28 September 2008

Washington Post, NBC/ABC/CBS, NY Times and ...SNL?

There she blows, Tina Fey masqerading as Gov. Sarah Palin and doing a brilliant job, by all accounts, of skewing the Republican Vice Presidential Nominee. Here's a link to the video in case you wish to watch the entire seven minute skit.


What I find interesting is the level of influence our comedy programs have in politics at this time. Saturday Night Live isn't a news program, but comedy. I'm not sure I find Bill Maher's show to be anything but one man's vent, so I'll skip discussion of that one.

But I think the most telling thing are the surveys which show that viewers of the Comedy Central news and political shows are the most politically savvy and well-informed of American voters.

It doesn't bother me because I am just in favor of voters getting informed in any way, shape, form, or delivery path. Especially if they laugh all the way to the voting booth.

It does sort of make me wonder if some day we'll be asking which of NBC's programs is more politically influential: NBC Nightly News or SNL?

19 September 2008

"Let Them Eat Cake... or Lobster with Lychee Salad"

I don't like to stir the pot against my profession. I don't. But... when did we start giving cooking advice?

I was just watching a news magazine show on a certain network a few nights ago. It's part of the "news division" at that network. I was caught by a teaser about the price of gold, which is skyrocketing in the current economic crisis. Made me want to hustle down there and weigh a few things in. Not to sell, mind you, but just to feel a little richer as I walk out the door smiling with them still in my pocket, okay? Glad we got that one settled.

Anyway, the gold segment ended and before I knew it, I was caught up again by talk about a segment "coming up next" about a chef. Out of sheer curiosity at the idea of News-Magazine-ala-Food Network, I stuck around through the commercial.

The segment came on and it was a lovely French chef with a heavy accent. He spoke for a minute or so on his "influences," which I can only assume was how he came to view food. Then he made an entree. It was lobster with a lychee-celery salad dressed in a mace and piquine chili vinaigrette.

I love lychees. But whenever I mention my love of the juicy little Asian-fruit with the pebbley skin, most of my friends give me a blank look. They've never heard of it, much less tried it.

I can't recall the last time I had lobster. In my defense, I think lobster is more "East Coast," and sushi is more "Southern California." I do remember the last time I made it at home. It was before I moved here. Maybe 8 years ago? I don't think I have any mace but if I wanted to make this recipe, I wouldn't hesitate to go out and buy it. It's a spice. Piquine peppers are the pinkie-finger sized Asian ones. Hot-hot-hot!

So let me bullet point this for you. What this news magazine on a certain network has begun including as apparently a regular segment is a profile of a chef and his recipe. The chef bears the accent of a country that most Americans associate with rude waiters and being unhelpful when the United States asked for assistance. (Remember when French fries became Freedom fries. Thought so.) And he's making a recipe that features a pricey shellfish at a time when most Americans are struggling or at the very least concerned about their pocketbooks. And its rounded out by other ingredients that they've never heard of, nor would they know where to buy if it was even available in their small towns.

I love this particular news magazine on a certain network but... this does make me wonder. Do they ever leave New York? Who do they think lives in Iowa? Kansas? Arizona? Alabama?

I'm going to do a little shameless plugging here. If you look up and to the left, right under my picture, "Sucking Viewers In" is my own little manifesto of everything that could be done to help TV news stop losing viewers. I think there may be a section in there on this very problem. We've got to stop feeding lobster and lychees to people who right now are worried about being able to afford burgers and fries.

French... or otherwise.

Final disclaimer: this post wasn't meant in any way to slander France or the French. It's a simple assessment of the need to stop pushing American viewers away by losing touch with them.

17 September 2008

Social Networking Overtakes Porn as #1 Internet Draw

Good news for Moms everywhere: Reuters reports that social networking sites are now officially the top attraction on the Internet.

They have triumphed over pornography, which for years has been the leading destination for internet surfers. They also put down gaming sites, which perhaps were never really in contention as much as they were draws for teenaged boys and very sad social outcasts in their 20's and 30's.

