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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 »

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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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »