Thursday, August 21, 2008

Media Notebook (August 21, 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

Rachel Maddow to replace Dan Abrams

(New York Times) Bill Carter writes: "Just in time for the closing rush of the presidential election, MSNBC is shaking up its prime-time programming lineup, removing the long-time host –- and one-time general manager of the network — Dan Abrams from his 9 p.m. program and replacing him with Rachel Maddow, who has emerged as a favored political commentator for the all-news cable channel. The moves, which were confirmed by MSNBC executives Tuesday, are expected to be finalized by Wednesday, with Mr. Abrams’s last program on Thursday. After MSNBC’s extensive coverage of the two political conventions during the next two weeks, Ms. Maddow will begin her program on Sept. 8."

Obama's Wide Web

(Washington Post) Jose Antonio Vargas writes: "Amid the cramped, crowded cubicles inside Sen. Barack Obama's campaign headquarters here, sandals are as ubiquitous as iPods. Two young guys in shorts and T-shirts throw a football around. An electoral college map (California 55, Texas 34, etc.) is taped to the wall in the men's bathroom. A BlackBerrying staffer sneezes and blurts out, "Whew! I think I'm allergic to hope!" This is Triple O -- Obama's online operation...This year's primary season, spanning six months, proved that online buzz and activity can translate to offline, on-the-ground results. Indeed, the Web has been crucial to how Obama raises money, communicates his message and, most important, recruits, energizes and turns out his supporters. With less than three months to go before the election, Triple O is the envy of strategists in both parties, redefining the role that an online team can play within a campaign."

Is Jon Stewart the most trusted man in America?
(New York Times) Michiko Kakutani writes: "When Americans were asked in a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to name the journalist they most admired, Mr. Stewart, the fake news anchor, came in at No. 4, tied with the real news anchors Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw of NBC, Dan Rather of CBS and Anderson Cooper of CNN. And a study this year from the center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded that “‘The Daily Show’ is clearly impacting American dialogue” and “getting people to think critically about the public square.” While the show scrambled in its early years to book high-profile politicians, it has since become what Newsweek calls “the coolest pit stop on television,” with presidential candidates, former presidents, world leaders and administration officials signing on as guests. One of the program’s signature techniques — using video montages to show politicians contradicting themselves — has been widely imitated by “real” news shows, while Mr. Stewart’s interviews with serious authors like Thomas Ricks, George Packer, Seymour Hersh, Michael Beschloss and Reza Aslan have helped them and their books win a far wider audience than they otherwise might have had."


Chicago Tribune completes newsroom layoffs

(Chicago Tribune) Phil Rosenthal writes: "The Chicago Tribune shed more than 40 newsroom employees today, which, coupled with last week's voluntary exit of more than 30 journalists, means the paper has cut 80 people from its editorial staff as part of cost-cutting campaign at all of parent Tribune Co.'s newspapers. 'Endings are never easy,' Tribune editor Gerould W. Kern said in a note to staff, adding that 'with the departure of 80 individuals through today, the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune stands at 480, the largest news organization in Chicago by a wide margin and one of the largest and most accomplished in the United States. ... While painful, these staff reductions are necessary to establish the foundation for a sustainable future.' The latest round of cutbacks is the paper's fourth since late 2005, when the newsroom was said to have had 670 positions. Other departments at the paper have been making cuts, as well."

Minority Journalists hit hard in Trib Layoffs
(Maynard Institute) Richard Prince writes: "The Chicago Tribune laid off more than 40 newsroom employees on Friday, including a disproportionate number of journalists of color, according to newsroom employees there. 'Coupled with last week's voluntary exit of more than 30 journalists,' the additional cutback 'means the paper has cut 80 people from its editorial staff as part of cost-cutting campaign at all of parent Tribune Co.'s newspapers,' Phil Rosenthal wrote on the Tribune's Web site. Among those called in Friday and told their jobs were eliminated was Ray Quintanilla, a 14-year Tribune veteran. 'It's sad because if you look at the list, it's heavily minority. It looks bad,' he told Journal-isms. He said his marching orders came a day after he challenged a powerful white Tribune columnist who for the fifth time had hired a white assistant, asking the columnist if he had considered any people of color. He recalled that owner Sam Zell had told employees to question authority. Quintanilla said the columnist publicly challenged him to a fight, and said he has filed a complaint with the Tribune's human relations department. The reporter said he could not prove his layoff was related to the Thursday incident, but said, 'It just smells bad to me.'"


