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Michael Schneider, Jon Weisman and Stuart Levine continue their tweeting from the Television Critics' Association gathering in LA.
Walter Cronkite is gone. Long live his legacy of great journalism.
I can't possibly describe what Cronkite meant to broadcasting and to American culture better than Brian Lowry has on his BLTV blog, so click right here for Brian's spot-on appreciation.
On a deeply personal level, this is one of those passings that really feels like a member of the family -- that was Cronkite's gift, after all. Another piece of the world as it was when I was a kid has died, and I cherish my idealized memories of that time enough to mourn for that reason alone.
"The CBS Evening News" was "the news" when I was growing up. To this day, my mom and dad are CBS News loyalists. They watch local KCBS-TV (KNXT to us old-timers) news in the late afternoon and on through the "CBS Evening News." Sure, they flip around to CNN and MSNBC now and then (Dad has crush on Rachel Maddow) but when it's time for them to watch "the news," they head on over to channel 2.
So that's a long-winded way of saying that Cronkite's voice was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. He came on right after dinner like clockwork. And his was the voice of the god of truth in current events as far as my family was concerned. If Cronkite reported it, it was the gospel.
When I first started working for UPI and learned that Cronkite had been a Unipresser (actually he worked for United Press, before it acquired the "I"), I was proud to be even remotely part of the same organization that schooled young Walter (that was before I'd worked there very long).
We knew his death was imminent -- last month Cronkite's family released a statement saying that he was gravely ill and unlikely to recuperate (reporting accurately and diligently to the end). But it was still a jolt when I heard the news break on the radio (a CBS-owned station) while driving with my daughter this evening.
I agree with George Clooney, who observed: "He was the most important voice in our lives for thirty years. And that voice made people reach for the stars. I hate the world without Walter Cronkite."
Here's a great vid of Walter Cronkite from his 1998 interview with the TV Acad's Archive of American Television
On Jan. 5, moments after Don Corsini started his gig as KTLA’s president and GM, the troops knew there was a new sheriff in town.
After a few days of studying the newsroom’s rhythms and scrutinizing KTLA’s schedule, Corsini came to assistant news director Jason Ball with the idea for the station to add a 6:30 pm newscast. It would allow KTLA to offer local headlines at a time when the Big Three O&Os were serving up national and international reports from Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric and Brian Williams.
Great idea, Ball told Corsini. Then Corsini had another surprise for his lieutenant.
“Let’s do it tomorrow,” he told Ball.
After Ball picked up his jaw off the floor, he realized that this was his real introduction to the new boss.
As a news guy, he couldn’t ask for a more supportive leader than Corsini, who is a creature of L.A. television.
Right off the bat, Tribune's innovator-in-chief Lee Abrams wanted to get one thing straight: That 3,000-word memo he wrote about newspapers needing to be more rock 'n' roll? He meant that the business of gathering and disseminating news and information in the Internet age has as much raw potential as Elvis had in his pelvis in 1952. ("America needs a heartbeat, and we can deliver that on 21st Century terms," Abrams opined in March.)
The news biz "has never been more vibrant," Abrams said Thursday night during a Q&A at the Los Angeles Press Club. "It's alive. It's exciting. It's the place to be. Let's get on board this thing. The opportunities are stronger than ever."
To reiterate, "It's an exciting time to be reporting on all the shit that's going on in the world," Abrams observed. Abrams, senior veep and chief innovation officer for Tribune Co., was 50% of a panel on the future of news that also included former Los Angeles Daily News editor Ron Kaye, who has found his blogging calling at RonKayeLa.com since getting fired from the Daily Snooze in April. (Pictured from left, Abrams, Kaye and moderator Ezra Palmer)
Appointed to Sam Zell's extreme Tribune makeover team in April, Abrams is seen as the guy behind all of the redesigns and "rethinking" going on at the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other Tribune-owned newspapers. He has a long resume in radio and marketing, but none in newspapering, which made journos in and outside of Tribune highly skeptical of his ideas for "reinventing" newspapers.
