Brian Kilmeade apologized Monday for controversial comments he made on the July 8 episode of "Fox and Friends."
The controversy arose when Kilmeade and his co-hosts were discussing a Swedish and Finnish study which found that married people were less susceptible to Alzheimer's disease than unmarried ones. Kilmeade downplayed the study's significance in America, saying "we [Americans] keep marrying other species and other ethnicities . . . Swedes have pure genes . . . in America we marry everybody..."
Kilmeade apologized this morning, saying "I made comments that were offensive to many people. That was not my intention, and looking back at those comments I realize they were inappropriate. For that I sincerely apologize. America [is a] huge melting pot, and that is what makes us such a great country..."
It is an AOL-palooza here today: Former AOL (NYSE: TWX) head of media Mike Kelly, who left in fall 2007 when Randy Falco reorg-ed the portal, has resurfaced again, this time at the president and CEO of The Weather Channel. Since leaving AOL, Kelly served as an advisor to Veronis Suhler Stevenson, the media-focused PE fund. Kelly’s reign at AOL lead to the slew of ad related acquisitions including Advertising.com and Third Screen Media. Previously, Kelly served as president of global marketing at Time Warner. His name was also reportedly in the mix for the Yahoo CEO position, before the company appointed Carol Bartz.
Weather Channel was acquired exactly a year ago by NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) and PE firms Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, for $3.5 billion, and Lisa Gersh, president of strategic initiatives at NBC Universal, had been serving as interim CEO of TWC since then. TWC’s Weather.com is the biggest in the space, and Kelly’s experience should boost that. More details in release.
I checked-in to a Courtyard (owned by Marriott) this week and a sign on the front desk alerted me to the fact that beginning earlier this spring Marriott Corp had discontinued free distribution of USA Today to hotel rooms. The newspaper would still be available to guests free of charge in the lobby. The good news, said the sign, is that Marriott's carbon footprint would be reduced by 10,350 metric tons per year thanks to the newspaper cut-back.
Newspapers can't buy a break; not only are fewer people reading them, it appears curbing a newspaper appetite may be good for you.
Marriott did the math and determined demand for newspapers at their hotels had dropped 25% over the years. They were feeling badly about throwing them out at the end of each day. Fortunately, I learned from their press release, Marriott Reward Members can still request automatic delivery of a newspaper, which I will do. I really only read newspapers when I travel, notably USA Today, and I miss that benefit.
The relationship between Marriott and USA Today goes back over 20 years. It helped to define USA Today as a business traveler's newspaper and then solidify its position as the Nation's Newspaper. Media planners would occasionally question the validity of the hotel distribution - called, "Blue Chip" by USA Today, and which also included distribution in other chains such as Sheraton - but based on my own experience as a business traveler, with long wait times in office lobbies and airports, no portion of the circulation was ever likely more valuable to advertisers.
That said, there is the niggling fact that guest requests for newspapers went down 25% from where they had been. What displaced them, one must wonder? Business travel conditions did not improve over the years. It is still a long wait in lines and lobbies, which create perfect conditions for the portable, comprehensive and even colorfully dramatic role of newspapers. Is the answer obvious?
Is it digital mobility? Mobile telephones? Blackberry? iPhones? iTunes? In-room, on-demand movies? 24 hour news channels? Wireless laptop technology? Elevator TV. Taxicab TV? Airport TV? All of the above?
It occurs to me that in 1995 when O.J. appeared in court to hear the jury's verdict in his trial for the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman I was able to listen to the entire proceedings walking from Grand Central Station on 42nd and Lexington to my office at 44th and Third at mid-day in New York City. All the windows and doors of all the stores and taxi cabs were open that day and all the radios and TVs tuned to the same thing. It was surreal. It was surround sound. I heard it all as well as if I was listening through earphones plugged into my real-time streaming Internet connection.
That says the answer to the question for newspapers - and information generally - is probably all of the above. The conditions that existed for that one instant during the O.J. Simpson verdict exist continuously today. We are a super-interested species and news and information is everywhere. It surrounds us. It radiates. We absorb it through the skin.
I'm not sure what that means for carbon footprints, but it can be truly said we live in a news environment. It has to make you wonder, therefore, how anyone thinks they will be successful charging for the air we breathe.
Hey, everybody! There's a war on! And when there's a war on, it is the responsibility of every perfumed and pancake-makeup padded pundit to puff themselves up with every ounce of fake bellicosity they can muster from the safety of their news studios. And so that's why we have retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters suggesting before all the facts are known, that maybe the Taliban should do us a solid by killing the captured Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl. At least someone has the guts to be this pointless!
