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Archives: September 2005

Media Minutiae, Meet Your New Chief Justice Edition

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, the Roberts court: It’s official – John G. Roberts is the latest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Scalia must be plotzing. Vote was 78-22 (55 Republicans and 23 Dems yes; 22 Dems voted no, including Clinton, Schumer, Biden, Kennedy, Durbin, Feinstein, Corzine and Kerry. Hey look, Kerry! Forgot about him). It’s all water under the bench by now though – for better or for worse, Roberts is in, and frankly he’s just eager to get started without DeLay. Hee hee, puns’re funny.
  • Slate scores Penenberg: Wired tech guru Adam Penenberg has jumped to Slate in a nice coup for the smarty-pants site. According to Slate EIC Jacob Weisberg, Penenberg’s “fresh take” on tech matches Slate’s “fresh take” on stories (though perhaps not on alternatives ways of saying “fresh take”). [Romenesko]
  • Romenesko letters: Four-letter words for Geraldo and ruminations on diversity hiring Even I can’t find a showtune to adequately express that. But Romenesko letters is lively today: Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” invites suggested four-letter words for Geraldo Rivera as per Barney Calame (for the record, Geraldo suggested “hero”; I’m gonna go with “nerf” or maybe “emu”); on the flip side, there’s a thoughtful debate about diversity hiring based on the Jeffrey Goldberg/WaPo “doomed by diversity” issue, including comments from Jayson Blair (who doesn’t love the scrutiny but sure respects the scrutinizers) and Goldberg’s onetime rooommate Malcolm Gladwell, who recalls that he got his own start at the Post as an affirmative action hire.
  • Love and Mercy: This is kind of amazing: former Beach Boy Brian Wilson is helping raise money for hurricane relief by pledging to call everyone who gives $100 or more. He’ll also match it. Apparently he’s helped raise $100,00. Outstanding. Not really media but wanted to share. God only Knows what we’d do without you, Brian! [BoingBoing]
  • Come on, feel the noisemakers: Paper Magazine hosts a panel this evening celebrating five up-and-coming “noisemakers” under 25, including Fashion Week Daily’s Faran Krentcil, College Humor’s Jakob Lodwick, designers Baruch Shemtov and Ali Kay, and Paper’s own marketing/promotions director Drew Elliott (putting yourself on your own panel? That IS good promotion!). Go on and make some noise with them tonight at the School of Visual Arts, 209 E. 23rd St. at 7 p.m. but remember to always be courteous when someone else is speaking.
  • Air America needs a helping hand(out)

    AAR.jpgAir America has taken two unusual steps in the past few weeks: one, it has started soliciting donations in the manner of public radio, despite being a for-profit enterprise; and two, CEO Danny Goldberg responded to criticism from Conservative bloggers and Bill O’Reilly regarding their claims that Air America is on its last legs.

    Goldberg sent out an email to supporters last Wednesday inviting them to become “Air America Associates,” made possible by their generous financial support:

    To continue this great success story and start shaping the national debate the way that Right Wing talk radio does every day, we’ve got to reach into every community in this country. We know we can’t achieve this next stage of growth without significant help from you, our loyal listeners.

    Associates are welcome to give any amount, of course, but $50 gets them three nifty bumper stickers (“I’m building Air America Radio!” and, depending on level of generosity, $100 wins a “stylin’ yet functional tote bag” and for $250 you can enjoy hearing yourself thanked on-air by an AAR host (I’d pick Rachel Maddow, natch). This is, of course, in addition to enjoying the various commercials on AAR, a hallmark of for-profit radio.

    Since the Boys and Girls Club scandal broke earlier this summer, conservative bloggers Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney have teamed up in “investigating” Air America, and have been zealously looking into the scandal (seriously, check out how many posts there are!) and excoriating the MSM for its minimal coverage of the matter.

