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“BALLISTIC BOSS” AND “TANTRUM-PRONE” NO MORE

Icorrect: this girls new BFF

For three years I have lived with the collateral damage of a deliberate and continuing cyber smear campaign from a handful of detractors who have hidden behind the time-honored protection given anonymous news sources. They are more school yard bullies than protected sources in the traditions of  great journalism.  But even with school yard bullies, you at least know who they are.

Two old stories in particular (2007 and 2008) were actually manipulated  for years to reappear on the first page of my Google Search. Both articles, highly sexist,  were based on false or twisted information provided by those with apparent malice who choose to  portray me as a workplace wackjob.

At the time the articles first appeared, I made a decision to take the high ground and ignore the bad press.  I now know that decision was wrong; not defending myself against the many lies let them  live on, unchallenged,  in cyberspace, a new world that has a real and measurable impact.

The “anonymouses” were actually “winning.”   But today, in the words of one ESPN anchor, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Today, the New York Times  has an article in the Week In Review section called “Celebrities Set the Record Straight” about  a new website called ICorrect.com where , for a membership fee of $1,000, one can correct a false story and then see your correction posted side by side with the original accusation.  The NYT story today features Stephen Fry, Bianca Jagger, Michael Caine, Tommy Hillfiger, Kevin Spacey and me!

If $1,000 seems like a lot of money, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $65,000 I was quoted by one company  to chase down all the lies that had been ricocheting around the internet. That was just to start; there was no promise to tackle unforeseen problems, such as what turned out to be a cyber “stalker(s)” who, regardless of any accomplishments, will manipulate the headlines with the words “Ballistic Boss” and “Tantrum-Prone” back to the top of my search page.

The most vicious stories were published at the end of my 17-year tenure at ABC News, then at the end of a much shorter one at CBS News where, after 23 weeks as senior executive producer of The Early Show, the bad press was at a fever pitch and I was asked to leave.

March 3, 2008 was my last day at CBS News and, ironically,  also the day I was about to assign the story of Paul Tilley, a 40-year-old creative chief of an ad agency, DDB Chicago. A week and a half earlier Tilly, a husband and father of two, jumped to a violent death from an upper floor of the Fairmont Hotel,  the building next door to his offices.  The talented Mr. Tilley had been the target of vicious, anonymous blogs on two ad industry websites.

At the time, I named this new phenomenon blood blogging, a far more accurate phrase than Sarah Palin’s more recent blood libel, and certainly less incendiary.  To me, blood blogging seems more of a sport than anything else, one designed by those not particularly witty, talented or inspired, but rather  those who are seemingly disgruntled, disenfranchised and not willing to put their own ideas front and center for anyone to notice, let alone judge.

Under the cloak of anonymity, they tear others down, wound with words and when all else fails, make stuff up.

The blood blogging of me began even before I even accepted the CBS job, when it was published that  my secret contract negotiations to become senior executive producer of The Early Show were halted because Katie Couric was mad at me.  Not true, but the lightning round of phone calls from reporters revealed one certainty: someone was working a sabotage story pretty aggressively.  I was hoping this was just a little gossipy speed bump, but not so.  Following my introduction to The Early Show staff, I gave my first talk about the difficult but exciting days ahead as we faced the challenge of moving out of third place.   Soon after that, my old pals at ABC called and repeated back my words, almost verbatim, and even told me their favorite parts of the Q&A session.   When I officially began work at CBS  the next week, I changed the pass code to the telephone conference bridge.

The steady stream of malicious gossip began pretty early. I “melted down,” went “ballistic,” “became enraged” and “threw temper tantrums” in meetings I did not attend, in hallways I didn’t walk in and on phone calls I never placed or received.   In the early days, almost like clockwork each Friday afternoon at about ten to six, my boss and  I would be handed a demeaning anonymous item to confirm or deny for Page Six of the New York Post.  Despite the clear and specific denials from the president of the news division, Page Six eventually ran one big story anyway, telling our publicist, “but our source is so good.”  Perhaps the source had an ulterior motive.

As one website picked up each false and malicious story from the other,  personal threats began, some addressing what should happen to terrible bosses like me.  There was simply no recourse, until now.   Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

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 »

****UPDATE: FINAL RATINGS SINK LOWER

WHEN MORE TUNE IN TO WORLD NEWS THAN ABC SPECIAL, WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WOW VIEWERS?

