Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ouch- More Paper Cuts!

The latest tally - 600 jobs to be scythed at Time Inc before Xmas. 75 down at the LA Times. No more Christian Science Monitor except online. Dead tree journos are beginning to go extinct.

Reporter: My Viagra Question Convinced McCain To Cut Off Press

Confesses Maeve Reston, an LA Times reporter, on the day that 75 more jobs were axed from the Pacific Rim's great paper:
It wasn't my intention, but I played a role in shutting down John McCain's Straight Talk Express. ...

The questions meandered across more than a dozen topics, but I asked if he agreed with his advisor Carly Fiorina's recent statement that it was unfair for some health insurance companies to cover Viagra but not birth control -- because McCain generally opposed those kinds of mandates.


In the driveway of the airport motel on the evening of the Viagra question, McCain's aides made an argument that would shape their attitude over the next four months: If reporters were going to ask about issues that they deemed irrelevant to voters, why should the campaign give them access to the candidate at all?

Salter told me I had made the case for those who thought McCain should curtail his exposure to the press.
Hat tip to HuffPo for the post. Hmmm V is not necessarily for Victory. Little blue pills are available so the real Red State men can stand up and be counted.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bono Pro Bono

Bono the musician is slated to write 10 op-eds for the New York Times next year, Radar reports. It may be as a balance to the right of centre Bill Kristol. Bono has had practice, being the editor in chief of the "red" edition of the London Independent (which by all reports, was pretty well-read, if not well written.)
Of course, in belt-tightening times, it's important to note that the ink of the high-holy U2 crooner comes free of charge: "Nothing," said Rosenthal of Bono's pay rate, noting that the Irish millionaire will muse on Africa, poverty, and, importantly, the music of Frank Sinatra. And while Bono may seem an odd choice for such a contract, Rosenthal did mention his current obsession with learning the guitar, and even shuffled freshly downloaded riff tablature together with his lecture notes. And though Rosenthal didn't announce any other celeb contributors, he did allude to re-recruiting the pen of Queen guitarist Brian May, who just earned his doctorate in astrophysics, and expressed admiration for previous opinion writers Bruce Springsteen and Larry David.

Of actual journalists, Rosenthal said he admired the work of the Atlantic's Megan McArdle and the National Review's Byron York.

Which is all fine and well, but are there former contributors Rosenthal doesn't like? "Condoleezza Rice is a particularly bad op-ed writer." And Tom Wolfe tends to write very long. So no Rice, less than Wolfe, and more in the spirit of Bono. Given that the Times' opinion pages could be the most competitive 800 words in journalism, any other pointers on how to make sure a fledgling contributor's submission will get printed? "Take a position in support of any Republican you care to name," the editor joshed. But it's a fine line, he noted with a smile: "The problem with conservative columnists," said Rosenthal, "is that many of them lie in print."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox - Judith Miller to affiliate with 'faux news'

or, so the Washington Post is predicting...

Back in Action

Fox News is expected to announce today the hiring of a new contributor, a veteran national security correspondent who has shared a Pulitzer Prize.

Her name is Judith Miller, and she is nothing if not controversial. Miller left the New York Times in 2005 after testifying in the trial of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby that he had leaked her information about a CIA operative. Miller's conduct in the case, which led to her serving 85 days in jail for initially refusing to testify, drew rebukes from the Times executive editor and some of her colleagues.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Miller reported stories on the search for Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be untrue, some of which were cited in a Times editor's note acknowledging the flawed coverage. Miller, now with the conservative Manhattan Institute, wrote when she left the paper that she had "become a lightning rod for public fury over the intelligence failures that helped lead our country to war."

Miller will be an on-air analyst and will write for Fox's Web site. "She has a very impressive résumé," says Senior Vice President John Moody. "We've all had stories that didn't come out exactly as we had hoped. It's certainly something she's going to be associated with for all time, and there's not much anyone can do about that, but we want to make use of the tremendous expertise she brings on a lot of other issues. . . . She has explained herself and she has nothing to apologize for."

