Thursday, April 24, 2008

Media Notebook (April 24, 2008)

Collected and Edited by Rick Kaempfer

Highlights and links to the big stories in the news this week about the media. This column appears twice a week at MEDIA NOTEBOOK

Murdoch moves to buy Newsday for $580 million
(NY Times) Perez-Pena and Arango write: "His $580 million bid for Newsday and his urgency in remaking The Journal worry his competitors and cause angst in many newsrooms, including his own. And both moves are vintage Rupert Murdoch, a man who operates his sprawling News Corporation like an old-style media mogul, making big bets on old and new media — bankrolling the new Fox Business Network, aggressively pursuing a deal for Yahoo, and buying Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Journal, for far more than analysts thought it was worth. And that was just in the last year. His first love, however, remains newspapers. The purchase of Newsday from the Tribune Company would put Mr. Murdoch in control of 3 of the nation’s 10 largest-circulation papers (the others being The Journal and The New York Post). Owning Newsday, which is based on Long Island, would also open an eastern front in the long-running battle for New York tabloid supremacy and, by combining some operations, could allow News Corporation to end decades of heavy losses by The Post."

FCC Chief says no need for new internet regulation
(Associated Press) Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin said Tuesday there's no need for new regulation of the Internet, saying his agency has all the authority it needs to prevent discrimination by Internet service providers. 'I do not believe any additional regulations are needed at this time,' Martin said at a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, noting recent enforcement actions by the commission. The FCC has conducted two hearings on 'network management' following admissions by Comcast Corp. that it sometimes delayed file-sharing traffic for subscribers as a way to keep Web traffic flowing.

Fox reporter rewrites Nixon history with new book
(NY Observer) Felix Gillette writes: "Next month, Doubleday will publish James Rosen’s first book—a revisionist history of Richard Nixon’s downfall, called The Strongman: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate...Mr. Rosen said Strongman will be the first major biography of John Mitchell, the late U.S. attorney general, who played a pivotal role in the “rise, reign and ruin” of Richard Nixon. In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Mr. Mitchell was convicted on a number of charges stemming from his role in the botched break-in and surveillance operation. The nation’s top law enforcement official eventually spent 19 months in prison."


You won't get fined for saying "Frak"
(Ad Age) Brian Steinberg writes: "In an episode that aired April 10, NBC's '30 Rock' featured segments of a mock reality show known as 'MILF Island.' The first word is a sexualized acronym used to describe a fetching older woman. Meanwhile, CW has been running a promotion for teen drama 'Gossip Girl' that uses the text-message phrase 'OMFG' -- an acronym for something one might write, text or e-mail if one were quite surprised, felt the need to acknowledge a higher deity and wanted to use an offensive word for emphasis. Looking for another example? Let's journey across space and time, where characters on Sci-Fi Channel's 'Battlestar Galactica' regularly use the word 'frak,' which Mark Stern, the outlet's exec VP-original programming, freely acknowledges is a substitute for a term that could be more offensive. 'Well, it obviously means fuck. I don't think I'm giving any family secrets out,' he said. 'I think we've already done 'clusterfrak' and 'motherfrakers' and pretty much every iteration of the word.'"

Family Guy writers sue Fox

(Hollywood Reporter) Seth MacFarlane and 15 other "Family Guy" scribes, including Alex Borstein, sued 20th Century Fox TV April 10 in Santa Monica, claiming breach of contract and deceit. The writers claim Fox has violated the WGA contract for not paying them for 12 minutes of additional footage they wrote for the 2005 DVD "Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story." They also claim Fox failed to give them proper on-screen writing credit for the project. A Fox TV spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.


Tony Snow joins CNN

(Huffington Post) Tony Snow is joining CNN as a conservative commentator, the network announced today. Snow, who spent 10 years at Fox News, left his job as White House Press Secretary in September, saying he needed to make more money to support his family.

