Guest Blogger–My Friend Peter

Why didn´t CNN do this? Stewart put them to shame. So much for their journalistic skill.

I just got an email from my friend Peter Mokover on the Jersey Shore. “If I had a blog” he began, He doesn’t have a blog. Actually today he does–mine.

Over the past several months I´ve read or heard interviews of several leading broadcast journalists in which they expressed their concern about how more and more people are getting their “news” from bloggers on the Internet and late night comedy shows. I share that concern. The majority of bloggers have limited journalistic skill. Late night hosts are comedians not journalists. None of them are The New York Times, NBC or CNN.

Then I watched John Stewart interview Jim Cramer tonight (and several other pieces Stewart has done recently) and I wondered: why didn´t one of the network news shows do this? Why didn´t CNN do this? Stewart put them to shame. So much for their journalistic skill.

PM

Peter has a point… and then again he doesn’t. Though Stewart takes on the media, he does it on the cheap. In fact it’s The New York Times, NBC, CNN and the rest that pay for The Daily Show’s coverage. They send reporters to the field and buy cameras and satellite trucks.

And, of course, The Daily Show isn’t answerable, so they can call someone a douche (or other term). I’m not sure how that would play in news.

Where Peter is totally correct is that mainstream media often take those in power at their word. That is a shame. I suspect it might get worse with newspapers dying and TV stations retrenching.

Frost/Nixon–Tonight’s Entertainment

Obviously any account of the event will share facts, but this is scarily similar. Too similar. I suspect it entered heavily into Peter Morgan’s thought process as he wrote the original stage play.

nytimes-nixon-frost.gif

The text above, from the New York Times, is a contemporaneous account of the Frost/Nixon interviews. I didn’t watch them in ’77. The pre-show buzz said it was long and ploddingly boring as I remember.

Helaine and I saw Frost/Nixon tonight. Excellent movie. Very compelling. Frank Langella is Nixon. I am a huge Ron Howard fan–that won’t change.

I was no fan of Nixon.

I turned against our Vietnam policy in ’66 or so (against our government’s policy not against our soldiers) during the Johnson Administration. I marched on Washington in the Moratorium and joined more peaceful protests while in college in Boston.

To my contemporaries and me Nixon poured gasoline on an already raging fire. Watergate then added insult to injury. And, as recon missions go, it was stupid. Nixon was going to win by a landslide anyway. Did they really need to know what was in Larry O’Brien’s office at Watergate?

It is difficult to understand the depth of distaste toward Richard Nixon if you weren’t there. Unlike Iraq, ‘Nam was being fought daily on TV. Death and injury were vividly seen. Bush-43 controlled the coverage much better than Nixon who watched public opinion shift away from him as the futility of the war became obvious. And, of course, Nixon was anything but a sympathetic character.

After the movie I wanted to read a little more from the period. Along with the Times article I found a long preview of the show from Time Magazine.

“He is back among us. And, as always, in a memorable manner, both painful and poignant, sometimes illuminating, usually self-serving. The once too-familiar face of Richard Nixon re-enters the homes of America this week for 90 minutes of dramatic television.”

What’s most interesting is this long Time article reads like an outline for the movie! Obviously any two accounts of this event will share facts, but this is uncomfortably similar. Too similar. I suspect Time’s treatment entered heavily into Peter Morgan’s thought process as he wrote the original stage play.

In the movie Nixon’s camp downplays David Frost’s qualifications to hurt them. I could be wrong, but that doesn’t ring true because of Frost’s association with “That Was The Week That Was“–a show whose American version was brutally critical of Nixon (and with this clip also brutally critical of PM Harold Macmillan in its British version).

As If I Knew What I Was Doing

I know my way around the backend of a webserver. Still, I think anyone could have installed this without too much trouble.

Back 25+ years ago while I was hosting PM Magazine/Buffalo I ran into a nice young girl woman producer. She made sure I hit my mark and properly intro’d Captain Carrot and Chef Tell.

Obviously she had her act together because her career has really done well and she’s been responsible for some pretty big TV hits and has some Emmy awards to prove it. Recently she and her business partner split and she decided to take me up on an offer I’d made many times over the years–put up a website for her.

I did a little work this weekend and more last night. The site’s not ready to unveil yet but it’s coming along.

This site is based on MovableType, free blogging software (though useful for more than blogging). I use MT because Peter Sachs who installed it also used it! He put in what he knew–and I’ll always be grateful. For my friend’s new site I decided to try WordPress. Again, this is free software, heavily supported by a very active community.

Wow!

