Super Tuesday Blitz – Emily Carlson

February 5, 2008


Get ready for a media blitz tomorrow.
With Super Tuesday merely hours away, every television station in the country is getting ready for a full on press of political coverage.
Forget about the half hour nightly national news. On ABC, Charles Gibson will anchor a whopping 5 hours of political coverage with Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. Katie Couric and CBS will be on the air 2 hours, and Brian Williams will anchor an expanded version of his “Nightly News,” plus a one hour update, prime time, with some of the results.
Over on cable, it’s an all day affair, with stations like CNN starting their coverage at 5 am and going until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
It’s a far cry from Super Tuesday 4 years ago, when networks limited their coverage to quick cut-in updates.
The Super Tuesday of 2004 and the Super Tuesday of 2008 couldn’t be more different.
In 2004, President Bush was running for re-election on the Republican side, and John Kerry was the expected shoe-in winner, crossing the finish line with 9 of the 10 Super Tuesday states.
2008 brings one of the most indecisive races ever. McCain and Romney are duking it out for the Republican nomination, while Clinton and Obama are virtually tied for the Democratic nomination. This year, one of the two will make history, becoming either the first woman or the first black presidental nominee.
The tight races and historical implications has voters rushing to the polls in record numbers. In 2004, just 9 percent of South Carolina Democrats voted in their primary. A week and a half ago, 29 percent of those South Carolina Democrats voted. The way things are going, Super Tuesday could look very simmilar. Not only will more voters vote, more states are holding their primaries on Super Tuesday. In 2004, only 10 states held primaries. This year, a record 24 states will send voters to the polls. Viewers care, and the tv networks are happy to carry more coverage.
The icing on the cake, however, could be the writers strike. With no new episodes of network shows to air, prime time television is open for more Super Tuesday coverage.
Every where you turn on Super Tuesday, your television will be inundated with political coverage. People are excited. The country, it sems, is eager for change. It will be a much different Super Tuesday than 4 years ago.

New Cordial Attitiude – Emily Carlson

February 1, 2008

debate 2
It was a cordial, friendly, even touchy-feely debate.
Gone were the raised voices and personal attacks of past meetings; last night at Kodak Theatre, Sen. Barak Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton set a new, warmer debate atmosphere.
It’s the first head to head debate since John Edwards announced his withdrawl from the presidental race. And that meant the pressure was on last night, as both Obama and Clinton jockeyed to win over former Edwards supporters and undecided voters.
But why this new civil approach? Why do Clinton and Obama seem to suddenly be pals? One theory is an Obama-Clinton, or Clinton-Obama ticket. Both dodged the question last night, saying there was a big difference between those two choices.
The other anwser to the question of why the two put forth this new cordial atmosphere could be that neither canidate seems to be feeling the pressure of losing everything on Super Tuesday. It could be so tight next week that the fate of who the next Democatic Presidental candiate could stretch all the way to the National Convention in August. Neither took crazy shots at each other, which has political analysts guessing that neither thinks they are behind. And according to MSNBC,Obama has already bought television slots well beyond Super Tuesday, suggesting he’s not giving up after Febuary 5th.
While Obama raised an unbeliable $32 million last month, he goes into Super Tuesday the underdog. The Wall Street Journal says Obama trails Clinton by large margins in polls in most of the big states.
But as history shows, no amount of polls can predict what voters will do once they enter the voting booth. And both canidates seem very unlikely to give up the fight anytime soon.

Final State of the Union – Emily Carlson

January 30, 2008


It was a modest speech filled with modest proposals.
Last night, President Bush gave his final State of the Union address, an address much different than his past seven.
Gone were the references to Iran as the “axis of evil” and our social security system as “headed towards bancruptcy.” Instead of strong words, Bush put forward modest proposals.
The already approved $150 billion economic stimulus plan, $300 million in education funding for poor students, and continued support of the war in Iraq topped Bush’s agenda.
Modest clapping and standing ovations scattered his 53 minute speech, but alas… Bush was not the center of attention at his own State of the Union speech.
With only a year left in his presidency, the nation has already turned to a new generation of politicans who are running for his seat.
CNN seemed to be more interested in which senator was snubbing another senator than talking about President Bush’s speech.
A picture of Senator Barak Obama turning his back on Senator Hillary Clinton shaking Senator Ted Kennedy’s hand was blown up and shown again and again. ‘Was he doing this on purpose? Is he mad at Hillary?’ seemed to be more important than anything the President was saying.
Senator McCain wasn’t even in attendance last night, instead choosing to squeeze in some last minute campaigning before Florida’s primary today.
With Americans already swept up in the excitement of Super Tuesday and the race to see who the Democrat and Republican front runner will be, President Bush is pushed in the background. His State of the Union was more of a snapshot of his past seven years as President while he struggles to shape what his legacy will be. Meanwhile, the rest of the politicans in the House chambers, and well as the rest of the nation wonders… who the next leader of the free world will be.

Chris Matthews Backs Off ‘Nasty’ Remark on Clinton

January 20, 2008

Chris Matthews was in hot water for saying the Lewinsky affair fueled Hillary Clinton's political career.

