CNN Claims “Journalistic Quality,” While Turning To Stand-Up Comedy

griffin_8-10It may be the summer slump, but most cable news networks are sticking with, you know, news, to get through it. But when health care isn’t drawing the ratings, the town hall protester loop gets boring and no one is drinking beers at the White House, one cabler decided to go a different route.

CNN decided not only to let Kathy Griffin take over Larry King Live at 9pmET (which she has in the past), but to conduct a full-on non-interview with Levi Johnston. It was Griffin doing a stand-up routine for more than 10 minutes, and it makes CNN’s claims of being the more ‘news-focused’ network that much more laughable.

“Our journalistic quality is higher than its ever been,” said CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein last month. And here’s what that translates to:

Describing her night with Johnston after the Teen Choice Awards, Griffin said, “I have a bruise in a naughty place.”


Griffin: How could you not shave, you’re on Larry King.

Johnston: You said you like me scruffy.

Griffin: You’re right I do like you scruffy, you dirty dog you.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Watch the full routine here.

Again, this is not Red Eye, Fox News’ comedy/news hybrid that airs at 3amET. It’s not MSNBC’s sarcastic Way Too Early at 5:30amET. It’s not even D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, CNN’s short-lived show fronted by a comedian that did, occasionally, break some news. This is Larry King, on CNN, at 9pmET. And it is a lot of things, but it certainly is not “journalistic.”

You could argue that CNN’s Michael Jackson-focused prime time coverage in early July could be justified as news coverage, even if it leaned toward infotainment. Now, that facade has evaporated.

For what its worth, at least no one really seemed to give a crap about the segment. Here’s the way it was teased on (notice – misspelling that was up all night):

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Kathy Griffin and Levi Johnston’s Love Story Goes Late Night on Larry King

Wow. Kathy Griffin may be out to single-handedly save us from the summer news slump! Or at least is aiming to turn celebrity news coverage into some sort of performance art. Last night Griffin filled in for Larry King (a bit like the low-rent version of when Joan Rivers used to fill in on Johnny Carson) and welcomed Sarah Palin grand-baby daddy Levi Johnston as her guest. This, of course, as a follow-up to Johnston attending the Teen Choice Awards as Griffin’s the night before.

Are they dating? You’ll have to watch and decide. Griffin introduces Johnston by way of mentioning she woke up spooning with him and has found love in his “chocolate beautiful eyes.” Levi nods and smiles a lot. It’s unclear whether Levi is in on the joke — if it is a joke. Or merely is the joke. Either way, one suspects the interviews gives a whole new meaning to Sarah Palin’s idea of a death panel.

Is Politics Daily AOL’s Trophy Blog?


Picture 1

source: Politics Daily homepage

In his column in today’s Washington Post, Howard Kurtz painted Politics Daily as a fantastic wonderland of six-figure salaries, 5000-word articles, foreign correspondents who actually go overseas, and a distaste for the “hyperpartisan.” All of which sounds great, but could it ever turn a profit in an environment where traffic for articles like “Strippers Compete in Palin Look-alike Contest” is likely to dwarf Afghanistan coverage for the foreseeable future? If not, what is AOL trying to pull?

A while back, Mediaite wrote about AOL’s new political blog, Politics Daily, as a case study of AOL’s plans to focus on “the content business” by hiring top reporters away from print publications. Among others, Politics Daily has bagged The Baltimore Sun’s David Wood, CQPolitics’ David Corn, and USA Today’s Jill Lawrence, all media vets with impressive resumes. And though Kurtz seemed impressed — he pointed to the “high-minded” site that “slows things down, rather than posting every traffic-generating tidbit,” skeptics of the site — and this particular content strategy — remain.

Politics Daily pissed off a lot of political bloggers when TechCrunch ran this piece claiming that Politics Daily had bigger traffic than Politico. As one blogger told Mediaite, “They’re claiming to be the #1 politics site based on visitor count.  While technically true, I would guess about 80% of those are from places like the AOL welcome screen.  This would be akin to Wal Mart running a news show at their registers and claiming to be the #1 newscast.”

According to Kurtz, the site gets roughly half of its startling 3.6 million monthly unique visitors from its parent portal AOL; it doesn’t yet have big pickup from without. Kurtz cites two of the site’s popular dueling opinion pieces about Sarah Palin as the sort of thing it needs more of, yet is reluctant to ratchet up:

That is the kind of attention-grabbing argument that Politics Daily needs if it is to compete with the likes of the Huffington Post, Politico, the Daily Beast, Slate, Salon and other sites that offer speed, original writing and higher production values. With [Daily Politics EIC] Henneberger calling the operation a “preservation society” dedicated to “respectful” arguments, Politics Daily remains defiantly out of step with the online ethos.

“If there isn’t a market for this kind of Web site, that takes politics seriously, that is politically eclectic and journalistically conservative,” [Walter] Shapiro says, “we’re all in a lot of trouble.”

Is there such a market online? And if so, who’s buying? The answer may not be readers or advertisers, but AOL itself.

Politics Daily’s high-mindedness is admirable, but it raises the question of whether AOL is using the site to buy prestige. AOL and Time Warner will finally split at the end of 2009, after which the newly-created AOL Inc. will be a publicly-traded company. AOL has been telling anyone who will listen that it’s reinventing itself as a content (i.e. blog) provider. Though the site may never make money, AOL could be betting that having one “serious” site to pad out a portfolio rife with fluffy, slideshow-happy sites like Asylum and TMZ is worth the loss. If you’re a five billion dollar company nervous about getting and keeping investors, subsidizing a few great reporters to do solid but unmarketable work may be a price worth paying for good press from the likes of Kurtz.

