Is Twilight Bait Ruining The Internet? Yes, Yes It Is.

twilight-linkbaitFirst: Twilight New Moon, Robert Pattinson, Bella, Twilight pics, are Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart engaged, Twilight slash fanfic. Muggles?

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, have you noticed that in the wake of The Twilight Saga: New Moon’s premiere, there are an awful lot of Twilight-related articles gumming up the Internet lately? Is it possible that accomplished journalists are writing about Twilight not because they are deeply interested in it, but because they are trying to get traffic to their websites?

Bonnie Fuller’s HollywoodLife.com launched today. According to the press release, “HollywoodLife.com’s digital conversationality also provides a richer take on lifestyle and beauty as always-updated, style-sensible women across the country will be able to respond, giving approval of the latest trends in beauty, weighing in on fashion, or revealing their own secrets of shopping.” Yet the lead story is a wallpaper-sized graphic of Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart, and Robert Pattinson proclaiming “New Moon Mania!” below which is a link that says “Everything New Moon, All The Time!” and blanket coverage of the premiere.

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Why is an accomplished journalist like Bonnie Fuller, who was born in 1956, so into the tweenish vampire saga? A hypothesis: Twilight has a rabid fan base who tend to travel in packs, and getting some of them via Google search and cross-promotion with her parent site Mail.com could not only give her strong first-day traffic, but could grab for the longer term some of that coveted eighteen-to-thirty-five female demo that her site is after.

And it’s not just HollywoodLife: Fuller’s Mail.com colleague Nikki Finke, hailed by this very site as “a one-woman trade publication whose tenacity has landed her scoop after scoop,” routinely posts about Twilight, though she often prefaces with a wry aside like “Yes, this is another in my shameless plugs for Twilight fan traffic.”

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This is to say nothing of Entertainment Weekly, whose PopWatch blog sees fit to Twilight it up, or Cinematical, with their ”Fan Made: Raunchy, Vampiric ‘Twilight’ Underoos:” (image via Twitarded)

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Or Mediaite, which took a break from their probing, insightful media coverage to note that Geraldo Rivera looks like Charlie Swan.

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it's probably because they both have brown hair.

Twilight bait works, or thinks it works, because it’s something for very little. It’s like blowing a dog whistle: the people who care about it come flocking when they hear it, and the people who don’t will go happily about their ways.

Only instead of not hearing it, they hear a faint but shrill sound, and are mildly irritated. And if you, the publication, spend too much time blowing on the dog whistle that is Twilight, then you are neglecting many fine woodwind instruments that you could be playing otherwise, such as the piccolo. Even though you thought that you were getting something for nothing (dogs) by playing on the dog whistle, in reality, the dog whistle was playing you.

In this extended metaphor, the “piccolo” equates to outstanding investigative journalism.

In all seriousness, any site that covers popular culture or Hollywood should be talking about Twilight, because like it or not, it’s one of the great pop cultural happenings of our time. The bigger issue is when sites overcover it to the exclusion of everything else, or stray too far and too frequently off their actual beats. A website is not a magazine, and part of the beauty of the web is that it allows readers and writers to connect who might not encounter each other otherwise. But when every site chases the same few stories, they all take on a watery, same-y flavor that can’t be too pleasing to the loyal readers who are supposed to be their audience.


Law & Order: This is Their Story

nerdzWho: Dick Wolf, Rene Balcer, S. Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston (Law & Order), moderated by Pat Mitchell
What: The Inside Media series’ “Law & Order: Twenty Years and Counting”
Where: The Paley Center for Media
When: November 16, 2009
Thumbs: Up

There’s no other show on television that draws both nursing moms at 3 a.m. and college students at 3 p.m. And that’s something that the writers, producers and actors who make “Law & Order” consider when putting together scripts and shows. They revel in their series’ universal appeal and mass audience.

The NBC show is celebrating its 20th season which executive producer Dick Wolf said “feels more like five or six.” That’s because not much has changed in the world in the past few decades — the show still bothers both sides when it has controversial episodes that deal with abortion, Wolf joked.

In some ways, though, a lot has changed over that period. Just ask Rene Balcer who acknowledged that storylines from the 90s no longer hold up as well because New York City grew out of the “crack war” the show sprouted inside. Balcer and his team do whatever they can to make the show’s storylines feel real to viewers, famously ripping ideas from the headlines. It’s the educational elements of the show that make Wolf proudest. Cast member S. Epatha Merkerson is particularly satisfied when an episode provokes thought and sparks debate among viewers after the show ends. The panel said they’ve done their job best if people throw their shoes at the TV as the credits roll.