    On Tuesday, Malkin and Maloney went on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss Air America’s finances (O’Reilly in particular took umbrage to the “personal attackes” he said AAR made). Here is an excerpt:

    MALONEY: …As things stand now they may be down to their last months
    unless one of the big guns like Soros comes in, steps to the plate and puts up some cash, but otherwise I think things are looking bleak. They’re overpaying the air talent. They’re fending off lawsuits. They’re overspending. They just put a brand new studio facility in, they didn’t need that. That was at Franken’s
    insistence. Now he’s not even going to use it. He’s moving to
    Minnesota. So they’re wasting money. They’re not bringing it in. It’s a mess…

    MALKIN: There’s two stories, really, here: the crumbling of Air
    America, and the failure, and the refusal of the rest of the mainstream media to cover it as a financial, political and entertainment media story.

    (Full transcript here)

    The same day, the New York Post picked up the story, speculating (along with sources in radio) that the request for support must mean that the network was in bad financial shape, which a spokeswoman for Air America denied.

    In response to the speculation, Danny Goldberg took to the internet yesterday to deny these rumours. Air America on its last legs? Untrue. Its ratings were actually up, it was on more and more stations each week (up to 70 now), and by the way the Conservative hosts were no strangers to hocking goods on the internet (he cites Rush Limbaugh and O’Reilly as prime offenders). AAR wasn’t doing anything different than The Nation, a for-profit magazine does; and meanwhile listeners have responded by the thousands. The upshot? The usual Conservatives-hating-on-Liberals, nothing to see here, folks, move along.

    So, which version is true? We have to agree with O’Reilly’s prima facie analysis: “Why would they need money if, as they claim, they are doing so well?” That said, AAR does make a decent case (but an $875,000 deposit into escrow can’t make things easier). And, like them or not, Malkin and Mahoney have put a lot of work into their takedown (never mind that Malkin has a point; the MSM has indeed been pretty silent on the Air America story, especially in the context of how much network-watching is done). In any case, if Air America is indeed on its last legs, we’ll know in a few months. Franken for Senator!

    Danny Goldberg’s email after the jump; O’Reilly vid here.

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    Google’s dark plans to rule the world

    Goog.gifOn Monday, Google announced that it would provide a streamed broadcast of last week’s debut episode of “Everybody Hates Chris,” UPN’s sure-to-be-a-hit comedy from Chris Rock, via Google Video.

    This, we think, is significant. Why?

    Well, for one, we missed the ep; if you did, too, look for it here. The Google-hosted version is ad-free and fully searchable; you can search for bits of dialogue which will come up in convenient 10-second clips.

    But beyond hating Chris Rock, it’s a significant move because it suggests that Google may be getting serious about hosting video on demand. Which happens to be a growing industry, that also happens to be in its very-earliest stages on the web.

    Why? Because it requires a hell of a lot of bandwidth to host video, especially at feature length and quality. So, if Google Video is going to capitalize on future demand for video it’s going to need a lot of bandwidth.

    Which, coincidentally, Google is lining up. As it turns out, Google has been quietly buying up miles of dark fiber across the U.S. — dormant fiber-optic cable, laid enthusiastically during the heady 90′s internet boom and all but abandoned after the bubble burst in 2000. Quick primer: fiber-optic cable has enormous bandwidth and can transport a lot more data than other connection types, via light impulses sent through a glass rod. Ergo, when it’s not in use, it’s dark.

    Okay so why is all this dark fiber just sitting around, available? Well, it’s pretty damn expensive to implement and activate. Also, it requires a lot of expertise. Coincidentally, Google isn’t hurting for cash (MARRY ME, SERGEI!) and probably not for expertise, either, considering they put out a job posting in January seeking people familiar with fiber optics.

    Consider also that Google is rumored to be starting its own WiFi system, “Google Secure Access,” in the very early beta-testing stage (allegedly only available in San Francisco). Eligible users can download GSA which encrypts their data via Google’s “Virtual Private Network” server (developed, according to Google, because “secure WiFi was virtually non-existent at most locations”).