Chris Matthews was in hot water for saying the Lewinsky affair fueled Hillary Clinton’s political career. (By Carlos Osorio — Associated Press)

Washington Post Staff Writer
Under pressure from feminist groups and his own bosses at MSNBC, Chris Matthews apologized yesterday for remarks about Hillary Clinton that he now admits sounded “nasty.”

For 10 days, the “Hardball” host had doggedly insisted he was just reciting a bit of history when he said on the air that “the reason she’s a U.S. senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around.”

But protests against those and other remarks by Matthews reached a peak yesterday when the presidents of such groups as the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority and National Women’s Political Caucus sent a joint letter of complaint to NBC News President Steve Capus.

On last night’s program, Matthews defended the substance of his remarks that Clinton’s political career in New York was launched because of public sympathy stemming from her husband’s much-investigated affair with Monica Lewinsky. But, he said, “was it fair to imply that Hillary’s whole career depended on being a victim of an unfaithful husband? No. And that’s what it sounded like I was saying.”

Noting that it would be just as unfair to attribute John McCain‘s political success to having been shot down in the Vietnam War, Matthews said: “Saying Senator Clinton got where she’s got simply because her husband did what he did to her is just as callous, and I can see now, came across just as nasty — worse yet, just as dismissive.” He said he would be “clearer,” “smarter” and more respectful in discussing women.

Kim Gandy, NOW’s president, said last night that “Chris Matthews is a repeat offender when it comes to sexist attitudes toward women politicians. . . . I wasn’t really looking for an apology. I was looking for a behavior change, and for him to treat female politicians the same way as male politicians.”

In the joint letter, also signed by author Gloria Steinem, the women cited other examples in which Matthews referred to Clinton as a “stripteaser” and called her “witchy.” When Nancy Pelosi was in line to become House speaker, the letter noted, Matthews asked a guest if Pelosi was “going to castrate Steny Hoyer” if the Maryland congressman was elected majority leader.

About 30 people affiliated with the National Women’s Political Caucus picketed NBC’s Nebraska Avenue NW bureau yesterday afternoon as a protest against Matthews’s remarks.

“This is a victory for all women. We are pleased that Chris Matthews has shown remorse,” the caucus said in a statement last night.

Earlier this month, when Matthews attended a Clinton campaign event in New Hampshire and repeatedly tried to press her on the Iraq war, she smiled and said: “You know, I don’t know what to do with men who are obsessed with me. Honestly, I’ve never understood it.”

When the former first lady approached him afterward, Matthews pinched her cheek, and she gave him a brief hug.

As criticism from liberal bloggers and others mounted over the past week, top MSNBC officials urged Matthews to apologize, according to network officials who would not be identified discussing internal deliberations. But Matthews dug in his heels, deciding to deliver the mea culpa only after he had returned from a Democratic presidential debate sponsored by the network in Las Vegas.

In an interview last week, Matthews, a onetime Democratic operative, insisted at length that he was right in describing how Clinton was launched on a path that would carry her to the Senate and a presidential campaign. “I thought what I said was unexceptional about what happened back in ’98,” he said. “She was facing a trial by fire, and the fire was her husband. I knew I was speaking bluntly, but does anyone disagree?”

Only toward the end of the interview did he acknowledge: “It came over as dismissive, and that’s my fault. Maybe I should have said it was an irony.”

In Picking The Victors, Media Get Another Drubbing

January 12, 2008

  Mis-predicting the New Hampshire primary: Monday's New York Post had Hillary Clinton down, and Newsweek was glued to Barack Obama. Mis-predicting the New Hampshire primary: Monday’s New York Post had Hillary Clinton down, and Newsweek was glued to Barack Obama. (New York Post)     

Really interesting article. Makes me think twice about why I do what I do as a journalist. Not to believe all the hype, the polls and the commentators. To look at BOTH SIDES of the story.

By Howard KurtzWashington Post Staff Writer

Tom Brokaw, like virtually everyone on television, went on the air Tuesday night expecting Hillary Clinton to get whipped in New Hampshire.

“I was buying into all the conventional wisdom as well,” says the former NBC anchor, who was struck by how quickly his colleagues backed off their bombast about Barack Obama‘s imminent triumph.

“The pirouettes are amazing,” says Brokaw, who was analyzing the campaign on MSNBC. “The utter confidence with which everyone had been wrong 20 minutes earlier, they have the same utter confidence about what produced this surprise. It’s intellectually dishonest.”

Clinton’s come-from-behind moment came on the same evening that John McCain — all but buried by the press last summer — was winning New Hampshire’s Republican primary. And it was five days after Mike Huckabee, all but ignored by the media for most of 2007, won in Iowa.

The series of blown calls amount to the shakiest campaign performance yet by a profession seemingly addicted to snap judgments and crystal-ball pronouncements. Not since the networks awarded Florida to Al Gore on Election Night 2000 has the collective media establishment so blatantly missed the boat.

The reasons are legion: News outlets are serving up more analysis and blogs to remain relevant in a wired world. Many cash-strapped organizations are spending less on field reporting, and television tries to winnow a crowded field for the sake of a better narrative. Cable shows and Web sites provide a gaping maw to be filled with fresh speculation. Tracking polls fuel a conventional wisdom that feeds on itself. The length of today’s campaigns provides more twists and turns long before most voters tune in. And there is a natural journalistic tendency to try to peer around the next corner.

