Friday, December 30, 2005

It's all about demos

Earlier I lamented CNN's decision to dump Aaron Brown in favor of Anderson Cooper. Now, TV Newser has a graph from Turner Research that shows why CNN did it: Anderson Cooper's gaining in the younger demographics, while FNC's Greta Van Susteren picks up audience only in the 55 and over demo.

New WNT debuts soon

The new World News Tonight format with co-anchors Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas debuts on ABC Tuesday, January 3. According to Variety, it won't be like CBS's failed two-anchor experiment that briefly paired Dan Rather with Connie Chung. Instead, the network plans on keeping one of the anchors in the field and another in the studio. The broadcast will be divided into four blocks, with one anchor taking the lead story and most of the first block.

Woodruff tells the Detroit Free Press that the format allows the anchors to be more like reporters. "I think we almost need a new word for it, other than anchor," he told the Free Press.

Variety also reports that by Thursday, January 5, WNT will be doing three live broadcasts, rather than refeeding for the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones.

Earlier: ABC names WNT anchors

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mike Wallace interview

NPR this morning aired an interview with television interviewer Mike Wallace. Even more interesting than the interview on Morning Edition are the unaired portions posted on NPR's website. Nothing terribly new in the interviews, but I recommend them, particularly to my journalism students.

Last month I read Wallace's new memoir, Between You and Me. It's a fun, quick read, but the real treasure is the DVD inside.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

BYU first in the Hearst

I just received word that BYU's broadcast program placed first in the Hearst Journalism Competition. The Hearst is the college equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.

The first-placed overall ranking is based on individual third and fourth place finishes in the radio feature reporting competition and a seventh place finish in the television feature reporting competition. It is the highest overall ranking the school has ever received in the competition. The highest previous individual finish for BYU was in 1996, when Amy Westerby won the television news competition.

Last school year BYU placed second overall, behind Arizona State. That ranking marked a dramatic turn-around for the BYU broadcast program, coming during the first year for our new lab supervisors -- News Director Erin Goff and Production Manager Dale Green -- and the introduction of a new curriculum that abandoned a ten-year experiment in convergence. Along with dramatically higher job placements in 2005, the Hearst ranking recognizes the high quality of our student body and their professional mentors, and provides the faculty a measure of vindication for making the changes.

Our students' radio work airs on KBYU-FM, until recently under the tutelage of news director Joy Shaw (who succeeded Rebecca Cressman last spring). The 30-minute, daily television news broadcast is currently seen live on Provo Cable and can be accessed online.

Farewell, MNF

Monday Night Football drew to a close this week. The brainchild of Roone Arledge and Pete Rozell lasted 36 years -- an eternity in television. Sadly, it is ending with the best set of commentators since the days of Howard Cozell and Frank Gifford. (Unfortunately, we had to suffer through a few of the later years with Dennis Miller.)

Next season, Monday night games move to Disney-owned ESPN and John Madden goes to NBC to provide color for the Sunday night games. Sort of ironic that MNF's demise comes the same year that Ted Koppel leaves Nightline and Peter Jennings dies -- all legacies of Arledge's rein as president of ABC Sports and ABC News.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Times withheld story

The New York Times knew a year ago about President Bush's secret authorization to wiretap without court authorization, but chose to withhold the story. Why? That's what Washington and Lee University professor Edward Wasserman wants to know. He writes in the Miami Herald that the Times, which stumbled with Jayson Blair and Judith Miller, "blew this one," too.
I don't know what The Times' brass was thinking. Maybe they just lost their nerve. Maybe they didn't want to tangle with a fiercely combative White House right before an election. But I do believe that withholding accurate information of great public importance is the most serious action any news organization can take. The reproach -- ''You knew and you didn't tell us?'' -- reflects a fundamental professional betrayal.
Update: It's not the first time (On the Media)

Friday, December 23, 2005

BYU's Loss Vegas

Had a fabulous time at the Las Vegas Bowl, despite BYU's 7 point loss to Cal. It was a good game and I'm very impressed with the leg room at Sam Boyd Stadium. Not so impressed with the parking situation.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was kind in its assessment of the resurgent Cougars, while the Salt Lake papers were ruthless.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Must see pod TV

NBC has followed ABC to the iTunes store. Along with "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" you can now get Leno and "Law and Order." Did I mention the iPod video version came out just a week after I purchased a Nano? (Same thing happened when I bought my first iPod -- a new version came out within a week!) Next time I buy an iPod I'll have to post the news here -- then you'll know to wait a few weeks.

