July 26, 2011
In what is a wise and I hope foresighted decision ABC is the first of the big 3 networks to say it won’t continue to pay licensing fees associated with securing major interviews.
ABC ends checkbook journalism, will no longer pay for interviews appearing on the Poynter website includes a quote that ABC News President Ben Sherwoood, “concluded that the cash-register approach to journalism was starting to tarnish the network’s credibility, even though the practice was relatively infrequent.”
That’s putting a good spin on it. Paying for access, paying large sums including $200,000 to Casey Anthony was just one in a series of stories that date back many years and include free travel, accommodations, gifts and more to secure prominent interviewees.
I’ve been critical calling the practice perverse and decrying the practice of raining money for some time.
Admittedly I have witnessed examples of this practice by all major broadcast and cable networks and been personally involved in such stories – and while I found the practice distasteful I admit that I too had involvement.
ABC deserves major kudos for breaking away from this practice. The audience is better served. The business of journalism is better for their decision. The network is at risk of losing some “exclusives” but in the world where that word has lost all meaning, relevance and importance, it is a courageous step and the network has earned acknowledgement.
Glenn Beck links the massacre in Norway to Hitler Youth – obviously hateful and vile – it is still protected speech. But yuck!
July 25, 2011
I write in support of free speech, no matter how loathsome it may taste. But the ultimate question – how is it that personalities like Glenn Beck continue to receive the attention, the coverage, and yes even comments like these before the public mindset simply says, “Basta. No more. Good bye.”
On his radio show and reported in the Los Angeles Times Monday Beck said, “There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.”
Is Beck delusional? Hateful? Is he trying to stir the pot to further his own ambitions, dependent on promoting his own notoriety, regardless of how vile it may be to many? Clearly his departure at FOX was born of falling ratings, declining sponsors, embarrassment and ultimately the network’s decision to cast away a program which had run its course, fulfilled it mission and was no longer something (or some one) they wanted to be associated with.
So what was his agenda in making these remarks? Does he believe that this was a camp a la Hitler youth? Could he be serious, or is he just messing with the audience?
And yet, the monster of hate and bigotry and irresponsibility lives… it clearly lives in Beck’s dark heart and worse, probably too it lives among some of his faithful. Clearly the Los Angeles Times found it newsworthy to report. A Google search at 553p PT Monday on “Beck and Hitler Youth” yields 160,000 hits! Imagine… in just a few short hours… from his lips to Internet phenomenon.
So yes, free speech lives – and fortunately condemnation is alive too. Irresponsible speech lives freely. Hateful, nasty, unimaginable things are said and written by Beck and others – Beck just gets an overwhelming response… What disturbs me the most is that he probably contrived his comments to provoke just such a reaction.
Free speech comes at a price. Unfortunately Beck is using up the currency at an alarming rate.
It’s been going on since before the verdict but now the bidding war for Casey Anthony’s story has gone big time with attorneys holed up in pricey New York hotels as they negotiate Casey for her licensing rights. That’s right – network’s don’t pay for interviews so instead they offer lavish treatment and buy the rights to photographs and other family memorabilia; it’s called the licensing rights for everything surrounding her actual tell-all tale. Payola by any other name is still wrong.
Postings in social media on this are colorful ranging from outrage and revulsion to snide comments about the ethics (or lack thereof) involved in even considering buying her story, much less rewarding her. None of this is new. None is shocking. It is what tabloids and quick-books have made fortunes on over the years. The networks should not be blamed – they are selling a product and need to corner an ever shrinking piece of the viewer’s loyalty. Sadly this is being done under the banner of news, but that seems to cause few any pain or difficulty.
Meanwhile – Casey may be in Palm Springs according to some… while cross country her lawyers are no doubt turning up the heat in their bidding war… and the weatherman said it was going to be a scorcher in New York today. No doubt.
ABC News has reportedly moved its “World News Tonight” into an automated control room, much as it had previously done with other news broadcasts including “Nightline”. I saw the story when it appeared on TVNewser .
The ‘old’ model was certainly effective for broadcasts with Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel, so there must not have been anything wrong with what they had — this is simply the future – this is automation – this is also an investment which pays dividends in the diminution of soft costs often otherwise referred to as human operators. The article featured this quote explaining the advantages, “An ABC spokesperson says: “The automated technology allows the news division to have greater uniformity and consistency in the way all broadcasts are produced – from creating a more streamlined production workflow to allowing producers more creative control throughout the production process.”
I am glad they cleared that up.
My point is this – why be obtuse? As communicators and journalists who theoretically are pledged to speak simply and accurately, why not be forthright and say this is more efficient from an economic base. The problem many people – including me – is that we read quotes like these which feel massaged – which read as saccharin, false or phony – which fail to be credulous… and because of that, we begin to feel a lack of trust, a loss of trust.
The real question is – and this has nothing to do with ABC – when did we lose our way in the world with truth? When did we decide to use words as shields for what we really don’t want to say? When did spin, manipulation and verbosity become preferable to just plain old speech?
And why does it continue – even when so many of us – maybe you – really see through it? My posting, while admittedly feeble, is my way of saying – “Caught ya! I accept your decision, but I don’t buy your words.”
Take a look: A terrific interactive feature on US newspapers.
Interactive map based on Library of Congress holdings and records.
