Thursday, October 16, 2008

Media Notebook (October 16, 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

CBS stock drops well below $10, and even CBS/Viacom boss Sumner Redstone is selling
( Tom Taylor writes: "He got caught with too much debt when the market turned and is forced to announce that he’ll sell off $400 million of his controlling National Amusements’ stake in both CBS and Viacom – diluting his net worth, though not his voting control. That’s a selloff of about 20% of the Redstone family’s holdings in CBS and Viacom...Once again, you wonder if Redstone would like to rewind the tape to three years ago, when he decided to split up Viacom into CBS (radio, TV, other “slow growth” businesses) and a new, smaller Viacom (MTV and other cable assets, movies). You want agita? Think about stock in “CBS” falling $2.04 on Friday, to a historic new low of $8.10 a share. And the volume was ferocious – six times the normal trading levels. Since New Year’s Day, CBS stock has lost about 70% of its value, and it was only 15 months ago that “CBS” was hanging comfortably around $35."

Redstone family in dispute over stock sale
(Los Angeles Times) When the stock price is literally the only thing you care about in life, bad things happen when the stock price goes down. Claudia Eller writes: "The bitter feud between billionaire Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari, erupted again Tuesday over the murky circumstances surrounding the sale of $233 million in non-voting Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. shares by the family's privately held National Amusements Inc."

Feds want time to decide on Super Bowl Reveal appeal
(Broadcasting & Cable) John Eggerton writes: "Government lawyers say they need more time to decide whether to seek Supreme Court review of the indecency fine against CBS stations over the fleeting nudity in the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl half-time show. That's according to Media Access Project, which was served notice of the request. MAP was a party to the lower court challenge. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals last July threw out the fine, concluding the FCC's decision had been arbitrary and capricious and an unjustified departure from prior precedent. The deadline was Oct. 19 for filing a cert petition with the Supreme Court--essentially a request to hear an appeal of a lower court decision. The Solicitor General said it would need until Nov. 18."

NY Attorney General Cuomo files suit against Arbitron
(Radio Online) New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Friday that his office had filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court against Arbitron. The suit accuses the ratings giant of "deceptively claiming" that its Portable People Meter (PPM) system is valid, fair and representative of diverse radio markets. It also charges Arbitron with failing to disclose flaws in the PPM methodology including the accuracy of its African-Americans and Latinos samples. "Arbitron's rush to commercialize the PPM system without curing known flaws in the service distorts the marketplace, and threatens to drive minority broadcasters out of business. Arbitron must refrain from using this flawed product in New York until it is truly a reliable and fair service," said Cuomo.


Christopher Hitchens endorses Obama
(Slate Magazine) Journalist/Author/Writer Christopher Hitchens was a big supporter of the Iraq war, but still endorses Obama over McCain. Here's why: "On 'the issues' in these closing weeks, there really isn't a very sharp or highly noticeable distinction to be made between the two nominees, and their 'debates' have been cramped and boring affairs as a result. But the difference in character and temperament has become plainer by the day, and there is no decent way of avoiding the fact. Last week's so-called town-hall event showed Sen. John McCain to be someone suffering from an increasingly obvious and embarrassing deficit, both cognitive and physical. And the only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience. McCain occasionally remembers to stress matters like honor and to disown innuendoes and slanders, but this only makes him look both more senile and more cynical, since it cannot (can it?) be other than his wish and design that he has engaged a deputy who does the innuendoes and slanders for him."

Kathleen Parker talks about Sarah Palin

Christopher Buckley leaves National Review after Obama endorsement

(The Daily Beast) Christopher Buckley writes: "I had gone out of my way in my Beast endorsement to say that I was not doing it in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column, because of the experience of my colleague, the lovely Kathleen Parker. Kathleen had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen’s mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster. I didn’t want to put NR in an awkward position. Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it’s pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land...Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal...So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me."


Lorne Michaels: All the candidates will probably appear on SNL

(Chicago Tribune) Maureen Ryan writes: "Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of Saturday Night Live, predicts that the presidential and vice presidential candidates will stop by the comedy show before the election. He also said in a phone interview Tuesday that Tina Fey will return to play Gov. Sarah Palin. 'I think sooner or later, everyone will come through,' Michaels said of the candidates. He declined to give dates as to when Saturday Night Live viewers might see Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as their running mates, Sen. Joseph Biden and Gov. Palin."