“Look at this cycle,” says CBS correspondent Jeff Greenfield. “McCain front-runner, McCain dead, McCain is back. Hillary inevitable, Hillary toast, Hillary is back. There is no defense for this. It is built into our DNA.”

Greenfield fell into the trap with a Slate piece Tuesday on how Clinton and other candidates could recover from early losses, leading to a hastily added postscript: ” OK, Hillary won tonight. Oh, waiter, two orders of crow, please. This is what happens when you ignore your own advice to let the people vote first.”

Once it was enough to cover and analyze a campaign. Now, in an age of endless blogging and blabbing, journalists rush to declare winners and losers in advance. They rely on a plethora of polls that sometimes miss late shifts in sentiment, driven by events such as the endless replays of Clinton choking up in a coffee shop Monday. Gina Glantz, Bill Bradley‘s 2000 campaign manager, says female voters resented the way mostly male pundits handled the incident.

“Women watched the media treat her in almost demeaning ways — not for what kind of president she would be, but whether she looked angry or practiced tearing up,” Glantz says. “It was really quite obnoxious.”

In the post-Iowa euphoria over Obama, the narrative was set. Consider a front-page piece about the Clinton campaign in Tuesday’s New York Times: “Key campaign officials may be replaced. She may start calling herself the underdog.” Or Tuesday’s Washington Post: “Obama has opened up a clear lead, and a second victory over Clinton would leave the New York senator’s candidacy gasping for breath.” Or Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune: “With a cluster of new polls in New Hampshire showing Obama building a substantial lead . . . the state appeared poised to play its storied role in humbling perceived front-runners.”

The New York Post went with one word over a Hillary picture: “PANIC.”

The message was similar on Tuesday’s newscasts. “Democrat Barack Obama may be heading for his second big victory in less than a week,” said CBS’s Katie Couric. “There is talk and evidence of an Obama wave moving through this state on the eve of its primary,” ABC’s Charlie Gibson said. His colleague George Stephanopoulos said the Clinton camp wanted to “squash any calls for her to get out of the race.”

After MSNBC called the primary for Clinton at 10:31 p.m., the news business was left scrambling for explanations, such as whether some New Hampshire residents had misled pollsters about their intention to vote for a black candidate.

The comeback by McCain, who took a swipe at “the pundits” in his victory speech, was equally remarkable in light of the media’s earlier verdict on his candidacy.

In recent days, the world was reminded that:

McCain had been “left for dead,” in the words of Chris Matthews. “This is a guy who was left for dead,” Chris Wallace said. “Left for dead months ago,” said New York’s Daily News. “Left for dead politically this summer,” said The Washington Post. “Pretty much considered all washed up,” Couric said. “Largely written off,” said the New York Times. “Nearly written off just a few months ago,” said Tucker Carlson.

And who, exactly, had been burying, writing off and otherwise performing last rites on the Arizona senator? It was, of course, America’s journalists.

“With his presidential campaign in a state of near-collapse,” the Los Angeles Times reported in July, “Sen. John McCain accepted the resignations of two top advisers Tuesday, then quickly named a new campaign manager in a bid to put his candidacy for the Republican nomination back on course.”

The Washington Post said then that “the campaign’s mounting problems have raised doubts about whether McCain can survive in the crowded but still-wide-open Republican nomination contest.”

Did journalists go too far? “There’s this world of Georgetown chatter and fun-house mirrors, then the voters show up six weeks out and drive the reality, and the media’s shocked and annoyed,” says Mike Murphy, a former McCain strategist. “Two-thirds of the press are caught in the cliches of the moment and the groupthink of the echo chamber in Washington and New York.”

CBS’s Greenfield disagrees, saying: “His whole staff imploded and he was broke. The press was covering McCain in deep trouble because he was in deep trouble.”

With 18 White House wannabes at the outset, news outlets had to rely on triage, based in part on who is raising big bucks. If McCain is viewed as faltering and Rudy Giuliani is leading the Republican polls — despite media predictions that conservatives would reject him — the former mayor gets more coverage. If Huckabee is deemed a hopeless long shot, most reporters spend their time chasing the anointed front-runners. John Edwards got a fraction of the coverage lavished on his celebrity rivals, Clinton and Obama, even though he wound up finishing second in Iowa.

Mark Feldstein, a George Washington University journalism professor, describes political reporters as “superficial sportswriters. Covering the campaign is almost like joining a cult, with a cocoonlike bubble as you travel from event to event. There’s a lemminglike quality.”

The urge to forecast political outcomes is not unlike a gambling addiction, with a record that would bankrupt most Vegas high rollers. Bill Clinton‘s 1992 campaign compiled a video of all the pundits who had written him off. In the fall of 2000, Slate’s William Saletan said candidate George W. Bush was “toast” (the preferred food item for predictions of political death). In late 2003, some columnists urged John Kerry to withdraw to spare himself a humiliating defeat by Howard Dean.

“When you have a campaign-in-disarray story, that is one of the juiciest stories in presidential politics,” says Tad Devine, who was a senior strategist for Kerry and Gore. “Everyone is intoxicated by that. It’s a tremendous distraction for a campaign, but voters could care less.”

