Thursday, August 14, 2008

Media Notebook (August 14, 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

The FBI spied on reporters

(NY Times) Eric Lichtblau writes: "Two leading senators said Monday that they were troubled by the F.B.I.’s collection of the phone records of four reporters at The New York Times and The Washington Post and that the episode showed a “pressing need” for legislation pending in the Senate that would provide greater legal protection for journalists. Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation disclosed to the two newspapers that it had improperly obtained the phone records of reporters in their Indonesian bureaus in 2004 by using emergency records demands from telephone providers as part of an investigation. Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the bureau, made personal calls to Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, and Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Post, to apologize. But the ranking senators on the Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said that was not enough."

Newspapers cutting back on convention coverage
(Forbes) Wingfield and Zumbrun write: "Forget April. For bean counters at financially troubled newspapers, August is the cruelest month. Their budget-stretching began with coverage of the Beijing Olympics, which ends Aug. 24. A day later, the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Denver, and the Republican National Convention begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn. The result is predictable. 'Almost every large news bureau, with maybe a few exceptions, is cutting back,' says Jerry Gallegos, superintendent of the House of Representatives' daily press gallery, which is handling newspapers' convention credentials. In some cases, though he won't say which ones, papers have reduced their staffing 'by as much as 20%.'"

Olympics scoring huge ratings for NBC
(New York Times) Benjamin Toff writes: "NBC continued to steamroller its competitors on Monday, with its coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics attracting an average of 30 million viewers during prime time, according to Nielsen’s estimates."


Facebook: #1 Globally
(Business Week) Catherine Holahan writes: "When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to illustrate the impact of his social network, he tells a story about several young religious militants from Lebanon who changed their view of Western culture through Facebook friendships. The subtext to the tale is that free expression of ideas, enabled by the Web, bridges deep cultural divides. But we knew that: It's one of the central concepts behind the Olympics, after all. What we didn't know is that Facebook is in Lebanon."

Chicago gets it's own Huffpo site
(Chicago Tribune) Phil Rosenthal writes: "By midday Thursday, The Huffington Post Chicago—a local amalgam of news, commentary, features and personal reflections that's part media outlet, part salon in the fashion of The Huffington Post—should be linked and loaded, ready for viewing off 'I just got a great blog post from John Cusack,' Huffington said. 'People who are from Chicago have all these amazing warm feeling and memories of Chicago. … It is tribal. John is in Bangkok making a movie, and he was kind of emotional with this ode to Chicago.' Chicago-raised actress Jami Gertz is working on a submission, as is Fred Armisen of 'Saturday Night Live.' On tap are such familiar bylines as Jonathan Alter, Lynn Sweet, Cornelia Grumman, Lee Bey and Esther Cepeda. Others, such as environmentalist Howard Lerner and chef Gale Gand, bring a particular expertise to the party."


Peterson leaves WUSN & WCFS
(Radio Online) Mike Peterson is leaving CBS Radio's Country WUSN-FM (US 99)/Chicago as Program Director to operate a family business in Oregon. Peterson also served as PD of co-owned AC WCFS-FM (Fresh 105.9). Prior to joining US 99 in June, 2004, he was PD and afternoon talent at then sister KSKS-FM (Kiss Country 93.7)/Fresno, coming from APD/MD duties at KYPT-FM/Seattle. In a memo to the staff, VP/GM Dave Robbins said, "While the decision to leave was very hard for Mike and we will miss him greatly, the combination of this business potential and a return home to Oregon were simply too powerful to ignore." Peterson's last day will be Friday, August 29.

Chicago Radio Spotlight interview with Clark Weber
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with radio legend Clark Weber about his new book; "Clark Weber's Rock and Roll Radio: 1955-1975, The Fun Years." As always, Clark has some great stories about early rock and roll stars, and the radio people who helped make them famous. Coming this weekend: An interview with ESPN Radio's Dan McNeil.

Reticence of Main Stream Media to cover John Edwards controversy is a story in itself
(NY Times) Carter and Perez-Pena write: "For almost 10 months, the story of John Edwards’s affair remained the nearly exclusive province of the National Enquirer — through reports, denials, news of a pregnancy, questions about paternity and, finally, a slapstick chase through a hotel in Beverly Hills. Political blogs, some cable networks and a few newspapers reported on it — or, more accurately, reported on The Enquirer reporting on it. Jay Leno and David Letterman made Mr. Edwards the butt of jokes on their late-night shows, but their own networks declined to report on the rumors surrounding him on the evening news. Why?"