McCain reschedules Letterman appearance

(Washington Post) Scott Butterworth writes: "McCain and Letterman, together again at last. Sen. John McCain will be on David Letterman's late-night talk show on Thursday, nearly a month after he canceled an appearance at the last minute, pleading a need to return urgently to Washington to address the economic crisis. Letterman learned during the taping of that Sept. 24 show that the Republican presidential nominee had not, in fact, left New York but intended to stick around until the next morning. Thus was born a made-for-TV feud. The talk-show host was clearly irritated by McCain's excuse once he learned the truth, and he used an in-house video feed, showing McCain getting makeup applied to his face before an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, to mock him during the Sept. 24 show. 'Now, he doesn't seem to be racing back to the airport, does he?' Letterman commented, adding, 'It's like we caught him getting a manicure.'"

Where is 30 Rock?
(NY Times) Bill Carter writes: "With her three Emmy Awards, her ubiquitous American Express commercials, and especially her must-see Sarah Palin impersonations, Tina Fey is not just the hottest star on NBC; she is about the hottest star in show business at the moment. So where is “30 Rock?” The hugely praised but ratings-challenged comedy has yet to return to NBC even as interest in its creator and star, Ms. Fey, has exploded. Several executives inside NBC asked last week why NBC’s entertainment division was waiting until Oct. 30 to get “30 Rock” back on the air. Ben Silverman, the co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, said, “If we knew then what we know today about how hot Tina was going to be, would we do it differently? Maybe,” he said."


Robert Feder looks back
(Chicago Sun Times) Robert Feder writes: "As my days at the Sun-Times are winding down, I've been reflecting on all we've shared over the years. With just a little while to go, here are personal thoughts, memories and, as I used to call them in my junior high school newspaper, Robservations.
(This is a must read if you're interested in Chicago media. Click on the link.)

Joe Ahern fired from Channel 2
(Chicago Sun Times) Wednesday's column is a pointed reminder of why this market will sorely miss Robert Feder. He takes a parting shot at the recently fired Joe Ahern, a man that was roundly despised by those who worked for him. It's a doozy: "In the end, there was no one else to blame and no one else to fire. Joe Ahern had six years, two months, two days and -- for much of that time -- a virtually unlimited budget to turn around the fortunes of WBBM-Channel 2. But in all that time and with all those resources, he left the CBS-owned station arguably worse off than he found it. He didn't just fail. He failed utterly. Miserably." (Don't worry, there's more. Click on the link to read the whole thing.)

Howard Stern loses his audience and his relevancy
(AP via Chicago Tribune) Evan Agostini writes: "Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed King of All Media, has lost his crown. The shock jock's syndicated morning radio show once drew a national audience of 12 million, but since he jumped to satellite radio three years ago, his listeners have dwindled to a fraction of that. Where once Stern routinely commanded Hollywood's hottest stars— George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts—his publicists today tout studio appearances by Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers or Hulk Hogan. Stern, weary of fighting the Federal Communications Commission over hefty fines and charges of indecency on his terrestrial show, wanted creative independence on the unregulated airwaves of satellite. He got it—and a lucrative five-year contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But for a 54-year-old man who once likened his youthful craving for media attention to a heroin addiction, the move may have come with unintended consequences...So far, the radio personality's leap from traditional media to a niche platform has come at a heavy price—namely, cultural relevancy. Unlike an Arianna Huffington, who vastly increased her reach on her upstart Web site, Stern's place in the national conversation has been reduced to a murmur in the din of the exploding entertainment universe."

Mini Interview: Steve Zana & Laura Waluszko
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Every week I'm featuring excerpts from my SHORE Magazine article about 14 local radio voices. This week: Steve Zana & Laura Waluszko from Indiana 105 in Valpo.

Chicago Radio Spotlight interview: Geoff Pinkus
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with the host of Living Large on WIND, Geoff Pinkus. We talked about his late entry into the radio business, his co-hostess Amy Jacobson, and how his show fits into the conservative WIND lineup. Coming this weekend: ESPN Radio's Marc Silverman.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Suburban Man: Second Thoughts

By Rick Kaempfer

It's been a rough few weeks for me; a time of deep, dark contemplation. You see, I've spent the last year of my life dedicating myself to a website about the Cubs (

It was just a lark at first; a chance to poke fun at the team that constantly breaks my heart. But somewhere along the line I actually started believing the Cubs were going to win it all this year...for the first time in my life.

Worst of all, I convinced my three sons, particularly my six-year-old Sean. He became so obsessed, by the end of the season he was making me look like a casual fan.

