Media postsMonday April 25, 2011
Married to the Beast: Andrew Sullivan and the Carrie Bradshaw of Websites
As soon as I heard about it, I had a bad feeling. She seemed too slick, he too homey. This feels wrong, I thought.
No, not Will and Kate. I'm talking Andrew Sullivan and The Daily Beast.
Sullivan was my main blog source for so long, a fiscal conservative who backed Obama early, memorably labeled Sarah Palin's nomination “a farce,” and gave us a blow-by-blow of the Iranian green revolution on a Saturday afternoon while the mainstream media slept. He was bald, bearded, British and frumpy, and thus seemed perfect for the Atlantic monthly site, which has something almost ink-stained about it. You get the feeling the folks there are still trying to edumicate us. You get the feeling its writers don't have to craft first sentences in accord with SEO best practices.
Not so the Daily Beast. It's a slick site whose slogan, “Read This Skip That,” borders on stupidity. It features slideshows, news on Will and Kate, forms of titillation.
You know the way Republicans are obviously privileged but portray themselves as put-upon? I get that same vibe, that same disconnect, but from a female perspective, on the Daily Beast. “Frat Culture's Woman Problem” in one corner, “What Turns You On?” in another. It feels like the Carrie Bradshaw of websites. It's all about her.
Here are the latest promiment headlines on the Atlantic site:
- Barbour Won't Run for President
- Is Congress Going Too Far to Protect Women in College?
- “Do I Have Knees?”
- America's Post-Ownership Future
- The Ongoing Disgrace of Gitmo
Here are the latest prominent headlines on the Beast:
- What Turns You On? New Book Finds Some Surprises
- Who's In, Who's Out? (At the Royal Wedding)
- Obama's Awful '70s Show
- Serial Killer Victim's Secret Life
- The Vote Igniting the Middle East
So what do you do when a friend winds up with someone who's obviously wrong for them? Play along? Smile?
I love you, Andrew, but ... I don't know. That place you're staying ain't you. I'll still check you out, but mostly I'll be hanging over here with the ink-stained wretches. While they last.
Andrew Sullivan, stuck on the Carrie Bradshaw of websites.
Erik Lundegaard and the Power of Kissing: A Valentine's Day/ABC-News Exclusive
I should be happy that I'm mentioned in an ABC-News article on the power of kissing.
But I'm more bemused than happy.
Here's the article: “First Kiss Is More Powerful Than First Sexual Encounter” by Susan Donaldson James. I'm mentioned near the end:
Some of the most memorable kisses have come out of Hollywood. Burt Lancaster's famous kiss in the surf with Deborah Kerr in the 1953 film “From Here to Eternity,” still ranks as the most memorable of all screen kisses, as rated by entertainment writer Erik Lundegaard. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ranked second in their upside-down kiss in the 2002 movie “Spider-Man,” followed by George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the 1990 move “Ghost.”
How much do they love me at ABC? Let me count the errors:
- Burt Lancaster's famous kiss ... still ranks as the most memorable of all screen kisses, as rated by entertainment writer Erik Lundegaard. The article they're referencing is here, or, really, here. I wrote it five years ago for MSNBC.com to coincide with Valentine's Day. But I didn't rank the kisses. I categorized them: the desperate kiss, the kiss in the rain, the manhandle, the woman takes charge, etc. I also wrote how many Hollywood kisses, stuck in the rut of their perfection, are actually unmemorable.
- Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ranked second in their upside-down kiss in the 2002 movie “Spider-Man”... Again: not ranking anything. Are they just counting pictures here? They seem to be.
- ...followed by George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the 1990 move “Ghost.” Now it gets odd. I mention “Tiffany's,” but negatively. “Ghost” I don't mention at all.
- ...as rated by entertainment writer Erik Lundegaard. The link should lead you to MSNBC's site or to the index page of my own site. Instead it goes to my review, from last April, of the movie “Kick Ass.” Which has nothing to do with kissing. It merely begins with a k-i and ends with an s-s. What bots are doing ABC's research for them?
Four mistakes from one little paragraph. Impressive. Made me think of two Elvis Costello's songs from “King of America.” The first, “Our Little Angel,” reminds us the man knew a thing or two about heartache and Valentine's Day:
You think that you'll be sweet to her but everybody knows
You're the marshmallow valentine that got stuck on her clothes
The second, “Brilliant Mistake,” reminds us that the man knew a thing or two about news divisions:
She said that she was working for the ABC News
It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use
Dowd on Dowdy
This is one of the dumber paragraphs I've read this week, and, big surprise, it comes from Maureen Dowd. Lamenting media coverage of Elena Kagan, Dowd dissects the difference between "single" and "unmarried" and writes of the double standard women endure:
But if you have a bit of a weight problem, a bad haircut, a schlumpy wardrobe, the assumption is that you’re undesirable, unwanted — and unmarried.
Not only is this not a double standard—since it applies to men, too—but it seems the very definition of undesirable in our culture: fat and dowdy.
Dowd's real complaint is that a male version of Kagan—successful, outgoing, but no George Clooney—would still be seen as a sexual being, but this is because of a different double standard: the premium women place on male success. The problem, if you even want to view it as a problem, is yours, Maureen.
The whole column is an embarrassment. I don't doubt news coverage of Kagan has been awful, but Dowd's corrective is no corrective.
Who's Controlling the News? Not Auletta
"You missed it."
