- The wondrous world of branding
If you doubt the horse is out of the barn with elite journalist self-promotion, be informed that right before New Year’s Eve, ESPN football reporter Adam Schefter tweeted to his nearly 4.5 million followers that New Year’s Eve meant “college football and @Dominos pizza.” (The Wall Street Journal) Colleague Chris Mortensen did about the same, with neither suggesting those tweets were sponsored. They were, in fact, ads. The true nature of the promotion was exposed by Deadspin. “‘Future tweets from Chris and Adam will [contain the hashtags #DominosPreGameHQ or #PreGameHQ], or even the hashtag #ad,’ a Domino’s spokesman said in a statement. ‘It was a mistake and we’ve made sure it won’t happen again.'”
TV sports guys have long been corporate shills. Typical is CBS mainstay Jim Nantz who, for example, announces golf and fronts ads for Titleist golf balls, among other corporate deals. Media executives at bigtime operations, who can be masters of situational ethics, tend to have one set of rules for their news folks, another more liberal one for sports (even though the sports reporters all have self-images as real, tough-as-nails reporters). It’s all rationalized in specious ways, like the famous TV guys having ethically flexible personal services contracts with the networks or the networks seeing outside income as some substitute for what they can’t afford to pay stars whom they already pay a king’s ransom, anyway. What to do? Maybe we should just loosen up those stuffy news strictures. I’d so want to see Tom Friedman allowed to plug “The new economic kings and @Air India,” Lester Holt herald “NBC Pentagon exclusive and @McDonnell Douglas” or Anderson Cooper tweeting, “Adele-Madonna Exclusive! and @Carnival Cruise Line.” Branding personalities is journalism’s savior, isn’t it?
- Media mere putty in Trump’s hands
“Donald J. Trump continued to fan the flames of doubt over Senator Ted Cruz’s citizenship on Wednesday, suggesting that his Canadian roots might be a problem if he won the Republican presidential nomination.” (The New York Times) They were further flamed in The Washington Post, USA TODAY and CNN, among many places. This even propelled Geraldo Rivera, our most prominent graduate of the Mick Jagger School of Journalism, to argue last night on Fox News that Cruz is in a potentially precarious spot legally as far as his eligibility to be president. Radio host Laura Ingraham, a former lawyer, quickly called that notion absurd. But the overriding reality was that the issue opened the highly-rated cable fixture, meaning that the cynical brilliance of Trump had worked once again. He throws out a total B.S. notion but generates a ton of publicity and perhaps even gets a few GOP voters to think he’s right.
- Mossberg’s plea to Facebook
With every tech journalist on the planet in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, stellar tech newsie Walt Mossberg offered a column not on what he thinks will happen in 2016 but what should happen. It includes Facebook cleaning up its News Feed. “With over a billion daily active users, Facebook is not only a huge success, but it’s getting crowded. And so is your News Feed. Once you have more than, say, a hundred friends, it becomes easy to miss posts of interest. Awhile back, the company introduced a feature that let you designate whose posts you wanted to see at the top of your feed, but I find that this just drives other potentially interesting posts deeper down the silo. There’s also a way to remain friends but not see posts, an option I stumbled upon one day. So, for 2016, I’d like Facebook to rethink the News Feed in a major way, with a central focus on giving users greater control and a clearer understanding of how to exercise it.” (Re/code)
- When adjusted for inflation
Thanks to the Los Angeles Times for leavening all the stories about the record-breaking box office totals of the new “Star Wars” flick with this inflation-adjusting qualifier: “’Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is the 21st-highest grossing film in history when the numbers are adjusted, according to Box Office Mojo. ‘Gone With the Wind,’ from 1939, remains the all-time box-office champion with more than $1.7 billion domestically in today’s dollars. The original 1977 ‘Star Wars’ ranks in second place with around $1.5 billion, including re-releases.” (The Los Angeles Times) So far, the original flick tops the new one.
