Soundbite: Barack Nixon Who?

Picture 12“But ignorance is epidemic on Capitol Hill and in the capital’s newsrooms, so let’s say this very simply: Nothing that Obama or any of his aides has done or said remotely resembles the war on the press waged by the Nixon White House until Watergate ended that administration’s assaults on the Constitution. Nobody has sent Joe Biden out to question the patriotism of reporters and columnists who criticize the president, as Agnew did repeatedly. And nobody has tried to intimidate the media with obscene threats and tax audits, in the Mafia style of Nixon’s aides.”

Salon’s Joe Conason on the “cosmic jest” of comparing the White House’s recent ‘war’ on Fox News to that of President Nixon’s policies against the press during his presidency.

Basically Conason thinks the only Nixonian handbook at play right now is that of Roger Ailes, and that some overzealous pundits should perhaps pick up a history book, or two (this one comes highly recommended).


Who Is Dede Scozzafava, And Why Does The Conservative Web Hate Her?

scozzafava

It isn’t often that a politician of Sarah Palin’s national clout weighs in heavily on an obscure House race, much less does so against her own party’s candidate. When Palin endorsed Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman over GOP moderate Dede Scozzafava, it was a fair question to ask: “why?” Mainstream media accounts that only touch on Scozzafava’s political beliefs are just telling part of the story.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CBS News all frame the issue in fairly broad terms. From the Times’ Caucus blog:

Mrs. Palin backed Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party nominee, in the traditionally Republican 23d district. The Republican nominee, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, is a moderate who has broken with the G.O.P. by supporting same-sex marriage and abortion rights…

…While Mrs. Palin’s endorsement could anger some New York State Republicans, it could also help the former Alaska Governor in appealing to her conservative base as she considers a presidential run in 2012.

Obviously, this is a big part of the story — but why zero in on this moderate in particular? Indeed, according to Google Trends, Scozzafava’s name has only taken off as a search term over the course of the past week:

Screen shot 2009-10-23 at 9.53.35 AM

Movement conservatives never loved Scozzafava, but until recently she was the favorite to win the race, according to CBS. Then, on October 16th, a poll showed her trailing Owens, thanks to an unexpectedly strong showing by Hoffman. Here’s the play-by-play from there:

The full-throated Scozzafava backlash began in earnest, counterintuitively enough, when Newt Gingrich endorsed her in response: that’s the “B” on the Google Trends chart. The conservative web almost immediately snapped back, with Michelle Malkin, who had repeatedly gone after Scozzafava before, leading the charge: “the NRCC is using conservatives’ money to back a radical leftist and attack a bona fide, viable conservative candidate for Congress in a safe Republican district. Gingrich has endorsed the radical leftist.”

The real kicker, though, came when a blogger for The Weekly Standard, John McCormack, persistently questioned  Scozzafava’s conservative credentials. On October 19th, Scozzafava’s campaign called the police on McCormack for hounding the candidate, allegedly shouting and making her uncomfortable after a GOP dinner. On October 20th, her campaign leaked an email exchange of theirs to TPM (which even Kos questioned, saying the emails looked reasonable).

This video has blown up across the conservative blogosphere:


On the 21st, when McCormack produced a tape recording of their exchange, the AP concluded he didn’t shout or threaten the candidate, and the political burial of Scozzafava commenced at an astonishing pace. At noon yesterday, the National Review called for her withdrawal from the race; later in the afternoon, they cited six other sites that had done the same thing, including RedState, the Washington Times, and Big Government. At 5:28, a perfect time tow work one’s way into the next day’s news cycle, Sarah Palin posted a Facebook note titled “Support Doug Hoffman,” and the rest is history.

A likely result of this hoopla, ironically, is that a Democrat may wind up taking office in what had been a solidly Republican district. To Scozzafava’s enemies, who are more ideologues than political operatives, that may not even matter at this point. The success of their concerted effort to take her down — in which, as is increasingly the case, the web played a pivotal role — would be prize enough.


Graydon Carter A No-Show At His Own Funeral

24_carter_lglThere are so many things wrong with the way Conde Nast does business that this Graydon Carter anecdote (from Keith Kelly, no less!) merely feels like icing on a deflated cake. As if the McKinsey evaluation uncertainty that’s been hanging over 4 Times Sq. these past few months isn’t bad enough, Vanity Fair honcho Graydon Carter apparently couldn’t even be bothered to show up to relay yesterday’s bad layoff news himself.

Vanity Fair yesterday took some of the deepest staff cuts at Condé Nast, but Editor Graydon Carter didn’t deliver the bad news himself. Although Carter was said to have been at his restaurant, The Monkey Bar last night, he was a no-show at the office during the day.

Vanity Fair’s layoffs were said to be in the double-digit range, and hit as high as senior editors and as low as fact checkers, and were deep, in part, because Carter largely ignored the edict to chop 5 percent late last year.