The FCC’s war on indecency is “a Victorian crusade.”
( Tom Taylor writes: "That’s not my phrase (though it fits) but a quote from the first paragraph in a powerful brief just filed at the Supreme Court by some very influential people – two former FCC Chairmen, Mark Fowler and Newton Minow (he once labeled TV “a vast wasteland”), and respected former Commissioner and interim Chairman Jim Quello. It’s also signed by several former top-level legal and policy minds at the FCC, and these aren’t wild-eyed throw-open-the-gates guys – two of the ex-Commissioners signed the FCC’s original Pacifica George Carlin decision...Bottom line: the FCC’s indecency standards have never really been tested at the Supreme Court. It’s apparently going to take a bunch of TV broadcasters – Fox plus the other TV networks – to get it there. While radio watches from the bleachers. Of course there’s the little matter of the Congressionally-mandated $325,000 fines for indecency."


Mel Karmazin warns Viacom CEO about Sumner Redstone
(NY Post) Peter Lauria writes: "Sirius XM Radio CEO Mel Karmazin has some advice for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman: put some distance between yourself and Sumner Redstone. Karmazin, after all, knows all too well that once inside Redstone's inner circle, it's only a matter of time before the Viacom chairman starts looking for ways to push you out. "Philippe is very close to Sumner," said Karmazin in an interview from a conference room at Sirius' Midtown headquarters. "There was a time when Sumner was very close to a lot of people. The only thing that's certain is that if Sumner is close to you now, he won't be close to you in the future because that's been his track record, including with family members...When [Redstone] would talk to me about Freston, who I think is a great executive, he used to talk like he was his son," Karmazin said. "Then the stock goes down for two days and he fired him."

Mel Karmazin: "We're going to be bigger than Clear Channel"

(New York Post) Peter Lauria writes: "Mel Karmazin is on a mission. Now that the creation of Sirius XM is official, terrestrial radio's formerly brightest star is after nothing short of total domination of his old medium. "We're going to be the most successful company in radio," Karmazin said in an interview with The Post. "We're going to be bigger than Clear Channel because we're growing and they're going the other way."

Nightline at risk if Leno jumps to ABC
(LA Times) Meg James writes: "This should be a new dawn for "Nightline." Instead, it could be good night. After years of lagging behind dueling late-night talk shows, the ABC news program is winning attention with a series of high-profile scoops and closing the viewer gap against "Late Show With David Letterman." But instead of celebrating, "Nightline" staffers are anxious. Six years ago, Walt Disney Co. tried to lure Letterman to its ABC network, a move that backfired and frayed relations with the news division. Now, the company seems interested in courting Letterman's nemesis -- NBC's Jay Leno. If Leno landed at ABC, it would probably spell the end of the nearly 29-year-old program, which launched in 1979 as a late-night report called "The Iran Crisis -- America Held Hostage" during the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Suburban Man: Extending Your Life

By Rick Kaempfer

I turned 45 years old a few weeks ago. My mom and sister took me out to dinner that night, and between the salad and the steak, I had an epiphany.

My mom said: “Isn’t time moving too fast?”

Now, normally I would have agreed with her. But she happened to ask me this question in the middle of the longest summer of my life. That’s when it hit me. I may have stumbled onto the secret of living a long life. Life can’t possibly just pass you by when it seems like it’s taking forever. This summer, my boys have helped me live an extra few months by making the time tick off the clock at an excruciating pace. If I can figure out a way to do this all the time, I can live forever.

So, I started brainstorming ideas to help extend my life after school starts up in the fall. Feel free to use any of these ideas yourself. I’m happy to share. We can all live forever together.

1) Volunteer to take kids to pre-school birthday parties
You don’t have say another word. Father Time will take care of the rest. Don’t worry if the first few minutes of the party go by quickly–the kids are cute for about five minutes or so. After that, time starts to crawl. The more screaming kids, the better. The more “that’s mine” yelps, the slower the earth rotates. By the time the party is over, you will already have lived longer than your father.

2) Ask every guy you meet to tell you more about his job
Then get specific. Ask about paperwork: “What sort of information do they ask for in the requisition forms these days?” Or, ask about specific petty co-worker squabbles: “So, what’s the status of Ralph’s stapler. Any sign of it yet? I bet if you open Doris’ desk…” Better yet, offer advice on how to deal with issues at work: “You know how I would reorganize your department if I were you?” Any of those office discussions will actually make the clock start moving backwards. Remember, God could have created three universes in the time it takes a typical worker to explain a new office voice-mail system.

3) Go to weddings
Oh, not just any weddings. Family weddings don’t count. Weddings of close friends don’t count either. Any other wedding, however, will do. It’s a little known fact that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel between the “cutting of the cake” and the “father-daughter dance” at his mother’s best friend’s daughter’s wedding.