There is little sign that this behavior is going to change. No newspaper will run a correction saying, “The Daily Blab incorrectly reported in July that Sen. John McCain’s campaign lacked a pulse, despite an absence of medical evidence.” No anchor will read a statement saying, “We regret our unseemly rush to judgment about Hillary Clinton’s chances.” The news business corrects inaccurate titles and mangled quotes, but rarely overheated reporting.

After the 2000 election fiasco, the networks grew more careful about calling races based on exit polls. But such caution did not extend to pre-election speculation.

Marty Kaplan, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California, wrote on the Huffington Post that the mainstream media had been humiliated and that this “could be the MSM’s Katrina. Political media, you’ve done a heckuva job.”

Brokaw, who became NBC’s anchor at the dawn of the cable era, says his colleagues must be wary of the demands of modern technology.

“This is the age-old curse of pack journalism,” Brokaw says. “These conversations that used to be held in the bar late at night, about who’s going to win or lose, now play out on the air because there’s so much time to fill.”

Sports ‘scandal’ an example of spaghetti journalism – Emily Carlson

January 9, 2008

By Mike Pound, Joplin Globe 

It was one of those stories that you hear about all the time.

A big-time college athlete is caught accepting favors he shouldn’t from a sports agent. This time, the allegations were made by a TV station in Little Rock, Ark., and concerned Arkansas University running back Darren McFadden. The report was big news when it aired shortly before the Razorbacks were to play the University of Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

As college sports scandals go, the one aired on KARK-TV was pretty juicy. It involved a former Razorback athlete, a current Razorback athlete and an expensive SUV. There was only one problem: The story was — to use a journalism expression — full of bull.

So full of bull, in fact, that Rob Heverling, the station’s news director, had to issue a statement apologizing for his news department’s “poor standards of reporting.”

At least Heverling apologized. In St. Louis, not only did the news director of a TV station that ran a major story that also turned out to be wrong not apologize for the error, he bragged about running the mistake-ridden report. And for his efforts, has been rewarded with a better job in a larger television market.

It was reported Monday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Kingsley Smith, formerly the news director at Fox affiliate KTVI-TV in St. Louis, has taken a similar job with the Fox affiliate in Philadelphia, Pa.

It was KTVI-TV in St. Louis that reported shortly before the Mitchell Report — on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball — was released that Albert Pujols would be named in it. Big story … if it was true. It wasn’t.

When reached for comment by the Post-Dispatch after the Mitchell Report came out and the Pujols story was debunked, Smith didn’t seem too concerned about the mistake. In fact, he seemed proud of the erroneous report. He said the Fox brand allowed his station to have a “certain sense of edginess and aggressiveness,” and he contrasted his station’s approach with that of the other St. Louis stations that opted not to run a story based on a rumor.

“If you want to have your button-up newscast packaged with a bow, there are stations in town that do that and have been doing it for 25 years,” is what Smith said.

Yeah, that whole “facts” thing can sure bog down a newscast.

I don’t mean to pick on TV news or on sports reports, because you can kind find examples of shoddy reporting in all sorts of media. But still. I mean, how can you run a story accusing a football player, shortly before one of the biggest games of his life, of violating NCAA rules without making sure the story was correct? Judging by how quickly the Little Rock station had to back off its story, it shouldn’t have been too hard to do.

Look, I don’t know if McFadden has ever accepted gifts from sports agents or not. That sort of thing certainly has happened before in college sports. But the fact remains, the story the TV station aired was wrong. It was riddled with inaccuracies.

Same goes for the Pujols story. Whether Pujols at some point in his past did use a performance-enhancing drug isn’t the issue. The issue is that the St. Louis TV station reported — pretty much as fact — that he would be named in the Mitchell Report, and he wasn’t.

One of the arguments I’ve heard for this rush to get stories on the air, on the Web or in print is the climate of instant communication in which we live. The fear, some news folks say, is that if you don’t get your story out there in a hurry, someone else will beat you to it.

So what if the story is wrong? We can just pull it and run another story that might also be wrong.

Look, just about every reputable news organization — this paper included — has made mistakes. It happens. But most reputable news organizations — this paper included — hate it when mistakes are made. Just ask any Globe reporter — this reporter included — what happens when a mistake is made.

I’m just worried that some news outlets don’t take mistakes as seriously as others do. I’m worried that some news outlets are practicing what I call spaghetti journalism: throwing stories against the wall to see if they stick.

I’m worried that when news outlets practice spaghetti journalism, someone will get burned. And I’m worried that it won’t be the news outlets.

Anna Nicole Wrecked Everything

January 3, 2008

Anna Nicole Smith
By Roger Friedman, Fox News

If 2007 was shaped by anything, it was the scuffle to pay for information about Anna Nicole Smith.

Before her death on Feb. 8, 2007, I had rarely, if ever, thought about Smith. I certainly had not written much about her. The birth of her baby the previous September was not that interesting. The death of her grown son was, but not that much. He wasn’t a celebrity. She was a Grade D personality, a buffoonish comic strip, a Marilyn Monroe pretender.

And then came her mysterious death at age 39 in Florida. Anna Nicole’s crazy exit from the world was terrible for her baby daughter, but worse for journalists who cover entertainment. Overnight, everything we held dear was wrecked.