PETERS: I want to be clear. If, when the facts are in, we find out that through some convoluted chain of events, he really was captured by the Taliban, I'm with him. But, if he walked away from his post and his buddies in wartime, I don't care how hard it sounds, as far as I'm concerned, the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.
Yes, apparently the punishment for alleged desertion is execution at the hands of the Taliban. Cheers to Peters for the heroic way he pretends to have a personal stake in this matter. Truly an inspiration to us all.
I wonder what it is like to be a member of Bergdahl's family, at this moment. I'm guessing this segment really helped them put things in perspective.
Sporting a snazzy redesign and new corporate logos, "The Onion" announced today that it has been sold to the Chinese--specifically Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Group. The Publisher Emeritus T. Herman Zweibel made the announcement in an Op-Ed piece, explaining how the purchase was made:
"One of their representatives oozed and crawled from his dank hut to visit me in person at my bedside last week, and make known his superiors' desire to expand their clammy clutch into the Western world. After subjecting me to a good 20 minutes of infernal bowing and other assorted chinky-dinkery, he offered to pay me what I've been assured is an appropriately absurd parcel of riches to take this tiresome publication off my feeble hands for good."
The elaborate hoax fooled Gawker into publishing two stories about rumors of the sale, and CNET took it from there. Of course, in this media climate it is understandable that people believed the story, as few media outlets seem safe in this economy.
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In a victory for Univision Communications in a long battle over who has the U.S. digital rights to the popular shows made by Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa and aired in the U.S. by the leading Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, a U.S. judge ruled that it's not Televisa.
This new game from Parade and Threemagination is so fun you want to keep playing it. And since we keep adding new puzzles to the game automagically… you can! Numbrix was last week’s featured app, and it’s on sale right now for only $2.99.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ray Shaw, a former Associated Press newsman and chairman of American City Business Journals, has died of complications from an insect sting. He was 75.
Whitney Shaw said his father had been working in his garage early Saturday when he was stung by a yellow jacket and collapsed. He said his father was revived, but died Sunday morning.
The elder Shaw worked for the AP in the 1950s in Oklahoma City, Louisville, Ky., and New York. He became president and chief operating officer of Dow Jones & Co. before, in 1989, he bought control of American City Business Journals and sold it in 1995 to Advance Publications. He remained as chairman.
Survivors include his wife, Kay, sons Whitney and Kirk; his daughter, Beth; and seven grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.
A few years back, someone called to my attention a blog written by a young woman named Julie Powell. Her writing was smart, sometimes a little bit snarky, very definitely edgy, and totally heartfelt. The Julie/Julia Project was an entry-by-entry accounting of her offseting her workaday life by cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, which is comprised of 500+ often idiosyncratic recipes like poulet poele a l'estragon (page 249), veau sylvie (page 357), and jambon farci et braise (page 394).
It was August, 2002; we were all still in national mourning over 9/11. Come mid-month, I would be mourning my own sudden loss of my Dad, who died of injuries resulting from a car accident. I was bereft, and seven years later, on many days, I still am, and the only way I climb out of my pain is to cook. So looking back, I suppose I really liked Julie Powell from the outset because on the one hand, her writing was fearless, tough, and totally engaging, and on the other hand, I could understand coming to a point in life where one's own day-to-day is a little bit rocky and one needs a steadying hand to keep one (or, I should say, me) from throwing up. Because, as I read somewhere recently, no matter how bad Julie's day was, there was always the fact of the food, the method, and the process, at day's end.
So several years later, when Judith Jones, Julia's famed editor, told me that she didn't approve of the blog or the book that followed because it denigrated Julia's name and all she had done, I was completely mystified. For one thing, this wasn't so much about Julia as it was about Julie; for another, having heard story after story over the years about how Julia really liked young people who were inspired by her and the process to step into the kitchen and change their lives, I'd guess that Julia -- if you asked her, as opposed to her people -- would have likely given a rousing thumbs up to Julie Powell.