He named his teddy bear "Kosuke." He slept with his Cubs hat on. He learned the batting stances of every player. He carried around their baseball cards in his pocket--arranged in order of most favorite to least favorite. He and I watched nearly every game this season. We recreated games in the backyard, and played catch at the school bus stop every morning. We were such a die-hard Cubs house that even my wife (the baseball agnostic) started caring whether or not they won or lost.

Until this past week, I thought it was a beautiful bonding experience. Now, I feel like turning myself in to DCFS.

I got the first inkling of what I had done to my boys in the Wrigley Field restroom after they lost Game 2. A young man came bounding into the restroom with youthful enthusiasm despite the horrific display we had all just witnessed to exclaim: "It's alright, guys! We'll win 2 in LA and bring it back home!"

I was standing next to a 70-something year old man, who leaned over and said to the youngster..."Hey Kid, how old are you?"

He replied "I'm 25."

The old man simply sighed, looked knowingly in my sad eyes, and walked out the door. We were both thinking the same thing. "He'll learn eventually."

Within moments of feeling sorry for that youngster, however, I realized that my boys were going to react the same way. They were sure this was the year, and their belief was not going to be shaken by this gruesome collapse. That's when I started feeling reeeeeeeally guilty.

The next morning Sean proved my point. He gave me a comforting hug and said "Don't worry, Dad. It's only two losses so far. We'll get 'em in LA."

I swear I almost cried when he said that. Bridget and I met eyes, and just like the old man and I had done in the restroom the night before, we spoke to each other without speaking. We were both thinking about an incident that took place at Wrigley Field in 1996 when my oldest boy Tommy was a baby.

An older lady came up to me and cooed at the adorable baby in my arms. She asked me: "So, are you going to make him a Cubs fan too?"

"Yes I am," I said proudly.

"That's child abuse," she replied, and walked away.

I didn't think so then, but if I were put under oath today, I would have to say: "Guilty as charged, your honor."

Monday, October 13, 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 "K"

A man is dining at a fancy restaurant and there is a gorgeous redhead sitting at the next table. He has been checking her out since he sat down, but lacks the nerve to talk with her.

Suddenly she sneezes, and her glass eye comes flying out of its socket toward the man. He reflexively reaches out, grabs it out of the air, and hands it back.

'Oh my, I am so sorry,' the woman says as she pops her eye back in place.

'Let me buy your dinner to make it up to you,' she says.

They enjoy a wonderful dinner together, and afterwards they go to the theatre followed by drinks. They talk, they laugh, she shares her deepest dreams and he shares his. She listens.

After paying for everything, she asks him if he would like to come to her place for a nightcap and stay for breakfast. They had a wonderful, wonderful time.

The next morning, she cooks a gourmet meal with all the trimmings. The guy is amazed . . . Everything had been SO incredible! 'You know,' he said, 'you are the perfect woman. Are you this nice to every guy you meet?'

'No,' she replies. . . 'You just happened to catch my eye.'

Stories you might have missed

1. Bird poops in reporter's mouth

(Don't watch this while you're eating)

2. How angry is John McCain?
(Sounds a little Yosemite Sam-ish.)

3. Military intercept officers talk about the conversations they listened in on
(Hint: Phone sex is never a good idea these days...)

4. Hef has new girls lined up to take place of Holly
(Whew. I was worried about his state of mind, poor guy.)

5. Sean Hannity gets Hannitied
(I know I already posted this in Media Notebook, but wow is this a great comeuppance story.)

Video of the week: A very funny take on Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

Photo of the week: From a simpler time...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Geoff Pinkus

Geoff Pinkus is the host of "Living Large," heard every Sunday evening 5-7 PM on WIND-AM 560

Rick: How would you describe your show to people who have never heard it before?

Geoff: It's a man show. It's from a male perspective. We talk about what men like: women, cars, cigars, motorcycles, hunting, fishing, sports, and we take the male perspective because men have become emasculated in our society today. They've lost their way, always asking for permission instead of forgiveness. Women want men to lead. They want us to take charge. And that's what the show is about. In a good way, not in a chauvinistic way. We're there to help guide other men, and remind them what it means to be a man.

Rick: When I first heard your show my first thought was: "Hey, this guy is pretty good." How is it that I hadn't heard of you before?

