Dr. Abraham Froman: Farewell Mustachiopithicus

As the dull roar of sadness about the passing of the late, great Walter Cronkite wanes, the administration and faculty of American Mustache Institute wish to provide a perspective about our late hero, and sometime colleague (read a film review he conducted with John Waters for AMI), through which many outside the Mustached American community never saw him.

Most of Mr. Cronkite's tale is a familiar yarn to the American public. He was a true journalist in every sense of the word, best known as anchorman for the "CBS Evening News" for 19 years between 1962-81. During the heyday of CBS News in the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited in viewer opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America" because of his professional experience and kindly demeanor, and of course, his mustache.

He reported on a wide range of events that set the tone for American culture from 1937-1981 - the bombing in World War II, the Nuremberg trials, the Vietnam War, the death of JFK, Watergate, the Iran Hostage Crisis, and landmark moments in the U.S. space program.

But Mr. Cronkite -- a man whom I grew to admire through our friendship and shared passion for the labia sebucula (Latin for "lip sweater) -- was also a proud man of Mustached American descent. And because of his presence on the CBS News set in the 1960s, most male and female anchors across America wore mustaches throughout the 1970s.

He was the first, and sadly one of the last, of a rare species known as "Mustachiopithicus" or "Cronkite Man." Mustachiopithicus was a breed of humans who walked the earth, holding down the integral role of telling Americans about the news and not, as it is today, making news in the most craven manner. But clearly, like the dinosaurs or moderate politicians -- Mustchiopithicus was not a breed fit for long-term survival.

The dark times -- times that many in America have failed to report upon -- in essence curtailed what was a thriving breed.

You see, as Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency of the United States, on February 10, 1981, one of his first legislative actions was to re-institute the Federal Mustache Tax Amendment (FMTA), a little known rider to the 1965 National Voting Rights Act that taxed Mustached Americans which you can read about in detail on the American Mustache Institute's history page.

The Reagan version of FMTA, however, had even nastier, more discriminatory fangs then that of it's predecessor which was killed by former President Gerald Ford.

The new FMTA would include a "don't ask don't tell" rider that was adopted by all U.S. military personnel, causing thousands of military women and men to spend more time covering their mustaches than defending freedom. It also added a corporate tariff on mustaches, having an immediate affect on companies across the U.S., as the mustached corporate executive disappeared from the landscape while their pandering sycophants followed their CEOs' lead.

And as the FMTA came back into law, there was no coincidence about the timing of Mr. Cronkite's retirement.

Walt, as his friends called him, left our airwaves for good on March 6, 1981 - mere days after Reagan brought the hateful, discriminatory FMTA back to life -- ultimately being replaced by the clean-shaven Dan Rather.

His retirement caused a chain reaction among mustached anchormen, who began mysteriously dying or simply disappearing from the television landscape without its species anchor -- Cronkite -- or Mustachiopithicus.

What remained were the likes of famed mustached newsman Geraldo Rivera, Pat O'Brien, who at the time was with CBS in its sports division, and John Stossel, now an ABC reporter. These were just three of the few mustached newsmen who survived the near extinction of the mustached broadcaster.

So as Mr. Cronkite leaves this earth at the age of 92, having lived an eventful and impactful life, we say farewell to a hero, a colleague, and a dear friend.

Godspeed Mustachiopithicus.

Carry on.

Daisy Whitney: Bravo Lands Sponsors for Web, Bets on Brand Integration and Pre-rolls

HOLLYWOOD--With a pedigree in non-fiction and reality shows, Bravo is looking to mimic it's on-air advertising strategy on the Web by incorporating sponsors into shows, the network's new media chief Lisa Hsia told Beet.TV at the NATPE LA TV Fest in earlier this month.

"There have always been regular commercials and brand integration [on-air]," said Hsia, senior VP of Bravo Digital Media. "Now, we are applying that to the digital world so revenues come from pre-roll and banner but also from product integration in a visual sense and an editorial sense."

