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I Think the Sherwood Video is Wickedly Funny, but  “Alan Smithee” Will Have to Get the Credit

note from your friendly blogarist: “Anonymousity” will be a continuing discussion in our  daily Xpress,  the blog with the slug line “we put our name to it.”

The inaugural address parody of Ben Sherwood is now viral, at least throughout the news business.  And it is more than a stunning welcome for the new president of ABC News.

As vividly as I can recall “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” and “Where were you when the space shuttle blew up,”  I suspect I will always be able to answer “Where were you when you first saw the Sherwood video?”

While I think it is wickedly funny, I also think it’s a scathing, and harmful indictment of Anne Sweeney and her decision who will lead ABC News out of the mess in which they are now mired.  And I think that’s too bad.  I, for one, would like to see ABC News, where I spent 17 years of my career, restored to its glory days and financial stability.


Years ago, when Betsy West left ABC News to be a vice president at CBS, I sent her a going away card that  read, “We don’t blame you for leaving…” continuing on the inside, “but after you’re gone, we’ll blame you for everything else.”

It’s particularly funny to anyone who knows the standard operating procedures of network news. I should have bought a stack of cards to send “notes to self” over the past five years.

Sadly, over the years, ABC News has been reduced to a toxic soup of pathologic gossip, witch hunts and abuse of power by management.  Someone took the humanity out of human resources and turned it into a weapon of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »


Couric Squeezes the Gap with Sawyer to 150,000 Viewers — Narrowest of  Season — 66% Smaller than Last Year

Christmas Colors in Red and Green

note from your friendly blogarist: “Paint by Numbers” will be an occasional, yet regular,  feature of daily Xpress meant to reach behind the press releases for a more accurate picture of the state of broadcast news than reported elswhere.

Can you call a 150,000-viewer gap between ABCs World News with Diane Sawyer and CBS Evening News with Katie Couric anything other than "striking distance?"

Note to Les Moonves: Objects in the rear view mirror may be closer than they appear.

As you sit down to re-negotiate Katie Couric’s $15M salary and future at CBS News, and you should amidst your continuing lay-offs, you might want to take a closer look at her A25-54 numbers this year compared to last year.

Katie Couric has narrowed the gap with Diane Sawyer on 12 out of the 14 weeks of this season. (One week showed the same gap as last year).

I just want to make sure you have our Paint By Numbers kit. TVNewser seems to have ignored this accomplishment which is somewhat  surprising given their warm relationship with her executive producer. Oh well, maybe they’ll write something about it next week, in a round up of the quarter. (Oops, they missed it again. Might they be holding back to hang on to some negotiating leverage?)

Bloomberg News, in reporting on your preliminary talks for her new contract, noted this last week:  “Both sides recognize Couric’s salary must be reduced for her to remain at CBS, one of the people said. This season, the “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” is averaging 5.73 million viewers a night, according to Nielsen Co. data, behind NBC and ABC, and down 24 percent from when she took over in 2006.”

Yikes, the  continuing obsession TV writers have with total viewership is…. meaningless.   Does that matter in the real business world?   Not one bit.

As you know, “total” viewers don’t add one single dollar to the financial health of a news division.  Doesn’t it make you want to scream “It’s the demo, stupid,”  because that’s what they should  be tracking for Katie in the coming weeks.


For the week of December 13, Katie Couric quietly narrowed the demo gap with Diane Sawyer from 500 000 to 450,000 year to year.  *** And this just in for the week of December 20.  Katie Couric squeezed the demo gap down to just 150,000, narrowing that gap a whopping 66% over the same week in 2009 (440,000). The CBS demo delivery of 1,980,000 viewers was actually  the second highest of the season, only topped by Thanksgiving week which only included two days (Monday and Tuesday.)

The week of Christmas only included four days, excluding Friday (generally the lowest rated day of the week for the evening newscasts.) This year, as last year, Diane Sawyer took off for her birthday  (December 22) and the day after.  David Muir substituted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Should A Man Get Away with a “No Condom” Maneuver in the Morning?


