The latest issue of Vanity Fair did its part to fuel the Halloween fright fest just past by flashing nightmarish images-via-text of an 83-year-old Sumner Redstone (Viacom) swimming around his opulent mansion nude, eating lunch nude and, yes, shaving nude. So Tom Freston screwed up by not buying MySpace, eh? Well upon closer inspection the article indicates that the botched deal was more about Redstone’s pissing match with Rupert Murdoch (News Corp.) than about truly understanding the power of social networking. Pee pee in the pool anyone?
Vanity Fair also did a pretty bang-up job on its Art Issue, hitting the streets roughly around the same time W magazine released its own. While both VF and W went heavy with name dropping—Kehinde Wiley (famous for gaying-up the hardcore hip-hop homies with extended pinkies and ornate flower arrangements in his paintings) and Kristin Baker (so much sexier than her art, her acrylic spattered skivvies are likely to be framed and sold to the highest bidder sometime soon), W successfully won the Art Issue battle with an incredibly well done DVD (included in the issue) that detailed the making of its main photo spread by Richard Tuttle and Mario Sorrenti. Now if some upstart artist could just swipe the ever-present Cheshire Grin off Jeff Koons’ face, the art world could finally exhale.
Wa-wa wee-wa! According to the UK’s Daily Mail, Sacha Baron Cohen may be sued by the previously nameless village folk he ridiculed as “Borat” in his new film. According to the report, Cohen and his crew stayed in luxury accommodations during filming just outside the impoverished village of Glod (a village located in Romania, not Kazakhstan) and suited up each morning for another round of making fun of the residents who thought they were taking part in a real documentary. Funny. Ha. Ha.
“60 Minutes” reporter Ed Bradley once told Charlie Rose, “What you do as a reporter is not to put yourself in [the story] …” Wise words … In the wake of Bradley’s recent death, The New York Observer took aim at Mediabistro’s Dylan Stableford in a post titled “White Semi-Professional Journalist Calls Pioneering TV-News Titan a ‘Pimp’ for Having Been Black on TV in the 1970s.” The Observer writes, “Stableford, 29, is more taken by the fact that Bradley was wearing a ‘vintage’ sportshirt, unbuttoned—a ‘pimp’ style, in the 21st-century blogger’s estimation.” The next day Stableford (who just weeks ago proudly posted a “FishbowlNY Exclusive” detailing the launch of the website “N—gerSpace”) scrambled to explain himself with a post titled “What I Meant By Ed Bradley’s ‘Pimp Years’,” in which he writes, “Judging from my inbox and voicemail today, it seems that my choice of words may have offended some readers of this blog … On the word ‘pimp’: To me, it is an endearing, descriptive term that I often substitute for ‘cool’ when I need an extra kick to it …” As they say, if you have to explain the joke …
Later, Nick Denton’s new gals at Gawker gleefully piled on writing, “Mediabistro: Still for Sale! … Now it seems as though Mediabistro is trying to convince everyone that they’re also a Web 2.0 company, even though, well, they’re not. Oh Laurel [Touby]. LaurelLaurelLaurel. When will you ever learn?”
It’s pretty interesting that most media, mainstream and small blogs alike, ridicule anyone who makes a business out of being a public personality. Yet, somehow these are almost exclusively the only people these media sources cover in any big way. The latest example is the tale of the often ridiculed (at least by bloggers) Atoosa Rubenstein and her recent announcement that she will be leaving Seventeen magazine. Rubenstein said in a statement, “Remember when I was able to write you back when you would write to me?? You are why I’m here but the nature of the business of magazines is that I’m constantly in meetings, I’m constantly on TV talking to your parents, I’m constantly needing to do lots of important things but all things that keep me from doing something else very important—talking one-on-one with you. So that’s why I’m taking this chance. At the end of this year, I’ll be leaving Seventeen.” That pretty much spells blog—which, if you look at the success of Drudge, Gawker and Weblogs Inc.—is not a bad thing. Similarly, Lloyd Grove made a very public departure from the Daily News weeks ago, saying, “I will be doing something that is multimedia, with components of Internet and television and print media.” So far he’s only popped up at Vanity Fair as a new scribe for Graydon Carter. But if the moves of these two high-profile media figures is any indication, the power of the Internet has finally been discovered by mainstream journalists, and traditional titles will now have to work harder to convince talent to hammer away for a salary at traditional media shops when the promise of a competitive salary awaits anyone ready to start their own media channel. No longer is the digital space merely the domain of the edge crowd; Arianna Huffington (huffingtonpost.com) and Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine.com) have proven that even the older set can shun traditional media, hang their own shingle out there and gain not just notoriety, but profit. Now the only question for Rubenstein and Grove will be whether or not they’re ready to exert Drudge-like determination in their efforts. Prediction: Atoosa, aka “Big Momma,” will indeed be successful (despite the MySpace yuckiness).
Radar magazine’s online component continues to prove that it may just need to ditch the print plans and focus on becoming the new king of Internet media gossip sites. The site recently broke the news that gossip blogger Perez Hilton (aka Mario Lavandeira) may be the target of a class action lawsuit filed by celebrity photo agencies and at least one print publication for allegedly using photos on his site without permission.
Google and NYTimes, Gannett, the Tribune Co., The Washington Post Co. and Hearst: Yes, Google is doing a Trojan horse routine by offering to sell ads for the newspapers, and, yes, the newspapers are crazy for opening the gates. What else is new?
Finally, you know you live in a society more concerned with celebrity than reality when the media gives more press to Lance Armstrong for running the ING New York Marathon than to the actual winner (Brazil’s Marilson Gomes dos Santos) and when the fact that Tom Cruise is the head of a new studio (UA) makes more news than the fact that—whoa—a new/old studio has been launched in a Hollywood that was supposed to be on its last legs.
Sometimes one article so perfectly sums up contemporary pop culture reality that you can only sit in awe of the wealth of verisimilitudes you’ve just borne witness to. Such is the case with the recent article in The New Yorker by Nick Paumgarten titled “Fresh Prince: Hip-hop’s Machiavelli.” The article playfully romps through the world of Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, the ridiculous book of ham-fisted would-be aphorisms that essentially encourages everyone to hate, distrust and trick everyone else. Not surprisingly, the book has gained special currency in the wanna-be-gangster-studio-thug-often-turned-real-world-gunshot-victim world of hip-hop. And, according to Paumgarten, Greene is eating it up; a book is supposedly in the works with everyone’s favorite scholar, 50 Cent, and Quincy Jones’ son has apparently started work on a documentary on the book. (Jones’ last well-known documentary, titled Beef, explored the world of rappers who enjoy pretending they are gangsters so much, they actually start killing each other. Whee!)
What Paumgarten deftly accomplishes with this article is pretty sublime in that he exposes the Scarface idolatry of rappers-who-can-read-books while simultaneously calling Greene’s credibility into question by suggesting he might not have written the book himself (Who is Joost Elffers?); invoking the name of ambulance chaser/vampire book agent Marc Gerald; revealing that Greene’s name isn’t really Greene and his work at Esquire was not as an editor (as his bio claims) but as an office assistant, telling us that the author calls objects of seduction “victims,” and citing American Apparel’s Dov “hustle man” Charney as such a big fan of Greene’s that he actually has him on some sort of retainer. If the reader pays close attention, one comes away with a deep yearning to learn who the hell Joost Elffers is and how he became a “producer” of books from his Greenwich Village lair. Perhaps the funniest part of the exposé is when Karrine “Superhead” (as in blowjob) Steffans is cited as a huge fan of Greene’s chapter “Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker.”
Towards the end of season three of the hit HBO series “The Wire” (America’s latest Understanding The Ghetto For Dummies cheat sheet now that even rap music has become too cartoonish to decipher), thugged out sex symbol/Brit-actor-convincingly-parroting-a-Baltimore-scumbag, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) is unceremoniously shot to death in one of his own condos by a gay, scarfaced street thug with a mean streak that would freeze Tony Montana’s blood and a New York drug dealer assassin who uses Malcolm X accoutrements to disguise his lethal tendencies. Afterward, Stringer’s chief pursuer, Officer McNulty (Dominic West) peruses the slain drug dealer’s plush apartment and finds a copy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations on a bookshelf. Eyes wide and shoulders suddenly slumped, McNulty sighs, “Who was I chasing …?” The answer is that McNulty was simply chasing a street thug who happened to read a famous book about power. No more, no less. In matters of intellectual discourse, possession does not necessarily equal retention. Similarly, Greene’s entertainment world acolytes are little more than fascinated rubes drawn in by a flashy book club hustle with an even flashier name. Near the end of the piece, Greene tells Paumgarten, “I’d like to be the Karl Rove of the Democratic Party …” That one is just packed with zingers, so we’ll leave it to you to put on your thinking caps and dish the one-liners amongst yourselves.