Bowl tickets arrive

My tickets for the Las Vegas Bowl arrived in the mail. I bought them through BYU and wow -- not very good seats. We'll be sitting somewhere in that red sliver you see on this map of Sam Boyd Stadium. Hopefully it will be fun anyway.
Earlier: It's Cal in the LV Bowl

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Legendary Chicago News Service to shut down

Chicago's legendary City News Service is shutting down at the end of the year. It started in 1890 when Chicago newspapers agreed to save money by sharing the responsibility of covering overnight police news. Since then, it has been considered one of the country's premier training grounds for reporters of hard news. The famous dictim "When your mother says she loves you, check it out" comes from one of the service's editors, Arnold Dornfeld.

The City News Service was taken over by the Chicago Tribune in 1999. The paper says since then it has been subsidizing its competitors because those who subscribed could put Tribune stories on their own web sites. Beginning January 1, the service will be converted to a 24 hour news desk that only serves the Tribune's websites.

The Tribune is publishing reminisces from the service's alumni.

Monday, December 05, 2005

ABC names anchors

ABC News has named Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff as anchors of World News Tonight, the New York Times reports. The network bypassed Charlie Gibson as Peter Jennings' replacement, instead keeping him at Good Morning America.

Related:Earlier: Anchor Wars

Sunday, December 04, 2005

It's Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl

It's official: BYU will face California at the Las Vegas Bowl.

Two interesting backstories: First, BYU's athletic director, Tom Holmoe, was California's head football coach until 2001. (The Cougars pounded the Bears that year in California.) Secondly, California lost their bowl game last year to Texas Tech. Robert Anae brought the Texas Tech offense to Provo this year when he was hired as offensive coordinator.

I bought tickets last week, but still have no idea where I'll be sitting. I'm taking my youngest son and meeting my good friend Ken Fischer there. Go Cougs!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Manufacturing the news -- again

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the military was bribing Iraqi journalists to print stories favorable to the U.S. It would not be a stretch to imagine the Hannity crowd screaming that anyone who questions this policy is an unpatriotic liberal. Yet, the irony of tampering with the press while trying to help Iraqis build a democracy should not be hard for anyone to see. The military now admits the story is true, but says the matter is under investigation. The whole matter may be blamed on a contractor, (the Lincoln Group) but this is not the first time the Bush administration has been found to be manufacturing news. Consider:
  • PR executive Karen Ryan posed as a "reporter" for the administration in 2004.
  • Early last year, it was discovered that Jeff Gannon, a Republican operative (and gay escort), was posing as a reporter in the White House Press briefings.
  • Earlier this year TV commentator Armstrong Williams was among those found to have been paid by the White House to praise President Bush's policies. Williams made $240,000 saying nice things about Bush's education policies.
  • Under the direction of Karl Rove, former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ken Tomlinson worked to politicize public broadcasting. According to a report by the CPB's inspector general, Tomlinson violated federal law by secretly paying a consultant to monitor PBS and NPR, then trying to influence its programming. Tomlinson resigned, but not before installing another Republican Party hack in his place.
  • In 2001, President Bush issued an executive order to withhold 68,0000 pages of President Reagan's papers that, by law, were due to be released. The papers, which archivists at the Reagan Presidential Library had already confirmed did not threaten national security or violate personal privacy, included the period in which the Iran-Contra affair took place and Bush's father was vice president.
These incidents take place in an atmosphere in which the administration has shown its hostility to the news media. According to Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz: "Not since the Nixon administration, with its wiretapping and enemies lists, has a president tried to marginalize the press in such aggressive fashion."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Pulling out of Iraq

Most Americans are unhappy that we're in Iraq, but most believe it would be a mistake to pull out too soon. A fascinating viewpoint on NPR's Morning Edition today from a retired general and former director of the National Security Agency. Gen. William Odom says it will be a mess no matter when we leave and, in fact, we're making the situation worse as long as we are there. Says he: "The best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging the hole."

Odom makes an especially cogent point of how going into Iraq best served the purposes of al Queda and Iran.
The opinions stated here are my own and in no way reflect those of Brigham Young University, its students, faculty, or sponsoring institution.