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Kim and Khloe Kardashian sit on Piers Morgan's lap for a CNN News promotion

Kim and Khloe Kardashian sit on Piers Morgan’s lap for a CNN News promotion

I remember former CNN president Jon Klein getting mad at me after I was the first to post that Larry King’s replacement would be “PM.” I invited readers to guess and they came up with everyone from Paul McCartney to Peter Marshall. Only Sue Carswell was right in naming Piers Morgan.

It wasn’t a very well-kept secret anyway. It turned out Piers Morgan was out celebrating in London in a big noisy group that included mutual friends. And, well, no one had to hack his phone to hear about the deal Simon Cowell was helping him craft.

Well, here’s my next hint: his replacement should have the initials of JL, and I don’t mean Jerry Lewis.

I hope Jeff Zucker does get as bent out of shape as Jon Klein did, writing to me a terse e-mail, “You’re not helping me here.” I wish I could have.

From the beginning I took special interest in Piers Morgan because, a) we have those mutual friends and acquaintances, b) I thought it was time for Larry King to retire and I was hungry for a fresh voice and c) I am married to a Brit and was curious how this would work.

Yes, American TV viewers had fallen in love with Simon Cowell, the dangerous British bad boy with, secretly, a big heart. But Morgan? He would need a lot of different coaching.

My unique viewpoint comes from my early years with my husband who was born in London, went to Leicester University and became an entertainment lawyer. Soon after, he took top leadership roles at British record labels including Arista, Phonogram and MCA UK.

He reads many papers each day, always has a book or two on hand, keeps his finger on the pulse of not only music, but world politics, fashion, financial crises, sports, history of many world tensions and more. He is a people person and a family man. But when he finally moved to America to launch a new record label for MCA in 1988, there was still a steep cultural learning curve.

Here are some of the simple ways I helped, which could have easily helped Piers Morgan.

First stop was the Kennedy library in Boston. There we watched all the fabulous off-the-cuff verbal sparring between JFK and the White House correspondents, a high watermark for presidential access and candor. Then we watched a JFK documentary followed by one of RFK. Among many reactions, David was devastated to learn the civil rights movement, which he had read about, had happened so recently. It was now much more disturbingly indelible.

We then rented the whole series of Eyes On the Prize and watched the episodes back to back. It was a life-changing immersion, one recommended for every serious foreign journalist or businessman. There are so many nuances in American politics that as we went along over time, I could explain why one politician is forgiven, another is not and more.

For most of my adult life, I have always felt independent of any political party, an observer rather than a joiner. Given that, I was able to explain to my British step-children why no matter what was spoken during the 2008 election, the two rival presidential candidates would most likely take the same action with the same timing in winding down the wars.

I know, Piers Morgan wasn’t doing a Sunday morning show. He just needed to have been steeped in a bit more of the American journey so he could have maybe talked with Oprah about Martin Luther King, Jr. for an interview that would air on the civil rights leader’s birthday.

Maybe someone should have told him his promo pictures shouldn’t have been in front of the make-up mirror.

And someone should have warned him against not only having the Kardashian sisters sit on his lap, but sending out perhaps the creepiest publicity photos in CNN history.

I don’t really know enough to blame Morgan. I’d much rather work with a person on camera that you have to pull back a bit than one you must push forward. But no one was pulling him back.

And who told him his purpose in coming to America was to teach us about gun control all the while fracturing the statistics from the UK and speaking over those who tried to correct him.

The key is this: you can criticize this country on tv only if viewers believe you know this country and love this country… between New York and L.A.

In fact, my husband became the most patriotic person I know and seeing through his eyes made me even more patriotic. He even loves that Americans give second chances to failed politicians…invoking Winston Churchill.

Maybe Piers will have a second chance, too. He has a big personality made for TV, plenty of moxie, ego and mental sharpness. Just look how he made mincemeat of the legal panel investigating his role in the Murdoch newspaper hacking scandal. I watched it all. He made them look like amateurs.

But the damage has been done at CNN.

Zucker is under pressure, having failed to launch a successful new CNN morning show, just as he failed –hands on– launching “Katie” in syndication. (Hello, 1978’s calling, they want their talk show back.)

Zucker needs a great big splashy hit. Maybe if JLen can get over the NBC 10:00 purgatory thing with his old boss, all will be forgiven and it could be Zucker’s biggest booking ever. CNN has the money, now just shake that tree.

And let’s hope Piers Morgan learns to genuinely love America before he rolls in again to teach us right from wrong in politics AND TV.