But what this also indicates is a major change in how people communicate, according to some experts.

Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at analytics firm Hitwise, said in the article that analyzing web searches did not just reflect what was happening online but gave a wider picture of society and people's behavior.

"There are some patterns to our Internet use that we tend to repeat very specifically and predictably, from diet searches, to prom dresses, to what we do around the holidays," said Tancer, whose new book, "Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters," was released a few weeks ago.

Tancer said in the article that porn surfing has dropped to about 10 percent of searches from 20 percent ten years ago. "As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased," said Tancer, who also indicated that the 18-24 year old age group particularly was searching less for porn.

Social networking is actually often a more convenient way to communicate with friends because it weeds out everybody else. Anybody who has been put on a corporate listserv knows that going on vacation means you need to arrive back two hours early in order to clear out the email box so that you can start the real work of post-vacation catch-up.

Another reason it's good news: it also means we might be reading more... instead of just looking at the pictures.

15 September 2008

Journalists Behaving Badly...

I use the term "journalists" very loosely here. This is not a pretty blog post for my profession. In fact, I think it speaks to why media credibility, influence, and ratings are diminishing. This is so disappointing that it is disheartening. I love my profession and this hurts us all. I don't like posting about extremely negative, shameful things, but here it is again and I can't ignore it.

The national politics and issue magazine hired a photographer to shoot pictures of John McCain for a cover story about the Republican Presidential candidate. This is what they chose.

It's on their cover, coming soon to a newsstand near you. Or you can check out the article on their website at http://www.theatlantic.com/. Haven't read the article myself so far. I'm still too appalled. Why?

Because their photographer Jill Greenberg has admitted, and in fact more appropriately bragged about setting up McCain's shoot to deliberately make him look hideous. Frightening. Distractingly, detractingly menacing and ugly.

Those of us who are in "the business" know too well that lighting can make or un-do us. I watch my lighting, angles, and photographer like a hawk. (Um, which no, they don't always appreciate. But it's not their face and name on the story, now is it?) A low angle adds weight; bad lighting adds years. And Adobe Photoshop can add anything else a photographer wishes. She wielded two out of three in this picture:

The Atlantic wisely chose to skip that picture along with any others it felt made the candidate look unduly off. But then the photographer (who had the audacity to post the job on her portfolio website: http://www.thenemanipulator.com/. Interesting choice of website name, isn't it?) switched things up. She got really childish, really ugly, extremely unprofessional, and downright nasty with her software.

She also turned crude. If you check out some of the photos on this website, http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/bad_americans/the_atlantic_mo.php you will see what I mean. They are, as the site above points out, political pornography.

I think we all see what this was on the surface, but let's see it at its purest: a lack of faith in the American system and voters. Nobody has to take these shots. Americans who are interested in the electoral process tuned in during those political conventions. We all heard the speeches made by these two candidates. We will all make our own decisions.

Nobody needs to throw themselves on the political fire in this country to show Americans who their candidates are. What this says to me is that a rather silly woman chose an underhanded and devious way to demonstrate her belief that her candidate can't win on his own merits. She believed that her help was needed by Barack Obama to win against his opponent.

The Atlantic has apologized to its readers on its website. And the publisher says he is drafting a letter of apology to the McCain campaign. (Who apparently need to hire a more savvy media handler who goes everywhere with the candidate. Who does photoshoots with a strobe light?)

But its a sad day when someone for my profession when purports to be among us, but clearly has chosen to move to a sideline... also known as the gutter.

09 September 2008

He Said that Who Said What about Which?

And so in this year of "historic" and "trail blazing" elections and candidates, three out of four national candidates are male and yet somehow the discussion is all about... lipstick.

""You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig," said the Democratic Candidate of Change, Barack Obama. He was talking about his opponent John McCain who says he's a candidate of change, too.

