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Sally Jenkins, a terrific Washington Post sports columnist, writes facetiously, “I would tell you what happened on the opening day of the Olympics, but as a woman, I’m not really into results; I’m more about the journey. I would give you the latest on French vaulter Samir Ait Said’s horrifically broken leg, or tell you about the craziest bike race finish you’ve ever seen, but those aren’t things a woman particularly wants to know, according to NBC executives. So you can blame me for hijacking your viewing experience.”
She’s miffed by the longtime NBC analysis that by and large women don’t really watch the Olympics for the actual results. Instead, they watch for “the journey,” as its chief marketing officer puts it. They’re not really sports fans, he holds, and, “it’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.” (The Washington Post)
With that in mind, I hit my clicker often Sunday because I’m a sports maniac and had to show a modicum of responsibility in overseeing a 7-year-old and his two cousins. Whether it was NBC, its sports website, CNBC, USA, NBC’s new cable sports channel or Bravo, there was a crazy amount of Olympics. And there were lots of human-interest features, including a neat one on a former Brazilian basketball player who may be the greatest baller you’ve never heard of, and a solid one on the stunning fall of the long-impregnable Romanian women’s gymnastics team.
Wherever I turned, there were women athletes. Playing beach volleyball and cycling. There was Chinese Taipei against South Korea in archery. Then South Korea against Russia for the archery gold medal. Then I switched to CNBC and got highlights of the women’s basketball team annihilating poor Senegal, 121-56. Over at MSNBC there were simultaneous promotions for upcoming women’s gymnastics, women’s diving and Katie Ledecky in swimming.
Yes, NBC can be faulted for many things. But that same revenue from all those Budweiser, G.E. and other ads also pays for coverage that’s a window onto the historically stunning ascent of women’s sports in the U.S., in no small measure due to Title IX’s passage in 1972. Can you imagine that some folks are complaining about too much content? (Recode)
But you want something soft and gauzy? Rather than showing us the happy Ledecky family in the stands, interview Cate and Bronte Campbell, two gold medal Australian sisters who trounced the Americans in the freestyle relay. They come from a family of five siblings, including a 17-year-old younger brother with cerebral palsy and the development of a three-year-old. It’s put their own rivalry into perspective. (The New Daily)
An “up close and personal” tale on them might just please both Jenkins and those non-sports loving viewers NBC is targeting.
Gawker-Hogan settlement talks
“Gawker Media Group is engaged in preliminary talks with the former professional wrestler known as Hulk Hogan to reach a settlement over a $140 million invasion-of-privacy judgment that forced the digital media company into bankruptcy, according to two people familiar with the matter.” (The Wall Street Journal)
It might not be a coincidence that a court-run auction of Gawker is a week away. But there had been similar discussions earlier between the Hogan and Gawker camps “and it was unclear if the new talks would lead to a settlement.”
John Oliver holds forth on local news
John Oliver took on the state of journalism last night on his HBO show — and it doesn’t get much more cutting and insightful. His was a 19-minute homage to local newspaper journalism, detailing the well-known threats to its existence while pillorying the search for clickbait and pageviews. Newhouse-owned Advance Publications, Tribune Publishing (now Tronc), Jeff Bezos and Sheldon Adelson were among those mocked in a droll screed that concluded with prominent actors and comics (Rose Byrne, Jason Sudeikis, among them) doing a spoof of the Oscar-winning “Spotlight” in which the notion of serious investigative work is shunted aside for a piece on a cat that looks like a raccoon. (YouTube)
Ultimately, his was a splendid call for paid content. Despite huge cutbacks, including in statehouse bureaus, the comic said that “many are producing great local work” and papers remain a daily tipsheet for television networks, who might be at sea without papers to crib from. He cited how he relied on work from The Oregonian on lotteries for a piece of his. “But a big part of the blame for this industry’s dire straits are on us,” namely viewers and other citizens, he said, because of an addiction to free news. “I am talking to you, watching this on YouTube, using the Wi-Fi from the coffee shop underneath your apartment.”
It doesn’t get any better
“Six minutes and one second. That was all it took for the 66 years of Khizr Khan’s life to become an American moment. It was not something that he could have anticipated. For years, he and his wife, Ghazala, had lived a rather quiet existence of common obscurity in Charlottesville, Va.” That was the understated opening to a beautifully crafted and constructed tale, which could be taught in journalism schools as a great piece of feature writing. (The New York Times)
From Rio to Hartford
NBC, a big golf network, broke into Olympics coverage Sunday morning for a quick report on Jim Furyk, a famous pro golfer, shooting a stunning 58 in a PGA tournament, the first-time ever. As for what sports you want to push your kids into, his age (46) and Alex Rodriguez’ (41), might serve as an unintentional a reminder of how you can play golf a whole lot longer at a high level than baseball, basketball and soccer, among others (the MLB slugger announced his retirement Sunday).
