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Friday, September 30, 2005

You Get What You Pay For

Starting Monday, RedEye, the Chicago Tribune's retarded younger sibling, will be officially free, as opposed to unofficially free for 80 percent of its readers and 25 cents a copy for the suckers who were willing to pay for it.

Here's what general manager Brad Moore said in the press release (issued, White House-style, at 5 p.m. on Friday evening):
Since our launch in October 2002, RedEye has operated under a hybrid free/paid model with the majority of our distribution being free. As we continued to monitor the business it became clear that converting to a free model would make RedEye most accessible -- putting copies into more readers' hands. Increasing readership means more value for our advertisers and more revenue growth.
Here's what founding general manager John O'Loughlin said in 2003:
If we didn't think we'd get a quarter for it, we wouldn't have done it.
We really wish they hadn't.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chicago Tribune Live Chats Are Neither Live Nor Chats. Discuss.

The Tribune is stepping up its interactivity with fuzzy reader-servicing gimmicks like a "live chat," occuring as we speak, with "Ask" Amy Dickinson.

But while the Trib's heart is in the right place--in terms of forward-thinking webbiness, it's about where the Washington Post's was, oh, maybe three-and-a-half years ago--its crack IT team is apparently still busy finishing up that Y2K update.

Here's how the "chats" work: Reader fills out web form with question. Web form generates an e-mail that goes to web-person somewhere in the Tribune Tower. Web-person forwards e-mail to, say, "Ask" Amy Dickinson. "Ask" Amy Dickinson responds to the e-mail and sends it back to the web-person. Web-person posts both the question and "Ask" Amy Dickinson's response on the "live chat" site.

In other words, the Tribune has harnessed the power of a 15-year-old technology--e-mail--and unleashed it on its hungry readers. Keep up the good work, guys! You'll make up that billion dollars in no time!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

That's One Way of Putting It

Headline to an AP story on the Washington Post's web site about Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) and his new leadership role as second-in-command to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is replacing Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Lizard) as House majority leader:
Dreier a Different Kind of Republican
So we hear.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

So does this count as a correction? I don't know whether to update the stats or not.

The TV Watch column on Sept. 5 discussed broadcast journalists' undisguised outrage at the failings of Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. It said reporters had helped stranded victims because no police officers or rescue workers were around, and added, "Fox's Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety."

The editors understood the "nudge" comment as the television critic's figurative reference to Mr. Rivera's flamboyant intervention. Mr. Rivera complained, but after reviewing a tape of his broadcast, The Times declined to publish a correction.

Numerous readers, however--now including Byron Calame, the newspaper's public editor, who also scrutinized the tape--read the comment as a factual assertion. The Times acknowledges that no nudge was visible on the broadcast.
Aside from the obvious reaction that this reads precisely like the sort of thing I say to High-Pitched Tone just to end a fight that was totally her fault--"I acknowledge that if I had listened to your driving directions, we would have gotten home two hours sooner"-- I have three things to say: 1) I wonder where anyone got the idea that newspapers are arrogant, stuffy, insular institutions utterly lacking in self-awareness; 2) So... I guess Geraldo doesn't count as a "reader"?; and 3) If you people would stop insisting on reading simple declarative sentences that describe the actions of named individuals as factual assertions, that would be really great. Thanks.

Make It Stop

It's actually beginning to get tedious.
A brief article in the New Season issue on Sept. 11 about the ABC series "Commander in Chief" starring Geena Davis misstated the surname of her character at one point. She is Mackenzie Allen, not Adams.
(Thanks Alex.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Song for Stanley

I don't want to seem like I'm piling on, and I fully acknowledge that I have made, and do make, and will continue in the future to make stupid errors. There but for the grace of god, glass houses, etc. Just yesterday I mispelled Martin Scorsese's name on this very blog. But it seems pretty clear to me that Alessandra Stanley is in some sort of error-spiral. Gawker flags tomorrow's correction today:
A television review yesterday about “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” on NBC, misstated the name of the recently incarcerated host’s daughter. It is "Alexis,” not “Alexa.”
Gawker also tweaks her for some other, fuzzier miscues, like cleaning up a line of dialogue to make it sound, well, whiter. That strikes me as beside the point: The thing about Stanley's current streak is that you don't really need to stretch to find something incorrect. The Alexis correction will knock her up to a solid 15 percent error rate for the past 12 months.*

Like I say, I myself am a fairly wrong person. Whenever I get really wrong, this Shearwater tune always cheers me up. I offer it here for Alexandra. Or Allesandra. Or Alessandra. Whatever.
* Since some folks have questioned the methodology: I am bad at math, so I kept it simple. I took the number of corrections and divided by number of bylines. The error rate does not represent the proportion of facts promulgated by Stanley in her stories that turn out to be incorrect. Nor does it represent the number of errors she makes relative to the number of stories--if a three errors are mentioned in one correction, for instance, it still only counts as one correction. The error rate simply represents the number of Stanley stories requiring a correction of some sort relative to the number of Stanley stories in total. If you would like to get more algebraic on her--by counting out the actual number of errors or the actual number of facts she advances--by all means, be my guest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Welcome



Tal Daniel Mitnick, born September 18, in Kfar Saba, Israel, to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Tal means "dew" in Hebrew.

