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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 »

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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 »

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 »

NOTE TO FELLOW REPORTERS: LET’S NOT VICTIMIZE LARA LOGAN A SECOND TIME

Lara Logan in Tahrir Square shortly before her attack

First, my beef today with some of the newsies: one had to resign after tweeting Lara Logan was trying to one-up Anderson Cooper, another says she and CBS were “complicit in a news cover-up.”  Others have noted “something fishy” in her lack of details.

My guess is whatever veteran war correspondent Lara Logan is going to do or say, it won’t quite fit what some news people expect of her. Despite the trauma, the physical and psychic pain of a “brutal and sustained sexual assault,  her news peers (and I use the term loosely) now are now examining the handling of her own horrific story. Shame on those who dare to judge her or CBS.

In today’s Boston Herald.com, columnist Michael Graham takes her and her network to task:

“Five days of silence — not even “60 Minutes” coverage of the Egypt story. No mention of the “mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy” who attacked their own reporter.

“How is that not news? adding, “I’m with liberal columnist Richard Cohen of The Washington Post,” who wrote, “The sexual assault of a woman in the middle of a public square is a story  . . .  particularly because the crowd in Tahrir Square was almost invariably characterized as friendly and out for nothing but democracy,” Cohen wrote.

“Watching the same complicit media we all saw, Cohen notes most journalists covered the mobs “as if they were reporting from Times Square on New Year’s Eve, stopping only at putting on a party hat.”

I agree with Cohen that most journalists covered the mobs as if they were reporting from Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  (see daily Xpress February 6th,  “…This isn’t Woodstock.)

But these are two separate issues;  Lara Logan’s personal trauma is her personal story and it’s up to her when, how and if she ever wants to discuss it.

IT’S NOT TOO LATE , MICHAEL GRAHAM, TO LEARN HOW TO BEST REPORT ON SEXUAL ASSAULT CRIMES

So who is Michael Graham and why is he weighing in?   Is he dedicated to upholding journalism standards?  Is he an advocate for women’s rights?  Has he been a part of an advanced dialog on the reporting of rape before now?

No! Michael Graham is a radio talk show host and it looks like this is his first op ed article on any of this.  During the past month, while democracy was painfully birthing in Egypt, Graham wrote about Obama’s budget cuts, the Boston mayor’s “jihad” on Wal-Mart, and how his driveway looks like an amateur luge course.  So I guess I have to ask why  Matt Drudge  linked to it high up on our daily news bible?

It would be different if Michael Graham, or any of the current critics, bothered to note the irony of the CBS Logan report appearing on the same day that a landmark federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., accusing our own Department of Defense of allowing a military culture that not only fails to prevent rape and sexual assaults, but often promotes the perpetrators of those crimes.

Which brings me back to my note to President Obama, our commander in chief. Read the rest of this entry »

IT’S NOT YOUR MOTHER’S MOTHER JONES: OLD “LEFTY” HAS GREAT  24/7 COVERAGE , ANALYSIS

It’s been five days of hard work for many of us searching for the inside, untold, and full story of the revolution in Egypt and its global implications.  I certainly didn’t find what I needed on any of the broadcast networks or even cable news channels.

CNN did have great video on Thursday and even convinced Piers Morgan to dump his Colin Firth interview and roll live with it. CNN has great reporters there led by Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson who live and breath the region and are the most nimble and knowledgeable.

But you can get their coverage and a whole lot more if you follow the Mother Jones updates 24/7 and link to YouTube.

You can also hear the silent screams of those frustrated by what they’re seeing day in and day out.  Like those from the Abu Muqawama blog from the Center for a New American Security, an independent and non-partisan  non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C.

This sample is a reaction after watching MSNBC’s Morning Joe.  All television news bookers, get out your pencils.

Egypt: People Who Might Actually Know What The %$#@ They’re Talking About (Updated)

January 29, 2011 | Posted by Abu Muqawama – 10:25am | 12 Comments

I was home in Tennessee for a brief 24 hours and woke up yesterday morning to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which Mama Muqawama likes to watch before work. Nothing against the people on that particular show, because it’s probably just representative of U.S. cable news in general*, but I was absolutely stunned by the willingness of the show’s guests to opine about Egypt without having any actual experience in or expertise on Egypt or the broader Middle East. Is it really that tough to say, “Hey, that’s a great question, Joe, but I am not really the best guy to give the viewers at home a good answer?”

