A Month of Mediaite: Looks Like We Made It!*

baby mediaiteMediaite was born at around 2 a.m. on Sunday, July 6th. Then the server crashed. Welcome to the fun-filled world of a start-up! For the past four weeks, we’ve taken to comparing the site to a baby: Don’t leave it alone, don’t expect much sleep, you never know what it’ll burp up. (Wordpress! How you bedevil us!). Though it’s certainly forced us to stretch in ways we weren’t expecting, we’ve enjoyed the past month — enough to look forward to sticking around for a while (sorry, Brain Trust).

It’s not just because we want to see who finagles their way to the top of the Power Grid (Meacham, watch your back, Stengel’s comin’ for you!) – could it be that we actually….like this? Alas, early a.m. emails and chocolate/candy consumption aside, we do – it’s hard not to when we’re publishing gems from Ruthie Frieds to KatieBakes, to Bill Rappleye (there may be a few decades between them) — with a few Panel Nerds thrown in for good measure.  It’s hard not to when “work” involves something like Office Hours (two words: JEWISH SINGING). It’s hard not to with Dan Abrams standing over our desks every day telling us what to write. Kidding! That was just to see if you were paying attention.

Speaking of attention, thank you, dear readers, for yours — after one month, we’re pleased to have clocked 1.2 million pageviews, with pickup from Perez Hilton to Paul Krugman, Howard Stern to the White House, Martha to MuggleNet. (Is it bad that I was most excited about MuggleNet?) And also, sports people and sports stuff! See, we weren’t just in it for the fish!

No, we’re in it for love —and money, of course. It’s never been a better time for media! But actually, we’re sorta in this for the love. After a month, we’ve actually had a pretty hilarious time. Our team is small but busy and excited to keep on trying new things, and our contributors are perceptive and entertaining. And, not to brag, but we really do have the best freaking interns in the business. Words cannot express, but their Twitter feed is a good start. You should come visit our office, you’ll see. We have candy. And a hula-hoop. It’s like Talk magazine circa 1999! Hm, perhaps not the best metaphor. Let’s just take that asterisk from the headline and put it here.* But hey, it gives us at least another month. So please stick with us until then!

In the meantime, please enjoy this photo gallery – “A Month of Mediaite” – featuring a selection of images from our launch and first month of existence. Thanks again for your feedback, constructive criticism and support.

Related:

Mediaite Columnists
5QQ – Five Quick Questions
Office Hours
Mediaite Jobs Board!
Photogallery: A Month of Mediaite

Photo of Little Baby Mediaite via weblogs.wpix.com. If your baby is cuter, send us a pic at tips@mediaite.com.

The Great (Late!) Brown Hope

daniellePeople will listen to a black person sing (Beyonce), watch a black person dunk a ball (LeBron), a black person act (Will Smith) and a black person be president (the O-Man), but when it comes to your average, shouty, loud, political gabfest, TV Land is often as white as pure Colombian Cocaine. Not surprising considering things only recently got all “gendered” up with additions like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, CNN’s Campbell Brown and FOX News’ Greta Van Sustern (the original!). Heaven’s to Besty, it would be too much to ask for post-racial America to give some minority a shot at screaming at people for an hour.

Not that a network or two hasn’t tried. CNN gave Roland Martin a shot during Brown’s pregnancy break, but that went unmercifully bad. Ratings continued to be low (and still are low with Brown back), and Martin was politely push back down to second fiddle pundit status. CNN also gave comedian D.L. Hughley a show.

I’m still trying to bleach that one from my mind.

The problem seems to be that the networks (or in this case — network, re: CNN) seem to be stuck either playing it safe or swinging for the fences an never any in-between. Everyone else, even the so-called “Liberal” network MSNBC seem anemic to the notion of minority show hosts. The closest they often come is using former MTV/NPR reporter Alison Stewart as a seat-filler for Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow when they go on vacation.

Since no one asked me, I’m just going to tell the networks who the top six minorities are who would make “good TV” and can shout just as loud as the competition. Get out your pens and pencils and get your lawyers to start mulling over their contracts … now.