His father, Josh Mitnick, writes that "during Israel's dry summer, it is the delicate tal that helps renew and refresh the land. The arrival of our first child has already renewed our appreciation of nature and creation, and made us into a family."

The first thing "dew" brings to my mind is "I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew," a crystalline Tom T. Hall song about poverty and justice (sung here by Johnny Cash):
Some day things are bound to change
It can’t be very far
And each injustice I have seen
Will come before the bar

Then I’ll wash my face in the morning dew
Bathe my soul in the sun
Wash my face in the morning dew
And my journey will be done
Here's to Tal bringing us closer to that day.

Nicknames: I shall call him Shorty. High-Pitched Tone shall call him Tal Skim Latte.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Gotta Serve Somebody

bob_dylan.12.64

Roger Ebert bigfooted himself over to television criticism yesterday, offering up four glowing stars for "No Direction Home," the forthcoming PBS documentary about Bob Dylan "directed" by Martin Scorsese.

Ebert joins a chorus of critical praise for the doc, which is part of a major promotional campaign for Dylan Inc.—he's got two albums of live and previously unreleased material coming out, along with the paperback edition of "Chronicles Vol. 1" and an "official" scrapbook—and many, many folks have swooned over the "intimate epic" (Hollywood Reporter), which traces Dylan's evolution from earnest folkie to diffident folk-rocker.

For Ebert, it was a revelation: He was always a Dylan fan, but thought he was pretty much an asshole after seeing D.A. Pennebaker's "Don't Look Back." Before seeing that movie in 1968, Ebert had always thought of Dylan as a "lone, ethical figure standing up against the phonies." But Pennebaker unmasked him as, in Ebert's words, "immature, petty, vindictive, lacking a sense of humor, overly impressed with his own importance and not very bright."

But Ebert was won over by "No Direction Home," which "creates a portrait that is deep, sympathetic, perceptive and yet finally leaves Dylan shrouded in mystery, which is where he properly lives."

Well, gosh, I wonder how that could have happened. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Jeff Rosen, Dylan's manager, is a producer of the documentary? And that Rosen, or people hired by him, conducted the interviews—all of them—that appear in the film? So that, when Joan Baez, or Allen Ginsberg, or Pete Seeger, or Dylan himself appear on camera, they are answering questions posed by people hired to advance Dylan’s interests and create a "deep, sympathetic portrait" of him and his legacy?

Which isn't to say that it's not a great film, or worthy of four stars (I haven't seen it). But it is—in its entirety—a production of Bob Dylan and people paid by Bob Dylan. Every frame of it is owned by Bob Dylan. They're his archives, he commissioned the interviews. (I know all this because I incredulously questioned the producers about it at a press event I attended on the film back in January.) It's unavoidably a massive self-blow-job.

So why have so many critics—and I don't mean to single out Ebert, who does mention, without seeming to mind, Rosen's involvement in the picture—elevated this glorified video press release to the level of film? Because it was nominally "directed" by Martin Scorsese.

Which is bullshit. It was edited by Martin Scorsese. Rosen and Dylan began planning the film years ago, long before Scorcese was attached, when they realized that many seminal figures who have interesting things to say about Dylan were dying off. So they made sure to get, for instance, Ginsberg's recollections down on film before he died. They hired the crews, conducted the interviews, went through Dylan's film archives, picked the stuff they wanted released, kept private the things they wanted private, and handed it over to Scorcese to stitch together at such a time as it was convenient to their promotional needs.

Again, I'm sure it's a fascinating film. And I'm sure it's worthy of praise. But every word was vetted or produced by Dylan and his camp, which certainly ought to be a caution to critics and at the very least ought to raise questions about why PBS is financing and distributing it.

At the aforementioned press event for the film, Scorsese said he may still go back and re-interview Dylan himself, but not because he wanted to ask more probing or interesting questions--he had some issues with the sound and intellegibility of some of the reels that had been handed to him to "direct." I don't know if he ever did freshen any of the interviews up, but it hardly matters. It's still phony.

Sacrifices

I don't envy the task of an editor having to decide how to play the news that one of your own reporters was abducted and murdered, as the editors of the New York Times did in Tuesday's editions in reporting that stringer Fakher Haider was killed in Basra. And the murder of a journalist, or anyone, for that matter, shouldn't really be an occasion for snarkery.

So it is in all earnestness that I ask: If Judith Miller's detention was front page news, why was Haider's death stuffed on Page 10? Which reporter sacrificed more for the New York Times? And which story--reporters who work for American papers being hunted and killed in Iraq for reporting accurately on Shiite militias, or reporters being jailed in America for not divulging information about sources who have signed statements releasing all obligations of anonymity--is more important?

I Refuse to Tip For Coffee When It's Self-Serve, I Refuse to Buy a Car Alarm, I Refuse to Put One of Those Satellite Dishes on the Side of My House,

and I refuse read a blog that opens its inaugural post with the word, "Yo."

