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Matt? Savannah? GMA? NBC Execs? You won’t believe who did what in this summer network mystery special!

When high crimes are committed against network news careers  you can be sure of one thing: finger prints are never left behind.  Given the challenge, this kind of unsolved mystery needs a top television sleuth, someone willing to follow the trail while the blood is still fresh and revisionist publicists have yet to spin the story into infinity.

Preferably, the best choice to solve the high-profile case of the sudden disappearance of Ann Curry should have experience in the crime beat of morning news. So, for the greater good (of the blogosphere at least) I must volunteer myself, a long-time morning show executive and, just like NBC’s Detective Olivia Benson, a crime fighter whose skills have been sharpened by once having suffered a personal assault as well.

THE TALE OF THE TAPE
Curry Cringe w/Matt v. Teddy Bear Hug w/Al

And so we begin, first examining the suspects who were last seen with the victim, sitting on that couch as she tearfully said goodbye to her beloved audience.   Natalie? No, she’s not All About EveAl? No, he doesn’t even qualify as a red herring although he  likes to eat them. Matt? Now we might want to put Matt in a line up at least and not because he’s just re-signed a ridiculous new contract, one we can fairly assume was designed to make all his dreams come true.  No, we just need to look at the victim’s body language and Matt’s not off the hook quite yet. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

LIFE IS GOOD AGAIN

The U.S. Treasury did not default.  Gabby Giffords returned to Capitol Hill and rallied her House colleagues on the importance of unity. And it looks like our grandchildren will be paying off our nation’s debt. Good news breaking all around  (at least for many of us who have been supporting adult children and have no problem learning they may one day have to do the same.)

Will checkbook journalism go the way of Joe Camel?

Ever an optimist, I am a great believer in our flawed institutions and the flawed people who run them.  After all, during my lifetime I’ve seen the most radical reforms. Among my favorites:  big Tobacco brought to its knees, forced to pay $368 billion in health-related damages and retire Joe Camel. That was right up there with the break up of the Bell Telephone monopoly and the fall of communism.  

In the realm of  anything is possible,  it now appears Ben Sherwood is saving ABC News — if not its ratings, at least its integrity.  Swimming fiercely against the current, the new ABC News boss has announced the end of the scandalous practice of writing large checks for competitive news interviews under the guise of “licensing fees” for photos or video. See? If you wait (or live) long enough, the things you care about the most will turn out okay. Read the rest of this entry »

SO HERE IT IS, MY LINE BY LINE RESPONSE TO TUESDAY’S STORY

“the universal website for corrections to lies, misinformation and misrepresentations.”

Earlier this week, the New York Times and I wrote about my favorite new website, ICorrect.com, which allows members like me to correct “lies, misinformation and misrepresentations” in the media. I received an outpouring of support, and then on Tuesday, lo and behold, the New York Observer ran a “story” that wasn’t even amusingly snarky, it was downright sadistic.

What’s more, it was full of new misrepresentations to correct. Sadly, as you’ll see in my rebuttal below, the paper made no attempt to contact me before publication and instead, appears to have relied on the clairvoyance of a young staff member who somehow knows what I think.

Yesterday the reporter, who we’ll call Kat, acknowledged her poor form in making a “case study” out of me without ever attempting to contact me. In an e-mail at 6:36:05 last night, she offered to run a response from me, which I prepared right away. But Kat has ignored all the e-mails I’ve sent her since. What to do? Sounds like a job for ICorrect and dailyXpress, so here’s what the NY Observer didn’t print.

To make it easy to understand, I have structured this version as dialog: “NYO” is the verbatim copy in full, “SR” is my line by line rebuttal seen here in red. (Of course, you can also link to ICorrect.com.)

Former ‘GMA‘ Producer Shelley Ross Resurfaces, Reminds Us of Her Embarrassments

April 4, 2011 | 12:50 p.m. By Kat Stoeffel

NYO: We hadn’t heard of former Good Morning America executive producer Shelley Ross until yesterday, and she would probably prefer we never did.

SR: As one of only a handful of women executive producers in network news, (there were only 2 of us to exec produce any of the daily network morning shows in the last 25 years) most media reporters know who I am. I would prefer you were more knowledgable about your beat.

NYO: Ms. Ross was featured in a Sunday Times round-up of ICorrect.com, which Ms. Ross pays $1,000 a year for the space to post rebuttals to what she sees as inaccuracies in blog and newspaper items lingering around the infinitely archiving web.

SR: I have posted not just what I “see,” but what I can prove are lies, inaccuracies and misrepresentations.

NYO: Ms. Ross is mostly worried about coverage of her dismissal from CBS,

SR: Since no one ever contacted me from the NY Observer, how would anyone know what items worry me most. (Clairvoyance?)

NYO: …which was documented with audible snickering by the Post, New York Magazine, and even the Times.

SR: “documented with audible snickering?” Well that one’s just too darn hard to answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM HOW WE HANDLED THE BIG STORIES OF THE PAST?

