Archive for the 'Media & Press' Category

Stippling is Your Friend

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Lord knows what havoc Rupert Murdoch will wreak on the Wall Street Journal now that he’s clinched that prize, but I for one hope he doesn’t tinker with one of the paper’s trademarks: its stippled portraits.

And you know what? I bet Angelo Mozilo agrees with me.

That would be the guy who’s chairman of Countrywide Financial. Depending upon whom you ask, he looks like this:

WSJ portrait of Angelo Mozilo
(From WSJ)

or this:

(From NYT)

I think everyone this side of George Hamilton would agree the former is much more flattering.

Of course, Mozilo wasn’t entirely manhandled by the Times. Consider this improbable bit of that story:

Mr. Mozilo has ridden this remarkable wave to immense riches, thanks to generous annual stock option grants. Rarely a buyer of Countrywide shares — he has not bought a share since 1987, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings — he has been a huge seller in recent years. Since the company listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in 1984, he has reaped $406 million selling Countrywide stock.

As the subprime mortgage debacle began to unfold this year, Mr. Mozilo’s selling accelerated. Filings show that he made $129 million from stock sales during the last 12 months, or almost one-third of the entire amount he has reaped over the last 23 years. He still holds 1.4 million shares in Countrywide, a 0.24 percent stake that is worth $29.4 million.

“Mr. Mozilo has stated publicly that his current plan recognizes his personal need to diversify some of his assets as he approaches retirement,” said Rick Simon, a Countrywide spokesman. “His personal wealth remains heavily weighted in Countrywide shares, and he is, by far, the leading individual shareholder in the company.”

So let’s review. He hasn’t purchased a share of his company in two decades. In the last 12 months, he sold $129 million and now has under $30 million in stock — yet his “personal wealth remains heavily weighted in Countrywide shares.”

Now I’m not one to quibble, but he sure was a lot more “heavily weighted” a year ago, before he decided to cash out over 80% of his then-holdings. Why the bum rush for the exit?

Tanning bill come due?

Food Network, Perhaps?

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Monday’s Romenesko carried this blurb on a Hollywood Reporter piece (sub. req.):

Fox News to air “Daily Show”-like program that leans right

…There’s a possibility that it could become a weekly Fox News show. “It’s a satirical news format that would play more to the Fox News audience than the Michael Moore channel,” says Joel Surnow, an executive producer of the unnamed show. “It would tip more right as ‘The Daily Show’ tips left.”

I think a Fox* News Channel version has the potential for tons of unintentional comedy, but conservatism doesn’t otherwise strike me as a barrel of laughs. The other head-scratcher for me is the reference to “the Michael Moore channel.” Does Mr. Surnow refer to Comedy Central? Would anyone, anywhere get that reference out of context? Sure wouldn’t be my first guess that was my only hint.

* Surnow might refer to them as the “We Gave O.J. $3 Million” network.

Hello Halo

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Boy, the photogs do like that angle. (From here — but really from a Google News thumbnail. I don’t read that rag.)

Update [Thu 03:27]: Boy, there are some fun thumbnails today. For instance, I wonder how the reviled Ralph Reed feels about this juxtaposition:

And say what you will about Google’s choice of algorithm-over-editors, at least it brings us some interesting news outlets:

Dog Flu Diet and Diseases? Really? (Seems like ad bait to me.)

Cause and Effect?

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

1. City of Chicago shuts down a local independent theater, the 3 Penny. Chicagoist, a local group blog, posts a story on the closure, singling out amusement taxes as the cause:

2. I call bullshit (well, actually, I call “lazy”) on the story around 2:30:

This post is pretty light on facts and long on speculation. Yes, taxes are unfortunate, but they are a cost of doing business. A variable cost, at that, as the tax only goes up as revenue goes up. (It’s also passed on directly to the consumer, as my Sox tickets from last night clearly show on the front.)

Also, while the city amusement tax is 8% and the county’s 3% (=11%), you fail to note that event admission is not subject to sales tax (a fact I just confirmed by calling the IL Dept of Revenue: (217) 524-4772.)

Is something a few percentage points above sales tax so onerous it’s shutting down movie theaters? Perhaps. Why not call the Music Box [another independent theater] and ask what they think? Why not follow up on the 5 year old Meridian story and find out what’s come out since? Rather than “snooping” (i.e., Googling) why not do some “reporting”?

3. The author responds to me and others an hour later:

it is not typically my take to go full-force investigative reporting, especially since i have limited space to work with here…

however, i have a call into the dept of business and licensing, i have a call into the music box, and i am awaiting a response from the owner of ICE theaters, who was previously the owner of meridian entertainment.

i’ll let you know what i find out. i also got a chance to speak with a theater employee who gave me a pretty in-depth explanation of how box office sales are broken out, so i’ll give you that info, too.

(I don’t want to nitpick, but oh what the hell: forget “full-force”, forget “investigative”, there was no reporting. This woman was locked out of a theater, did some Internet searches, and called it a day. And: “limited space to work with”? I don’t think so. Newsprint may not have scrollbars, but the Web sure does.)

4. Some time later, the story has all tax-related paragraphs excised:

5. Simultaneously with (4), I assume, the story’s title changes from “We Are NOT Amused” to — and I totally don’t get this — “Oh The Shark Bites With Its Teeth, Dear.

I have to say, I fully believe that in the not-too-distant future, small groups with Internet savvy will give the big newspapers a run for their money in local news. But today, comparing this ham-handed approach — free from fact-checking and correction notices — to the work of real journalists shows a pretty stark contrast.