Peace out.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Stanley Chronicles

This one had to hurt:
A television review yesterday about "How I Met Your Mother" and "Out of Practice," on CBS, misstated the name of the popular show, ended last season, that the network is trying to replace with another hit. It is "Everybody Loves Raymond," not "All About Raymond."
Monitoring school-halls since 1984. (Thanks Eric.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Blogs of War

This has been getting surprisingly positive coverage. My question for Kevin Sites is this: Do you really want to risk your life covering war zones for a company with an exclamation point in its name?

The Wrongest Critic

Speaking of one reporter needlessly nitpicking the work of another--Phil Rosenthal took a nasty shot or two at New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley yesterday. Writing about the distressingly correct position of Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera that Stanley maligned Rivera by writing that he "nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety" in New Orleans--the tape clearly shows that Rivera did no such thing and was in fact just helping carry a woman in a wheelchair--Rosenthal took a trip down memory lane to revisit some of Stanley's other errors, which clearly burn inside his eyelids when he goes to sleep each night.
If nothing else, the incident recalls some of Stanley's more colorful gaffes. We all make mistakes--especially me--but Stanley's pieces have had doozies.

The Times has issued corrections to point out that the WB is not a cable network and Fox's short-lived hotel soap "North Shore" was not a program about the sex industry. Another piece, according to the correction, "misstated the political backdrop of the economic recession that preceded the good times that were the setting of `Friends.'"
I immediately assumed that Rosenthal merely had it in for Stanley, a star of sorts on the TV beat who inspired envy among some critics (until a couple months ago, Rosenthal was the Sun-Times' TV critic). So I Nexised "(byline)Alessandra Stanley and correction appended" and--my god. The woman is clocking corrections at more than a monthly rate. And they are stupid, stupid errors. Still, somehow I don't get the sense that anybody's writing any "we have to stop Alessandra Stanley from writing for the Times--now" memos.

So herewith, for your reading pleasure: The Collected Corrections of Alessandra Stanley, with Grateful Acknowledgement to Phil Rosenthal for Getting the Ball Rolling. (In the interest of brevity, I only went back to 2001, when Stanley started writing incorrect things about television, and I made them really tiny. In Stanley's defense, her overall correction rate for that period is a not-quite-appalling-but-still-kinda-large 11 percent--she's got an 89 percent chance of being right! Her rate for the past year is a disconcerting 14 percent, or a one-in-seven chance of being wrong.)
August 9, 2005
The TV Watch column in The Arts yesterday, about the legacy of Peter Jennings, misstated the name of the network where he started his career. It is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, not Company.

July 27, 2005
A television review on July 27 about ''Over There,'' a show on the FX cable channel portraying the fighting in Iraq, referred incorrectly to the gold star flags that were displayed by the families of Americans killed in past wars. Some are indeed flown by survivors in the current war.

June 3, 2005
The TV Weekend column last Friday, about mock reality shows including the new HBO series ''The Comeback,'' referred imprecisely to Michael Patrick King, an executive producer of that series, and his involvement in ''Sex and the City.'' HBO says he was an executive producer of ''Sex and the City'' and ''a leading creative contributor''; Darren Star was credited as the creator.

May 30, 2005
A television review last Monday about ''Faith of My Fathers,'' a movie on A&E based on Senator John McCain's memoir about his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, misstated the rarity of fathers and sons who have held four-star ranks in the United States military. Senator McCain's grandfather and father are not the only ones; at least three other sets of fathers and sons have held that distinction.

May 1, 2005
The television report on the Week Ahead page last Sunday, about the return of ''Family Guy'' to the Fox network, misspelled the surname of its creator and misidentified a cable channel that carried reruns after Fox canceled the show in 2002. He is Seth MacFarlane, not McFarlane; the channel was the Cartoon Network, not Comedy Central.

May 1, 2005
An article on May 1 about Mustique, in the Caribbean, referred incorrectly to a meal included in the room rate of the Cotton House, the island's one hotel. It is afternoon tea. (High tea, served chiefly in Britain, is a more substantial early-evening meal.)

April 24, 2005
An article last Sunday about Pope Benedict XVI's record of disciplinary actions against theologians while he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith misstated the timing of the Protestant Reformation, set off by Martin Luther. It began in 1517; it was not ''more than 500'' years ago.

An article on April 24 about Pope Benedict XVI's record of disciplinary actions against theologians while was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith incorrectly described the population of Poland when Pope John Paul II was born in 1920. According to the 1921 census, an estimated 14 percent of the population was Jewish or Protestant. The country was not almost 100 percent Catholic.

April 10, 2005
The TV Watch column on Sunday, about American television coverage of the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, misidentified the cable network that carries the talk show of one commentator, Tina Brown. It is CNBC, not MSNBC.

March 30, 2005
A picture caption yesterday with a television review of ''Eyes,'' a detective series on ABC, misidentified the actress shown. She was Laura Leighton, who plays a lawyer, not Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, who plays an investigator.

The review referred incorrectly to an earlier series, ''Wings,'' that featured Tim Daly, the star of ''Eyes.'' It was his last hit series; ''The Fugitive'' was his last series over all.