I was sitting in Judith's office that day because, years before, I had taken it into my brain to put together a small book of quotes by Julia called The Wit & Wisdom of Julia Child; I proposed it to a major publisher, and they bought it for a petite sum that would pretty much pay for rights, and little else. Part of the proposal was that all of my royalties, assuming I earned any, would be donated in their entirety to Julia's scholarship fund at the American Institute of Wine and Food. Long story short: for five months, I worked on the book, gathering material and contacting friends of Julia who agreed to contribute to the book in some manner; one day, I sat down at my computer to find that I had been blind copied on an email exchange between Julia's attorney, Judith, and Julia's longtime assistant: "I don't like this one bit," was all it said, referring to my book. A week later, I had a cease and desist order in hand. Two weeks after that, my publisher canceled the book. And two weeks after that--and even though I had spent five months working on it--I was asked to return the first portion of my advance, which I did. As a longtime editor myself, I was aghast. As a writer who had no representation at that time, I knew that I had just been bullied into submission, and that, most likely, Julia had absolutely no inkling that this was happening. That afternoon, in Judith's office, she explained to me why, exactly, she had killed my project: because it would denigrate Julia's memory.
On the day that I met with Judith to chat about my book, I was a senior editor at a different Random House imprint, and I knew, certainly, what it was like to feel proprietorship over some of my authors. I also had, and still have, a longtime collegial reverence for Judith, and all the work that she had done over the years (certainly involving Julia, but also far beyond). But what befuddled me was the implication that Julia was simply a commodity--a property to be owned and used by pre-approved people--and that those of us who wished to write about her in any manner because we were inspired by her and because she changed our lives, were quietly forbidden: the very people who wanted to prevent Julia from becoming a commodity had inadvertently turned her into one.
So when I started reading Julie Powell's blog, and then read her book, and then heard about the movie (long before the public would learn that it was partly taken from My Life in France, Julia's posthumously published quasi-biography written by Paul Child's nephew Alex Prud'homme), I applauded. Judith said that it denigrated Julia's work; I said that, as much as I adored Julia and all she had done and meant, it wasn't so much about her, specifically, and that perhaps the naysayers, herself included, were missing the point. Because, at the end of the day, Julie Powell's blog, and her book, were about Julie and the fact that, no matter how crappy her day was, there was always the lesson that Julia taught everyone by her mere existence: that loving food and understanding the process, and the inalienable right to "eat well and enjoy life" ---are things that no one, ever, can claim ownership over.
Dateline, Christmas season, 1975. A cab left me off in front of Walter Cronkite's Upper Eastside townhouse. Fresh out of college, I had joined CBS News two years earlier as a desk assistant and had become a regular substitute for Jim McGlinchy, Cronkite's clerk on the CBS Evening News. And now I was invited to his staff Christmas party.
The house was warm, filled with people, laughter and music. I found my way into the living room where Uncle Walt, sporting a Santa red vest, was playing the piano and loudly warbling some corny country song -- karaoke before there was karaoke. Of all the people gathered around him, some laughing, some just being polite, Uncle Walt was the one having the best time. I, for one, wondered why he was singing a country song for Christmas -- until he got up from the piano bench to go talk to someone and the piano kept playing by itself.
I was dumbfounded. I had never seen a player piano before and I never thought the "most trusted man in America" would have one -- let alone be a country music fan. Truthfully, I just never thought of Walter Cronkite as being fun until then.
I liked Uncle Walt. One night after the broadcast, we chatted about how he started out at a radio station in Kansas City, Missouri when my father worked for the Kansas City Star. He remembered my father's name. And curiously, just as Cronkite joined UPI and left the Midwest to cover World War Two, my father left to become one of the first Americans to join the RAF, the Royal Air Force, before the US officially declared war.
My father had also moonlighted as a local bandleader and we talked about the Big Bands, Louie Armstrong, Cole Porter and a fellow named Hoagy Carmichael. My father died just before I joined CBS News, so the exchange was poignant.
At the Christmas party, as many of my young colleagues went upstairs to watch a cool new television show called NBC's Saturday Night with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, I chatted and drank wine with Kathy Cronkite, who was around my age. She said she was thinking about going into acting -- and sure enough -- the following year she played a Patty Hearst look-alike in Paddy Chayefsky's incredible take on broadcast news -- Network. I didn't need to drop any LSD to know how psychedelic that was!
Like so many other Baby Boomers, Walter Cronkite stands out in the timeline of my life.
Though my father chose a military career instead of journalism, we always had the news on in our house. I was transfixed by John F. Kennedy and how the torch had been passed to a new generation -- a vigorous generation characterized by Jackie and Caroline and John-John playing in the Oval Office.
As a "duck and cover" kid who lived on or near Strategic Air Command Air Force bases when the Berlin Wall went up and Kennedy stared down Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis, my first thought when I heard the news that Kennedy had been shot on that fateful Nov. 22, 1963 was that the Communists got him.