The website installed in under five minutes. There was some information to fill into forms to get the program to properly speak with the server, but that was fairly painless. I’m not a neophyte. I know my way around the backend of a webserver. Still, I think anyone could have installed this without too much trouble.

What really impressed me with WordPress was the ease of modifying the look.

Hold on. Let me take a step back. What software like WordPress, MovableType, Joomla, Drupal and other do is separate content from look. I can change how this website looks without messing with my entries. Everything should fall right back into place. For web design that’s power.

I was able to take a template and modify it to fit the look I wanted in just a few minutes. I was astounded how easily I was able to accomplish my goal.

My friend’s website is hosted on a plan that costs her $9.99 a month, includes three domains (geofffox.com would be a domain), unlimited mail addresses and more storage space and bandwidth than she’ll ever use. And since I’m doing my part free, it’s quite a deal.

When I’m done, I’ll post the link. Right now I just want to put out the word, it’s easier than you think.

The Ex-Pat Life, or Farrell Meisel – Man Of Mystery

He called me to offer me a job. It was August 1980. It was the same day I met Helaine. We’re still friends. Helaine and me too.

My first contact with Farrell Meisel was on the phone. He called me to offer me a job, in Buffalo, hosting PM Magazine. It was August 1980. It was the same day I met Helaine.

We’re still friends. Helaine and me too.

Farrell’s no longer in US TV. Nowadays he brings his TV expertise to foreign station owners.

He launched the first commercial channel in Russia, for Ted Turner, following the fall of the USSR in 1992, has done consulting in Turkey, ran a huge cluster of radio and TV networks in Singapore, inaugurated Alhurra, the US government funded Arab language TV station for the Mideast, and ran a TV station in Warsaw, Poland. I’m sure I’ve left something out.

At the moment, his consulting hat is on again. He’s in Bucharest, Romania.

Farrell is an ex-pat, the slang term for a foreign national abroad. He seems most comfortable in that role.

To me, the ex-pat life is a throwback to the 50s, with more structure and formality than modern day America. It is a life where there is still customer service and where men are addressed as “sir.”

Obviously, this is all a guess. I don’t even have a valid passport.

Yesterday, Farrell sent me some observations from Romania. I asked him if I could share?

Every city I’ve visited or worked in is unique, special and odd in its own way. It’s not a criticism, but a simple observation. You’d think, with all the traveling, I would have seen it all.

Bucharest has surprised me, too.

There aren’t enough parking spaces and lots in the city, so drivers create their own parking places!

For example: they just park in the middle of the street. That’s right, why park on the side when they can just park their car in the middle of the street or in front of another car, blocking a car?

They also park on side walks. Not just one or two cars, but several. Last night, there were three rows of cars parking on a side street, horizontally around the corner from my apart-hotel. Not in an assigned spot, but on the street.

I found it amazing that my driver, Nelu, could squeeze the company’s VW Passat through the narrow space between cars.

It is simply brilliant. Now I know why Romania is in the EU!

I laughed in amazement and had to explain to to Nelu why I was laughing. He said, “but, sir, this is Bucharest. Since the revolution we have no rules”.

Bucharest has a tram system like many classic European cities. Many of the routes are over unruly green grounds (the grass not cut due to underfunding by the government), but several parts of the routes are on pavement. Since traffic is so bad, and there are only 2 lanes on each side of the main streets, what do drivers do? Simple: They drive on the rails in front of or behind the trams!

This morning was the best. There must have been at least a dozen cars naturally driving on the center medium on one of the main lines in the center in the city . And the trams could not go anywhere.

I must have my camera ready later today or in tomorrow’s rush hour. Simply perfect.

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Very Cold January New York City Adventure

We left Connecticut late Thursday morning, driving the 90 or so miles with minimal interruption. Our destination was the Affinia Manhattan Hotel on 7th Avenue, across from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.


Our story starts with Santa. The old guy knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, sure. He also knows when a deal’s a deal! That’s how Santa found, and placed in our collective stocking, this week’s trip to New York City.

He found a highly rated hotel at half price and show tickets to Legally Blonde The Musical, also half price.

No wonder he’s jolly.

What Santa didn’t care about, being a fulltime resident of the North Pole, was New York City is on sale this time of year because the temperature is also likely to be half off.

We left Connecticut late Thursday morning, driving the 90 or so miles with minimal interruption. Our destination was the Affinia Manhattan Hotel on 7th Avenue, across from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.

I pulled up to the curb behind another car, barely clearing the intersection. There was no sign of help! We waited.

A few minutes later, Helaine got out, entered the hotel and found the doorman. Within a minute or two, we had traded our SUV for a perforated piece of paper and walked inside.

The Affinia Manhattan is older, though in very good shape. It seems from all outward appearances to be a hotel that caters to tourists, as opposed to businessmen.

