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Archives: September 2005

The Art of Buchwald

BuchwaldArt.jpgSo let’s first get out of the way that, yes, Art Buchwald is still alive. We know. You’re just as shocked as we are. Next thing someone’s going to tell us that he has a regular column in the back of the Style section of the Post — but we know that’s simply a lie.

Ann Gerhart reports today on last night’s French Embassy 80th birthday party for the humor columnist. Well reporting is not exactly accurate. It’s more like she transcribes an extensive conversation with her surprisingly eloquent and articulate cab driver. And mentions Art. Sort of. In passing, at least a few times.

But then again some would say that talking to a cab driver is better sourcing than some of the reporting we see in this city….

Tabloids (Not The Britney Kind)

The New York Times had an interesting piece this week that, while not directly applicable to Washington (the piece discussed Britian’s The Guardian newspaper and its recent switch–at the jaw-dropping cost of $142 million–from broadsheet to “Berliner” size…more on that in a second…), does provide some insight into some DC-related issues (and proves that, even an ocean away, newshounds–and those who pay/own them–struggle with the same issues as we Americans).

The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, said:

“if you got all the editors to speak honestly, they would say that the broadsheet has had its day.”

He continued:

“It feels too big, too unwieldy, too old-fashioned. We didn’t need persuading that we would change. The only question is, would you follow what the others had done’ – that is, go tabloid – ‘or choose the Berliner size.’”

The dilemmas in Britain, according to the NYT piece, doesn’t sound all that different than what news outlets face in DC’s market.

“Britain has one of the world’s toughest, scrappiest newspaper markets. Some 11 daily national newspapers fight it out on the newsstands every day, often peddling their wares like gaudy streetwalkers, luring readers in with discounts, contests, prizes, giveaways, tie-ins to consumer products, huge stories about diet and fashion and splashy “exclusive” headlines about louche celebrity behavior.”

Of course, the big difference is that Britain’s papers (the Times, the Independent and now the Guardian) have largely just shrunk their papers, not roll out separate tabloid entitities (a la the Express and Examiner). So, among the big broadsheets (namely the Post, which seems the most troubled and concerned with its declining readership and how to reverse the downward trend), is simply shrinking the size being considered? For the British, it seems to be the primary option.

(Oh yeah, here’s what the Berliner size is: “A Berliner, in newspaper terms, means a Continental-style paper, along the lines of Le Monde in France, which folds in half like a broadsheet but opens up like a tabloid.”)

Taking Out The Trash 09.28.05

Today’s leftovers:

  • What is this rumor about MSNBC’s “Coast-to-Coast” going on the chopping block due to budget cuts?

  • Judy Woodruff heads to Haaa-vuhd.

  • Determine for yourself tomorrow at Politics and Prose: Is Art Buchwald funny or not? (7 p.m.)

  • Journalists: Vote for the most annoying subject you’re forced to cover.

  • Did CNN actually win two time slots in September?

  • When Dan speaks, his enemies react.

  • The future of PBS’/NPR’s future.

Chisel to Tablet briefings

We know that journalists love hanging on to the craft’s trademark vocabulary, as if proper (and frequent) usage signified a level of accomplishment within the industry (phrases such as “ink-stained wretch,” “on deadline” and “eleventh-hour decision”).

But even the journalism business evolves. Which leads us to ask:

At one point will these sort of things (copied below from ABC’s “The Note”) stop being referred to as “pen and pad” briefings and start being called Blackberry briefings? Or PC Tablet talks? Palm Pilot presentations?

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) will hold a pen and pad briefing at 11:30 am ET in the Senate Press Gallery to discuss newly-introduced charitable giving legislation.

The New Quidnunc

Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger offered some clues as to their vision for the Reliable Source during their inaugural chat today–although lacking in the zaniness of Quidnunc‘s former chats, they did manage a few zingers. They had to field several questions about Rich “God of Gossip Chat” Leiby‘s departure:

Just Curious: I am behind the times … Lloyd [Grove]‘s leaving The Reliable Source was quite monumentous … but Leiby’s was … on the whimper-scale? Whatever happened to Richard Leiby? Also, is his feud with Gene Weingarten for real, or a front to “boost the ratings”, so to speak?

Roxanne Roberts: He’s a discreet one, that Leiby, slipping out with the fabulous Post farewell cake. Actually, Rich is sitting mere feet from us, churning out his first love: long-form investigative articles. Weingarten comes over daily to shoot spitballs, but no bloodshed as of noon today.

And they had a chance to offer some of the Vision Thing:

Potomac, Md.: Any chance that your column will be less mean-spirited than what we’ve seen recently, and more like tone of Chuck Conconi?

Roxanne Roberts: We are fair and wise goddesses of gossip hoping to follow in the grand tradition of all the best who came before us. We’ll dole out tidbits and call them as we see them. If you behave like mature, productive grown-ups, we’ll take note. If you yell at waiters and pull rank, we’ll report it. If you dance naked in public, we’ll mention your tan lines.