But the steadiness of Walter Cronkite and a young reporter named Dan Rather calmed me. For the next four days, my family was glued to the television -- including watching "live" the murder of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Dallas club owner Jack Ruby and the mournful procession down Pennsylvania Avenue of JFK's flag-draped casket on a horse-drawn caisson and a riderless horse with the stirrups turned backward.
Later, in 1967, we were riveted again as Cronkite and Rather did a four-part series -- "The Warren Report" -- that included re-enactments of the shooting to examine the conspiracy theories.
But the most powerful Cronkite moment for me was his commentary about the Vietnam War.
It's difficult for many people today to realize just how revolutionary the 1960s were -- smacking back against the dark, closeted, conformist 50s. The JFK generation was kids joining the Peace Corps and using folk songs and marches to support of the growing civil rights movement -- which Cronkite insisted upon covering. Meanwhile, however, Robert McNamara (who also died recently), one of JFK's "best and brightest," was sending military advisors to Vietnam. The practice expanded under President Lyndon Johnson and Gen. William Westmoreland who started drafting ground troops in 1965. Over the years, Johnson and Westmoreland kept up a steady drumbeat that America was winning the war, tossing out authoritative-sounding "body counts" of the enemy.
But the anti-war movement, which coincided and often overlapped with the civil rights movement, the student movement, and the Black, Chicano, gay and women's liberation movements, took to the streets, demanding accountability.
Initially, Cronkite talked about Vietnam in a stodgy World War Two style, uncritically reporting the White House's "domino theory" that if communism wasn't stopped in Vietnam, it would spread throughout Southeast Asia. But Vietnam increasingly became a television war, with reporters such as Rather, Charles Kuralt, and Morely Safer reporting from the frontlines. The country was divided: conservative response to Safer's famous report showing Marines lighting thatched village huts with Zippo lighters, for instance, was that it was a common practice during search and destroy missions when you can't tell the communist enemies from the innocent non-combatants.
Veteran war correspondent John Laurence covered the bloody battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive, a turning point. Launched Jan. 30 and 31, 1968, over 80,000 Viet Cong swarmed South Vietnam to the shock and surprise of unsuspecting South Vietnamese and American troops. The American public was totally shocked to see footage of the US Embassy in Saigon under attack.
Cronkite wanted to see what was going on for himself. He spent two weeks talking to everyone -- officials and soldiers -- and reporting on the battle of Hue. Upon his return, he did what no one expected him to do -- he dropped his renowned objectivity and outright criticized the military and the Johnson Administration.
As someone who vehemently opposed the war -- my friends were being drafted or running away to Canada or trying to figure out how to be homosexual so they wouldn't be accepted or coming home injured, crippled or in a body bag -- I watched Cronkite's Feb. 27, 1968 commentary with nail-biting anxiety.
Cronkite said in part:
"We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest cloud....For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate..... And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past.... But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."
I watched in jaw-dropped silence and then I jumped up and yelled and danced around -- catching the eye of my father who had retired from the military and joined Avco-Lycoming, an aerospace industry based in Stratford, Connecticut. Our move to Westport a few years earlier introduced me to a very liberal crowd -- and at one point I even called my father a "professional killer" over the dinner table. He slapped me and we were officially at odds. But after Cronkite's commentary, he changed his mind about the war.
He wasn't the only one. Bill Moyers reported that President Lyndon B. Johnson -- who withstood thousands of protesters screaming "Hey, Hey LBJ! How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?" -- said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."
The next month, LBJ announced he would not seek re-election and New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy announced he would run in the Democratic Primary against poet and antiwar Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. My father liked RFK because he had a "strategic plan for withdrawal."
It was way past time, as Seymour Hersh's reporting of the My Lai Massacre revealed: On March 16, US Army forces murdered between 347-504 unarmed civilians, most of whom were women and children and elderly. Many of the victims had been sexually abused and tortured. Only William Calley was convicted, getting life but serving only three years under house arrest.
We came together as a family again to watch Cronkite's coverage of the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK -- the latter on the day I graduated from high school.
We knew the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago was going to be an opportunity to draw world attention to the Vietnam War. But I don't think any of us -- or at least not grunt students like me -- had any idea that Mayor Richard Daley would unleash his baton-wielding, head-bashing cops on the commie-pinko-faggot-scum demonstrators who were littering his city with unpatriotic puke. Daley was the Bull Connor of the North.