Friday, October 17, 2008

TV Guide sells for one measly buck

OpenGate buys TV Guide for $1;Macrovision sells struggling magazine for cheap

A dollar won't even buy you a cup of coffee these days, but it will buy you TV Guide. No, not an issue of the weekly mag -- those go for $2.99 -- but the entire publication.

Yep, $1. The eye-popping sale price was disclosed Thursday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing from TV Guide owner Macrovision, which revealed it had struck a deal to sell the magazine to venture capital firm OpenGate Capital on Monday

In fact, the deal is even sweeter for OpenGate because Macrovision has also agreed to give the firm a $9.5 million loan to help it run the magazine for the next few years. And who said the credit markets were tight? The loan comes with a 3% interest rate and is due in 2014 -- not exactly stringent terms.

The $1 sale price for TV Guide brings to mind the sale of another once-venerable journo brand: United Press Intl., which was unloaded for a buck by Scripps to two private investors in 1982.

The generous deal with OpenGate underscores Macrovision's stated goal of buying Gemstar-TV Guide Intl. strictly for the technology that fuels its electronic listings guide and the TV Guide brand name. The magazine is projected to lose about $20 million this year, after incurring heavier losses in the recent past.

Once the most widely distribbed mag in the country, TV Guide now has a subscription base of about 3.2 million.

Macrovision is also in the process of unloading the TV Guide Channel cabler, which has failed to drum up any interest among major media players (By CYNTHIA LITTLETON, Daily Variety).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shocker: Tribune Co. Gives Notice To Drop AP

This may be the beginning of the end trend (AP is available 'free' online anyway, the papers' editors must figure). Journalists are shocked by this move, splashed in Editor and Publisher. Read more here.

On the cover: Crotch shots sell magazines. Duh

Esquire Magazine have recycled their famous Platon "crotch shot" of Bill Clinton with a far more flattering Cliff Watts portrait of their "sexiest woman alive", Halle Berry. Hat tip to the photography blog, The Year in Pictures. Hey, don't point that thing at me! (Er, the camera. Just kidding)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Timid Scaredy-hacks condemned by Dan Rather

Dan Rather has gone from being a pillar of the press to a fierce critic of it, according to Portfolio.

At Time Warner's Politics 2008 Summit, the former CBS anchor made some noise this morning, turning a panel on media bias into a forum for his complaints about the creeping timidity he sees in journalism.

"The press, in the main, has been in a defensive posture for some time," he said, opining that complaints from conservatives, in particular, have succeeded in engendering "self-censorship" by big media organizations. "The press should be independent with a capital 'I.' Fiercely independent and even ornery from time to time."

He picked up this theme again at the conclusion of the panel, delivering a peroration that drew spontaneous applause from the audience:

No one is fearless, but fear shouldn't be in the DNA of an American journalist.... American journalism stands for clear-eyed, well-researched, know the facts, look 'em in the eye, ask 'em the tough question, don't back down, don't back away, just keep coming. That's the kind of coverage the American public deserves.

It's not the kind of coverage the American public has been getting from the presidential debates, however, Rather said.

"First of all. these aren't debates. Let's get that straight right from the beginning. They are a something, but they're not debates."

"These so-called debates are put on by the two major political parties, for the two major political parties and their candidates," he added. "These so-called debates are not by the people, for the people. They are by the parties, for the parties. That's what's wrong with them."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nosh on this: Giles Coren's Deathless Prose

It's pistols at dawn for a Sunday Times freelance food critic, Giles Coren, and the hapless desklings who had edited his copy, removing the article "a" and receiving this spew of tirade. The editors then offered this rather pointed response.
Hat tip to McClatchy's Dion Nissenbaum for the heads-up.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Up Close and Personal - Palin under the Newaweek magnifying glass. No airbrush!

