We were floored to listen to Madeleine Brand’s nine-minute story on the California governor’s race on NPR on Tuesday. Not because that’s a huge amount of time to spend on the race — which it is — but because half the damn thing consisted of an interview with Gavin Newsom (she didn’t interview any other candidates).
The piece also included an interview with the Chron’s Carla Marinucci, whose comments were edited so her money quote cast the race exactly the way Newsom and his strategist, Garry “Svengali” South, want to define it: as a “generational contest.” Whether Prince of Prides Newsom can succeed in cubbyholing Crusty the General Jerry Brown as a drooling geezer seems to Calbuzz a dubious proposition, at best.
What we found most interesting in the NPR piece was Newsom’s decision to underline strongly his claim to fame as the No. 1 advocate for gay marriage, after downplaying it in recent months; when Calbuzz asked him about it in March, for example, he said, “People, from my perspective, have really moved on . . . The new realities of the economy are much more pressing in people’s minds.”
But on NPR, he not only embraced his role on the issue, but reveled in it. For the record, he said: “There are certain fundamental values that I hold dear and there are principles that I’ll fight for. I believe in equality. It’s not just a slogan; it’s not just rhetoric. Actually, I want to champion it, I want to fight for it. I’m someone who just doesn’t believe separate is equal . . . I won’t equivocate.”
The decline and fall of practically everything: Thanks to our friend Alan Mutter over at Reflections of a Newsosaur for pointing us to an excellent post at Content Bridges that provides the first quantitative analysis of the journalistic impact of all the financial cuts in the newspaper industry.
The site is operated by former Knight-Ridder guru Ken Doctor, who put together stats on the number of journalism jobs slashed by daily newspapers – 8,500 in the last two years alone – and reductions in pages devoted to news – an estimated half of the 40 percent decline in newsprint usage – to calculate a loss of 828,000 news stories a year, “neither written nor read,” as Doctor put it.
It’s easy enough to trash newspapers and those who run them, and Lord knows Calbuzz does our share, for being arrogant, out of touch and slow off the mark to adjust to the wacky world of the web. But 828,000 fewer stories means that people across the nation know a helluva’ lot less about what’s going on in city halls, cop shops, courtrooms, school boards and state capitals than they did just a few years ago. And that ain’t good for the public interest, no matter how clueless some newspaper editors may be.
P.S. The big buzz in the news industry this week was Aussie press baron Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he intends to start charging readers for content on all web sites of his far-flung News Corp. empire.
Next up – podcasting with Dianne: Check your thesaurus for an antonym for “blogger,” and you’ll find a big picture of Dianne Feinstein; California’s straight-laced Senator is just about the purest antithesis imaginable of the pajamadin.
So Calbuzz was shocked the other day to find Difi joining the likes of Alec Baldwin, John Waters and Nora Ephron in Arianna’s lineup of celebrity bloggers over at the Huffington Post.
No doubt, Herself’s piece on warrantless wiretaps was Really Important but still: She managed in a single post to a) put everyone to sleep from the start by employing the dreaded historical lede –- 2 ½ paragraphs worth of it; b) leave us scratching our heads about her central point by omitting the crucial nut graf, and c) churn out a thicket of verbiage as impenetrable as a Brillo pad, laced with bureaucratic Beltway-speak like this:
“Initially, the OLC based its opinion on the president’s inherent constitutional authorities as Commander-in-Chief. Subsequently, the OLC shifted its rationale to rely upon the Authorization for the Use of Military Force…”
Memo to Dianne: Don’t quit your day job.
Not exactly “Frontline”: Class act kudos to Chris Cillizza of “The Fix,” for graciously extracting himself from “Mouthpiece Theatre,” the WashPost’s dreadful experiment in multi-media infotainment.
For the past several months, Cillizza served as sidekick to the spectacularly unfunny Post humor writer Dana Milbank in an online video schtick called “Mouthpiece Theatre” in which the two donned smoking jackets, wielded pipes and parodied political pundits, playing it for yuks, which were few and far between.
Last week, they keyed off Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates and the Cambridge cop who arrested him, assigning several dozen obscure brands of beers to various politicians; the creaky episode collapsed completely when they put up a photo of Hillary Clinton and Milbank suggested she should drink “Mad Bitch” beer, a crack that earned the players and their paper widespread condemnation in media, political and feminist circles.
Over at the Columbia Journalism Review’s site, Megan Barber wrote:
“One wonders how much of the Post staff’s time and resources were devoted to researching, writing, staging, shooting, and editing such an extraordinarily value-free contribution to the annals of political commentary. Milbank and Cillizza are no Stewart/Colbert—they’re not even Letterman/O’Brien—not only because they’re simply not as funny, but because their status as (ostensibly) reporters means that they owe us more than lame-puns-for-the-sake-of-lame-puns, as per the typical humor of late-night TV.”
In a substantially lighter vein, comic Andy Cobb did a terrific You Tube send-up of the show
On Wednesday, media writer Howard Kurtz broke the news that the suits at the Post had pulled the plug on “Mouthpiece Theatre.” Cillizza, to his credit, made a clean breast of things on his blog.
The smug, self-absorbed, fratboy Milbank also apologized in Kurtz’s piece, kinda, sorta but did so in a predictably self-serving way:
“It’s clear there was an audience for it out there, but not large enough to justify all the grief. My strength is in observational, in-the-field stuff, and that’s what I should do. I’m sorry about the reaction it’s caused but I think it’s important to experiment. The real risk to newspapers is not that they take too many risks, but that they don’t take enough risks.”
Calbuzz decoder ring translation: The little people just aren’t smart enough to appreciate my genius.
Lee and Ling and One Limp Neo-Con: Like all journalists, Calbuzz felt great concern about Euna Lee and Laura Ling and, back in June, offered space to Betty Medsger to advocate on their behalf. So we were delighted when former president Bill Clinton was able to bring them home from North Korea the other day. It was a wonderful exercise of personal diplomacy with the nutcase Kim Jong Il, who was most likely confused about whether he was posing for snaps with Clinton or Elvis, his one true hero. Anyway, we were jazzed by the release of the two journos.
So when former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton immediately declared that the successful mission actually was “a classic case of rewarding bad behavior,” we just had to make a note — of what a complete dick this guy is.