In fact, because the show’s issues are so heated, it’s not uncommon to find actors arguing the merits and morals of scripts at read-throughs. Both Merkerson and Sam Waterston stated that one of the great perks of working for “Law & Order” as opposed to other series is that Wolf and Belcer give them authority to question their roles and lines. Wolf said that actor Steven Hill was the first actor he ever met who would routinely ask for fewer lines.

It’s the creators and actors embracing of their roles as publicly perceived legal experts that make shooting the show so much fun for them. Waterston appears in jury duty video overviews; Wolf can talk about the difficulties that large, media-heavy trials have in finding jurors; and Merkerson is occasionally addressed as “Lieutenant” by strangers. Merkerson admitted that, despite playing the head of police for 16 years, she doesn’t know anything about law. A woman near us, surprised, whispered to her friend, “She’s got to know as much as we do.”

What They Said
“I don’t know many people involved in television who were thrilled to lose the 10:00 hour. No, I didn’t ask for Friday at 8.”
- Dick Wolf questions NBC’s decision to have Jay Leno air five nights a week in primetime

“I have never done anything smart except by backing into it.”
– Sam Waterston said he was at first resistant to the idea of having his character, Jack McCoy, take a promotion but eventually warmed up to the idea

“The show has to be available online so people don’t have to get up to go see it.”
– Does Rene Belcer only know people whose televisions have a crank to power them?

“Fred is a terrific guy and his politics are interesting.”
– Dick Wolf chooses his words like a politician, when talking about actor and politician Fred Thompson

“What I’ve found is each person who came on, they came into a family. We all get along really well.”
– S. Epatha Merkerson lists pretty much everyone she works with as the “person” she likes the most

What We Thought

  • Pat Mitchell ran this panel well. She tied together ideas, moved the discussion along, and motioned to play clips with perfect transitions that didn’t interrupt or sidetrack the conversation. She was obviously prepared and seemed to be a veteran of these types of events.
  • Belcer said that the show has credited 6,000 actors over the show’s 20 years on the air. Wolf joked that the evidence is in the playbills of every Broadway show. The two seemed happy they could reward so many talented actors with chances to show what they could do, even in small, insignificant parts.
  • Wolf wonders how cable shows can afford to make shows at the level they do. He said that the season two finale of “Mad Men” cost $1.6 million to make, which the networks would never sign off on.

PANEL RULES!
Some audience behavior seems to repeat itself panel after panel. We’ll be updating a running list of “PANEL RULES!” that will help ensure that you are not the dweeb of the Panel Nerds.

Panel Nerds don’t like… Look Unlikes
You think that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. resembles the character of Jack McCoy. You even suggest that Vance got elected because the public agrees with this comparison. Unfortunately for you – and your question – Waterston doesn’t see the resemblance. We’re just happy you didn’t tell Dick Wolf he looked like Nathan Lane.


New Moon Mania! Twilight Saga Characters And Their Media Matches

twilight-castHarry Potter fans may roll their eyes, but a Mormon housewife’s vampire romance rivals the popularity of the wizard world. Ever since publishing house Little, Brown took a chance on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, America has been bitten by vamp-lust.

The original book installations have sold over 85 million copies — a rare home run these days for the publishing industry. The first film, against many expectations (“We just thought we were making a little cult movie,” says cast member Ashley Greene), grossed over $385 million domestically. And the saga’s second chapter, New Moon — if Entertainment Weekly’s slavish drooling is any indication — will also be a mega-hit.

Like it or not — like any wildly popular series, Twilight has many haters — but the saga is part of our literary zeitgeist, a cultural touchstone that even the anti-sparkly can’t avoid. And just like the Potter series, one just can’t help internally casting their favorite media figures as characters in the saga.

After all, if there’s any mythic creature that media characters resemble, we think “soulless vampires” and “werewolves” come pretty close.

Here’s our take on the media, Forks style.

Charlie Swan: Geraldo Rivera
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He’s protective. He’s obsessed with crime. He just looks Dad-like. He’s got a moustache. Bella Swan’s overbearing pop, or Geraldo Rivera? Totes interchangable.

Renee Swan: Kathie Lee Gifford
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Stephenie Meyer never explicitly states it in the series, but Bella’s mama is a hot mess. Described as “erratic and scatterbrained,” she acts first and thinks later. We picture her as the kind of woman who would flirt inapropriately with Bella’s high school friends after one too many gin and tonics. She has the best intentions, though — but still, Bella is grown-up in that relationship. She’s loud, excitable, and somewhat incomprehensible at times. Sound like a certain 4th hour host to you? Thought so.