Politics Daily currently has one Doubleclick banner up top and one sponsored sidebar on the right. Even with 3.6 million uniques, this is hardly the stuff on which to feed a full-time staff of more than twenty-five, many of whom are making six figures. And as Nick Denton wrote in his manifesto “A 2009 Internet Plan,” “Get out of categories such as politics to which advertisers are averse:” It’s unlikely that you’ll see wall-to-wall 90210 ads on Politics Daily anytime soon.

As of publication, several e-mails to AOL Senior Producer Michael Kraskin, who is listed as the contact for Politics Daily, went unanswered.

Sarah Palin’s Nightmare? Kathy Griffin, Levi Johnston Work the Red Carpet

levi_8-10The biggest story coming out of last night’s Teen Choice Awards did not involve Miley Cyrus or a Jonas Brother. Instead, D-lister Kathy Griffin, never one to shy away from controversy, commanded the spotlight with her red carpet “date” – Levi Johnston.

So how did Sarah Palin’s daughter’s baby daddy end up in LA with this dreaded “celebrity starlet”?

“She’s beautiful and funny,” Johnston told Access Hollywood. “She’s the star of the night.”

And Griffin: “Miley, try to top this!” (HuffPost has a slideshow.)

Griffin isn’t just anydelicate, tiny, very talented, celebrity starlet.” No, she’s someone who joked during an Emmy acceptance speech, “Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now.”

Palin hasn’t weighed in yet on Facebook (her new favorite mode of communication), but if Levi ended up in front of an Obama “death panel” right about now, she may change her mind about the whole thing.

(image by Matt Sayles/AP)

Also, like many celebrity relationships, we can trace the lineage back to some past comments. Sounds like it was love at first MySpace visit:

Goodbye Angry Mob, Hello “Death Panels”

sarah-palin-AlaskaIt seems as though, every week, the Republicans find new ways to alienate normal people. First, there were the Birthers in Congress, amplified by much-publicized coverage of the conspiracy theory from Lou Dobbs. Then, there was the so-called “Angry Mob,” a noisy confluence of birth certificates, tea bags, and healthcare town hall meetings.

Then, just as conservatives were getting some traction by leveraging Democratic criticism into a “stifling of dissent” argument, Sarah Palin comes along to complete the hat trick.

On Friday, the former Alaska Governor posted some grade-A crazy talk on her Facebook page:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Well, the echoes of the accompanying cuckoo-clock noises had barely died down when Newt Gingrich rushed in to agree with Palin that Death Panels were, indeed, cause for concern:

While the White House’s Deal or No Deal with PhRMA may be the big political story so far, expect many a cable news panel to discuss the Death Panel, and many a Republican guest to hop on the Death Panel bandwagon. If you need an excuse to get drunk this week, play the Death Panel drinking game, then hope the Death Panel has mercy on you.

This sets a high bar for next week, and I’m not sure they can top this. Maybe Palin will announce her Presidential bid, then pull out of the race the next day.

Who’s behind the reporting on Sarah Palin’s divorce?

A website called The Alaska Report published a story today claiming that Todd and Sarah Palin have plans to divorce. The story quickly gained traction within the Twitterverse and Blogosphere and was even addressed by a few mainstream journalists (if dismissively). The story gained enough momentum that the Palin camp put out statements officially denying it.

But why were so many people so quick to believe and report the story, or at least give it the time of day to comment on it? I wanted to track down the person who actually reported on the story, but found it nearly impossible to do so.

The article itself has no official byline, and if you go to the main page of Alaska Report it’s almost impossible to find any background information on the site, including who runs it (some of the articles do have bylines). I tried to find a contact address for someone there and came to the site map . But when you click on the “contact us” link it simply brings you back to the front page.

I dug into the privacy policy section of the page and found simply a PO Box address without much more information. But lower down on the page and on another part of the site I found reference to a Dennis Zaki, who appears to be an Alaska-based photographer. Based on this, it seems that he has a direct administrative role in the site itself.

I sent Zaki the following email, but have yet to receive any kind of response:

Hey Dennis,

My name is Simon Owens and I write for Bloggasm, a site that covers online media and journalism. I saw that Alaska Report published a piece today saying that Palin is getting divorced from her husband. Yours was the only contact info I could find via the site, and I was hoping to write a piece about the site’s reporting. Would you be a good person to speak to for my piece? If so, would there be a good time and phone number I could reach you for an interview?

take care,

So why did a site that has very little attribution or background information gain so much traction? It’s hard to say exactly how these memes take off, but it could be the fact that Alaska Report almost looks like a real news site and is even indexed in Google News. Luckily, the very nature of the web that allowed this rumor to spread quickly also made it incredibly easy for the Palin camp to deny it.

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An interview with the blogger who’s Palin’s worst nightmare

This was forwarded to me by my friend Stephen Ward.

Sarah Palin’s Least-Favorite Blogger

One day after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced she would leave office by the end of July, Palin’s attorney blasted what he said were “false and defamatory” claims on the Web about why Palin is resigning. Palin’s legal counsel warned that if Internet posters didn’t stop reporting rumors as fact, they would face legal action. Only one individual was named: Alaska blogger and radio talk show host Shannyn Moore. Forbes spoke with Moore earlier in the month.

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