The latest episode of the Me, Me, Me fest known as “Conversations With Michael Eisner” was actually one of the former Disney chief’s best shows. In one show, Eisner played host to Viacom’s Sumner Redstone, CNN founder Ted Turner and HDNet creator Mark Cuban. So many billions on one stage was bound to produce some unseemly throne sniffing, and product shilling, but the broadcast was surprisingly watchable. The stealth bomb of the night was when “The View’s” Rosie O’Donnell herder Barbara Walters emerged from the audience to ask Redstone a “question,” which actually turned into a 45-second infomercial for her own ABC talk show. Later, Redstone responded to Walters’ question about his plans as CEO (i.e. when the hell will you quit already). The ornery exec pronounced that his daughter was, in fact, not in line for the CEO job and that he planned to be around “forever!” He then cackled madly, the lights dimmed momentarily, and he vanished suddenly in a puff of smoke (we joke, we joke).
Some newsrooms are casual about who gets a look at their prepress pages, and some are not. In the case of BusinessWeek magazine, prepress pages are apparently a hot commodity on the media spy circuit. The New York Post recently reported the prosecution of 25-year-old Nickolaus Shuster for his role in feeding prepress copies of Business Week to Wall Street hustlers for cash. According to the report, Shuster met Eugene Plotkin and David Pajcin in Manhattan’s Union Square to conjure their plan that eventually came to involve strippers, corrupt Merrill Lynch bankers and a Croatian underwear seamstress. Shuster’s sexy slide into media infamy may cost him up to 25 years in the clink. The last BusinessWeek embarrassment happened just a few months ago when the magazine published a cover story claiming Digg news founder Kevin Rose had “made” $60 million in just 18 months. The only problem was, he didn’t make anywhere close to seven figures in that time and, according to Rose, still hasn’t. The gaff was a minor blow to the pub’s credibility but, more importantly, a nod to the new round of Internet overkill sweeping the media. Now we hear that the mag’s publisher, McGraw-Hill Companies, has cut around 600 jobs. Ouch. Not a very good business week.
We’re all for the runway hijinks of “Project Runway” (ah, the bitter sweetness of a Laura scorned by Jeff’s delicious win!), but Bravo may be overdoing it with new shows called “Top Chef,” co-hosted by Satanic Verses wife Padma Lakshmi, and now “Top Design,” an interior design show hosted by couture master Todd Oldham. There is a limit (hopefully) to the amount of everyday minutiae a network can repackage as entertainment. That said, we’re betting that Bravo is already considering shows such as “Top Celebrity Pooch,” “Project I Need My Teeth Cleaned,” and of course the new programming line up wouldn’t be complete without “MILF Wars!”
Once upon a time Wired magazine was the geek world’s must read monthly tome, chock full of the latest news on how to grow an extra thumb to improve your XBox scores to the best way to hack your telephone so your boss will think you’re at home when you’re really on holiday in Budapest. But with the sale of Wired magazine to Conde Nast back in 1998 for $85 million—just in time for the quick boom and bust of the Internet—the magazine gradually moved into the hecker-free land of mainstream vanilla content. Today, under the stewardship of Chris “Long Tail Hustle” Andersen, the magazine has become more well known for its entertainment and “who’s the hottest new billionaire” coverage rather than breaking stories about genetic research and government-funded space colonies. Following the new Wired formula of hype over substance, the magazine just brought on Nancy Miller, formerly a staff writer at Entertainment Weekly and a contributing editor at Details, Maxim and Marie Claire. While we’re sure Miller has the credentials to whip up great lad mag fodder, we doubt Marie Claire prepared the new staffer for the ins and outs of VOIP, PHP and OMFG-speak that permeates the pub’s pages month-to-month.
The New York Times, faced with declining revenue (a reported 39 percent drop in third-quarter profits) has decided to scale back its dreams of grandeur and admit that it needs some help paying the rent on its new structure on 8th Avenue. Specifically, the paper needs tenants on the 23rd through 27th floors, occupying roughly 155,000 square feet of media void left by Arthur Sulzberger’s old Grey (and increasingly slow and fat) Lady.
Finally, yes folks, it’s question time again in the big city … Did someone forget to tell John Spencer that when you allegedly call a former president’s wife (even if that wife is Hillary Clinton) ugly, your chances of holding any higher political office in the future are kaput? Speaking of the political Look Book, why did it take New York magazine for us to finally see how hot the currently embattled AG candidate Jeanine Pirro was when she was a wee youthful prosecutor back in 1978? Exactly who was Time magazine trying to convince when they published their recent cover story “Why Barack Obama Could Be The Next President.” Facing new legal pressure from Universal as well as a consortium of Japanese media companies, will Mark Cuban’s dark predictions about the newly acquired YouTube turn out to be true? Now that Vogue’s Anna Wintour has been crowned Editor of the Year by Advertising Age, will all those indie zine publishers finally get the message and bow at the altar of Conde Nasty, or just shrivel up and die?
Last week was a doozie in the crow-eating department. Billionaire HDNet owner Mark Cuban (the fiendish cherubic dictator who put Dan Rather back to work) and Mr. Gravitas Beard himself, TimeWarner CEO Richard Parsons, had all their “YouTube ain’t worth a bottle of spit” claims hurled back in their faces as the company was snapped up by Google for an incredible $1.65 billion (in Google stock). The two naysaying moguls were quick to cover their tracks though. First, Cuban said, “Would Google be crazy to buy YouTube? No doubt about it. Moronic would be an understatement of a lifetime.” Then, hours after the sale, he said, “I still think Google is crazy … I think there will be subpoenas to get the names of YouTube and Google Video users.” Then, a few days later, after the reality of the deal set in, he said, “I was wrong …” No duh, Nowitzki-hugger. Despite the billions, we think it’s safe to say that this guy doesn’t know what the heck he’s talking about when it comes to Web 2.0. As for Parsons, he’s proven to be surprisingly steadfast in his doubts about YouTube. After the mega sale, the would-be mayor of New York said, “The question is, where is it going and how do you make a business out of it? Is it going to take over edited or professional content? No. I don’t think its going to overrun TV or movies.”
Despite all the protestations from the Air America chiefs, it has finally come to pass that the self-described liberal radio network has filed for bankruptcy. Not one to pass up an opportunity to kick an enemy when they are down, ousted former Air America host Janeane Garofalo crawled out of her Greenwich Village digs to tell the media, “The problem was we got conned in the beginning by some shysters.” Ouch! Shysters! Despite the fact that the network’s top host, Al Franken claims he hasn’t been paid in weeks, there’s still no word yet on whether Air America’s New York host, WWRL 1600 AM, will kick the network off the air. After taking out two NYC African American radio stations (the first was WLIB) in their quest for a New York radio home, the only one left would be WBAI—the left leaning radio station (owned by the Pacifica Network) that has seen so much drama in the last ten years it makes Air America’s brief history look positively healthy.
And now it’s time for yet another round of very important questions … Why would Chicago Sun Times critics Ebert and Roeper allow the doughy patrician of the New York Times, film critic A.O. Scott, to befoul their studio as a guest host? Suddenly we’re wishing Ebert a more speedy recovery. Why did the attacks on the New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell only start after he started a blog? Why hasn’t someone pranked Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat aka Ali G) yet? Why is it not obvious to everyone that Lloyd “Herman Munster” Grove left the Daily News to start working in the digital media business? (HDNet? Radar Magazine? AOL? Sweet Smell Of Success blogging anyone?) Finally, when will the first reports of an overly aggressive Metro newspaper hawker beating the hell out of a foaming-at-the-mouth-please-take-this-damn-paper AM NY newspaper hawker surface? We’re getting impatient!
Fresh from the don’t-believe-everything-you-read department we present to you the new study from Indiana University’s Julia R. Fox, assistant professor of telecommunications, titled “No Joke: A Comparison of Substance in “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and Broadcast Network Television Coverage of the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign.” The professor claims, “… the average amounts of video and audio substance in the broadcast network news stories were not significantly different than the average amounts of visual and audio substance in “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” stories about the presidential election …” What’s not emphasized is the fact that most of Jon Stewart’s video is culled from other news programs—the little original video content Stewart does manage to air always features a comedian (not a real reporter) making fun of some politician by asking absurd (and occasionally on topic) questions. Stewart himself told the world during his last visit to CNN’s “Crossfire” that his show should not be considered a real alternative to traditional news networks that are focused on real news gathering. Nevertheless, professor Fox seems intent on having us believe otherwise. Yes folks, when a superfan meets academia, what you get is statistical data cobbled together in a configuration designed to have you believe pop singers, comedians and actors are sociologically relevant data points in some grand thesis that will explain it all. Prof. Fox, next time just send Stewart a fan letter—it’s less embarrassing and far more credible.
Sumner Redstone’s recent appearance on “The Charlie Rose” show was a sweet bit of media history and packed with surprises. Redstone revealed that before firing Viacom bigwig Tom Freston he offered him the top job at the company only to have Freston decline the offer. But when Les Moonves got the offer he, of course, accepted. Note to all you aspiring company men: If the big boss taps you on the shoulder and gives you the ultimate nod, step up and accept the challenge or be ready to pack your bags. If Redstone is telling the truth (and he’s not known for being a slick fabricator) perhaps it was, indeed, time for Freston to go.