As we checked in, we met our first Affinia employee. We would come to find, they are all “Vegas friendly.”

That’s a compliment. Las Vegas is built on a hospitality economy. Everyone who works there knows it, and buys into it. Friendly staff brings return guests (who tip well).

Like the hotel, our room had been in its current state of decoration for a while. It was the largest single hotel room I’ve ever had, with two full size beds, a kitchenette and postage stamp sized bathroom.

Our main view from the 11th floor was 7th Avenue – a blessing and a curse. 7th Avenue is cooking ’round the clock and noisy!

We (meaning Helaine) unpacked the clothes. I set up our ‘comms station’. Passing on the hotel’s $9.95/day Internet, I hooked up via my cellphone. The G3 connection was about T1 speed, meaning 1/6th what I get here at home, though probably faster than what the hotel provides.

Stef had come prepared with a list of places (meaning stores) she wanted to visit. We headed to the subway and Greenwich Village. It was a 10 minutes ride on the “A” train.

At Belvedere Castle in Central Park, the official Weather Service observation site, the high was in the low 30s with a light wind. In the canyons of the city, with Bernoulli’s principle ramping up the wind like water through a garden hose’s nozzle, it felt closer to zero.

We were looking for Marc Jacobs on Bleeker Street. In this lower part of Manhattan, where streets no longer run parallel and perpendicular, it was tough to find. Luckily, along the way I spied the Magnolia Bakery.

This was a place I knew nothing about until Saturday Night Live featured it in “Lazy Sunday” a digital short. Even then, it took Stef’s sense of ‘what’s hot’ to move it onto my radar.

I saw the sign and could only think one thing – cupcakes!

Good God, they’re amazing. I can’t imagine there’s anything healthy about them but you’ll die happy.

As Helaine and Stef looked in stores, I stayed outside, freezing and photographing.

The Village is a very nice, very citified residential neighborhood. People move here to live an affluent lifestyle without looking ostentatious. Sorry, your cover has been blown.

We moved farther south to Century 21, a major discount clothing store across the street from Ground Zero. If you’re wondering whether Lower Manhattan has changed since 9/11, the answer is yes, there’s a huge construction site where WTC towers once stood. Other than that, people move about their business as they always have.

This part of the city is busy because it’s particularly convenient (something lost on me as a kid growing up in Queens). You’re only a few minutes from Midtown, Brooklyn (via the subway) and New Jersey (via the PATH trains) and 25 minutes from Staten Island via the ferry.

Back at the hotel we all changed to more sensible shoes and headed uptown on foot toward the Theater District and Times Square.

Helaine, our organizational beacon, made reservations for dinner at Joe Allen, a well known theater hangout on Restaurant Row (aka 46th Street between 8th> and 9th Avenues). I’d actually been once before, doing an interview there while shooting on location as host of PM Magazine/Buffalo.

Stef and I shared a guacamole dip appetizer. It was smooth in texture with a spicy tang. For the main course, she ordered a warm chicken salad while Helaine and I had meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I was comforted.

When we arrived, the restaurant was empty. When we left, it was full. This is a place that does huge business, mostly timed to make an 8:00 PM curtain. We had other ideas before the show began.

Before heading to the theater, we headed into Times Square and the oversized Toys ‘R Us. It’s tough to explain how large this store is, except to point out it has a full sized, full motion, Jurassic Park dinosaur and a Ferris Wheel!

Some things in life don’t get questioned. Stef wanted to ride and she and Helaine had already decided the ride would be with me (the less height fearful of the parents).

As Ferris Wheels go, with wasn’t particularly high nor particularly scary. After all, it wasn’t put up in a parking lot by safety ambivalent Carny’s! It was, however, indoors. That was the attraction.

Ride finished, we found the door, turned right and walked another block or so to the Palace Theater, where we had tickets to see “Legally Blonde The Musical.”

As with most Broadway houses, it’s been here for a while. The Palace opened in 1913, and much of that old school feel is still in it, though the theater has obviously been refurbished.

It is an immense house with orchestra, mezzanine and balcony&#185.

Ours seats were upstairs in the first row of the mezzanine – an astounding view of both the stage and the orchestra pit. On this Thursday night in mid-January, only the first few rows of the mezzanine were full. I assume the balcony was mostly abandoned as well.

About 20 minutes into the show I said to myself, “This is going much too fast.”

There was too much story with too few details in too little time. It was the theatrical equivalent of fast food. And then, with the story established, Legally Blonde hit its stride.

This is not Shakespeare. It’s a very light, tightly choreographed musical, based on the Reese Witherspoon movie. It’s light and fluffy and… well, it’s blonde! It was a lot of fun.