For the weeks leading up to her death, Anna Nicole had turned up again on “Entertainment Tonight.” It was obvious they’d entered into some kind of deal with her and Howard K. Stern. And then, on the day she died, Stern suddenly became a fixture on the show. The money had been renegotiated.

Checkbook journalism? Sure. But worse than that: “ET” and its horrid counterpart show, “The Insider,” are owned by CBS through Viacom. The syndicator is called CBS Paramount Television. Times have changed. The Tiffany network now had a cousin that was willing to pay anyone and everyone for “exclusives.” And not of news that mattered. They were paying for this shrill crap.

It wasn’t like Larry Birkhead, the father of Anna Nicole’s baby, would be left out of the loop. I reported here on April 13 that his then attorney, Debra Opri, had cut a deal with NBC for Larry to appear exclusively on “ET” rival “Access Hollywood” for millions. NBC made their deal through Bravo, a subsidiary, pretending to make a documentary, rather than taint NBC News. It didn’t work.

Rob Silverstein, the executive producer of “Access,” told me then: “I’ve never seen a story where so many hands are out.”

And so many to fill them.

This column reported that Stern and Smith had made a deal with Paramount TV back before her baby was born. Then, when the baby arrived and Smith’s son died, “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” began their long exclusive arrangement with Stern.

Sources also insist that Paramount Television paid for Smith’s lavish Bahamas funeral. “They put $300,000 into Dannielynn’s account,” an insider insists. “That’s how they bought their access.”

And Birkhead cashed in right along with Stern. He sold pictures of himself and baby Dannielynn to OK! Magazine for a million dollars before the Bahamas court even ruled that he was the father. The cash-out had gone crazy.

The most egregious thing “ET” and CBS Paramount did was turn Smith’s doctor, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, into a correspondent, witness and source. The doctor is in thousands of feet of footage broadcast by “ET” and “The Insider.” She was called Smith’s best friend and confidante. What or how she was paid by the show is unclear.

Beginning on March 2, I told you in this column that something was up with Dr. Eroshevich. It wasn’t until Friday, Oct. 12, seven months later, that, search warrants were issued and searches of the doctor’s offices began by the Medical Board of California and the California Department of Justice.

In the intervening months, however, “ET” and “The Insider” continued to rely on her as a paid, factual source.

They didn’t seem to get it.

On March 16 I told you about a fax Dr. Eroshevich, Smith’s personal psychiatrist, sent to a Los Angeles pharmacy asking that a laundry list of drugs be couriered to the Bahamas for Anna Nicole. The doctor used the pseudonym “M. Chase” for Smith.

The list of drugs requested included four bottles of 2 mg Dilaudid; 2 ml bottles of Lorazepam (Ativan); two bottles of 350 mg Soma, a total of 180 tablets; one bottle each of 30 mg Dalmane and 400 mg Prexige, the latter a British drug; and one bottle of methadone, 300 5mg tablets. All of them are classified as different types of painkillers.

Eroshevich sent the fax on Sept. 15, 2006, a week after baby Dannielynn was born, five days after the death of Smith’s 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, and about five months before the former Playboy pinup died.

You can read the whole story here. Dr. Eroshevich is now under investigation. Her offices are closed. Her name is not heard on “ET” or “The Insider” anymore.

Look back on the first six months of 2007. It seems impossible that so much time and energy was wasted on Anna Nicole, Howard K. Stern, and Larry Birkhead? Did it change our lives? Do you care now? The answer is no.

Of course, the Anna Nicole saga did not stop there. While interest in the principals finally waned, the extraordinary effort that was put in to such nonsense led us to September, and Britney Spears.

Just as anything with Anna Nicole’s name on it had grabbed us by the throats in the spring, now Britney was the autumn bookend. And now of course there was no hesitation. All bets were off. So, too, was Britney’s underwear. And that was an international headline.

Something else changed during those intervening months, too. Paparazzi became stalkerazzi. TV shows and Web sites now followed celebrities with video cameras, and posted the most unflattering, embarrassing moments within minutes. Celebrity children were no longer off limits. All the old rules were out the window. Everyone and everything were fair game.

Gossip, you know, was always fun. It was a guilty pleasure to know the rich and famous suffered in little ways. Their good news was also worthwhile. Somehow a little of the latter leavened the former.

Gossip columnists, who had to adhere to print journalism rules, knew that for the most part. They knew there was a balance. And they enjoyed the people they wrote about. You always got that from Liz Smith or Cindy Adams. In the old days, it was Earl Wilson and Leonard Lyons. It was their love of show biz that drew you in.

The new video stalkers, as well as many of the bloggers who’ve joined them, live on anger. Their tone is angry and bitter. No one is safe from this enmity.

Why are they so angry? Because they’re not being invited to join the celebrities to make the merriment that’s being recorded.

The velvet ropes, the nutty aggressive publicists and the hostile security people who look and behave like ex-cons have contributed to this. They’ve fed the anger. So now we’ll pay to get information on — [fill in the blank] —.

The reason? “They deserve it.” And that’s been the theme of 2007.

I don’t want ever to hear Anna Nicole Smith’s name again, but I’m sure she and her crew will come back to haunt us. We don’t seem able to get rid of Britney, and now her teenage sister — famous for nothing — looks poised to take the baton from her.

