ABC And Andrew Breitbart — Let The Games Begin!

“This blindsided a good portion of the team here,” the source emails. “And not in a good way.”

(updated November 2 5:00 pm)

Back in July when the Shirley Sherrod video rush-to-judgment exploded I predicted we’d be seeing a lot less of Andrew Breitbart. It was Breitbart whose website brought the edited Sherrod tape to light. I was wrong!

Here’s what I wrote in July.

Undoubtedly this is the end of Andrew Breitbart as an on-camera interview and source. Thank God for small favors. He’ll still have influence behind the scenes, but that’s just not the same and he knows it.

Now ABC News has invited Breitbart to be part of their election coverage.

Surprised? Yeah, I was too.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent said the emotion was even stronger at ABC News.

People in ABC’s newsroom were also caught completely off guard by the news, a newsroom source tells me.

“This blindsided a good portion of the team here,” the source emails. “And not in a good way.”

That was followed by an ABC press release clarifying not all was as it seemed. Breitbart had been invited, but not to appear on TV, just online. I’m not sure in this day-and-age that distinction means as much as it once did.

Mr. Breitbart’s role has always been as one of our guests at our digital town hall event:

Mr. Breitbart is not an ABC News analyst.

He is not an ABC News consultant.

He is not, in any way, affiliated with ABC News.

He is not being paid by ABC News.

Mr. Breitbart will not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage, anchored by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. For the broadcast coverage, David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg will contribute reaction and response gathered from the students and faculty of Arizona State University at an ABC News/Facebook town hall.

If you thought that would be the end of the story think again! Last night Breitbart published some emails from ABC which certainly gives the impression he would be on-the-air.

This program will broadcast on the ABC Television Network, abcnews.com, ABC News Now, and ABC News Radio.

Breitbart says his diminished role is courtesy of a “calculated “astroturf“ intimidation campaign by the well-funded and frightened-for-their-political-lives institutional left to quash dissenting voices.” Maybe so. There is no shortage of Breitbart haters on the left.

Though this story might not have ‘legs’ it will have an impact on coverage and commentators going forward. My July prediction might not have been wrong, it was just issued too soon.

(update) On Tuesday Breitbart was uninvited! Here’s the email from ABC.

Dear Mr. Breitbart,

We have spent the past several days trying to make clear to you your limited role as a participant in our digital town hall to be streamed on ABCNews.com and Facebook. The post on your blog last Friday created a widespread impression that you would be analyzing the election on ABC News. We made it as clear as possible as quickly as possible that you had been invited along with numerous others to participate in our digital town hall. Instead of clarifying your role, you posted a blog on Sunday evening in which you continued to claim a bigger role in our coverage. As we are still unable to agree on your role, we feel it best for you not to participate.

Sincerely,

Andrew Morse

On The Occasion Of His Departure: My One John Stossel Story

Nothing. He gave me the look you give a dog who’s soiled the carpet and then he turned away.

John Stossel is leaving ABC. From TVNewser (who claim to have broken the story)

John Stossel, the longtime ABC News correspondent and co-anchor of “20/20,” is leaving ABC to join Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. TVNewser has learned Stossel will host a weekly, one-hour program for the 2-year-old business channel. He’s expected to signed a multi-year deal with Fox which will include regular appearances on Fox News Channel during daytime and primetime. He’ll also host four, hour-long specials on Fox News, much like the business/consumer specials he’d hosted for years on ABC.

john-stossel.jpgI have one John Stossel story. This was a long time ago and I was filling in on Good Morning America in New York. TV-2, their studio at the time, was squeezed into an old building on the West Side. You’d never know there was anything going on there if not for the double parked town cars most days.

I was heading from the studio back toward my (actually Spencer Christian’s) dressing room. As I rounded the corner there was John Stossel.

He was a big deal to me. There were lots of ‘names’ from the network and other boldface types who passed through TV-2 but there was something special about Stossel.

“Hi John, I’m Geoff Fox and I’m filling in on the weather this week,” was about what I said. I extended my hand.

Nothing. He gave me the look you give a dog who’s soiled the carpet and then he turned away.

Good grief. I was crushed.

In my few dozen trips through GMA it was the only time I ever met anyone who was less than gracious. It still stings.

His departure will be a loss for ABC which in turn means a loss for my station–I regret that. On a personal level, good riddance.

On The Economy

I’m not saying Citibank should have their Dassault Falcon 7X. I’m saying there are lots of mixed signals in the economy and this is one of them.

I know a guy who sells used corporate jets for a living. He’s today’s child molester, right?

“ABC News has learned that Monday officials of the Obama administration called Citigroup about the company’s new $50 million corporate jet and told execs to “fix it.””

I’m not saying Citibank should have their Dassault Falcon 7X. I’m saying there are lots of mixed signals in the economy and this is one of them.

A friend was let go today from a local radio station. It was a bloodbath with longtime employees chopped.

He says the station was cash flow positive in its day-to-day operations. I bet it was. But his company has $717 million in debt. There’s nowhere near enough cash flow to pay that off.

Who is the idiot who lent them that money?

Don’t complain there’s a lack of credit. There was too damned much credit. This is like a crack addict complaining when supplies get tight.

So, my friend’s now unemployed. He now will spend less. The rest of the economy will suffer. Unemployment is cascading.

Can the nation or the world recover as employees are being fired en mass? I don’t think so.

I am sad for my friend. I am sad for my friends.

Global Warming Backlash

Following his Oscar win for An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore has become a pretty large target by some global warming skeptics. Here’s what ABC News reported earlier today.

