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Archives: February 2005

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Mediabistro Course

Food Blogging

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Spin Control at Crossroads School

black.jpgRoger H. Weaver, headmaster of the fancy-shmancy Crossroads School, has sent a letter to alumni reacting to the profile of the school in last month’s Vanity Fair. Choice quote:

The most concerning thing to me… is that despite my multiple conversations with the author of the story and editors at VF explaining that no Crossroads students could be named or identified, which they indicated they clearly understood, the article did just that. Repeatedly.

Later in the letter, Weaver states “though I found the lack of substance in the Vanity Fair article disappointing, I also realize it could have been far, far worse,” an allusion to the Crossroads chapter in Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner’s book Hollywood, Interrupted, which did indeed portray the school in much less flattering terms.

It Was the Best of Oscars, It Was the Worst of Oscars

oscar.jpgABC reports that overall viewership was down from last year, but up among 18-34s. Chris Rock was less outrageous (and less funny and less political) than expected. LAObserved links to a great NPR piece that sums up everything else you need to know about the press coverage. Let’s change the subject now.

Soho House to Establish Occupying Force in Los Angeles

Thanks to LA.COMfidential for alerting us to the plethora of LA post-Oscar gossip on today’s Page Six. Of particular note is the second item, detailing the problem-plagued Oscar Week at Soho House’s temporary Laurel Canyon outpost, which repelled a FishbowlLA strike team on Friday. Despite the series of embarrassing fiascos, apparently Soho House is looking to open a permanent LA branch by the end of next year. Let’s start organizing a grass-roots resistance now, before it’s too late.

Moonves vs. CBS Three: Two down, one to go.

josh howard.jpgYou might not have noticed, now that Ken Auletta is focusing on Dan Rather this week (check out the audio, it’s worth the wait), but CBS prez Les Moonves’ housecleaning is quietly taking shape: Betsy West and Mary Murphy, who held out for the legal cavalry instead of taking the fall for the network’s Bush service record scandal, have left the building, CBS chose to confirm – on Oscar night, where two pissed-off interns would have been the only people to pick up that story.

This means that Moonves, who might have faced a raft of suits (and, one supposes, countersuits should he want to sue the suers for not leaving), will now only have to contend with the last of the Three – Josh Howard (see glum picture at left) – who still clings to his desk and refuses to leave, and who promises to be the hardest case to get rid of.

Advantage: Les, even if purging Howard will necessitate being nice to Martin Garbus. Very nice.

The view from Sacramento: dispatches from FishbowlNY’s Foreign Correspondent

press.jpgLike many major media corporations singlemindedly pursuing total world domination, FishbowlNY has decided to globalize our existing operations. To that end, we’re adding a Foreign Correspondent, which brings our staff to three. (Four if you include FishbowlNY Obesity Correspondent and Men’s Fitness Editor-in-Chief, Neal Boulton.)

But New York being the center of the universe, we see no real need to cover anything that happens outside of the five boroughs. So rather than sending our Foreign Correspondent to far-flung locales to report on media people in said far-flung locales, we’re sending him off to far-flung locales to report on media people in New York.

Without further ado, we’re pleased to introduce FishbowlNY Foreign Correspondent, Sacramento Is The New New York—or “SAC” for short. [Translation: we don't know his real name.] We’re starting him off slow by having him cover New York bloggers, and when he’s ready to deal with the maelstrom of discontent and ego confusion that is New York old media, we’ll have him take a crack at the Barry Dillers and Mort Zuckermans.

SAC’s initial investigations seemed to indicate that the New York bloggers are merely badly scripted computer programs (“bots,” he said) that generate random textual outputs and, occasionally, photos of cats. We pointed out that were this true, it would mean that he was now in the employ of a piece of software—and badly scripted software, at that—but he had his fingers in his ears and was loudly singing a song with the somewhat odd refrain, “I can’t heeeeear yoooou…”

SAC’s first dispatch, following last week’s events:

kottke2.jpgWill blog for food: Jason Kottke™ has short-circuited, running a stored procedure wherein it quit its day job in favor of working on its blog full-time. In order to do so, the Kottke mechanism has asked its readers to help sustain itself in perpituity. It even randomly generated an adorable banner that you can place on your blog (you do have one, don’t you?) to show your solidarity with this brave pioneer. Also, the Kottke is wondering if it can crash on your couch for “a few days, tops and, oh yeah, I drank that six-pack that was in the fridge, it was like, waay in the back so I figured you didn’t want it.” I suggest that Kottke get himself pregnant and whore out his sure-to-be adorable belly for advertising dollars.