Bella Swan: Ana Marie Cox
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In the Twilight saga, almost everyone (except for some meanie vampires) loves Bella Swan. Young, lovely, but with attitude — sounds a lot like Ana Marie Cox, who spread the sunlight of blogging onto the Forks-style darkness of MSM political media. Okay maybe that’s reaching. But she’s maintained her outsider cred even while becoming one of them (oh look, there she is reviewing Palin’s book in the Washington Post!). Ana has way more spine than Twilight’s titular character (and swears more), but they certainly share the ability to collect fans: Cox is one of the top media folks on Twitter with 1.3 million followers and counting (ahead of Newt Gingrich, yo). And that little WaPo icon with Tucker Carlson almost looks like a Twilight poster.

>>>NEXT: Which media members represent the Cullen family?


Keith Olbermann, Please Accept John Ziegler’s Palin Debate Challenge

zig-worstToday is the first day of the rest of Going Rogue’s life, and the beginning of what is sure to be a media avalanche of fact-checking, mock-checking, charges, and counter-charges. If the media is true to form, the result will be more food for the Palin media martyr machine, and more bleed-through of silliness like the “Death Panel.”

Not long ago, on these very pages, John Ziegler prescribed the antidote to this circus: a live debate with Countdown’s Keith Olbermann. Today, I say “Help us, Olby Wan KeithOlby, you’re our only hope!”

This is an opportunity to cut away all of the distractions and get right to the heart of the matter. Sure, the press has been unfair to Palin at times, but they were unfair to Mario Mendoza, too. That didn’t change the fact that he was a .215 hitter. A debate with Ziegler could settle the score once and for all, and would be the next best thing to debating Palin herself. From what I’ve read, Palin’s ghostwriter leaned heavily on the copy of Ziegler’s movie that was given to him at the start of the project.

Here, then, are my reasons why Keith Olbermann should, nay must, accept Ziegler’s challenge today.

Like Him or Not, He Puts on a Helluva Show

You can apply that statement to both Ziegler and Olbermann. While Ziegler’s “Media Malpractice” film won’t win any awards for objectivity, it’s undeniably entertaining. Conservatives will cheer through it, liberals will hiss, but nobody’s going to cop any z’s during it.

As for Keith, his show sets the bar for propulsive political entertainment. It’s a handy one-stop shop for the pulse of the American center-left, made digestible with a sleek format and regular sprinklings of pop-culture sugar to offset the political salt.

Put Ziegler’s sharp, energetic, Barnum-esque interview style together with Keith’s penchant for quick-witted, often passionate rhetoric, and you’ve got a recipe for television magic.

He’s Asking For it

Keith, have you read John Ziegler’s review of Going Rogue? I think he put this line in there just for you:

For many reasons, this is by far the best book and greatest literary achievement by a political figure in my lifetime.

Actually, he pretty much cops to it, saying he’s going “out on the type of limb that will make MSNBC hosts salivate.” That’s like a double-dare.

You’re The Place For Politics

Much of the sound and fury surrounding Palin has to do with personal intrigue and insults to the former Alaska governor. The one time the media had a crack at Palin on policy (the infamous “Death Panels”), they failed miserably. That includes your pal, Eugene Robinson.

This is your chance to focus, like a laser, on Palin’s political weaknesses, some of which she brags about. You think she can’t convince people that quitting her job as Alaska governor is a sign of strong leadership? I thought that move would finish her off. I talked to Ziegler that day, and he offered to bet me it wouldn’t. I’m glad I didn’t make that bet. Which leads me to my next point.

She Could Win

I’ve said all along that the best thing liberals can do about Palin is get out of her way, let her win the 2012 GOP nomination, and watch Barack Obama mop the floor with her. I’m not so sure about that anymore. With our microscopic news cycle getting ever-smaller, political memory is short. While 71% of Americans now feel that she is unqualified for the job, it is important to remember that Barack Obama faced a similar knock right up until he won the election. Ironically, like Obama, Palin is a political anomaly (of a different sort). It’s tough to predict how the ball is going to bounce.

One thing is for sure, with the Republicans lacking anything resembling a superstar for 2012, Palin is the name to beat in the GOP. A few bad hops, and we could be covering President Palin’s War on MSNBC. That’s why it is important to challenge Going Rogue on the politics, not the “he said/she said” that’s getting all the play now.

Ziegler Has Genuine Insight into Palin

While you may disagree with his conclusions, John Ziegler has a unique perspective on Palin. He genuinely admires her, but more than that, he understands her humanity in ways that her most ardent fans don’t. After her resignation, he predicted much of the arc of her return to prominence. He understands what people like about her.