Radical acts: always good for one's sex life


Long before AIDS and other awful STDs, when the only consequence of unprotected sex was getting pregnant, jerks the world over  pulled the alleged “Assange” maneuver the morning after.  With daybreak testosterone rising, a bedroomy guy who was given no choice but to wear a condom the night before, would roll over and make a “raincoat-free” move, as if all formalities had disappeared and he could kick his shoes off at the dinner table.

Now, at the close of 2010, Julian Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden after finding himself the center of a worldwide manhunt, then arrested by British authorities because two women he bedded in the same week swapped their unsafe sex stories and went to the police to demand he take a test for HIV.

The Guardian, one of the original Wikileak partners, has now leaked some of Assange’s Swedish police report.  So in addition to publishing a quarter of a million cables from 250 American embassies worldwide the paper is now reporting how Assange’s revolutionary,  possibly treasonous acts have certainly been good for his sex life. Okay, that news may not exactly stop the presses; preaching a passion for bringing world peace through radical acts has been an aphrodisiac throughout the ages.

It seems everyone is now dissecting Assange’s ego and the sex life that has grown exponentially with his Google pages.   We’ve even learned Assange had the audacity to steal the girlfriend of a known American journalist.  They apparently went outside during dinner at a restaurant, were seen holding hands and whispering, and she never returned to the hotel room she shared with her boyfriend. (Okay, so women can be jerks, too.)

But back to Assange’s police report excerpts.  The Guardian reporter wrote that Julian Assange has “a fetish” for unsafe sex.

Who doesn’t?

Read the rest of this entry »

note from your friendly blogarist: “Paint by Numbers” will be an occasional, yet regular,  feature of daily Xpress meant to reach behind the press releases for a more accurate picture of the state of broadcast news than reported by MSM and industry websites.


In our continuing tutorial how ratings reports are spun by network communications offices, our daily Xpress paint by numbers team looks at the hot-off-the-press report from a website that often looks like a public relations arm of some of their favorite broadcast news execs.

Sunday Show Ratings: December 12

By Chris Ariens on December 17, 2010 2:09 PM

A blanket of snow across the Midwest may have helped give a boost to the Sunday morning public affairs shows. With more viewers homebound, all four programs saw week-to-week growth last Sunday. “Meet the Press with David Gregory” was #1 again with 3.66 million total viewers; a 600K lead over #2 “Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer.”

Network Program Total Viewers A25-54
NBC “Meet the Press” 3.66M 1.26M
CBS “Face the Nation” 2.96M 940K
ABC “This Week” 2.33M 700K
FOX “Fox News Sunday” 1.430M 540K
(back to)

For a true analysis, it’s important to see how the network morning shows  fared for the week of December 6, 2010 against the same week in 2009.  In adults 25-54, the demo we explained in our earlier tutorial, CBS’ Face the Nation is +24%, NBC’s Meet the Press is + 15% and ABC’s This Week is the only Sunday morning news show to mark a loss in viewership: -19%.

More later.

note from your friendly blogarist: “Paint by Numbers” will be an occasional, yet regular,  feature of daily Xpress meant to reach behind the press releases for a more accurate picture of the state of broadcast news than reported by MSM and industry websites.


The inaugural column of  Paint by Numbers looks at this week’s entry from “TV Newser” reporting the current state of competition amongst the morning shows.  Here’s our first tutorial: the story re-posted here is based on a press release which addresses Nielsen’s tally of  total viewers, a common public relations ploy.  Those who understand the business of the news business know the only viewership that matters, the viewership which determines profitability and stability,  is adults 25-54, more commonly called the demo.

The Today Show winning streak is not challenged.  But the fight for #2 and #3 may not quite look the same in the Paint by Numbers that follows the TVNewser take:

Morning Show Ratings: Week of Dec.6

By Molly Stark Dean on December 16, 2010 2:20 PM

The “Today” show was still on top last week — another week closer to a 16-year streak.

“Today” topped #2 “Good Morning America,” but GMA cut the total viewing gap with NBC’s “Today” by -10% week-to-week and -20% year-to-year. Co-anchor George Stephanopoulos was in Afghanistan Monday, and off Tuesday.

“GMA” increased its total viewership by 2% week-to-week.

CBS’ “The Early Show” increased by 7K from week-to-week.