And still you know there are a lot of interesting people who should be commanding our attention.

Last week I had lunch with three remarkable young people, the “student” actors from Denzel Washington’s film, “The Great Debaters”: Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker and Denzel Whitaker. They have no scandals.

Smollett is 21, bright and beautiful, involved in raising money for African causes. Jurnee (her mom named for the journey her labor took her on) has been acting since she’s a toddler. She’s the real thing.

I loved Nate and Denzel W, too. The former is this movie’s Derek Luke — a great looking, smart kid with a terrific future. He had the courage to leave a future as a computer programmer in Texas and head to Hollywood. It was the right move.

Whitaker (no relation to the stars) is 17 going on 40. He’s applying to USC and UCLA film schools to be a director. He has the mien of a wise old guy. We’re going to see big things from all of them.

When you see “The Great Debaters,” you’ll realize that these three made for such a memorable film.

I can only hope that in 2008 we’re going to have more stories about them and people like them — people of substance — and so few about … you know who.

Otherwise, we will really be paying for it. With our souls!

And oh, yes, by the way: Britney’s “Blackout” is at No. 112 on Amazon.com, Mischa Barton was arrested Thursday for a DUI in California and Angelina Jolie was named Celebrity Humanitarian of the Year in a Reuters poll.

As for the latter: While Angelina has definitely made herself the best known martyr in the free world, I would argue that Paul Newman is actually the Celebrity Humanitarian of the Year. The great ones, you see, don’t boast. They just get the job done.

Anna Nicole Wrecked Everything

January 3, 2008

Anna Nicole Smith
By Roger Friedman, Fox News

If 2007 was shaped by anything, it was the scuffle to pay for information about Anna Nicole Smith.

Before her death on Feb. 8, 2007, I had rarely, if ever, thought about Smith. I certainly had not written much about her. The birth of her baby the previous September was not that interesting. The death of her grown son was, but not that much. He wasn’t a celebrity. She was a Grade D personality, a buffoonish comic strip, a Marilyn Monroe pretender.

And then came her mysterious death at age 39 in Florida. Anna Nicole’s crazy exit from the world was terrible for her baby daughter, but worse for journalists who cover entertainment. Overnight, everything we held dear was wrecked.

For the weeks leading up to her death, Anna Nicole had turned up again on “Entertainment Tonight.” It was obvious they’d entered into some kind of deal with her and Howard K. Stern. And then, on the day she died, Stern suddenly became a fixture on the show. The money had been renegotiated.

Checkbook journalism? Sure. But worse than that: “ET” and its horrid counterpart show, “The Insider,” are owned by CBS through Viacom. The syndicator is called CBS Paramount Television. Times have changed. The Tiffany network now had a cousin that was willing to pay anyone and everyone for “exclusives.” And not of news that mattered. They were paying for this shrill crap.

It wasn’t like Larry Birkhead, the father of Anna Nicole’s baby, would be left out of the loop. I reported here on April 13 that his then attorney, Debra Opri, had cut a deal with NBC for Larry to appear exclusively on “ET” rival “Access Hollywood” for millions. NBC made their deal through Bravo, a subsidiary, pretending to make a documentary, rather than taint NBC News. It didn’t work.

Rob Silverstein, the executive producer of “Access,” told me then: “I’ve never seen a story where so many hands are out.”

And so many to fill them.

This column reported that Stern and Smith had made a deal with Paramount TV back before her baby was born. Then, when the baby arrived and Smith’s son died, “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” began their long exclusive arrangement with Stern.

Sources also insist that Paramount Television paid for Smith’s lavish Bahamas funeral. “They put $300,000 into Dannielynn’s account,” an insider insists. “That’s how they bought their access.”

And Birkhead cashed in right along with Stern. He sold pictures of himself and baby Dannielynn to OK! Magazine for a million dollars before the Bahamas court even ruled that he was the father. The cash-out had gone crazy.

The most egregious thing “ET” and CBS Paramount did was turn Smith’s doctor, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, into a correspondent, witness and source. The doctor is in thousands of feet of footage broadcast by “ET” and “The Insider.” She was called Smith’s best friend and confidante. What or how she was paid by the show is unclear.

Beginning on March 2, I told you in this column that something was up with Dr. Eroshevich. It wasn’t until Friday, Oct. 12, seven months later, that, search warrants were issued and searches of the doctor’s offices began by the Medical Board of California and the California Department of Justice.

In the intervening months, however, “ET” and “The Insider” continued to rely on her as a paid, factual source.

They didn’t seem to get it.

On March 16 I told you about a fax Dr. Eroshevich, Smith’s personal psychiatrist, sent to a Los Angeles pharmacy asking that a laundry list of drugs be couriered to the Bahamas for Anna Nicole. The doctor used the pseudonym “M. Chase” for Smith.

The list of drugs requested included four bottles of 2 mg Dilaudid; 2 ml bottles of Lorazepam (Ativan); two bottles of 350 mg Soma, a total of 180 tablets; one bottle each of 30 mg Dalmane and 400 mg Prexige, the latter a British drug; and one bottle of methadone, 300 5mg tablets. All of them are classified as different types of painkillers.

Eroshevich sent the fax on Sept. 15, 2006, a week after baby Dannielynn was born, five days after the death of Smith’s 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, and about five months before the former Playboy pinup died.