I kept thinking of that line from “All the President’s Men” while reading Ken Auletta’s Jan. 25th New Yorker piece, “Non-Stop News: Who’s Controlling White House Coverage?” Auletta missed the story. Shame. I normally like Auletta.
The story for me doesn’t begin until the fifth of 11 sections, the one beginning “Like other American workers, journalists these days are crunched, working harder with less support and holding tight to their jobs” and ending with a quote from Chuck Todd, who, this section tells us, is not only NBC’s White House correspondent and political director, but is busy from dusk 'til dawn with appearances on “Today,” “Morning Joe,” his own (aptly named) “The Daily Rundown,” along with the usual blogging and tweeting from and to various sites. The news cycle is now a cycle in the way that time is a cycle. It never stops. As a result, Todd, and other journalists, have no time for in-depth coverage or even deep thought or analysis. “We’re all wire-service reporters now,” Todd says.
The sixth section is also about how technology has transformed media matters but this time from a White House perspective. “The biggest White House press frustration is that nothing can drive a news cycle anymore,” Republican political advisor Mark McKinnon says. Auletta then goes on to criticize the Obama White House for being too slow and reactive. He criticizes Press Secretary Robert Gibbs because “he rarely asserts control from the podium, to steer the press onto the news that Obama wants to make.” I.e., He’s not telling the newsmen what the news is. One could argue he’s treating them like adults.
So if we’re all wire-service reporters now, and the Obama White House isn’t steering these reporters towards the news, who is? That’s where it gets scary. Auletta writes: “What the press is paying attention to, [former Obama White House Communications Director] Anita Dunn says, is cable and blog attacks on the Obama Administration.” And who’s steering those? Guess.
That’s the story: In an increasingly fragmented, perpetual news-cycle world, who or what is steering the news? That’s even the story in Auletta’s headline, isn’t it? And he still misses the story.
Because much of Auletta’s piece is old news. Has the mainstream media been pro-Obama? Is Pres. Obama too prickly with the media now that the honeymoon is over? Should he be lecturing the media on its faults the way he does? About how the media focuses on the most extreme elements on both sides? About how they’re only interested in conflict?
Early on, Auletta quotes from a PEW Research Report on Obama’s early glowing press coverage:
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan media-research group concurred; tracking campaign coverage, it found that McCain was the subject of negative stories twice as frequently as Obama. (The study says that the press was influenced by Obama’s commanding lead in the polls—the kind of ‘Who won today?’ journalism he now decries.)
Allow me a sports metaphor. Do we assume that Albert Pujols gets more positive press coverage than, say, Yuniesky Betancourt? Of course he does. He’s a better ballplayer. Our eyes see it, the stats prove it. Unfortunately, politics has no such stats beyond poll numbers and votes. I’m not suggesting that Barack Obama is Albert Pujols; I’m merely suggesting that, in dealing with two political figures, we’re not dealing with two interchangeable blocks of wood. I’m suggesting that the mainstream press cannot pretend that the Yuniesky Betancourts of the political, legal or business realms are equal to the Albert Pujolses of same, without losing as much credibility as they would if they misreported facts. Objectivity is not stupidity. Let me add, not being a journalist, that I have no idea how you work this out within the constraints of objective journalism. But make no mistake: This is an issue for objective journalism. If objective journalism is to survive.
Perhaps more importantly, does the Pew Research Center Project include FOX News and conservative radio in their study of mainstream media? If not, why not? The notion that “the media” is limited to The New York Times goes against what should be the brunt of this article. We’re in the middle of a whole new ballgame.
Auletta quotes ABC’s Jake Tapper on the matter. “This President has been forced to deal with more downright falsehoods than any President I can think of,” Tapper says. Auletta then lists off some examples: “Obama was brought up a Muslim; he was not born in the U.S.; he studied at a madrassa in Indonesia.” How about: Obama is Hitler? He wants to kill your grandmother? He’s destroying the foundation of American society? That’s daily fodder in these venues, and it keeps seeping out, and it becomes the story. Even when it becomes the joke story, on “The Daily Show,” or “The Colbert Report,” it’s still the story. In addressing these falsehoods in an objective matter, or a jokey matter, how are you not perpetuating these falsehoods? That’s the issue. This was the issue in the summer of 2008 and in the fall of 2009. And today. And for 10 pages of prime New Yorker real estate, Auletta misses it.
Unfortunate Graph of the Day
"So [John Lennon] embraced the heady freedom New York offered, leaving his mop-top past behind like a new arrival from a small town, eager to become who he wanted to be. New Yorkers, in turn, saw the city anew through his wide, endlessly appreciative eyes. Sadly, such open-heartedness would prove his undoing in a town that proved tougher than he ever imagined it could be."
— Anthony DeCurtis in "His Kind of Shell-Shocked Town" in The New York Times' Week in Review section, about Lennon and NYC in the 1970s.
- ...leaving his mop-top past behind. By the time Lennon chose to live in NY in 1971, he'd left his mop-top past behind about 5-6 years earlier.
- ...in a town that proved tougher than he ever imagined it could be. Is "tougher" the right word here? How about "more homicidal"?
- ...in a town that proved tougher than he ever imagined it could be. Also, "town"? What connection is there between Mark David Chapman and New York? Almost none. Dude was from Texas, lived in Hawaii. He represented tourists, not New Yorkers, and certainly not New York itself. Odd, odd piece.