Entries in NBC (7)

Tuesday
Jan172012

Gawker, Denton and Daulerio Get Brian Williams/Lana Del Rey Fiasco All Wrong

REVIEWING THE NEWS: The gossip site and its founder, Nick Denton, draw line in the sand of journalistic ethics after posting Brian Williams' personal e-mail about Lana Del Rey.

 

By Kenny Herzog

 

Nick Denton's Gawker Media embodies the blogosphere's curious position as unfiltered aggregator of truth and unchecked court jester. REVIEWniverse has taken the company's principal domain, Gawker.com, to task in the past for the relatively victimless distinction of boasting less-than-credible musical taste. But yesterday, Denton and his new editor-in-chief, muckraking former Deadspin Editor A.J. Daulerio, imposed a substandard of poor journalism when they posted NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' personal e-mail to Denton without consent. 

By now, you've all read that Williams wrote Denton on Sunday to join the chorus of boos hurled at last weekend's maligned SNL performer, pixie chanteusse Lana Del Rey. It was an informal, clearly personal and off-the-record correspondence in which Williams lamented that Del Rey was "the least-experienced musical guest in the show's history" and good-naturedly bemoaned that "it was a fallow holiday period for those of us who check your shit 10 times a day by iphone [sic]." And you also know that Daulerio, after what we presume was much discussion with Denton and Gawker staff, posted the e-mail verbatim on their site the following afternoon. Lastly, you've heard or seen that NBC PR (no doubt unhappy about the cross-contimination within their brand) sent Gawker a stern but reasonable demand to remove the item, and Daulerio merely updated his original story by making that correspondence public as well.

Frankly, this reeks more of Daulerio's recklessness than Denton's salacious tendencies. Either way, the gauntlet has been laid. It's clear that for Gawker (and as they go, so do countless apers), no friendship or set of basic personal or journalistic principles will stand between them and a childish impulse to determine what qualifies as "news," deliver it with irresponsible whim and no discernable point of view, and let others sort out the consequences and implications while they calculate Web traffic and turn it into liquid ad-revenue gold.

For any of us who've ever worked in a real newsroom or, as consumers, are simply adapting to the digital information age with a bit of blind faith, it's impossible to fathom that Denton and Daulerio's story could be planted with total transparency from the inside. It's depressing to consider the breakdown of accountability within an organization that, like it or not, influences more readers on an average afternoon than most major newspapers even reach in a week.

Gawker may have caught Williams in an untenable position by putting him at odds with his employing network, but something tells us we haven't heard the final word on all this. In journalism and in life, corrupting privacy and closely held relationships can have short-term gains, but almost always precipitates an eventual collapse of relevance and character. Daulerio better realize he's playing with the big boys now, because Denton's just a careless schoolyard bully.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: There has to be some kind of bar before it can be lowered.

DENTON AND DAULERIO RATING: 0/10

WE STILL LOVE BRIAN WILLIAMS RATING: 10/10

NO COMMENT ON LANA DEL REY BECAUSE THIS SITE'S EDITORS HAVE WILDLY DISSENTING OPINIONS RATING: We'll Publish Our Private E-mails About It Later/10

 

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Sunday
Dec182011

Death of Kim Jong Il Puts New '30 Rock' Season in Awkward Spot

REVIEWING THE NEWS: A day after 30 Rock unveiled its extended Season 6 trailer, featuring their continuing, satirical Kim Jong Il storyline, the North Korean leader died of a reported heart attack. Will the sitcom still air all eps as planned? And will there be international backlash?

By Kenny Herzog

Hard to say if Jong Il's passing is cause for 30 Rock to pop champagne. (Credit: Art Streibler/NBC)

 

North Korea's pretty shut off from American pop culture, so it's not very likely that NBC's sometimes-political comedy of the absurd, 30 Rock, has been a major topic of interest for its citizens or government. Even if a good portion of Season 5 focused on network head Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) efforts to rescue his girlfriend, political reporter Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), who was being held hostage and forced into marriage by Kim Jong Il (who was played with cross-dressed hilarity by Margaret Cho).

Speaking of Jong Il, the longtime North Korean leader and constant nuclear threat died Saturday of what his country's state-run media are saying was a heart attack, brought on by the rigors of "dedicating his life to the people." Man, he must have hated the people.

This brings us back to 30 Rock, which premiered a lengthy teaser this past Friday for its Jan. 12 premiere. Naturally, the clip (viewable below) features new snippets from the ongoing Jong Il spoof. And they are, of course, hilarious. But its fortuitious timing could lead to unwanted attention or protest from overseas toward Tina Fey and co.'s gentle sending up of the late Communist militant. And without having seen the episodes in context, it's tough to say if their satire will appear a bit mean-spirited or simply timely. 