Abrams stressed on Thursday that he's an idea and inspiration guy, but final decisions on redesigns on content are left to the local management of each paper. ("Until they're not" -- You just could see the thought balloon hovering over the heads of the crowd, which numbered about 50.)
All in all, Abrams came off as affable, smart and well-meaning, though I couldn't get the image of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers out of my head as I tried to think of the character actor that he resembles.
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has the whole inside story of CEO intrigue and bare-knuckle tactics -- all of which has to be good for the ratings of both programs. The Washington Post's story is getting so much attention that as of this evening I could not pull it up on the Post's website to save my life; the page just kept getting stuck in loading mode. Is there anything more frustrating than the getting the blank white screen and hourglass symbol when you really want to read something?
Hopefully the Post's web wizards will come up with a fix soon. There's nothing TV news loves better than a good feud, especially if it involves two of their own plus the powerful likes of Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Jeffrey Immelt and Jeff Zucker.
This and that: Katie Couric gets a visit from Leslie Moonves; NBC News shows the love to Richard Engel
CBS chief Leslie Moonves made a visit to the CBS News offices today as a show of support for embattled anchor Katie Couric. Associated Press' David Bouder has all the details in this report on Moonves' journey into the newsroom and meeting with Couric and "CBS Evening News" exec producer Rick Kaplan, who insisted that reports of Couric's exit from the anchor chair have been greatly exaggerated. "She's not been at it two years and everybody is writing her obituary," Kaplan told the AP. "That's fine. Success is the sweetest revenge."...
Meanwhile, NBC News has locked up the services of its intrepid Middle Eastern correspondent Richard Engel. Engel has been upped to chief foreign correspondent for the Peacock, which is promising to raise his profile on "NBC Nightly News," MSNBC and other platforms. Engel, who is conversant in Arabic and fluent in Italian and Spanish, made a name for himself covering the early days of the Iraq war as a freelancer for ABC before joining NBC News in 2003. "There aren't enough superlatives to describe the work that Richard has done in some of the most dangerous places on Earth for NBC News," said NBC News prexy Steve Capus in touting Engel's promotion.
Established TV news outlets have been shedding editorial staff, even at the once-vaunted O&O level. Stations are relying more and more on pre-fab wire reports and in some cases even running thinly veiled promotional vids complete with bogus "correspondents" as part of regular newscasts. On too many stations, newscasts have been tarted-up, tabloid-ed, dumbed-down and frequently prostituted for corny tie-ins with adjacent entertainment programming. Old-school broadcast journos like the late great Bill Stout (oh how I miss him) are sneering at us from beyond the grave.
Given these unfortunate truths, it was extra-heartening to see in the list of 2007 Peabody Award winners announced last week that the 16 esteemed members of the awards committee found plenty to commend at one old-guard network affiliate that has long nurtured and protected its reputation as a provider of local news that matters.
WFAA-TV, serving the Dallas-Fort Worth market, earned a Peabody that recognized for a series of influential, in-depth reports from the station's dedicated investigative reporting unit on four topics: fraud and negligent lending practices at the federal U.S. Export-Import Bank; the lethal lack of oversight of the maintenance of natural gas pipelines running near residential areas; a probe of the unconscionably cozy relationship between a local police department, NBC's "Dateline" and a watchdog group that set up a series of sting operations to nab men who trolled on the Internet to arrange sex dates with teenagers; and a heartbreaking look at conditions in a Homeland Security detainee center and the story of one immigrant family's ordeal.
Each one of the reports is incredibly detailed, well-reported and well-told in terms of its impact on the people of the state of Texas. Each report had a swift and significant impact on the moves taken by others to address problems raised in WFAA's reporting. But most impressive was the intelligent and altogether sober presentation of reports on complex topics with lots of specific information, documents, whistle-blowers and opinions from all sides of presented to viewers in segments than run as long as -- gasp -- six minutes or more.