Years ago, Broadway suffered because the players voices faded over the long distance to the upper deck seats. Not so anymore. Actors wear mics (which you sometimes see protruding from their foreheads).

I’m mention microphones because for this performance, I think there was too much amplification. Less would have been more. Voices could have carried without being overpowering.

Laura Bell Bundy, who we saw in Hairspray, is physically perfect for the lead role, sorority girl Elle Woods. She sings and dances well, but Helaine felt her voice ran out before the show ended, sometime in the second act. Toward the end, it became grating.

The real standouts in the cast were Orfeh, the déclassé hairdresser who explains life to Elle and Christian Borle, the ‘pulled up by his own bootstraps’ law student/love interest.

Orfeh’s voice is strong, brassy and vibrant. Her presence is strong on stage. And, as they read this, my family will find out, she’s working with her husband!

Orfeh is Paulette, the unlucky-in-love Bostonian hairdresser who becomes best friends to Elle Woods, and Karl is Kyle, the UPS man of her dreams. Needless to say, Orfeh is thrilled to get to bend-and-snap for her husband eight times a week on Broadway.

Christian Borle reminds me of Eric Bogosian. That is if Eric Bogosian could sing… and maybe he can – who knows? In one of those weird stage intangibles, he’s really likable, though I can’t give you bullet points why. That’s good, because this part demands likability. When he was on the stage, it was tough to look away.

Oh – there are two other cast members I wanted to mention – Chico and Chloe as Bruiser and Rufus respectively. Both pound dogs, they are incredibly well trained (though you do see food move from actor’s hand to dog’s mouth after each bit of acting) and integral parts of the show.

Stef asked me to go backstage and bring them home. A father hates to disappoint his child, but the show must go on. I resisted.

After a slow start, Legally Blonde finished strong for me. We left in a good mood and hoofed it back downtown to the hotel.

Manhattan was reasonably quiet until we got to the Garden, where the Rangers game was letting out. The crowd was in a good mood. The Rangers had won.

Checkout time at the Affinia is very late – noon. We were out earlier, leaving our bags with the bellman. Breakfast/lunch was at The Bread Factory Cafe on 7th Avenue.

As is so often the case, Helaine and Stef had walked by the day before, stared in the window and decided this particular would be worth our while. I don’t quite know how they do it. Good decision.

I stood at the pasta station as my linguine with rock shrimp and garlic pesto sauce was prepared. It was tasty, and enough carbs to get me going.

Stef and Helaine decided a neighborhood store (Macy*s in Herald Square) was the place to go. I begged off. Stores just don’t do it for me like they do for them.

I cut across 34th Street to 5th and into the Empire State Building. It was me, Clicky, three lenses and three batteries (each of which would fizzle prematurely).

As a native New Yorker, I can’t remember ever going to the Empire State as a kid. It’s a tourist thing, like the Statue of Liberty and the U.N. – something the locals don’t do.

My first trip up was on a Saturday night in the summer of 1967. A fellow student from Brooklyn Tech had gotten his FCC First Class Radiotelephone license and latched on as summer relief transmitter engineer for WABC-TV. It seems like a hell of a responsibility for a 17 year old, but he was working odd hours and making big money in a unionized position.

The observation deck is on the 86th floor. He worked somewhere in the 90s… with windows that opened and a ledge some of the more senior engineers claimed they walked out on. I remember a fresh breeze blowing in toward the rack of transmitters and the glow of the city below.

I wish I remembered his name. I’m not sure if I really liked him as much as I liked the idea of going to this very special techie place.

I went back to Empire (as the transmitter guys called it) a few years ago with Stef. This was in my pre-Clicky days. Did it count without Clicky?

Back then, we waited in line for a few hours before taking the two elevators up&#178. Today, there was no crowd and I breezed right through an abandoned rope line and up to the top.

Holy crap it was cold!

The Sun was shining and the sky blue as I stepped onto the deck. Groups of people clustered around the diamond shaped fencing, peering out, trying to figure where they were looking. The city below was familiar. I looked east, trying to find our old apartment complex in far off Queens.

This time of year, the Sun is never very high in the sky. Looking south was very different than looking north. To the north all the detail was distinct. Looking south was looking at buildings in silhouette.

I watched as people took snapshots with the city as the background. It’s tough to make that kind of shot work when all you’re doing is pointing and shooting. Cameras are designed to compensate and correct exactly what you want to show uncorrected!

One of the most fascinating parts of the observatory are the pigeons. “How did they get up here,” I heard someone ask?