    The problem with fiber optics has always been the ‘last mile’ problem — getting the high speed to the end user. Combining high speed connections across a city or country with (secure) wireless distribution on either end greatly facilitates this; in other words, WiFi potentially jumps this hurdle (and who knows how this is impacted with the advent of WiMax). The fact that they’re focusing on ultra-secure wifi as opposed to standard wifi security is notable too. Why the extra security? Privacy, yes — but also for financial transactions. Such as, say, buying content.

    So: we have the means for major content distribution plus super-secure web access — perfect for financial transactions and telecommunications, with the potential for distribution over a completely private internet. That’s really the point at which we’re talking about the potential for Google to become a utility: With ubiquitous, ultra-secure internet access and video-on-demand, Google provides strong competition to any cable provider (see this NYT article on the critical public value of WiFi mesh). Throw in VoIP, which Google added in August, and they take on Ma Bell. If they could find a way to ship water and electricity, they’d be done.

    At a time when the networks are experimenting with downloadable clips on their websites and shifting more and more material to the web, it’s significant to note that Google is aiming leagues above them. We’re not talking about some pixellated two-minute clip of Anderson Cooper being attacked by a Ramada Sign; we’re talking about downloading “Star Wars” on a whim at full-length and perfect quality (it’s true; the geeks shall inherit)(NB Netflix and TiVo are in talks for movies on demand, but that still doesn’t solve their bandwidth problem).

    Still doubt that Google wants to rule the world? (Good Lord, how can you; it has a feature called “Google Earth,” for God’s sake). Well, then take it from them, via the Google Blog: “The era of the couch potato is so over. We’re rooting for the desk (and laptop) potato.”

    p.s. This is the geekiest thing I’ve ever written.

    UPDATE: Google just signed a deal with NASA. Google, RULER OF THE UNIVERSE!!!!!

    Redeye Redux

    Three groups representing flight attendants are calling for a boycott
    of Disney’s “Flightplan,” bitching that the Jodie Foster picture portrays a flight attendant as (Beware: A spoiler this way comes!) a terrorist.

    In the film about a mother looking for her missing daughter aboard a plane, a flight attendant colludes with an air marshal as part of a plot to extort a ransom from the airline. Other flight attendants are shown treating passengers rudely and being unsympathetic to Foster’s character, whom they think might be delusional. The groups contend that the Disney film could breed distrust of their members among real airline passengers.


    Sadly, that is not why the film should be boycotted.

    It should be boycotted because 2 out of 3 critics in America would prefer to be force-fed their own weight in brown dessert squares than watch Jodie running about like a rabid squirrel in “Panicplane,” as Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune rightly calls it.

    Personally, I’d like a Dramamine right now. And some of those Terra Blue Chips? Miss? MISS!? And a pillow?!

    If You Don’t Release My Movie, Then The Terrorists Have Won

    You have to give it up for Albert Brooks (in full costume and make up, below)


    Even if the old man isn’t exactly on People magazine’s Sexiest People Breathing Unassisted by Ventilators hot list, he still knows how to whip up some press on the cheap.

    Today, Reuters bought into the marketing plan of his new movie with gusto: Basically, Brooks claims its title, “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” so terrified the execs at Sony, who suppossedly feared reprisals from al-Zarqawi, or as they say in the rental car business – “or similar” that they passed on his new docu.

    One can almost hear the heavy sigh of Columbia Pictures flack Steve Elzer as he read the canned studio quote to Reuters’ Arthur Spiegelman:

    “To those looking for truth in this manufactured controversy, here it is: We made our decision to pass on Brooks’ movie the same way we did to accept ‘Fahrenheit 9/ll’ — on the merits, with neither fear nor favor.”

    Helpfully, for those looking for actual al-Qaeda tantalization, the government has been kind enough to put online an actual al Qaeda manual , available for download from the Dept. of Justice website. Even in it’s redacted form, it’s truly fascinating.