In addition to crafting the online presence for Bravo's TV shows, Hsia's group is tasked with creating made-for-mobile and made-for-Web shows too. Current Web site sponsors include Target and Blackberry, which runs pre-roll ads and is integrated into the Web content for the network's show "NYC Prep."

The network has also landed Maybelline and Toyota as sponsors for mobile shows. Hsia has said that Bravo doubled the number of consumers visiting its mobile Web site from 2007 to 2008 and mobile Web use is now doubling month to month.

"Now from the conception of the show, the digital people are in the development meetings," Hsia said. "When you think about creating shows for Bravo, it's creating the show...and the digital pieces of the creative content."

Also, at the NATPE LA TV Fest, Ms. Hsia remarked that Bravo recently commissioned a 14-episode mobile series for $2500, a mere pittance for a network to pay, and for a producer to receive.

Daisy Whitney, Senior Producer

Reese Schonfeld: Five Things You Didn’t Hear About Walter Cronkite

Two stories before Cronkite was Cronkite:

Sometime before the US entered WWII, Helen Silver (the mother of the notorious Joel Silver) worked on the night desk at The New York Times. Part of her job was to assign a stringer in Kansas if a story broke there. Cronkite's name was on the list, but he was either third or fourth. Helen was to call him only if the guys above him were busy.

My first boss at United Press was Bill Higginbotham, who during World War II ran the London desk. UP had dozens of reporters with US troops and copy was coming in from everywhere. It was a killer job. Cronkite was sending his copy in, and according to Bill, Cronkite sent in the cleanest copy of any of his reporters. In the days when our company, UPI/Movietone, was in deep trouble, and Walter was riding high at CBS, Walter always took the phone for a call from Bill.

Three stories that didn't make the cut yesterday:

Don Hewitt, whose face was all over the networks, was neither a Cronkite favorite nor a Cronkite expert. A few years after Cronkite began anchoring the CBS Evening News, he replaced Hewitt with Ernie Leiser as Executive Producer of the program. Les Midgley later assumed the same duty at the same time, but in a different week. Working everyday for Walter was a very tough job, Both Leiser and Midgley were great newsmen, great writers, who, like Walter, had reported on WWII from Europe. He treated them as peers, something rarely accorded to "television guys."

I deeply regretted not seeing Sandy Socolow and Bill Small on any of the CBS programs. They knew Walter, the newsman, as well as better than anyone on the CBS air. Socolow succeeded the Leiser/Midgely team and worked with Walter for years after his retirement from CBS. Small was head of the Washington bureau during Cronkite's tenure, and he helped put together the best team of Washington reporters any network has every had. If they hadn't measured up, they'd never have seen the air on Walter's show. Bill and Sandy were certainly more relevant to Walter than Robin Williams and George Clooney. In 2009, celebrity is everything. In 1979, when Three Mile Island almost blew up, Socolow wanted Walter to refer to "The China Syndrome." And despite the coincidence in plot and timing, and the presence of Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, Cronkite shouted at Socolow, "'I'm not in the goddamn business of selling movie tickets.'"

In full disclosure, my wife, Pat O'Gorman, edited four documentaries at CBS for Ernie Leiser, one of them the twenty-four hour "Bicentennial" on July 4, 1976. Cronkite was the lead anchor on the program, and would be voicing over several of the pieces Pat had edited. Walter sent John Lane into the editing room to review the stories. He identified himself as "Walter's caddy." He told Pat that everything in the piece had to be worthy of Walter's time, that is to say, very well put together, and exactly correct. If it isn't, Lane said, I won't be carrying Walter's bag anymore.

Campbell Brown: CNN Is The Only Cable News Network “Doing Journalism” (VIDEO)

In a recent interview for Julie Menin's "Give and Take," CNN's Campbell Brown spoke about the current state and future of TV journalism.

