war on terrorism?
Check out K-CAL 9
In November 2001, news organizations had much to
keep them occupied, including the war against terrorism, the shaky
U.S. economy, the John Walker Lindh case and Enron.
But in a Nov. 26 Los Angeles Times column called
"You gotta admire TV's commitment to meaninglessness,"
Steve Lopez noted that a previous broadcast on Los Angeles station
KCAL-9 included the following stories, in order:
- a Britney Spears concert in Anaheim
- a Jennifer Lopez concert
- strip club protests
- shopping for lingerie
- Operation Playmate, in which Playboy bunnies will entertain
- Hackers breaking into the Playboy website and stealing credit
"We were witnessing the triumphant resurrection
of bad taste," Lopez wrote.
Boast and the scoop that wasn't
The Washington Post told readers it broke another big one in March:
a shadow government was working outside Washington, D.C. in secret government
bunkers, where they would ensure U.S. government continuity in case
of a catastrophic attack.
Engrossed readers, however, could have read pretty much the same story
by Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer way back in October.
What most readers also didn't know is that, a few days later when
The Post became aware of Eaton's story - as well as a small
"whisper" in U.S. News and World Report about the secret plans
- they continued to claim credit for an exclusive.
In a letter posted March 1 on Poynter's MediaNews website, Barton
Gellman, who co-wrote the first shadow government story for The Post
with Susan Schmidt, said that he did not see either the Plain Dealer
story or the U.S. News item. He also sniffed to MediaNews that Eaton's
story was based on "intelligent speculation."
Perhaps Gellman and The Post can be forgiven for the Journalism 101
oversight of not finding background material by conducting a standard
Lexis-Nexis search. Even though the report was of such magnitude that
Gellman, in his own words, considers the article to be "of historical
But The Post cannot be given a pass. Three days after they became aware
of the Plain Dealer and U.S. News stories, The Post's own media
columnist, Howard Kurtz - a guy who is supposed to be keeping tabs
on the media - reiterated to readers in his March 4 column that
The Post broke the story. You'd expect someone with Howard Kurtz's
job to regularly visit a site called MediaNews and digest what's
there. At the very least, you'd expect The Post would pay someone
to do it for him.
While it is true that The Post's story had new details and better
sourcing than the Plain Dealer story, it is astonishingly clear from
looking at all the stories that Eaton first uncovered the news on the
contingency plans and bunkering of government workers, even if it wasn't
wrapped in a package as fancy as The Post's.
Easton should have received at least a nod from The Post. Unfortunately,
the paper had its nose so high in the air it couldn't see anyone
Following September 11, New Yorkers needed a little self-affirmation.
Maxim magazine, purveyor of frat-boy good cheer (and celebrity T&A),
served up plenty. In its March issue, the magazine declared New York
the "Greatest City on Earth."
However, readers in Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. each
received their own issues naming their city "the greatest."
All in all, the monthly rag printed 13 different versions, each a rose-tinted
mirror for every fair metropolis.
Then Maxim got caught. The editors compounded the situation when they
lied to reporters about it, according to the Detroit Free Press. First
editors said they really did love Detroit. Later, they said they couldn't
pick just one best city and that it issue was an April Fool's gag.
Maxim played the hypocrite. Its editors never confessed to the real
purpose behind its "greatest cities" issues - sales.
As John Strausbaugh of New York Press noted, Maxim is "perhaps
the most market-driven magazine in the business.
Every word and image of its editorial is geared to sales, every issue
rigorously focus-grouped to ensure maximum appeal to its core market."
Magazines that have nothing better to do print weak, market-driven
stories on "10 Best Getaways" or "20 People to Watch."
Maxim, so blatantly enslaved to ad money, doesn't even have the
authority to provide a list of the 10 best dog foods. They should stick
to what they know best: riveting articles about the 10 Best Racks in
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