#1. Don Lemon: I don’t know what happened here, but when CNN loosened up their muzzles on their regular anchors, the one who shined the most was Don Lemon. He’s proven to be charming, unflappable, personal and endearing and … gasp … still a journalist the whole time. During the entire Michael Jackson death coverage he managed to get out the story while defending why he was reporting so heavily on the death of the pop icon to begin with. He’s the best of both worlds. When he adds a little color (no pun intended) to the newscast he usually enhances the story more than he detracts from it and when he’s grilling a guest he keeps them from hijacking his program. I want to see more of Don off-the-leash, not less. He’s not mawkish or corny, like Rick Sanchez or sanctimonious and distant like Campbell Brown. Lemon has the potential to be the people’s newsman while still maintaining his charm and boyish good looks.

#2. Ann Curry: I don’t know why Ann Curry isn’t bigger than she is. Maybe it’s just because I’m madly in love with her intensity as a journalist, yet her ability to still be funny and creative. Maybe I’m just so pro-Ann I can’t see what others could possibly be “anti-Ann” about. But she seems a waste in small doses when she can do everything Meredith Vieira does on the Today Show, only better, with more aplomb, a stronger voice and more tenacious newsgathering skills. She will report from hell and back, go to Africa with Angelina Jolie and still smile through whatever ridiculous bit she has to suffer through, from fashion week frivilosities to random weird food samples. But whenever I hear Ann Curry’s voice I just want more, not less, no matter what she’s doing.


#3. Aisha Tyler: When CNN tried their bit of comedic casting I didn’t think the comedy part was wrong, per se, I just thought they got the wrong comedian. Why settle for a hamburger when you could have had steak? Aisha Tyler is a Darmouth-educated, poised, gorgeous and hilarious woman of many talents who is adept at all sorts of social commentary (that was obvious early on in the short-lived Talk Soup). Every day that passes where this woman doesn’t have a platform to highlight her diverse gifts is a crime against smart comedy.

#4. Tamron Hall:

Did you notice that there are a lot of women on this list? Largely it’s because they deserve better than they’re getting. While Tamron Hall gets cool points from online horndogs for being drop-dead gorgeous, she’s in my win column for her work as a news pugilist. She’s got all the jabs and the hooks to keep an interview interesting. She’s tenacious, to the
point and aggressive without coming off like a know-it-all douche. Plus she makes anyone and everyone look good. Ask Donny Deustch and David Schuster. Give her and Don Lemon a show and I’ll die of a newsgasm.

#5. Lisa Ling:

The woman went to Mexico to hang out with gangbangers and drug cartels. I think she can handle a 10 p.m. time slot.

#6. Soledad O’Brien

I often joke that CNN keeps O’Brien in a closet with Roland Martin and only let them out with some minority news breaks out, which is a shame. While I had some issues with O’Brien and her Black In America series, I still stand by the belief that this is a woman who could helm her own show masterfully. Heck, she could helm a network news broadcast masterfully. Much like Ann Curry, O’Brien is a charming, multi-talented newshound who can go from fluff to serious stuff with little fuss. Alas, CNN has been clueless as to what to do with her.

***Others who deserve a better bite of the apple than they’re getting include MSNBC’s Carlos Watson, scholar Marc Lamont Hill and BET’s Jeff Johnson.

Danielle Belton has been writing the popular “The Black Snob” blog since August 2007. She has contributed to the American Prospect, NPR, the Huffington Post and has been featured on Nightline. This column originally appeared on The Black Snob here. Learn more about Danielle here.

White House, Big Pharma, We Have a Problem

In June, I wrote a story that raised big questions about the value of the government’s $80 billion deal with Big Pharma, and wondered if the deal came with the trade-off of killing legislation that would enable the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices. Such a trade-off would be indefensible.

That week, I took extraordinary steps to determine if this was the case. I spoke personally with a White House Deputy Press Secretary twice, followed by multiple emails. I also spoke, personally, to the press official for the Senate Finance Committee, followed by multiple emails. There was no doubt as to what I was asking. I never got a response from either of them.

That Thursday, I asked Gibbs about it at a daily briefing:


Q Thank you, Robert. I have two quick ones on health care. The first one, in the speeches about the $80 billion deal with the pharmaceutical companies, I haven’t heard anything a bout negotiating price — Medicare negotiating price with the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to know if that was one of the tradeoffs for getting this $80 billion was that we’re not going to pursue that now.

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, again, the structure of part of that agreement was to use a portion of that $80 billion to pay up to — for the pharmaceutical industry to pay up to 50 percent of the cost for a name brand drug for a senior that falls between the point at which Medicare Part D stops providing help, and when catastrophic coverage — I think it is $6,500, a little bit more than $6,500 — level kicks in. So filling in that — what’s commonly known as — ironically, in health care — the doughnut hole, about — that up to 50 percent of the name brand — the price for that name brand drug would be paid for, and I think that provides a hefty discount that will bear appreciable benefits for seniors all over the country.