Brown said that her network is the only one on cable "doing journalism."

"Fox has made a choice to go in one direction, MSNBC has made a choice to go in the other direction," she said.

Brown's show, on the other hand, has prided itself on being free of any noticeable ideological bent, and for a time went by the name "No Bias, No Bull."

"It is frustrating that there isn't real competition in journalism," she said. "You are, in all likelihood, going to get a bigger rating when you do opinion rather than straight news because you have a bigger audience. There are a lot of people who want to be in an echo chamber and want their views validated."

Brown's program has struggled in the ratings against three powerhouse 8PM programs: Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor," HLN's "Nancy Grace," and MSNBC's "Countdown."

Brown, who often called the media out for sexism during the 2008 presidential campaign, also touched on the differences in the ways men and women are perceived in the media:

"Are we judged in different ways, and are there different standards oftentimes for women, in television news especially? Yes, absolutely. I think that's often the case... Looks and appearance always for women becomes an issue in a way in a way it never does for men...There's no question that men are allowed to age much more so in television than women are. I mean, we have a shorter shelf life."

Watch highlights from the interview:


Chez Pazienza: The Way It Was (and Never Will Be Again)

I've spent the past couple of days "collating" -- as Ash from Alien might say -- my thoughts on the unfortunate death of Walter Cronkite. It would be easy to go into detail about the man himself: his dignity and dedication, his irreproachable level of professionalism, his enduring legacy in honest journalism. But for some reason, in spite of all that can be said about Cronkite's vast contributions to television news and news in general, I can't seem to get past the unintentionally amusing irony of what the coverage of his death says about the importance of the man and how it defines in clear-cut terms exactly what was lost -- and what will likely never be regained.

Put simply, to watch the often pompous lightweights who now dominate television news -- from the vacant Kens and Barbies to the self-satisfied assholes whose commentary has turned TV journalism into one big echo chamber -- react as if the passing of Cronkite is some sort of personal distress is more than a little laughable. The fact that Cronkite's nominal on-air progeny have not only a mere fraction of the talent that he did but possess almost none of his ethical backbone and commitment to journalistic excellence -- and yet are still more than happy to make a big show of genuflecting at his feet -- highlights in no uncertain terms just how much the news industry as a whole has changed since the days when people like Cronkite ruled the airwaves. Many of the TV newspeople of today are, for the most part, not so much in a league far beneath Cronkite's as they are not even in the same business. To hear the talking heads of today lament the passing of a man who helped define television news, you'd think they were actually doing the same thing he did all those years ago. In fact, they probably believe that they are; there's no doubt they think that by sitting in front of a camera and reading the news, they're the automatic inheritors of Cronkite's mantle. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. While there are still excellent journalists out there, excellence is no longer a prerequisite to climbing to the top of the TV news game -- particularly on-air. Unfortunately, almost any barely-educated idiot can do it.

Add to that the fact that the industry itself has changed so drastically -- abandoning so much of what guys like Walter Cronkite stood for and against -- that even the best work can be overshadowed by a business model that seeks profit above all, even, occasionally, the truth. And that's what it really comes down to: Cronkite stood for the truth. For telling Americans what they may not have wanted to hear but certainly needed to. He put the story above himself and his own personal gain. He was passionate about his responsibilities and didn't ask to come into your living room each night because he liked seeing himself on TV; he did it because he knew that the news he brought you mattered -- that a well-informed public was a strong public.

Contrast that with the modern mega-media ethos, in which important news stories can easily be tossed aside in favor of trivial fluff designed to keep you hypnotically glued to your TV, keep you asking your doctor about Cialis, keep the money rolling in for the stockholders, and keep your brain happily sedated and getting smaller by the minute. The job of journalism now is, to paraphrase the great H.L. Mencken, to discern what the people want and give it to them good and hard.

The death of Walter Cronkite truly is the end of an era. One that's never coming back -- and one which this country should mourn with everything inside it.