What we really, really didn't expect to see was the outside brought in when Rather got punched in the stomach and sank to the floor, yelling on air: "Get your hands off me unless you intend to arrest me!" Perched in a skybox watching with the rest of us, Cronkite was livid. "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan," he said, in a rare moment of pique. I always wondered, however, why CBS News didn't haul Daley into some TV booth and demand an explanation and on-air apology.
That unbridled hostility under the color of authority had its pinnacle at home with the May 4, 1970 shooting of unarmed students at Kent State University in Ohio. The Ohio National Guard wound up killing four students and wounding nine others. Some of the students were protesting President Richard Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. But others were simply walking on campus. Eight million students went on strike to protest the shootings, shutting down hundreds of universities and schools.
This is why Cronkite was so important: he was about the only person in this intensely divided America that both sides could trust. He was our no-frills common bond.
"And that's the way it is," he'd say closing each 7:00pm broadcast, as if that summed up one day, now we're on to the next. In his book A Reporter's Life, Cronkite writes that Richard Salant, the highly respected president of CBS News, didn't like the line because it ate up four seconds. Cronkite said that while he thought Salant might be right, "I was too stubborn to drop it." Thank heavens because the routine of that catch phrase was something to depend on.
I honestly can't tell you where I was or with whom the day 40 years ago on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11's space craft Eagle landed on the moon. We all needed a break -- a moment of pure unadulterated wonder watching as NASA relayed "live" pictures from the moon. Once again, Cronkite summed it up appropriately -- rubbing his hands with glee and saying, "Oh, boy!"
I started working as a desk assistant at CBS News in late 1973 (I took the proverbial one year off for an "identity crisis"). Coverage of the Watergate scandal was already well underway and I was thrilled to be there. The Washington Post broke the story but CBS News with Cronkite at the helm -- and Salant defending him against White House power plays -- brought the story to television and the national stage in late October 1972. Then Rather, the primary White House correspondent, worked the hell out of story which had so many threads until Nixon resigned in 1974 that I even broke a story one night on the assignment desk.
The CBS Newsroom at the time was one long loud unvarnished off-white room with a bank of wire service machines clanking away, muffled only by plastic enclosures that we lifted to roll copy for the reporters and writers. Facing the Flash Studio where Douglas Edwards still did the 12:30 news, the right hand side was for radio reporters and writers -- with a bank of closed-in radio studios at the far end. The left side was TV with offices for the National News Editor (wunderkind Peter Sturtevant who told me not to get an MA in journalism but to "learn by doing") and the brilliant Foreign News Editor Bob Little, with whom I would later get drunk at The Slate restaurant when Saigon fell and Bob thought his beloved and faithful Vietnamese cameraperson who stayed behind to get the story would be summarily killed. Bob later become my boss at Syndication, now Newspath.
Beyond Sturtevant's office was a door to the inner sanctum of the CBS Evening News. On the immediate right was the "Fish Bowl" where the executive producer sat. On the immediate left was the horseshoe desk where the writers sat -- national, foreign and "everything else," supervised by editor John Merriman. Against a long desk in front of a wall sat McGlinchy (or me, when I substituted) and others who were key to putting on the show.
The newsroom was really ruled over by Cronkite's short, stern secretary Hinda Glasser. She sat right outside Cronkite's sizable office but kept an eye on everything. I think she even threw a scare into the producers. But she could also be very protective and understanding.
Being a clerk was not an easy job when it came to airtime. Cronkite would come to his anchor desk a few minutes before broadcast and if there was a new story or he didn't like the way something was written -- he'd toss it back and gruffly order -- "Do it over!"
I would quietly freak out. I had to "break down" the script, give it to Uncle Walt, and then the teleprompter guy and then run like hell out the side door between the Fish Bowl and Cronkite's office down the hall, whip a left into the Control Room, hand the pages to the directors, and dash back to give the final copy to the executive producer and get ready to do it all over again in seconds, if necessary. Falling, running into people, hitting a knee -- no excuses. It was about getting those pages to the people who needed it right now with Cronkite live on air.
When I clerked for Rather, Bob Schieffer, and Morton Dean over the weekends -- my usual gig -- things were much calmer -- unless a story broke unexpectedly, of course. The paced quickened when CBS News transitioned to videotape from film, as well.
Charles Kuralt was a dream to work for when he substituted for Cronkite. He was famous for his On the Road series, which was a favorite kicker for the show. I asked him if he ever wanted to take over for Cronkite when he retired and Kuralt chuckled and said, no, he was an old hippie and he loved living in Greenwich Village and going out to meet people on the road.