Q Has there been an agreement not to pursue a Medicare –

MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the answer.

Q I’m talking about S. 330.

MR. GIBBS: What was that?

Q Senate bill 330?

MR. GIBBS: You’re 330 bills ahead of me on that. (Laughter.) I will check on it.

Of course, now, the New York Times reports that the White House confirms that the deal did include an agreement to kill price negotiation laws:

In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul. The Obama administration had never spelled out the details of the agreement….A deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, confirmed Mr. Tauzin’s account of the deal in an e-mail message on Wednesday night.

“The president encouraged this approach,” Mr. Messina wrote. “He wanted to bring all the parties to the table to discuss health insurance reform.”

This is deeply disturbing on many levels. If Gibbs didn’t know about this provision after the deal was made, then it stands to reason that the President didn’t know, either. With the Senate Finance Committe stonewalling me about it, one could conclude that they kept the President in the dark about it until it was already a fait accompli.

The other possibility is that Robert Gibbs was left in the dark, a frightening prospect for a White House reporter, and for any American.

Beneath it all is the fact that the government dealt away our right to negotiate lower drug prices (just like any other large customer), and they did it for peanuts. This is a disgrace.

I emailed Gibbs and his deputy for an explanation, and am awaiting a reply.

UPDATE: Jake Tapper asked Gibbs about the discrepancy at today’s White House Press Briefing.

TAPPER: Can I just ask a quick follow up? In June you were asked about the deal and whether or not the deal with PhRMA implied that the White House signed off on no other legislation, such as allowing Medicare to renegotiate with PhRMA. And you said you didn’t know the answer to that. Was it because you personally didn’t know or because the Senate Finance Committee hadn’t informed the White House of that aspect of the deal?

GIBBS: You’re asking me to recall why I didn’t remember something in June. I — I — that I don’t know the answer to. Obviously, the agreement that we have is — is in the confines of health insurance reform that’s being worked on right now.

Related:
Big Pharma Offers President Obama Crumbs to Preserve Their Cake [Daily Dose]

Best in Show: Why Game Shows Are TV Gold

ny1-patonset-2007-cropped-2Regis Philbin’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire returns to ABC primetime on Sunday. Earlier this week, CBS revealed Let’s Make a Deal is coming back to TV in the fall with Wayne Brady as host. I’m hopeful both shows deliver solid ratings.

Somewhere in the rush to fill dozens of hours a week with reality-competition shows we’ve left behind the traditional studio game show.

I became a game show fan long before I hosted Studio 7 and World Series of Pop Culture. My mom and her parents watched just about every game show on TV when I was growing up. So I watched them too.

We had opinions about all of them. It took us years to get over Chuck Woolery’s removal from Wheel of Fortune. We loved watching Tom Kennedy get genuinely excited to give away the big prizes on Name that Tune. Our fellow Canadian Alex Trebek at the helm of Jeopardy when it returned in 1984 made it all the more sweet.

Ratings prove there’s a big audience when networks program a good game show. Millionaire’s 1990s primetime run proved how big the numbers could get. After decades on the air, Wheel of Fortune is still appointment viewing. It did a 5.6 national rating in July. Jeopardy wasn’t far behind with a 4.9 rating. (Those numbers are bigger than the ratings for Judge Judy and Oprah. Oprah.)

But of course, not all game shows are created equal. Some of the genre’s newest assume that audiences want more show than game. I’m not convinced. Deal or No Deal can be great TV. But the play-at-home value of the show starts to wear thin because there really is no game to play.  What I prize is a real test of skill and logic.

Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are classics for a reason. They attract generations of fans because they are smart entertainment. Excitement, big prizes, lively hosts, clever graphics and scantily clad models are part of the package. But the core attraction of a game show is the game.

The stakes are high for Let’s Make a Deal. It isn’t my favorite format, but I’m all for it if Wayne Brady’s sharp wit can help to prove to that there’s room for classic studio game shows to make a comeback. To make sure it’s faithful to the original, 87-year-old creator Monty Hall (another Canadian!) will act as a consultant and may appear on the new version to give his blessing to Brady. CBS has the right instinct with Deal — it’s fun, affordable programming. The network also has revivals of Pyramid and the Dating Game in the pipeline. (Disclosure: I’m a big fan of Dick Clark’s work on Pyramid and auditioned for the revival, but wasn’t selected for the June pilot.)