Mini Interview: Bionce Foxx
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Every week I'm featuring excerpts from my SHORE Magazine article about 14 local radio voices. This week: WGCI's Bionce Foxx.

Chicago Radio Spotlight interview with Dan McNeil
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with ESPN Radio's Dan McNeil. It's the third time I've written about Dan, but the first time for Chicago Radio Spotlight. We talked about his relationships with his co-hosts (Jurko & Harry), his former feuds, and much more. Coming this weekend; an interview with former WLIT programmer Mark Edwards.

Billion Dollar Boy Band
(Portfolio) Sophia Banay writes: "Don't know who they are? You're obviously not a woman between the ages of three and 30, the parent of a teenage girl, or someone with regular access to any form of mainstream media. The Jonas Brothers are a budding tween franchise with dark locks, bright hooks, and the ability to actually play their instruments. They're currently busy invading Manhattan. Click here for the numbers behind the Jonas Brothers. The trio appeared at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square at midnight Monday to celebrate the release of their new album with several thousand frenzied fans. The album, A Little Bit Longer, is their second for Walt Disney Co.'s Hollywood Records label, and it immediately went platinum. The next day it was iTunes's most-downloaded album. The band hosted MTV's Total Request Live this week, and is making the rounds of other programs: 20/20, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Live With Regis and Kelly, and the Teen Choice Awards, where the brothers won six awards."


47% favor government mandated 'balance' in the media
(Radio-online) Nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the government should require all radio and TV outlets to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary, while 39% say they don't want the government mandating political "balance" in broadcast media. At the same time, 71% say it is already possible for just about any political view to be heard in today's media, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey. 57% say the government should not require web sites and blog sites that offer political commentary to present opposing viewpoints. But 31% believe the web sites should be forced to balance their commentary. In a July, 2007 survey, Americans were evenly divided on whether or not the government should require political balance.

Rupert Murdoch: Stock down 29%, salary down 14%
(LA Times) Media company News Corp., whose stock fell 29% in fiscal 2008, reported compensation of $27.5 million for Chairman Rupert Murdoch during the period. Murdoch's compensation for the fiscal year that ended June 30 was 14% lower than in 2007, New York-based News Corp. said in a regulatory filing Tuesday. The base salary was $8.1 million. The company allocated $17.5 million in cash bonuses to Murdoch, and also reported stock awards and other compensation. News Corp. shares fell the most since April 2003 on Aug. 6 after analysts cut profit estimates, citing weak local television and newspaper advertising sales.

Harry Shearer mines gold with "off-air" videos

(Huffington Post) Shearer's "Found Objects," a semi-regular feature of the "My Damn Channel" Web site, is a place where news personalities don't want to find themselves. His videos capture them in that television netherworld: on set or on location but before (they might think) the cameras are rolling. It's the time that obsessions about hairstyles or worries that they've done their homework surface _ or when real personalities bubble through the makeup. If anyone should realize that the camera is never really off, it's the people who make their living in front of it. When they forget, Shearer has his material."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Suburban Man: Hats

By Rick Kaempfer

My son Johnny loves hats. Just loves ‘em. He probably has two dozen different hats in his closet of all different shapes and sizes.

He wears them in the spring, summer, winter and fall. He wears them in the morning, afternoon, evening and night. But there are two places he’s not allowed to wear a hat, and he is having a hard time dealing with it because he doesn’t understand the reasons and no-one can explain it to him. He can’t wear a hat at school and he can’t wear a hat at the dinner table.

He asked his teacher why he wasn’t allowed to wear his Cubs hat at school and she told him that it’s just a school rule. When he asked why it was a rule, she didn’t really have an answer.

“It just is.”

At home I let him wear the hat inside the house, but when it’s time for dinner, I make him take it off. This is something my mother and father always cracked down on, and I just do it out of reflex. When he asked me why he couldn’t wear his hat at the dinner table, I told him it was considered rude. When he asked why it was considered rude, I didn’t really have an answer.