MySpace Poisons News Corp. as Investors Shun Murdoch
(Bloomberg) Gillian Wee writes: "Rupert Murdoch's effort to turn his $580 million MySpace purchase into an advertising powerhouse has turned News Corp. into a toxic stock...Fox Interactive Media -- including MySpace, the biggest social- networking site -- said it would miss its 2008 goal of $1 billion in revenue, or 3 percent of News Corp.'s projected sales. Murdoch, 77, is pouring resources into MySpace to expand into South Korea and India, add music downloads and target users with promotions. As a result, Fox Interactive's costs will jump 46 percent this year, almost as much as revenue, risking long- term profit growth, Nathanson said in an April 14 report."

Murdoch starts all-out newspaper war against NY Times
(Newsweek) Johnnie L. Roberts writes: "With a redesigned Wall Street Journal, mogul Rupert Murdoch is launching an old-fashioned newspaper war against The New York Times. Not since William Randolph Hearst took on Joseph Pulitzer have we seen such a fight."

Senator urges FCC to block XM/Sirius merger
(Reuters) A senior Democratic senator urged U.S. communications regulators on Friday to block Sirius Satellite Radio's purchase of rival XM Satellite Radio, saying the deal would lead to higher prices to customers. Sen. Byron Dorgan, a high-ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission saying the agency should not follow the "illogical" decision of the Justice Department, which last month granted the deal antitrust approval. "This merger is contrary to the public interest. I hope that the FCC will stand up for competition in the public interest and deny this merger," Dorgan, of North Dakota, said in the letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.


Britain's Financial Times endorses Obama

(Reuters) Britain’s Financial Times newspaper, which has bigger paid circulation in the United States than its home country, weighed into the bitter Democratic nominating contest– offering its endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama. The backing of the financial newspaper in Monday’s edition comes just a day before voters in Pennsylvania go to the polls, a state that could offer some salvation for his opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has been clinging to a narrow lead in the state but trails in the delegate count. The FT points to Obama’s well-run campaign and cross-party appeal for putting him over the top of his rival. It also cites Clinton’s unpopularity and questions her campaign strategy, arguing it has been re-tooled several times.

Did Bob Dylan really win a Pulitzer?
(Marketwatch) Jon Friedman writes: "Traditionally, you've had to work for a daily newspaper or wire service to win the most coveted award in journalism. Now we know it also helps a lot if your name happens to be Bob Dylan. Earlier this month, the Shakespeare of folk and rock-and-roll music was awarded an honorary Pulitzer for his 'profound impact on popular music and American culture,' according to the accompanying press release. Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler said the distinction 'reflects the efforts of the Pulitzer board to broaden the scope of the music prize.' The gesture tells us a lot more about the empty state of the Pulitzer -- and of journalism -- than it does about Dylan, 66, who has been earning accolades throughout his 46-year career. While the judges honored a rock star, they couldn't bring themselves to hand out an award in the category of editorial writing."


Lawmakers send letter to FCC to try to stop localism

(Radio Online) A letter, signed by over 120 lawmakers, was sent to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Tuesday (4-15) asking the Commission to reconsider its current localism proceeding. In the letter, released by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the lawmakers accuse the Commission of trying to "turn back the clock on decades of deregulatory progress by imposing a series of new and burdensome regulations."
(Rick's note: I added the emphasis on the word "progress" because it's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. Who are these lawmakers working for? Certainly not their constituents, who are universally opposed to this "deregulatory progress." Certainly not their local media companies, because they don't exist. There are exactly six people opposed to this localism...the six guys who run the major media companies. They're opposed because they want to keep cutting and cutting and cutting, and don't feel it's fair to have to live up to their obligations as broadcasters, which they agreed to when they bought these properties. Not because they aren't making profit--they are--20, 30, and 40% at nearly every individual media property. It's just not a "growth industry" anymore and Wall Street doesn't approve. If you don't like your obligations, fine, get out of the business. It comes with the territory, just as it has since 1934. As for these 120 lawmakers...shame on you.)

An interview with Steve Downes
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with long-time WDRV morning man Steve Downes about his long and storied career in rock radio, including his stint as Rockline host, his current gig at the Drive, and his side job as the voice of one of the most popular video game characters in the world. Coming this weekend: Former WLUP and WMAQ promotional guru, Cindy Gatziolis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Suburban Man: Norm Crosby Lives!

