In this edition: Samantha “8 Months Pregnant” Bee interview; Judith Miller, must-read Maureen Dowd profile; The Colbert Report gets criticism but earns quick pick-up from Comedy Central; media whining about CIA Leak Investigation effects on source-reporter relationships (and why the media has nothing to whine about); the Past, Present and Future of CBSNews; ex-FEMA head Brown lied about when he met Allbaugh?; ratings; funny quotes; relationship between press secretaries & the press corps; Knight Ridder’s Tom Lasseter Offers Voice of Truth in Iraq; Jon Stewart to appear on The Colbert Report?; Getting to the truth is now “exploiting”; Ken Tomlinson, another GOP crook, and more…

Thoughts, and Then, the News
I got in two thoughts last week, so I’ll leave you with two quotes. Dan Rather says that, “it requires a spine transplant” to get good journalism, and via Hotline: “Ray Charles could have seen that she wasn’t going to make it” — Jack Cafferty, on Miers, in “The Situation Room”
Now for the news from the past week posted November 7, 2005:

Note: I’m going to put a %%% next to things that are more interesting or go into things more in-depth.

Getting to the Truth is now Exploiting

FishbowlNY interviews TDS’s Samantha Bee
She reads blogs and lots more!

Meet Tom Lasseter

“Soldiers are constantly surprising me,” says Tom Lasseter, 29, the longtime Baghdad correspondent for Knight Ridder. Lasseter spoke to E&P in early October, shortly after getting off a helicopter and a five-day embed with a 3rd Infantry Division sniper team. Their mission was to hunt for insurgents on the back roads and in the palm groves of Muqdadiyah, a city in Diyala province. On the way out he passed a soldier reading a book by Noam Chomsky.

“That’s a little seditious, isn’t it, reading Chomsky here?” Lasseter jokingly asked the soldier.

“I’ll tell you what’s f—ing seditious,” the soldier replied. “That I’ve been deployed here for three years.”

Soldiers tend to tell Lasseter exactly what they think — and his ability to convey their emotions and experience in battle as well as to aggressively report the shifting facts on the ground has made his reporting among the most incisive to come out of Iraq. In October he won the Knight Ridder Excellence Award, with the judges noting he has “a history of outstanding investigative work.”


The abysmal state of security in Iraq has made calibrating risk an oppressive if crucial part of the job. “Having been here when it wasn’t nearly as difficult to report in, it’s frustrating,” he admits. “I spent a lot of time in Fallujah and Ramadi in the summer of ’03. You could just knock on doors and interview people. It certainly wasn’t the safest place in the world then, but it was a risk you could negotiate. Now you can’t.”

He makes a point of leaving his hotel at least once a day if he’s not on an embed, covering a military press conference, or interviewing Iraqi political or military leaders. The spontaneous, man-in-the-street interviews are primarily done by Knight Ridder’s Iraqi reporters. “You lose that firsthand perspective,” he says, “but that’s just the way it is. To push it too far is foolish and dangerous.”


The Colbert Report
* Comedy Central has extended TCR through 2006. It was given an 8 week trial run, but after just 3 weeks, CC execs have given TCR this major vote of confidence. The ratings have been solid. “Through its first two weeks, “The Colbert Report” has averaged 1.2 million viewers per night, more than double the network’s average for the same two weeks last year. It’s also retained better than 85 percent of the audience from its lead-in, “The Daily Show.”.” Colbert’s reaction: “I want to thank Comedy Central for picking up the show, but more importantly I want to congratulate Comedy Central for picking up the show,” deadpanned Colbert.

Partially as a result of increased attention on The Colbert Report, The Daily Show recently posted its second-most watched week ever the week Colbert debuted, pulling in 1.6 million viewers.


The Emmy-winning Stewart, who has two years left on his current deal with Comedy Central, may even appear on The Colbert Report soon.

“I don’t stoop to start-ups,” Stewart joked to the New York Times when asked if he would guest on the new series. Stewart added he would consider making an appearance, “if the show gets its footing.”

Judy Miller, Other Media Folk, and Plamegate

As to how this case affects the media: I don’t buy it that the underground relations between reporters and officials will become chilled. Sources have self-interested reasons to leak. Those are unchanged. From what I can tell, your typical Washington journalist will bargain away the public’s right to know the name of the source in a second, if there’s a promise of getting something good from it. “Former Hill Staffer?'” “Sure, no problem.” That’s unchanged. I think the commerce will go on, and we’ll continue to know almost nothing about it, unless there is an extraordinary intervention like a special prosecutor.

* Five questions one reporter would like to ask Bush Good questions.

1) Did Karl Rove tell you the truth about the CIA leak and did you tell the American people the truth?

  1. A variant: What did you know and when did you know it?
  2. You promised in your first campaign to clean up Washington. “In my administration,” you told voters in Pittsburgh in October 2000, “we will ask not only what is legal but what is right, not what the lawyers allow but what the public deserves.” Do you think your White House has lived up to that standard in this episode?
  3. You promised to fire anyone involved in the leak and your spokesman said anyone involved would no longer work in the administration. Last week’s indictment makes clear that Official A, identified as Karl Rove, was involved. Are you going to fire Karl Rove?
  4. Even giving Scooter Libby the benefit of the doubt legally, do you approve of the conduct that has now been documented?

RWCM Watch

Media People

It isn’t easy being the lone female on “murderers’ row,” as the columnists’ offices in the Washington bureau are called. (And Dowd’s office just happens to be next door to her ex-boyfriend John Tierney’s. “It’s like, `Out of all the gin joints in all the world . . . ‘ It is weird,” she says. “We share a bathroom, which I guess could have ended up happening if we’d gotten married.”)