Hello – they’re birds. They fly. There are numerous ledges. They don’t have to do it all at once.

I kept my mouth shut. I wanted to say it, but resisted.

These city pigeons, used to people and cognizant of the protective fence, stayed mere inches away. They were scoping us out as we returned the favor.

I came prepared, bringing all my gear. I didn’t bring enough battery power. I knew this might be a problem. New batteries were already on order (and arrived at home today) for these fading ones.

Don’t feel sorry for me. I still got plenty of shots. I just had to stop before I wanted to.

Oh – one more thing. By virtue of its incredible height, the Empire State Building is an awful place for cell service! I tried making a few calls. Mostly they failed before they could be completed. When I did get a connection, it didn’t last long.

When you’re on top of the Empire State, it’s very easy to appreciate the wisdom of having this once building tower over all the others. A city of ‘equi-heighted’ skyscrapers would look wrong and the effect of this observatory would be diminished.

I met the girls for our last stop before leaving. It was a snack at Pinkberry on 32nd> Street, a street of mainly Korean businesses and Asian faces.

This was a Stef call. Pinkberry is trendy. Stef likes trendy. The American Express ads touting Pinkberry’s “swirly goodness” only add to that aura.

It’s not ice cream. It’s not yogurt. And, I’m told, it’s not terribly caloric.

Pinkberry was the coldest dessert I’ve ever had… and on a day that was already cold! There’s no doubt, it was tasty and really pretty.

I’m hoping Pinkberry doesn’t come after me, as the store has a lovely ‘no photography’ decal on the glass.

So, here we are, home again. This adventure is over. It’s amazing what we were able to accomplish in about 24 hours.

This explains why I came home and crashed!

&#185 – Writing in the NY Times before the Palace opening of Beauty and the Beast, Alex Witchel wrote, “Even if the cost is $11.9 million, that’s still a lot of money by Broadway standards, if not Disney’s. Can jealous fellow producers at least hope it will take years to recoup the investment, especially given the Palace’s hard-to-sell second balcony?”

&#178 – The first elevator goes from the ground floor to the 80th. You change there for 86.

No Perfect Example

I wanted to write something about the Imus case, but after reading my own words, realized they were just too inflammatory. It is a volatile topic – there’s no way around that.

My question is, should the treatment of Imus become the standard for all public misogynists and racists?

Back when I was hosting PM Magazine, I quickly learned, you can never find the perfect example for your story – never. Is the Imus case the perfect example of how punishment should be meted? Is Imus the perfect example of the new value of apologies?

There are already people using Imus as an example to call for the heads of such diverse figures as Rush Limbaugh and Jesse Jackson. Could there be two more dissimilar people?

Is Imus’ expulsion from the airwaves the beginning of the healing or the beginning of a bitter battle?

Unearthing My Past


The dumpster in our driveway is getting fuller! More and more stuff is moving up the back stairs, around the side of the house and into its final resting place.

Helaine called me downstairs for a discovery. While tossing and moving, she unearthed this ‘classic’ 1981 bus card, showing Jan Stager and me, hosts of PM Magazine/Buffalo.

Helaine ventured a guess about how much less I weighed when the ad was put together. Grrrrr.

I have to find a place for this bit of “Geoff-o-billia.” It certainly won’t get tossed.

MTV At 25

Today is MTV’s 25th birthday. It has not been mentioned on MTV! More on that in a second. VH-1 Classic, a digital subchannel with vastly inferior reach, carried the flag with flashbacks to 1981.

By the time MTV came on, I was already in Buffalo, hosting PM Magazine. I was envious, to say the least. Alas, even by then, I was probably too old for MTV.

Today’s MTV isn’t anything like the MTV of 25 years ago. There’s little music on Music Television. Much of the day is spent in MTV’s version of reality.

This was all presaged. I’m sure this wasn’t the first time it was uttered, but Bob Pittman is on the record five years ago, on CNN, saying:

We made a decision not to grow old with our audience. It’s the Peter Pan network.

So, to today’s audience, the MTV of 25 years ago doesn’t exist… or if it does, it’s too closely related to their (unhip) parents to be mentioned. A 25th anniversary of anything isn’t very important when you’re 16.

I remember sitting home with Helaine, in Buffalo, waiting for the premiere of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. It was a simpler time.

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly uneasy with the lifestyle portrayals on MTV’s reality shows. I’ve called it soft core porn for teens. Maybe that’s an exaggeration – though not much of one. Certainly I was uneasy when my daughter watched them through high school.

I’d say more, but I don’t want to sound like an old guy railing at youth.