This is reporting that takes time and shoe leather, extensive research and the support of an editorial staff with a deep understanding of the communities they serve. This is television that respects the intelligence of its audience. There are no histrionics or hyperventilating in the delivery, just two seasoned investigative reporters tackling important stories in a fearless, responsible manner. The rhyme of the slogan "News 8 Investigates" is as gimmicky as it gets.
The cable newsers cleaned up, but Super Tuesday coverage was a snore for the broadcast webs, as Variety's chief Nielsen pollster, Rick Kissell, reports. The drama of Clinton vs. Obama and McCain vs. Romney vs. Huckabee was no match for the "American Idol" and "House."
I spent most of my time on the upper end of the dial, have to admit, though it was nice to see Tom "silver fox" Brokaw back on NBC News. I flipped around quite a bit, and for money the best news delivery mixed with insta analysis came from the MSNBC team led by Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann (pictured left).
As others have noted, CNN's John King was impressive with his mastery of the county-by-county combat in various states. And CNN gets the win for grooviest interactive graphics with the touch screen states that King and Wolf Blitzer were all over last night.
All told, a big night of news for the Democratic race translated into a win for Dem-leaning CNN, with an average of 3.64 million viewers for its primetime coverage. FNC was a close second with 3.49 million average, followed by MSNBC with 2.11 million.
Assembling a list of notables who died during a 12-month time span is like taking stock of how much the world you once knew is disappearing. Although I don't often admit it in the company of non-journos, I (usually) like working on obits. It's challenging work, usually against a tight deadline, and I feel a certain responsibility to do right by the person. I often hear Mrs. Loman's famous command in my head: "Attention must be paid."
In that spirit, here is an electronic chronicle of those who left their mark on the TV biz. 2007 saw the passing of industry titans the likes of Jack Valenti, Merv Griffin, Tom Snyder and Roger King; influential hyphenates including Sidney Sheldon, Mel Shavelson, Martin Manulis, Mel Tolkin and Bob Carroll, Jr.; and a local TV news icon in Hal Fishman.
It was a tough year for "Match Game" fans, with Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers heading in to the blank hereafter. And no obit in the pages of Variety this year was more heartbreaking than that of Cartoon Network exec Jennifer Davidson, 38, who was a charter member of the cabler's staff and a mother of three.
(Here's the link to part one if you're just joining us.)
Hal Fishman, 75, news anchor who was a fixture of L.A.'s airwaves for 40 years, primarily on KTLA-TV. Fishman was known for his rat-tat-tat delivery style, his occasional conservative-leaning editorials and his interest in aviation. Here's the tribute to Fishman that ran on KTLA's 10 p.m. newscast on the day Fishman died, Aug. 7.
Merv Griffin, 82, multihyphenate who began as a band singer and died a billionaire real estate mogul. In between, Griffin hosted a popular syndicated talk show for more than 20 years and created two of the most successful shows in history in "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy." Merv, as he was known to all, was one of those ubiquitous entertainers who was seemingly everywhere when I was a kid, as I waxed on about in this remembrance. And here's a fun clip of Merv and Don Rickles going at it on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1985.
Melville Shavelson, 90, prolific film and TV scribe whose credits include "The Danny Thomas Show." Also a three-time prexy of WGA West. Here's a link to part 1 of his nine-part Archive of American Television interview from 1999.
Alice Ghostley, 81, actress, a Tony-winner best known for her nervous-housewife persona exemplified by her role as the ditsy Aunt Esmerelda on "Bewitched."
Martin Manulis, 92, producer, creative steward of CBS' "Playhouse 90" who was responsible for such landmark TV drama productions as "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and "The Miracle Worker." Manulis was a guy Rod Serling respected, and that's saying something. Here's a link to part one of his 11-part Archive of American Television interview.
Brett Somers, 83, stage actress known for her long stint on "Match Game." She played Oscar Madison's ex on "The Odd Couple" and was Mrs. Jack Klugman for a time in real-life too. Here's a representative clip featuring Somers parrying with "Match Game" host Gene Rayburn.