The averages for the week of December 6:

Total Viewers: NBC: 5.65M / ABC: 4.68M / CBS: 3.09M

A25-54 rating: NBC: 2.68M / ABC: 1.75M / CBS: 1.28M

Read the rest of this entry »



Heidi Jones Got Some Splainin'

Just imagine, while police on Long Island were investigating the horrifying sex crimes and murders of four women whose bodies were callously dumped on a local beach,  cops in Manhattan were running around on a wild goose chase created by WABC weather gal Heidi Jones who was arrested this week on charges that made up a story about an attack and attempted rape while jogging in Central Park.

updated 12/18/10: The Daily News reports today that her bogus report of a man dragging her off a jogging train drew in detectives from across the city and a police detail assigned to her personally for security and surveillance.  They also reported that WABC also provided security.

Heidi, here’s your community service assignment: use your reporting skills to crunch the numbers and find out how many women actually  cry/lie rape or attempted rape and file false reports.  Then research why.  I’ve been reporting on rape for 30 years and I still can’t get to the bottom of this mystery. Read the rest of this entry »


David Blaine:"Drowned Alive" at Lincoln Center


DAREDEVIL’S  JOURNEY includes extraordinary footage and outtakes from Shelley Ross

I first noticed the Travel Channel had undergone a great transformation soon after it brought in its new programming chief, Fred Graver, who I’d followed back in the 80s when he was a brilliant writer for  “The David Letterman Show.” So it didn’t surprise me that he was thinking out of the box.  It was great to find him also thinking inside a bubble, David Blaine’s bubble that is.

“A Beautiful Struggle” begins with never-before-seen material from Blaine’s 2005 interview with the legendary Evel Knievel who says to his new protegé: “You’re a strange character, kid, you’re a strange character,” adding “You have a problem.  You insist on doing things that are sincere and real and you just don’t want to give the people something they think they’re seeing and they’re really not.  You’re not just a magician. You’re not a stuntman.  You’re a daredevil.”

At that moment, hearing from the master himself, Blaine can’t help but react with joy at the validation that, in his own mind, seems to have eluded him for a lifetime.  And so begins what is more than a greatest hits reel of Blaine’s death-defying feats.  It is Blaine’s first true in-depth and comprehensive look at what makes him tick. Read the rest of this entry »


Ronni Chasen

In a press conference this week that no cable news channels interrupted their primetime reruns to cover, the Beverly Hills mayor, his chief of police and some of their officers basically said they had solved the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, revealing the preliminary ballistics analysis of the bullets that killed her came from the same gun  their “person of interest,”  Harold Martin Smith, used to kill himself.

The official announcement that a desperate and deranged ex-con on bicycle had committed the crime during a botched robbery attempt ended weeks of speculation and wild innuendo that Chasen was somehow responsible for her own death.

Her murder had remained a Hollywood mystery since November 16th when, driving home from the premiere of “Burlesque” and an after-party, Chasen was shot five times in the chest before plowing her black Mercedes into a telephone poll at the corner of Sunset and Whittier. The intersection where she died is near where I lived for almost 20 years and where I followed Ronni Chasen’s career with more than a passing interest. I have followed the reports of her murder with downright vigilance. Read the rest of this entry »


Please click on and turn this into a global get well message for Aretha Franklin.


"Helter Shmelter"

BUSTED: a few days ago, Charles Manson was caught red-handed calling a bunch of people in California, New Jersey, Florida and British Columbia — on a cellphone, an item not allowed in his prison.

“It’s troubling that he had a cellphone since he’s a person who got other people to murder on his behalf,” a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections, told the Los Angeles Times

First, may I congratulate the California State Prison at Corcoran for having better cell phone service than I have at my home.  But then again, perhaps Manson has to stand in a certain corner of his cell just like I often have to do on my back yard deck.

In California, the prisoners caught with cellphones, and there are many, get a simple reprimand.  I think they should get a Verizon “can-you-hear-me-now” commercial.

Who is Charles Manson calling and why?  We know “Inside Edition” recently ran a segment featuring audio purported to be Manson’s singing, “I’ve seen the world spinning on fire, I’ve danced and sang in the devil’s choir.”

Read the rest of this entry »