Recently, we had trouble understanding why the Sci-Fi Channel had suddenly started running regular showings of the 1983 nuclear war scare fest “The Day After” at the same time as the FX channel was running frequent airings of Broken Arrow, the tale of nuclear weapons stolen and set to go off at any moment. The odd programming was decidedly mysterious until just a couple of days ago when word came in that North Korea had defied the global powers (including China) and tested a nuclear weapon. Increasingly, seemingly innocuous programming is not coincidence but television producers exercising exceedingly clever (and in this case prescient) editorial expression via programming choices. Now that we are officially in the nightmare scenario that everyone has been afraid of, will we suddenly see a new slew of Cold War-themed television dramas specially designed to stoke our WWIII fears? Even money that ABC (creators of the recently aired, sloppy 9/11 drama) will be first to cash in on the trend.
The New York Times is having fun with us again. This past weekend, Lola Ogunnaike, who is black (we stole that riff from the Times), delved into VH1’s “The Flavor Of Love.” She’s giving the show the standard Times on-the-fence treatment when suddenly the piece takes a wild turn. Ogunnaike writes, “Although not conventionally attractive ([rapper Flavor Flav] bears more than a passing resemblance to a California Raisin character) …” Oh snap! A California Raisin?! That’s harsh. We won’t get into Ogunnaike’s looks, but let’s just say that if the Times’ David Brooks had made the same comment about Flav, Al Sharpton would probably set up camp right outside Arthur Sulzberger’s office. Easy Ogunnaike, you’re banging it out for the Times, not auditioning to be Lisa Lampanelli’s new writing partner.
A note of kudos to the MediaBistro crew who got thrown out of former Viacom honcho Tom Freston’s house party after violating (i.e. taking photos of) his desk, his book shelf, his coffee table and his huge collection of Buddha statues and Mao Tse Tung trinkets. Alas, they eventually bowed to pressure from Arianna Huffington, who asked that the desk photo be removed from the site. So now we’re really tearing our eyelashes out wondering what the heck was on that desk. A Sumner Redstone F-You letter? An Executive Summary for that VC cash to start up MTV’s new competition? Pay stubs from that sweet multi-million dollar golden parachute? Empty Cheetos bags … ?
Apparently, the path to mainstream glossy paychecks requires one to land a gig at a gossip blog, spend at least six to nine months calling all mainstream publications crap and then sell out to the very publications you’ve spent day and night trying to get everyone to hate. Such is the case with the recent moves by Gawker’s Jessica Coen who is leaving the gossip site to join Vanity Fair, Jossip’s Corynne Steindler who is moving to the New York Post’s Page Six, and former Page Sixer Chris Wilson who has already set up shop at Maxim magazine. That’s right kids, all the vitriol is really just a cry for help until they get the right offer, then it’s cubicles and cafeteria bliss.
What the hell is the New York Times’ fascination with Lee Seung-Hee aka Nikki S. Lee (“Now in Moving Pictures,” by Carol Kino)? Watching a girl play dress-up over the course of several years is neither art nor sociological investigation—it’s called play acting! Children do it all the time. Even when the writer asks Lee what she’s learned after all the dress-up hijinks, all Lee can muster is, “One thing I really learned is, ‘Yes, I’m right, I’m able to do that.’ So I have confidence in my confidence.” [Insert spit take!] So she’s supposedly reading Baudrillard and Barthes, and that’s all she can come up with? We counted nine Times stories on Lee since 2001. Nine! The Times needs to come clean and tell us who her father/cousin/boyfriend/rich uncle/Upper East Side sponsor is because the shine-on has become a little too obvious.
BEST NEW MEDIA WAR FRONT
The fact that Google News has been compiling and presenting the information of hundreds of websites without paying them for years, is one of the biggest yet least talked about hustles on the Web. In the interim, Google has been allowed to continue the tactic while racking up more billions as local publications continue to feed the machine. That’s why it raised the ire of many when Google recently cut a deal with Associated Press to compensate them for their content being used on Google News. Meanwhile, French news site AFP has sued Google for $17.5 million for the unpaid use of their content, and a group of Belgium publishers are also suing Google for linking to their content. Either the golden days of Google using Google News as a value-added feature—without having to pay the content providers they link to—are over, or there are about to be a lot of happy news providers who stand to make a nice chunk of change from the resulting pay-outs.
BEST SCARY MEDIA EVENT
Discovering that a company as seemingly conservative and staid as Hewlett-Packard actually spied on employees and journalists, and allegedly considered planting actual corporate spies in the newsroom of News.com to monitor information flow, woke a lot of media pros up to the reality of reporting in the 21st century. If a printer company is this Machiavellian about the media, who knows what other companies (with far more sensitive profiles) are up to? Do you think the HP board dug deeply into the private lives of Jay Z and Pharrell before letting them appear in those snazzy new commercials? On the up side, imagine what it feels like to be Carly Fiorina (ex-HP CEO) right now—pretty sweet. She’ll be releasing her tell-all book, Tough Choices, which slams the board of directors currently under the microscope, on October 9th.
Best Mantan Moreland Tribute
When Spike Lee filmed Bamboozled, the over-the-top story of two black street performers who are recruited by a television network to perform in blackface, he probably never imagined that his fiction would turn into real life at the hands of one of his former collaborators, Flavor Flav (“The Flavor Of Love” VH1). Between takes of date contestants literally crapping themselves, hiding cold sores, nauseatingly long open-mouth kissing sessions with their host and trying to beat the hell out of each other, we get to see Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav giggle and laugh at the contestants’ antics as he—clad in alternating colorful pimp outfits—holds buckets of fried chicken and adjusts one of his many clown hats before delivering more pearls of wisdom. Perhaps PE frontman Chuck D said it best in a recent blog post addressing the embarrassing show, “Perhaps Flavor is an introduction to black folks killing off the n—er in ourselves.” If the show itself wasn’t absurd enough, VH1 has enlisted several “Queer Eye” rejects to titter and speculate about the course of the show during commercial breaks. We’d poke our own eyes out, but we’re sure to go blind first.
BEST NY-BASED TV SHOW
The story of reality TV is starting to get old as television producers endeavor to document every single facet of human life imaginable. At some point we are sure to see everything from live executions (Dial star-80 if you think we should fry him, star-81 if you vote for lethal injection, etc.) to live bowel movements with multiple camera angles. But amid all the Donald Trump hair flopping and Tyra Banks drag queen shimmies, one show manages to take its subject seriously and actually provide a bit of real insight into a normally cloistered world. “Project Runway,” hosted by Mrs. Seal (aka Heidi Klum), is set at the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, drawing contestants from around the country to compete in the cutthroat world of New York fashion. The surprise breakout star of the show is Chair of the Department of Fashion Design at Parsons Tim Gunn who acts as mentor to the upstart designers as they construct their designs and compete for a slot at New York’s fashion week. If your straight boyfriend suddenly starts cheerily tossing lines around like “Carry on …” and “Make it work!” (Gunn’s trademark catch phrases), chances are he’s not part of the “down low” movement, it’s more likely you have a closet “Project Runway” fan on your hands.
BEST ENDING OF A SYNDICATED COLUMN/STRIP
The Washington Post recently reported that Aaron McGruder’s “The Boondocks” comic strip is most likely not coming back and will miss being seen in over 300 newspapers across the country. That McGruder finally ran out of pseudo intellectual mishmash to spew is no shock, but it is an odd turn of events considering that his lowbrow Cartoon Network show was just renewed for a second season. Perhaps this will leave readers with more time to bear witness to the I’m-more-outraged-than-you pissing matches between the Daily News’ Stanley Crouch and Errol Louis. As for the reason the newspaper strip has been cancelled, the Washington Post’s Laura Sessions Stepp indicates that McGruder may have “gone Hollywood,” once again proving that the man-child who once foolishly called Condi Rice a “murderer” is still his is own worst enemy. As good ole grandma used to say: good riddance to bad rubbish.
BEST BITCH SMACK AFTER LONG SILENCE
AOL/TimeWarner CEO Richard Parsons telling the Financial Times that YouTube isn’t worth the billion-dollar price the creators want for it.
BEST NEW TV SHOW TO AVOID
“Pants Off Dance Off,” the creation of Viacom’s Fuse TV (gobbled up by MTV after the upstart network generated some competition by actually showing music videos) is quite possibly the least offensive, yet most vapid reality show on television. Hundreds of attention whores converge on Fuse’s midtown Manhattan studio and audition for the show by stripping down to their skivvies while amused producers sit back, snicker, cringe, leer and finally learn what it must feel like to be a guy named Rocko from the Bronx charged with finding new dancers for the mob’s newest strip club. It comes as no big surprise that the show’s creator Tad Low (perfect name!) is also responsible for the annoying “Pop-Up Video” show that once aired on VH1. The most nonsensical part about the show is that you never actually get to see anyone nude. On television, dancers (usually people you’d never ever want to see naked) strip down to their underwear and are cut off just before removing their last pieces of coverage. The show then instructs viewers to visit the Fuse website to see “the full show.” Call us pervs but going to the site and being met with blurred out naughty bits is pretty lame. That said, we have to tip our hats to the producer’s genius, because it’s a relative “certainty” that a DVD is in the works in which the dancers really are shown nude. Right now, dozens of “Pants-Off Dance-Off” alumni just felt their blood run cold—even the blood down around their naughty bits.