4) Talk to three-year-old children on the phone
That little three-year-old voice is so cute…for one second. Then, you’re liable to get a play-by-play of the paint drying. “And um…my shirt is green…and um…squirrel!…” Don’t set the phone down on your end either. That’s cheating. You must simply endure. Every time you feel yourself about to say “Can you put mommy on the phone, honey,” ask another question about the child’s wardrobe or better yet, Dora the Explorer.

There are four free ones. Got any other ideas?

Monday, August 11, 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: Olympic Jokes.

"China is getting ready for the Olympics. The official motto for the Olympics is 'One World, One Dream.' Restrictions Apply. Tibet Not Included." --Jay Leno

"China has announced that during the Olympics, protesters will be allowed to assemble in designated protest areas. Yeah. Or, as they're commonly called in China, jails." --Conan O'Brien

"Beijing skies are so polluted that Chinese authorities are planning emergency measures for the Olympics. For example, protesters will now only be run over with hybrid tanks." --Jay Leno

"Everybody going to the Olympics is concerned about the air quality in China. There is a lot of smog. Friends over there tell me that the air in China looks like the air in Willie Nelson's tour bus." --David Letterman

"There's excitement in the air over the Olympics...also lead, arsenic, benzene." --David Letterman

"For some reason, they're having the Olympics in Beijing, which means the Chinese government right now is very hard at work trying to cover up all the horrible things about their country. It's like when your mom comes to visit your dorm room." --Jimmy Kimmel

"China has announced that they're shutting down several of their largest factories for the rest of the summer -- so that there will be less pollution for the Olympics. Chinese officials say: 'Sorry, but for the next few months, you're going to have to buy your lead-coated toys somewhere else." --Conan O'Brien

"China is upset because somebody leaked a video of the rehearsal for the Olympics Opening Ceremony on the Internet. I don't want to give away too much, but it ends with the lighting of a torch." --Conan O'Brien

"But I think the U.S. is going to do well, particularly in swimming, I think we have a very strong swimming team this year for the Olympics, yeah, that's right. Dick Cheney in particular looks great in the freestyle waterboarding." --David Letterman

"Now you think I'm exaggerating, but they had a practice today in Beijing for the Olympics and a javelin thrower threw the javelin up into the air and it stuck." --David Letterman

"Yesterday, President Bush gave the U.S. Olympic team a rousing send-off to the Olympics. Again, I don't think President Bush is that up on geography. Like he told the athletes to get there a couple of days early to acclimate themselves to the fact that China is upside-down" --Jay Leno

"And China says it will ban entertainers they deem a threat to the government from taking part in any activities during the Olympics. You make fun of the government, you'll be banned from the Olympics, to which Bush said, "You can do that?" --Jay Leno

"And human rights activists have sent a letter to President Bush, asking him to raise human rights issues with the Chinese government during the Olympics. Unfortunately, they also sent a letter to the Chinese government asking them to bring up human rights issues with President Bush. So, it's pretty much a wash." --Jay Leno

"The government of China has banned restaurants from serving dog meat during the Olympics. This is particularly bad news for the popular Chinese fast food chain, 'McDachsunds.' --Conan O'Brien

Stories you might have missed

1. Paul McCartney at a gas station in Springfield

(If I had a billion dollars, I'd like to think I would do the same thing.)

2. Cops follow Cheetos trail to find criminals

(The police call this the Hansel & Gretel case.)

3. Racist held after making Obama death threat
(There goes Obama playing the race card again...)

4. Madonna once pooped in her dominatrix costume
(This story is from a book written by her brother...thanks a lot, bro.)

5. 26 cheerleaders trapped in an elevator
(It happened in Dallas. I think I saw that movie in college.)

Video of the week: Funny Olympic Moments...

Photo of the week: Contributed by "B"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Clark Weber (2)

Last year I interviewed Clark Weber about his remarkable career. This interview is strictly about his brand new book: "Clark Weber's Rock and Roll Radio, 1955-75, The Fun Years"

Rick: I noticed that the Foreword to your book was written by Neil Sedaka. How did that come to be?

Clark: I knew Neil from back in the 60s, and I decided to call and ask if he would do it, and he said hell yes. He and I were good buddies, and he would call on my office at WLS from time to time when I was the program director at WLS. The record company had their own promo people but if he was in town, he would come in personally. One time he was in my office and I got a phone call about a band cancelling at a church event in Evanston that I was supposed to be hosting. Well I went there that night, and I was ready to go on stage, and the people from the church said, 'You're not going to believe who is backstage to perform.' It was Neil, and he entertained the crowd for a half-hour. The ironic thing is the story is coming full circle. I'm going to be introducing him on stage in St. Charles in September for his show there, and he doesn't know I'm coming yet.

Rick: Your co-writer is Neil Samors. Tell me about him.

