Dear Alec Baldwin, Don’t Retire From Panels


Who: Alec Baldwin interviewed by Janet Maslin
What: TimesTalks’ “Live with Alec Baldwin”
Where: The Times Center
When: December 3, 2009
Thumbs: Up

After hearing Alec Baldwin talk about the state of Hollywood, it’s easy to understand why he wants out. He says that movies are largely driven by business and marketing today, and the days of great actors are well behind us. Every actor has to make the choice between acting in great, perhaps overlooked films, and blockbuster pictures that earn you lots of money. Fifteen years ago, Baldwin says he made the mistake of going after the money.

Baldwin was very forthcoming about his decisions and his career, just not when interviewer Janet Maslin requested it. In fact, the whole interview seemed like a long charade for Baldwin who alternated between regaling the audience with stories, cracking jokes, making analogies, and doing impressions. Through the chaos of Baldwin’s act and contradictions of his words — and his many asides, to the audience’s delight — Maslin somehow managed to keep the actor relatively on track.

What drew Baldwin back to the topic at hand was the opportunity to express his admiration for those who came before him on the big and little screens. For the upcoming It’s Complicated, a romantic comedy whose screened clips were raunchier than you’d expect from the aging actors, it was the chance to work with Meryl Streep. That seems to be consistent with Baldwin’s proclaimed agenda for his Academy Awards’ hosting duties in the spring when he’ll aim to combine the reverence of the biggest night in cinema with his antics on stage with longtime friend, Steve Martin.

Jack Donaghy, Baldwin’s character on “30 Rock,” appears to have grown to be more like Baldwin himself, though he claims he only contributes ideas, not lines. After word came out that Comcast was taking over a controlling stake at NBC Universal, Baldwin suggested Donaghy barricade himself in his office. He says that these kinds of meta-references have pleased General Electric’s executives, but not so much NBC’s people.

Maslin pointed out that earlier in his career, because he was so good looking, not many people credit Baldwin for being funny, despite his work on “Saturday Night Live.” Now, and maybe because of his declining looks, Baldwin wryly pointed out, everyone seems to give him credit – be it for his comedic ability, his environmental efforts, or a possible future run for political office.

Everyone, and we suspect Baldwin himself is with that group, is trying to figure out the same thing: What’s next for Alec Baldwin?

What They Said
“Movie audiences date you and TV audiences marry you.”
- Alec Baldwin is going to stop having affairs

“Public officials deserve a lot more scrutiny than public figures.”
- Alec Baldwin believes that the public has no right to know what he does in his personal life

“Comcast is in Philadelphia, G.E. is in Fairfield, and that’s all I know.”
– Alec Baldwin knows less than Jack Donaghy about the inner workings of NBC Universal

“It’s like ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ without the wit or charm.”
- Alec Baldwin insults “The Room,” but in a way that “The Room” fans would probably celebrate

What We Thought

  • We found Baldwin’s comments about the decline of modern movies fascinating. He claims that John Travolta was the last true movie star, someone whose persona could draw customers to his movies and then deliver on that stardom. Since then, Baldwin says actors are used more to get people into the seats, but it’s the technicians who have to do the real work on the product.
  • After drilling Baldwin on some more serious points, Maslin tried to lighten the mood by asking Baldwin a series of true-or-false questions based on what she read about him online. This Internet fact-check revealed that Baldwin once had a job as a waiter at Studio 54. It also left him wondering whether the audience came to hear him talk about that.

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…Reminiscers
It was nice of so many of Baldwin’s old neighborhood friends (and dentist) to come out and support the Westchester County native. But did they all have to make their ways to the microphone? The first time it was endearing, but by the third and fourth example we were wishing for strangers to bypass the memory keepers in the line. With limited time and access to Baldwin, we wanted to hear more questions and answers. Instead, we heard a series of anecdotes that didn’t lead to anything but self-indulgence. Let’s keep the focus on the celebrity panelist, not those who shared a backyard with him.