A few disclosures will be sprinkled throughout this post, but first, I think I have a news crush on the astronaut, Mark Kelly.  You know how when you meet a guy who’s so spectacular but taken, so you think, “is there a brother like him at home or did they throw away the mold after this one?”  Well he’s got an identical twin.

my news crush began when I saw the healing hand of Capt. Mark Kelly

My news crush on Kelly began the moment I saw that photo: the close up of his hand grasping hers, “hers” being Gabrielle Giffords who the world now knows has been fighting for her life, and now is  just fighting to return to her husband.  Their love story was told by Diane Sawyer Tuesday night in a special edition of 20/20.

This ABC News exclusive,  a story that is still developing daily,  played to all the strengths of Sawyer. (Disclosure #2: I produced Diane’s interviews for 15 years.  I acknowledge this not to reveal any personal bias, but more to state a truly academic knowledge of the art of the interview.)

In the broader Tuscon story, Capt. Kelly was “the get.”  From the start, the killing rampage in Tuscon captured the hearts and minds of America.  Anchors rushed to the scene.  The nation was captivated.   Over 2 million more people watched the combined evening newscasts than the week before.

The individual stories of the victims were both heart-breaking and heart-rendering… the nine year old who wanted to learn about democracy, the 30-year-old congressional aide who had just proposed to his girlfriend, the husband who was killed throwing his body over his childhood sweetheart to save her life.  And now, the story of Gabby Giffords, the congresswoman who was shot in the head by the disenfranchised community college student who appears to be off his rocker.

Tuscon is an epic tragedy with, it turns out, many tenacles. It developed into a political drama as well and not just the debate sparked over use of crosshairs graphics or incendiary rhetoric. After the President of the United States arrived bedside and offered words so powerful and healing, his biggest critics agreed his speech to the local crowd in the gymnasium could mark a turning point in his presidency.

Obama’s revelation that Gabby Giffords had opened her eyes reminded us all, “Yes, we can.”   And when the astronaut, or rather her knight in shining armour agreed to tell his story, their story to Diane Sawyer, I knew it was an hour not to miss. Who better to mine the interview, write the narrative and weave the various threads together into a tapestry of  hope, faith and personal challenges.

*** UPDATED RATINGS Oddly, I was in the minority.  Among adults 18 to 49, ABC News’ “Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly: The Congresswoman and The Astronaut” came in third Tuesday night with a 1.3 rating . CBS’ “The Good Wife” and NBC’s “Parenthood” tied for first with 2.1 rating each.

Among total viewers, (still preliminary) ABC News came in a distant second with an audience of 6.12 million viewers, less than Sawyer averages for World News. “The Good Wife” garnered 11.34 million total viewers. (These are The Nielsen Company Fast Affiliate, Live + Same Day Ratings, 1/18/11, which were posted on ABC.com, and may be adjusted Friday.) Read the rest of this entry »


WHY OPRAH’S OWN SEES RATINGS DIVE IN WEEK #2

Oprah: "she sure can talk"

When Oprah Winfrey first announced the creation of OWN, she revealed she had once written in her journal “that one day I would create a television network, as I always felt my show was just the beginning of what the future could hold.”

Well, three years and $168 million later, we have now seen the future, and it is — extremely disappointing. Not just in the number of viewers who pulled the escape hatch after the first few days, but why they are bailing.

OWN promises to recycle 5,000 hour of the Oprah Winfrey Show starting this September.

Who wants to watch more recycling than you’ll find at a plastic bottle processing center.

I’m not certain how this has happened given the OWN brain trust with Oprah as chairman, the amazing Tom Freston as top advisor, and the awesome Christina Norman, the CEO. The bottom line: OWN is a stodgy old bore.

Even worse, while they were forgetting Oprah’s own recipe for success, a quiet little Columbus Dispatch newspaper reporter went instantly viral with his story of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice.

Talk about dream fulfillment.  Today Oprah told Entertainment Tonight she was thinking of ways to fold Ted Williams into OWN.  Really? Doesn’t he have enough benefactors on his bandwagon.   Instead, why not hire that unsung Columbus Dispatch reporter and give him a show to find the other jewels of humanity who are still living on the street or in makeshift tents?

Thursday, Oprah met with members of the TV Critics Association where some  suggested she had actually staged a filibuster to avoid addressing real issues of OWN. Here are some of the questions tv critics didn’t have an opportunity to ask: Read the rest of this entry »