What More Could You Ask? Well, I’ll Tell You…

Friday, June 16th, 2006

I read a couple stories in the past few days that really left me wanting more…

From WaPo, a story on U.S. government efforts to staunch copyright infringement abroad included this nugget:

The intellectual property industry and law enforcement officials estimate U.S. companies lose as much as $250 billion per year to Internet pirates […] entertainment and other copyright exports — worth about $626 billion annually, or 6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product — are as important to today’s American economy as autos, steel and coal were to yesterday’s.

A quarter-trillion is an astonishing amount, yet the Post offers nothing to back it up other than “industry and law enforcement” (which is it?) estimates. We all know how trustworthy those can be; about this time last year I noted the MPAA’s propensity for fuzzy math. You’d think the people at the Post would be critical enough to say “that’s almost 40% of your business. How did you arrive at that figure?”

Similarly, I found the most interesting part about the NYT’s story on Google’s Oregon data centers to be not the nature of the construction (or their location), but this:

The fact that Google is behind the data center, referred to locally as Project 02, has been reported in the local press. But many officials in The Dalles, including the city attorney and the city manager, said they could not comment on the project because they signed confidentiality agreements with Google last year.

Doesn’t anyone find it odd that public employees, acting in their official capacities, could be party to confidentiality agreements? How can Google — how can anyone — get away with muzzling administrators via contract? Why doesn’t the Times have time to ask?

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

Yesterday I took a stroll through my archives, with a goal of moving some uncategorized posts into a more appropriate section. Sometimes this was more difficult than I expected, due to a few links that had gone dead.

For example, three years ago (!) I wrote a post titled Two Quickies in which I mentioned I wanted something that was available on eBay. The link revealing the item is now dead. (Though I assume, given the Richard Branson reference that followed, that it was a private island.)

The unreliable nature of the Web is frustrating for me, but I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for the New York Times.

The Times has to deal with “linkrot” just like the rest of us, but their fun doesn’t stop there. Consider this bit from “How to Be a Curmudgeon on the Internet“, a recent article by David Pogue:

I replied to this reader that I’m including the first “ping” in my tally. In that case, there ARE five notes in the jingle, as you can hear here.

Pogue’s talking about the “Intel chime”, but if you follow the link you’ll hear something very different. (For those who don’t have speakers — and for myself, should I read this three years later — the sound file plays a commercial advising Times readers to check out another website.)

Years-old dead links are one thing, but this Pogue article? It’s been up only 4 days.


Monday, January 13th, 2003

If you have QuickTime installed and ten minutes free, watch this. It’s amazing how cheap news slogans and motion graphics look when you edit them together. Layered on top of endlessly gabbing pundits, they have this hyperactive, desperate need to command more and more of your attention even as they actually say less and less. (The word “evil,” for example, has never been used more broadly.)

I find this piece (a Sundance Online Film Festival entry) especially interesting in light of the questions I noted in yesterday’s entry.

Independence at 10 o’clock

Tuesday, December 31st, 2002

Two indepedent items mentioned in today’s StudioBrief that I found interesting simply by their juxtaposition. First, from the film news:

Finally, My Big Fat Greek Wedding showed it still could surprise after 37 weeks. The film earned $2.8 million on just 951 screens for an average of $2,903 per screen — 89 percent more than it earned a week earlier — to lift its domestic gross to $222,517,469.

And from television:

In the latest example of corporate synergy in the Viacom empire, the company’s CBS affiliate in Seattle will begin producing a nightly newscast for its UPN affiliate in the same city. The 10:00 p.m. newscast being produced for the Cox-owned UPN station, KSTW, will employ the same anchors and sets used at 11:00 for the newscast produced for Viacom-owned KIRO. … KSTW General Manager Gary Wordlaw commented, “We’re very pleased to be able to bring Seattle TV viewers a local news alternative at 10:00 p.m.”

On the one hand, we have a $5m film, developed outside the studio system and ranking as the #5 film of 2002 (and within $5m of the #4, Signs.) On the other, we have a corporation working to keep down costs by eliminating any discernible difference between news on two networks in one market.

Mr. Wordlaw and his masters are delusional if they truly think the same sets, with the same newscasters, from the same corporate owner, represents any real “alternative.” When will we see the indie nightly news?

The “Two Sundays Rule”

Sunday, December 22nd, 2002

My father said that a man he knows predicted Lott‘s demise very precisely. His method? The “two Sundays rule.”

Here’s how it works: if a hot-button topic is discussed on one of the Sunday morning news shows (e.g. “Meet the Press,” “Sunday Morning,” or Cheney favorite “Fox News Sunday”) but fades by the next weekend, that means the corrective action was effective.

For Trent, that didn’t happen. Five apologies and one week later, he was still on the news. His spinning wasn’t working, so he had no hope of making the story go away. Bye-bye, majority leadership.

Aside I: Weasel apologies are to be crushed. Trent on Dec. 11 (Fox News, of course): “I am sorry for my words; they were poorly chosen and insensitive and I regret the way it has been interpreted.” Sorry for the interpretation? Somebody needs a refresher course. (Great link.)

Aside II: Those who suffer under the ridiculous delusion that Fox News is anything but a propaganda arm of the GOP need only look at their latest poll on Lott’s decision to step down. First choice: “Yes, it is better for the Republican party.” Even if you don’t add anything about the fact that it was an evil comment, a simple yes/no would do. Fox’s true concern is how it affects the Party.