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Archives: June 2005

POTUS Speaks

To cover POTUS or not to cover POTUS? That is (or at least was) the question.

bushspeechiraq.jpgCousin TVNewser has some coverage of the President’s speech last night, although it appears that the only interesting angle of the night was the drama surrounding whether all the networks would cover it.

Tom Shales: “Bush’s speech aired on all the major broadcast networks, something of a surprise since as of mid-afternoon yesterday, neither NBC nor CBS had plans to cover it. They felt, correctly, that the speech contained nothing new or newsy and that it didn’t merit a half-hour or more of prime time. But something changed as the day wore on, and Bush showed up on NBC and CBS as well as on ABC and the various cable news networks that previously had announced they would cover the speech.”

Wow! What a shock. Who would have seen that one coming? You’d have to go all the way back to the last time the President has a prime time appearance to find the the exact same drama. Remember the first night of May sweeps and The Donald anyone? One has to wonder if that’s really the most interesting angle reporters can find to write about the next day–especially given that the outcome and the story line both times is roughly the same:

ABC joins the cable networks in announcing early that they’ll cover it–NBC and CBS hold off for a while until NBC caves and then lastly CBS caves.

It seems like the real news would be the presidential presser that the nets actually hold firm and don’t cover….

All About The Kurtz

In Fishbowl’s Washingtonian debut, the July issue now on newsstands sees the first-ever in-depth profile of Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz.

cnnKurtz.jpg“As the nation’s preeminent media reporter for the last 15 years, [Kurtz has] attracted more fire and criticism than just about any Post reporter and created a byline as respected and controversial as any in journalism. He’s written four books, hosts a television show on CNN, writes an online column each weekday–and still finds time to churn out more bylined articles than just about anyone else.”

The article begins by tracing Kurtz’s life–from his roots playing street basketball in Brooklyn to the Bergen Record, Jack Anderson, the Washington Star, and then his nearly quarter-century at the Post–including what his friends and colleagues call his shining moment: his three years as New York bureau chief in the late 1980s.

From his background, it continues on to his current role as dean of the nation’s media writers–examining his scoops, conflicts, and controversies.

0507cover.jpg“Despite his multimedia agenda-setting power, Kurtz has remained something of an enigma. He’s never been extensively profiled or, except by Foer, extensively critiqued by other mainstream journalists. That’s not to say that he has escaped controversy. He’s one of the most controversial reporters working in America today.”

It’s long, yes, but if we may say so, very educational. Read the print version to see the amusing photos of a young Howard Kurtz in college.

Gray Leads To Sunday Silver

olympicmedals.jpgThe top spot on the Sunday shows is never really that interesting: it’s been reliably “Meet the Press” for a long time–although if you believe Arianna Huffington, you’re better off staying in bed than getting up to watch it.

No, the reason to watch the Sunday show ratings is to track the silver medal. We’ve been tracking the Sunday shows for months now and watching a trend develop. And it certainly seems to be a trend.

After long struggling to gain an audience and a rhythm for the show, George Stephanopoulos’s “This Week,” which Sunday had a big exclusive with former FBI Director L. Patrick Gray, finished second for the fifth time in the last six weeks, beating CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Nationally, ABC took a 2.2/7 to Face’s 2.1/6 and Fox finished fourth with 1.2/3. ABC was up 10 percent week-to-week while ‘Meet’ and ‘Face’ were even. Fox went down a bit.

“This Week” ranked #1 in half of the top 12 markets, and beat ‘Face’ in an additional three markets–meaning that in fully three-quarters of the top markets “Face” got swept by the long-time bronze winner. Additionally, Fox beat ‘Face’ in a quarter of the top 12: Dallas (#7), Atlanta (#9), and Detroit (#10).

Locally, continuing their odd week-to-week trade-off, Chris Wallace beat Stephanopoulos in D.C., 1.8/5 to 1.4/4.

Judith Miller is now officially a 21st Century cause: She has a website and is thinking of launching a blog from behind bars. “It is supposed to call attention to the case,” Miller told E&P today. “I put it up starting yesterday. It will help bring attention to the case and the issues that the case raises.”

The site contains biographical information and info on her books, under “How To Help” it asks supporters to contact Congress and urge the passage of a Federal Shield Law.

The site is registered to and maintained by Joshua Tanzer, a web developer at BusinessWeek Online. Tanzer used to write headlines at the NY Post, so we can only the headlines he’d come up for this story….