 

But hey, South Park creators Trey Parker and Stone took their shots at Jong Il during the early years of his leadership and were even more on the nose. By the time Jan. 12 rolls around, it's doubtful American audiences or critics will dwell on the connection, nor should they feel particulatly conflicted (Jong Il wasn't exactly a defensible sort). And as suggested above, the jokes will probably just land more effectively. But some of the folks over at 30 Rock, if only to avoid a PR- and logistical-nightmare, have to be crossing their fingers, hoping that Kim Jong-un isn't a Hulu subscriber.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: This could be the best or worst thing to happen to 30 Rock, but will probably just amount to a surreal twist.

KIM JONG IL IS DEAD RATING: Why Can't All Evil Dictators Just Die of Heart Attacks in Their 60s?/10

30 ROCK'S RETURNING! RATING: Yay!/10

THE CRAZY TIMING OF SEASON 6'S TRAILER RATING: Never a Dull Moment/10

 

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Thursday
Dec152011

Relax, Howard Stern Is Gonna Be Great on 'America's Got Talent'

REVIEWING THE NEWS: The announcement that Howard Stern's taking over for Piers Morgan will bring the same tired, decades-old protests, which is what NBC wants. But the legendary radio host should also be great.

By Kenny Herzog

Possibly what Rodin had in mind when he sculpted "The Thinker."

 

REVIEWniverse Editor Robbie Woliver said it best when the rumors were first making headlines: Why not Howard Stern to replace Piers Morgan on America's Got Talent? Moreover, what would make him any less qualified a judge of musical potential than his predecessor or more leery and perverse than American Idol's Steven Tyler?

Stern is not an idiot, even if an enormous percentage of the listeners who call into his SiriusXM show are. But that's kind of the point. The Long Island native and longtime a.m.-radio voice has always been the non-coiffed alternative to condescending media phonies, and the fact that every on-air personality he's influenced merely apes and simplifies his panache is testament to the 57-year-old mainstay's absolutely unique charisma. 

By hiring Stern (and moving production to New York to accomodate his radio obligations, no less) America's Got Talent has found its everyman Simon Cowell and less slithery Steven Tyler in one package. For Stern himself, it's a great opportuntity to re-cement his legacy for a mainstream audience and new generation after years of cushy satellite autocracy. And NBC has guaranteed themselves a seventh season that will boast not only phenomenal ratings, but be a ton of fun for viewers and a surprising positive influence on contestants.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Everyone wins!

HOWARD STERN ON AMERICA'S GOT TALENT RATING: 10/10

ALREADY ROLLING OUR EYES AT OVERUSE OF THE TERM "SHOCK JOCK" RATING: So 1989/10

A WHOLE NEW GENERATION OF PRIMETIME STERN FANS: Baba Booey/10

 

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Tuesday
Nov152011

VIDEO: Bob Costas Scores Small Victory for Victims and Journalism with Sandusky Grilling 

REVIEWING THE NEWS: Some of the content in Bob Costas' Rock Center interview with accused ex-Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky was shocking, but Costas' unblinking cross-examination wasn't. (VIDEO)

By Kenny Herzog

Costas has always been good, but never under such significant and complex circumstances.

 

It's almost impossible to fathom why disgraced former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky and his attorney, Joseph Amendola, conceded to an interview with Bob Costas on last night's Rock Center. Or why Amendola didn't muzzle his blithering client halfway through the unsettling, self-indicting discussion.

Maybe it's because they were able to conduct it over the phone, thereby stripping Costas of the chance to interrogate his subject while looking him in the eye. Or perhaps Amendola figured that, if America finally heard about these allegations from the lone implicated adult, it could give him a head start on discrediting the then-underage children whom Sandusky purportedly sodomized.

It's also likely that Amendola underestimated Costas, whose career has generally remained within the boundaries of sports reporting and commentary, but whom any observant TV viewer knows is one of our great broadcast journalists, worthy of being considered this generation's Howard Cosell. At minimum, Amendola had obviously never seen the one-time Syracuse University Newhouse School grad's unflinching tete-a-tetes with the likes of shamed baseball icon Mark McGwire.

Sandusky was out-witted and seemingly caught off guard by Costas, who stayed composed and balanced while asking point-blank questions like, "If you're not a pedophile, then what are you?" and refusing to allow Sandusky a single evasive response. When the accused child molester claimed, "I don't think it's my fault," only acknowledging, "I've obviously played a part in this," Costas immediately insisted to know what part, to which Sandusky pitifully answered, "I shouldn't have showered with those kids."

 

You could see Costas gritting teeth and maintaining palor while Sandusky had the self-deluded, offensive gall to suggest that the children making accusations simply misinterpreted his good intentions. It was clear how sorely Costas wanted to eviscerate Sandusky and lecture him in some more obviously cathartic way. But then the story would have become about Costas, and potentially even risked portraying Sandusky as having been blindsided or attacked, which is exactly what Amendola was banking on. Instead, Costas repeatedly turned Sandusky's convoluted and contradictory pronouncements on their head and spun them back toward the retired coach, who was incapable of justifying his own incoherence. 