March 4, 2005
The TV Weekend column yesterday, about ''The Starlet,'' referred to the WB network incorrectly. It is a broadcast network, not cable.

March 4, 2005
A television review in Weekend on March 4 about ''Deadwood,'' an HBO series created by David Milch, omitted the co-creator of ''NYPD Blue,'' another series Mr. Milch developed. He is Steven Bochco.

December 3, 2004
A brief television review in Weekend on Friday about the 1957 CBS broadcast of ''Cinderella,'' by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, which starred Julie Andrews and is being shown on PBS stations this month, credited another Broadway musical to the composer-lyricist team erroneously. ''My Fair Lady'' is by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

October 20, 2004
The TV Watch column on Wednesday, about a televised dispute between broadcast personalities -- Jon Stewart of ''The Daily Show'' versus Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson of ''Crossfire'' -- referred erroneously to a past example from an era when famous people clashed bitterly and at length on the air. Mary McCarthy indeed criticized Lillian Hellman on ''The Dick Cavett Show'' in 1980, but Hellman was not present.

October 11, 2004
A television review on Monday about ''The Choice 2004'' on PBS and ''Diary of a Political Tourist'' on HBO, written, directed and produced by Alexandra Pelosi, misstated the title of a documentary Ms. Pelosi made about the 2000 Bush campaign. It was ''Journeys With George,'' not ''Travels With George.''

October 9, 2004
A TV Watch column in some late editions on Saturday about the televised debate between President Bush and Senator John Kerry misstated a comparison of the number of times the two candidates addressed questioners in the audience by name. While Mr. Kerry responded to 10 out of 18 by name, Mr. Bush addressed two questioners -- not none -- that way.

October 5, 2004
A television review on Tuesday about ''Tanner on Tanner,'' a mock documentary on the Sundance channel, misstated the number of episodes. There are four, not three. A listing with the review included an erroneous credit. Jacob Craycroft edited the shows alone, not with Peter Sassi. (A short excerpt from a film edited by Mr. Sassi is shown in the series.)

October 1, 2004
The TV Watch column in some copies yesterday, about the presidential candidates' body language in their first debate, misidentified a political commentator who said on Fox News that the polls would tighten a bit after the event. It was Ceci Connolly of The Washington Post, not Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard.

September 14, 2004
A television review on Tuesday about ''R-Rated: Republicans in Hollywood,'' an AMC documentary about politics and the movie industry, referred incorrectly to the box office performance of ''The Day After Tomorrow,'' a feature film with a global warming theme. Its domestic receipts totaled $186.4 million, and its worldwide sales $540.4 million, according to Variety.com; it was not a flop.

The review also misspelled the given name of the actor who was a lone gun spokesman in the pre-Reagan days. He is Charlton Heston, not Charleton.

September 3, 2004
The TV Watch column on Sept. 3, about coverage of the Republican National Convention by Fox News, misspelled the name of the playwright and diplomat whose bristly manner was likened to that of some Fox anchors. She was Clare Boothe Luce, not Claire Booth Luce.

September 1, 2004
A television review on Wednesday about ''Hawaii,'' a new police drama on NBC, misstated the subject of another show that is set in Hawaii, ''North Shore'' on Fox. It is about a hotel that offers guests sexual favors, not about the sex industry.

August 27, 2004
A credit listing with a TV Watch article in Weekend on Aug. 27 about biographies of President Bush shown on CNN and MSNBC on the eve of the Republican National Convention omitted the executive producer of the MSNBC program, ''Brian Williams Reports -- ''George Bush: The Father's Footsteps.'' He was Andrew K. Franklin. (As the listing noted, Tammy Haddad was executive producer for MSNBC convention coverage.)

July 23, 2004
The TV Watch column in Weekend yesterday gave an incorrect cable channel in some copies for ''John Kerry: Bringing the War Home,'' on Sunday night. It will be on MSNBC, as shown in the program listing, not on ESPN.

July 7, 2004
The TV Watch column yesterday, about two new shows that mix reality television with movies, misidentified the contestant on one program, ''Ultimate Film Fanatic,'' who showed off a tinsel snowflake taken from the set of the movie ''The Wiz.'' He was Jordan (Steve was another contestant).

July 2, 2004
An article in Weekend on July 2 about the Museum of Television and Radio in Manhattan misstated the year it opened. It began as the Museum of Broadcasting in 1976; 1991 was the year it moved to its present location under the new name. The article also misstated the title of the series in which the Stephen Sondheim musical 'Evening Primrose' was broadcast in 1966. It was ''ABC Stage 67,'' not ''Studio 67.''

June 7, 2004
A TV Watch article on Monday about the season finale of ''The Sopranos'' on HBO misstated the outcome of an attack by the character Tony B. on his Korean boss in an earlier episode. The boss was injured, not killed. It also referred incorrectly to a member of Johnny Sack's mob killed by Tony B. He was not a captain.

The article also misstated a concern of Uncle Junior during a conversation with Tony Soprano, when Junior was fixated on a gift he had ordered for a sick friend. The issue was whether he had given the right address for the friend, not the right phone number.