You can read the whole story here. Dr. Eroshevich is now under investigation. Her offices are closed. Her name is not heard on “ET” or “The Insider” anymore.

Look back on the first six months of 2007. It seems impossible that so much time and energy was wasted on Anna Nicole, Howard K. Stern, and Larry Birkhead? Did it change our lives? Do you care now? The answer is no.

Of course, the Anna Nicole saga did not stop there. While interest in the principals finally waned, the extraordinary effort that was put in to such nonsense led us to September, and Britney Spears.

Just as anything with Anna Nicole’s name on it had grabbed us by the throats in the spring, now Britney was the autumn bookend. And now of course there was no hesitation. All bets were off. So, too, was Britney’s underwear. And that was an international headline.

Something else changed during those intervening months, too. Paparazzi became stalkerazzi. TV shows and Web sites now followed celebrities with video cameras, and posted the most unflattering, embarrassing moments within minutes. Celebrity children were no longer off limits. All the old rules were out the window. Everyone and everything were fair game.

Gossip, you know, was always fun. It was a guilty pleasure to know the rich and famous suffered in little ways. Their good news was also worthwhile. Somehow a little of the latter leavened the former.

Gossip columnists, who had to adhere to print journalism rules, knew that for the most part. They knew there was a balance. And they enjoyed the people they wrote about. You always got that from Liz Smith or Cindy Adams. In the old days, it was Earl Wilson and Leonard Lyons. It was their love of show biz that drew you in.

The new video stalkers, as well as many of the bloggers who’ve joined them, live on anger. Their tone is angry and bitter. No one is safe from this enmity.

Why are they so angry? Because they’re not being invited to join the celebrities to make the merriment that’s being recorded.

The velvet ropes, the nutty aggressive publicists and the hostile security people who look and behave like ex-cons have contributed to this. They’ve fed the anger. So now we’ll pay to get information on — [fill in the blank] —.

The reason? “They deserve it.” And that’s been the theme of 2007.

I don’t want ever to hear Anna Nicole Smith’s name again, but I’m sure she and her crew will come back to haunt us. We don’t seem able to get rid of Britney, and now her teenage sister — famous for nothing — looks poised to take the baton from her.

And still you know there are a lot of interesting people who should be commanding our attention.

Last week I had lunch with three remarkable young people, the “student” actors from Denzel Washington’s film, “The Great Debaters”: Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker and Denzel Whitaker. They have no scandals.

Smollett is 21, bright and beautiful, involved in raising money for African causes. Jurnee (her mom named for the journey her labor took her on) has been acting since she’s a toddler. She’s the real thing.

I loved Nate and Denzel W, too. The former is this movie’s Derek Luke — a great looking, smart kid with a terrific future. He had the courage to leave a future as a computer programmer in Texas and head to Hollywood. It was the right move.

Whitaker (no relation to the stars) is 17 going on 40. He’s applying to USC and UCLA film schools to be a director. He has the mien of a wise old guy. We’re going to see big things from all of them.

When you see “The Great Debaters,” you’ll realize that these three made for such a memorable film.

I can only hope that in 2008 we’re going to have more stories about them and people like them — people of substance — and so few about … you know who.

Otherwise, we will really be paying for it. With our souls!

And oh, yes, by the way: Britney’s “Blackout” is at No. 112 on Amazon.com, Mischa Barton was arrested Thursday for a DUI in California and Angelina Jolie was named Celebrity Humanitarian of the Year in a Reuters poll.

As for the latter: While Angelina has definitely made herself the best known martyr in the free world, I would argue that Paul Newman is actually the Celebrity Humanitarian of the Year. The great ones, you see, don’t boast. They just get the job done.

Holidays over for TV journalists as caucus looms

December 30, 2007

Photo

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – After a couple days off for Christmas, TV journalists on the campaign trail are hunkered down in Des Moines through New Year’s and the Iowa caucus on Thursday.

Although it seems as if the 2008 presidential campaign has been going on since November 2004, next week is the first time voters will get to pick from among the Republican and Democratic candidates. For the past several weeks, the caucus has been the subject of a full-court press by the journalists covering the major candidates who have been jetting between Iowa and New Hampshire and elsewhere around the country.

And it’s all hands on deck from now until Thursday, when caucus-goers gather all over the Hawkeye State.

“Basically, the idea is that everyone is down (takes off) the 24th and 25th (of December) and that’s it,” said Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News, before the holiday.

Said Jeff Greenfield, CBS News chief political correspondent and a veteran of many presidential campaigns, “It definitely screws up many vacations.”

Blame the accelerated primary season in a month that will blow harder than a blizzard in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Manchester, N.H. Iowa’s early start gives only five days until the New Hampshire primary January 8, followed quickly by South Carolina, Michigan and Nevada ahead of “Super Duper Tuesday” on February 5, when 20 states including California and New York will hold voting.

That’s something new, said CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

“In years past, you had a little breathing room,” she said. “This year, you don’t.” For Crowley, that meant buying gift cards for loved ones this year and rushing to figure out what to do about Christmas dinner for her grown children in the few days she had at home before the holiday. 