And speaking on the Golf Channel later, Furyk revealed this: after playing lousy the day before, his caddy sent photos of his swing to Furyk’s dad, his longtime coach, who offered advice. Bingo, a 46-year-old then shot the lowest round ever. Better than Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, you name it.
Classy reporter, difficult days
“ESPN’s Chris Mortensen made an inspirational appearance onstage during the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday night to collect the Dick McCann Award seven months after entering into treatment for Stage 4 throat cancer. Applause greeted Mortensen, 64, as the Hall of Fame recognized him for making a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage.” (ESPN)
Pleading to get his award
From Gaza City there’s word that Palestinian photojournalist Ashraf Abu Amra from the city of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip “has appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate for assistance to travel to Moscow from the blockaded coastal enclave to accept an award.” He won second place in a category of the the Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest, with 7,000 young photojournalists from 71 countries in the competition. He was a winner, too, last year “but unable to travel outside of the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing Israeli blockade of the territory.” (Ma’an News Agency)
Stuff to chew on from Cheddar
Cheddar, the nifty sort-of CNBC for millennials, beckoned Family Fun Magazine editor Elizabeth Shaw for tips on vacation treks for millennials with kids. She suggests Glacier National Park in Montana and Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. As for any differences between those kids and those of previous generations, she makes the claims they’re not up for adventure, water sports and traveling internationally. (Cheddar)
In another segment, Polygon games expert Allegra Frank suggested the Pokemon Go hype will continue for a while, especially since it’s just been launched in South America, but will need to “add new content soon.” But the biggie coming down the pike is “No Man’s Sky,” an action-adventure survival game in the works since 2013. It could be huge, Frank says, and will allow you to “travel to 18 quintillion planets” (that’s 18 zeros in that number). (Cheddar)
Hillary to journalists: Some of my best friends are Black!
Clinton spoke to the combined NABJ/NAHJ convention and then, in what’s unusual for her, took a series of questions from multiple reporters. It was thus the sort of quasi-press conference she avoids and was the subject of lengthy bashing by the “Fox & Friends” crew this morning. The Friday session included Kevin Merida, who runs ESPN’s new “The Undefeated,” asked her to cite the most meaningful conversation she’s had with an African-American. Her response was painful:
“(I can) tell you that I am blessed to have many — a crew of great friends. And I’ve had two chiefs of staff who were my African-American women friends, Maggie Williams and Cheryl Mills. I have been blessed to have people by my side in politics, like Minyon Moore who is one of the leaders of my campaign. I’ve had a great group of young people who I have been really motivated by and frankly learned from.
So I really have had a lifetime of friendship, going back to my college years when one of my best friends was an African-American student. So I can’t compress into one conversation — they’ve supported me. They’ve chastised me. They’ve raised issues with me. They’ve tried to expand my musical tastes. So we’ve had a lot of great times because of our friendships, so I can’t really pick one conversation out of 50 years of conversations.”
It sounded quite like the some-of-my-best-friends-are-Black response you might get at an all white-male country club. (Poynter) Merida took the high road when I asked him Sunday, saying he’ll let her response speak for itself.
A knockout, tragic tale
A weekly internal New York Times memo about digital innovation last week cited a piece in STAT, the new site on the life sciences backed by John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, Boston Globe and the Liverpool soccer club. (Poynter) It’s a look at two best friends in Toledo, Ohio who had met in kindergarten, and both wound up addicted to heroin, with one dying, one luckily not, as a result of their reliance fentanyl, the synthetic that’s said to be way, way more potent than morphine. (STAT)
Rick Berke, the former New York Times reporter-turned-editor and later a Politico editor, runs STAT and tells me that the very long opus has the longest engagement rate of anything they’ve published (a seven-minute average) and is apparently drawing people with a bunch of short video clips. It’s a fine piece of work by David Armstrong and Matthew Orr, capturing the hours before the death of one friend and the mere serendipity of the other, who’s now in jail but at least alive.
Cable news fact-checking
Maybe the Murdoch boys will suggest that Fox News follow the recent impulse of CNN and MSNBC to run fact-checks (apparently mostly on Trump so far) across the bottom of the screen. “I’ve never understood why the networks haven’t done that for all candidates,” says Jeff Seglin, a Harvard Kennedy School policy and ethics expert (who I tracked down on a boat on the Seine). “If they want to maintain a semblance of doing journalism or providing news than it would seem wise to have a fact-check component to go with candidate interviews or any talking heads. …If the news organizations want to gain some credibility then adding a factcheck component across the board seems wise. Imagine how great it would be for Fox News or CNN or others to add a real-time Politifact to their broadcasts.”
Hand-wringing within journalism on the right way to cover Trump saw its latest iteration this weekend. (The New York Times) Well, one might start by previously suggested counsel simply on how to interview the guy. (Poynter)