June 4, 2004
The TV Watch column on June 4, about the 60th anniversary of D-Day, misstated the whereabouts of the German commander, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, when the Allies landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was in Ulm, not in Berlin.

It also misstated the date of an interview in Normandy given to Walter Cronkite by the American commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, for ''D-Day Plus 20 Years'' on the ''CBS Reports'' series. (That error also occurred in an article last Monday about the commemoration of D-Day by various presidents.) The interview was in 1963; its first broadcast was in 1964.

May 18, 2004
A TV Watch article on May 18 about ''Tell Me a Story: The Man Who Made '60 Minutes,' '' a look at the career of the producer Don Hewitt, referred incorrectly to the film of the Andrea Doria's sinking made by his CBS News crew in 1956. It did not show the only news images of the sinking. Harry Trask of The Boston Traveler also photographed it.


A TV Watch column on May 18 about a CBS program on Don Hewitt, creator and executive producer of ''60 Minutes,'' misstated the amount of money that CBS paid H.R. Haldeman, former chief of staff to President Richard M. Nixon, for an interview in 1975. It was $100,000, not $1,000. The article also referred incorrectly to the interview, which was shown in two parts. While it was seen in the ''60 Minutes'' time slot, it was a CBS News special, not a ''60 Minutes'' program. A telephone message from a reader on May 18 pointed out the error about the payment. This correction was delayed by an editing lapse.

May 6, 2004
A TV Watch article on May 6 about the end of the NBC series ''Friends'' and ''Frasier'' misstated the political backdrop of the economic recession that preceded the good times that were the setting of ''Friends.'' It occurred during George H. W. Bush's presidency, not also during Ronald Reagan's. The article also misstated the number of television actors who have matched Kelsey Grammer's record of playing the same character for 20 years. Besides James Arness, who played Matt Dillon on ''Gunsmoke,'' Milburn Stone played Doc Adams on that show for 20 years.

April 15, 2004
The TV Watch column in The Arts on Thursday, about two reality shows -- ''The Apprentice,'' created by Mark Burnett, and ''The Swan,'' created by Mike Darnell -- misidentified Mr. Darnell's partner in creating ''Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire.'' He was Mike Fleiss, not Mr. Burnett.

April 1, 2004
A Critic's Notebook article on Thursday about the premiere of the liberal radio network Air America omitted the stations on which its programs are heard. They are WLIB-AM (1190) in New York, WNTD-AM (950) in Chicago, KBLA-AM (1580) in Los Angeles, KCAA-AM (1050) in Riverside and San Bernardino, Calif., KPOJ-AM (620) in Portland, Ore., and Channel 167 on XM Satellite Radio.

A Critic's Notebook article on Thursday about the premiere of the liberal radio network Air America misstated the title given to Al Franken's program, as a parody of Bill O'Reilly's television program on Fox. It is ''The O'Franken Factor,'' not ''The O'Franken Report.''

March 19, 2004
The TV Weekend review in Weekend on Friday, about the HBO series ''Deadwood,'' misstated the given name of the actor who plays Seth Bullock, a former Montana marshal. He is Timothy Olyphant, not Thomas.

March 16, 2004
A television review on March 16 about the CBS series ''Century City'' misattributed its creation. The creator is Ed Zuckerman. (Paul Attanasio and Katie Jacobs are executive producers, along with Mr. Zuckerman.)

March 3, 2004
A television review yesterday about ''Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital'' on ABC misidentified the country that originated the 1994 mini-series from which it was adapted. It was Denmark, not the Netherlands.

January 30, 2004
The TV Weekend column yesterday about the political comedian Dennis Miller and his new talk show referred incorrectly in some copies to the background of Adm. James Stockdale, whose performance as a vice-presidential candidate was a discussion topic. The admiral ran as an independent in 1992 with Ross Perot, not as a Republican in 1996 with John McCain, who was not a nominee.

September 26, 2003
A TV Weekend review on Friday about three new CBS series misspelled the surname of the actor playing the heroine's father in "Joan of Arcadia." He is Joe Mantegna, not Montegna.

September 22, 2003
A listing of credits provided by NBC for a television review on Sept. 22 about the drama "Las Vegas" misidentified the composer. He was John Nordstrom; Gary Calamar was the music supervisor.

June 18, 2003
The TV Watch column on Wednesday, about shows in which people change their appearance, identity or home, misstated a word in the title of a recent movie about a character who slips the bonds of class and profession. It is "Catch Me if You Can," not "as You Can." The column also misidentified the teenager on the show "Switched" who asked "Tepees and stuff?" when told she was to switch places with a girl on an Indian reservation. She was Ally; Ida was the girl who lived on the reservation.

May 19, 2003
A television review on May 19 about the NBC movie "Martha Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart" misstated the native country of Ms. Stewart's father, Eddie Kostyra. While he was of Polish descent, he was born in New York. (This correction was delayed by an editing oversight.)

March 18, 2003
The TV Watch article in some copies on Tuesday, about the tone of President Bush's address to the nation on war with Iraq, paraphrased his warning about war criminals incorrectly. He said: "War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished." He did not say the United States would prosecute them.