By Rick Kaempfer

Yes, I know. The real Norm Crosby is technically still alive.

It’s just that anyone under 40 years old probably has no idea who he is. Crosby was famous for his malaprops…supposedly unintentional fractured English. In fact, it was his whole act. When he talked about his doctor, he called him the “famous sturgeon.” When he talked about Vietnam, he talked about burning his “Diner’s card.”

Get it? (Hey, what do you want? It was the 50s and 60s. Our comedy was a little kinder and gentler then.)

Norm Crosby may not realize it, but in my house, we have someone who pays tribute to him nearly every day. He just doesn’t know he’s doing it.

It’s my middle son Johnny.

For some reason, the little nuances in our lexicon have escaped him. I never used to correct him because I thought it was so funny, but now that he’s 10, I’ve decided the other kids might start noticing–so I better step in.

I’ll miss the Norm Crosby of the Midwest. Just this week, he uttered the following phrases…

*When we tied a game of Tic Tac Toe, he called it a “catscan.”

*When he thought up something on the spot, it was “just off the top of my back.”

*He called his favorite ice cream a “chocolate declare.”

*His older brother gave him a bunch of clothes that he had just outgrown. Johnny was excited, even though the clothes were “hand-me-capped.”

*When we were playing cards, he asked me to help him deal because he’s not a very good “shoveler.”

Those are just from this week. I’m sure there will be more, and I’ll dutifully report them as they arise.

I have to admit though, I’m really going to miss it. I keep telling myself that taking this little charming element of his personality away from him won’t change who he is.

Johnny will always remain “cute as a bucket.”

This originally appeared in my blog for NWI Parent Magazine, Father Knows Nothing

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Musings

Every Monday stop by for jokes, links to stories you might have missed, amusing photos and video, and more. Contributions and suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Click on the "Email Me" link on the right to contribute.

Joke of the Week: Contributed by "B"

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning ... uphill BOTH ways...yadda, yadda, yadda.

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that... I'm over the ripe old age of thirty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!

And I hate to say it but you kids today you don't know how good you've got it!

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have The Internet . If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

There were no MP3's or Napsters! You wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ' d usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it! And we didn't have fancy Caller ID Boxes either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'asteroids'. Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

When you went to the movie theater there no such thing as stadium seating! All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old broad with a hat sat in front of you and you couldn't see, you were just screwed!

Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels and there was no on screen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel and there was no Cartoon Network cartoons either! You could only get on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards!

And we didn't have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up we had to use the stove or go build a fringing fire...imagine that!

If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that stupid Jiffy Pop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.

That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled.

You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980!

The over 30 Crowd

Stories you might have missed

1. Rudy Huxtable is playing a hooker
(Sign #7538 that we're not getting any younger.)

2. Finally, an appropriate place for Ann Coulter book signing

(Hint: It's her potty and she'll spout if she wants to)

3. Marty Brenneman: Chicago's Public Enemy #1
(Even a Hall of Famer can step over the line.)

4. Japanese baseball team gives up 66 runs in two innings
(The pitcher...and this is no joke...threw 250 pitches before his coach threw in the towel.)

5. Meteor hits Kokomo
(Don't worry--it was Kokomo, Indiana. The surviving Beach Boys were unharmed.)

Video of the week: Have times changed since the '60s? Watch this Folgers commercial from that era and you tell me.

Picture of the week: Contributed by "P" with this comment. "I knew the German Pope would make some changes."

Reader Response

Regarding Suburban Man: "Confession Time". I got lots of responses. Here are a few of my favorites...

"You are either brave, or a glutton for punishment. Hilarious column! The Huggy Bear response from one of your readers made me laugh so hard that tears ran down my face.

As long as we're confessing shit......

I tell people that this was my first album:

But it was actually this one:

No lie. I wouldn't lie to a fellow Child of the 70's, especially one brave enough to lay it all out there like that.

I also owned the Grease soundtrack in all it's double album glory as well as Saturday Night Fever. I actually have them both on CD, now (for nostalgia's sake, of course. Cough.) Were you also one of those Children of the 70's who was issued Frampton Comes Alive once they hit puberty?

