Christiane Amanpour — A Tough TV Talk Show Host? About Time!

Christiane Amanpour at the Vanity Fair celebra...
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I never watch the Sunday morning talk shows. Terrible admission from someone who needs to be in the know.

The idea of listening to a bunch of middle-aged white guys opining gives me a migraine. Don’t we get enough of that already?

Now Christiane Amanpour, one of my idols for her passionate intelligence, is hosting a new talk show. Writes Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times:

Ms. Amanpour [has]…a range of international experience that is hard to match. More important, she has panache and a no-nonsense briskness.

She gave a somewhat lame rationale for taking over a Washington-based news show, telling viewers that she was “thrilled” to have the ABC job because “after 20 years covering the world, the story in this country is turning into one of the most fascinating.” …

But for viewers Ms. Amanpour’s outsider status comes at an opportune time. The country is sick of its elected officials, and it has never been all that keen on the Washington press corps. If Ms. Amanpour can bring some of the nerve and authority she had covering foreign affairs to a program that has until now had a clubby, old-boy focus on domestic news, she will certainly stand out. She may even be good.

I am deeply weary of smooth, clubby, old-boy journalism, a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one. It’s all about the log-rolling.

But to win so high-profile a gig as Amanpour’s means being aggressive enough to look serious, but not such a bitch no one wants you on their team. By the time you’re within reach of journalism’s coveted brass ring — the chance to rattle the largest and most powerful of cage, the Capitol, the Pentagon, the White House — your own has likely become so gilded you don’t dare jeopardize it. No one wants to be shut out of the best dinner parties, the right invitations, Davos, Aspen, TED, whatever.

Biting the hands that feed you requires a well-controlled jaw.

Which is why so much “reporting” and “analysis” is bloodless and anodyne — when it’s not fanged and clawed and insanely intemperate. Everyone is desperate to be heard, heeded, quoted, Tweeted.

How about….respected? I wish Ms. Amanpour the best of luck with her new venture. She will, no doubt, kick ass the best way possible.


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Deking Out The Greedy SOBs Disney And Dolan — How We Are Watching The Oscars

3-D logo used since 2007.
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In utter last-minute desperation, we called our relatives in Ohio — who are not being held hostage by the insane greed of Cablevision versus ABC that is denying coverage of this event to millions of residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

You losers. You greedy )(*&^%#@@ losers.

They’ve hooked up their laptop in front of their TV in Ohio — and we’re watching the Oscars on their TV by Gmail.

Thanks, Ruth and Brian!

Whatever it takes.

We Can't Watch The Oscars — Thanks To Corporate Thugs' Standoff

A reporter takes a picture of the Oscars' stat...
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This is the garbage we put up with in the sophisticated Northeast.

Pure corporate thuggery.

From The New York Times:

The distribution spat between The Walt Disney Company and Cablevision started to look more like a spat between two chief executives on Friday, a day before Cablevision’s contract to carry the ABC station in New York City was set to expire.

Meanwhile, viewers who faced the prospect of missing the Academy Awards on Sunday seemed to split their scorn in equal portions between the two companies.

“Why do we have to be subjected to this fight?” asked Jami Lieberman, a Cablevision subscriber in Searingtown, N. Y. Cablevision serves about three million customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Disney owns ABC.

Tens of millions of dollars are at stake in the negotiations over a new contract. Disney wants up to $1 a subscriber a month from Cablevision for programming from the station, WABC, which is available free over the airwaves. Cablevision has offered an undisclosed fraction of that. The current agreement expires late Saturday night.

Demands by broadcasters for so-called retransmission payments are becoming more prevalent. But this dispute is becoming especially bitter. As negotiations stalled this week, Cablevision called on Disney’s chief executive, Robert A. Iger, to “stop holding his own viewers hostage” and publicly cited his salary and bonus as evidence that the company was being greedy.

Even John Kerry’s gotten into the battle, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Disney and Cablevision aren’t the only ones squabbling over this issue. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying that the regulatory agency should revisit the so-called retransmission consent rules that allow broadcasters to seek fees from cable operators in return for carrying their signals. Kerry told Genachowski that he does not think broadcasters should be allowed to pull their signal from a cable operator “unless the cable company is negotiating in bad faith.” The FCC, he added, would be the ones to determine whether that is the case. Kerry is chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

From The Washington Post:

As reported earlier this week, WABC-7, the local affiliate for Disney’s ABC franchise, said it would go dark for Cablevision subscribers if the parties were unable to come up with an agreement on fees paid by the cable giant to the broadcaster. ABC has said Cablevision is not offering a fair price to carry its programming.

Cablevision has said that Disney, the parent company of ABC, was seeking unreasonable terms. The company says it already pays ABC more than $200 million a year, and is being pressured to pay $40 million on top of that for no additional content.

“We want our customers to know that we will not pull this channel and we urge ABC Disney to make that same commitment,” said Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s executive vice president of communications

Our TV screen right now  — we get Cablevision — shows only a large blue and white message:

ABC has rejected our offers. We have agreements with CBS, NBC, Fox and Univision. We apologize for their [ABC’s] actions.

Like that’s going to help.

As ABC News Lays Off 300 to 400, Who Are 'Journalists' Now? Do You Care?

Journalists in the Radio-Canada/CBC newsroom i...
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As ABC News today announces the layoffs of 300 to 400 members of their news staff, the question — begged almost daily these days — is who’s bringing us/you the news and information you value and trust?

Writes Jeff Bercovici in The New York Observer:

In the latter half of the last century, journalism mutated from a relatively prestige-free trade into a hoity-toity profession that, like medicine and law, involves graduate degrees and six-figure salaries. But journalism is not a profession, or even a trade, really. It’s an act. And anyone who performs that act is, at that moment, a journalist.