Though Dowd’s importance as an antagonist of the White House has never been greater, the book throws open the door to her critics’ favorite complaint: frivolousness. “When I started as a White House correspondent,” the second female in the position in the Times’ history, “there was a lot of criticism from guys saying, `She focuses too much on the person but not enough on policy.’ I never understood that argument at all. I just didn’t agree with the premise,” says Dowd. “Even Scotty Reston,” the storied Washington correspondent who joined the Times the day World War II began and decidedly did not groove on women in the workplace, “said that after the president got the bomb, you had to sort of focus on his judgment and who he was as a person, because that’s all you had. All the great traumatizing events of American history–Watergate, Vietnam, the Iran/contra stuff–have always been about the president’s personal demons and gremlins. So I always thought that criticism was just silly . . . as if it was a girlish thing to be focused on the person.”


But Dowd is more than the sum of her critical faculties; she’s an utter and unreconstructed fox. Something that nearly every person I spoke to about her mentioned, unprompted, is that men can’t resist her.


Still, a common newsroom perception is that Dowd’s clique gets special treatment because its members use their charm instrumentally–an occupational hazard for successful women that runs roughly proportional to their level of physical attractiveness. And then there is their extremely close proximity to Jill Abramson. “When I became managing editor, I gave a short speech: My mother told me when I was going off to summer camp, `You just need one friend and you’ll be okay,” says Abramson. “At work, Maureen is that one friend.”


When she appeared on Letterman to promote her first book, Bushworld, in 2004, she wore a little black dress with spaghetti straps, and with her red hair fluffed in an Old Hollywood wave, Dowd had a certain Jessica Rabbit ambience. “You look tremendous, and I guess you must be going somewhere after this because nobody gets this nicely dressed for me,” Letterman told her. “I did,” she breathed. “I’ve been in love with you forever.”

“It’s almost impossible not to be a little bit in love with Maureen,” says Washington reporter Todd Purdum. “She’s bewitching. Maureen is . . . a sorceress.”

It is a testament to Dowd’s seductiveness that even after the blistering Bushworld, the first President Bush still e-mails her to this day. “I went with Maureen to a party at this fancy townhouse for Bush Senior after he had published a book of his letters,” remembers Abramson. “We got there, and his eyes lit up when he saw her come in. He shooed the two of us into a little room; he said, `Bar will kill me if she sees you here!’ It’s like an illicit friendship he has with her.”


“I’ve always had this great flirtatious relationship with her, so it’s hard to get mad at her for any length of time,” says former Clinton White House spokesman Mike McCurry. “I’d call and yell at her, and I’d always end up laughing and saying, `Well, this isn’t gonna go anywhere.’ “

Dowd’s technique is described by one former colleague as “mischievous destabilization.” She once walked up to Newt Gingrich’s spokesman, Tony Blankley, while he was in the middle of a speech and flipped his tie over to see the label. “But the flirtation word I would take exception with, because it implies something inappropriate,” says Blankley.

Dowd thinks of her columns as “political cartoons.” In her hands, W. is a spoiled brat in cowboy boots; the Democrats are the “mommy party.” If Dowd fears castrating, she also seems frequently unable to resist it. Clinton behaved “like a teenage girl trying to protect her virginity”; “he would be laughed out of any locker room in the country.” (Clinton returned fire at the 1998 White House correspondents’ dinner when he read a list of mock headlines, including ” `Buddy Got What He Deserved,’ by Maureen Dowd.” Buddy was his neutered chocolate Lab.)


Dowd is assumed by most people to be a Democrat. But a certain brand of lefty will never forgive her for her coverage of the Clinton impeachment, the work that won her a Pulitzer. “A lot of people thought, Well, Maureen Dowd should be a liberal columnist and sticking up for our side,” says Mike McCurry. “They thought that she was aiding and abetting Ken Starr and the Republican hate machine, and in reality she was part of this kind of Irish-Catholic mafia that included Chris Matthews and Mike Kelly that thought Clinton’s sins were beyond the pale.”


Her mom, like the rest of the Dowd family, was thoroughly Republican. “Oh, God,” says Dowd’s sister, also named Peggy. “Crimson.” They rarely discuss politics. “There are times when her columns get to me, but then I gotta think, you know, at the end of my life, George Bush is not going to be knocking on my door,” says Peggy Dowd. “It doesn’t matter how much money I send him or how many times I vote for him, if I’m in the hospital, he won’t come and hold my hand, and I know Maureen will.”


Sorkin describes Dowd as “a dream girl. It’s always seemed to me like she stepped out of a movie from the forties–if Rita Hayworth were just a brilliant writer, that’s what Maureen would be. We would take trips–we would meet in New York or go to Hawaii for a few days, and she would have with her five suitcases of, like, lamé. It was like she was the assistant wardrobe mistress from La Cage aux Folles. It’s like, in case she’s going to need it; it brings her some kind of comfort . . . like a blankie.”

News & Notes on Media orgs, Programming, Specials, etc.

State of the Media, Trends, Research Reports, Innovations

Ratings, Circulation, & Ad Revenue Strength

Media News Monday is a compilation of media news from the past week posted on Monday. Media is an integral part of politics, and I think that it’s important to get to know media and media innovation in order to forecast future ways of campaigning, targeting voters, and disseminating information. If any of you are interested in campaigning, this weekly diary may help you with ideas.  It is also important to keep up with right wing corporate media (RWCM) news.  If you have any media news to add, please do so.  For more RWCM watch & Media News: Penndit’s News, Media News, and RWCM Watch Links. I get the advertising, public relations, targetting voters information, and media research from a variety of sources other than the links above.  Cross-posted at Penndit and My Left Wing. For previous editions, search my diaries or Penndit.  

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