Thursday, July 31, 2008

Media Notebook (July 31, 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

AP Bureau Chief Considered Job with McCain Campaign
(Politico) Michael Calderone writes: "Before Ron Fournier returned to The Associated Press in March 2007, the veteran political reporter had another professional suitor: John McCain’s presidential campaign. In October 2006, the McCain team approached Fournier about joining the fledgling operation, according to a source with knowledge of the talks. In the months that followed, said a source, Fournier spoke about the job possibility with members of McCain’s inner circle, including political aides Mark Salter, John Weaver and Rick Davis. Salter, who remains a top McCain adviser, said in an e-mail to Politico that Fournier was considered for “a senior advisory role” in communications."

Where did McCain's playmates go?
(New York Observer) Benson & Gillette write: "The McCain campaign’s response to the quantifiable imbalance in volume-of-coverage—a function, depending on whom you ask, of the fact that the press loves the Barack Obama story or that John McCain is the Republican nominee for president—has been a petulant cry of foul for the kind of infraction gentlemen are supposed to ignore. “It’s difficult not to see McCain’s point that Obama has generally been getting not only more positive press but quantitatively more press, period,” said Jake Tapper, the senior national correspondent for ABC News who, as a reporter for Salon in 2000, was famously instrumental in cementing the image of Mr. McCain as a straight-talking renegade and an improbable hero of the left. “That just seems empirically true. But it is a bit like Britney Spears complaining that Miley Cyrus gets more publicity than her talent warrants. True, but haven’t you been there yourself?”

Study says media is being tougher on Obama than McCain

(LA Times) James Rainey writes: "The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign. You read it right: tougher on the Democrat. During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative. Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center."


FCC Approves $13B Sirius-XM Satellite Radio Merger
(RADIO ONLINE) The FCC approved, 3-2, the pending merger of Sirius and XM Satellite Radio Friday evening. After considering a new draft proposal, the 5-member panel signed-off on the deal along party lines. "The merger is in the public interest and will provide consumers with greater flexibility and choices," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement. "Consumers will enjoy a variety of programming at reduced prices and more diversified programming choices. It will also spur innovation and advance the development and use of interoperable radios, bringing more flexible programming options to all subscribers."

Details about the new Sirius/XM
(Radio Ink) The two satcasters are now one, as Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio complete the merger that got the blessing of the FCC on Friday. The new company is known as Sirius XM Radio Inc., with the stock trading under Sirius' former symbol, SIRI, and XM shareholders will receive 4.6 shares of Sirius stock for each share of XM. XMSR stock ceased trading at the end of the day Monday. "I am delighted to announce the completion of this exciting merger between Sirius and XM," said Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin. "We have worked diligently to close this transaction, and we look forward to integrating our best-in-class management teams and operations so we can begin delivering on our promise of more choices and lower prices for subscribers."
(Mmmm Hmmm. Remember, Mel would never lie to us...again.)

Clear Channel deal closes
(Inside Radio) Bain Capital and THL Partners closed their $17.9 billion buyout of Clear Channel this morning, taking radio's largest group private. Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays says "Today is a great day for our loyal and patient shareholders." THL Partners co-president Scott Sperling adds "We look forward to working with our management partners to continue building this great company." Clear Channel's stock stopped trading at the end of the day Wednesday.
(A great day for shareholders...but is it a great day for radio listeners? Time will tell.)


China plunges into controversy with Internet backflip
(AFP) The Beijing Olympics were plunged into another controversy on Wednesday as China announced a backflip on Internet freedoms for the thousands of foreign reporters covering the Games. China's decision to reverse a pledge on allowing unfettered web access proved an embarrassment for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had repeatedly said foreign press would not face any Internet curbs in Beijing. It was also the latest in a long line of issues to have tarnished the run-up to the Olympics, which start on August 8, following controversies over pollution, human rights and terrorism threats. Beijing Olympic organising committee spokesman Sun Weide triggered the latest public relations flare-up when he confirmed foreign reporters would not have access to some sites deemed sensitive by China's communist rulers. "During the Olympic Games we will provide sufficient access to the Internet for reporters," Sun said. However "sufficient access" falls short of the complete Internet freedoms for foreign reporters that China had promised in the run-up to the Games.

The end of the church lady era at the FCC?
(Advertising Age) Simon Dumenco writes: "Watching the "Church Lady" legacy of the FCC get slowly dismantled should be more fun than it is. Instead, it's just reminding me how much time we've all wasted thinking about it over the past few years. That's time we'll never get back. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals last week dismissed the $550,000 indecency fine against CBS in the wake of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl. The judges rightly ruled that the FCC had acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in fining CBS. Easy enough to laugh off, right? Not really. Because the thing is, the FCC's holy war against Janet Jackson's breast was always something of a red herring meant to distract us from ... well, the FCC's larger holy war. It was about using a tacky moment on live TV (accidental or not) to attempt to not only block future glimpses of ungodly human flesh from broadcast TV, but to infantilize us all with a vastly expanded censorship system."