This phenomenon is not without precedent, as proto-bot Andrew Sullivan attempted the same algorithim sometime last year, with mixed results. I say mixed because then it will sound like I have some thoughful insight into Sullivan when in fact, I haven’t ever read a single word he’s written. I’m not kidding. But I hear that that he can benchpress, like, 500 pounds or something, so don’t tell him I said anything. I don’t want him to lift almost 3 of me into the air. At least, not without a spotter.

This move has caused a shockwave throughout NYC. People are scrambling to make sense of this, each person dealing with it in their own, unique way. Some have jumped on the Kottke bandwagon and shown their support monetarily, while others have quietly given up blogging althogether. The reaction here in Sacramento can be summed up in the following interaction I had with the bakery girl at Safeway this morning:

Me: Do you have any chocolate old-fashioned?

Bakery Girl: Not yet, they’ll be out in about 10 minutes.

Me: That’s cool, I’ll just grab a glazed instead.

Bakery Girl: (blank stare)

President? Ich denk’ immer dran.

arnold.jpgFishbowl rushes to apologize for the unintelligibility of the above headline, which we think must have been beamed to our page directly from the Governator’s brain. Because despite what George Stephanopoulos lets Schwarzenegger get away with on his air, we sense that the one thought most present on the Austrian Oak’s mind is “President? I always think about that.”

We mean, George, let him deny that he will ever seek office, for cryin’ out loud, not be allowed to bury the answer in a joke. You’re dealing, after all, with the guy who went public on Leno with his ambition to be Governor, with an operator so canny he’ll deny his further ambitions right up to the point where he declares the date of Jack LaLanne’s birth a national holiday from inside 1600 Penn Ave. Next time, George, act your resume and try a little Reporting and Writing 101. Because this is embarrassing.

www.latimesbias.org Awakes From Fever Dream

susane.jpg
Susan Estrich’s LA Times watchdog site was completely re-designed on Friday. Gone are Estrich’s jagged anti-Kinsley screeds. (Also gone is the comments section, which, last I checked, was skewing anti- Estrich by a ratio of about 3 or 4 to 1.)

Instead we are treated to a pie chart and a day-by-day tracking of LA Times editorial writers by gender. I can’t find a single mention of Estrich on the page, which makes me wonder if she knows she’s squandered her credibility. Unless the email address accessed by the ‘Spot Check’ link, clfrngrl@hotmail.com, is an Estrich front. But she doesn’t seem like the type who would dub herself ‘California Girl.’

The new site presents Estrich’s central thesis more lucidly and clearly. But, I don’t know, I kind of miss her early, raw material, from before she starting trying to appeal to a mainstream audience via slick production values. Fortunately, the old website is still online in the form of a Google screenshot.

Attention: Desperate Freelancers

Last week I accidentally discovered a sure-fire way to get offered an unsolicited assignment from one of those local upscale lifestyle magazines. You know, the kind named after exclusive Westside neighborhoods that often feature cover stories on Scientology-affiliated movie stars. Call up the publisher and say that you’re a media journalist investigating a report of upheaval among the magazine’s editorial staff. The publisher may threaten you with a lawsuit, but he’ll also offer you work in return for squashing the story. Without even asking to read your clips!

The Great LA Gossip Famine

My lifelong ambition– being alluded to in the New York Times Style section– has been realized. (Seriously, I’ve pitched myself as a subject for ‘A Night Out With…’ twenty-eight times. If they don’t call back soon, I’m giving up.) In a round-up of the state of gossip journalism in LA, James Verini writes:

In January Mediabistro, based in Manhattan, created FishbowlLA to cover Los Angeles media gossip, no small task in a town with only one major newspaper and few magazines.

(Most of the article is about some website called defiler.com or something.)

Verini omits what I think is the real reason there is not much of a local LA gossip scene: Everyone Here Takes Themselves Very, Very Seriously. In New York, the gossip mini-industry exists thanks to an implicit social contract by which media figures and other bold-face names agree that in return for public exposure (and its attendant social, emotional, and financial quasi-benefits), they will be made fun of a little, and moreover, that they will like it. Not so in Los Angeles, where everyone is So Desperate To Be Taken Seriously that they Forget To Laugh At Themselves, and are much quicker than New Yorkers to Fly Off The Handle when someone Points Out Their Foibles.

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