Not that anyone’s complaining much. For political journalists such as Greenfield and Crowley, this is it. Greenfield said the 2008 campaign has been one of the most interesting he’s ever covered.

“This one for a whole lot of reasons is right up there,” he said. “We are wide open on both parties, and we are possibly going to nominate and/or elect a woman or a black or a Mormon or an Italian-American president — none of which has ever happened. On that level alone, it’s fascinating.”

ABC News political director David Chalian said the campaign likely will go full blast New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day because the candidates have only a finite amount of time to make a difference.

“The campaign trail goes relatively quiet on the 24th and 25th, but I don’t think you’ll see that on the first,” Chalian said. “Even though it’s New Year’s and everything, it’s 48 hours out (from the caucus), and that’s when people are deciding.”

“Fox News Sunday” executive producer Marty Ryan said interest has heated up among viewers since Labor Day, reaching ever higher in the days before Iowa and New Hampshire.

“For eight or nine days, it’ll be a topic of full interest by everybody,” Ryan said.

And that will continue through February 5, when the election wave recedes for the moment. There might even be a nominee from one or both parties, though few people are going to put money on that right now.

“Now it’s pretty frenetic until the 6th of February, after Super Duper Tuesday,” Crowley said. “Then it goes into hibernation while they raise money and figure out what the spring campaign will look like. There will be a lull. There’s an end to this craziness in February.”

There’s “Christmas in Connecticut” and “Autumn in New York,” but CBS News’ Greenfield noted that there’s no precedent for this.

“Nobody wrote a song called ‘New Year’s Eve in Des Moines,’” Greenfield said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

A License for Local Reporting

December 28, 2007
 By RODERICK P. HART, ALEX S. JONES, THOMAS KUNKEL, NICHOLAS LEMANN, JOHN LAVINE, DEAN MILLS, DAVID M. RUBIN and ERNEST WILSON, The New York TimesJOURNALISTS are instinctively libertarian, at least when it comes to journalism. We like the conversation about journalism and the federal government to begin and end with a robust defense of the First Amendment. That’s why journalists have not been leading participants in the debate over the Federal Communications Commission’s regulation of broadcasting, even though the future of our profession and its public mission is at stake.

But our profession needs to cast its reluctance to discuss broadcast regulation aside, and to let its voice be heard, loud and clear — on behalf of local reporting. The outcome of F.C.C. policy that matters most to us is not who owns what, but how much news gathering goes on.

On Tuesday, the F.C.C., in a close vote, decided to relax its rule against one company owning both broadcast and newspaper properties in a single market. Kevin J. Martin, the F.C.C. chairman, has offered a journalistic justification for this move: broadcast profits would help pay for the substantial news-gathering staffs at newspapers.

But local television and radio stations should be doing their own news gathering, rather than merely serving as support systems for news gathering by newspapers. Besides, if Mr. Martin were really so passionate about news gathering, he wouldn’t have restricted the F.C.C.’s action to media properties in big cities. Don’t small-town news organizations need help, too?

For a quarter-century, the F.C.C. has steadily moved toward the deregulation of broadcasting. This seems to have had the effect of reducing the resources available for original broadcast reporting, especially about public affairs.

There have been salutary countervailing trends — the Internet is great for opinion journalism and for broadening public access to information, though not very good yet as an economic support system for news gathering — but television and radio stations generally have smaller news staffs today than they did in the era before deregulation. That represents a real loss for American democracy.

As deans of journalism schools, we are devoting our working lives to the proposition that honest, aggressive, well-trained reporters and editors will be a powerful force for good in society. In broadcasting — still a heavily regulated industry and one in which some of the best news for journalism in recent decades has come through public-policy interventions like the creation of public radio and public television — we do not believe that the market can be absolutely trusted to provide the local news gathering that the American system needs to function at its best.

The F.C.C. ought to treat a broadcast licensee’s commitment of resources to original local reporting on public affairs as a key factor in its decisions about regulatory issues. Companies should be required to make a persuasive case that they will increase their commitment to local reporting if they get what they want — whether they aspire to own broadcast properties and newspapers in the same market; or, thanks to the onset of digital television, to turn every channel they control into several channels; or to expand their national market share in broadcasting or cable television.

For decades, holders of broadcast licenses had to make frequent, detailed arguments for their fitness to have their licenses renewed. They had to demonstrate a commitment to original reporting and to airtime for local public affairs.

The F.C.C. has always been lenient about renewing broadcast licenses, but it meant something that licensees had to go through a demanding renewal process. Now license renewal is so effortless it is known as “postcard renewal.” Even the pretense that there is a connection between the grant of a broadcast license and a promise to report on one’s community is all but gone.

This week’s moves by the F.C.C. are only the beginning of a contentious period in which Congress, the courts and other interested parties will vigorously discuss a range of issues involving the regulation of newspapers, cable television and broadcast television that will affect the future of journalism. Journalists, as advocates for local reporting, must become forceful participants in the debate.

— Roderick P. Hart, dean of the University of Texas journalism school; Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; Thomas Kunkel, dean of the University of Maryland journalism school; Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Journalism School; John Levine, dean of the Northwestern journalism school; Dean Mills, dean of the University of Missouri journalism school; David M. Rubin, dean of the Syracuse school of public communications; and Ernest Wilson, dean of the University of Southern California school of communication.


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