According to Gawker, Carter may have been on a private plane to Bermuda. Which is sort of icing on the icing. So here’s the question: Has Carter always been this checked out of his responsibilities at the magazine? He’s obviously an excellent public face for the brand, but perhaps this sort of behavior is de rigueur and we’re only just finding out about it now that the Conde facade is crumbling. Let’s hope that’s it anyway, because otherwise Carter’s absence is pretty sickening.


NYT’s Gail Collins On Morning Joe: Dick Cheney Is A Dweeb

Gail Collins’ new book When Everything Changed, which we have written about in this space before, was released this week (buy here!) and the New York Times columnist has been making the media rounds this week. This morning she appeared on a large chunk of Morning Joe to discuss, among other things, the fact that former Vice President Dick Cheney is a “dweeb.”

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy


Why An AOL-Time Inc. Merger Could Actually Make Sense

aol_logoWith the benefit of hindsight, the AOL-Time Warner merger is widely derided as a very, very bad idea. If you type “AOL Time Warner” into Google, “AOL Time Warner merger failure” is one of the first results to pop up.

Now, on the eve of AOL’s split with Time Warner, a tipster tells Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson that the heads of AOL and Time Inc. met for more than three hours to discuss a possible “co spin-off” from their parent company. From Carlson’s tipster:

Time Inc CEO Ann Moore and Tim (AOL) met last week with some of their confidants to talk about a potential “co spin-off” of the Time Inc and AOL. While synergies have been talked about in the past, turns out TW thinks that their could be serious benefit from this (you know what they are) merger and spin-off.

In the months leading up to the spinoff, AOL has made no secret of its desire to shift its focus to the “content business.” The company has a huge leg up thanks to its portal, AOL.com, which is capable of driving massive traffic to sites in its MediaGlow network with relatively low profiles off the Web, sites like Asylum, LemonDrop, and Politics Daily.

With more recognizable Time Inc. brands on the docket, they could at once burnish their reputation as a web publisher, boost their aol.com traffic, and give refuge to Time brands that are being beaten up by the current print environment. There would be some issues of precedence. For instance, if AOL owned Sports Illustrated, would their well-trafficked in-house sports blog FanHouse be folded in, or would it retain a separate identity? Wallet Pop versus Fortune, People versus PopWatch … the list goes on. With a baseline of guaranteed web traffic, would underperforming Time Inc. print publications go Web-only en masse? How many employees on each side would be considered redundant and likely get fired?

These are nuts-and-bolts questions worth asking, but in the abstract, a merger would present a lot of juicy opportunities, and not just for content-hungry AOL. Whereas AOL was the obvious loser in the AOL-Time Warner merger, Time Inc. would be the loser unit this time around, hence the tipster’s key line that “TW thinks that their could be serious benefit from this.” Wrapping Time Inc. in with AOL would give Time Warner an exit strategy with respect to its troubled print unit, and would have the bonus effect of giving Jeff Bewkes an escape hatch from his comments to the effect that Time Inc. is too precious to sell to a third party.

Carlson says the deal “makes sense,” but is skeptical: “we agree that there’s a very low chance of this deal being successful given the cultural difference between the companies.  It would just be a mini-AOL-Time Warner all over again.” Would it, though? The focus seems a lot narrower this time; there’s a lot more synergy between a company that wants to reinvent itself as a web publisher and a (still overwhelmingly) print publishing company. At this point, the odds are still against this happening, but now that AOL knows what it is and knows what it wants to be, Gerald Levin’s and Steve Case’s synergistic vision of ten years ago seems a lot less like a pipe dream.


Mediaite Office Hours, Featuring Michael Scherer, A.J. Daulerio And Patrick Gavin

mediaitelogoToday on Mediaite Office Hours we’re coming to you live as usual from Livestream.com’s studio at 3pmET. We’ll be joined by Time magazine’s Michael Scherer, Deadspin.com editor A.J. Daulerio, Politico’s Patrick Gavin…and you!

Do you have a question, comment or complaint about anything concerning Mediaite? Well if you do, today is a real chance to make your voice heard. We will be holding our Mediaite Office Hours at 3pmET.

Daulerio was a big part of the Steve Phillips sex scandal story yesterday, as Deadspin.com, who felt they were victims of ESPN spin when they had a similar tip last month. The response: unleashing some past sex scandal tips, unconfirmed, about ESPN staffers. We’ll talk about this story…and yes, his Phillies making the World Series last night. Follow him on Twitter here. Scherer writes for the Swampland blog on Time.com – we’ll talk to him about the White House/Fox News battle, health care and more. Follow him on Twitter. And Gavin works for the new Politico blog “Click”, highlighting the intersection of politics and entertainment in D.C. He’s on Twitter as well.

Glynnis MacNicol, Steve Krakauer and Rachel Sklar host the live-streamed call-in show, and others in the Mediaite team, like, Colby Hall and our fantastic interns, will appear periodically, as well as special guests.