A Retrospective: 28 Media Leaders Who Died This Decade


As the face of media evolves, it’s important to honor the figures who helped define, shape and set the standards in their industries. These are some of the most prominent members of the media who passed away over the past 10 years.  Take a look back with some snippets from their respective New York Times obituaries.



Who: Charles Schultz
Major Accomplishment: His ‘Peanuts” strip reached readers in 75 countries, 2,600 papers and 21 languages every day. Schulz drew more than 18,250 strips in nearly 50 years.
Legacy: His saga of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and Linus ”is arguably the longest story ever told by one human being,” Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, observed.


Who: Steve Allen
Major Accomplishment: In more than 50 years in show business, Allen demonstrated his talents in many areas. An accomplished pianist who never learned to read music, he composed more than 5,000 songs, some of them hits.
Legacy: Allen was keenly interested in social justice and wrote pamphlets on a variety of issues, including the problems facing migrant workers, as well as capital punishment and nuclear proliferation.

>>>NEXT: In 2001 we lost William Hanna and Katharine Graham…

Soundbite: Television Gets Nailed To The Wall By The Web


“You’re going to have a television if I have to nail it to your wall.”

Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, discloses her plan for ensuring the future security of network and cable TV providers everywhere: nail a television set to the wall of every dorm room in America!

Actually, Anne Sweeney was responding to her college-bound daughter informing her that she didn’t need a TV in her dorm room because she could get everything she wanted online. Which is mostly true, and a reality that some networks and cablers are better at embracing than others — NBC posts practically everything and makes it embeddable to boot! ABC does not. It is a conversation, according to Brian Stelter in a great piece in the NYT today, that is once again at the forefront partially because one of the outcomes of this week’s big Comcast-NBCU deal is that Comcast now owns Hulu.

Before we get too futuristic, it should be noted that the same concerns apply to online TV as do to online newspaper content: how to make money. Despite it seemingly being easier to put commercial breaks in online video than it is place successful ad on a homepage, those ads still aren’t generating the necessary cash. And the popularity of watching vids online suggests someone is going to have to figure out something soon. For example, last year during the Sarah Palin- Tina Fey heyday the viewer numbers of SNL clips the day-after may have exceeded the audience numbers who watched it during live broadcast. I suspect the day is not far off when television shows go live online at a certain time, are branded or water-marked with the networks logo, include the regular commercial breaks, and the decision of when to watch is left to the audience. Though it will probably be sometime before a nation of living rooms catch up to dorm room TV watching habits.

Panic In D.C.! Bloggers Officially Invited To Cover The President

press-poolLast February HuffPo’s Sam Stein made news when he became the first ‘blogger’ (though really he’s a reporter who writes for a website) to be called on by the President of the United States during a press conference. Many people who follow these things saw it as a bit of a watershed moment wherein the Internet was officially deemed a respectable, trustworthy news source.

Cut to nine months later and it looks like the inmates may be ready to take over the asylum. Just this week the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which runs the White House pool has started letting Talking Points Memo, Salon, and the Huffington Post in to share the pool duty. Pool duty, as you may or may not know, is when one reporter covers an event (say, President Obama’s golf game) and the notes (and frequent funny asides) are made available to the rest of the press, which they use as the basis for their reports.

Anyway, a number of establishment people are up in arms about seeing these, in the words of Michael Calderone, “online news organizations, which may or may not be bound by the same professed standards of objectivity, begin taking on the responsibilities of long-standing print publications.”

It’s not that reporters are criticizing the work of either Christina Bellantoni or Sam Stein, but some have expressed concerns about pool reports coming from left- or right-leaning news organizations that will then be used by the rest of the press corps.

“This is really troubling,” said New York Times reporter Peter Baker in an e-mail to POLITICO. “We’re blurring the line between news and punditry even further and opening ourselves to legitimate questions among readers about where the White House press corps gets its information.”