In the 60s, 70s and 80s the big three networks all had a daytime game show block. Only The Price is Right survived. I’m hoping good ratings for primetime Millionaire and Let’s Make a Deal will remind network programmers, as well as the rest of us, that a straightforward game show has timeless appeal. The oldies are still the goodies.

TV newsman Pat Kiernan picks his favorite stories from the morning papers each weekday on NY1 News and PatsPapers.com. He’s known to VH1 fans as the host of World Series of Pop Culture. Twitter: @patkiernan

Related In Classic TV Game Show Moments: Cliff Clavin on Jeopardy on Cheers …



Put Meghan McCain on the Bench! (The American Idol Bench)

US-ELECTIONS-MCCAIN-CAMPAIGNWith the appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court a near-fait accompli, America turns its attention, today, to another important vacancy: The spot on the American Idol bench that Paula Abdul abdicated earlier this week via Twitter.

The New York Daily News ran a list of possible replacements yesterday. Some were serious (Judge Judy – a natural match for Simon Cowell), some were not (Lou Dobbs – doesn’t believe Aiken v Studdard is settled law), but the most intriguing name on the list, for me, was Meghan McCain.

She would be a natural for the show, combining Paula’s beauty and unpredictability with Simon Cowell’s take-no-prisoners honesty.

I emailed Meghan to get her thoughts, and here’s what she had to say about it:

Tommy Christopher: Is being an Idol judge something that would appeal to you? How do you think you’d stack up next to Paula Abdul?

Meghan McCain: I think that article is a joke!

TC: Maybe, but I would love to see you on Idol. I bet you would own Simon Cowell.

Meghan: Of course being an Idol judge would appeal to me, I think it would appeal to any person on the planet. I love Paula and really want her to come back, I don’t think anyone could replace her!

TC: How would you deal with Simon?

Meghan: Everyone knows I’m feisty and I don’t take smack talk, I would give it right back to him!

TC: Who was your favorite Idol contestant this year, and why?

Meghan: Adam Lambert was my favorite, I liked his voice and his attitude. His rendition of “Feeling Good” is my favorite. But I also liked Kris’s country version of “heartless”…

TC: OK, last question. You’ve been critical of the Republicans for some of their messaging. Would you say their messaging has been “horrible,” or “just a little pitchy, dawg?”

Meghan: Lol, a little pitchy dawg.

There’s no question in my mind that Meg would make a great judge, and a great reason for me to watch American Idol again. Consider this her nomination. She should sail through the confirmation process.

Image by AFP PHOTO/Robyn BECK via Like A Whisper

The John Hughes Generation

breakfast clubBefore Gen Y, the voracious creators and consumers of social media, came Gen X, who built the infrastructure on the web that made social media possible. Where these generations intersect is through the movies of John Hughes, who suddenly passed of a heart attack while on a morning walk today in Manhattan, at the age of 59.

Hughes movies spanned from domestic gender role comedies like Mr. Mom to classic road movies like National Lampoon’s Vacation (for which he wrote the script), to the 90s Home Alone franchise.

But what really defined Hughes was his coming-of-age teen angst classics like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Buellers Day Off. My contemporaries grew up on those movies and saw ourselves in Anthony Michael Hall’s unrequited young love for Molly Ringwald. We could relate to the vicious social cliques and the politics of high school that The Breakfast Club explored and broke down. We all wanted to be Ferris Bueller and escape from boring classes, outsmart nasty principals, and sing on a giant float with fetching German lasses.

It’s unlikely that the teens of Hughes’ films could exist today. Being stuck in a school library on a Saturday for detention wouldn’t be quite the same punishment – between iPhones and Blackberries they’d never actually have to talk to each other. Ally Sheedy would be updating her Facebook status and posting to twitter about how bored she was while Judd Nelson texted Molly Ringwald something creepy. The nerd would probably be in the back creating a new app.

Ferris would never have been able to keep his location secret, someone would have snapped a picture of him on the float and posted it on Tumblr, or shot a video with their iPhone GS and posted it straight to YouTube. Simone would have been so overwhelmed with how much fun she was having she wouldn’t be able to resist checking in on FourSquare about her dinner with the Sausage King of Chicago and that Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Anyhow, that probably would have been the first place Jeanie checked. Busted!

