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Michelle Obama: "I really like this job." Gayle King thought bubble: "So do I."

If an interview with the First Lady is, indeed, a litmus test for the strength of a new morning show anchor, Gayle King has lit up the internet. Based on the first two inaugural days of the new CBS The Morning, void of any real news, who knew the woman previously known as the BFF of O would nail the first real news-making interview of the week.

Wow.

To start, there was something smart and intimate about conducting the interview in the First Lady’s office, away from the West Wing and the grandure of the White House public rooms.

Michelle Obama’s office , which I don’t remember seeing on television before, felt a bit more cramped than expected, sending a subliminal message of the humility she was trying to express as she and King addressed some of the more sensational content of the new Jody Kantor book about the Obamas.

It wasn’t just the interview questions that made this interview particularly engaging. King’s unique poise, warmth and, yes, star power ensured this viewer was glued to the set for part two. Read the rest of this entry »

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As a former Senior Executive Producer of a past CBS News morning show incarnation, I write this headline with a more generous heart than may appear; I always root for news shows to thrive and hope headlines like this just might help trigger a surge of competitive juice that pumps ferociously to prove the observer wrong.

The new morning team at CBS News.

While television critics have been kind about the launch of CBS This Morning — at least respectful of anchors Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill — the morning show’s new Facebook Fan Page is overwhelmed by vitriol from viewers, real viewers who put their name and photos to their comments, some with whom I actually agree. Read the rest of this entry »

Words: the new Snakes -- on a Plane?

My name is Shelley and I have been clean, sober and without a word game for 12 hours, the longest I have gone since downloading Scrabble a couple of years ago, and more recently Words With Friends.  I know Alec Baldwin’s pain.

I am not here to criticize him, but to express my compassion and solidarity after he was tossed off an American Airlines flight earlier this week while playing Words after the flight attendant told him to “power down” his iPhone.

First, a confession: this column was delayed while I first played a quick round of Words with about 12 friends. Then I began a search to find the provable effects of word games on the brain.  Having written three editions of a neurology book with a new cutting edge medical book on the way, I usually navigate  data bases of information with ease.  This, however, provided a different challenge.

How many points for O-V-E-R-R-E-A-C-T-I-O-N?

After two days of searching for the truth, I have come to the conclusion that there is no current scientific basis to support the premise that online word games are addicting.  Hey, call me just another word junkie, but I don’t believe the available science.  Someone needs to give me, and Alec Baldwin an MRI and we’ll show you.  Come on, the man took his treasured iPhone into a gross airplane lavatory where most of us contort our bodies to make sure we don’t have to touch anything in there.  Yes, a junkie will take  a fix anywhere he can get it.

What’s more, there is no science to support the so-called online “brain-training” games that now make up a billion-dollar industry make you smarter, mentally clearer or more creative.  Hey, I was certain it must have. Read the rest of this entry »

In NBC

Oh, the joy to watch a brilliant news interview, the work of a master such as Bob Costas who, like a knight out of our journalism story books, charged onto NBC’s new high-tech set Monday night and delivered a low tech tour de force…. phoner!

As happens in all high art forms, Costas made this incredibly challenging interview seem effortless.

Getting a newsmaker in the chair (or on the phone as it turned out) is only half the battle. Getting a person in the middle of a media frenzy to really talk is the other, especially when that frenzy is over a pedophile sex scandal and football.

Eric Wemple, the Washington Post’s news media op-ed editor, said it best:

“The tone put this interview into a special category. Over nearly ten minutes Costas managed to be: prepared without being formulaic or rigid, polite without being nice, and skeptical without being prosecutorial.”

The transcript of the Sandusky interview cannot possibly reveal the mine field through which Costas was walking. One wrong step, I kept thinking, and Sandusky can just cut off the questions, put down the phone as in, “Uh, thanks for your interest, Bob, but gotta go now, it’s been a long day.”

Instead, Costa was getting Jerry Sandusky to open up and say (with a disturbingly flat affect), “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.”

It reminded me of Michael Jackson admitting he slept in the same bed with a 13-year-old for 30 consecutive days in the boy’s mother’s house, but that he and the child (his first accuser) only watched scary movies together.

Pedophiles are very crafty, but if you can keep them talking you can learn a lot. Masters of manipulation, they often believe the “winning ways” which work on 10 year olds will also fool grown-ups. It rarely does. Read the rest of this entry »

UPDATE: Now that Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors, it’s time to examine  how he got away with hurting so many children for so long: who knew what and when did they know it? To that end, I begin with reposting my November blog on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett who was that state’s attorney general during at least six of the 15 years Sandusky was molesting children. To date, Corbett has refused to address why the Sandusky case stalled under his watch citing “grand jury restrictions.”  Will he now step forward to explain how and why this investigation got derailed on his watch, then help assure the people of his state that future serial child molesters will be stopped much earlier than Jerry Sandusky?