The wholesale bitch smacking of Bill Keller in last week’s New York magazine (“The United States of America Versus Bill Keller,” September 18) must still have the New York Times a little loopy, because all kinds of weird things are coming out of that shop. First we get some sort of weird “beta” (that’s hipster-geek-Web 2.0 speak for “please love this product, and if not, we’ll change it how ever you want”) newsreader that only works on Microsoft Windows and seems rather intrusive on various levels for those who just want to read the news. Then the paper gives a sexy spread to disgraced former New Republic blogger Lee Siegel (you remember, the guy who hates Jon Stewart, but doesn’t want anyone to hate him). Then the Grey Lady went and created a brand new title out of thin air called “Futurist-in-Residence,” for Michael Rogers, a former Washington Post exec and Newsweek.com manager. So let’s get this straight, in the age of the Internet you make a guy who has been in print since 1972 (he started at Rolling Stone) your Futurist-in-Residence? Genius! After we wiped off our keyboard from the coffee-spitting-laughter, it immediately became clear to us that this move is possibly the only thing they could come up with to pry columnist Tom Friedman from his comfy corner office. If there is anyone at the paper who wants the “futurist” title, it’s ole watch-me-pull-from-my-vast-hindquarters-a-new-meaningless-but-full-of-import-because-my-mustache-is-wiggling-metaphor Friedman. In the Times’ press release Michael Zimbalist, VP of the research and development operations (how’s that for a title) said, “Michael has unique insights into the confluence of digital technology, consumer behavior and journalism …” We’ll offer this piece of advice to Rogers: Watch those new paradigm shift proclamations, Tom Friedman will cut a bitch …
So after jet setting around the world to attend fashion shows, drink expensive wines and hobnob with the elite, what’s a girl to do after being deposed from the perch of Vibe editor-in-chief? Parlay one of those contacts into a spiffy new job at Condé Nasty? Round up a team of investors and start your own fabulous glossy just to show the world how to do it right? No ma’am. In the case of Mimi Valdez, the answer is: Hook up with the ousted, broke, bitter and gangster-rapper-controlled former publisher of The Source rap mag and lead his new rap gossip paper Hip-Hop Weekly! Mark our words, this will all end in tears …
And now for some good questions… When is this magazine from American Apparel’s Dov Charney coming out and will it really give Hustler a run for its money? Why is Clear Channel selling so many radio stations just as Howard Stern is rumored to be returning to terrestrial radio? When will the crazy-like-a-fox logic of firing Tom Freston finally be revealed by Viacom’s Sumner Redstone? If Radar’s “Hard To Kill” posters around Manhattan accurately portray Maer Roshan’s dedication by showing a roach reading the magazine, could the continuing publication of the New York Sun accurately be portrayed by Jabba the Hut swallowing more creepy crawly things whilst farting in front of a naked dancing slavegirl?
This episode of Hypestalker is brought to you via a healthy serving of false reverence, a loving dollop of misty-eyed faux reflection and of course, the absolutely sincere intention of pulling on your heartstrings by any means necessary. Okay, not really. But if you had any problems with any of the above just know that we were only referencing our media brethren who just spent the last week and a half doing everything they could to find a way to sensationalize the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Chief among the media offenders was the usually responsible CNN. Somehow, the network decided that the only way to commemorate the anniversary was to have us all relive the sheer terror of that day by replaying their entire coverage of the event in real time. If 9/11 was an amusement park ride this might fly, but reliving the horror of that day in real-time is not what we’d call a great moment in media…
Next up to bat we had ABC and their sloppily constructed Path To 9/11 television movie. During one behind-the-scenes vignette for the film, which aired this past Sunday and Monday, the director, David Cunningham (yes we’re too scared to mentioned his secretive religiosity cabal), had a crowd of actors emit a terrifying scream in unison as they scrambled though the streets of Manhattan—a scene meant to mimic the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. This is entertainment? Interestingly, former president Bill Clinton’s lawyer, Douglas Band, and the CEO of his foundation, Bruce Lindsey, wrote to ABC head Robert Iger last Friday stating, “As a nation, we need to be focused on preventing another attack, not fictionalizing the last one for television ratings… Do the right thing for the country and pull this despicable work of fiction from the air.” A nice sentiment, but Iger is not widely known for his bleeding heart, so the show went on—only lightly edited. Funny how we heard nothing from the Clinton camp when other Bush bashing dramas were released… Perhaps the only anecdote worth saving from this ABC episode is hearing that even Harvey Keitel, a man known for participating in some of the most controversial films in recent history (with gusto), had strong objections to various parts of the film. Sure, that’s sexy and all—vive la Sean Penn and all that—but the real question is: Did he cash that ABC check?
Nevertheless, in the face of all the bad turns the media took this week regarding the anniversary, one old codger managed to pull a pretty substantial broadcast gem from his colon. Semi-retired (does anyone go away anymore?) former ABC “Nightline” host Ted Koppel teamed up with The Discovery Channel to create “The Price of Security,” a three-hour documentary/live discussion tackling the new era of post-9/11 life in America. While the intention was nice, and there was plenty of spooky “your privacy is being invaded…even right now!” moments, the show ultimately soft balled its way through interviews and discussions with some of the government’s top authorities on the topic.
Forbes.com is finally fighting back against its recent critics starting with The New York Times. AdAge has exposed a letter sent from Forbes.com President-CEO Jim Spanfeller to Times editors Lawrence Ingrassia (business section) and Byron Calame (public editor) regarding a story that appeared in the Gray Lady questioning Forbes.com’s traffic numbers. Spanfeller rages, “The New York Times’ own website presents higher unique visitors than third-party numbers show…Shame on you! Not for promoting the Times’ own log file numbers, but for suggesting we are somehow wrong in promoting our log file numbers while doing so yourself and failing to point it out specifically in the article. That smacks of competitive hypocrisy.” Once again, in the words of Jon Stewart, “Oh snap!”
Speaking of Mr. Stewart, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the blog-out over at The New Republic (former home of infamous fabulist Stephen Glass). Lee Siegel, the writer of their Culture blog, was allegedly fighting posters who disagreed with his blog entries by posing as a poster named “sprezzatura.” After a fellow bloggers accused Siegel of being the pro-Siegel poster, an internal investigation was initiated by editor-in-chief Franklin Foer. Soon after, Foer announced, “The New Republic has determined that the comments in our Talkback section defending Lee Siegel’s articles and blog under the username ‘sprezzatura’ were produced with Siegel’s participation. We deeply regret misleading our readers. Lee Siegel’s blog will no longer be published by TNR, and he has been suspended from writing for the magazine.”
A note of get well soon to those who sprained their wrists this month picking up the new W Magazine weighing in at 89 lbs. and 5 billion pages. Around page 2.34 billion, there is a Bruce Weber photo feature entitled “Welcome To Motor City” featuring none other than Kate “gimme drugs” Moss. Despite showing up on the cover of the Mirror allegedly snorting that sweet nose candy just months ago, the fashion publications have embraced her yet again. Still, the rehab of Moss Inc. would not be complete without a little community service, which in the fashion world means—a ghetto spread! Holla! The pages reveal Moss in a number of scenes from Detroit’s black world including: church, the ‘hood, a boxing gym and the obligatory local diner scene as she “keeps it real” with the homies. The best shots come when Moss is alternately shown laying prostrate underneath boxer J’Leon Love as she holds an old Jackie Wilson record (?), and then sapphically hugged up with a black-suited young woman dutifully holding a copy of Cornel West’s Democracy Matters (Princeton professors are standard reading in most Detroit ‘hoods don’tcha know). Even when taking a break to mug with fellow celeb and Detroit native Meg White (The White Stripes) Moss can’t seem to sell reality. For now, we’ll go ahead and settle for the fantasy: Moss comes to the ‘hood, gets religion and screws everyone in the family—redemption!
In what might be a roundabout response to their recent drubbing in Vanity Fair (“Panic on 43rd Street,” by Michael Wolff), The New York Times recently engaged in an odd bit of “inside baseball.” Just days after the glossy drive-by, The Times struck back with a piece by Katherine Q. Seelye that exposed the juicy bits behind the recent firing of Vanity Fair publisher Alan Katz. The article quips, “People at the magazine said that he and [Vanity Fair Editor-in-Chief] Graydon Carter had been unable to overcome personality differences and never established a working relationship.” Wait, is that The Times being snippy? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Seelye then reports Carter’s thoughts on the publisher switch, “I feel a great comfort level with [new publisher Edward Menicheschi]. He has great presence and élan, and he is the sort of person you could imagine as the publisher of Vanity Fair.’’ Okay, Carter basically just called Katz a slob—not nice. But just as we got ready to call Seelye the new queen of the media gossip world, she followed up with “What-Ifs of a Media Eclipse” (August 27), a well done feature that details the rise and fall of newspaper giant Knight Ridder. The writer goes to great lengths to point out all the mistakes and “could-have-been” scenarios surrounding the newspaper chain’s history. Hopefully, Times boss Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is taking his writer’s notes to heart…
We generally like to keep this space about hardcore media matters, but someone must cry out and acknowledge the horror that was this week’s Emmy Awards show. Why, oh why, would the producers of the show subject us to: Bob Newhart under glass, a nonsensical take-down of the entire Fox News anchor team, roughly ten embarrassing “wrap it up” musical interruptions during acceptance speeches, Barry Manilow actually winning something, an awkward Dick Clark tribute and yet another award to Tony Shalhoub, star of “Monk,” a show you nor any of your neighbors has ever seen? Maybe reality TV isn’t so bad after all…
We’re just saying…What possessed Vanity Fair to get into soft porn and feature a nude spread (boobage and all) of 26-year-old Johnson & Johnson heiress and P. Hilton wanna-be Casey Johnson. More importantly, what possessed the usually on-the-mark photographer, Jonathan Becker, to shoot Johnson without her diapers on? Why isn’t anyone talking about New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin outing the 60 Minutes producers by telling Tim Russert on this Sunday’s “Meet The Press” that the CBS bigshots begged him not to speak with other media outlets about the “hole in the ground” comment in hopes of preserving the network’s exclusive? Why won’t any of the television networks admit that, now that Karr has been cleared of “the kidnapping case of the century,” shifting focus from the Middle East, North Korea, Iran nukes, etc., just may have been an ambulance chasing mistake? Will Charlie Rose make good on his recent promise to showcase a standoff between Oscar The Grouch and Lord Of The Ring’s Gollum aka filmmaker Spike Lee and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff?