A former colleague of mine, someone I consider a real treasure in journalism, posted on my facebook page her reaction to my continuing dialog about Chris Brown’s behavior: “why does anyone care about these people?”  Here’s my fast answer:

Nicole Brown Simpson and Rihanna: battered faces of domestic violence

How O.J. Simpson Tried to Bat Us Back on His Story

In June 1994, the great Roone Arledge, then president of ABC News, put me in charge of O.J. Simpson coverage for all his primetime magazine shows.  At the time, there were four hour-long shows each week: Day One, Turning Point, PrimeTime Live and 20/20.

I had missed the first few days of the Simpson story.  Ironically, I was in Washington, D.C. with Sam Donaldson, working on what, until then, was the biggest story of the year:  an exclusive interview with Paula Corbin Jones who had filed a sexual harassment suit against the President. (Funnily enough, I had to debate an ABC News vice president on “why we should give airtime to this woman and her lawsuit,”  which might be argued today was the first step which led to the President’s impeachment.)

The Paula Jones  interview aired not as the lead but in second position on the show Thursday night, behind the O.J. Simpson updates.  I quickly returned  to Los Angeles early the next morning, on Friday,  the day Simpson was supposed to turn himself in to police but instead led them on that fateful “low-speed white Bronco chase” that turned the story upside down and created a national viewing event that would continue for another year and a half.

Earlier in the week from Washington, D.C., I had quietly asked a freelancer/friend to get me the Simpson divorce papers from the courthouse.  The story was moving so fast, the PrimeTime Live producers on the scene had no time at all to even look at the file.  But late Friday night, as I read page after page, I saw it was all there — the admission of O.J. Simpson’s prior violence against his wife and the details of the domestic violence program he was supposed to complete.

Saturday morning I called my old friend Roy Firestone, the former ESPN sports anchor who I was certain must have interviewed Simpson.  It turned out, Roy had actually interviewed him years before about the wife beating charges.  The tapes were somewhere in storage and he was more than happy to dig them out for me, but he warned me that back then, in more innocent times, he had not pressed O.J. Simpson very hard to account for his behavior.

Later that nght, we aired a one-hour Turning Point, a broadcast that would drive O.J. Simpson into a fury. From behind bars, he insisted that his only lawyer at the time, Bob Shapiro, call me and Barbara Walters on his behalf to demand apologies, retractions and more.  We got it all wrong, Simpson had declared, even though we hadn’t strayed from the exact language in the divorce documents and his own words on tape.

We now know that Nicole Brown kept a diary which noted O.J. Simpson’s first abuse of her in 1977.  She kept the photo of her battered face in a safety deposit box.  She called 911 after Simpson broke the door jam of her condominium while kicking down the door.  Mark Fuhrman answered another 911 call after Simpson shattered the windshield of her Mercedes Benz with a baseball bat. And we also know that on June 12, 1994, O.J. Simpson’s violence escalated to a double murder when he slashed Nicole’s throat from behind, as if slaughtering a farm animal, and stabbed to death a bystander:  her friend, Ron Goldman.

DOES NICOLE’S BATTERED FACE NOT LOOK JUST LIKE RIHANNA’S?

Nicole Simpson’s battered face was once so beautiful, it haunts.  So does Rihanna’s.

The bruises on their foreheads look so similar.   I wonder, is that where blood coagulates when you’re beaten on the top, or side of your head? Read the rest of this entry »

CHRIS BROWN’S VICIOUS CYCLE: THE OUTBURST, THE APOLOGY, THE FALL OUT ***UPDATED WITH NEW VIDEO,  AND REACTIONS

***UPDATED WITH FULL DETAILS OF THE MELTDOWN


I must say, I am confused, very confused.  As we all now know, on Monday  Chris Brown performed on GMA and after went back stage and had, shall we say,  a serious anger management issue — screaming in the face of a segment producer, screaming at his manager and throwing, depending on which report you read or which staffer you talk to, either a cooler or a chair which shattered the dressing room window, sending shards of glass to the sidewalk below.   This extreme behavior because Robin Roberts asked him about the changes in his life since his court-ordered restraining order against Rihanna was “relaxed.”

***THIS JUST IN: Chris Brown threw both a cooler and a chair at different times.  After he left the set, his behavior was described as “batshit.”    He spotted a  cooler by the props department and  threw that towards the office of the executive producer. He then continued the tirade as he walked down to his dressing room.   Once he and his entourage were in the dressing room, the door was closed and  a chair was thrown thrown through the window, presumably by Brown.

Now Brown has explained what happened and apologized, sort of, not on GMA, but on BET. I, for one, think apologies should at least sound more heart-felt than obligatory. And I don’t think they should come with a soundtrack, as this does.

I also feel strongly that this one should have been directed to the GMA segment producer and to Robin Roberts who has chosen to remain publicly friendly to the star. In the BET video, Brown asks fans not to threaten Robin Roberts, as he says he’s learned  of on twitter. (No outrage on his part there, however.)