Geoff: Well it's just one of those things. I have always wanted to do a radio show. It was my passion. I followed the business closely, but for many reasons, never pursued it. I was in the real estate business. Well about 2 ½ years ago a friend of mine says 'want to do some PSAs' and he thought it was so funny how excited I got just putting on the headphones. I really was excited too. I always wanted to be in radio. I practiced in the car, in the shower, you name it. So he told me if I really wanted to do radio, I should check out WRMN in Elgin. They were doing pretty good business doing a QVC kind of thing, but they also sold some brokered time. It was like $200, and I thought—what the heck. That sounds like fun.

So I hit the streets and got a sponsor to sponsor the whole thing. It was a real estate show, and it was so much fun—taking calls, being a wise guy, trying to do the whole Steve Dahl thing.

Anyway, one day a listener calls me up and says he thinks I need to go to a bigger station. He was a former sales guy at the Loop and knew people in the business, and he made some calls for me, and that's how I ended up here—doing Condo Talk. Unfortunately, my co-host at the time was this woman suggested by the sponsor, and she was terrible—always saying things like "Don't go there" when I would make a joke.

After a few months, the sponsor wanted to leave, so I had lunch with the GM. He asked me to take over selling brokered weekend programming, because I was doing a show already, and I could talk to these people—and I thought, yeah, what the heck. It was a good opportunity to get in the door and learn as much as I could about the business. Anyway, John Howell (photo) did a show with me on December 1st, I'll always remember that date, and when the show was over, he says, "Pinker, you should do a guy show. There's a guy who does a nationally syndicated cigar show, and you're better than him."

I knew right away that was a good idea. I could be myself, do my thing, and the demo was absolutely perfect. I called it "Living Large" and I've been doing it ever since.

Rick: I think it's safe to say that your show is not very much like the other shows on WIND—not exactly typical "Salem Broadcasting" fare. Has the content of your show ever caused problems with your bosses at the station?

Geoff: We do a pretty edgy show, but we've only run into a problem once. The company won't allow advertisers like casinos, gentleman's clubs, Viagra, and that sort of stuff. One time we talked about gentleman's clubs, and we got one hate e-mail. But other than that, we haven't had any problems.

Rick: In a lot of ways, you remind me a lot of Mike North. I think both of your shows are a testament to what can be accomplished if the talent takes a strong interest in selling or helping to sell his own program. Do you agree?

Geoff: 110%! I couldn’t agree more. I think if you have sales talent plus you have talent on the air, you can be a real plus to any radio station. If you're bringing in the money, they're not going to get rid of you. With the way radio is these days, there's a huge opportunity for people like me.

Mike North (photo) and I actually did the show together once, and he was really encouraging to me. He said it was nice to finally be talking to someone who gets it—someone who approaches it from the business side—someone who has a business brain.

Rick: Do you consider yourself a salesman who happens to do a radio show, or radio host who happens to be doing sales, or a combination of the two?

It's a combination. I'm a radio host that happens to have 30 years of sales experience. It's like it was meant to be to wait this long to do it, because now I can do it right. I sell my own time, and I can tell you that advertisers love it, LOVE it, when I go to a sales call myself. They say "You're the talent AND you're selling it?" That's not something they run into every day.

Rick: What are some of the traits from your sales background that help your on-air performance?

Geoff: I try to focus on the listeners first, by making the show entertaining and fun. I treat them like a client—if they're happy, I'm happy. Plus, I also understand how important the advertiser is. That's the business side. Like it or not, every single thing you hear or see in the media is driven by the sponsors and advertisers. So I get that. They are the lifeline.

Rick: On the other side of the coin, is there anything you've learned from doing a show that has helped you in your sales job?

Geoff: Yeah, if they listen to the show and they like you on the air, they're gonna buy from you. It's not even selling when you run into that. People buy from people they like. I get the biggest kick out of it when I run into people that like the show. It doesn't inflate my ego, it inflates my heart. Someone recognized my voice at Binny's the other day. That's just the greatest. I really appreciated that. It made my whole day. Who doesn't like the applause?

Rick: Your co-hostess is former Channel 5 television reporter Amy Jacobson. How did you meet Amy and how did she become a part of your show?

Geoff: I met her through my friend George. He runs a Greek media club, and they meet somewhere every month or so, and he invited me to stop by. Amy (photo) was there, and we hit off, and I had her on the show. Amy asked George if I might be up for having a regular female on the show, and I said I would, and we've been doing the show together now for a good month or so. She and Frank (Mahony, producer/co-host) and me have a great time.

Rick: Where do you see your show going from here?

Geoff: I'd like to get it to as many markets as possible, to get it into syndication. That's my ultimate goal. Then I'll really be "Living Large."