We’re just saying…When will Google News tell all their other news sources out there exactly when they intend to cut a sweet Associated Press-style deal with them too? Who still reads Time magazine and why is their new print publication schedule a story? When Katie Couric bitch smacks the other network’s anchors via ratings success starting September 5th, how long will ABC allow Charles Gibson to drone on? Will Air America’s Janeane Garofalo respond to Howard Stern co-host Artie Lang and his “fucking idiot” comment during William Shatner’s Comedy Central Roast? Better question: Why is Air America still (barely) on the air? Does anyone believe Whoopi Goldberg in her recent New York Times interview when she said she’s never seen “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and hasn’t spoken to the host in 20 years? What the hell happened on the set of The Color Purple? Does anyone really think that Mother Jones appointing two editors-in-chief (Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery) will actually work? (Cue the cat reorws and hisses!)
Ridiculous magazine feature of the month goes to Details magazine, the (allegedly) straight men’s periodical so obsessed with homosexuality that they even have a regular feature devoted to the topic called “Gay or [fill in the blank with supposedly questionable manly activity/individual].” Surely you remember this regular column, it’s the same one that, back in 2004, forced Details’ editor-in-chief Daniel Peres to issue a public apology in the face of mounting protests outside their offices for their “Gay or Asian” bit. Apparently, the hubbub only served to solidify the mag’s obsession with all things gay. The latest feature, incredibly titled “Watch Your Back,” poses the notion that poor schlub straight men are now under attack by the gay mafia in a new trend called “heterophobia.” (We much prefer the well done, “The Buysexual Agenda,” New York Magazine August 18, 2003.) This latest bout of “trendspotting” by Details should have had a disclaimer at the end…Something like: Dear Readers, Because Cargo magazine was so viciously slammed and ultimately shuttered for being “too gay” we are trying our damnedest to let you know how straight Details is, so bear (heh) with us…
Speaking of the ambiguously straight, the cover of this month’s Wired magazine, featuring the girlish figure of musician (Gosh! I’m a deer in headlights!) Beck, is so pink and frilly that we almost forgot that the cover headline, “The Rebirth Of Music: Now Bands Are Taking Over And Fans Are Getting What They Want,” is complete rubbish. Yeah, right, and Roman Polanski prefers older women, and “The Long Tail” is absolutely worth the 226-page read…
A moment of silence for Hype Stalker for our coming-out party last week initiated by our appearance on media-pro-must-read Romenesko (We exist! We really exist!), and the subsequent harshing by Jossip and MediaBisto’s FishbowlNY. This is all getting way too sexy for us. Where were all these people when we were bashing Kurt Andersen’s brains out every week just a couple of months ago? Eh, better late than never…
The rumor mill is churning full throttle that TimeWarner chief Richard “Dick” Parsons is eyeing the mayor’s chair after Bloomy is finished pooping in it. Interestingly enough, Parsons is actually better suited for the switch than Michael Bloomberg given his past as an aide to Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller. This all must be pretty amusing to Carl Icahn, the mega stockholder-barbarian-at-TimeWarner’s-gates. Ask Icahn what kind of job Parsons has done with TW and you might get a face full of venom-tinged spittle…
AdAge recently reported that Laurel “corny feather boa” Touby’s website MediaBistro may be up for sale. According to the item, “Estimates of the company’s revenue from people familiar with the process vary, from less than $2 million to $5 million to $8 million.” Considering that a little birdie tells us that some bloggers for the site allegedly make little more than $1500 a month, it sounds like Touby is making off with some pretty good scratch. In the meantime, if the sale does in fact go down, this may free up Touby’s in-house blogbot/Gawker wanna-be Dylan Stableford to pursue his true ambition of being an ironic rock star playing Williamsburg’s most hipsterati coffee houses. The real intrigue here is wondering what recently departed MediaBistro editor Elizabeth Spiers is thinking about the sale talk. After starting with Gawker, moving to New York magazine, then MediaBistro and now her own venture (DealBreaker), Spiers is surely weary of watching everyone else in blogging get rich off the spark she lit so long ago. Somewhere Nick Denton is cackling maniacally…
Someone needs to suggest a stress relieving high colonic for Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff. In the magazine’s latest issue, the acerbic scribe rips The New York Times’ Arthur Sulzberger a new one when he says, “The vulnerability that the Times critics see here—one that causes people inside the Times to gulp—is that difficult, less-than-humble, not-ready-for-prime-time descendants of 19th-century newspaper owners have been the cause of the decline and fall of a great many newspapers.” Ouch! But then Wolff loses all credibility when he continues by ripping the NYTimes.com website, “The whole idea that an old-time business can morph seamlessly into a huge, speculative entrepreneurial enterprise is a kind of quackery.” We smell another damn-I’m-bitter-I-didn’t-cash-out-during-the-Internet-boom hater. Or it could be that Wolff is still smarting from his high-profile media fau paux when he failed in his bid to purchase his former employer New York magazine. Watching the title rise to a new level of quality after his departure surely smarts. Proof of said scarring was revealed just a few months ago in an interview with I Want Media’s Patrick Phillips when Wolff admitted, “I never read New York magazine. I never let people talk to me about New York magazine. It does not exist in my universe… It no longer, as I say, exists in my world. It broke my heart. My family is banned from reading it or mentioning it.” It looks like we are all— Sulzberger included—doomed to suffer because of a media mogul wanna-be scorned. But hey, it’s New York City, what else is new?
We always knew something was fishy about Bono showing up at all those UN gatherings and making nice with some of richest men on the planet. While most of you thought the rock star was doing it in the name of peace and love, we always knew that Bono was auditioning for the Old Boys Club of the super rich. Proof positive came this week as it was revealed that Elevation Partners, an equity firm boasting U2 singer Bono as co-founder and partner, will be a minority partner in the ownership of Forbes Media. That’s right, Forbes baby! Forbes, as in, so rich Soho House is where these guys send their servants to party. As in, so rich Brooke Astor’s son held back the extra Beluga snacks and feather pillows just so he could save up enough to golf with these guys. So rich…well, you get the idea. Bono, the emperor is officially unclad, so stop it with the bleeding heart stuff. Commenting on the new investment Steve Forbes said, “There’s a whole new wonderful world out there based in print but the Web and other delivery vehicles [are] beckoning. We want to move before [the competition] wake up to what we saw.” Er, Steve-o, if you are just waking up to the Web, you might as well go back to sleep—and have someone update the prescription on those coke-bottle spectacles while you’re at it…
A nod of class goes to returning Vibe Editor-in-Chief Danyel Smith for giving fired EIC Mimi Valdez the title of “Departing-Editor-in-Chief” in this month’s masthead. Wait…that’s totally bitchy! Nice. That aside, we do have to take a couple of pot shots and wonder why anyone would choose Janet “40-year-old cougar” Jackson as a cover subject for their first issue back in the saddle—and topless no less! Yuck. Predictably, Jackson’s human vibrator, aka the midget without-a-hit Jermaine Dupree, shows up just a few pages later in front of a studio mix board presumably banging out yet another bottom of the charts banger. Then there’s the Ice Cube feature—uhm, didn’t he, like, stop existing a decade ago? The capper is the six-page spread given to Nigo and his Bathing Ape fashion line. Do not be fooled by the rapper ads and the bootylicious photo spreads, anyone wearing Bathing Ape at this point might as well visit Target and stock up on the latest Isaac Mizrahi potato sacks. Looks like everything old at Vibe is new again, huzzah!…
Finally, we’re trying to make sense of the recent pile-on of Bruce Ratner executed by New York Magazine and AM New York. NY Press has been pounding away at Brooklyn’s number-one real estate vampire for a while now, but it seems that everyone else just realized that Ratner has it in for the few remaining overlooked spots in Brooklyn—just when it’s so late in the game that any hardcore media coverage is essentially too little too late. Admittedly, New York Magazine did a nice job of photoshopping the new version of downtown BK in Ratner’s vision—it’s truly scary. Now if we could only muster up the testicular fortitude to cross the bridge and set foot in Brooklyn, we might care a little more.