Obama was ticking off a list of ideas that McCain says he wants to change, too, ie -- economic policy, taxes, education, foreign policy, campaign tactics. Obama says his opponent is not about change. He says John McCain is all about more of the same.

That's when he made his lipstick comment, with the crowd erupting into shrieks, whoops and cheers.

Why is this such a big deal? Because during her speech at the GOP convention, newly announced Vice Presidential Candidate, Sarah Palin told an off the cuff joke:

"Do you know the difference between a pitbull and a soccer mom? Lipstick." She got roars of approval from the audience.

So was Obama's comment a reference to Governor Palin? Was Barack Obama taking a shot at the new candidate, the first Republican woman to get on the ticket? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not going to tell you that I read minds or know the heart and soul of any Presidential candidate. (And it's a relief not to have that power! )

Barack Obama excused his reference saying that in the past, John McCain attacked Hillary Clinton using a line about lipstick on pigs.

So here's my question: if Barack Obama is all about change, why is he recycling John McCain's old lines?

Don't get me started on the pregnant 17 year old. We might be here all day.

08 September 2008

Ready! Set! Wait? ...And Maybe Learn

This is what I've spent the last week looking at. Closely inspecting. Trying to dissect and understand. This is Hurricane Ike. I had lofty hopes for this hurricane. But alas, I am once again, disappointed. ABC News, which sent me to New Orleans for Gustav and then on to Atlanta for Ike, finally decided to send me home.

I am terribly typical of my industry in that I do get more interested in things as their "disaster quotient" goes up. But I think in this case, I am content to hope for clear blue skies.

As I made my way out of New Orleans last Wednesday I had to drive because the airport was still closed. With only a few residents of New Orleans and south Louisiana allowed to return home, they really couldn't reopen at that time. But I was feeling just the slightest bit cheated. Gustav fizzed to a Cat 1 and I was disappointed to be going away without having been witness to a "real" hurricane as it struck land near my location.

But as I drove I listened to the local talk radio station. The talk show host was taking calls from local people trying desperately to get home. Those people were trying so hard to find gas for sale to drive back and see what was left of their homes. They were being kept out by the City of New Orleans leaders and police enforcing a tight curfew; by lack of fuel to get home; and by lack of resources to purchase the fuel and food they would need in a city that had precious little provisions once they got there.

It was hard to hear those voices, so full of longing to see and touch their homes again. They just wanted to be once again, in familiar surroundings and get back to normal life. They wanted home and family and maybe a little quiet dinner on the table in the family kitchen.

Aren't those the things that we all want? I know that after waiting in Atlanta for 5 days, I longed to be at home.

So tonight, as Ike leaves parts of Cuba in ruins, I look at that picture above and ponder how something beautiful from a distance could be deadly down below.

And I think maybe... if I am very lucky... it will slide out into the Gulf and never return to land.

06 September 2008

I Went to a Hurricane...

...and it was a bit of a wash. Pun intended.

So after two days of Gustav ("the Hurricane that wasn't" -- at least in New Orleans) I went to the airport to fly home to LA.
The airport was closed, so I called ABC and drove to Atlanta to visit some favorite (and sadly neglected friends, Bob and Cindy and their two kids) friends.
Enroute there, I got a call about a job. A full-time job that I had applied for. Funny story there, but that's for another day.

I drove to Cindy and Bob's house. Emailed ABC and said "I'm here until Sunday, if you need any additional help." Emailed back to the people with the job and flew to their office on Thursday.

I met with them on Friday (horrifically nice people. Really splendid!) and then flew back to Atlanta where I got a message from ABC News saying, "Yes, we will take advantage of having you in Atlanta. Please go to Miami on Monday to cover Hurricane Ike."

Do you feel sorry for Bob and Cindy yet?

Anyway, early on Monday, I will fly to Miami. And until then, I'm going to try to make it up to Bob and Cindy for all the past neglect and recent abuse of their patience.
Have a great week! Live shots from Miami and Hurricane Ike begin at 5am EST/CST/MST/PST on your local stations.