Clark: Neil is the owner of a publisher called 'Chicago Books Press' and they write books about Chicago and Chicago history and things of that nature. He did a book called "Chicago in the 60s" and he interviewed me for that book, and while we were talking that day he said 'you've got so much to say, and you should write your own book.' Well, I laughed and said no. I had tried to write it at least three times; with two different sons-in-law, who were both writers, and once with my news director at WJJD. All three times it didn't work, and it didn't feel right. This time Neil said 'you narrate a chapter and I'll write it.' We did that for a few chapters, and then Neil said "You can write this Clark." And I did. I wrote it-- with his expert help—he has a PhD in English.

Rick: The book is called "Clark Weber's Rock and Roll Radio, 1955-75, The Fun Years." Were those the fun years for you personally, or the fun years for Rock Radio?

Clark: Those were the fun years for rock radio because by 1975, FM radio had taken so much of the audience, it had already turned into 'three songs in a row' followed by eight commercials, followed by three in a row, etc. The DJ had become completely superfluous, and I think rock radio has never really recovered from that.

Rick: To me, as a long time radio guy, I'm even more fascinated with the rock and roll part of this story. You told me some incredible stories the last time I interviewed you, including a story I've retold a million times to friends and relatives about George Harrison. Can you tease a few of the other rock and roll stories?

Clark: That George Harrison story in the book, complete with pictures. There's also story about the Monkees. I threw them out of the radio station and you'll discover why I did that and why they came back the next day to apologize. There's another story about a famous female singer that wasn't famous at the time, and in order to get an audience to see her, Mr. Kelly's had to give away free drink tickets. You won't believe it when you see who it is. Another story about a record promoter that gave me a record of a young unknown artist. I played the record a few times and I could just tell it was going to be a hit—-so I said—"I'm going to play this one." I asked the promoter is the singer had accompanied him to the station, and he told me that the kid who sang it was so nervous about being rejected that he was waiting outside on the street corner too afraid to come in. That was 1965. There are lots of stories like that, from the very beginning of rock and roll, when it was known as dirty crotch music—-especially stories about the difficulties it had breaking into the mainstream.

Rick: Did you talk to any of the other rock radio jocks from that era when you were writing this book, and if so, who?

Clark: Ron Riley—of course. He lives in a radio announcers home for the lame—I'm joking of course. I saw him the other night, and we had a great time. He has a comment on the back cover of my book, and of course felt it was necessary to say something bad about Weber. He originally said "I heard the only way Weber finished this book was by being connected to a Sears Die-Hard," but we couldn't use it because that's a trademarked product, so he wrote something else. I also talked to Don Phillips, the all night man, and Bernie Allen, and Bob Hale. Oh, and Larry Lujack of course. There's a whole chapter about how I scared the crap out of him.

Rick: Did you learn anything about that era that you didn't know before you wrote the book?

Clark: Not about radio, really, because I had been so personally immersed in that world. I did learn some things about the artists much great stuff, and a lot of it I just couldn't fit into the book. We had decided to keep it at 200 pages, and that really proved to be a challenge because we had so much material. Maybe we'll do another book (laughs). Not going to happen! In all seriousness, this book has the best stuff—-200 pages, 75 of my personal photographs, and a CD insert. It's selling very well already; which is something that makes me very proud.

Rick: Looking back on that era now, who would you say were the most important and lasting figures in Chicago rock radio and why?

Clark: Larry Lujack, of course. You can't really talk about that era without talking about Lujack. And Dick Bi-oldie. That's what I call him that—it's a joke. I mean Dick Biondi, of course. The feud between Ron Riley and myself—-that feud worked perfectly. Really, all of the jocks contributed to that era; some more, others less, but they all contributed, as did the program directors of that era.

Rick: What lessons are there to be learned by today's rock radio?

Clark: I was listening to a rock station a little while ago and I was so was time and temp and little giggling. I felt so excluded by what was going on. They aren't doing a very good job of involving the listeners—making them feel like they are a part of the experience. Rock radio today has its work cut out for it. They have to do something to make it more interesting—like newspapers, they have to completely reinvent themselves. They need some personality.

Rick: Why do you think the personalities aren't there anymore?

The farm clubs are gone and jocks don't have stations in smaller markets where they can learn their craft.

Rick: Thanks, Clark. Where can people get the book?

Clark: It's available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and independent book stores around the city, and you can also get it online.

Rick: And if people want to meet you—are you doing any book signings?

Lots of them. Thursday August 14th, I'll be Barnes & Noble—Depaul, State & Jackson at 12:30. On Saturday the 23rd I'll be at Borders in Oak Park from 2-3 pm. And there are a bunch more being scheduled.