I tell people that my first live concert was REO Speedwagon, the Tuna Tour, circa 1979. Truth be told, that was my second live concert. My first one was actually Andy Gibb at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1977. Stop laughing.

I had a Starsky and Hutch t-shirt in sixth grade. It was an adult XL and came down past my knees, so I wore it as a nightgown. I was going to marry Starsky. Didn't quite work out for some reason. I also had posters of the Sweathogs on my bedroom wall. Once I entered junior high, I went from TV idols to music idols. Enter the aforementioned Gibb and his brothers."


"First album? Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. (I did have “I Think I Love You” on a 45, though.) Second album? Seals & Crofts.

TV theme song? I had the 45 of the theme from The Rockford Files, and played it on endless repeat.

First concert? I was a late bloomer, so my first concert was the Eagles (The Long Run Tour), WITH SPECIAL GUEST, CHRISTOPHER CROSS (Ride Like the Wind, baby!) at Alpine Valley, circa 1980.

And forget Grease and Saturday Night Fever….when it comes to John Travolta, I was into the URBAN COWBOY soundtrack all the way!

Most scandalous song? A tie between Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” and Exile’s “I Want to Kiss You All Over.” Seems pretty tame these days."


"Regarding your request for others to share...OK -- I will bite....

I owned the Partridge Family Album as well as the Grease Soundtrack...I could probably find these somewhere in my house if I looked hard.

Disco Demolition? Nope, I was worse. I actually liked Disco and used to go "disco dancing". I still have some songs on my iPod.

Now I not only still listen to Ted Nugent (including "Wango Tango" which by the way, a trainer at my health club has as his ring-tone when he gets a text message so there are others who still like the song) but I go and see him whenever he is in the Chicago area. I went to the House of Blues in August to see him, was right up front and caught an autographed guitar pick he threw out. I brought it home, gave it a place of honor in my jewelry box (to keep it away from my 8 y/o daughter who thought it would make a good addition to her room). My husband is convinced I am certifiable. It isn't bad enough this 40-something Mom of a 5 and 8 year old goes to see Ted Nugent but I bring home guitar picks and am just a little too excited about it."


"I think you should change your disclaimer to people born after 1985, because I was born in 1980 and almost all of the pop culture references flew past me! But other than that, this is a hilarious post. That prom photo is priceless!"


"What I love most about that prom photo is that your hair helmet is bigger than your date's!"

Rick responds:
With hair, I was 6'3". Without it, 5'10".

Regarding "Just One Bad Century" (radio interviews)

"Rick, I've been listening to you on with John Landecker every Saturday morning and it's a pleasure to hear you back on the radio--especially with John. You can tell that the two of you are buddies, and it's really entertaining."

274 days until we get a new president.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Steve Downes

Steve Downes is the morning man at WDRV-Chicago, and the voice of Master Chief in the X-box video game series "Halo"


Started in Dayton Ohio in 1969.
First big gig: PD/Afternoons at WYDD Pittsburgh in `74
K-WEST, L.A. in 78
Eve. drive at KLOS, L.A. from 81-91,
PD/ afternoons at K-ROCK in Fort Meyers in '92
PD at 95-YNF in Tampa 93-'95.
Afternoons at KLSX, L.A., and host of Rockline.
2 years doing mornings at KTYD in Santa Barbara
Mornings at The LOOP starting in '97
Mornings at The DRIVE since '01

Rick: I think you came to the attention of Chicagoans through your work with national specials like "The Superstar Concert Series," and of course Rockline. When you were hosting Rockline in the 90s nearly all the rock and roll greats did that show. What are some of the highlights from your perspective?

Steve: So Many. Probably the biggest thrills we're hosting the first national radio interviews of the reunited Eagles, and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

Rick: Everyone likes to hear about the highlights, but as a former radio producer, I also like to hear the nightmare stories. Who were some of the guests you had on Rockline that either a) were a pain in the butt b) were like talking to a brick wall, or c) made no sense at all?