FCC to Rule Comcast Can't Block Web Videos
(Wall Street Journal) Amy Schatz writes: "Federal regulators are set to announce this week that Comcast Corp. wrongly slowed some of its customers' Internet traffic, in a victory for consumer groups and high-tech companies that have fought to keep Web traffic free from interference. The Federal Communications Commission will rule that the cable giant violated federal policy by deliberately preventing some customers from sharing videos online via file-sharing services like BitTorrent, agency officials said. The company has acknowledged it slowed some traffic, but said it was necessary to prevent a few heavy users from overburdening its network. The decision, expected Friday, would set an important precedent in the continuing fight about how far phone and cable companies can go to make more money from their Internet networks."


A preview of the "W" movie
(The Hollywood Reporter) After all the casting announcements, Drudge links and general Oliver Stone-ish handwringing, there's finally some footage to go along with the speculation about the upcoming "W." extravaganza. Lionsgate has released a trailer -- a mix of Bush behaving badly and quick shots of actors doing their best impersonations of administration figures -- and while it's hard to get a full read on the movie, there's certainly some tonal inferences about Stone's sardonic take on the commander-in-chief (and a bonus Kennedy joke!) Here's the trailer so you can be amused/closely study it yourself. (Click on the link above)

Pat Cassidy quits WBBM News Radio
(Chicago Tribune) Phil Rosenthal writes: "Pat Cassidy has left as co-host of CBS Radio's all-news WBBM-AM 780's high-rated morning program, station staff members were told today. John Hultman will replace him opposite Felicia Middlebrooks on an interim basis from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., effective tomorrow, until a successor is named in the coming weeks, according to Rod Zimmerman, senior vice president and market manager of CBS Radio Chicago and general manager of Newsradio 780. "[Cassidy] has told me he has a desire to do talk-radio, so we have respected that decision and today was his last day on WBBM," Zimmerman said. "He's been a great contributor to a great brand and a great product that a lot of people use every day. So we certainly wish him well personally." Cassidy was not immediately available for comment. It was not yet known what station he plans to join."

Chicago Radio Spotlight interview with Bill Leff
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with WLS funny man Bill Leff about his long and interesting radio career, from his earliest days just off the stand up comedy tour to his current stint as part of the Roe Conn Show. Coming this weekend: Actor/Broadcaster KC Lupp.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Suburban Man: Pink Eye

By Rick Kaempfer

I totally made the wrong call.

I thought Sean was walking around the house with pink eyes because of constant exposure to chlorine. After all, he's been going to the swimming pool nearly every day. When he woke up with crusty eyes, however, I knew I had goofed. I took him to the doctor, just to make sure, and the doc confirmed the diagnosis.

"It's pinkeye," he said. "Wash all of his sheets and pillowcases and clean off anything he might have touched."

"Anything?" I asked.

"Anything," he said. "Pink Eye is HIGHLY contagious."

That's when I knew we were in trouble. Sean is a walking talking germ spore, floating from room to room. The average time he spends in any one place is 1.4 seconds. I'm not even sure if his feet touch the ground as he moves, but his hands definitely make contact with everything in his path.


He's also very touchy-feely with his older brothers; hugging, touching, petting, (and lately) punching and kicking them whenever and wherever he can. He follows them around like a homing device, chanting the same three words ("Play with me") until he wears them down.

Bridget tried to clean everything anyway. With Bridget on the case (she's a much more thorough cleaner than I am), we had a chance to avoid the pass-it-back-and-forth nature of the pink eye beast. We weren't kidding ourselves...the odds were slim...but it was our only hope. She even spent hours meticulously wiping off every single Lego piece with disinfectant wipes.

For three days we thought we had escaped. Sean religiously took his drops and his pink eyes cleared up. All of us washed our hands a thousand times a day. At dinner that third night I even said a little thank you prayer to the Big Guy for helping us avoid a full-fledged outbreak.

But the next morning when Johnny came to the breakfast table, the crusty yellow goop around his eyes greeted us with a hearty "Good Morning!"

And the cleaning cycle began all over again.

Monday, July 28, 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: "D" knows that today is my 45th birthday, and sent me the following jokes...

You know you're getting older...

- When your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you're barefoot.

- When your wife says, "Let's go upstairs and make love" and you answer, "Honey, I can't do both!"