We can’t begin this week without talking about publishing’s new golden boy Jared Kushner, the 25-year-old son of rich-but-jailed New Jersey developer Charles B. Kushner, a well-known Democratic fund-raiser and contributor to James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey. Fortunately, the story here has less to do with pop’s misadventures and more to do with Jared’s unlikely purchase of The New York Observer for a rumored $9 million. If that figure turns out to be anywhere near accurate, Arthur Carter, the current publisher of The Observer, is a genius. The 50,000 circulation paper, while retaining a lively editorial offering, had largely fell off the radar of most Manhattanites. With the new high profile purchase, The Observer is, at least temporarily, sexy again. Now if readers can just stop confusing the pink-too Financial Times with The Observer, maybe the pub has a fighting chance. A fringe benefit of the new deal is the relief it appears to be bringing to publishers in New York who, facing the creeping shadow of the big bad Internet, have been reinvigorated by the spectacle of a 20-something paying big to land a print publication rather than an über-cool website. In the wake of Nick Denton’s Gawker scale-down (and recent New York Times admission that the blog party is over), Elizabeth Spiers’ non-starter blog network and Jason Calacanis’ TimeWarner sellout, suddenly print isn’t looking so old school. Those rumors of print’s death are apparently greatly exaggerated…
Jared isn’t the only youngster betting the farm on print. Yusef Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, is the primary investor (via his firm Integrity Multimedia) in serial flameout Radar magazine created by Maer Roshan. The highly touted publication was originally funded by Mort Zuckerman in 2003, but lost steam after only two issues and folded for two years only to be revived in 2005 for a scant three issues. The scheduled 2007 re-launch of the magazine will bring heavy hitters Katherine Rizzuto, executive beauty director of Vogue and former publisher of Hearst’s Marie Claire, and Anne Perton, former ad director at House & Garden. You may remember Jackson from his failed bid, in partnership with billionaire Ron Burkle, to purchase The Chicago Sun-Times. With the latest resuscitation of Radar, Roshan and Jackson are praying that the third time is the charm…
Mea-freaking-culpa folks. It turns out that “Tabloid Wars” is not the train wreck we thought it would be. Any television program that reveals the behind-the-scenes blue-collar schlubbery that is The Daily News’ bullpen is must-see TV. Nevertheless, now that it’s been revealed that Bravo’s first choice for the show was The New York Post, watching the Daily Newsers flap around the city playing catch-up with The Post isn’t as juicy as before.
The Middle East conflict has raised a number of interesting questions for pundits, but in the midst of the media frenzy a bit of underhandedness has gone largely unnoticed… In the last couple of years, the cable news wars have increasingly been won by Fox News, leading MSNBC and CNN to proffer their own half-hearted imitations of the news giant. In the case of MSNBC, the strategy didn’t so much work as it helped slow the massive hemorrhaging at the network. CNN, on the other hand, endured the scorn of its peers as its pandering flashy graphics and logos revealed their Fox News fetish and damaged the cable news pioneers’ long held international gravitas. Still floundering last year, CNN made an attempt to regain some stature by changing the source of their copying from Fox News to the weekly TV hit series “24” starring Keifer Sutherland. Anyone familiar with “24” instantly caught all the reference points when CNN debuted “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer. The “24” homage continued with the introduction of “Anderson Cooper 360.” But just as viewers were beginning to forget that CNN now looked like the set of Fox’s highest rated television drama, CNN switched the target of their tracing paper yet again. As the Middle East conflict came into focus a few weeks ago as a true news “event,” CNN suddenly began to look and sound a lot like…the BBC! While reprehensible in deed, in fact, the move makes a lot of sense. Ted Turner’s original vision for CNN was modeled largely on the path paved by the BBC—a global news network that focused (intelligently) on international events. But over the years, in the wake of competition, CNN has lost much of the authority it gained since its start in 1980. Attempting to regain that position by copying the BBC’s 2D graphic style, reserved British-accented anchors and elaborate charts and graphs is (evil) genius. Most Americans have never seen a BBC news broadcast, so the wholesale cloning will go almost entirely unnoticed. CNN’s BBC clone experiment began on CNN International and, once the sexiness was confirmed, was quickly rolled out onto the main U.S. network. There is a BBC America channel, but American media/cable moguls knew better than to make it too easy to watch the BBC, and so the channel is largely hard to find on U.S. cable TV. Now, with the new and improved CNN, we’ll get to see if American viewers respond to the BBC clone, or if the British really are more media savvy than us hotdog and cheeseburger loving Yankees…
Speaking of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch conducted a rare, and revealing, interview with Charlie Rose last week. Among the revelations: he would support John McCain over Hillary Clinton; he tried unsuccessfully to stop his son Lachlan from quitting the company; unlike Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, he has no plans to give away most of his fortune; John Malone owns 18 percent of his company, and he wants it back; now officially an American citizen, he considers himself more American than Australian or British.
Welcome to the ultimate Möbius strip—a newspaper reporting about a reality show about a newspaper. The New York Daily News, flailing wildly in their attempt to battle the New York Post juggernaut, is trying something new to save the ship—a reality show. This is so dirty and wrong on so many levels it’s hard to figure out where to begin. It’s one thing for washed up TV actors like Brady boy Christopher Knight to mug for VH1’s cameras and ego franchise Donald Trump to show off his bad taste apartment decor, but when tabloid news reporters become entertainment, it’s clear that reality programming, and perhaps reality itself, has veered into dangerous territory. Entitled “Tabloid Wars” and shot last summer (long before the Daily News had a chance to jab the Post about their Page Six scandal), the show lasts for six one-hour episodes of “hard news gathering” by the paper’s reporters. Speaking about the show to the media, Daily News gossip writer George Rush said, “They kind of had to talk us into it. It was a little bit annoying at first. They call it a reality show because that’s what sells, but it really is more of a traditional documentary.” Yeah right, George, you keep telling yourself that. The only thing worse than participating in a reality show (and in this case, not even getting paid!) is to deny that you are, in fact, a reality show character. Assuming the Post doesn’t go down this sticky path as well, they have now won by default…
Speaking of the house that Rupert built, we found the recent Wired cover sporting Murdoch (“Rupert Murdoch, Teen Idol!” July 2006) not only fascinating but baffling. Ever since Conde Nast took over the title the ad pages plunged and the content got fluffier, nevertheless Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson (author of the the huckterish The Long Tail) has managed to keep up the mirage that Wired is still in touch with emerging trends. OK, so yeah, Rupert bought MySpace. But the social networking site was developed and popularized by the company’s founder Tom Anderson way back in 2003. Whatever happened to the days when Wired railed against pandering to big shots and actually gave up and coming entrepreneurs their due? Sure Rupert’s imperious glare, elephantine neck folds, old super-rich dude suit and fuck-you sneer sells copies, but if Wired is no longer the place to find new media maverick’s like Anderson, then where do we go? As if to punctuate the complete rewriting of history, Murdoch has re-branded the New York Fox News site as MyFoxNY.com and the recently acquired Channel 9 News has been renamed “My 9 News.” The entire pretense that suddenly Fox News is “yours” simply because you can post pages on MySpace is so laughably simplistic it will probably work. The Murdoch formula still wins.
The media is often made or unmade based on backroom deals and under-reported fire sales. Recently Vibe/Spin Ventures experienced just such a fallout with the sale of Spin for around $5 million (the magazine once sold for $42 million), which led to the firing of Editor-in-Chief and West Coast native Sia Michel. Michel’s tenure, although free of tumult, was marred by generalist tastes that had a magazine once exalted for breaking new bands and being the anti-Rolling Stone eventually putting photos of rapper Notorious B.I.G. on the cover. The new owners likely thought they would usher in a new day until they saw the horrific vision that one-issue editor Andy Pemberton had in mind. Looking more like People magazine meets The National Enquirer than the Spin of old, Pemberton decided to put Beyoncé on the cover (clad in her trademark bootylicious sparkly dress). And just like that, he was fired (maybe these new owners actually know what they’re doing!). The Spin sale fired rumors that Vibe was on the block too, so the smart staffers on Lexington Ave. prepared their resumes early. (Vibe online editor Lynne D. Johnson made a high-profile move to Fast Company just two weeks ago.) Finally, a sale was made for the title originally created by music legend Quincy Jones (he has since tried, unsuccessfully, to buy it back). The new owners, who refuse to reveal the purchase price, are fronted by Wicks Media, a mysterious German company with tentacles present throughout Europe. Similar to the Spin series of events, it only took the new owners hours to realize that Vibe editor Mimi Valdez had to go, installing former Vibe big wig Danyel Smith in the top editorial slot. Will this mean fewer stabbings at the Vibe Awards? Only time will tell…
Newsweek takes a lot of hits as the un-cool, also-ran to Time magazine. But the fact is, despite the talented staff of writers and editors, the magazine often does itself in with odd choices. For instance the recent cover story “The New Greening of America: Politics to Lifestyle, Why Saving The Environment is Suddenly Hot” is obviously the publication’s lame attempt to cash in on some of that Al Gore movie heat without actually endorsing the allegedly retired politician. For shame, Newsweek…
On the subject of half-hearted moves, this week saw the release of Esquire’s John McCain cover asking: “Would he have made a good president? Could he still?” The real questions readers must be asking themselves is: why a man Esquire’s editors advise against looking like, dressing like and thinking like is on the cover. Well, OK, every metro-sexual rag needs to pad the floor with some pseudo gravitas now and then. But we don’t think McCain will be visiting the White House in flip-flops and cargo shorts anytime soon.