Republican VP candidate Sarah Heath Palin's defenders on Fox News have no notion of "warts and all" scrutiny, it seems, if their outrage over an unretouched Newsweek cover shot is any indication. It set them in a more frenzied than usual mode of media-baiting. A few under-eye wrinkles, magnified by the specs, plus the hint of a permenipausal 'stache has alarmed them. Not a very congenial way to treat an ex-beauty queen, they admonish. And an earlier Newsweek cover which showed a vintage shot of her with a shotgun, drew complaints because it showed careless handling of a firearm. Hmmm An even more embarassing look at Palin, which has gone viral online, is a photograph of her high school Scholastic Aptitude Test, which at 841 out of a possible 1600, ranks her as a woefully mediocre student. Incidentally, she scored grades of a D in foreign language, 2 Bs, and the rest Cs. This is Wasilla High, mind you, not the nation's most rigorous high school.

More letter grades for Ms Sarah: OMG! LOL GOP MILF

Murdoch doesn't get airbrushed

If anyone should complain about no airbrushing, it's FOX's owner, global press tycoon Rupert Murdoch. But each one of those Australian jowls and skinfolds is worth millions. The sun down under must be a tad crueler than in Alaska.

Rupert Murdoch is the CEO and majority stock-owner of Newscorp., a public company which owns major media enterprises, among which are the FOX broadcast network, the Fox News Channel , 20th Century Fox Film Corp., The New York Post, Reganbooks and HarperCollins Publishers, the BSkyb satellite company, The London Times, and many others around the world.

Did you know his first name, which he rarely uses, is Keith??

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

South American Election Strategy: Change your name--perferably to Barack Obama!

In Brazil, where politicians often adopt new names for
elections, six candidates had taken the name Barack
Obama. Other candidates called themselves Cattle Ana, Jeep
Johnny, Big Charlie Knives, Jorge Bushi, Chico Bin Laden,
DJ Saddam, King of the Cuckolds, and Kung Fu Fatty.

Maybe something gets lost in translation. These sound lke samba band leaders, not statesmen

Hat tip to Harper's Weekly

Dateline Wallachia - Clown King in Court

Love the Beeb. What other network has correspondents even in fictitious foreign countries? Had to share this report from an imaginary kingdom deep in the Czech Republic whose passports apparently are accepted in Palin's Alaska, but nowhere else.

A court in the Czech city of Olomouc is to deliver its verdict in one of the oddest legal disputes in the country's history.

Comic actor Bolek Polivka is suing former business partner Tomas Harabis over the rights to the fictitious Wallachian Kingdom.

The court must decide whether Mr Polivka is the true "king" of the fairy-tale realm.

"Wallachia is a real place with real people and real history," says Tomas Harabis, creator and "foreign minister" of the Wallachian Kingdom.

"But a lot of the attributes of the Wallachian Kingdom are not real," he adds.

We are standing on the top of a mountain, watching the sun cast its long evening shadow over a forest of maple and spruce. Tomas is trying to explain to me where the real Wallachia ends and the fictitious Wallachia begins.

It is a fine distinction, one somewhat blurred by the four glasses of Slivovica - Wallachian plum brandy - we've just downed in a local pub.

"What about the hat?" I ask, referring to the pointy black hat that features on many Wallachian symbols.

"Oh, that's real, that's a traditional Wallach shepherd's hat," says Tomas.

Mr Harabis says he got into Alaska with a Wallachian passport

"But the Wallachian passports, they're not real passports, they're fake, right?" I venture.

"They are fake. But I did get into Alaska with one."

The fake Wallachian passports were Tomas' idea. As was the make-believe Wallachian currency, the Jurovalsar. And the non-existent University of the Wallachian Kingdom, with its made-up Faculty of Distilling and Slivovica Science.

Wallachia, as Tomas says, is real.

It is a mountainous region in the south-east corner of Moravia about the size of Luxembourg. It was settled over many centuries by migrating Romanian shepherds called Vlachs, herding their sheep westwards along the mighty Carpathian mountain range.

The Wallachian Kingdom is not real. It was founded by Tomas and a couple of friends as an elaborate practical joke.

But as practical jokes go, it's a money-spinner.

Since its creation in 1997, the Wallachian Kingdom has grown into one of the most successful tourist ventures in the country.

Local hotels, restaurants and breweries quickly saw the potential of encouraging people to visit this little-known region. Last year, Tomas applied for, and won, EU funding.