You Kinda Owe Him

Aside from the fact that you misspelled his name when you awarded him 3rd Worst back in March, you have to admit it was kind of a low blow to accuse him of acting on a “crush” on Palin.

$100,000 to Charity

That’s nothing to sneeze at. Think of all the free health clinics that would pay for. Plus, you surely must appreciate Ziegler’s moxie in pulling the same charity shaming trick that you used on Palin during the campaign.

Palin is Traffic Gold

A show like this would do huge numbers, and the clips would be viral marketing gold.

So please, consider this proposal. It’s your best, most well-timed chance to make your point. I’ll even buy the popcorn.*

*I won’t really buy the popcorn.


Top 10 Steve Jobs Magazine Covers of All Time

New Fortune November 23 2009_thumb_w_150Last week Fortune magazine picked Apple’s Steve Jobs as the CEO of the decade, and ran this cool cover (design director: John Korpics; photograph by Albert Watson). Jobs has been the go-to tech dude for business mags and newsweeklies for over 20 years, and it got us thinking about all the covers that he has appeared on. Fortunately, art director Sam Kuo over at Kuo Design has created the Steve Jobs on Magazine Covers page, a compilation of 85 covers from 1981-2009. In collaboration with Steve, we have created this list of The 10 Greatest Steve Jobs Magazine Covers of All Time. Feast your eyes on these beauties, and then head over to Kuo’s page for the full, obsessive Steve Jobs experience.

Inc October 1981-thumb-550x730-7729

October 1981. This is the first major business magazine cover to feature Jobs.

Time Feb 15 1982-thumb-550x724-7733

February 15, 1982. Art director: Rudolph Hoglund; illustrator: Alan Magee. From the very beginning, Jobs was controlling about his photographic imagery. He usually insisted on posing with his latest product (for one Fortune cover he held up cardboard cutouts of the Spotlight and Dashboard Mac icons). For that reason, many of the best covers of him are illustrations.

>>>NEXT: MacWorld and Wired!


John Ziegler’s Review of Going Rogue

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I fully understand that because I have made a documentary film about the media coverage of the 2008 election which features an exclusive interview with Sarah Palin and because I have relentlessly defended her against unprecedentedly unfair, inaccurate and dangerous media coverage, that my opinions on her book will be mostly discounted like a film endorsement made by Jay Leno or Larry King while they throw softballs to the movie’s star. After all, I have far too much real information at my disposal (like having actually spoken to her a few times) to be taken very seriously in this day and age, unless of course I had something really bad to say about Palin or her book.

With that said, I was simply blown away by Going Rogue on almost every level. For many reasons, this is by far the best book and greatest literary achievement by a political figure in my lifetime.

Why do I confidently go out on the type of limb that will make MSNBC hosts salivate? First, let’s consider the circumstances under which this book was written.

Keep in mind that in the year and a half before she could have possibly really started writing the book that she had: given birth to a child with Down Syndrome, had her teenage daughter’s unwed pregnancy become world wide news, had her first son sent to Iraq, was picked as a VP candidate and was the target of the most inaccurate media coverage in modern history, got blamed for losing the race to a man whose election she rightly believes is horrible for our country, had rape jokes made about her fourteen-year-old daughter on national television, and was forced to resign from the governorship of the state she loves because a bunch of losers made it impossible for her to do her job productively.

“For many reasons, this is by far the best book and greatest literary achievement by a political figure in my lifetime.”

After all that, most people would have trouble spelling their own name and would have to disappear to a deserted island for at least a few months. Instead, Sarah Palin was somehow immediately able to produce a magnificent four hundred and thirteen page book, knowing it would receive unprecedented scrutiny, and did so several months ahead of schedule. Regardless of what you think about her or her politics, that is a remarkable human accomplishment (even with the help of a collaborator).

So, what do we learn from Going Rogue? Tons. Lots more than the incredibly (though not surprisingly) biased media coverage of the book’s release would have you believe.

Among other things, we discover that Sarah Palin has a ridiculously good memory. People who know me say that I have an amazing ability to recall events and I have written two books, but I was blown away by the level of detail in this project, which encompasses her entire life. Since the timing of Going Rogue did not allow for massive amounts of time and resources to be put into research it had to all be put together — in incredibly short order — by Palin’s own memory and notes. The notion that numerous “news” outlets thirsting to find inaccuracies have yet to find one of major significance (no, a disagreement over the definition of “vetting” does not count) may to be the greatest testament to the book’s remarkable credibility.

