Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meda Blitz: How to Get Ahead in the Network News Biz

I've got television i've got supervision
No decisions for you
Media blitz media blitz media hits we rule
-Darby Crash

How does one explain the selection of Christina Amanpour to be anchor of ABC News's This Week?  While she is an award winning foreign correspondent, Amanpour is an odd choice for a program that focuses on domestic politics. Many thought that Jake Tapper, who was serving as interim host, would be made the permanent anchor since he was pulling the show up in the ratings.

Smart money speculates that her friendship with Robert Iger, President and Chief Executive of Disney, the company that owns ABC and his wife, Willow Bay (aka Kristine Carlin Bay) put her in the post. As Disney is a public corporation answerable to shareholders, one would hope that the selection of news anchors would not be based on a personal friendships with the chairman. As a licensee of precious bandwidth that comes with a responsibility to serve the public interest, one would hope that the selection of anchors is not determined by a chairman who has a long record of partisan contributions to the Democratic party.

Robert Iger - NewsMeat Campaign Contribution Search

Path to 911

Robert Iger has been accused of letting political considerations influence his business decisions in the past. One of the most controversial was the editing of the "Path to 9/11" Miniseries and the decision not to release it on DVD:

Clinton Supporter Robert Iger: DGA Honors Exec Who Banished ‘Path to 9/11′ Miniseries

"Clinton administration alumni, fearing the miniseries would highlight their flaccid response to the growing threat of Islamic extremism and tarnish their political legacy, pulled out all the stops to suppress it. The show very nearly wasn’t aired at all – Robert Iger and Disney were pressured by the Senate Democratic leadership, led by Harry Reid – it hasn’t aired since, and today you cannot even obtain it on DVD.

And why not? Disney President and CEO Robert Iger explains without elaboration that it’s a “business decision.” Oh, well then, case closed. Not only does he refuse to re-air The Path to 9/11 or release a DVD, but he has no intention of even selling the DVD rights to another company. I’m no financial wizard, but I can recognize that, as business decisions go, willfully taking a $30+ million bath on your product when there is a vast audience hungry for it and distributors making offers, is not one of the more lucrative marketing strategies I’ve ever heard of.

 (Path screenwriter/producer Cyrus Nowrasteh himself was told privately by an ABC executive that “If Hillary weren’t running for President, this wouldn’t be a problem.”)"

Like Husband, Like Wife

Like her husband, Kristine or Willow as she is now known also has partisan political ties:

Huffingtonpost - Willow-Bay

"Willow Bay, Senior Editor of The Huffington Post, is a television journalist and author. Most recently, Bay was Executive Producer and Host of Lifetime Television's Spotlight 25, a multi-platform research initiative and television special that offers a unique look into the lives of today's twenty-something women.
Prior to that, Bay served as a freelance reporter and anchor for NBC News and MSNBC."

Bad Press

All these issues have started generating bad press for ABCS:

Staff at ABC News' DC bureau is icy to 'cold' Christiane Amanpour

"Some resent Amanpour's friendship with Disney honcho Bob Iger and his wife, Willow Bay. Disney owns ABC. Other staffers gripe that despite her reputation as a top foreign correspondent, she doesn't have enough experience reporting on US politics."

Bad Reviews

The shows new international slant under Amanpour has been generated bad reviews:

Tom Shales reviews Christiane Amanpour's lackluster debut on ABC's 'This Week'

"It's not that Amanpour seemed personally uncomfortable or constrained in her weekend debut -- opening night was Sunday morning -- but rather that she proved that she's miscast for the role, her highly touted global orientation coming across as inappropriate and contrived on a
 broadcast that for three decades has dealt primarily with domestic politics, policies and culture. "

ABC News Run Like a High School Clique

Beyond partisan politics, the ABC News Division has also developed a reputation in the industry for being managed by like an immature high school clique rather than a professional media organization:

While the below linked article is pablum, the comments give some mind blowing insight into the ABC News back rooms.

Top ABC News Producer Leaving Network To Become High School Guidance Counselor

From the comments:

The decline of journalism
Submitted by formerABCer on Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:13.

Dear Felix Gillette,

I was enormously disappointed to see your piece on ABC News and in particular Mimi Gurbst. Perhaps surprisingly, my frustration stems not from the dire situation at ABC (massive layoffs, terrible morale, ambiguous future of the news division) but from the declining standards in news reporting--namely yours. Your article displays such a disregard for even the most basic tenets of fact checking and journalism. Simply, I am stunned.

Having worked for ABC for more than a decade, I am flabbergasted by the article on Mimi Gurbst. Even the most cursory reporting would uncover that Mimi is a producer who, when she oversaw the newsdesk, ran her operation as a high school clique. Popularity factored more into news gathering than either talent or understanding of journalism. Let me be clear: she was not--and is not--an effective leader of the news division and did not further journalism (or mentorship of journalists) in any way.

Sadly your lack of even the most basic reporting skills seem to coincide with ABC cutting some of the most experienced journalists in the field and both incidents indicate troubling times ahead for reporters of news. This is incredibly disheartening.

I suggest that you check with multiple staffers within ABC--I think you'll find that there is no love loss over Mimi's departure. Simply put, the news division will be better without her. And ABC did you a major disservice by offering up this "exclusive" as a legitimate story angle.

In the future, here's a really simple tip Felix. When you receive a lead from an organization or source (in the form of a press release or an "exclusive" about a story) call around and get some background information on the topic. Doublesourcing is a really good idea. It's also Journalism 101. Trust me, you'll thank me in the long run.

Best of luck.

P.S. Shame on Harvard for not doing even the most basic vetting on their new guidance counselor in training

How to Get ‘In’ with Mimi [A Guide for Future Students]
Submitted by notamimipet on Thu, 05/13/2010 - 02:00.

1. Mimi and her clique of chosen ones at ABC News were dubbed the “Mean Girls.” To be a part of the group you had to be at least 3 of the following: white/good-looking/rich/pedigree/Ivy(or fancy boarding school) or date/marry/be associated with people who fit that bill

2. If female, wear expensive jewelry and shoes. Talk about the size of your boyfriend’s penis, how good/bad the sex is, and how much money he and his family make.

3. If male, see #2 and add flirtation. Yes, even if you’re gay. Dress well and keep yourself groomed. Tell her which females and/or males you want to f***. And use that word.

4. If minority, talk about your racial sexual preferences. Bonus points if you like white women and/or men. Extra bonus if they are Jewish.

5. All – you must ALWAYS have a good gossip story. Tell her gossip (preferably sex-related) about your colleagues. If you know famous people, you MUST name-drop. Talk about your love for the Four Seasons and fancy hotels/restaurants/shopping. And as previously mentioned, compliment her hair and outfits.

6. Doing all of the above will guarantee you a plum position at…well, not at ABC News anymore THANK GOD. I’ll be sure to pray in church this Sunday that the good lord Jesus will help her change her ways…so help those children.


Jan Paul Beahm
aka Darby Crash
1958 - 1980

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