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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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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 »

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 »

AS THE RUMORS SWIRL THAT MATT WILL FOLLOW MEREDITH OUT THE DOOR, A BILLION-DOLLAR FRANCHISE HEARS A GASP

Mano y mano: The only muscle Matt Lauer flexes with Tom Cruise is from the nose up.

A Today Show without Matt Lauer? Could this really be true? Could it still thrive?

Those are some of the questions recently posed to me by David Bauder of Associated Press. Where do I even begin?

As someone who’s studied Matt Lauer for many years, not just as a viewer but as a competitor, first as executive producer of ABC’s Good Morning America then senior executive producer of CBS’ Early Show, I can genuinely say with authority: there is simply no one like Matt Lauer in all of network news. There never has been, and now given the experience he adds to his broad range of skill sets, there probably never will be again.

So, NBC, what ever Matt wants, Matt should get. He’s certainly earned it.

HOW MATT LAUER BECAME “THE FONZ” OF MORNING TV AND WHY HIS BOSSES GET CREDIT FOR SPOTTING HIM

Most network news executives I have known would never have hired Matt Lauer in the first place. It’s clearly been their loss. You see, once upon a time, he was a young feature reporter for Robin Leach’s “Fame, Fortune and Romance,” a short-lived daytime series that rode the coat tails of the bigger show that brought you champagne wishes and caviar dreams. He then moved to New York and co-hosted a local talk show called 9 Broadway Plaza.

This, plus a few credits short of a degree from Ohio University, was not exactly the winning resume for a network news division, but somewhere within the NBC corporate hierarchy someone saw that Lauer was smart, fun to be around, comfortable in his own skin and likable. Not classically handsome, he was still sexy, appealing, someone who definitely sat at the cool kid’s table of life. Read the rest of this entry »

“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 »

GOOD NUTRITION STARTS AT HOME, EVEN WHEN “HOME” IS WHERE THE WHITE HOUSE IS

The Presidential Sunday Menu: the Superbowl of fat and salt

Tomorrow, Michelle Obama begins a three-day publicity blitz which will include appearances on the Today Show, Live With Regis and Kelly, then traveling to Atlanta to speak about gardening and healthy eating. She will unveil a new public service ad created by the Ad Council. And she will host, along with the surgeon general and various cabinet secretaries, a series of conference calls with members of the medical community, school administrators and healthy school advocates, physical activity advocates, mayors, and other community leaders.

FIRST LADY CELEBRATES ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF WAR ON FAT, EXCEPT FOR SUNDAY

The First Lady has accomplished a lot in the last year since declaring war on obesity.

Michelle: hey there, don't forget those fruits and veggies

She began by installing a vegetable garden in the White House, a great example followed by Americans coast to coast including me.

Then she convinced Wal-Mart to lower prices on fruits and veggies and cut fat, sugar and salt their foods.

For the past few months, according to the New York Times, her soldiers in the war on fat have been holding private talks with the National Restaurant Association to get restaurants to offer smaller portions, plus children’s meals with carrots, apples and milk instead of french fries and soda.

Over the past year, she has pressed for “front of package” labels to warn consumer of high salt, sugar and fat content. She’s asked beverage companies to redesign their soda cans to include calorie counts. She’s pushed Congress to require schools to provide healthier lunch menus (a long way from the Reagan era when the debate was whether or not ketchup was a vegetable.) And her suggestion that restaurants be required to print nutrition information on menus quietly became part of the President’s landmark health care law.

So what’s up with that Superbowl Sunday menu the First Lady offered her guests? It was a buffet selection missing only the engraved invitation to the nearest coronary care unit: bratwurst, kielbasa, cheeseburgers, deep-dish pizza and Buffalo wings with sides of German potato salad, twice-baked potatoes, assorted chips and dips and ice cream. I’m getting chest pains just reading it.
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 »

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 »