Calderone also notes that one of the reasons behind the new inclusions is that WHCA is trying to fill empty seats left open by papers who have had to cut back in recent months.

So what to do.

>>>NEXT: If Fox and MSNBC are there, why not the blogosphere?

Soundbite: New York Times TV Reporter Is A “Fawning “Suck-Up”

bill-carter-nyt“If you think The New York Times television reporter Bill Carter’s usual suck-up coverage of the small screen biz has been even more fawning than usual to The Powers And Entertainers That Be, this is why: Carter is doing another book.”
–Deadline Hollywood Daily’s Nikki Finke, never afraid to burn a few bridges

Leave it to Nikki Finke to chastise the impure, start firefights with other journalists (cf: The New Yorker), and leak out a bit of personal correspondence to boot. In this unrelenting post, she accuses Bill Carter of “having [never] met a network boss whose knob he didn’t shine” and casually makes mention of a (possibly joky) email Carter sent her in July about his hopes of making bank on a blowout Jay Leno show. How’s that going, btw?

Carter has a way of eliciting contempt on the Interwebs for his occasionally softball coverage and for his murky relationship with HBO, which he continues to fervently cover for the Times despite the fact that he actively collaborated with the network to make a teleplay out of his book The Late Shift. Former Gawkerer Doree Shafrir compared Brian Stelter’s writing with Carter’s, and nailed down Carter’s area of coverage by contrast:

“Now, there are a few reasons why this wouldn’t have been a Bill Carter piece in the first place. Let’s go over them! 1) It’s not a meh piece about HBO. 2) It’s not a palsy piece about NBC and/or Ben Silverman. 3) It hasn’t already been written about in the LA Times or the Wall Street Journal.”

Is The NYT About To Finally Start Cutting Its Blogs?

4046443976_5d20d7bc63_oHas the time finally come? Ever since the economy became real reality in the media world — sometime in October of 2008 — there has been plenty of inside chatter and speculation about how the New York Times was going to pay for itself. While other papers made huge cuts, and magazines folded, the NYT, for all its own speculation and ‘Talk to the Newsroom’ pronouncements (paid content etc.) has remained comparably unscathed (though some of its readers, ahem, are still smarting from its decision to cut the City Section).

Earlier last month managing editor Bill Keller in one of his “chats” revealed that the Times may be considering cutting some of its web content as a cost-cutting measure. Before panic ensures, however, what I noted at the time still holds: the has surplus of blogs — whereas many papers avoided dipping too far into the deep scary ocean of the Internet, the Times jumped in the deep end.

According to the Observer, those cuts are likely to come before the end of the year (though really, how frequently have we heard that). So what will be cut? Probably a bunch of stuff you have never heard of (I’m not even sure the NYT could name half the blogs it’s launched). What won’t be cut are the blogs people have come to depend on — if you can name it, it’s probably sticking around: The Caucus, Media Decoder, Deal Book, The Lede etc. Fear not, this is going to be a (very necessary) pruning, not some kind of massacre.

Rupert Murdoch To Challenge NY Times With $15 Million NYC Edition Of WSJ

dowjonesNews Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is planning to introduce a New York city edition of the Wall Street Journal, and is reportedly going “all in” to do it. John Koblin reports for the NY Observer that he is “ready to roll out a budget of $15 Million,” in an effort to compete directly with the NY Times.

Koblin reports :

Mr. Murdoch is ready to roll out a budget of $15 million for his new New York edition of The Wall Street Journal, an insider familiar with the project told The Observer.

The Journal is creating a section that will cover local politics, culture, news and sports. For the time being, the section’s launch is set for April. It is expected to run six days a week. It is not clear yet if the metro report will be a discrete section, or if an entirely different edition of the paper will be sold here.

The Journal has hired a former editor at The New York Sun, John Seeley, to run the project. He’s been taking interviews in recent weeks, looking for recruits.

“I’m not going to discuss anything at this point,” said Mr. Seeley on the phone from The Journal’s headquarters on Sixth Avenue on Tuesday.