- You wake up, looking like your driver's license picture.

- It takes two tries to get up from the couch.

- Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.

- Happy hour is a nap.

- The pharmacist has become you new best friend.

- It takes twice as long to look half as good.

- You get two invitations to go out on the same night, and you pick the one that gets you home the earliest.

- Every time you suck in your gut, your ankles swell.

- You're suffering from Mallzheimer's disease. You go to the mall and forget where I parked my car.

- Age always corresponds inversely to the size of your multi-vitamin.

- Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

- It's harder and harder for sexual harassment charges to stick.

- People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

- Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.

- Things you buy now won't wear out.

- No one expects you to run into a burning building.

- There's nothing left to learn the hard way.

- Your joints are more accurate than the National Weather Service.

- In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.

- Your new easy chair has more options than your car.

- Conversations with people your own age often turn into "dueling ailments."

- It takes a couple of tries to get over a speed bump.

- You begin every other sentence with, "Nowadays..."

- You run out of breath walking DOWN a flight of stairs.

- You frequently find yourself telling people what a loaf of bread USED to cost.

- Your childhood toys are now in a museum.

- Many of your co-workers were born the same year that you got your last promotion.

- The clothes you've put away until they come back in style... come back in style.

- All of your favorite movies are now re-released in color.

- Your back goes out more than you do.

- You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.

- You are proud of your lawn mower.

- Your best friend is dating someone half their age and isn't breaking any laws.

- Your arms are almost too short to read the newspaper.

- You sing along with the elevator music.

- You would rather go to work than stay home sick.

- You constantly talk about the price of gasoline.

- You enjoy hearing about other people's operations.

- You consider coffee one of the most important things in life.

- Neighbors borrow your tools.

- People call at 9 p.m. and ask, "Did I wake you?"

- You have a dream about prunes.

- You send money to PBS.

- The end of your tie doesn't come anywhere near the top of your pants.

- You take a metal detector to the beach.

- You wear black socks with sandals.

- You know what the word "equity" means.

- You can't remember the last time you laid on the floor to watch television.

- Your ears are hairier than your head.

- You talk about "good grass" and you're referring to someone's lawn.

- You get into a heated argument about pension plans.

- You got cable for the weather channel.

- You can go bowling without drinking.

- You have a party and the neighbors don't even realize it.

- Everything that works hurts, and what doesn't hurt doesn't work.

- You feel like the morning after, and you haven't been anywhere.

- Your little black book only contains names ending in M.D.

- Your knees buckle and your belt won't.

- You know all the answers, but nobody asks the questions.

- You don't remember when your wild oats turned to prunes and all bran.

- You finally got your head together, now your body is falling apart.

- You don't remember being absent minded.

- "Getting a little action" means you don't need to take a laxative.

- Getting lucky means you find your car in the parking lot.

Stories you might have missed

1. The $25,000 Bartman autograph offer
(Bartman said no. Can we all just agree one thing? Bartman is a classy guy. You have to give him that.)

2. Girl named "Talula does the Hula from Hawaii" is allowed to legally change name
(Her new name? "I hate you mom and dad")

3. Woman accidentally stabs self during Wiccan good luck ceremony
(And so ends her run of good luck. h/t "B")

4. Rhode Island DUI case sets blood alcohol level record
(He blew a .49. He shouldn't even be alive.)

5. An A-Rod/Madonna Sex Tape?

(The details are pretty hard to believe, but someone claims they have a tape.)

Video of the week: I'd like to bring this with me wherever I go. Contributed by K.

Photo of the week: I'm probably going to H-E-double-toothpicks for this one, but I laughed out loud when I saw this...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Bill Leff

Bill Leff can be heard every afternoon on WLS (890 AM) as part of the Roe Conn Show

Rick: You were a comedian before you became a radio guy. The first time I ever saw you was on-stage at Zanies in Mt Prospect. Remember that place? It was a former Red Lobster-turned comedy club. I want to say it was 1986 or 1987. (I was on a first date. I knew it wasn't going to work out when she said this to me just as we took our seats that night: "I really hate comedy." Who hates comedy?) I was impressed with your act that night. You seemed to connect to the audience very easily (even with my humorless date). I'm guessing you've got a good story or two from your stand up comedy days. Care to share?

Bill: Yep, I remember that night at Zanies in Mt. Prospect. Actually, it was because of your date NOT laughing that I decided I needed to retire from stand-up and go into radio. I did stand-up with Drew Carey, Jon Stewart, Jeff Garlin, Ray Romano ....who knows what became of any of them? I think Garlin has a delicatessen in Miami. One night at The Funny Firm here in Chicago, all the tables up front were filled with The Bears, who had just won The Super Bowl, and their families. For thirty minutes I kept getting heckled by a VERY drunk woman, who was Steve McMichael's mother, and every time I'd try to "answer" her heckles, every guy on the Bears would say...."Nah, I wouldn't......." So, for health reasons, I didn't.