Armed with Gore’s utility bills for the last two years, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research charged Monday that the gas and electric bills for the former vice president’s 20-room home and pool house devoured nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006, more than 20 times the national average of 10,656 kilowatt-hours.

“If this were any other person with $30,000-a-year in utility bills, I wouldn’t care,” says the Center’s 27-year-old president, Drew Johnson. “But he tells other people how to live and he’s not following his own rules.”

This isn’t a new tactic. Laurie David, wife of Larry David and green activist, was singled out after she called for environmental restraint while flying coast-to-coast by private jet!

I’m not a big fan of making examples of individuals. We all have feet of clay. Still, there is some food for thought here.

I drive an SUV. I live in a fairly large house. Am I going to have to hide that in the future? Do I get a pass for having a short drive to work?

As I’ve made clear here, I am very skeptical of dire predictions of large scale human induced climate change. I really don’t want to change my life if there will be no benefit. I certainly don’t want to cripple our nation’s industrial base.

Meanwhile, in order to maintain credibility, the loudest voices will have to walk the walk as they talk the talk.

Peter Jennings

I’ve just seen the news, Peter Jennings has died. This was not unexpected. The word from friends at ABC News was, his cancer was much more advanced than publicly admitted.

Peter Jennings was among the last of a breed. He exuded an old world elegance and worldliness. With the possible exception of Charles Gibson, I can’t think of anyone now on TV who seems as bright.

It’s a damned shame. It is very sad.

Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather – I Understand

There has been a lot of talk about Walter Cronkite’s CNN interview and his answer to questions about Dan Rather.

“Although Dan did a fine job, I would have liked to have seen (Schieffer) there a long time ago,” Cronkite said during an interview on CNN. “He would have given the others a real run for their money.”

“It surprised quite a few people at CBS and elsewhere that, without being able to pull up the ratings beyond third in a three-man field, that they tolerated his being there for so long,” he told CNN.

You might expect Cronkite, still a member of the CBS board, to be a little more charitable… be more of a team player. I didn’t. In fact, I am surprised this kind of talk didn’t happen earlier.

Thinking back, my recollection is Dan Rather putting on the pressure and forcing CBS to move Cronkite out. Roger Mudd, who was passed over in this bloodless coup, bolted and went to NBC.

From Mike Straka on foxnews.com

According to the late ABC News and Sports president Roone Arledge’s autobiography “Roone: A Memoir,” Rather used ABC as a negotiating chip to force CBS’s hand to install him as the anchor of CBS Evening News six months earlier than Cronkite had planned to retire. This was at a time when Cronkite was considered the most trusted man in America.

What’s the old line? Be nice to the people you meet on the way up. They’re the same people you’ll meet on the way down.

All The News That’s Fit to Google

I read an article today about some of the shortcoming of Google News.

I have no idea how they do it – finding the most important news and putting it together on a web page without human intervention. It is an incredible artificial intelligence feat.

The headlines that appear on Google news are selected entirely by computer algorithms, based on how and where the stories appear elsewhere on the web. There are no human editors at Google selecting or grouping the headlines and no individual decides which stories get top placement. This occasionally results in some articles appearing to be out of context.

Still, though I check Google News all the time, I find it lacking.

One of the things I like about news on the Internet is the room available for detail. I’m not a USAToday kind of guy. I think Google misses the point on this by often choosing the wrong lead source for the stories that appear.

Here’s an example. In the current rundown is this headline: The Sopranos buries the competition. That’s a valid story in entertainment news, but the source is, “The Scotsman – Scotland’s National Newspaper Online.” The next listing was for the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) followed by ABC News and Planet Out.

Shouldn’t Google ‘know enough’ to find a valid expert on entertainment for entertainment stories?

I still like it. I still use it. I wish it were better. Maybe people would help?

Sad Day for Local TV?

I just went to the ABC News website and watched a little Robert Krulwich piece on “ABC News Now,” a digital scheme they’re using to distribute gavel-to-gavel coverage during the conventions. Just log onto your computer and you’ve got it.

Judging by Krulwich’s piece, the video quality is quite good. As I’ve said here before, you don’t need or want full screen video when you’re watching TV on a computer.

What’s scary about this is that it might be the seminal moment in the dissolution of the 50+ year bond between networks and their local affiliates. That’s huge.

Let’s face it – local TV stations are an expensive method of distributing national programs. However, they come with built in pull. They have (usually) good cable position and the draw of local news and other non-duplicated programming. In other words, until now, they’ve been worth it.

A program of equal value will get a higher audience on a local broadcast station than it will on a pure cable channel. Network television has been predicated on that assumption for 20 years or more.

World News Now seems to operate on the assumption that ABC can get away with a smaller audience because they have lower distribution costs, the ability to run commercials and also charge a subscription fee to see the feed. If it works they can slowly but surely eliminate the middle man.

That may not be such a terrible thing for me, because it will demand more local programming – and I can do that. For viewers, it will help continue the downward spiral for production costs and values in free over-the-air television.

You would think local TV station owners would be concerned about this – and maybe they are… they don’t talk with me.

There are precedents for this kind of thing happening. Years ago, broadcast television was where movies went after the theater. Then pay channels like HBO got first dibs. It’s too late to put that horse back in the barn, but when the original deals were made to give first run rights to pay cable, broadcasters had loads of leverage. As far as I can see they never used it and allowed the value of their movie investment to tumble.

Is the same thing happening today? Check back in 5 years. By then, we’ll know.