Instead, guest after guest — most of whom are specialists in or pundits on U.S. domestic politics — made these broad, ridiculously sweeping statements about the meaning and direction of the protests.

I traveled to Egypt twice in 2005 and lived there between January and August of 2006 while studying Arabic after having completed my master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut. I am by no means an expert on Egypt. But I like to think I know the people who are, so as a service to the readers, I am providing you all a list of no-%$#@ experts on Egypt. This list is, happily, by no means exhaustive: unlike the lack of informed commentary on Afghanistan, the United States has thousands of people who have lived and studied in Egypt as civilian researchers and students and can thus provide some reasonably informed commentary on events there. The following list is filled with some people whose opinions matter and whose analysis might actually be informed by study and experience. This list is in no particular order except for the first two people on the list, who are both good friends as well as two of the world’s best experts on Egyptian politics.

Issandr el-Amrani, Arabist.net@arabist

Elijah Zarwan, Crisis Group

Michael Wahid Hanna, The Century Foundation, @mwhanna1

Marc Lynch, GWU/CNAS/FP.com@abuaardvark

Steven Cook, CFR@stevenacook

Samir Shehata, Georgetown University

Josh Stacher, Kent State University, @jstacher

Amil Khan, Abu Muqawama, @Londonstani

Max Rodenbeck, The Economist

If you can, follow the live feed on al-Jazeera Arabic, which has made for the most exciting television I have watched since the Red Sox came back from three games down in the 2004 ALCS. (These events are arguably more geostrategically significant.) If you can’t follow that feed, try al-Jazeera English or follow the updates on Robert Mackey’s most excellent New York Times blog The Lede.

*An exception to the rule: Ben Wedeman at CNN.

Update: Someone in the comments suggested Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid), and I second that. Again, my list was happily not exhaustive. There are a lot of very smart analysts out there who can thoughtfully opine on Egypt — in large part thanks to the legions of Arabic-language students who pass through Cairo at some point in their training.

Here’s an excerpt on “why good journalism matters:”
January 26, 2011 | Posted by Abu Muqawama – 11:08am |

Perhaps unsurprising for someone who grew up working in a newspaper, I spend a lot of time analyzing journalism and often criticize journalists. So I need to highlight when journalism is frankly awesome. Do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing audio recording of the Guardian‘s Jack Shenker reporting from inside an Egyptian paddywagonafter being beaten by plain-clothed state security thugs and imprisoned. Pretty freaking great.

On a related note, where the hell was al-Jazeera yesterday?

HERE’S MORE OF WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND ON MOTHER JONES

The human chain protecting the Egyptian Museum from looters

 

 

Here is a sample of  24/7 updates from Mother Jones:

UPDATE 26, Friday 12:20 p.m. EST: The White House has released a photo of President Obama receiving a briefing on the Egypt protests:

What's wrong with this picture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(What else have you missed?) Read the rest of this entry »

PUH-LEASE! TOO MANY JOURNOS ARE CONTINUING TO MAKE A MOCKERY OF THEIR OWN FIRST AMENDMENT

From the beginning, on my most generous days, I have thought Sarah Palin inartful, polarizing and much better suited for a daytime talk show than the national political scene.

Yesterday I felt a responsiblity to come to her defense after journalists across the country ridiculously placed the blood of the Tuscon shooting victims on her hands. ( URL: http://wp.me/p1cZfB-gv How Are We to Know What Will Push Someone Over the Edge? «  shelley ross daily Xpress https://shelleyzross.wordpress.com/2011/0….)

I much prefered writing satire about her  (Sarah Palin’s ‘Alaska’: 7 Secret Political Messages in Her New Reality Show at http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/pop-vox/2010/11/15/sarah-palin-s-alaska-7-secret-political-messages-in-her-new-reality-show.html ) and (Palin vs. Trump: The Reality Show Mark Burnett Should Create at http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/pop-vox/2010/11/22/sarah-palin-versus-donald-trump-which-mark-burnett-reality-star-could-win-the-white-house.html.)