Briefing Room Humor

From yesterday’s White House briefing:

Q I’ve got a quick one. There was a report today that the administration is supporting plutonium production. Is this correct, and is that true?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, let me give you an update on that. I’m glad you brought that up. First of all, this is a matter under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy, and the plutonium that we’re talking is not — is non-weapons-grade plutonium. The Department of Energy is responsible for producing significant heat and electricity power systems that would require no maintenance in places like deep space. And plutonium-238, which we’re talking about, is the substance that makes that feasible. Such power systems are used in support of deep space exploration missions and certain national security applications. But, again, we’re not talking about any weapons-grade plutonium.

And I think the Department of Energy can probably talk to you more about why we need to produce it.

Q Speaking of that, how’s the Mars project coming along?


Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you all.

Note: No answer from McClellan re: Mars. (Thanks to Press Gaggle)

No Love Lost

lewinsky.jpgGeorge Stephanopoulos and Monica Lewinsky came a little too close for each other’s comfort during a recent New York dinner, Page Six reports today.

They spotted each other at Sunday’s N.Y. State Broadcasters Association’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Lake George, which honored Don Imus, Walter Cronkite, and Lewinsky’s stepfather–R. Peter Straus, owner of 11 N.Y. radio stations and five newspapers–among others.

Page Six writes “Lewinsky bolted as soon as Stephanopolous, who had bad-mouthed her during the sex scandal, appeared at the podium. The feeling was mutual: Earlier that night, Stephanopoulos spied Lewinsky in the crowd and warned a NYSBA staffer, ‘No pictures!’”

Norman Mailer To The WH?

normanmailer.gifStep aside Dana Bash. Sit down Terry Moran. Get out of the way Terry Hunt. There might be a new West Wing scribe in the house.

NYU’s Jay Rosen issued a call to arms today: Challenging/begging/asking Norman Mailer to step up and take on a gig as a White House reporter and blog about it. While the famed author has taken up blogging at the Huffington Post, Rosen says that the White House would provide him the opportunity to stretch his talents and push the boundaries of the medium.

“The way Mailer did journalism, something happens to the character in the story, who is also our correspondent on the scene. A truth is revealed, and emotion is restored to events. In Mailer’s best reports, something also happens in the life of the nation,” Rosen said.

Someone needs to dive into Scott McClellan’s techniques, and someone needs to disassemble life in the veal pen and see what lies beneath the motivations of those involved.

Read Fishbowl’s first impressions of White House reporting here.

Monday Trash

It’s nearly 6 p.m., which means that all the rest of this just gets dumped with the trash, as per normal White House operating procedures:

  • President Bush’s speech tomorrow night may/will dominate the next 36 hours of news coverage, and it appears that surprise surprise, you’ll be able to watch it pretty much everywhere you’d expect to be able to watch it.

  • Wonkette teases The Note over its Ivy League-educated attempts at erudition. It’s a completely unfair characterization considering that only half of the eight authors of today’s Note are Harvardians, and the brainy duo of Lisa Todorovich and David Chalian are Northwestern grads.

  • The Washington Monthly’s staff pleads for Matthew Cooper, and the Newspaper Guild weighs in.

  • Cynthia L. Webb, former author of the’s Filter column, gets the only nod to the paper from the national columnists’ association. Would have been nice if a current columnist won something, wouldn’t it?

  • And, lastly, a Hotline Last Call! plea: “Dear Will Rehnquist: Please hold off on announcing anything until after the long weekend. Love, Washington Press Corps”

Summer Begins

sharkattack.jpgMemorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and last Tuesday was the official start of summer, but some would argue that today marked the REAL beginning of summer: the first big shark attack news.

It was hard to escape the fact that all three cable channels carried the shark attack press conference live for an extended period of time today–CNN evidently gave it 22 minutes.

Atrios sighs. And rightly so. Perhaps it was too much to hope that the media would have learned their lesson — and perhaps it was too soon to hope that Jon Klein’s glorious vision for a “Cable News Channel Upon A Hill” would start here.

Woodward’s 3-Wood

bobwoodward6.jpgBob Woodward has a slightly magical aura in Washington–despite the fact that he’s been here for three decades and held nearly every position at the Washington Post (including a few that they made up just for him), he still lends a certain gravitas to any event he attends in D.C. In a city of people who like to think of themselves as bold-faced names, he actually is one.

At Thursday night’s event for the Cohen Group at the Willard, we spotted him sneaking in late and even as one of the only people in the packed room without a nametag, he was instantly recognizable. Other reporters, Hill folks, and DoD types wandered by to pay their respects as he munched on the snacks.

This weekend, the Post’s Joel Achenbach, author of the Achenblog, columnized about how it was playing golf with Bob Woodward.

“Any journalist could learn a lot from watching Bob Woodward play golf. After Watergate, he could have become a dilettante, could have written novels or hosted a talk show or become a full-time social butterfly. Instead, he stuck to what he did well. He asked good questions, cultivated sources, wrote best-selling books and kept hitting the ball down the center of the fairway,” he observes.