My least favorite Cronkite substitute was Roger Mudd. A lot of the older journalists really liked him. But I thought he was an uncouth, arrogant sexist pig who droned the news. Now I grant you -- his documentary The Selling of the Pentagon was great. But he was really creepy to a young "everything else" writer named Carol Ross and everyone knew it -- and he just didn't give a damn.
This became a big deal for me when Cronkite was forced to retire -- not by Rather as some thought -- but by founder and chair Bill Paley's stupid rule that everyone had to retire at 65. There had been a lot of speculation about who would replace him -- with Mudd in the lead over Rather since Mudd substituted more.
I heard that Cronkite wanted Mudd -- but now -- 28 years later, I'm learning that may not have been the case. Regardless, I was a Rather fan. He was my mentor, he was smart, ambitious, generous and he created a terrific working environment. By the time they gave him the anchor job, I had been promoted and was working in Syndication so I wasn't involved with or privy to all the hoopla that happened afterwards.
But as Rather was finding his sea legs as anchor with an new administration in the newsroom and in the White House -- I got upset with Uncle Walt for what I thought was "bad-mouthing" Rather. He was saying that the news -- which had always been straightforward and headline-ish -- was now going "soft" and blending into entertainment.
But that was not what Rather was doing! One of the things I always admired about Rather was that he never forgot where he came from. He had hard-working parents during the Depression -- his father was a ditch digger and his mother waitressed. So when the Reagan White House put out unemployment numbers -- instead of just reciting the figures and showing a nice graphic -- Rather sent reporters to towns where the steel mills were shutting down. He wanted to tell the stories behind the numbers. That's not soft -- that's smart and humane.
I confess that I was miffed over that for a long time. But then Cronkite came to Los Angeles and I had a chance to chat with him after a lecture he delivered at the Wadsworth Theatre. (I moved here in 1984 -- my last assignment for CBS News was setting up a newsroom and co-producing the Olympic coverage for CBS News affiliates.)
I called him Uncle Walt -- which some of the older folks around me thought was rude. But he smiled and remembered me and we joked about that player piano and this odd little burlesque strip tease he'd done at that Christmas party.
My last best memory of Walter Cronkite was the night he opened the Emmy show after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the war in Afghanistan forced the show's postponement -- twice.
Sitting in front of the television with my family of choice, I watched Cronkite tell the audience that in the coverage of those two historic events, "television, the great common denominator, has lifted our common vision as never before."
And then on came show host Ellen DeGeneres who said she was the Taliban's worst nightmare: a lesbian in a pantsuit surrounded by Jews.
I just know that the most trusted man in America -- the guy with the player piano -- was cracking up backstage.
An al-Jazeera journalist who was imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay plans to launch a joint legal action with other detainees against former US president George Bush and other administration officials, for the illegal detention and torture he and others suffered at the hands of US authorities.
Ahh, the life of a typical member of Congress is pretty sweet. You are well paid, you get your own nice office, a staff to do the heavy lifting, lobbyists who will not only tell you what to think but pay so that you can return to Capitol Hill again and again and continue not thinking. When so many Americans are going without health care, you've got a nice health care plan paid for by their sweat. And when the economy's in turmoil, you get to ride it out in a job that's extremely hard to lose -- though if you do, all that means is that you emerge from the cocoon of the legislative branch as a butterfly ready to drink the milkweed of corporate boards and special interest shops and think tanks and freebie print columns. It's nice work if you can get it, and for most of those that do, you can't imagine them doing any other job. Such is their incompetence.
But at the same time, every once in a while your elected officials find that GOVERNMENTING IS HARD! Luckily, they have Twitter at the ready, to bleat out 140 characters of bitching.
Hey, Pete! This job too tough for you, go ahead and resign, maybe? Nothing special or essential about you, son. I'm sure Michigan can scrounge up another Republican representative that's at least as good as you at whatever it is you are doing.
Just about everyone, at least everyone who has something to sell or promote, has tried Twitter. Many people see it as a democratizing tool that will radically change how people share and receive information online. Others see it as the epitome of banal, meaningless posts and self-promotion run amok.
Now that it has hit the mainstream, it is fair to ask, "Is Twitter revolutionizing information or is it High School all over again?
It's the Stupidest Thing Ever
Twitter can easily be seen in either perspective: as a sad, almost juvenile, endless popularity contest, with users doing just about anything (complimenting, bragging, offering money) to increase their number of followers. It is like an online version of American Idol, with everyone trying to "win" votes in their category, be it in coaching, social media consulting, or just about any other subject under the sun.