“It just is.”

So, let me ask this question to my fellow parents. Why is it considered rude to wear a hat at the dinner table? Does it really do any harm? Is there a historical reason for this rule that no longer applies?

I know that some people will always be offended if he wears a hat at the table (like my mom), but I must confess that it really doesn’t bother me. To be honest, I never really understood this rule. Should I keep enforcing a seemingly meaningless etiquette rule without even knowing why?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 18, 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 "R"

Two boys are playing baseball in Grant Park when one is suddenly attacked by a rabid rottweiler.

Thinking quickly, the other boy takes his bat and shoves it under the dogs collar, twists it breaking the dog's neck and saving his friend.

A reporter who was strolling by sees the incident. "Cubs Fan Saves Friend From Vicious Animal," he starts writing in his notebook.

"But I'm not a Cubs fan," the little hero replied.

"Sorry, since we are in Chicago I just assumed you were," said the reporter and he starts writing again. "Sox Fan Rescues Friend From Horrific Attack."

"I'm not a Sox fan either," the boy said.

"Oh, I assumed everyone in Chicago was either for the Cubs or the Sox. What team do you root for?" the reporter asked.

"I'm from St. Louis, I'm a Cardinals fan," the child said.

The reporter starts a new sheet in his notebook and writes, "Little Bastard From St. Louis Kills Beloved Family Pet."

Stories you might have missed

1. Chicago and LA reporters eat animal penises in Beijing

(Watch the video. It's actually quite funny)

2. The secret to Ernest Borgnine's long life? "I masturbate a lot"
(This is a video the admission, not the act itself)

3. Chicago 2040
(I contributed to this report on the Beachwood Reporter)

4. Ebay item for sale: "Evidence of my husband's adultery"
(Here's a tip for you gals cheating with married men...never leave your panties behind.)

5. Flying piece of art causes chaos in Swiss museum

(A giant inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window before it landed again.)

Video of the week: Contributed by "S" with the description: "This must have taken forever to put together." It is pretty good.

Photo of the week: Contributed by "J" with the description: "Typical Yankees Fan."


Regarding "Suburban Man: Extending Your Life"

"Try asking your 15-year-old daughter to tell you about the approximately 8,000 bands she saw perform at the “Warped Tour.” Bands with names like “3oh!3″ and “Forever the Sickest Kids.”"

"Ask an avid golfer about their best golf game. (This is especially effective if you’re not a golfer.) Oh my goodness, it’s excruciating."

Regarding Just One Bad Century

"Rick, I love your website!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As a true Cubs fan, born in Logan Sq, and my dad was a baseball scout as well, I cannot tell you how happy I am that Lou Pinella is making my lifelong dream come Cubs domination. I was at all 4 Cubs vs SF Giants games (i live outside of SF), as were a million other CUBBY fans.

When I saw your youtube site, and then went to your website i felt AT HOME (plate)! I have forwarded both to at least 50 people! My dad knew Jack Brickhouse (to me he IS the voice of the Cubs) and to see the interview with his wife was great. I enjoy your fan interviews and stories. Thank you so much. I really miss Chicago.

My son, who is 11 and born in California is finally catching Cubs fever. Last night he wove a story worthy of preservation, about the Cubs winning the Series, while subconsciously dressed in CUBS BLUE! Rick, we came home this year to see the Cubs for my birthday (april 3) and my son ended up at Children`s ER with a terrible flu. It would have been his first game at Wrigley. No Cubs, but my die-hard friends in Chicago rallied around his bedside (and missed a game as well). True Cubs story. We entered the tickets contest! I`m going to order a shirt today. Rick, YOU are Mr. Cub 2!

I am moved to poetry about the Cubbies:

Oh, Mighty Cubs
The legends say
The fans will never see the day
When Cubbie hitters slam the ball
o`er sacred ivy covered walls
of Wrigley Field
taking the series in 4
In 2008 we`ll wait no more
As our Mighty Cubs even the score
As history is made
As bleacher bums rejoice
Oh Mighty Cubs hear our voice
Our year
Is here


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Dan McNeil

Dan McNeil hosts the "Mac, Jurko & Harry Show" every afternoon on ESPN AM 1000 along with his co-hosts John Jurkovich and Harry Teinowitz. I've previously written about Dan in his early days at the Score ('93) and his early days at ESPN ('04). This is the first time I've interviewed him for Chicago Radio Spotlight.