Joey Bishop, 89, the stone-faced, cool cat comic who was the last surviving member of the Rat Pack. Bishop made a number of stabs at TV, including a domestic comedy and a bid to challenge Johnny Carson's dominance of latenight with show that ran on ABC from 1967-69. Below are two great clips, and more Nehru jackets than you can shake your love beads at, from the latenight "Joey Bishop Show."
In the first, Sammy Davis Jr. tries to teach Joey to tap dance. The second is a nice long monologue clip that also features Bishop's sidekick, Regis Philbin.
Gary Franklin, 79, L.A. TV reporter and film reviewer for KABC-TV Los Angeles and KCBS-TV Los Angeles, who was known for rating films on his "Franklin scale of 1-10, 10 being best."
Mel Tolkin, 94, writer-producer who had the formidable job as head writer on Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows." He was a guy who could make Caesar laugh, and corral a room that featured such wits as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbert, Lucille Kallen and Woody Allen. Here's a link to part one of his eight-party Archive of American Television interview from 1997.
Verity Lambert, 71, pioneering femme British TV exec and producer. Lambert was the first female and youngest exec to work for the BBC in the early 1960s. She also was the first producer of the worldwide cult fave "Dr. Who." Here's a fan video tribute that hits the highlights of her remarkable career.
Jennifer Davidson, 38, who was one of the first 15 people hired at Cartoon Network in the early 1990w, rising to senior veep of programming and scheduling. She was part of the team that spearheaded the launch of Adult Swim in 2001. Here's a link to a story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution featuring remembrances from family and friends.
Roger King, 63, leader of King World Prods. and one of the most successful entrepreneurs in TV history. King World prospered with enduring hits, "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show," that spurred the growth of the first-run syndie biz in the 1980s and '90s. As King World grew, so did Roger's reputation as a master salesman with an encyclopedic knowledge of TV stations and local markets. Here's a link to part one of his three-part Archive of American Television interview, and here are links to the remembrances posted here in the days after his death.
Stu Nahan, 81, longtime broadcaster and sports reporter for various L.A. outlets who earned the nickname "Skipper Stu" after hosting a kidvid show of the same name early on in his career.
Floyd Red Crow Westerman, 71, actor and activist, Westerman was a passionate advocate of Native American causes and filmmakers and recognized for his work on "Dances with Wolves" and "Northern Exposure," among many other movies and TV skeins. Here's a video interview with Westerman from 2004 that illustrates the depth of his intelligence and dedication to advancing the cause of Native Americans in all fields.
Hal Fishman was old school. So much so that he sometimes came off as an anachronism in today's hyperbolic celeb-centric tabloid-y TV news environment. Hal was so much a part of the fabric of local news in the nation's second-largest TV market that we took him for granted. (For the details on his life and death Tuesday morning of colon cancer, read this very good obit by Variety's Michael Schneider.)
Hal was there every weeknight at 10 p.m. on KTLA-TV, the mighty channel 5, the local titan ("broadcasting from high atop Mt. Washington") that was known for its breaking news, local sports and event coverage, and of course, Gene Autry Show reruns first thing in the a.m. (It was always said that former owner Autry was an early riser and liked to watch himself first thing in morning.)
For most of my lifetime, Hal delivered the headlines, and shaped the 10 p.m. broadcast as managing editor, in a sober and sonorous style that was once the norm across the dial. The only time you saw Hal really get animated was, famously, when there was a big aviation story breaking. Not that he'd party on the news of a plane crash, but he was very good, in a manner befitting a former college professor, in explaining in lay terms what went wrong with an aircraft, or why a particular air-travel issue was important, etc.