March 6, 2003
A listing of credits on Thursday with a television review of the first episode of the sitcom "Oliver Beene" misidentified the director and included an actor erroneously. The director was Michael Spiller; Jeff Melman has directed other episodes. Amy Castle was in the pilot film but not in the first episode.

February 6, 2003
A television review yesterday about a "20/20" program on Michael Jackson misstated the time and date of the broadcast on ABC. It was 8 p.m. last night; the "20/20" program at 10 tonight is about women who batter men, and other topics.

January 12, 2003
An article last Sunday about reality television shows misstated the given name of the author of "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," who confided his reluctance to publicly embarrass the impoverished farmers he was assigned to study. He was James Agee, not William.

December 14, 2002
The TV Watch column on Saturday, about Al Gore's appearance as the host of "Saturday Night Live," referred incompletely to the role of Steve Higgins, who said the former vice president had been game and affable behind the scenes. Besides writing skits, Mr. Higgins is the producer.

November 7, 2002
An article on Nov. 7 about the background of Ted Savaglio, executive director of the Voter News Service, misstated the affiliations of two news executives who testified before Congress with Mr. Savaglio about the Florida presidential vote. The executives, Roger Ailes of Fox News and Andrew Heyward of CBS News, testified on behalf of their networks, not as members of the news service board.

September 2, 2002
An article in The Arts on Monday about "Martin and Lewis," a movie about the comedy team to be shown on CBS in November, misstated the title of a Lewis film. It is "The Bellboy," not "The Bellhop."

July 25, 2002
An article on Thursday about NBC's fall schedule referred incorrectly to the phrase "gay mafia," which arose in a discussion of the absence of new gay characters in the networks' lineup. The term came to prominence recently when the Hollywood agent Michael S. Ovitz, in an interview in Vanity Fair, blamed a "gay mafia" for his own professional downfall; he did not say such a group ran the entertainment industry.

June 12, 2002
A front-page article on Wednesday about memoirs written by servants and office assistants about their former employers misspelled the given name of a Hollywood producer who is working on a romantic comedy involving a haughty boss. The producer is Lynda Obst, not Linda.

A front-page article last Wednesday reported a surge in the publishing of books written by subordinates about their bosses and cited the example of Richard Blow, who worked for John F. Kennedy Jr. at George magazine. The article said that immediately after Mr. Kennedy's death, Mr. Blow barred the magazine's staff members from talking to the media or writing about him.

The article should have described a disagreement over Mr. Blow's version of the events. He says that when he instructed employees not to discuss Mr. Kennedy, he told them that he was doing so at the request of the family. But four staff members dispute Mr. Blow's account. Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for Senator Edward Kennedy, said it was "highly unlikely" that such a request had been made.

January 15, 2002
An article in Business Day yesterday about efforts by television networks to tailor news programs to young people misspelled the surname of the president of ABC News, who said he had learned from experience about overcatering to them. He is David Westin, not Weston. The article also misidentified the CBS News program on which Rebecca Rankin, a reporter for the music network VH1, has appeared. It is "48 Hours," not "60 Minutes."

October 12, 2001
An article yesterday about President Bush's manner during his news conference on Thursday night misstated the surname of the CNN commentator who drew a Shakespearean analogy to the president's growth. The speaker was Jeff Greenfield, not Greenberg.

Conflicts of Interest and Interesting Conflicts Pt. 2

Now here's what I'd call a conflict of interest: On Saturday, August 27, ImprovOlympic (now called simply I.O., owing to a strongly-worded letter from the U.S. Olympic Committee's lawyers), held a 25th anniversary show in Chicago starring Mike Myers, Andy Richter, Amy Poehler, and other improv leading lights. How'd it go? Depends who you ask. Here's Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune:
At Saturday night's disastrous 25th anniversary show for ImprovOlympic, the free-wheeling, uber-casual, intensely creative atmosphere of Chicago improv ran slap up against the perfectly reasonable expectations of people attending a big 3,500-seat downtown venue, ponying up as much as $75 a ticket, and expecting that someone, somewhere might have thought for a moment or two about their needs.
The problem, Jones wrote, was "a jaw-dropping lack of technical planning and a sound failure of catastrophic proportions."

The Chicago Daily Herald agreed:
[A] collective cringe gripped the audience as I.O. Theater alumni struggled with faulty body mics during the star- studded 25th anniversary salute to the scrappy Chicago improv theater founded by Charna Halpern and indelibly imprinted by the late master, Del Close.

Sans sound, the evening sputtered and stalled.
But New York Times freelancer David Bernstein had a sunnier take on the proceedings:
It seemed like a bad joke.

The 3,500-seat Chicago Theater was packed for the 25th anniversary reunion show of ImprovOlympic last Saturday, an event that had brought together an all-star array of comedians including Mike Myers, Andy Dick, Andy Richter, Mo Collins and Tim Meadows.

And then the microphones went dead.

Fortunately, Mr. Myers, who spent eight months in the late 1980's at ImprovOlympic, the theater school and performance space here, and the other alumni on hand applied what they had learned at their beloved alma mater: they improvised.

