Archive for July, 2010

The Daily Beast pantses Viacom CEO

July 21, 2010

I admit to watching CNBC earlier today only for the fact that the senseless jabbering–for a short period of time–hit on a great story: The Daily Beast received a call from 140-year-old party-boy CEO Sumner Redstone.

A while back, Peter Lauria at The Beast broke a story about Redstone, reporting that he pressured MTV to run a series about his “friends,” a big-brestessessed girl band called “The Electric Barbarellas.” Read the entire piece if you haven’t. It is hilarious.

But now Redstone is taking his dirty old man act a bit too far. The Daily Beast has learned that Redstone is so smitten with a scantily clad new all-girl group dubbed the Electric Barbarellas that he has paid to fly its six members out to New York to meet with record labels—and forced MTV to shoot a pilot for a reality-TV series about the group that he wants the network to air. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the show and music are so bad that MTV Networks executives, including CEO Judy McGrath, object to it—and Redstone’s insistence that they develop the project anyway may soon lead to her departure.

Lauria spoke to internal sources who said, among other things, that Redstone has spent half-a-million dollars pitching the girl band to record labels, and that the band is horrible–the raunchier, “not as musically gifted” cousin to the Pussycat Dolls. The EBs apparently complained to Redstone about that.

Then, this week Redstone did something silly. He left a long, weird voicemail offering to pay/protect The Daily Beast to name names on who snitched. Any self-respecting journalist would have done the normal thing–quietly take the money (I keed, I keed)–but The Beast has apparently not gotten the memo. They posted the voicemail online.

Personally, I think it’s a gutsy move that shows journalistic integrity and sheds light on the type of behind-the-scene angry calls papers get from their targets. Redstone’s no slouch… to the unaquainted, pissing him off would be akin to pissing off Ted Turner. The man has giraffe money, a chip on his shoulder and that drunken knifefighter gleam in his eye. I wonder if there is any other publication that would have done this.

If you disagree with my praise, know this. CNBC’s squawking contrarian indicator thought Lauria overstepped the line, saying something along the lines of “he won’t be working in this city again.” The rub, I gather, is that Redstone should have said the voicemail is off the record. The hell he should have. We all know a threat/bribe like that is not a “and you can quote me on that” moment. But it’s news, it’s how a CEO decided to play, and it sheds light into an ethical issue every journalist should think about. The Beast pantsed him, and he probably likes it for the attention.

As an aside, it appears the band couldn’t even get an original name, and I don’t mean the Duran Duran song: Another “Electric Barbarellas” is currently five times more popular on Myspace than the 6700-viewed Los Angeles one. Anyways.

Cleveland’s voice, Harvey Pekar

July 13, 2010

I’d be hard-pressed to find two American personas more different than Harvey Pekar and George Steinbrenner. To be sure, a large portion of the audience who mourns the passing of one icon has no idea who the other guy is. Steinbrenner revolutionized baseball, both as a competitive sport and as a  love affair with money, and Pekar documented a side of life everyone lives but no one sees. If the two lived in the same city for a century, it’s a near-certainty they would not once cross paths on the street. But Pekar was from Cleveland, and from what it seems he was one of the only things going for that town.

Pekar’s weird in the most mundane way possible, but he spoke and lived the truth. The Pekar episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations was one of the best:

 The top-rated comment on that youtube clip, more than a year old and by some sage named bitzeepapa, gets it right:

An unapologetically American haiku in honor of Harvey…
Harvey Pekar’s great
He’s amazing and super
I like him bunches

Anagram of the Day

July 13, 2010

Today’s anagram is Christopher Hitchens, one of the good journalists. Because he’s had a rough month, I’ll give him two, one for each side of the religion debate. (I militate toward neither side, myself).

Christopher Hitchens —

Shh, pro heretic snitch

or

Enrich the posh Christ

Like I said: for him, not me.

Passage of the Day

July 13, 2010

This one’s from Hunter S. Thompson’s Hey Rube, a collection of his early-2000s ESPN columns:

That is the wonderful perversity of gossip in the 21st Century. Nothing is impossible.

Some things are more impossible than others, however, and the collapse of the NBA is one of these. The only thing wrong with the NBA—or any other professional sport, for that matter—is a wild epidemic of Dumbness and overweening Greed. There is no Mystery about it, and no need to change any rules. The NBA’s problem is so clear that even children can see it—especially high school basketball stars, half-bright manchild phenomena who don’t need college Professors to teach them the difference between Money and Fun.

Real good moments in journalism

July 11, 2010

epic fail photos - Cultural Sensitivity Fail

Ouch… it’s not particularly descriptive in its intended meaning, and unintentionally horrible. It’s a real video, too.