    Then again, downloading this at work might be even more dangerous than prank calling the IRS commissioner. You’re on your own here.

    Below, we’ve obtained a shot of Brooks (center left) and an assistant (center right, not identified) meeting with Sony’s president of production, Matt Tolmach (backbround, smiling) last month. Tolmach passed on the picture.

    Finding Nemo 2.jpg

    “Looking for Comedy In the Muslim World” will now be distributed by Warner Independent Pictures, in January after its president Mark Gill (below, second from left) conferred with some friends and decided it was just the kind of documentary he liked.


    Media Minutiae, Supercalifragilistic and Extra-Rumbustious Edition

  • Times and Time, not on your side: If they were, they would have continued digging into Karl Rove’s role in the Valerie Plame leak and they’d be chasing the story even now. So spake Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff yesterday at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, saying that the first duty of the media was to its readers. Isikoff, E&P…three will make a trend…[MediaNation via Romenesko]
  • Don’t be Rushing to judgment about Josh: At least not until you’ve read this exclusive interview from Time magazine, who interviews the new, fresh face of Al-Jazeera, former Marine and “Control Room” star Josh Rushing, whose teeth likely blinded you from our blog just a few days ago. Rushing says he is a proud American — “I’ve dedicated my adult life to the health and security of the United States and to representing the best of American ideas. I will maintain my credibility by continuing to do that” — thinks he can do that best from the platform of Al-Jazeera, “the most influential Arab voice outside of mosques.” Josh, we hope you do just that. [Time]
  • But we still don’t know if Roberts even likes the Press…or anything, really, for that matter:The New York Times issued an immediate and lengthy correction today, saying that Supreme Court nominee Justice John G. Roberts did not nudge a National Guardsman out of the way write the memorandum harshly critical of the press in New York Times v. Sullivan. Turns out it was written by DC lawyer Bruce Fein back in the days of the Reagan administration. Even if it was not liking the press, for one brief moment it was encouraging to see that Roberts had strong feelings about something. Ah, well. [NYT]
  • Can you write coverlines with all the colors of the wind? Today in the NY Post Keith Kelly writes direly of post-handover turbulence at Jane magazine; new EIC Brandon Holley chalks it up to the inevitable growing pains of a transition. Out: creative director Johan Svensson, fashion director Sciascia Gambaccini, designer Jackie Munz, managing editor Debbie McHugh, ad pages; In: Kusum Lynn from Nylon, Sara Lyle from Budget Living, bright colors that are evidently not “so Jane.” But colors aren’t so bad; just ask Pocahontas. She was pretty Jane herself, no? [NYP]
  • Lunch at Michael’s: tables packed today

    It was super-crowded. They were squishing them into the front room. Don’t know what was so fascinating up there (okay, maybe cute Andy Cuomo). So, we’ll tell you one other fun thing we learned. Loreal‘s replacements (it took two to replace her!), AKA the Two Pixie Hostesses at the front of the restaurant, are Gina Addamo and Joana Andrade. They are both single and looking (all you single guys). Speaking of single, can you guess what Eligible Bachelor* from Gotham‘s Top 100 Eligible Bachelors was at M’s today? Here, the report:

    [Please do not castigate us for misspellings, mis-identifications, etc. We have no fact-checker. Just send corrections to: LaurelT at mediabistro dot com. Thanks!]

    Table 1: Big table. Lots of publishing types sitting with politicos. Do we smell a Political Thriller?
    Jane Freedman, Harper Collins
    Claire Wachtel, William Morrow
    Bob Barnett, power attorney (for Clinton, among others)
    Elizabeth Edwards, wife of vp hopeful John Edwards
    Michael Morrison, Harper Collins

    There was one other youngish guy whom we don’t know, who could have been Edwards‘ personal assistant or something.

    2: Peter Brown, Brown Lloyd James and someone else. Talk to us, Peter! You don’t even know we exist, do you? We won’t bold-face you, that’ll show ya.