- Placeholder editor in Vegas
Glenn Cook, an editorial writer, will serve as interim newsroom chief at the ethically challenged Las Vegas Review-Journal. The search is on since the last guy had a buyout jammed down his throat. They perhaps could use somebody from the Army Corps of Engineers to clean up the mess. The story so far: The family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson tried to conceal its purchase of the newspaper. Before that, the paper’s corporate bosses assigned reporters to check out the courtrooms of three judges, including one who openly derided Adelson in a casino-related case. On Nov. 30, a story about the judges carrying a bogus byline appeared in two dinky Connecticut papers owned by Michael Schroeder, the man who was initially tasked to manage the Review-Journal in the wake of Adelson’s purchase. In mid-December, the Vegas paper disclosed the identity of its new owner. Before the month was out, the editor was informed he was taking a buyout by a corporate attorney. (USA TODAY)
The paper’s corporate overseer then beckoned the editor of their Providence, Rhode Island paper to lay down the law to (I mean “advise”) the staff of the Vegas paper. Now they’ve instituted new disclosure rules, which include the publisher reviewing all articles on Adelson. (USA TODAY) A prominent story in the paper last night heralded, “Las Vegas police once again responding to non-injury crashes.” Presumably that means they’ll be in the newsroom any moment now.
- “Dumbest TV executive of the year”
Chicago media writer Rob Feder is going out on a limb by already declaring “the dumbest TV executive of the year.” This does seem premature given the intense weekly competition in the category. But he cites Dan Salamone, an executive producer at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, for telling the women reporters on the morning “Good Day Chicago” to not wear hats during their outdoor live shots this winter. The directive, not given any men, “said the women would ‘look a lot better without hats’ and should go without them from now on.” But to presumably underscore that he’s no sexist meanie, he magnanimously expressed willingness to make an exception “if it’s 20 below.” (Feder) That seems like a solid idea, especially if the company health plan doesn’t cover extreme hypothermia induced on the shores of Lake Michigan.
- What’s up in North Korea?
The New Yorker had a smart and timely piece that was posted yesterday on “The Korean Crisis: Kim’s Dangerous Game” by Evan Osnos. “Because we do not generally associate the Russian political class with understatement, it was easy to miss Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov’s observation, this week, that things in North Korea could potentially ‘descend into the spiral of a vicious cycle.’ If the Russians—who have vastly more knowledge of the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, than we do—are concerned that things are about to get worse, we should brace for a long spring.” Oh, wait a moment. The piece was actually written nearly three years ago, having originally run on March 29, 2013. They put it up, smartly, since the more some things change, the more they remain the same. (The New Yorker) It’s a reminder of what a lousy job newspaper and magazines do in not making use of their own archives.
- The Hall of Fame non-voters
Nearly 450 members of the baseball writers association elected Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza to the Hall of Fame. A pre-announcement story in the Baltimore Sun on a former Baltimore Oriole who was in the running noted this in passing: “The Baltimore Sun’s policy prohibits its reporters from voting for the Hall of Fame, as well as the annual BBWAA awards, because of potential conflicts of interest.” They’re not alone. The New York Times and some others preclude their beat writers from voting and making news. But they remain in a minority, even if on the right side of an interesting ethical issue.
- Tapper offers some facts
I stumbled into Jake Tapper on CNN twice the last two days as he actually injected facts into the usual cable TV harrumphing. He surfaced as a pundit after President Obama’s passionate Tuesday speech on guns, following a screechy debate in which a shill for the White House blamed everything on “the gun lobby” and congressional Republicans. Tapper, however, noted that Obama didn’t push gun control his first two years due to urgings of then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, adamant about negative political ramifications for a Democratic Party that had just gained the House majority. Yesterday, on his own show, he listened to a rant on alleged Obama spinelessness in dealing with North Korea from blowhard U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican. Tapper then noted that President George W. Bush’s tough-ass attitude toward North Korea backfired, while the diplomatic entreaties of President Bill Clinton also got nowhere. Johnson was undeterred. He blathered on about the need for Obama to mete out “sanctions” against individual top officials in North Korea. Great idea. Imprison them in a treehouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, feed them bratwurst three times a day and force them to watch an endless loop of Johnson discussing foreign affairs.
- Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Anya Grundmann is now vice president of programming and audience development at NPR. Previously, she held that role on an interim basis. (NPR) | Glenn Cook is now interim editor at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Previously, he was senior editorial writer there. (Las Vegas Review-Journal) | Tamar Charney is now local editorial lead for NPR One. Previously, she was program director of Michigan Radio. (Email) | Job of the day: The Chicago Tribune is seeking a public transportation writer. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: firstname.lastname@example.org.