Anyone who was paying attention to the blog space before it became hot (that would be anytime before 2004) is probably aware of a rather interesting trend at the New York Times. When it comes to blog coverage, the Times seems to only have eyes for Nick Denton (Gawker, Wonkette, Gizmodo). The day Denton’s blog nemesis, Jason Calacanis, closed a $25 million deal with Time Warner to purchase Weblogs Inc., the New York Times held up its nose and refused to make any mention of the spectacular media occurrence until a full two months later. Even then the paper only made a passing reference to the deal in an off-hand reference to a feud between Business 2.0’s Om Malik and Calacanis (“What’s Online: Eyeballs Are Back, or Maybe Not,” December 3, 2005). That’s what makes the Times’ most recent blog article so interesting (and by interesting, we mean obvious). This week Times writer David Carr spent a good deal of dead trees (“A Blog Mogul Turns Bearish on Blogs,” July 3, 2006) on the fact the Denton—drum roll—fired an employee (Jesse Oxfeld) and closed two little-known websites. And although we mentioned last week that Calacanis is certainly no charmer, Denton is not exactly known for going out of his way to make nice with the media. Therefore it’s hard to overlook such over-the-top-fawning by Carr when he writes, “Sitting in his apartment on Spring Street, he appears to be the epitome of the new media aesthetic, with the buzzing Sidekick and a wireless laptop on a metal counter surrounded by appliances that seem to be made out of titanium. The antithesis of the schmoozer—human beings are, at best, companion media to Mr. Denton—he stares at traffic numbers and incoming emails as he talks.” Stopping just short of calling him God, Carr’s sloppy text blowjob is embarrassing. Either Calacanis really pissed someone off at the Times, or the Old Grey Lady is scared to death of weathering yet another swipe from one of Denton’s mean machine blog meat grinders. Meanwhile, a funny thing happened to Calacanis on the way to selling out to get in…he wants more. While most placed bets on how long the serial entrepreneur would pretend to continue to care about Weblogs Inc. before bolting, the fact is that he now appears to be aiming for Dick Parsons’ (head mucky-muck at Time Warner) job. On several occasions Calacanis has whispered the notion of taking over Time Warner via his blog and elsewhere, usually resulting in eyerolls and guffaws all around. But as his various in-house experiments within the company begin to bear fruit (or at least hype), Parsons may indeed have to watch his back.
Although most think the day of Internet arguments and dot com boom discussions are over, we are far from seeing the last of these epic debates. One particularly obsessed curmudgeon of the digital doomsday is John Heilemann, Wired writer and Bill Gates hater (he penned the hardcover missive “Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era”). The patrician pundit uses the pages of New York Magazine (“Suit 2.0,” July 3-10) to lob thinly veiled insult grenades at AOL’s newest loudmouth that would be king Jason Calacanis (creator of Weblogs Inc., a company he recently sold to AOL for over $25 million dollars). Calling Calacanis everything from a desperate social climber to a fatso, Heilemann heaps loving tablespoonfuls of scorn atop the young blog mogul’s head. “The last time I heard from Calacanis, he was royally pissed off with me for a column I wrote last year, in which I referred, en passant, to his ‘Web 1.0 flameout,’” Heilemann writes proudly. But the chest thumping is rather off key. Calacanis’ magazine, Silicon Alley Reporter did indeed go out of print, but it was far from a flame-out. After most of the New York tech companies folded in 2000-2001, there was little for the magazine to report, so Jason cleverly re-branded the media property as Venture Reporter and began publishing stories and data related to the venture capital business. After just a couple of years, Calacanis sold the company to Dow Jones Inc. (not a shabby suitor) and used the money to start up his next venture—Weblogs Inc. No one will argue that Calacanis is the easiest guy to get along with. Born in Brooklyn and just as brash and outspoken as the borough, he’s widely despised by many tech gurus on the West Coast (like San Francisco based Heilemann) who can’t stomach his arrogance-meets-blue collar grit profile. Nevertheless, Calacanis gets results.
Interestingly, the dour tech scribe mentioned one other dot com magician—Marc Andreessen. Once the superstar of Netscape—eventually landing his very own Time magazine cover— Andreessen fell during the Internet blood bath of years past, and everyone piled on, slipping poison-tipped daggers into all the tender parts of his battered profile. But the real entrepreneurs never say die, and even now Andreessen is heading up a new well-funded web application venture called Ning headquartered in California and New York. So, while the real players are still playing, the benchwarmers and critics are still stewing over playing time they haven’t put in the practice hours to earn.
A lesson in how to transition icons from the starting line-up to the bench (permanently) recently played out at CBS. About a year ago, news diva Dan Rather announced his retirement, followed by the expected farewell media tour and fawning television retrospectives of his long career. So, after all the hubbub about his retirement, you’d think he’d do the classy thing and walk away quietly into the night, right? Wrongo! Unfortunately, some divas become so used to the warmth of the spotlight and the smell of caked on make-up, that once the final curtain call comes, they don’t know how to “turn it off.” Such is the case with Danny boy. In a parting gesture of good will, CBS boss Les Moonves offered Rather a permanent desk at the tiffany network and an occasional correspondent spot on “60 Minutes,” a show whose historic greatness Rather had little do with. Some even argue that Rather almost indelibly tainted the “60 Minutes” franchise with his short-lived “60 Minutes II” knock-off. Now Rather is whining about his short on-air time with “60 Minutes,” just as the show’s superstar (and rightful icon) Mike Wallace exits gracefully—a move Rather would do well to pay attention to. Fittingly, the one individual coming to Rather’s rescue is none other than the brash Internet billionaire Mark Cuban. According to reports, Cuban is set to offer Rather a sweet deal to produce and appear in news and documentary packages on his HDNet venture. Considering Cuban’s penchant for hanging over the shoulders of everyone he hires (have you seen the NBA Finals?), a pairing with Rather, who takes great pride in the illusion of autonomy, seems unlikely. On the other hand, if déclassé media figures attract one another, then this is a match made in heaven…
The newspaper world is scrambling to change or die (see “Adapt or Die,” American Journalism Review, June 2006) as editors around the country are shoving camcorders into the hands of grizzled old writers accustomed to hiding behind their desks and publishers are tearing their hairplugs out trying to understand how a “blog” differs from a traditional newspaper column (hint: one actually relies on real world reporting). But amid the flurry, at least a couple of media entities are keeping their eyes on the ball. The Times of London has begun printing copies of their publication to be distributed in New York City, eschewing the web-only ethos of many UK players when it comes to drawing in new U.S. readers. In a similar move, UK’s The Guardian will now be making PDFs available on their website so readers can print out their favorite British news briefs. So, while the Internet has most certainly changed the media game for all time, and websites will only increase in popularity, some very smart people are still betting a lot of cash on dead trees…blog that digerati.
It was a welcome sight to see Charlie Rose back behind the great round table once again this past Monday. After a very serious round of surgery in France and a long recovery, Rose looked a few pounds lighter but appeared surprisingly well rested, healthy and sounded great. A staggering 71 guest hosts filled the hot seat while he was away featuring media heavy hitters such as Judy Woodruff, Jeffrey Toobin, Brian Lehrer, Mary Matalin, David Brooks, Salman Rushdie, Cokie Roberts and William Kristol, but none of them ever reached Rose’s level of connection and delivery. The special treat of the show was finally getting to see his well-known executive producer, Yvette Vega, on camera for the first time. Kudos to Rose for not trying to move us along quickly and tackling his heart surgery head-on as one of the night’s issues. Apparently that good old Southern stock is holding up, because Rose doesn’t look newly enfeebled or frail, on the contrary, he was a sight for many sore eyes. Unfortunately, the show ended with a new appearance of Tom “the mustachio” Friedman attempting to steal Al Gore’s recent environmentalist thunder by changing his latest spiel from “the world is flat, the world is flat!” to “green is patriotic, green is sexy, green is goooood….!” Not only did the mysterious mustache quiver with new, otherworldly electricity, Friedman actually took a moment to look directly into the camera to deliver his gospel—taking his meta-ham act to yet a new level. The famously dark day may have passed last week, but we’re not entirely sure a set of 6’s isn’t hiding underneath that lip brow…
Last week we hailed the possible rebirth of Manhattan in the face of rabid Brooklyn cheering as rumors of Absolute magazine’s resurrection circulated. We can now confirm that Absolute will indeed publish again under the new ownership of Hour Media and New York Homes & Lifestyles. An October/November 2006 issue is planned, with subsequent issues hitting the streets on a bi-monthly basis. Starting with the October/November 2006 issue, Absolute Publishing will produce this spectacular publication on a bi-monthly basis. In keeping with the publication’s outsized image of itself, newly crowned president of Absolute Publishing, John Balardo, remarked, “The magazine will remain focused on the luxury lifestyles of affluent New Yorkers. Our editors are committed to producing a magazine that will deliver the same high standards and principles that readers have come to rely on.” The sentiment is nice and all (assuming you’re a New Yorker choking on money), but the first part of being an affluent lifestyle magazine for the rich is—surprise—being able to pay your own rent. Once they get that part right, then maybe we’ll take them more seriously as to which yacht you should sip what champagne on and so forth. Until then, it’s still Wannabe Monthly.
