we reported that the big winner of the Sunday morning TV battle was CBS–at least in the form of Sunday Morning. This week, though, CBS was the big loser.

In D.C., Fox News Sunday pulled a 2.3, narrowly beating CBS’ ‘Face’ with a 2.1, and ABC’s ‘This Week’ pulled only a 1.3–its second week in a row of dismal ratings locally. Meanwhile, though, the show is doing very strongly nationally: taking second overall for the second week in a row and beating ‘Face’ in 11 of the top 12 markets. Nationally, Fox finished last with a 1.3–about average for Chris Wallace.

This Sunday show battle seems to leave two big unanswered sets of questions:

1) Why is Fox News Sunday doing so well in D.C. and yet that strength is not translating anywhere else in the country–red markets or blue markets?

2) What’s happening to “Face the Nation” nationally? Does the public have Bob Schieffer fatigue? Or is Schieffer himself fatigued?

Any hypotheses out there?

Nightline To Repeat “The Fallen”

ABC News’ Nightline announced this morning that on Memorial Day it will repeat last year’s controverisal honoring of the American war dead. The episode, again entitled “The Fallen,” will see Ted Koppel read the names of all U.S. troops killed since last year’s show in Iraq and Afghanistan–all told over 900.

Nightline’s EP Tom Bettag explained: “Too often we simply report casualties in terms of numbers. ‘The Fallen’ is our way of reminding viewers, regardless of their feelings about the war, that the men and women who have given their lives in our behalf are individuals with names and faces.”

The special 45-minute expanded edition will feature Koppel reading each name as a photograph of each service man and woman and his/her name, military branch, rank and age appears on the screen.

Something tells us that this year it’ll be a little less controversial than last.

Full release and the list of those to be honored after the jump.

Read more

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