This recognition comes as the journalistic establishment slides beneath the water line, taking with it the six-figure jobs necessary to pay off all those J-school loans.

As fellow True/Slant contributor Paul Smalera recently told The New York Times, it’s pretty unclear who’s going to be able to make a living producing journalism without the back-up of a major media organization like ABC News, no matter how cool or edgy or interesting readers find information from less-traditional outlets:

Dozens of Web sites have correspondingly sprouted up, posting articles written for free or for a fraction of what a traditional magazine would have paid. Into this gaping maw have rushed enough authors to fill a hundred Roman Colosseums, all eager to write in exchange for “exposure.” Paul Smalera, a 29-year-old who was laid off from a magazine job in November 2008, is now competing with every one of them. And after months of furious blogging, tweeting and writing for Web sites, Paul has made a career of Internet journalism, sort of.

In the process, he’s had to redefine success. While he is doing work that he finds satisfying, he is earning around half of the $63,000 he made as a full-time employee, and he doesn’t have health insurance — or prospects for getting any. He has very little in savings and a mountain of credit-card and student-loan debt. “I think the economics are bleak right now, but in the long run, the opportunities are going to be online, and that’s why I’m willing to make the investment,” he told me over coffee.

Bercovici has it half-right. Very few well-paid J-jobs remain available and the pool of veterans competing for them is becoming even more Darwinian than ever, and it was crazy to begin with.

But this notion that anyone with a cellphone or Twitter account is offering “journalism” doesn’t work for me — any more than a lumberjack who cuts down a tree has created a dining room table or set of chairs. Beginning the chain of news production with a tweet or cellphone image snapped and sent within seconds by someone who gets what’s happening in front of them and feels the urgency to share it is inarguably potentially valuable — but not without subsequent checks, balances, fact-checking, analysis and the primary tool of anyone with experience — skepticism.

Remember, please, the names Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair — rising young stars initially sheltered and lionized within serious newsrooms producing thoughtful, reliable material.

As the saying goes, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Amateurs, civilians, citizen journalists — whatever you want to call them — have a place, and a growing one, at our shrinking table. They are not, and must not become the only place to which we gravitate for the information we use to make important decisions about our lives. Publishers thrived for years on profits of 15 percent or more — orders of magnitude higher than those of many other industries. Now everyone’s scrambling to get the cheapest work possible out of the journalists still hoping to do the work they/we love and value.

Our challenge, as those trying to do good work and pay bills and pay off student loans and save for retirement — call that an annual income of $45,000+ in most parts of the United States — is becoming a tough(er) row to hoe with every passing day. It’s not just random whining about losing a profession we love(d) or incomes that allowed us a life, not a scrabble for survival.

Driving costs into the ground means driving many smart, talented veterans out of the business. This affects the quality of information available to readers, listeners and viewers.

What 'The Bachelor' Really Needs: A Non-Caucasian Size 14 Nuclear Physicist


I admit it. One of my guiltier habits is watching “The Bachelor”, ABC’s reality TV show in which, in alternate seasons, one man becomes The Bachelor and the next season, a woman The Bachelorette. I liked Jillian Harris, the feisty, redheaded interior designer from Alberta who was the last Bachelorette and thought Ed, her honey from Chicago, a catch. Jason and Molly, meh. Too squeaky clean.

This season, it’s Jake Pavelka, a commercial pilot with — ho hum — washboard abs and cheekbones you could use to shave Parmesan. He’s now down to five women from whom he’s expected to find, yup, his soul-mate. Like every iteration of the show, year after year, the women competing for his affections are all young – under 35, usually under 30, perky, thin and white.

And they are all so boring! Does none of these women read or think or have a tattoo or piercing or neurosis? And, now that the average size woman is a size 14 and even Glamour is letting a few fatties into their editorial mix, how about including some girls with serious booty?

Seriously, do black, Asian or Hispanic women, let alone any other ethnicities or races, never audition for this particular show? Or do they just not make the cut? (Maybe no one even tries, due to good sense, a great job or just a more highly developed sense of embarrassment?) In all the seasons I’ve watched these shows, I can barely remember a handful of non-white, non-American women. There was a female doctor from Latin America. Gone! There was a gorgeous Hispanic male architect from California. Gone!

This season we’ve got, of course, a swimsuit model. Excuse me, have you ever, anywhere, even met someone who does that for a living?

There will, as the show winds to its usual conclusion, be a proposal with a diamond ring, many tears and sighs, rending of (tight, shiny) garments and gnashing of (perfectly aligned, dazzlingly white) teeth.

I want to see a dating show not set in “romantic” Hawaii or Seville or San Francisco. I want to see these girls competing not for a kiss or a night in his suite, but elbows-out at Stop ‘n Shop grabbing the last pork chop on sale, fighting over who has to pick up Jake’s drycleaning or duking it out for VC funds for their tech start-up or a Fulbright or a grant to cure pancreatic cancer. You know, something real.

Line Up, Gentlemen, For The Conveyor Belt Of Love

Piano accordion; Weltmeister, 48 bass, 3 reed-rows
This is not a winning choice...Image via Wikipedia

It’s a real show, on ABC. I watched it last week, prepared to hate it. It was pretty lame, but I thought it was a hoot.

A bunch of brave/foolish men come out on a conveyor belt and have a minute to impress one, or all, of the five women sitting in front of them.

Gross! Sexist! How could they? Well, kind of like any bar scene, but reversed.

I enjoyed watching some of the men be so screamingly, authentically awful — one guy literally howled, one showed a photo of his granny, one played the accordion, one did ballet — and how brutally, quickly and mercilessly the women held up their little signs, like an auction paddle, saying “Not interested.”

Not nice. But funny.