But here I am again, defending a politician in whom I find little to even like (especially after watching her shoot that beautiful Alaskan reindeer for sport — ‘no, no, not Rudolph’ I yelled into my pillow.)  I feel that I must, after  the new round of ridiculous attacks on her for posting a 7:43 videotaped response to the Arizona tradegy  on Facebook today, most regarding her utterance of the term, blood libel.

Read the rest of this entry »

MUIR BREAKS ABC NEWS’ RATINGS RECORD SEASON-TO-DATE,  ANCHORS ONLY WEEK FOR NET WITHOUT YEAR-TO-YEAR DECLINE

David Muir: the next generation of ABC News?

You won’t read this in their press releases, but a stealth weapon has been discovered at ABC News. TMZ has already called him the “Brad Pitt of network anchors.”

TMZ may prove to be way ahead of ABC’s revolving research and management teams.

His name is David Muir and remember that you read it here first: the holiday week Muir filled in for Diane Sawyer, a rare week without an ABC News press release to spin, er tout the ratings, David Muir increased the viewership of adults 25-54 by a whopping 8% over the year before. And that week, the week of December 27th, was the only week of the entire season-to-date (the past 16 weeks) that the demo at ABC News has increased over the prior year.

Some keen observers may say the boost was due to the big snow storm hitting parts of the east coast, especially New York where Brian Williams reported outside in the snow.  He was up 10% year to year.  CBS News with newly deposed morning anchor Harry Smith filling in for Katie Couric, however, was down 9%.

NEW ABC PRESS RELEASE OUT TODAY

Interestingly, today ABC News issued a press release today lauding the week of January 3rd  with the headline: “World News with Diane Sawyer” Draws Second Most Watched Week in Nearly a Year. (The most watched week? Shhhh, David Muir.) Read the rest of this entry »

YOU’RE BLOWING YOUR TEACHABLE MOMENT

New network show Tuesday night, with same old story?

Paula Abdul is back.  It’s a new year, and a new network show for her on CBS debuting Tuesday night, ” Live to Dance.” But given her shameless interview with Julie Chen this weekend, it’s the same old lies and obfuscation regarding the slurring, blurring and odd behavior of the past.

Hey, Paula, it’s 2011, and time to tell the truth which, I suppose, will not hurt and could actually help a vast number of your fans.

You see, there’s a surge of tremendous good will behind you after getting bounced from American Idol. (Oh, I forgot, you turned down their “lowball” offer.) Simon Cowell embracing you like a kid sister getting “noogies” did wonders for public opinion when even die hard fans started to see you as a crazy Aunt.

Your great dance videos will always remind us of the hard work, life force and sheer talent on which you built your career which is sprinkled with one grammy, two emmy awards and six number one singles.

So why put Julie Chen in the awkward position of asking questions you won’t answer completely or honestly.  In fact, why would CBS News or Les Moonves allow that?

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/30/sunday/main7198572.shtml?

Okay, take a look at the excerpt from the Sunday Morning broadcast released by CBS News which you can either click on above or read as follows:

CHEN:      Well, what bugs you that people say about you that you know, and your friends and family know that is just not you?

ABDUL:    I am intelligent.  I am

CHEN:       But, people don’t give you enough credit for having a brain.

ABDUL:    Having a brain, that’s a concept, yes, with Paula Abdul.  I have a brain.

CHEN:      There is some unflattering video of you out there.  It has appeared on Idol. Did you ever have a drinking problem?

ABDUL:    I’ve never had a drinking problem… Even though I’ve been in this business for quite some time. I’ve never physically been drunk in my life.  I’ve never been drunk in my life.  I don’t use recreational drugs.  But, I am goofy.

CHEN:       So, it’s just Paula.

ABDUL:    It’s Paula.  It is Paula.  And, even the people on Idol know that none of that existed, ever.

“Goofy?”  Goofy is daring to give the wife of the chairman of CBS a load of bull — not on The Talk, but on an award-winning broadcast on CBS News.

On the other hand, perhaps an inartful or goofy question — one that has a goofy premise about a drinking problem instead of prescription drug abuse  — deserves a goofy answer.

Why not simply ask: “Were you intoxicated or under the influence of any substance in this video?” or “Why do you think so many people are reposting so many video clips where you seem so out of it?”

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.

KEEPING THEM HONEST

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 »