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has launched one of the most effective cover-your-ass campaigns in memory, in public everywhere weighing in as a moral compass on everything from the firing of Joe Paterno (“It was the right thing to do”) to the question of whether or not to fire the graduate assistant coach who reported  seeing Jerry Sandusky rape a 10-year-old but did nothing to intervene (he failed “to meet the higher moral obligation.”) 

Sadly,  it appears the man who became Pennsylvania’s governor in 2011 failed to meet a higher moral obligation as well.  For at least six of the 15 years Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have molested children, Tom Corbett was Pennsylvania’s attorney general,  the top law enforcer in the state. The case began, then stalled on his watch.

Corbett as Attorney General used his grand jury’ subpoena power to go after his political rivals on Twitter

Corbett’s priorities towards the end of his AG tenure now seem more curious: he used the grand jury not to finally close in on Sandusky, but to launch a criminal investigation against two anonymous political critics and to subpoena Twitter to reveal their identities.

Gov. Corbett has spent much of his time since the Penn State scandal erupted dodging personal questions by saying he isn’t allowed to talk about the case because of grand jury restrictions.

Although various Sandusky molestation reports had been kicking around for years, the case officially landed on Corbett’s desk in 2009. According to the New York Times, officials at Clinton County high school had reported charges to the local district attorney that Mr. Sandusky had molested a boy there, but, citing a conflict of interest, the prosecutor passed it on to the attorney general’s office to investigate.

Corbett did convene a grand jury back in 2009 which begs the question:  why didn’t he bring an indictment?

It’s hard to say. No one has pressed him for an answer.

Instead, reporters have accepted surrogate impressions. The New York Times, for one, quoted Kevin Harley who worked with Corbett during his years as Attorney General is now the Governor’s press secretary:  “He knew what witnesses were going to the grand jury even though he was running for governor. So then he became governor, and he knew at some point that this day would be coming. He just didn’t know when it would be.”

Was running for governor too much of a distraction to bring even the most difficult of grand jury cases forward after more than a year?

David Gregory began his interview with Gov. Corbett with this extraordinary puppy pass:

MR. DAVID GREGORY: Governor Corbett, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.

GOV. TOM CORBETT (R-PA):  Thank you, David.

MR. GREGORY:  I know you’re limited, because you were attorney general, in speaking about the criminal investigation, but I have to ask you more broadly, are there more victims that we don’t know about?

GOV. CORBETT:  I don’t know the answer to that, David.  When you conduct investigations like this–and in my career, I have conducted investigations like this–the more that you can get public about what has happened, the more that you can demonstrate that law enforcement and authorities are going to assist the victims of these types of crimes, it is not uncommon to see more victims come forward.

Gregory did begin to probe how Jerry Sandusky slipped through the cracks for so many years, but bizarrely asked a nine-part complex question:

MR. GREGORY:  I just have to ask you as a trustee, as the governor of the state, as the former attorney general of the state, how did this happen?  I mean, was this, was this a culture of indifference?  A culture of cover-up? Did it extend throughout the university?  Go beyond the university to the police, to the D.A.?  Where?

Gregory’s failure to as a direct question regarding Corbett’s tenure as attorney general allowed the Governor to dodge the issue completely.

GOV. CORBETT: I always wait for the results of an investigation before I issue any opinions.

Why did so many reporters give the governor such softballs when there are so many pointed questions that would have skirted any legal restrictions in the case. Here are just a few:

  • What percentage of the resources of your office did you dedicate to the Sandusky investigation?
  • When did the grand jury looking into Sandusky begin,  end?
  • How many grand juries did you convene in your last two years as attorney general?
  • How many resulted in criminal indictments?
  • What was your pedophile prosecution record during your tenure as AG?
  • When did you first read the 100-page investigation of Jerry Sandusky produced by university police?
  • What actions did you instruct your office to take based on that report?
  • Once you began your campaign for governor, how often did you meet with your prosecutors to discuss the road to an indictment of Jerry Sandusky?
  • Did your criminal investigation that involved the Twitter subpoena result in an indictment?
  • When was your last official conversation about the Sandusky case and what was discussed?
  • Had you decided not to bring an indictment against Jerry Sandusky?
  • What, if any, was  your “pass down” advice (on the Sandusky case) to the attorney general who succeeded you.

As attorney general, Tom Corbett did create a team to go after pedophiles and other assorted child abusers, although he has more often spoken publicly about a disturbing case he  successfully prosecuted as a young district attorney where a pedophile used a Christian charity to recruit his victims.

Maybe Corbett did more or tried harder than it appears. In the scheme of things, he’s probably not any more of the devil than those who did “just barely enough” under legal obligations.  He’s also not any less of an ostrich — or a coward in his failure to now say what he could have done, what he should have done and what laws must be changed tomorrow.

After we ask the right questions of our elected officials, perhaps we can find out what Dottie Sandusky knew and when she knew it.

Gloria Cain Breaks Her Silence to Greta Van Susteren tonight at 10 on Fox News

Poor Gloria Cain. I’m afraid Herman Cain’s wife of 43 years is about to suffer some of the indignities experienced by the women who have accused him of egregious groping and abuse of power.