Despite the horrible reviews and tepid ratings, we took a part of the holiday weekend to take a gander at “Conversations With Michael Eisner,” on CNBC. The former Disney CEO holds court in a restaurant (audience inexplicably seated half a football field away) as the camera angles and lighting attempt to add gravitas to Eisner’s poor Charlie Rose imitation.
Apparently we tuned in just in time as this week’s episode featured two of Eisner’s former employees: new Disney chief Robert Iger, and the worst comedian in show business today, ABC’s late night host Jimmy Kimmel (next to him, even his irritating girlfriend Sarah Silverman becomes a comic genius and his MTV hobbit-spawn, Andy Milonakis, is momentarily tolerable).
The show trudged along methodically as Eisner pretended to care that he’s no longer one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Things finally got interesting when Iger arrived on set and submitted himself for questioning. The issue burning on Eisner’s mind? “It was clear you were going to get [the Disney CEO job] in the end,” said Eisner, “but you had to sit there and watch the board interview in front of you all these candidates who weren’t as qualified as you were. You did something in a million years I couldn’t do. You kept your cool. For a year! I would have told everybody off.”
Put on the spot by Eisner’s ham-handed compliment/machismo chest puff, Iger calmly replied that after 30 years in business, he learned a little thing called patience. The cameras didn’t quite catch all the flames shooting out of Eisner’s skull after that comment, but the point had been made: Eisner still doesn’t get that fire and brimstone do not a great CEO make. A sigh of calm washed over an in-studio audience secure in the knowledge that the house that Mickey built is no longer being run by the Heat Miser…
We will not utter their names here (even we can’t stoop that low), but the media frenzy this past weekend over the birth of a new child by two prominent Hollywood actors must be noted. Not since the crowning of the new pope has CNN devoted such reverent coverage to an event. At one point, given the animations, graphics and epic music, it truly seemed as though the Messiah had been born in Africa. Instead, CNN’s music score may as well have been the Decline and Fall of Media theme song we’ve all been secretly humming. If you have
no idea what we’re talking about, consider yourself lucky—you are not yet a pod person!
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Woe betide movie makers that stiff The New York Post when it comes to new movie screenings-or lack thereof. In one of the strangest non-movie reviews ever, today the Post published the following: “The horror flick ‘See No Evil’ opens today but is not reviewed because the distributor did not provide advance screenings for critics, which usually means a bad movie. V.A. Musetto’s review will appear in tomorrow’s Post.” Brrrrr! Talk about issuing media threats! Did readers really need to know that the Post and the distributor aren’t cozy? And while the logic the passage offers about movies that don’t screen early is usually true, since when did it become okay to essentially call a movie trash just because your reviewer couldn’t see it? Finally, the last line, “…Musetto’s review will appear in tomorrow’s Post…” sounds more like the last words delivered before a terrorist strike—a message meant to instill fear and dread in the proposed target.
Predictably, in the same issue, the Post’s Page Six smears the director of the film by saying, “Lions Gate is hiding the sleazy porn past of the director of its new horror flick See No Evil, which opens today, without advance screenings, starring wrestler Kane… there’s not a single word about his 13 years of grinding out ultra-raunchy XXX fare…” Ouch! But the fun doesn’t stop there. For giggles, we tried to find a photo of Musetto for this piece, but when you type his name into Google Image Search (safe search off) all you get is a bunch of raunchy porn pics! Is there something we don’t know about the surly critic? The irony is, suddenly we really, really want to see See No Evil.
The drumbeats of war are rumbling louder as the media hawks begin to focus in more and more on every move John McCain and Hillary Clinton make. A simple speech at The New School and the subsequent heckling by students seemed to raise the blood lust of New York reporters dogging the senator’s every step. The fact that New School President, and former Democratic senator, Bob Kerrey took the opportunity to passionately admonish his students for the heckling appears to have gone unnoticed—like most of what Kerrey says. Meanwhile, the newswires are so starved for something, anything, about Hillary’s White House plans that her iPod music list has suddenly become big news. Among the senator’s favorites are: Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” (subtext: Yes, I’m a feminist despite the whole blowjob forgiveness thing); The Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit,” (subtext: If you think I’m ‘not’ running for Prez. you’re out of your mind); and U2’s “Beautiful Day,” (subtext: Yes I’m shrill, waffling and hated by even Susan Sarandon, but look at this winning smile!).
As Charlie Rose recovers from surgery, producer Yvette Vega has taken the opportunity to put together some rather fascinating shows. The most recent was the “Battle of the Crazy Hair” night that featured Hollywood producer Brian Grazer interviewing New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell. Despite the unlikely matchup, the segment went over quite well and revealed that Gladwell may be in line for his own talk show some day. Highlight moment: Gladwell compliments Grazer on his Charlie Rose imitation, sending Grazer into ham-it-up mode, resulting in the Hollywood vet reaching over and executing the patented Charlie Rose Connecting-With-You-Hand-Lock™. Grazer then energetically huffs a dry Sunset Boulevard faux-laugh and deadpans at the camera, “Thank you, and good night…”
The latest media dust-up that has Manhattan buzzing is the empty slot at Time magazine and who will be selected (crowned) to helm the glossy icon of publishing. New York magazine’s Adam Moss has been whispered, and the ever-present Tina Brown has even gotten a mention. But the big buzz is that our favorite patrician of publishing, Kurt Andersen, has yet to be bandied about as a real contender. Let’s unpack the possibilities. Moss would immediately make Time magazine less a competitor with Newsweek and more a glorified print-version of CNN’s “The Situation Room.” Tina Brown…Well, let’s just say that even the mention of her name in a conversation about running Time is like suggesting Bonnie Fuller might have a grand old time editing The New Yorker. Sure it’s an interesting thought—and punch line. The irony is that Andersen would be perfect for Time magazine. Full of the satisfied cynicism that goes along with landing plumb editing gigs without actually hitting home runs, the provincial confines of Time—where merely keeping the ship afloat is deemed success—might finally be the home Kurt’s been searching for…
A recent New York Times (“Times Are Tough for News Media, but Journalism Schools Are Still Booming,” May 15) dutifully reminds us that, yes, good journalism skills are still important and that, though the media is drowning in ill-prepared writers and bloggers, J-schools are—surprise, surprise—flourishing. Writer Katharine Seelye makes mention of those important schools like Yale and NYU, where young, hungry, hopeful journalists can learn skills like blogging and posting podcasts and how to get a cool blog name and lure lots of traffic. The J-schools are now also teaching stuff like html, so those new-media folk can learn how to attach links and stuff like that. Also, the professors are now allegedly instructing students on tone and style so that they can sound extra-snarky. The media apocalypse has, at long last, finally arrived.
We just finished tearing through the new Vanity Fair with golden boy Anderson Cooper on the cover and we’re trying to figure out exactly when the magazine decided to anchor entire issues on derivatives. First there’s the fawning love note to Cooper in which, somehow, we’re supposed to feel sorry for Cooper because he had to, sniff, report on Hurricane Katrina (guess putting an actual New Orleans victim on the cover wouldn’t be as sexy as the pre-maturely grey news hunk). Then we get to the juicy stuff a loooong article on the whole Anthony Pelicano phone tapping scandal in Hollywood essentially based on one, two-year old quote in, egad, The New York Post (a tabloid Graydon Carter would never be caught dead reading, much less quoting). The article contains no revealing interview with one of the subjects, in fact, this article may have set a record for "…did not respond when contacted for comment" mentions. The only thing we can imagine that would prompt Carter to approve such a long article so light on any new information is that the subject struck a little too close to some of his cherished Hollywood buddies. This, oh faithful readers, is how you cover big stories without actually covering them. Holy David Blaine!!! It’s magic!
New York Magazine has dropped its color-coded (dandy pink for architecture, number two brown for food, booger green for Wall Street) power list issue called "The Influentials" on newsstands and the sweet smell of log rolling is wafting fragrantly throughout Manhattan. According to the editors, the issue is the result of eight long months of dutiful research (read: studying fund raiser guest lists) and conversations (translation: publicist wooing). Despite the issue’s velvet rope aspirations, a couple of faces in the group took us a bit off guard, namely: Sarah Lewitinn aka Ultragrrl (this myspace celeb thing is going too far), Lindsay Lohan (red carpet vomit is no longer "hot"), DJ Kay Slay (so 5 years ago), Stephon Marbury (playing on borrowed time), VH-1’s Michael Hirschorn (invented "celebreality," in reality deserves Hades) and Marc Ecko (no one, NO one wears Ecko anymore if they want people to talk to them in public). The funniest part of the article is at the beginning when the editors implore you to "please, do not read a hierarchy into the order of names(!)" You can’t have your cake and eat it too guys, any power list is destined to make you some enemies and some needy (albeit powerful) friends "such wishy washiness doesn’t, well…wash." In the end we are left to wonder: are these really the "influential" New Yorkers, or just "some" of the influential New Yorkers mixed in with other people who happen to make a lot of money?
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