    3: Neil Nyron, eic Putnam, with someone we couldn’t identify. Maybe Esther Newburg, ICM Lit Agent?

    4: Leonard Lauder, eating chicken goat cheese salad, with gentleman in steel grey suit and hot pink tie, pink shirt.

    5: Jack Kliger, big shot at Hachette, in a red Hermes tie with zebras; with “Hot Scott” (Donaton), Advertising Age, in dark suit, blue shirt to match his eyes.

    6: Our table. We were with the always-delightful Lisa Dallos, of Freud PR, G. Jason Kontos, eic of this magazine, New York Home (brand spanking new, 100k circ, but that’s a start. Watch out Arch Di), and Maury Rogoff, president of Maury Rogoff PR & Marketing.


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    Does this make them Patricide Girls?

    Wired reports that around 30 models/journalists/muses from the extremely popular porn lifestyle site brand– based not only in LA but across the street from Joel Stein’s house– have left the company, on bad terms.

    A group of angry ex-models is bashing the SuicideGirls alt-porn empire, saying its embrace of the tattoo and nipple-ring set hides a world of exploitation and male domination.

    The women are spreading their allegations through the blogosphere, raising the hackles of the SuicideGirls company, which has until now enjoyed a reputation as porn even feminists can love. It offers burlesque tours, clothes and DVDs in addition to a sprawling online library of naked punk and goth women.

    “The recent accusations are a little upsetting,” said “Missy,” the co-founder of SuicideGirls. “We think they’re all pretty much unfounded.”

    It’s refreshing to hear an embattled media company call the charges against it “pretty much unfounded.” So much more nuanced than old favorites like “categorically untrue” or “outrageous.”

    Anyway, I’ve read some of these blog posts (such as the one here) to try to figure out what the issues are, but it all seems a little inside-baseball to us here at FishbowlLA HQ, where nobody ever gets tattoos or takes off their clothes. If anyone can explain it, please email.

    (link via LAist)

    Sly back from the grave

    sly.jpgHollywood/print magazine synergy alert: American Media’s Stallone-centric Sly magazine will be returning to another bout on the newsstand despite its three-issue test run ending in a TKO. Reports WWD:

    After crunching the numbers from the test, [AMI] has elected to publish a fourth issue, to be dated December/January. The magazine’s ad hoc editorial team of freelancers and Men’s Fitness staffers, which had been placed on hiatus, has resumed work on the title. “It’s nice to have an alternative magazine that comes from someone’s voice, someone’s perspective,” said editor in chief Neal Boulton.

    Given Boulton’s involvement, I assume that Sly is being put together in AMI’s New York office. But if anyone sees Sly in Woodland Hills, please let me know.

    Kind of Scary Fairytaleland with Tom Scocca

    bloggytale.jpgIt’s Wednesday, which means there’s lots to sink your teeth into in this week’s New York Observer: Alexandra Jacobs’ tale of survival on Jet Blue 292; Rebecca Dana’s take on the CNN’s youth demo-baiting blog reporters; and of course Tom Scocca’s profile of Nick Denton, charming host and this week’s coverboy. It’s a fascinating tale, to be sure, but our attention was caught by this account which marries a fanciful fairy-tale with oddly jarring savagery:

    This is the story of blogs: Once upon a time, there was the Mainstream Media. The Mainstream Media lived in a tall, impregnable castle, where it paid people to write and paid other people to edit the writing. It printed the results on paper and tossed it down from the balconies, ordering the public to buy and read it.

    Then a bunch of people – unpaid, many of them dressed in sleepwear – discovered that they could publish their own writing on the Internet, for free or close to it. Armed with their opinions and raw strength in numbers, they laid siege to the castle: amateur against professional, democracy against autocracy, new against old. The Mainstream Media retreated to an upstairs bedroom and barred the door, as the masses streamed into the throne room, waving Dan Rather’s head on a pike.

    In related news, looks like Rather’s head is going to stay there.