Almost 90,000 people now own a Wallachian passport, and 10,000 or so are well on their way to becoming fully-fledged Wallachian citizens (a process that involves many, many glasses of Slivovica). The "kingdom" has "consulates" all over the world.

But all is not well in the Wallachian Kingdom. The foreign minister is being sued by the king.

In 1993, four years before the "kingdom" was created, Bolek Polivka - who is also a trained clown - had had himself crowned "Wallachian King, Boleslav I the Gracious, Forever" on his TV show.

When Tomas Harabis began casting around for a monarch to head his fictional kingdom, "King Boleslav" was the obvious choice.

It was a harmonious relationship at first. Bolek allowed his signature to appear in the passports, and presided over royal events organised by Tomas, including a lavish coronation ceremony in the town of Vsetin in 2000.

Soon afterwards, however, the relationship began to sour, and - listening to Tomas tell the story - the lines between fact and fiction once again become blurred.

"The moment when King Boleslav became king, he started confusing this fiction with a real position in the kingdom," he explains.

"He was trying to rule the economy of the kingdom, which was very important for the stability and the idea of the whole thing."

In other words, "King Boleslav" began acting like a real monarch.

In 2001, Tomas led a "palace coup", announcing that "King Boleslav" had been overthrown. A "Queen Mother" was appointed to rule the troubled kingdom in his place.

The "king's" lawyers were not amused. In 2002, they filed a lawsuit to stop Mr Harabis from using the Wallachian Kingdom trademark he had registered in 1998, claiming he was profiting unlawfully from Mr Polivka's name.

A series of phone calls, emails and text messages failed to procure an audience with "King Boleslav".

However, he had the following to say in an interview with Czech Television earlier this year: "For me the main thing is to stop Mr Harabis preventing us from having a laugh."

"He claims that because he owns the copyright to the kingdom, I am not the King of Wallachia, and that I'm misleading the public. I don't think he should be allowed to get away with it," Mr Polivka said.

In December 2007, Mr Polivka lost the case, and appealed. The Olomouc court is now due to issue its final verdict on that appeal.

It must decide whether Mr Polivka is truly "Wallachian King, Boleslav I, the Gracious", and whether he also owns the intellectual property rights to the Wallachian Kingdom as a whole.

Or whether Mr Polivka is living in the realm of fantasy, and King Boleslav exists solely as a figment of his imagination.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Correction of the Week - accent the positive!

As Colonialists, the French used to be known for their adventurous palates and few Frenchmen were adverse to trying out and adapting native cuisine, however odd it might appear to, say, an Englishman. In that light, check out the correction that the Israeli daily Haaretz ran today following their interview (in English) with the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner:
The minister intended to say that Israel would "hit Iran" before it obtains a nuclear bomb, and not "eat Iran".

Hmmm. And the French must be "angry", rather than "hungry", about the all too typical misunderstanding. Perhaps this little mix-up helps explain why French used to be the language of diplomacy instead of English.
The op-ed page of that same daily warns the designated Israeli Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, not to strike Iran out of political ambition, as a means to show aggressive ballsiness. The foremer Mossad operative has been criticised for her diffidence in making "cruel decisions", ie code for taking out Tehran's nukes in a pre-emptive strike.
Cross-posted from Israelitybites

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Who'll be the top dog? Will press stop hounding candidates?

Gawker cried fowl when the rather staid Nature magazine inadvertently placed a back display ad that echoes the political front cover. Tongue in cheek, they wonder about racism, speciesism, whatever. Commenters say the yellow dog looks confused, the dark one hopeful. Wagging tales.
Don't you have a dog in that fight? Which dog don't hunt? Will an old yellow dog learn new tricks? The cliches go on and on.

Homer Simpson tries to vote for Obama

This viral video on YouTibe has been making the rounds, via HuffPo. Diebold industries links to possible vote rigging for the Republicans has been investigated by the British reporter, Andrew Gumbel, but has received short shrift from much of the American press. Can we expect some attention to this important wrinkle in the election beat? There should be a paper trail of all ballots!