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Archives: September 2005

Rain Slickers Trash Time

Today’s tidbits:

  • Arianna loves to blog.

    The problem isn’t that the stories I care about aren’t being covered, it’s that they aren’t being covered in the obsessive way that breaks through the din of our 500-channel universe.

  • From National Journal’s “Last Call”: A reader wonders, Is being subject of a Bob Novak rumor “like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated?”

  • Listen to John Tierney‘s wisdom…for free!

  • The Post and it’s newly acquired sister, Slate, picked up some Online Journalism Award nominations. Never heard of the Online Journalism awards? Oh, they’re the world’s only accolade given almost exclusively to money-losing entities.

  • CNN has new jackets for its hurricane crews.

  • CNN and Fox both ratings winners. MSNBC also still on the air. Technically.

  • Is it that Chris Matthews distorts reality or is it that creates reality? A thin line, we know.

  • Nudge? Fudge.

West Wing…in Heels!

Most in Washington long for the good ‘ol days of West Wing, when it was written by Aaron Sorkin and could captivate your attention over an issue as seemingly silly as whether to ban the penny.

ABC’s new program, Commander-in-Chief (starring Geena Davis), premieres tonight at 9 and hopes to capture West Wing’s original glory (or at least West Wing’s original audience).

Eleanor Clift, Gwen Ifil and Helen Thomas sat on a discussion panel last week following a screening of Commander’s premiere episode, giving conservatives further heartache about the “liberal media.” (Here’s the Hill’s write-up of the mini-hamburger-studded panel.)

(P.S. Is there any sentence more unsettling at 6 a.m. than reading this opening line in Tom Shales review of Commander: “Geena Davis can veto my legislation anytime.”

Rather on the Kalb Report

Monday’s usually the day that Washingtonians take a breather from happy hours and cocktail parties and, instead, make their way to the gym and the grocery store. So we’ll assume that you missed last night’s 8 p.m. live airing of “The Kalb Report” (an interview show hosted by Journalism Rockstar Marvin Kalb…Bio here). (Or perhaps you were watching the Arrested Development…either way, we’ll bring you up to speed).

Kalb interviewed Dan Rather at the National Press Club for a segment called “The Future of Journalism.”

Dan on several occasions seemed on the verge of tears when addressing topics particularly close to his heart. He also verged on the defensive when discussing the National Guard story that helped lead to his demise.

No doubt, the water cooler talk (among those who watched and care) this morning has either consisted of who were reminded by last night’s conversation why they dislike Rather or those who wish he’d come back

Some choice bits from last night after the jump.

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Shadid Live!

The Washington Post’s incomparable (and Pulitzer Prize winning) reporter, Anthony Shadid, speaks at Politics and Prose tonight (to discuss, in part, his recently published book “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War.”) and it’s sure to be a worthwhile event.

Book excerpts here, here and here, and review here.

Carlson Sticks It To Luxury

dcmagcover1.pngYou can just see Peter Carlson sitting down to write up his reviews of D.C. three new luxury magazines, and begging his editors to assign him anything but. There was certainly groveling involved. Perhaps even tears. Nevertheless he had to churn out a review, and churn it out he did. The question is which magazine editor is more shaken by the reviews: DC, Capitol File, or DC Style. Peter Carlson hates each of you in his own unique way, it’s clear.

The choice excerpts from his review:

“Sure, at first glance all three mags appear to be empty-headed excuses to sell ads for luxury goods. But a closer look reveals that each is empty-headed in its own unique way.”

“DC Style has a brief article on Wolf Blitzer. Capitol File has a brief article by Wolf Blitzer. And DC is the magazine for people who prefer their magazines 100 percent Blitzer-free.”

“Mere mockery cannot stop [DC Style guru Dana Spain-Smith] from starting fashion mags in places that are not, alas, all that fashionable.

“DC Style is the only magazine I’ve ever seen that sells itself with a promise to be utterly vapid…. And DC Style has kept that promise.”

“DC is mostly a picture mag, and [Executive Editor Ann McCarthy] promises ‘provocative photography unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.’ And she fulfills that promise. I, for one, have never seen anything quite like the fashion spread called ‘The Odyssey,’ which features models wearing fancy clothes while posing in wrecked buildings on a forlorn beach, their heads topped with items that are either avant-garde hats or random flotsam that washed up with the tide.”

“My favorite line in Capitol File comes from author Arianna Huffington‘s article on her favorite Washington blogs. ‘Today,’ she writes, ‘thanks to the mainstream media’s complacency and relentless triviality, we’ve been condemned to brain-dead local news reporting, the latest on the latest celebrity trial, and the endlessly repeated bleating of the denizens of the Beltway echo chamber.’ Remove the word ‘trial’ and that sentence is a pretty good description of all three of these magazines.”

Finally he identifies what is perhaps the main problem facing these magazines, the new Reliable Sources, and anyone who attends D.C.’s social circuit:

“All of them run page after page of pictures of people who are posing for pictures at the kind of businesslike Washington parties where nobody ever gets so drunk that they end up trading punches or making out with a stranger on a bed piled with the other guests’ coats.”


Apologies for the delay this morning — our software went down last night and it took FOREVER to get it back up and running….

Gossip Returns!

The Reliable Source is back! The dual new Reliable Sources started today. Their debut number, jumping off the front of the Style section and filling the top half of C3, is packed with gossip about celebrities and some actually “spotted” items under a “Hey, Isn’t That….” headline: “Jenna Bush, with a young man, checking into the spa at Four Seasons over the weekend for massage appointments.”