You can move forward year by year (laborious) or advance the
interpretative panels on the right side (by era or decade).
You can move the map north, south, east or west.
You can zoom in on a city or area.
You can sort by language.
You can sort by publication frequency.
You can look at a detail list of newspapers on the bottom right for any city.
Thanks to my friend RA for sharing this.
July 13, 2011
Time Warner Cable reporter Suzi Theodory’s live shot about a brush fire in Southern California becomes more about her than the fire after she is soaked by a helicopter air drop. She transforms live from being young and inexperienced but sincerely trying into a ditzy rookie. Sorry. But the water drop becomes apparently more of the story about her instead of the fire as she repeatedly assures us that she and her crew are “so close to the fire”…. though this is not manifested in the pictures for there are no flames to be seen.
Note too the contradictions within the minute forty-seven second story from being “a growing fire at 10 acres” to suddenly being “almost under control” after the water drop. Huh? How did that happen? Oh, and by the way, one speaks of a fire being contained, not controlled, but what’s language have to do with anything when you’re all wet. Literally.
And again, we wonder why audiences think the press is often too silly for words?
July 11, 2011
Paying for interviews is against network standards but there is nothing prohibiting payments for licensing rights and other perks paid to news sources and potential interviewees. The latest? A two-hundred thousand dollar ($200,000.00) payment to Casey Anthony! It isn’t new – it happened as recently as last night (Sunday)with a six figure deal with Jaycee Dugard and her publisher for a ‘first-look’ at her story. It has happened over many years – and each network is guilty of doing it, although ABC and NBC have been in a more financially secure position reportedly to be more lavish in their offers.
And don’t think that money only flows to the victims or good guys in such stories. Two networks were in a fierce bidding war for the songbook of Phillip Garrido – Dugard’s admitted captor and rapist – shortly after the story broke. Attorneys representing a friend of Mr. Garrido received six figure offerings for his songs which included lurid details of a cross country sex odyssey and other perversions.
The audience doesn’t seem to see a difference between paying for news or paying for access. In a celebrity driven world it seems as if we have become accustomed to the habit of stars and news makers wanting to be compensated for their first hand stories. Networks have been more than obliging in paying sums for what guarantees them the right to brand the interview an “exclusive”. But does all this loot change the story – does more money make it ever so much more necessary to add an adjective or color the telling of a story in a particular way to make it seem worth the cash? One cannot demand top dollar and then disappoint the paymaster. It wouldn’t be good for business, especially when that is show business.
It may be good for business but it is bad for ethics, and there’s just no way around that.
July 9, 2011
So little is real any more. Laugh tracks on sit coms tell us where the writers and producers want us to giggle, synched musical performances replace authentic concert or live performances. They are both examples of sweetening the ‘real thing’ or how we ought to feel about something naturally as they change, ever so slightly altering the natural event itself. We electronically mask the things we don’t want to hear – wind noise – any distraction – even to the point that an event itself no longer bears much resemblance to the real thing.
And now along comes CBS – apparently guilty for creating fake fireworks over Boston! Fireworks on the Charles River – for long acknowledged as one of the great pyrotechnic shows in the United States – but that wasn’t good enough for CBS entertainment! Their producer superimposed those spectacular fireworks over Fenway Park and the State Capitol dome! The deception was caught by Bostonians who recognized that both locations were in the opposite direction from the Charles, and that it was geographically impossible to have seen nary a flare there.
Defending his decision the producer David Mugar told the Boston Globe, “…said the added images were above-board because the show was entertainment and not news. He said it was no different than (sic) TV drama producer David E. Kelley using scenes from his native Boston in his show “Boston Legal” but shooting the bulk of each episode on a studio set in Hollywood. “Absolutely, we’re proud to show scenes from our city,” Mugar said. “It’s often only shown in film or in sporting matches. We were able to highlight great places in Boston, historical places with direct ties to the Fourth. So we think it was a good thing.”
He’ll have to explain to me the historic significance of Fenway Park to July 4th. But maybe I am being too strict in my interpretation of Boston’s Revolutionary History?
When caught CBS declined to comment to the paper, but the Boston Globe’s media critic did write, “It is an ethical issue, and to say it’s not because the show was aired through CBS Entertainment is to imply that the entertainment side of CBS has no ethics…”
I think it is just disappointing. Did Mugar think those great fireworks were simply not great enough and needed his artistic touch to make them even better? Who’s he to judge? And how’s the audience to know what’s real and fake, or to be misled to think one thing over the truth, just because it was an iconic picture?
And we should wonder why so few people in the audience trust anything they hear or see or told? Maybe we ought to ask ourselves what we’ve done to pollute their opinion of us
A more complete story can be found here.
July 7, 2011
ABC News has hired Elizabeth Smart, formerly in the news as a Utah kidnap victim when she was a child, as a correspondent assigned to kidnapping and high profile missing person cases, according to The Hollywood Reporter and reported in People Magazine.
Is this a strategic move or one aimed at creating and fostering special appreciation among victim’s families?
Is she a bona fide journalist or a talented ‘talking horse’?
The issue is simple – what’s her training, journalistic experience or story telling? Obviously she will work alongside talented producers; obviously she will be guided and hand-held… but is she being sent out as a lure to sway the sympathy of victims?
It is worth asking is this good journalism or smarmy public relations and booking?