The show was delayed about an hour, and the performers -- who included the ''Saturday Night Live'' repertory players Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Horatio Sanz, and the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe -- had to resort to handheld microphones. (With mixed success; not everyone could hear their routines easily.) Still, the show still got plenty of laughs.
Granted, the Tribune and Daily Herald pieces were reviews, whereas Bernstein's was a story about I.O. pegged to the event, including plenty of backstage cigarette-sneaking with Rachel Dratch. But he did gloss over what other observers described as nearly fatal sound problems.

And I guess Bernstein was too busy hanging backstage to notice, as Jones did, the throngs who demanded their money back: "At intermission in the lobby, it was an ugly scene. 'You guys are starting to yell and scream now,' improvised the harassed Scott Shiller, a theater official in the firing line. 'I need you to step away from me.'"

So what could explain the different takes? I don't know, but some guy named Jacob, who wrote about the New York Times story on the ImprovChicago message boards (scroll down to find the post), has an idea:
Dave, the reporter, also took classes at I.O.C. and performed some before his current gig at NYT. Hats off to him for getting to do the piece. Hats off to NYT for sending someone who might know a thing or two about improv and what we do to cover the story. Tribune probably just thought we were friends of the mayor and we all know how much they love the mayor.
Because I don't believe anything I read on the Internets and because I have a daunting deadline approaching and desperately require distraction from certain unpleasant and inevitable realities, I called Bernstein to confirm that he did, in fact, take classes at I.O. and performed there two years ago while he was in journalism school at Medill. "I basically got kicked off the team," he said, when school took up too much of his time.

"I wasn't writing a review," Bernstein told me. "I was writing a feature on the theater itself. It was in my lede that the show had problems. If I wrote that it was the worst show in the world, people would have said it was because I got cut."

Fair enough. Which is a pretty good reason why he shouldn't be writing about the ImprovOlympic.

A Bright Shining Correction

The good news: Mac McCaughan's Portastatic got a nice big write-up in the Chicago Tribune on Friday in advance of Friday night's show at the Empty Bottle--which, by the way, was loud and rocking and absolutely phenomenal, but then again you knew I'd say that.

The bad news (which I mention only because I'm a fanatic): Writer Matt McGuire inexplicably and repeatedly started referring to Portastatic's new record, "Bright Ideas," as "Bright Eyes" about halfway through the piece. As Mac said to me before the show, if he'd called it "Bright Eyes," it certainly would have sold better.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Conflicts of Interest and Interesting Conflicts Pt. I



How do you like this for a correction?
A story in Friday's Tempo section about Oprah Winfrey's visit to hurricane-stricken New Orleans contained comparisons of Winfrey to President Bush that were unfavorable to Bush. The Tribune failed to disclose that the writer was a contributor to the presidential campaign last year of Bush's opponent, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Tribune standards require disclosure of any such conflict of interest.
That's from Saturday's Chicago Tribune, and the reporter in question is my former colleague Maureen Ryan. Evidence of her political leanings can be found here (a full search at fecinfo.com comes up with a total of $4,000 in political giving last year). I was at the Tribune when word of Ryan's donations--which clearly violated the Trib's ethics policy--started going around after, I'm told, a reporter happened across them during a database search (there was no question who it was, since she listed her employer and occupation on the FEC donor forms as "tribune company/writer.") There was some correct tsk-tsking of what was clearly a boneheaded move on Ryan's part, but the astonishing thing is that, as it turns out, she had gotten a sign-off from her superiors before she made the donations. Also astonishing is the fact that someone on a hack's salary has $4,000 lying around to give to the least compelling political candidate in modern history, but that's another story.

Anyway, I guess it was all cleared up and Ryan was told to keep her money to herself from now on. But it looks like that disclosure will be appended to every story she writes from here on out that comes anywhere near politics.

Which is pretty stupid. I don't think reporters ought to be publicly aligning themselves with political parties (which is what a donation really amounts to, since the logs are publicly available). But it's not, as the correction says, a conflict of interest to do so. A conflict of interest is when someone has more than one interest, and two or more of those interests are in conflict with each other.

Take, for example, a newspaper editor. Let's say this newspaper editor has a professional interest in seeing to it that his or her newspaper aggressively and fairly reports on the doings of an enormous media and entertainment conglomerate that reaches tens of millions of people through its newspapers, television stations, and sports teams. And let's say this newspaper editor also has an interest in seeing his or her retirement account, which consists in large part of stock (and options to purchase stock at a reduced price) in the aforementioned media and entertainment conglomerate, continue to grow in value. And let's further say that this newspaper editor's future at the newspaper and the company that owns the newspaper depends in large part on decisions made by executives at the amentioned media and entertainment conglomerate. In such an instance, a conflict of interest would obtain each time our hypothetical newspaper editor made a decision about how to cover the aforementioned media and entertainment conglomerate: The editor's professional interest in fair and aggressive coverage could conflict with his or her personal interest in career advancement and a secure retirement. So that's a conflict of interest. I don't recall ever seeing any conflicts like that one disclosed in the pages of the Tribune.