Of course, Costas wouldn't want to be celebrated for what he did either. It's his job, and he did it well, but it still won't change the fact that Sandusky most certainly had inappropriate contact with young boys whom he promised a brighter future, and possibly of a sexual nature. But at least he set the tone that someone amidst all this needs to start acting like an adult.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Let's hope Sandusky goes to trial, because if guilty, it should go unmitigated. 

BOB COSTAS RATING: 10/10

STILL A LONG WAY FROM CLOSURE FOR THE VICTIMS, IF IT'S EVER POSSIBLE RATING: 1/10

COSTAS ALL BUT CONVICTING SANDUSKY BY CHARACTERIZING HIS PLED INNOCENCE AS MAKING HIM "THE UNLUCKIEST AND MOST PERSECUTED MAN THAT ANY OF US HAS EVER HEARD ABOUT" RATING: 9/10


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Thursday
Oct202011

Graphic Gadhafi Death Video Makes Dubious Rounds

REVIEWING THE NEWS: No one is arguing that longtime Libyan autocrat Moammar Gadhafi needed to go, but there should be discussion about American media's gleeful release of a cell-phone video capturing him dead and bloodied.

By Kenny Herzog

We know the face, we know he's dead. Not sure we need freeze frames of it covered in blood.

 

Earlier today, Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril announced that his nation's recently deposed former ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, had been killed, adding, "It's time to start a new Libya." Within a short time, all major American TV and online outlets were reporting the news, and is if to say, "What, you don't believe us?" commenced broadcasting a graphic, bloody cell-phone video that allegedly captured Gadhafi's dead, stripped body as Misrata locals trounced on it in celebration. 

Amateur recordings of the video taken from TV on other people's phones have made it to YouTube, where they have mere hundreds of views now, but should reach in the hundreds of thousands soon enough, or at least until CBS, NBC, CNN or whomever posts their own official clip to the site. It's an incredible illustration of just how content spreads in our new world, bouncing forward, laterally and in reverse from one source to another like a chaotic lateral play at the end of a football game.

The video itself is also disturbing, gross and, yes, fascinating. Although I don't think NBC needed to air it, full screen, at 11:45 a.m., and then linger on a single close-up frame, in order for me to grasp the weight of what had happened, or the sheer truth of it. And it's unlikely that Reuters.com needed to actually freeze their streaming embed at strategic, gratuitous moments for me to identify the body was Gadhafi, and it was in fact absent of life. CNN, meanwhile, has had some interesting correspondence with their foreign dispatches, in addition to Hilary Clinton reacting in real-time to the rumors of Gadhafi's death. Not sure cutting to the crude, gruesome 80 seconds of revellers stomping on the slaughtered tyrant's corpse left me feeling anything but unnerved. 

All the aforementioned entities disclaimed what they were about to show, or what you were about to click and stream, with warnings of graphic content. But then they also still showed it, or practically dared you not to look. Chances are, little kids who come across it won't be able to differentiate between those images and the cartoonish violence they've grown accustomed to. And teenagers will probably pass it around on their smartphones and leer with morbid interest. That's what teenagers do. As for any adults who've come of age through various crises and adapted to new-media's porousness, hardly anything is shocking. But journalistically speaking, I'm just not sure what purpose rushing to release a video like the one in question actually serves. In fact, it could get confused in peoples' memories with similar images of bin Laden's body, despite very different political circumstances having led up to the al-Qaeda leader's capture. 

For me, it's a no-brainer that Gadhafi's death is incredible news with global implications, and something I feel obliged to report on in the wake of its credible confirmation. But not even for a second would I feel enough burden of proof to include the already infamous cell-phone video along with my reporting. I'd probably watch it, yes, and did. Sometimes that's an ugly responsibility that comes along with publishing information as accurate record of fact. And for those watching in Libya, and to their family and friends around the world, there's probably a different imperative to see it with their own eyes. It's only my editorial judgment that, as a member of American media communicating the story to an American readership who are largely geographically and culturally removed from Gadhafi's reign, the video in question adds little to it, and risks simplifying a massively historical incident into a series of polarizing images.

If you want to see them, that's your right, and the majority of Western broadcast and Web journalists have made it nearly impossible to avoid because of insecurity in their own reporting and some fuzzy commitment to transparency. It's only my suggestion that, removed as most of us are from the impact of Gadhafi's death, it's not going to deepen your understanding of its significance or get you closer to the issue. In fact, it will probably only widen the disconnect.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Good riddance to Gadhafi, and onward for Libya.

GADHAFI AND "ALL THE EVILS" HAVING "VANISHED" FROM LIBYA: 9/10

AS WE'VE SEEN ACROSS THE WORLD, IT WILL STILL BE COMPLICATED: 4/10

YOU SAY GADDAFI.... EH, WHAT DOES IT MATTER? HE'S DEAD RATING: 10/10

GOOGLE IMAGE'S FIRST RESULT FOR "GADHAFI" BEING HE AND OBAMA RATING: Who's the Wise Guy?/10

 

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