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Farewell to Andy Rooney: It's Complicated

I, for one, will miss Andy Rooney who, at 92, is closing out a 47-year career at CBS News during which time he walked the halls with other broadcast giants such as Edward R. Murrow, Fred Friendly, Walter Cronkite, Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace and more.

He also worked along side quite a few “non-giants” (we all know the list) and  once had his pay suspended after writing a letter to then CEO Laurence Tisch to complain that CBS News  ”has been turned into primarily a business enterprise and the moral enterprise has been lost.”

Back in March 1987, Tisch had cut more than 215 jobs and  the Writer’s Guild tried to protect their members and, at the time, was five weeks into a strike.  In a gesture of solidarity, Andy Rooney refused to appear on “60 Minutes” and was suspended without pay. His weekly salary then was reported to be  about $7700.

Sunday night, the crumpled Mr. Rooney is signing off 60 Minutes, with his 1,097th commentary and that is nothing short of remarkable. And while most weeks of his 33-year career at 60 minutes he offered a dose of humanity at the end of the broadcast,  he occasionally spewed speech that would wound. Read the rest of this entry »

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THE PENDULUM HAS STARTED TO SWING, BUT WILL IT SWING ENOUGH?

Greg Mortenson: he needs to come out of hiding

It’s official, I’m now obsessed with Greg Mortenson and desperately want to know everything about who he is, what makes him tick and most important of all, why he hasn’t defended himself after the scorching 60Minutes expose´ Sunday night on his memoir, “Three Cups of Tea.” The report accused him of fabricating his heroic storie, then squandering millions raised for his charity.

Perhaps my reaction was delayed a day or two after learning the biggest fallout right after the story was that The Early Show had failed to follow up on the CBS exclusive on Monday morning. As a former senior executive producer of that show, I couldn’t help think, “who would I have booked, where does the story go from here?”

I know what star I would have reached for: Greg Mortenson. I would have offered him something Steve Kroft could not: a live, uninterrupted, unedited interview forum in which to defend himself. It is something he still needs to do. Read the rest of this entry »

PREDICTION: NO ONE WILL PAY NEW ONLINE ACCESS FEES
The toothpaste is out of the tube.  The public has been getting news online for years now, the most recent Pew Study showing the majority of people 30 and under use online sources as their “go to” for news.  And it’s been free.  So why does the New York Times think anyone will be willing to start paying $15 a month for the same access (after you’ve clicked on 20 times.)
As of March 28th, you’ll have to pay for anything past the home page and section fronts.  The fee for unlimited access to online content will be $195 a year.  Add on iPad access, it’s $260.  Unlimited digital access: $455.
Let’s get real.  I have been a news junkie my entire adult life.  I consume more news than just about anyone I know.  I get ill on vacations where I am removed from the news.  I have worked in the news business for three decades during which time I will take responsibility for destroying too many trees, perhaps forests. I am a heat-seeking missile for the latest coverage, the most in-depth coverage, the most creative or thoughtful coverage.  I have never balked at spending money on subscriptions for newspapers and countless magazines.  But I, for one, am not going to pay for the Times online.

Now, admittedly, I won’t have to:  my daily newspaper subscription entitles me to free access online.  I’m just sayin’, that if I was asked to, I wouldn’t.  The New York Times, and every other publication,  is going to have to figure out a more sensible business model.  Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. is calling it one of the most significant days in the Times’s 159-year history: “Our decision to begin charging for digital access will result in another source of revenue, strengthening our ability to continue to invest in the journalism and digital innovation on which our readers have come to depend.”

I agree it’s a significant day for the New York Times.  Only I think it day that will go down  as the worst miscalculation of consumers in the company’s history.  Sulzberger seems to believe the world is invested in good journalism.   Sadly, they don’t care.

This isn’t a critique of the New York Times and what many see as its mistakes or declining standards over the past few years. This is not about Judith Millers’s war drums before the invasion of Iraq, or Jason Blair, or the embarrassment of the front page John McCain faux mistress story in the middle of the presidential campaign.

I believe the New York Times, on balance, is still an outstanding newspaper, worthy of its many Pulitzer prizes.  Their obituaries of the 9/11 victims, focusing on who they were as people instead of what they did for living, was a defining moment in journalism.  Their science, health and medical reporting is in a league of its own.  Their willingness to take on pharmaceutical companies separates them from network news which has become co-dependent. Tom Friedman, Maureen Down, Paul Krugman, I love them even when I don’t love them.  I will miss Frank Rich.

After all, a brilliant mind, even one with whom you disagree, is a terrible thing to waste.  Which brings me back to the wacky decision to charge for the New York Times online.

WILL CONSUMERS PAY FOR NEWS ONLINE?  JUST ASK RECORD EXECS HOW CHARGING FOR DOWNLOADS IS WORKIN’ FOR THEM? Read the rest of this entry »