Could have been slaughtered on eBay

July 9, 2010

Watch out on eBay (no duh) when someone says a book is 1st ed./1st printing. I looked into a “1st ed./1st printing” Slaughterhouse-Five to find it was a book club edition–aka 1st ed., but not first printing. Difference of probably $800-$1000 there. Luckily it was auctioning at around $40, so it would still be a decent deal. I’m sure the seller didn’t know, but still.

You can almost always figure out if it’s first ed. by looking online to find out what the signs are. Abebooks.com is a good site in a pinch.

Hastings gets a book deal

July 7, 2010

Michael Hastings has a book deal:

Barely two weeks after his explosive piece in Rolling Stone magazine on Gen. Stanley McChrystal led President Obama to fire the man in charge of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, freelance writer Michael Hastings has himself a book deal on the subject.

The book, untitled at this point, will be published by Little, Brown, and promises, according to Publishersmarketplace.com, “an unprecedented behind-the-scenes account of America’s longest war,” with an unfiltered look at the war, and the soldiers, diplomats and politicians who are waging it.

(from Boston.com)

Meanwhile, there has been continued complaining from the embedded reporting class about Hasting’s “sensational” reporting. If the article lacked content, why was the general ready to step down after it was published? Top officials usually have thicker skin than you are giving them credit for. Complainers, for all of your reporting, how many generals have you gotten canned? Not that that’s your job, but I think we all know you would loooove to be in Hasting’s position if it didn’t mean losing your military access. It’s telling that lengthy commentary is being written on both sides of the issue and all of it could be cut down to a yes/no on whether Hastings reported news or fluff.
I think it also boils down to the fact that everyone–in the newspaper biz and in the military–forgot Rolling Stone used to be a political giant slayer. It was just a pop music rag when was a short-term subscriber in the nineties, but maybe there’s still hope. Anita Thompson is of quite different opinion, and she knows more about such things, so I’m probably wrong.
“Rolling Stone’s Hastings article provided us with no news. REPEAT: This blown up piece that ended the career of a decorated general contained NO NEWS. It simply went viral and gave the President no way to retain McChrystal. If you read the article, there is no news about the war  — only drunken conflated slurs by dumb underlings. Rolling Stone is not what it used to be. But at least they have now hired Ozzy Osborne to be the health columnist.”
Again, all arguments amount to raising your hand whether you think the article conveyed substantial information. I’ll stick with yes, you stick with no. Either way, it was in no way inevitable that a general would be fired based on what was reported.

Missing Chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be published

July 1, 2010

I just found out Penguin is releasing The Missing Golden Ticket and other Splendiferous Secrets on Sept. 2.  A small book, it is supposed to be the “top-secret chapter that was taken out of the original book,” in addition to other jibber-jabber about one of Dahl’s best books.

Personally, I’m BFG all the way and I want — nay, needs — a movie made with the grandpa from the newest Chocolate Factory playing the giant.

(image from IMDB/wireimage.com)

Taibbi weighs in

July 1, 2010

After CBS’s Lara Logan slammed Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings for not hiding from the public much of what he saw, Matt Taibbi fought back.

Lara Logan, come on down! You’re the next guest on Hysterical Backstabbing Jealous Hackfest 2010!

I thought I’d seen everything when I read David Brooks saying out loud in a New York Times column that reporters should sit on damaging comments to save their sources from their own idiocy. But now we get CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan slamming our own Michael Hastings on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program, agreeing that the Rolling Stone reporter violated an “unspoken agreement” that journalists are not supposed to “embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter.”

Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn’t mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan.

Taibbi is pretty much right. The day we find a reporter working in his subject’s best interest is the day he becomes irrelevant. Let me rephrase that: … is the day he should become irrelevant. Anyone who believes journalism is a game of give-and-take between covering for your subject and reporting for the public should stick to the sidelines. If someone makes a substantial comment in front of a reporter–in this case much more than salty insults and banter–it is fair game for reporting. Just because there was swearing doesn’t mean it was mere banter. Besides, we trust reporters to tell us what they find out, not what will get the reporter more jobs covering the military. As Taibbi lays out, the Pentagon has one of the biggest PR budgets on earth. They don’t need reporters to lie for them.

If you haven’t actually read the Rolling Stone article on former Gen. McChrystal, please do. I was surprised McChrystal got canned over it.

Also, Taibbi gains points for not laying into Logan’s personal dilemma on this particular issue.

Christopher Hitchens announces he has cancer

July 1, 2010

 

Vanity Fair’s intellectual gadabout Christopher Hitchens announced he has esophageal cancer. Hitchens has written about his heavy smoking, though he is said to have recently quit. Yesterday he wrote:

I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.

That’s it. A quiet statement for a man whose mouth has gotten him into trouble throughout the world. Very sad… don’t smoke, kids.