There are no more VJs – no more Martha Quinn or Mark Goodman. I suspect MTV’s still a major incubator of talent. It always has been. It is amazing to look at who’s gone far after leaving MTV.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering about the originals, here’s a quick rundown from NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

Martha Quinn

After leaving MTV in 1990, Quinn stayed in television, working as both actor and anchor. In 2005, she joined Sirius Satellite Radio, where she hosts a weekly show, Martha Quinn Presents: Gods of the Big ’80s.

J.J. Jackson

Jackson returned to radio in Los Angeles after his stint on MTV. He was host for a number of successful radio programs before he suffered a fatal heart attack in March 2004. He was 62.

Alan Hunter

Since his 1987 departure from MTV, Hunter formed a production company, Hunter Films, with his brother Hugh and co-founded the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham. He is currently a host on Sirius Satellite Radio’s 80s music channel.

Nina Blackwood

Blackwood

Like An Old Friend

Photo from my Motorola RAZR cameraphone

21 Jun ’06, 9.12pm EDT

Originally uploaded by Geoff Fox.

As I walked to dinner tonight, I spied this police car from Cheektowaga, NY parked outside a local hotel. Cheektowaga is near Buffalo!

OK – even for me that’s not enough to get the picture in my blog – except, I know some Cheektowaga trivia. I know what Cheektowaga means: “Land of the Green Crabapple.”

And you thought my stint as co-host of PM Magazine/Buffalo had no longstanding benefit.

Mike Wallace Retires

I’m going to hit the pause button on vacation entries for a sec to chime in on Mike Wallace’s retirement. This is a story that floated through the ‘blogosphere’ (gotta add that word to the spell checker) before it was officially confirmed.

I’m a big 60 Minutes fan. I watched the show when it was on Thursday nights. I watched when the Sunday show used to be produced live. Back then, Wallace would begin the show with stories that needed updating since the Sunday papers went to bed.

Life was so very simple before 24 hour cable news.

Mike Wallace was a broadcaster more than a newsman – at least by training and resume. He hosted a talk show, PM East (where I believe Barbra Streisand got her TV start) and a game show. He delivered live commercials as cigarette smoke snaked skyward.

I think the role of journalistic training (i.e. a journalism degree) is overrated. A well read and bright person is really what’s needed.

His strength on 60 Minutes, where his reputation was made, was the confrontation interview. He was the guy who walked in with the videotape, showing the evil doer being evil.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t have the guts to do that sort of thing. I’ve seen people thrashed on camera (Andy Houlding on Channel 8, as an example). The camera records, it does not protect.

With Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace gone, it will probably be a new 60 Minutes. Maybe that’s good. I don’t know what they have planned. Much of what magazine TV has become hasn’t been all that sparkling, so I’m a little scared.

60 Minutes is an anachronism in broadcasting and has stayed successful in spite of that!

They were among the last to go from film to tape. They continue to produce long stories… very long stories, often about obscure people or people out of the mainstream. They have old folks on the air, with little sex appeal… except Lara Logan… definitely except Lara Logan.

There will still be Morley Safer, though his role has already been diminished. Ed Bradley and Steve Kroft remain&#185. I like Andy Rooney, but he’s certainly not the first of the ‘back of the book’ commentators, and doesn’t represent the show’s early days (except he did write for Harry Reasoner, a 60 Minutes original).

I wish they still read viewer mail.

There are other correspondents, but they were the early signs of the diminution of the show.

How long a run can a show or its staff have? Must the shift to younger, fresher talent be inevitable? Do you trade your family in if they are perceived as being too old?

&#185 – I ‘ran into’ Kroft on the street in Manhattan. He seemed very nice. Genuinely so. He’s been on the show since 1989 and I still think of him as the new guy.

Katrina Is Scaring People

After working this morning, I came home and caught a few more hours of sleep. I’ll explain later, but my day is far from done. I’m driving to Uncasville later this afternoon&#185.

My first TV viewing was to scan the all news channels. The attitude concerning Hurricane Katrina is much different than yesterday. Whether the channels are feeding on each other’s energy or truly understand the gravity of the situation, is an unknown. They are in “Big Story Panic Mode.”

When TV shows back-to-back phoners with no live video, the implication is the story is huge.

This is not misplaced angst. Everything I can see about this storm says the same thing. It’s is a monster.

A few minutes ago, I sent this IM to my friend Bob at FSU:

Geoff (2:36:22 PM): My sense is, this storm has achieved meteorological perfection – and will become unstable as such. The length of time a storm can grow in strength is finite

Maybe that’s an academic point. If Katrina went from its current 175 mph sustained wind to 150 mph, no one would notice the difference.