Rick: How are you guys getting along these days?

Dan: It’s a unit of push and pull. We’ve managed to handle our rifts better while we’re on, but we all are quirky and often irritable. It gets dicey… sometimes contentious off the air. We do a better job than we used to when it comes to airing our grievances with one another and then moving on.

Rick: How would you describe everyone's role on the show?

Dan: I’m the front man, for better or for worse. I set up the dialogue, direct the content, the traffic. Depending on the topic, I throw it to either Jurk or to Harry. I lean on Jurk more during football season and Harry more during the summer. We’ve got a good mix of interests. I don’t think there’s a sport or a hobby that at least one of us doesn’t enjoy. The ‘Surgeon of Sound,’ Ben Finfer, is incredibly valuable. He’s the best at what he does, which is ‘play radio’ with soundbytes, music, movies, show highlights. He and executive producer Danny Zederman do a good job keeping us ‘younger.’ It’s a functional five-man band.

Rick: Will the people meter have any effect on how you do your show?

Dan: Not sure just yet if it’ll play a role… other than having to spend more time in meetings with management about ways we can overanalyze the data.

Rick: Over the years you've had a few famous feuds with guys like Chet Coppock, Mike North, and Harry. Now Chet is working at the same station, you recently had Mike North on after he was fired, and you and Harry haven't had any major altercations in awhile. Are you mellowing with age?

Dan: I’d like to think I’m more mature than I was during a lot of that stuff. And I’m not sure how ‘famous’ those feuds are. There are tons of guys in this business who don’t like each other. I’ve just been more of an open book about it. When I observe assholish behaviors, I’m not reluctant to share it on my show and let the chips falls where they may. And if somebody fires on me, bully for them. It’s give and take… mix it up. I like the heat sometimes.

Rick: I don't think I've ever talked to you about your radio heroes. Who has had the biggest influence on you, and who do you admire the most?

Dan: I’ve worked for and with a lot of talented people. I admired Steve Dahl (photo) a lot when I started at the Loop in ’88. From him, I observed many things I should do, and a few things I shouldn’t. Alan Freed, who died broke many years ago because he refused to succumb to ‘industry standards’ as he blazed the trail for rock’n’roll radio, was an amazing dude. Chuck Swirsky and Chet Coppock taught me the ropes as I was cutting my teeth. I’ve had several great co-hosts and some terrific producers.

Rick: Do you consider yourself a sports guy doing radio or a radio guy doing sports?

Dan: Can I be both? When I was kicking ass in the Highland Little League in the early ‘70s, I also was writing about sports and doing play-by-play of Blackhawks games I was watching on TV while talking into a cassette recorder. I guess I’m both a jock and a geek.

Rick: I know you used to consider Steve Dahl your biggest competition in the afternoon. Now that he's doing mornings, which shows on the radio dial are your biggest competitors?

Dan: There are a lot of guys rockin’ on those expressways during the afternoon commute. The Loop and the Drive are consistently solid performers in the adult male demo. And ‘GN draws an enormous bump when the Cubs play day games at Wrigley.

Rick: As someone who fights for the cause of Autism awareness, what are your thoughts about the recent comments by talk show host Michael Savage? (He said: “Now you want me to tell you my opinion on autism since I’m not talking about autism … a fraud, a racket. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them don’t act like a moron, you’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up! Act like a man! Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’")

Dan: Savage (photo) likely said that just to get people talking about him. He succeeded. If he truly believes that, he is an ignorant, insensitive man and I’d enjoy slapping him. He possesses the privilege of getting a public forum to express his ideas and opinions and should treat that right with more reverence.

Rick: How much longer are you signed for at ESPN, and do you think this is your final radio destination?

Dan: Under contract until the spring of ’10. For the first time in 16 ½ years of afternoons, I’m flirting with the idea of a different day part... if anybody would have me. This is a good thing here right now. I don’t know what I want for lunch today so it’s tough to predict what may happen in two years.