Rick: How did you make that leap from comedy to radio?

Bill: Whenever Danny Bonaduce (photo) came to town to do stand-up, he'd have me open for him. Which was strange because when I was little I used to watch him on television, and tell my parents that some day we'd be friends. Strange, huh? Anyway, Danny got hired to work at The Loop. I had been doing stand-up for ten years and my wife and I wanted to have kids, and I didn't want to travel anymore, so I told Danny that if anything ever opened up, please keep me in mind. He instantly went to his bosses Larry Wert and Matt Bisbee, and they paired me up with Wendy Snyder. BRILLIANT MOVE!!!

Rick: You developed a good on-air rapport with Wendy Snyder and worked with her at two different stations (WLUP & WKQX). You recently did a bunch of shows with her again at WLS, and that chemistry seemed to come right back. What do you think it is about your partnership with Wendy that seems to work so well?

Bill: The thing with Wendy (photo) is very simple. It's me making her laugh, and her making me laugh. We never met 'til our first show together, and it worked instantly. She's just really funny, and has the gift for being real on the air. I learned a lot from her.

Rick: Between the Wendy years and the time you signed on at WLS, you made a couple of other stops on the radio dial--doing high profile morning shows. In the early part of this decade you were teamed up with Melissa Forman for a little while at WLIT. Talk about that experience, and how you feel about it now with the benefit of hindsight.

Bill: So I really was at The Lite, huh? I thought I dreampt that. Well in hindsight, it was two years of playing Feliz Navidad. I shouldn't have been there, it was a total mismatch. They used to research everything to death. One time in a survey they asked their listeners if I was being TOO funny, and 61% said that yes, I was. So they came to me and asked if I could still be funny, but not AS funny. Sure. No problem.

Rick: I know quite a few people who were devoted fans of your show at Windy-FM, which you hosted a couple of years ago. I've always thought it must be a little frustrating to host a morning show for Bonneville in Chicago that isn't the Eric & Kathy show because so much time, effort, and money is used to promote them. Did you find that to be the case?

Bill: I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of the work we did at WNND. I got paired with Jennifer Stephens (photo) and Todd Ganz, and if any of you are ever given your own shows, AND YOU WILL, those are the first two people you want to get. SO...., was it a LITTLE frustrating to have all the time, effort, and money thrown Eric and Kathy's way? Let me say very sarcastically......oh no, not at all.

Rick: Now you're a part of one of the highest rated shows on the radio dial, the Roe Conn show. When I interviewed Roe last year he called you: "the consummate comedic reactor--like a guy carrying a silencer." How would you describe Roe?

Bill: Roe is ..........amazing. If someone mentions Bolivia, he'll tell you who runs it, when they took over, what the gross national product is, what the longitude and latitude are, what year the changed their flag. I should note, he can ONLY do this with Bolivia. I used to listen to Roe all the time when I was at other stations and marveled at not only how much he knows, but how entertainingly he presents it. He does voices. He plays the xylophone. I just wish he'd give up the runway modeling and do radio full time.

Rick: There was a bit of controversy on the show recently when Christina was fired, and then a few months later hired back. How was the show different in her absence?

Bill: I think we all felt like we were punched in the stomach. Actually I think Jim Johnson WAS punched in the stomach. He takes a dangerous route in every day. Honestly Christina adds so much to the show and I can't tell you how many times I'd look to her for reaction, and it wouldn't be there, or there'd be a topic that was perfect for her, and again, she couldn't be in on it. We're all just really glad she's back.

Rick: How do you see your role on the Roe Conn show?

Bill: Well, when I started, most people were mad at me because I wasn't Garry Meier (photo). That is a tough chair to fill. Garry invented the sidekick role in Chicago radio, and I don't know if anyone can do it better. I wasn't brought in to be a partner, like Garry was, I'm more of a role player depending on the situation. Aside from getting my own lines in, I'd say my primary goal everyday is setting Roe up. Leading him, and maybe Jim and Christina, into areas they hadn't thought of. Also at the end of every show, I have to vacuum.

Rick: You've seemingly done it all in radio. Is there anything out there that you still would like to try?

Bill: YES. My dream show would be me, Dr. Milt Rosenbeg, and a monkey. People could call in and talk about whatever they wanted to. Milt would take the high-brow stuff, and the monkey and I would do entertainment stories and sports. Our publicity posters would look like a Darwin chart. I hope no one steals this idea.