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FIRST BIG INTERNATIONAL CRISIS  IS A BUST FOR NEW BOSS

PRIMETIME RATINGS WAY LOWER THAN LARRY KING

Mark Whitaker: has his work cut out at CNN

 

TELEVISING THE REVOLUTION, THE HARD WAY

On Friday, with Egypt erupting in a people’s revolution, CNN wisely bagged their primetime programs and stayed on the live breaking news with two of the best reporters of our generation: Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson. Sadly, not many viewers came to the party.  Now CNN has put in place Mark Whitaker, a news exec from NBC and Time. Will he be the heroic smoke jumper needed to save the prime real estate?

 

Below are the A25-54 #s for Friday for CNN from 6-11PM:

Blitzer: 257,000

KingUSA: 239,000

ParkerSpitzer: 149,000

Morgan: 178,000

Cooper: 247,000

Last year, Larry King averaged 199,000 A25-54 on the same week (w/o Jan 25th) last year — without breaking news. 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 »

OBAMA UNDERWHELMS GERGEN, FALLING SHORT ON DEFICIT

WHAT POSSESSED REPUBLICANS TO DIVIDE THEIR MESSAGE?

WHAT POSSESSED CNN TO ADD POLITICAL PUNDIT PIERS?

be the first to add your own doppelgänger suggestions tonight


PAUL RYAN/ EDDIE MUNSTER

Read the rest of this entry »

WHAT DO YOU THINK  IS THE “BIG SECRET” OPRAH WILL REVEAL MONDAY? SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS

She’s said this family secret “shook her to the core.”

They don't know who the father is, but could the egg donor be Oprah?

7) The Piers Morgan interview wasn’t really one of the toughest interviews in 20 years. It was the toughest in the last 20 minutes.

6) She’s fixing Fergie’s show for OWN by updating the old the Patty Duke Show and adding Snooki.

5) Oprah”s not retiring at the end of this year.  She’s signed on to co-anchor with Anderson Cooper.

whoops, she said it was a family secret…

4) Kitty Kelly was right; Vernon Winfrey isn’t Oprah’s father; he was Elvis’ dad.

3) Gayle King is her mother and her sister

2) Oprah is the egg donor for Elton’s baby.  Meet Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John-Winfrey?

and the #1 family secret?

1) Oprah’s baby boy didn’t really die in the hospital and, according to the date of birth that fits the time frame, it’s either Tyler Perry, P.Diddy,  Bobby Brown or Chaz Bono…. or (drumroll….) the shadowy guy we got a glimpse of in the promo!

ADD ON TO THE LIST OF  SECRETS  YOU THINK OPRAH COULD REVEAL MONDAY

**** SIBLING UPDATE:

It’s now Gayle, Oprah and Patricia, the half-sister who was separated at birth.  Now the ultimate study/test of nature, nurture. Poor Pat was raised in foster homes, but at least as far as we know, wasn’t molested by men around the house, as was Oprah. Now she belongs to someone… and it’s not Kitty Kelly or the tabloids, and she can thank her new big sister for that!

HOW LONG BEFORE PIERS MORGAN GOES LIVE, ADDS MULTIPLE GUESTS? START THE OFFICE POOL NOW

KING REPLACEMENT STILL LIKES HIS INTERVIEWS PRE-TAPED — NOT SHAKEN OR STIRRED


Whew, what a relief that Piers Morgan’s first week is over.  We can both relax now.  I don’t really know how he felt, but I certainly was  full of anxiety watching.  Imagine getting hired to replace an icon like Larry King.  The set, the suspenders, open heart surgery (or as he awkwardly called it with Bill Clinton: the “zipper club.”) And all the wives we loved and lost.

Replacing a broadcast original, even if he’d acted like your embarrassing uncle some nights, is a daunting challenge.  I just couldn’t wait for those  first interviews to be over so we can all dig into reality.

YOU MIGHT AS WELL BURN THE FIRST WEEK…

No matter how strategic one tries to be, you might as well burn the first week anytime you’re stepping into big shoes, especially comfortable old ones.   And you’ve got to know the size of the shoes into which you step —  the American size, not the English size, which is smaller. (A man’s size 12 in the US is an 11 in the UK.)

Speaking of smaller, the total audience for Morgan’s show began to shrink throughout the first week, losing nearly a million viewers across all ages.

Among adults 25-54, the audience  was nearly halved by Wednesday.  But then again, anyone here could have warned in advance that Condoleeza Rice, while one of the most interesting women in the world, is not fascinating as an interviewee. Ricky Gervais, on the other hand, is — especially right after his Golden Globe controversy.  But “right after,” in our world of 24/7 news, would have been Monday, not Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

INTERVIEW IS TOUGHEST, BUT FOR WHOM?

WHEW, WHO ELSE  BUT THE QUEEN OF TALK COULD EVER HANDLE QUESTIONS LIKE THESE…

It began at 9:00 p.m. just like this:  after days of intensive CNN promotion where we see Oprah call it “one of the toughest interviews I’ve had in twenty years,” Piers Morgan opened the door, sat down and asked the first question on his highly anticipated new talk show.  I turned up the volume, shushed my husband and leaned forward.