There will be many who won’t believe Gloria Cain’s words, many who think she’s  only speaking out for her big payday in the end.

With his poll numbers dropping ever since multiple women have accused him  of sexual harassment, candidate Cain has now brought his wife to Greta.

And so, the political wife who has stayed in the background now breaks her silence.

“You hear the graphic allegations and we know that would have been something that’s totally disrespectful of her as a woman,” she says. “And I know the type of person he is. He totally respects women.”

“I’m thinking he would have to have a split personality to do the things that were said,” she says.

Is Gloria Cain a shrewd political wife?  Or is she like so many others who never see any wrongdoing either because a) they’re too trusting or  b) they are married to a charmer who wears a “mask”  at home or c) all of the above. Read the rest of this entry »

There was a game-changing moment for one candidate in tonight’s Republican debate on CNBC and it wasn’t Herman Cain’s who must be so relieved that someone else will be the brunt of political jokes in the next news cycle.

Texas Governor Rick Perry not only shot himself in the foot tonight, but in one quick instant — as the whole audience watched in disbelief – -the deflated balloon that was once his campaign for President seemed to hover over the auditorium before finally fizzling out on the stage.

Here’s what happened and I saw it live. Perry, posturing among fellow conservatives how he would rein in our overgrown government said he would end three government departments on his first day in office.

1) Education. 2) Commerce 3) Uhhhhh, uhhhhhh, uhhhhhh.

I guess the dog ate his homework. And, as my good friend, Thea, remarked, “Maybe he should reconsider Education.”

It was such a stunning implosion, that I quickly checked online for the transcript. And here it is, along with what I think is my favorite part, the greatest word ever uttered by a candidate for President. You’ll have to read to the bottom of the transcript to see it. Read the rest of this entry »

Are we ready for kibitzing on a network news magazine?

How fitting that on the day that Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the second installment of Rock Center aired  featuring yet another empty, cringe-worthy live celebrity interview by Brian Williams.

As clear as we saw that Dr. Murray could not say “no” to Michael Jackson,  it is evident the NBC news anchor lacks someone on his team willing to say what he may not want to hear: Williams must give up  the risky behavior  on his show: vapid interviews filled with what he thinks is wry humor. This week’s installment, Tina Fey. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s difficult to be critical of Brian Williams’ new primetime magazine show which debuted this week on NBC: Rock Center has stated only noble intentions in the swampy landscape of broadcast news.

The new Comcast executive team has committed two years for building what they hope will be an important, in-depth news show to rival 60 Minutes. That said, Rock’s launch needed some paper and scissors. More than anything: stronger news stories for a primetime news magazine.

Where was Brian Williams’ Lead Story?

Given the greatly hyped mission statement of the broadcast, along with the hiring of two newsmen highly identified with competing networks, I wasn’t expecting NBC’s premiere anchor to “weigh in” with a rambling fluff piece and juvenile sparring with Jon Stewart.

Read the rest of this entry »

Watch this video at your own risk of emotional upheaval, sleep disturbance, nausea, possible desensitization to human suffering and other serious side effects. Or not.

So soon after all the navel gazing of whether or not to broadcast the Michael Jackson autopsy photo of the superstar lying on a medical examiner’s table so painfully thin, naked and lifeless, CNN somehow embraced a marathon film festival featuring the violent killing of the deposed Libyan dictator.

UPDATED 10/27:THE NEW LIBYAN GOVERNMENT HAS VOWED TO PROSECUTE QADDAFI’S KILLERS FOR THE CRIMES U.S. NEWS ANCHORS FAILED TO MENTION.

Once upon a time, we let these images live online and not enter our homes uninvited. This week, however, marked a watershed moment for emotional assault by violent news video.

And it wasn’t just CNN. They just happened to be the network that caught me off guard first.

I had selected CNN for this story cycle early on, when my morning sampling showed their coverage was immediate, smart and very measured.

I had switched over from ABC News after George Stephanopoulos delivered the unofficial report that Muammar Qaddafi had been killed and, after a brief interview with Christiane Amanpour, moved off the story for a Lara Spencer interview with one of the young actresses from ABC’s comedy hit, Modern Family.

CNN, in contrast, was live from the Pentagon and Libya as they set out to verify the breaking news which, in that part of the world, is often riddled with half-truths and propaganda, occasionally disseminated by our own officials. Case in point: the fairy tales of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch.

During the Arab Spring we first heard Mubarak’s sons were safe in London. Then they weren’t.

CNN certainly captured a classic exchange as their reporter pressed the Libyan Minister of Information who, while refusing to provide an official statement, seemed to confirm many of the details of Qaddafi’s demise.

History was in the making and I was glued to the set. But despite having spent nearly 20 in network news, I was completely ill-prepared to see the Qaddafi “cell phone” footage which CNN obtained and rushed to air. There was no warning that I was about to see a snuff film.

Read the rest of this entry »