It's the Greatest Thing Ever
On the other side, it can also be seen as revolutionizing how people share information, giving us access to news that in the past was filtered by major news outlets, from personal accounts and photos of protests in Iran to non-profits running campaigns to raise awareness on important issues. People now have a means of being in direct contact as never before, allowing for a new type of information sharing and engagement.
The Missing Piece: the Mind
Though on first glance Twitter can appear pretty silly, it is hard for me to understand someone having an issue with an empty box on a screen to which someone can add content. I can understand someone getting upset about how a person uses the site; a man at his wife, for example, for paying less attention to him and their children because she is increasingly distracted due to her constant tweeting. But the site is not the issue; the issue is in the mind that is using it. Take away Twitter and she is likely to find something else to distract herself.
Similarly, does it really make sense to praise this same empty blank box? It is like singing the praise of the telephone. OK, it is kind of a neat invention, but there is nothing inherently good about it. It can be as easily used to share porn or organize terrorists plots as it can to spread information on social causes. The tool is much less important than the quality of mind using it.
What is Moving?
It reminds me of an old Zen story of two monks getting into a debate on seeing a flapping temple flag.
"The flag is moving," the first monk argued.
"No," said the second, "it is the wind that is moving."
This went on for some time until a third monk arrived and responded, "Actually, it is your mind that is moving."
There are a lot of minds moving on Twitter, sharing everything from what they had for breakfast to their favorite quote. The question, at least for those of us who seek to engage consciously with it, is "What aspect of our mind is using it?"
Know Your Mind
Some years back while participating on a silent seven-day meditation retreat, the teacher told of a time when he was a monk and had the chance to meet one of the most renowned meditation masters of the time. He was told that he would only have time to ask the teacher one or two questions. At their meeting, he began by asking the master what he thought was the most important question:
"Please tell me, what is the essence of your teaching?" he queried the master.
"Know your mind," the master answered.
Wanting a little more information, he followed, "Why? Why know your mind?"
To which the master replied, "For the benefit of all beings, know your mind."
When we do not know our mind, when do not know how we lose focus and get lost in greed, selfishness, and hatred, no matter whether we we use a social network like Twitter or not, we will inevitably create suffering for ourselves and others.
Therefore, "to tweet or not to tweet?" is not the question. The real question, at least to me, is, Do we know what truly matters to us and are we willing to live based on that?
If we don't know, our use of Twitter is likely to be yet another distraction; and if we do, we can use anything, including Twitter, to express and bring forth what we most value.
The concept of irony is often abused and invoked much too easily. But sometimes events conspire to provide true and rich irony that cannot be ignored. The near juxtaposition of the deaths of Michael Jackson and Walter Cronkite yield to us such an event.
Upon the death of another beloved entertainer, CBS News anchor Cronkite started the evening newscast with the following statement about John Lennon's murder: "The death of a man who sang and played the guitar overshadows the news from Poland, Iran and Washington tonight."
And now, in a cruel twist of ironic fate, that very statement could be applied to Jackson's death relative to Cronkite's own.
Cronkite had the proper sense to know that the response to Lennon's death was disproportionate to its importance. Like Jackson, Lennon was an iconic figure, a giant in the music industry, a legend in his own time. Like Jackson, Lennon's death brought forth a huge outpouring of public angst, candlelight vigils and somber prayer sessions. Like Jackson, Lennon's death evoked a response that revealed more about us than about the deceased. Cronkite understood this and reported accordingly.
As we witness Cronkite's death being overshadowed by Jackson's as presaged by the news anchor's own words, each of us should ask ourselves the following questions: what is my reaction to the death of Michael Jackson compared to my reaction to Walter Cronkite's death? Is that reaction appropriate to the contributions each made to society and humanity? Let's compare the two.
Michael Jackson was an extraordinary entertainer with an amazing talent for song and dance, but also perhaps with an inappropriate affinity for little boys.
Walter Cronkite was the calm voice of reason that held together the fraying fabric of American society that was rapidly unraveling in the face of war, riots and assassinations. Cronkite reassured the country in the face of tragedy followed by tragedy. His reluctant public opposition to the war in Vietnam changed the course of history. He thrilled the entire globe with his wondrous descriptions of man's first step onto another world. He brought us his soothing professionalism as the world held its collective breath during the Apollo 13 near-disaster. In a public life never far from the spotlight, Cronkite's personal and professional integrity were never questioned.
One sang to entertain; the other spoke to inform.