A sincere apology  should also be given to internet fans for whom he was to perform a second song before storming shirtless out of the studio. And, of course,  the hair and make-up team who were frightened enough to call security.

TMZ first published Rihannas assault photo

Chris Brown also owes an apology to the Superior Court judge who, just weeks ago, modified the court order (questions about which really ticked him off) that barred him from contacting or being near ex-girlfriend Rihanna. Part of the order  is still in effect; he’s still prohibited from  harassing or annoying her.

I wonder if Rihanna found the GMA outburst annoying or harassing.  And I wonder if it triggered any post traumatic stress disorder she might have resulting from the beating he gave her that fateful night before the Grammy Awards.

Last December 21st, Brown tweeted to fans, “‘im done with class” and sent out to fans a copy of his domestic violence course completion certificate.   In a follow-up tweet, he wrote, “i have enough self respect and decency to be proud of accomplishing this DV class.. Boyz run from there (sic) mistakes.. Men learn from them!!!thx”

After pleading guilty to assaulting Rihanna,  giving her a bruised face (a photo of which would be leaked to TMZ)  the 21-year-old R&B singer was sentenced to five years probation, 1,400 hours of community service and ordered to complete that one-year domestic violence course. Read the rest of this entry »

DOUBLE, DOUBLE, TOIL AND TROUBLE:   FEEL FREE TO TELL US MORE ABOUT LADY MACBETH

Today’s NYT Style section has a strange profile of Ben Sherwood that addresses more of what people think of him than how he’s going to move ABC News into the future.  In the profile, the new president of the news division is said to sit in his office,  “at times absently rubbing his hands together as if washing them with soap and water.”

Cue the thunder and lightning, because buried amongst his chosen defenders, the NYT reporter has stumbled on a Shakespearean clue of the tragedy of blind ambition at ABC News.

Ben Sherwood, more than most, has tried his best to write, control and sell his own life narrative to others.  So far, he’s been very successful, convincing key consumers, most recently Anne Sweeney,  of his greatness and perceived destiny.   That’s all fine with me, except when Ben Sherwood’s narrative — the story of “his path,” — infringes upon the true and provable facts of my own.

To draw once more from the wisdom within the pages of  Shakespeare’s Macbeth invoked by the NYT reporter:  “What need we fear who knows (the truth) when none can call our power to account?”

With that inspiration, I shall begin the challenge of setting my own record straight.
First, here is the  full NYT story: Read the rest of this entry »

“STOMPS” HIS WAY INTO FLATIRONERS  HEARTS

TODAY SHOW APPEARANCE  HELPS PUSH NEW ALBUM TO #3 ON AMAZON,  SECOND ALBUM AT #6

He is 29 years old and fills stadiums around the world, playing a fusion of classical music and pop on a million-dollar+ Stradavarius, straddling the worlds of  Aerosmith and Vivaldi.  He performed his first concert at age four and studied at Julliard with the great Itzhak Perlman. His name is David Garrett and if he looks a bit familiar, you might have seen his face on billboards for Banana Republic, on down the runway for Armani.

This morning you may have watching him on the Today Show, but you may have also seen him on The Early Show, Good Morning America, Fox New Year’s Eve Special and Oprah.

EATALY: AS INNOVATIVE IN FOOD, AS GARRETT IS IN MUSIC

Eataly: new Eurpoean market and restaurant complex in NYC

Full dislosure: our family looks after him in America. But there’s no need to hype David Garrett. He’s the real deal as you’ll see in his casual stroll through Eataly, New York City’s renowned artisanal food market and eatery created by Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich and located 200 Fifth Avenue (at 23rd).

This performance, featuring The Street Beats Group, brought a special “only in New York” treat to dozens of unsuspecting lunchtime patrons at Eataly.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Surprising (Week #1) Success of the New Early Show Team

TODAY CONTINUES HOT STREAK — AT 60,

EARLY FINDS GLIMMER OF HOPE — AT 50.

Friday marked the beginning of the 60th year of the Today Show and  they have more to celebrate than anyone in network news. It’s a great show and a successful one.  I’ve estimated the show has made well over a billion dollars for NBC since 1994/5, when they first overtook Good Morning America in the middle of the O.J. Simpson case.

My pal and former competitor, Jim Bell, has done a great job keeping the show in first place as, in tv, all good runs usually come to an end… except, it seems,  for the Today Show.

Very happy new year for the new team at Early.

AN ODD MILESTONE

At the other end of the spectrum, The Early Show  (and its ‘earlier’ incarnations) has been in third place for all of  their 50 years, not a very happy golden anniversary over at CBS, for sure.

But the first indicator of viewer interest surrounding the new anchor team is at least a reason for hope: the Nielsens. Take a look at the change in the demo  year to year!

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: JANUARY 3rd (A25-54)

Early + 20,000   Today -150,000 GMA  -300,000.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

ABC NEWS  FORECAST: BLAMESTORM WINDS GATHERING

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 »