In Ryan's case, there is no conflict. Her political donations don't constitute an interest in the election of a Democrat to the office of president, they disclosed a pre-existing interest. You can't fault Ryan for holding partisan political views. The problem with her donations is that they announce those views to anyone who cares to look through a donor database, thereby giving ammunition to anyone who wants to attack the Tribune's credibility and inviting unwanted scrutiny of her work. And by publishing a well-intentioned clarification, the Tribune merely compounded the problem and made far more people aware of Ryan's political allegiances than were aware before.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Hosting Service E-mail Glitch

If you sent e-mail to the john@referencetone.com address between now and August 29, I didn't get it. And I don't think they got bounced back or anything, just lost. I probably wouldn't have written back anyway, but at least in this case it's not my fault. Hosting service screw-up.

What If We Give It Away?



From the Wilco web site: A fund has been established to help displaced New Orleans musicians, who go without healthcare, pensions, and economic stability so you people can dance like idiots when you go on vacation. See below for instructions on how to make a donation.
This is from a friend of ours named Jef Beninato.

These funds will go to our fellow musicians who are currently displaced throughout the country. All funds go to provide shelter and food, as well as replacing gear, which is badly needed for future work.

Those in need are all working musicians who’ve played in the French Quarter, Jazzfest, Casinos and are all out of work until they can retrieve their gear.

My wife and I are musicians and have evacuated temporarily to Chicago, which we consider our sister city. We want to send help out to our musical family on the road from coast to coast. Everyone is trying to stay in touch with email, and we’ll all in a state of shock.

Our good friends who are without homes right now include Susan Cowsill of the Cowsills, Cranston Clements who has played with the Nevilles and Dr. John, Peter Holsapple of the dB’s, myself, a former dBs, Fred LeBlanc and Paul Sanchez of Cowboy Mouth to name a few.

Katrina is an unspeakable tragedy. Thanks in advance for any assistance you can give. Donations being accepted at:

New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund
Chase Acct: 699721957
neworleansmusiciansrelief@hotmail.com

UPDATE: The fund now has a web site where you can make donations online. Go here and give.

Nattering Nabobs of ... What?

The other day, our friends over at Wonkette wasted a little time trying to figure out exactly which newspapers Chertoff and Brown were reading last week that gave them an indication that "New Orleans dodged a bullet" the morning after Katrina made landfall. Wonkette surmised that the headlines were in a White House internal newsletter of some sort--another headline from that morning's edition: "Baghdad Citizens Endorse Constitution and Personal Retirement Accounts."

It turns out the truth is much simpler. They were reading the Washington Post. Here's the City Paper's Erik Wemple and Jason Cherkis (via Romenesko):
In its Tuesday, Aug. 30, edition, the paper produced a shallow Day 1 account of the storm, reaching the conclusion that New Orleans had averted disaster: “But the city managed to avoid the worst of the worst. The Mississippi River did not breach New Orleans’s famed levees to any serious degree, at least in part because Katrina veered 15 miles eastward of its predicted track just before landfall,” read the lead story.

And to judge from the Post, there was no crisis brewing on the evacuation front, either. “Those who remained behind were mostly visitors and tourists trapped because the airport had closed,” according to the same story.
By contrast, here's what the New York Times had that morning:
New Orleans, most of the levees held, but one was damaged. Floodwaters rose to rooftops in one neighborhood, and in many areas emergency workers pulled residents from roofs. The hurricane's howling winds stripped 15-foot sections off the roof of the Superdome, where as many as 10,000 evacuees took shelter....

"I can't say that we've escaped the worst," Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said. "I think there is still damage that can be inflicted on the city. We don't even know what the worst is."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

FEMA In Da Hizzouse



George Bush does too care about black people! How else to explain this "FEMA For Kidz" rap on the agency's web site? And do we need to spell it out any more clearly that Bush, Chertoff, and Brown can't fairly be held responsible for the failure of local and state authorities to prepare for Katrina? I mean, come on--it's in the rap, people:
Disaster prep is your responsibility
And mitigation is important to our agency
I mean, jeez, if these people won't listen when you speak to them in their own language, then what's a government supposed to do?

Also found on the FEMA For Kidz page: We still don't know for sure what newspaper Chertoff was reading that told him New Orleans dodged a bullet, but we think little Katie Sullivan is the editorial cartoonist.



UPDATE: I guess Crooks & Liars noted this over the weekend.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Soft Bigotry of No Preparations

George Bush, master of wordcraft:
Meeting with Red Cross officials in Washington Sunday, President Bush on Sunday thanked the agency's nearly 5,000 volunteers working at shelters in 19 states helping displaced Louisiana residents, and promised victims a "tidal wave of compassion."
Bush continued: "America is sending roving armed gangs of love to help the good people of New Orleans and loot them of their misery. We will shower them with the dysentery of human kindness, and spread the feces of safety around the floor where they sleep."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Literally Can't Get Away From These People

I've been watching the outrage over Air America and the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club loan from afar, and without picking up the telephone, because I spent too many hours trying to get to the bottom of that mess when I was covering it for the Tribune. There was a time when I would have been slobbering over stuff like this, but I just couldn't bring myself to care anymore.

But Evan Cohen called the other day.