Now let's look at the news coverage. Jackson's demise evoked ceaseless, 24 hour, wall-to-wall coverage for more than one week, and the story still lives on as a headline even today. Walter Cronkite's death warranted a few hours of coverage on the day of his death, a few tributes, and we have already moved on to the next story. Yet according to a Pew poll, half of those interviewed thought the media struck the right balance in covering Jackson's life and death. That is probably one of the saddest statistics I have read, proving to me that half of us have lost all sense of proportion, balance and priority. The comparative response to these deaths can only be considered pathetic.
We fashion a myth and then mourn its death. We have done nothing but create a secular religion, complete with our messiah. We can no longer discern fact from fantasy or myth from reality. We confuse entertainment with news. We're losing it.
Our president is struggling with a declining economy, an ascending Iran, a nuclear North Korea, a war in Iran, an expanding military presence in Afghanistan, and a ceaseless threat from al Qaeda. And we focus on Michael Jackson, largely ignore Walter Cronkite and completely forget important political scandals like the adulterous demise of family values proponents Mark Sanford and John Ensign.
We have become a parody of ourselves, an embarrassing example of self-indulgence and shallowness.
Next month, ReelzChannel will introduce a weekly prime-time show about "Twilight" in advance of the second film in the series, "New Moon," which arrives in November. Executives at the channel, a unit of the Hubbard Media Group, say they believe it is the first weekly TV show dedicated to an individual movie.
A YouTube developer is working on a stereoscopic player as a side project, Barry Schwartz discovered this weekend. If you’ve got a pair of 3D glasses or a 3D video camera of your own, you can join in the fun.
Here’s a clip from an Idaho farmer’s market from a YouTube user who’s been experimenting with the feature. Users are able to choose from one of ten 3D viewing styles, e.g. “Red/Cyan Glasses: Full Color.” Uploaders can enable the view mode by using the tag “yt3d:enable=true.”
BOSTON — The publisher of Boston's only black-owned newspaper says he'll accept a $200,000 loan from the city to avert the shutdown of the financially struggling weekly.
Bay State Banner Publisher Mel Miller tells The Boston Globe "only a fool wouldn't take" the loan, which Mayor Thomas Menino offered earlier this week.
The loan will come from the Boston Local Development Corp., a private nonprofit administered by the city that provides cash to small businesses.
The 44-year-old Bay State Banner suspended publication this month, blaming a steep drop in advertising.
Kelly McBride, an ethics specialist at the Poynter Institute, said publications that take public money risk their reputations of being impartial and independent. But Miller says he's not compromising his independent.
New stats from Nielsen show that the average U.S. home has more TVs in it than people. According to the research firm, in 2009 the average U.S. household had just 2.5 people but had 2.86 televisions.
This represents a 43 percent increase since 1990, when the average American home had only 2.0 TV sets (how did we even get by back then?!). Other key stats from Nielsen’s Television Audience Report:
38% of U.S. TV homes have digital cable.
88% have a DVD player, while VCR fell to 72%.
82% of homes have more than 1 television set.
11% of U.S. TV homes only have the capability to receive TV reception “over the air”. These homes have neither cable nor ADS.
As we keep adding TV sets to our homes, there’s a good chance they will have wireless connectivity. A new study from ABI Research forecasts that by 2011, roughly 20 million wireless networked TVs will be shipped worldwide.
The wirelessly networked TV is a hot space right now with many different standards vying to be the top dog. Amimon, which just raised an additional $10 million, is pushing its WHDI solution; SiBEAM uses the WirelessHD standard; the WiGig Alliance plans to use the 60 GHz spectrum; and Quantenna wants to use Wi-Fi.
ABI highlights Wi-Fi as a winner. From the study’s press release:
Ethernet will handle the wired type of connection in most cases, but will wireless technology prevail? If it does, the most likely candidate is Wi-Fi, although it’s true that 802.11b and 802.11g may suffer some latency and interference problems. 802.11n Wi-Fi, though, should provide a fully capable connection, and its growing adoption will improve support for networked TVs.
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That memory seems to gratify Gasparino, a 46-year-old veteran of the newspaper trade who has found an unlikely niche on CNBC, the financial cable channel, whose best-known stars have been glossy female anchors such as Maria Bartiromo. Gasparino, with his close-cropped hair and broken nose, hardly looks the part. Yet the financial crisis brought out a different CNBC, one its bosses began to fashion after the network sagged in the wake of the 1990s internet boom. Instead of waiting for newspapers or wire services to break stories and then getting a chief executive or an analyst to comment, CNBC strove to produce scoops of its own -- and hired seasoned reporters to find them.