Turn Out The Lights Karl!

Change begins at home, the phrase goes. Since President Bush has implored all Americans to conserve energy, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan made sure that reporters knew that, “Hey, we’re not above the law…most of the time!” and detailed White House efforts to lower 1600 Pennsylvania’s Avenue electricity bill.

“We’ll also be sending out notices to staff about — reminding them to turn off lights and printers and copiers and computers when they leave the office. We’ll continue to move forward on more e-government, paperless systems that would reduce the use of faxes and copiers and printers and things of that nature, encouraging all government vehicles to try to consume less.”

McClellan went on to talk about promoting mass transit options, not letting cars idle, yada, yada, yada, then dropped this bomb:

“And other areas — the President did want everybody to look at the motorcade, too, to see what could be scaled back there, as well. So I think today we probably have a couple less vans than we normally would.”

As Editor and Publisher wrote:

Alarmed, a reporter asked, “Press vans? The press vans will be there?”

“I think probably — I think there is usually like four press vans,” McClellan replied. “I think we’re trying to do it in two or three — staff and the guest van is combined. I think we can — all steps that people can take will help, and that’s why we look at all these measures.”

So if you see David Gregory, Dana Bash, Carl Cameron, Ed Chen and Elisabeth Bumiller packed into a ZipCar, driving around town, with Gregory screaming out the passenger side window, “Dammit, Ed! Follow that motorcade!” you’ll understand why.

Darling Media? Or Darn Media?

Following Katrina, the consensus was that the media had gotten its groove back by providing comprehensive and aggressive coverage. In a sense, the media became their own media darlings.

But, to quote Grand Funk Railroad in the song Destitute and Loosin, “Nothing good lasts forever.” A number of stories have looked back on their Katrina coverage with considerable scrutiny, namely by wondering why the media bought many of the horror stories that emerged out of Katrina and that turned out to be false.

Powerline raises a number of questions worth considering:

* How did so many false rumors come to be reported as fact?
* Do news outlets have any procedures in place to avoid this kind of mis-reporting? If so, why did their procedures fail so miserably?
* To what extent were the false rumors honest mistakes, and to what extent were they deliberate fabrications?
* To the extent that the false reports were deliberate, did the press pass them on through sheer negligence, or did some reporters participate in deliberate fabrication?
* Did the widespread breakdown in accurate reporting stem only from a failure to follow proper journalistic standards, or did it also reflect a deliberate effort to damage the Bush administration by passing on unconfirmed rumors as fact?
* In deciding what stories to report, did the news media consider the likelihood that passing on false rumors would damage the rescue effort?

It is vitally important to get to the bottom of these questions, so that future natural disasters are not similarly mis-reported.

Best of the Web’s James Taranto says: “Let’s not beat up too much on our colleagues in the news business. It would be unfair to expect perfection from them in dealing with an unprecedented natural catastrophe, just as it was unfair to expect perfection from the federal government.”

Scariest News Ever

Is Howard Kurtz is the next Candace Bushnell? From Lloyd Grove today:

The terrifyingly productive Howard Kurtz, “Reliable Sources” host for CNN and media maven at The Washington Post, is shopping a nearly finished satirical novel about the newsbiz, titled “Funny Is Money.” Yesterday, Kurtz told me: “This is something I’m fooling around with in my spare time and we’ll have to see what comes of it. The fun part is that people may recognize – or think they recognize – some major media figures.” He added: “The great advantage of tackling a novel is that you don’t have to bother with such annoying procedures as checking your facts.”

We’ll save you snarky people out there the trouble of making a bad joke about “how is a novel different from the fiction he writes on a daily basis? Blah blah blah.” Really? Is that the best you can do? Here, have fun with this.

Doomed By Stupid Arguments

A Teapot Tempest is becoming a full-on “tempest” by the time Jack Shafer weighs in. The now five-day-old grump-fest over Jeffrey Goldberg‘s comments to Harry Jaffe has the Post internal message boards aflame over, as Shafer points out, something Goldberg didn’t even say.

Phil “I Don’t Fly Off The Handle” Bennett wrote on the Post’s internal message board: “The Goldberg comment is appalling, offensive, idiotic. His own search for a diversity-free workplace may have succeeded. That’s not where we live, or want to live, or intend to live. Diversity is a cardinal value of The Post and the communities we cover. Period.”

That would be, mind you, the comment that Goldberg didn’t make. Go Phil.

XM Hits 5M

Florida Avenue-based XM Satellite Radio has surpassed the five million subscriber mark–meaning that the network has been adding subscribers at a rate of over 70,000 a week since its May 4M announcement.

Tonight at XM, friends and colleagues will gather for a special one-year anniversary party/taping honoring the arrival of former NPR legend Bob Edwards to the satellite radio network. The network is now twice as large subscriber-wise as it was when he joined.

How’s that for some rapid growth?