Our call-in number is (347) 632-8956. Also, we’re using Skype now, so you can video chat in to our username – Mediaite. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Watch us live here on this page at 3pmET, or check it out at www.livestream.com/mediaite.

As for the schedule, we’ll talk to Scherer, then Daulerio and then Gavin.

See you at 3pm!


Kicking Ink: The Guilty Pleasures of Print

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C. for "Public Media Camp," it happened again. I was tempted by print.

Starting in May, I gave up my print newspaper subscription, and then compared how the iPhone beat the Kindle when it comes to reading periodical publications on electronic devices.

My fingers have remained relatively ink-free each day because I get my news fix electronically. But what about when I get out of my hermetically sealed home office chamber and head out into the wild? I sat down innocently at the airport gate for my hour of repose, and next to my chair was an abandoned San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

Before I knew it, the newspaper was in my hands and I was leafing through the pages. I noticed that the actual size of the newspaper had shrunk since I last read it in print, and I saw that many articles in the print paper are not included in my Kindle edition (not to mention box scores, listings and many graphics). While I've sworn off getting a print subscription to the newspaper, that doesn't mean I can't read it out around town or while traveling, right?

On this trip, I fond myself reading print newspapers and a print book much more than my Kindle 2 or iPhone, even though these electronic devices were loaded up with books, newspapers, my email and Twitter feed. How do I explain the allure, the pleasures of print? Here are a few things that come to mind.

One Man's Trash...

Perhaps one of the strongest reasons that print newspapers could survive the twin holocausts of the Internet and economic meltdown is that people still like holding them during mass transit commutes, on airplanes ("turn off your electronic devices"), and on the toilet. When newspaper boosters talk about the "pass-around" rate for newspaper readers, they mean that one print edition easily makes the rounds from person to person to person.

And that includes strangers. I remember being in London a couple years ago and seeing Metro newspapers sitting everywhere inside the subway cars. When you got on the train, you reached for a paper, read it, and put it back when you were done. These free commuter papers are so convenient, so easy to find, so trashable, that you don't even mind the holy waste you are likely creating on the back end. Just grab and go.

On my recent trip to D.C., I found the Chronicle and the front section of the New York Times to read on my flight over, and then USA Today appeared under the door of my hotel room, free of charge. One morning I took the paper to breakfast; the next day, I stuck to my home routine of reading the New York Times on my iPhone. I would never have gone out to buy these papers, but their ability to appear magically at the right place and right time made them hard to ignore.

Scannability

So how did my reading experience differ with print newspapers compared to reading on the iPhone or Kindle? The first thing I noticed was that I could read a lot more in print than I would on those devices. With the print newspaper, I could quickly determine which stories were interesting by their headlines, images and placement. On a Kindle, it's more limited to one story at a time, or a partial list of headlines and cutlines. On the iPhone, most apps only load about 5 to 10 headlines and cutlines at a time.

For instance, I read all the front page stories from the New York Times front section, as well as many other articles the paper. On the iPhone, I usually read about five or six stories in the "Latest" section, and rarely go beyond that. Part of the reason for that could be that I have less time to read on the iPhone than I do while sitting on a five-hour flight. But the other reason is that it's quicker and easier for me to jump around to different stories and flip through pages with a print paper.

On an electronic device, there is the stutter-step effect. Click and wait. Scroll down. Page up and page down. A small window on the content. On a computer screen, scannability comes a little closer to the print newspaper. A home page of a news website is bathed in headlines, photos, cutlines, and even video. But, still, the print paper remains the king when it comes to scanning through a lot of content in a short period of time.

I remember when I first got my Kindle 2 and happily read through nearly every story in the Sunday New York Times. But perhaps that was a function of the newness, the excitement of seeing all that content and not having to carry around a huge print publication. Over time, the Kindle 2's magic has worn off. The more I read on my iPhone, the less I want to read on the Kindle.

The Beauty of Print

Finally, the eye-catching color images in a newspaper rarely transfer well to electronic devices. The Chronicle, in particular, uses almost gaudy amounts of color in its page designs. I quickly picked up that abandoned paper in a "monkey see, monkey read" moment. USA Today obviously operates with a similar modus operandi. The riot of color -- and even color-coded sections -- make it perfect for travel-weary souls who are more ready to be entertained and dazzled than put to sleep with monotones.

chicken on usatoday.jpg

That goes for the ads as well. I haven't noticed the ads on my iPhone, and the Kindle is still ad-free. The ads in print newspapers are massive and difficult to avoid. Oh yeah, that's why they still charge an arm and a leg for them. Yes, the colored ink does stain, but the marketing message burns a hole in the retina, too.

Conclusion

As much as I'd like to kick ink completely, I have to face the fact that print still has its charms. I realize the clear-cut forests, the big carbon footprint, the sheer energy used in making print publications is not good for the environment. And I don't want to pay ungodly sums to get them delivered to my doorstep. But, occasionally, when something colorful and flashy is sitting forlorn and unused, I might just have to dig in.

Image of chicken on USA Today box by ira via Flickr.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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