When other newsmen of Hal's ilk passed on -- KCBS' (KNXT to some of us) Bill Stout and Ralph Story, KTLA's Larry McCormick and yes, even Jerry Dunphy -- I felt the loss a little more immediately (I still miss Bill Stout's furrowed brow.) I think Hal Fishman was the kind of industry stalwart that a lot of us never took the time to appreciate -- until he's replaced by a plunging neckline. In fairness, however, while KTLA's current management (and several regimes past) may have wrestled with a desire to segue to a younger-skewing lead anchor, they never did sack Hal. So here's to giving the brass the benefit of the doubt that Hal's successor will be someone (KTLA's long-serving morning anchor Carlos Amezcua has certainly earned it) who reflects at least most of the good-newsman qualities that Hal brought to the airwaves every night.
The tawdry story of the local TV anchor/reporter who was reporting on Hizzoner Antonio Villaraigosa even while having a romantic relationship with him -- reporting the news of the breakup of his marriage, no less -- has come to something of a close with the hammer coming down from the top brass at NBC Universal-owned Telemundo. (For the details read the Variety.com report.)
The upshot is a bunch of suspensions, reprimands and job reassignments for following a three-week probe of the sticky situation involving Mirthala Salinas (pictured), an anchor/correspondent for Telemundo O&O KVEA-TV, and Villaraigosa, whose smiling mug until recently was on local TV enough to earn him an AFTRA card. Here's what I don't understand: How can these folks come back to their jobs with any kind of editorial credibility whatsoever?
Sad to learn today that KTLA-TV anchor Hal Fishman has been diagnosed with colon cancer, which has spread to his liver, according to a station rep and Variety.com. The discovery of his cancer came on the heels of Tuesday night's salute to Fishman and KTLA (which is celebrating its 60th anniversary as the first commercial TV station west of the Mississippi) held at the Autry National Center, which Fishman attended.
Hal has been the subject of gentle and not-so-gentle ribbing in this town for his rat-tat-tat news delivery style, his punctilious commentary segs, his oft-professed knowledge of aviation (he's an accomplished pilot) and an off-camera personality that has been known to rub some colleagues the wrong way. But after 32 years in the KTLA News anchor chair, he's also undeniably part of the fabric of local TV news in this market. As such, he's more than earned all the well-wishing messages that viewers are sending in via the KTLA website.
POSTED BY MICHAEL LEARMONTH
Posted in the lobby was a bit of guerilla marketing that had all the hallmarks of a Fox News stunt. Someone hung a poster with the faces of all of cable news’ 8p.m. anchors PhotoShopped onto horses with the headline, “Fourth in a four-horse race,” pointing out that since June Olbermann has been finishing fourth in the 25-54 demo 24% of the time.
A sign, perhaps, of respect, and the fact that the 8 p.m. time slot is the most competitive in cable news. Fox News' Bill O’Reilly dominates, but Olbermann is up 67% in the second quarter over the same period last year, gains he freely attributes to his on-air feud with O’Reilly and his anti-Bush commentary. (Olbermann called for the resignation of President Bush and Veep Cheney the week of July 4.)
MSNBC is hoping to take his recent gains to the next level by associating him with the Campaign '08, despite his partisan rantings. Olbermann co-anchored MSNBC's election night coverage with Chris Matthews last fall, and the network announced he would be moderating a Democratic candidate’s forum for the AFL-CIO in Chicago on Aug. 7. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden are among the candidates who have RSVP'd for the jawboning sesh with more than 5,000 union members and their families.
Despite his animus for Fox News, Olbermann defended that network for scheduling a Democratic debate, to which Clinton, Obama and Edwards have thus far failed to commit.
“I don’t think I would be advising any of the candidates to turn down free TV time, whether its on Fox News or Al Jazeera,” he quipped.
-- Michael Learmonth
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Katie Couric was charming the crowds at TCA, preparing for her history-making entry into the "Evening News" scene. CBS brass surely would've never predicted they'd be in such damage control mode, but Katie's candid interview with New York magazine continues to reverberate around media circles. So much so that the AP today moves a "nothing's happening, really" story quoting CBS News and Sports prexy Sean McManus trying to counter the rumors to the contrary and asserting that the Eye expects to still have Katie in the anchor chair by the time the news division is plotting its coverage of the 2010 mid-term elections.