Those teenagers existed in a snapshot of time – the 80s – but today when the news about Hughes broke, people from all walks – including kids who came of age a decade or more later – were posting those same stills from the Breakfast Club or Pretty In Pink. The hairstyles may be dated, but the essence of the characters remains relatable for anyone who’s been through it.

That, incidentally, includes a whole lot of the people creating those movies for a new generation. From the LAT:

“[I]t’s hard to find a thirty- or fortysomething writer or filmmaker who doesn’t credit Hughes as a seminal figure in their movie education. “You see Hughes’ influence on all TV comedy, especially the stylized single-camera comedy,” says Apatow. “His great film characters, starting with Anthony Michael Hall in ‘Sixteen Candles,’ were big inspirations. When we were growing up, we were all like Hall — the goofy skinny kid who thinks he’s cool, even if nobody else does. ‘Superbad’ has that same attitude, that mix of total cockiness and insecurity.”

People like Kevin Smith and Diablo Cody give Hughes credit as an inspiration. Wrote Cody this afternoon on Twitter: “Truly saddened by passing of John Hughes. Was an idol to this magna-zoom-dweebie.”

Hughes joins a sad list in a strange summer where we’re losing icons of past eras, like Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. For the 80s, though, Hughes encapsulated that decade like no other. His films were a kaleidoscope of fashion, fears, hopes and kitsch from the decade of where we played Pac Man and wondered if any moment the Russians would drop a nuclear bomb on all of us.

He leaves behind a wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons, John and James, and four grandchildren and a résumé of films that serve as a reminder of what it was like to be young and anxious in the 80s.

With Rachel Sklar, whose grandmother mercifully never felt her breasts.

DNC “Angry Mob” Ad Spurs Online Uproar, Questions About Accuracy

Picture 11The Democratic National Committee released a web ad Tuesday that seems to have hit a “Marathon Man”-style nerve with conservatives online. Entitled “Enough of the Mob,” the ad features clips of recent disruptions at health care town hall meetings, including a “Birther” with what looks like a large wonton wrapper in a Ziploc bag.

The ad has sparked a wave of anger and defiance from conservatives online, who collected their grievances under the hashtag “I am the mob.” The common refrain is that the ad amounts to demonization of dissent, similar to 2007’s “Moveon.org Resolution”, and fearmongering, similar to conservative attempts to convince people that the reform bill mandates euthanasia.

The media, meanwhile, continues to debate the authenticity of these protests as grassroots movement vs. special town_hall_birtherinterest-funded astroturf.

Mary Katherine Ham, however, has broken one of the spokes in the DNC’s ad. She reports at The Weekly Standard that the Right Principlesplaybook” featured in the ad doesn’t actually spring from “high-level Republican political operatives” at all:

Right Principles has a Facebook group with 23 members and a Twitter account with five followers. MacGuffie describes himself as an “opponent of leftist thinking in America,” and told me he’s “never pulled a lever” for a Republican or Democrat on a federal level. Yet this Connecticut libertarian’s influence over a national, orchestrated Republican health-care push-back is strong, indeed, if you listen to liberal pundits and the Democratic National Committee, who have crafted a nefarious web out of refutable evidence.

It would be hard to characterize these folks as high-level, even in today’s Republican Party.

Ham goes on to deconstruct the route between Think Progress’ story, MSNBC’s reporting of it, and the DNC ad.

This is a great example of the pitfalls of taking shortcuts. The DNC would have been better served by laying out the funding sources of healthcare reform opposition, a difficult concept to fit into a 2-second graphic.

As for attacking the protesters themselves, the wisdom is questionable. The White House has avoided this so far, drawing a line between the protesters and the special interests behind them. The risk is that ordinary Americans will identify with the protesters, and see this as bullying.

On the other hand, the anger of the right at this ad might play right into the DNC’s hands, making opposition to healthcare reform seem unattractive.

A less risky, but tough to fit into 60 seconds, strategy might be to engage the protesters. Keith Olbermann reported last night on just such an example, a town hall meeting by Texas Democrat Gene Green that seemed to go pretty well. Given a fair hearing, it’s tough to relate to the fact that almost all of them have adequate healthcare, yet they oppose extending it to those who don’t.

In any case, it’s obvious that what the healthcare debate needs is less fearmongering, and more factmongering.