The lead item, as is right with any gossip column, leads with Ben Affleck. The inside page also offers a Love Etc. column, and an item on the new CBS Amazing Race season.

Will they be able to inject some life into the regular gossip columns of Washington? Stay tuned….

[I.E. We'll give them a day before we start writing about how much it sucks and how boring it is. On the other hand, it's better than Karen Feld's column today.]

> We held off judgement, but not everyone else did. The knives are obviously out. An emailer says: “Mistake in first new Reliable Source. Today’s RS reports, ‘Demi Moore, 42, and actor Ashton Kutcher, 27, got married Saturday in Hollywood, according to People magazine and Us Weekly.’ WRONG. Both magazines actually reported that they got married in Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills is a separate city; Hollywood is a neighborhood within the city of Los Angeles. Would the Post tolerate this if they reported that an event happened in the District, but it actually took place in PG County?”

Um, did we mention it was their first day?

Downie to Posties: ‘No Layoffs’

On the agenda for this afternoon’s all-staff meeting at the Washington Post: The latest Pugwash and “progress on readership and diversity initatives.” Is a “readership initiative” a new way of saying “arresting the free-fall of our circulation numbers”?

> UPDATE: The Post’s Executive Editor, Len Downie began this afternoon’s meeting by saying, “I have two words for you: No layoffs.” All through, there weren’t many fireworks — in contrast, you might remember, to the last Post staff meeting after the hiring of new ME, Phil Bennett.

Downie also reassured the staff that there were no buyouts currently planned, contrary to the Post rumor mill, and ditto for rumors of a formal hiring freeze. What he did say was that the paper will be be making hires more slowly and with greater scrutiny, taking it “one hire at a time.” Also, it appears that the overall budget and news hole will be flat, which means that with inflation and the Post’s merit raises, there were be trimming to be done–most likely in expenses.

In terms of the product, Downie reported that he loves reading the Post’s daily critiques, thinks too many routine stories run long, and that part of Bennett’s new role as Sunday Paper Guru will be to make the Sunday papers newsier. As such, more reporters may end up working a Tuesday to Saturday schedule to bring in more news since, as it stands now, in Downie-esque flair, the Sunday paper is “dulled by estrangement from the news.”

Daily Dose of Kurtz

We read Howard Kurtz’s chat so you don’t have to. The money shots:

Howie on news bias:

Howard Kurtz: You can argue whether The Post and other news organizations are tough enough on those in power, but the notion that “corporate interests” are controlling the coverage is and has always been a canard. A more serious, if occasional problem, is pressure from advertisers, particularly from such mainstays as car dealers, supermarkets and department stores. But corporate executives telling reporters to go easy on an administration? No. Even when a controversial columnist gets fired, it tends to be the editor, not the publisher, who does the deed.

Howie on what you missed while watching the hurricane.

Howard Kurtz: The Yankees kept winning and are in a tie with the Red Sox for first place.

Howie on Sunday talk show scheduling problems:

Howard Kurtz: Believe me, the Sunday shows hate it more than you do. The fact is that the administration rigidly controls which of its officials are put out to which shows, and often offer up Condi or Rummy or whomever to several shows on the same day when it wants to get a message out. (These aren’t the only guests, obviously, but in the Sunday world they’re deemed the most newsworthy). And it drives the anchors and producers crazy.

Howie gets mad:

Bethesda, Md.: …What would the networks do without Iraq to cover? Answer: not as well. Isn’t it in their economic interests to play up the pro-war rally, to help prolong it and keep the cash cow coming in?

Howard Kurtz: With all due respect, that’s the most offensive theory I’ve heard in a long time.

Howie gets foiled by Karl Rove:

Karl Rove: HA! You all have forgotten about my scandal!

Howard Kurtz: Sorry, Karl. We’ll be getting back to you eventually.

Howie says the media loves Category 5 hurricanes:

Rolla, Mo.: …you can almost hear the disappointment in the reporters’ voices when Rita (or any other hurricane for that matter) is downgraded from a category 5 to a 3 or 2….

Howard Kurtz: I’d have a hard time arguing with that. The media rolled in their battalions, so heavy coverage was guaranteed even if the storm fizzled.

Inside The Spin Zone

So Paul Bedard‘s Washington Whispers column has an item today about how Barack Obama is “Sunday poison” in the D.C. ratings market. More nationally, though, the numbers clearly show that Obama is anything but “Sunday poison.” As Bedard also reports, “his appearances helped This Week and Face the Nation gain a second-place finish to NBC’s Meet the Press.” It’s an interesting item less for its news and more for its approach.

We read the item with one question in mind: Where did it come from? Well, it wasn’t any of the Big Three networks, who have been fighting to land Obama, and have good ratings to show for doing so. Overall few people in the industry really take the D.C. ratings market seriously over everything else.

In fact, there’s actually only one network who pushes D.C. market numbers to the exclusion of all others: that would be Fox’s D.C. spokesman Paul Schur, who most Mondays quickly sends around the overnight ratings for the local market (where Fox does very well) and ignores the larger national ratings (where Fox does pretty poorly).

Given that background, dollars to donuts, that “Washington Whispers” column came out of lunch the two Pauls had together at Chef Geoff’s last Wednesday. So then we’re left with this thought: Pushing an item about how a Democratic Senator is “Sunday poison” isn’t really the job of a network spokesperson.

Why is Fox doing the job of Bill Frist‘s press secretary? There’s a thin line between network sour grapes and politically-motivated backstabbing.