Steve: The biggest fear was being skewered by Howard Stern live and nationwide, when we had him on ROCKLINE after the publication of his first book. (Didn't happen. He was very cool, and very entertaining). The vast majority of artists were very cool. The ones that weren't were usually too buzzed to know what was going on. Scott Wieland was barely conscious for 85 of the 90 minutes we were on the air, until at the very end, he spontaneously broke in to a killer version of "Give Peace a Chance" .

The one I'll never forget is the night Slash (photo) was in the studio. During one of the breaks, my producer informed me that our first call out of the break would be from Paul Stanley of KISS, to plug his appearance on the show, the following week. Off mic (supposedly) Slash proceeded to tell me how much he disliked Paul, questioned his sexual orientation, and various other derogatory comments. What we did not know, was that the producer had accidently put Paul's call in to the studio, and he was listening to our entire conversation! Stanley made mention of that when we put him on the air live and nationwide!!. Slash, who by now was pretty stoned, literally fell off his chair! I was watching my career flash before my eyes (complete with THE END credits). To his credit, Paul could not have been cooler about the episode and laughed the whole thing off. Very classy guy.

Rick: You've been with the Drive since it signed on the air. Did you feel like you were taking a risk when you signed on to this unknown format?

Steve: I was doing mornings at The LOOP at the time, and I was concerned about coming over to a brand new station and an untried format. It had taken me 3 years to get a toe hold in this market and I was hesitant to leave The LOOP which was doing well at the time. But after lengthy conversations with Greg Solk, it began to make sense that this was where my future was in Chicago radio. I had (and have) a strong belief in Greg's vision, and it really seemed like a logical move to make. And at the end of the day, I liked the format!

Rick: Anyone who listens to your show knows that you have an incredible reservoir of musical knowledge--and that obviously comes from so many years in the rock radio business. But there is also a passion for the music that comes through when you talk about it. What artist or artists were are THE ones for you...the ones that got you into this in the first place?

Steve: Obviously Elvis, The Beatles and Stones were the artists who changed my life. I think when the progressive scene started to rev up in the late 60's, and I began to hear artists like The Doors, The Airplane, Jethro Tull, and Led Zeppelin being played on stations like WCOL-FM in Columbus, and WEBN in Cincinnati was when I really started to see a career in this. And if I couldn't make a living playing this music (I played guitar and drums in bands, through high school and college), then playing this music on the radio was the next best thing. And the laid back style of free form radio was something I could definitely see myself doing.

Rick: In addition to hosting the morning show on the Drive, you also have a couple of syndicated shows, including "The Classics," which airs on Sunday nights here in Chicago. But I wanted to ask you about your other syndicated feature..."The Wine Experience." How did that feature come about?

Steve: The Wine Experience is a daily one minute feature on wine "without the snooty attitude." It runs on most major markets throughout the country although sadly, not in Chicago. It's written and produced by Ken Ohr, a very dear friend of mine, and wine aficionado. You can hear the shows and find out all kinds of great things about wine at Next to music and golf, wine is my favorite hobby!

Rick: I bet this is the first interview you've done in a long time that didn't start with a question about the voice you do for the Halo video game series for X-box. For people who don't know, you're the voice of Master Chief Petty Officer John 117. It must be odd; there are obviously thousands of radio fans who listen to you every day, but there are millions of fans of the video game. What has that experience been like for you?

Steve: This is probably the first interview I've done in the last FIVE YEARS that did not start with questions regarding HALO. It is a bit of a double life between Master Chief (photo) and the morning show, because the two don't really intersect. Being the voice of Master Chief has been and continues to be a blast. The fan base is enormous, and I hear from people all over the world.

Rick: You've been a voice actor for many years now. What are some of the major advertising campaigns that people may have heard here in Chicago?

Steve: Things are kind of quiet now, but I just finished a 3 year run as the voice of Carnival Cruise Lines. I've had major campaigns with Quizno's, Maytag, Chesapeake Energy, Yamaha motorcycles and The IL lottery, among others. I also narrate a number of shows that air on The Discovery Ch. during "Shark Week"

Rick: So, of all these jobs you've had, which is your favorite?

Steve: The one I'm doing right now!