As impressive as the details of the storytelling are, the real strength of Going Rogue is its brutal honesty. Quite simply, there has never been a memoir by someone with potential Presidential viability that has been nearly as open about what has really happened in his or her life and career. And I am not just referring here to Palin pulling no punches and naming names as to who did right and wrong by her and the campaign. I am also referencing the many times where Palin reveals episodes and intimate thoughts and feelings that she knows do not necessarily put her in the most positive light. Her candor goes way beyond typical political self-deprecation and into the realm of instructive human introspection, the type of which can only come from someone incredibly courageous, grounded, and self-aware.

Going Rogue is actually several books in one. It is a compelling biography, a gripping campaign tell-all, an expose on the sad state of our news media, a substantive outline of a political philosophy and even a comprehensive refutation of juicy tabloid rumors (Andrew Sullivan, among others, will have a lot of explaining to do). There are even plenty of touching, humorous (I laughed out loud when she describes Joe Biden just before their debate), and insightful moments in the book.

Next page: Palin explains her resignation, and the highlights of the book; clear signs she’ll run in 2012?


ZOMG! President Obama: “I have never used Twitter”

obama_twiiterPresident Obama gave lengthy answers to questions from Chinese students, and from all over China, at a town hall meeting yesterday, but one takeaway is burning up the internet, or “series of tubes,” as our President might call it. The New Media President has never used Twitter? Now, you know why you couldn’t get him to play #1stDraftMovies.

While this is a disappointing revelation for those who thought their advice would go @BarackObama and into US policy, we here at Mediaite should have seen this coming.

Here’s what the President said about his Twitter non-habits:

Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. I noticed that young people — they’re very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.

There will be those who immediately point out that you don’t need a phone to use twitter. That’s true, but in July, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed that, aside from those on their “new media” team, Twitter is banned on White House computers. While researching that story for Asylum, I contacted the White House to see just how far up the food chain the ban went. When asked if the President had White House access to Twitter, a White house aide told me, “People trained to use Twitter with the presidential records act, have official access to Twitter.” A definitive non-”yes” of an answer.

This is a simple situation to remedy. Surely there must be some brave cellphone manufacturer out there who can whip up a special voice-recognition Twitter phone for our Commander-in-Chief. Dammit, America needs to know what he’s listening to on Blip.fm, or how he thinks Jake Tapper can do his job better!

Seriously, if people can’t even let him take ten minutes to fill out an NCAA bracket, do you really think he needs to be messing around on Twitter?

On the other hand, there’s an argument that the right is sure to bring up. With that knowledge, all I can really do here is annoy them by stealing their thunder.



Yee-hah, that’s funny. Laugh it up. But while the right suddenly obsesses about breaches in international protocol, I would point to the strength of the rest of Obama’s remarks about free speech and the internet, remarks so strong, China banned Jake Tapper just for writing about them.

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: That’s right. And not surprisingly, “in a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?” And second, “should we be able to use Twitter freely” — is the question.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. I noticed that young people — they’re very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone. But I am a big believer in technology and I’m a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity.

And so I’ve always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.

Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. I think people naturally are — when they’re in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that’s irresponsible, or — but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear. It forces me to examine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.

And I think the Internet has become an even more powerful tool for that kind of citizen participation. In fact, one of the reasons that I won the presidency was because we were able to mobilize young people like yourself to get involved through the Internet. Initially, nobody thought we could win because we didn’t have necessarily the most wealthy supporters; we didn’t have the most powerful political brokers. But through the Internet, people became excited about our campaign and they started to organize and meet and set up campaign activities and events and rallies. And it really ended up creating the kind of bottom-up movement that allowed us to do very well.

Now, that’s not just true in — for government and politics. It’s also true for business. You think about a company like Google that only 20 years ago was — less than 20 years ago was the idea of a couple of people not much older than you. It was a science project. And suddenly because of the Internet, they were able to create an industry that has revolutionized commerce all around the world. So if it had not been for the freedom and the openness that the Internet allows, Google wouldn’t exist.

So I’m a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter. The more open we are, the more we can communicate. And it also helps to draw the world together.

Think about — when I think about my daughters, Malia and Sasha — one is 11, one is 8 — from their room, they can get on the Internet and they can travel to Shanghai. They can go anyplace in the world and they can learn about anything they want to learn about. And that’s just an enormous power that they have. And that helps, I think, promote the kind of understanding that we talked about.

Now, as I said before, there’s always a downside to technology. It also means that terrorists are able to organize on the Internet in ways that they might not have been able to do before. Extremists can mobilize. And so there’s some price that you pay for openness, there’s no denying that. But I think that the good outweighs the bad so much that it’s better to maintain that openness. And that’s part of why I’m so glad that the Internet was part of this forum. Okay?