Force is calculated by squaring the wind speed. So, at this point, it’s not how many miles per hour Katrina increases or decreases, it’s whether that number is a significant percentage of the starting point.

bob (2:47:20 PM): the tv weatherman on new orleans (wwltv.com ?) couple hours ago actually said “looks like the center my go a little further right than forecast, sparing the city the worst”

bob (2:47:23 PM): i couldn’t believe it

bob (2:47:27 PM): in the midst of mand. evac

bob (2:47:30 PM): of million people

bob (2:47:41 PM): even IF it ends up turning out true, i thought very irresponsible

He’s right. You can’t give people a reason to stay at this point. The downside is just too tragic. I’m sure this is a mixed metaphor, but the risk is much greater than our ability to accurately forecast landfall.

Doing live television for hours on end is no easy task. From time-to-time we’ll all slip. I saw WWL-TV last night and they were doing an excellent job. This guy gets a temporary pass from me – though he shouldn’t have said what he said.

My friend’s mom in New Orleans has left her home. Yesterday I could hear how little she wanted to do that. She was alone and scared. Whatever guidance was being given by officials wasn’t enough to reassure her.

Geoff,

My mother just called on her mobile live and direct outside from the Superdome. They’re bussing her to Alexandria, LA., which is well north of Baton Rouge. She should be there for up to five days. At least the city is smart enough to do that knowing what could be coming.

Thanks, again, for your concern.

This is a much better scenario than her original intention to stay at the Superdome itself. It would seem to me, a building like that is the wrong place to seek shelter, with its high and large roof. And, being in the city, it too is built below sea level.

It won’t be long before Hurricane Katrina is well within radar range. The best pictures come when the storm is squarely within the view of the lowest radar tilt. Right now feeder bands dominate.

If you were at the mouth of the Mississippi right now, you would see heavy rolling surf. The wind would be gusty, but not even tropical storm strength.

From time-to-time the southeastern sky would darken as squalls moved in.

These would be rain storms that start with heavy rain – not easing in from light to moderate to heavy. The drops would be huge… blobs of rain is probably a better description than drops.

And then, as suddenly as the rain began, it would end. As the day went on, these squalls would each become progressively stronger with the time between squalls decreasing.

The big stuff would be there until tomorrow.

&#185 – If you’re not in Connecticut, Uncasville is as centrally located and convenient to get to as the name Uncasville implies.

Deep Throat Revealed

I woke up this morning , flipped on the TV and saw a ‘breaking news’ banner at the bottom of the screen on CNN. Breaking news doesn’t proffer quite the same importance it once did, but it still got my attention.

Deep throat revealed – that was the gist of the story.

This just might have been the best kept secret in Washington, the identity of Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate source. Only four people knew for sure: Woodward, Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and Deep Throat himself… a claim now raised by W. Mark Felt.

Mark Felt was a high ranking FBI official. AP says he was number two at the bureau, putting him just below J. Edgar Hoover at the time.

His name has been linked to Deep Throat in the past, but he is not a high profile person. A quick Google search of “W. Mark Felt”&#185 shows only 292 hits. Even I’m better represented than that!

Woodward and Bernstein continued to protect their source until a few minutes ago when the Washington Post issued a confirmation. Over the years, as names were tossed out, they neither confirmed or denied what Felt today claimed. Before the confirmation, I was guessing, since this is in Vanity Fair which (in spite of its wimpy name) is very well respected for top notch writing and reportage, it’s true. I would expect this story has been well vetted.

Deep Throat’s tips were what broke open Watergate and finally brought down President Nixon. It is an excellent example of an unnamed source leading to credible journalism. Lately, unnamed sources have been under fire.

It’s funny that even today the White House offers up unnamed sources in a very structured way.

MR. McCORMACK: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the briefing you’ve all been waiting for — all day long. (Laughter and applause.) We have a senior administration official here who is going to be — has a few words to say about the President’s meetings with Prime Minister Singh of India and Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. And then he’ll take a few questions from you.

With that, I’ll turn it over to our briefer.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi. I’m the senior administration official. The President met with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh this morning at 8:05 a.m. And he met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at 3:00 p.m. And let me tell you a little bit about those two, and then I’ll take some questions.

That’s from an actual White House briefing as documented on the White House website.

The White House uses unnamed sources for the same reason they’re used elsewhere. Sometimes, people who know news that must get out just don’t have the ability to speak freely. I’d rather they weren’t used without additional attribution, but I believe inside sources… protected unnamed sources… are an important part of journalism.

Now, how the heck did they keep this a secret for so long?

&#185 – By putting my search in quotes, Google limits its results to only those pages with the exact text I’ve entered. Searching for W. Mark Felt without quotation marks yield millions of entries, but most of them aren’t on topic.