"one of the toughest interviews Ive had in twenty years"

PIERS: Tell me this, do you ever get surreal moments when, I’m trying to picture what it’s like being you, when you wake up in the morning and you go, ‘Bloody hell, I’m Oprah Winfrey.’

OPRAH:  Well I don’t say, “bloody hell,” but I did have a surreal moment, January 1st, when I launched my new network.

It had been only a matter of seconds before Oprah was pitching her heart out about her new cable network, OWN.  Watching the January 1st launch, she told Morgan,  had moved her to tears when she finally “got it.”   Groomed in the rough and tumble world of London’s Fleet Street, he was more than ready for his follow up.

PIERS: What does it really mean to have your own network?

With the words, “exclusive” written in the lower third of the screen*, Oprah revealed a story she had only shared with the few dozen reporters who attended her press conference at the  Television Critics Association on January 7th.  She said she never loved commercials as much as when she saw them on her OWN network. (*Full disclosure, I have over-used “exclusive” myself  plenty over the years.)

Okay, to be fair, Morgan wants Oprah to get a little something out of the interview, so perhaps it’s good to get a few warm up questions out of the way.  Let’s dig in now.

PIERS: How many people do you trust?

Oprah says about 5 or 6, but she’s not going to say who they are.  Oprah’s on to him now and lets him know she’s not going to discuss what she told Barbara Walters about Gayle.

PIERS: Typical Oprah, you nailed the lie!

Oprah makes it very clear that she will never address those “rumors” again.  And Morgan backs off, but not before Oprah explains why she cried in the Walters interview while discussing her friendship with Gayle.

Having been warned by Oprah not to tread on “rumor” territory, or to expect her to cry again, Morgan deftly backs her in a corner with this follow up:

PIERS: How did Gayle react to your reaction?

OPRAH: She said, ‘that’s so nice.’

It turns out, Gayle didn’t have a chance to see the Barbara Walters interview until they were in Australia, something which made Morgan absolutely collapse in laughter.  But then he composed himself in order to continue Oprah’s toughest interview.  Read the rest of this entry »

One Day Left to Bag the Canned Oprah Intv, Replace it With a Real Newsmaker

Piers Morgan's launch statement: Oprah interview

From the moment it was first announced that Oprah would be the first guest for the launch of Piers Morgan Tonight, I feared it would be a problem.  What if a really big news story captured the imagination of the entire nation?

What if that news story sparked a unflinching dialog that crossed political parties, all generations, one story that involved  the entire spectrum of modern debate: gun control, mental health resources, parental responsibility, anti-Semitism, marijuana, free speech, the presidency and more.

My “what if” happened on January 8th in Tuscon, Arizona and CNN’s coverage today, eight days later,  remains riveting and relevant.

WILL ANYONE ELSE CHALLENGE  “OPRAH”  ON THE FIRST SHOW?

This morning, Fareed Zakaria analyzed America’s gun culture and toxic political rhetoric,  but first looked forward to next week’s White House guest, the president of China. (I will try to resist any references to “Hu’s on first.)

Up next, Howie Kurtz reviewed the role of mainstream media which, he noted for the second week, got in wrong from the beginning when NPR, ABC News and others reported that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been shot and killed.  Kurtz went on to discuss the rhetoric and the media’s role and responsibility in covering the president, Sarah Palin and more.

Dr. Fred Frese and his "beautiful mind": a great guest for Piers Morgan?

The most riveting  of all CNN’s coverage was Candy Crowley’s hour with a father of an adult schizophrenic and a truly amazing man named Fred Frese III, who is director of psychology at  Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital.  To call Dr. Frese’s 30-year career distinguished is an understatement.  Once an officer in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, Frese had numerous involuntary hospitalizations in state, private and military psych wards. Despite a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, he pursued a medical degree and earned a doctorate in psychology from Ohio University.

I had more of my questions about the  Arizona shooting answered by this hour on CNN than any other.  Dr. Frese,  with all his twitchy charm, explained schizophrenia — its real threats, challenges and  treatments — like no other.  He began by invoking the pride his (schizophrenia) community had in Dr. John Nash,  the nobel laureate portrayed by Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.”  The mental health community should have equal pride in Dr. Frese who, in the most disarming way, explains that as with alcoholics where there are happy drunks and mean ones, he’s a happy schizophrenic.  Dr. Frese, for one, would make a great first guest for Piers Morgan. After that, someone should open up on-air phone lines for Dr. Frese, for about three hours.

In between all these better-than-usual CNN hours: Piers Morgan’s promo with Oprah who says, “Whew, that was the toughest interview I’ve had in 20 years.”

If that’s really true, then it will hold.  Of all people, Oprah will understand.  It’s more important for Morgan to show he’s more nimble than safe, more relevant than star struck. Read the rest of this entry »