Stay Safe… Except Me

Hurricane Alex has just left the East Coast. Within days it will be a memory, absorbed into the normal flow of extra-tropical weather. As hurricanes go, it was small and its impact to the Carolina’s will be discernible, but small.

Since Alex was never thought to be a huge storm, I didn’t get to cringe at the sight of TV reporters, and weather people, standing in the thick of it all – all the while telling others to stay inside where it’s safe.

I think this is right up there with tobacco companies telling me not to smoke. Where’s the credibility.

I know where this came from. Dan Rather got his TV chops covering a hurricane in Texas. It was because of that very gritty series of on-location reports that he was plucked from obscurity. Good for Dan.

The problem is, all the warnings we give on TV are correct. Hurricanes are dangerous storms. Being in the midst of an open area, adjacent to open water, with a hurricane coming on shore, is going to get someone killed.

I have watched live shots as reporters tilted off vertical, into the wind, in order to stand. In the background of those shots I’ve also seen debris and building materials turned into missiles. That they didn’t find a reporter is only luck.

In a larger sense, aren’t we sending the wrong signal to viewers? It’s a ‘do as I say’ mentality that will entice others into harm’s way.

You might be saying, “But Geoff, you’ve flown through the eye of two hurricanes. Isn’t that a little crazier and a lot more dangerous?”

Thanks. I’m glad I asked that.

Flying through a hurricane is totally different. The planes are specifically outfitted to withstand the buffeting they get. The planes are flown at an altitude where there is no solid debris to run into. And the well trained crews have the benefit of radar and other instrumentation to know where, and where not, to go.&#185

I also won’t criticize tornado chasers. As far as I can tell, no one has ever been hurt while chasing a tornado. These are compact systems with reasonably predictable paths. It is quite reasonable to watch a tornado safely from a distance, if you know what you’re doing.

Back when I did PM Magazine/Buffalo I used to joke around about the fact that you can’t get hurt if you’re in front of a camera and tape’s rolling. Of course that’s just not so. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of the reporters in big storms feel just that way.

I hope this isn’t the year when something tragic happens. That time is coming. It’s not a question of if, but when.

&#185 – Hurricane Hunter planes never fly directly into the eye. They always turn into the wind and cut diagonally to the eye. This makes some of the terrible force near the center nothing more than a ferocious headwind.

Father’s Day

What a beautiful day. This was a day for shooting picture postcards or travelogues. The sky was a pure blue without a hint of gray. The clouds were scattered and puffy. The air was warm and crisp at the same time.

Oh – it’s Father’s Day.

I’m not sure why we’re being feted, but we are. After all, in the hierarchy of parents, I think moms have it tougher. However, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Steffie had handmade a card for me. Even at age 17, when she’s part child – part adult, this effort on her part warms every part of me. It is a collage – an abstract from magazines. It is a style in which she has shown great talent. I envy her skills as an artist.

Helaine bought me a few gifts: a book on poker (Doyle Brunson’s “Super System,” considered the classic in its field), cuff links made from small pieces of a computer motherboard, and a trip in a balloon over Las Vegas.

A good daughter-in-law, she got my dad that too. He’ll be joining me as we fly in wicker!

I love to fly. Once, a long time ago, I even took lessons… though I quit before I soloed.

I have flown in nearly anything you can think of from an ultralight with two chainsaw engines for power, to a Piper Cub J-3 with fabric covered wings, to a C-5A big enough to hold a Greyhound bus. I’ve had a few minutes stick time in an F/A18 with the Blue Angels and in a military full motion simulator. I’ve also flown through 2 hurricanes in a C-130 Hurricane Hunter (not as scary as you might think). There have also been flights in a few helicopters, one blimp and some time in Houston walking through a Space Shuttle trainer.

My first balloon flight was in the 80’s during my PM Magazine/Buffalo days. The pilot was Einer Wheel (a name you don’t easily forget) and the balloon was festooned with ads for a local Western New York bank. Later, with the SciFi Channel crew, I flew in the Canadian Flag balloon during a mass ascension at the Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

I’m looking forward to this balloon trip because it’s over Las Vegas (though probably not over the Strip), which will provide an immense panorama, and because it will be with my dad. This is the kind of thing he’d never do on his own and something he’ll really enjoy a lot.

This being Father’s Day, I went a little nuts and went off my diet. Helaine and Steffie took me to The Rusty Scupper for brunch. With today’s weather, and its location right on New Haven Harbor, it was the perfect spot.

Father’s Day ends at midnight. I’ll be dieting again tomorrow, trying to gain a cushion for our Vegas vacation. I was king for a day. It’s good to be king.