The Observer assembled a story headlined "Twilight Of The Media Idols," keyed to a woe-is-big-media panel discussion at the Time Warner Center. Trouble is, many "media idols" seemed to be basking in a sunny glow: Time Warner Chairman Dick Parsons and Comedy Central host Lewis Black were bounding around with their entourages, Richard Stengel of Time proclaimed a "golden age" for "quality content" and the likes of Candy Crowley (CNN) and even Hillary Clinton strategist Mark Penn were inundated with j-school groupies. But the Observer's men did find the perfect foil amid the moguls: Sad former Times editor Howell Raines, who couldn't even get anyone to look at him. Apparently his Portfolio column hasn't given him any media cred. The scene:
In a lengthy and kind of pointless story about ur-media gossip blogger Jim Romenesko, former New York Times editor Howell Raines basically blames the mild-mannered media reporter for the death of newspapers, sort of. Raines thinks Romenesko's nasty habit of reporting lay-offs, buy-outs, and paper closings makes everyone in the media feel so bad that they think print is dying and then it dies. Then "a young New York-based reporter at a major newspaper" says: "'I think Romenesko is what Gawker would look like if it had morals.'" We humbly disagree, young anonymous reporter. Jim (god bless him), with his endless stream of damning links presented with minimal commentary, is the amoral one. We pass moral judgment on all of you! (Also, though it is hard to remember now, there was a time when Jim Romenesko Was Not A Blogger.) [Portfolio]
The distinguishing characteristic of a meme—even the fragile idea that there's an Alabama school of writers such as Howell Raines, Warren St John and Elizabeth Spiers—is that it's self-perpetuating. Which is the only explanation for the precocious literary ambition of 17-year-old Alex Niedenthal from Birmingham.
Before Rupert Murdoch aimed the Wall Street Journal against the New York Times, the Australian media mogul dispensed some friendly business advice. At a Times retreat in 2002, he advised Howell Raines, then editor of the Times, on how to conduct a newspaper war. Urging Raines to compete with the Journal in hard business news, he argued: "You ought to hit them where they live." The Times did indeed poach Larry Ingrassia from the Journal to strengthen its business reporting. But it's another Murdoch paper that's being hit where it lives. As Murdoch's New York tabloid, the Post, discovered last week in covering the disgrace of Eliot Spitzer, the formerly dreary Times has developed a taste for sex scandals. (By the way, Raines' anecdote is the centerpiece of the former Timesman's first media column for Portfolio magazine. So he finally filed something usable!)
Charlie LeDuff, the New York Times color writer beloved of Howell Raines, has resurfaced. LeDuff has been a stay-at-home dad in Hollywood since his patron, a fellow Southerner, was deposed. Though there are rumors of something much more scandalous, the formerly rising star gave this as the reason for quitting the Times: "I can't write the things I want to say. I want to talk about race, I want to talk about class. I want to talk about the things we should be talking about." In which case, he should be very happy in his new job at the Detroit News, hometown paper of the most racially segregated urban area in America.
Howell Raines was widely mocked in 2004 when, in a defense of his tenure at the New York Times, he said the paper of record should cover events of significance to the popular culture, such as the death of singer Aaliyah. (She'd been dismissed as a minor musician by one of the paper's stodgy critics.) When Raines was replaced as editor, it was assumed the Times would revert to its old gray ways. Except that it didn't. Online, of course, the Times has made its accomodation to popular obsessions, devoting vigorous coverage to the death of Heath Ledger, for instance. And in print, the last bastion of journalistic refinement? Here's the front of today's Arts section, devoted to an erudite analysis of that cornerstone of modern culture, the game show Deal or No Deal. (Related: Radar magazine has done a textual analysis of the Wall Street Journal since media mogul Rupert Murdoch captured the Times competitor. Conclusion: ever-so-slightly dumber.) Click for the image.
Howell Raines, the editor who tried to shake up the New York Times, and failed, has returned to regular journalism. Radar's Fresh Intelligence reports he'll be writing a media column for Portfolio. Conde Nast's business magazine, which sells poorly on the newsstand, could use a bit of a kick to the editorial metabolism. But Howell Raines, having retired to a life of fishing in the Poconos, is no longer in that line of work.
Today's New York Times Company annual shareholder meeting is expected to be, in the words of the Times itself, a "contentious" affair. What with "dissident investors" like Morgan Stanley's Hassan Elmasry calling for the Sulzberger family to change the dual stock-structure that allows them to control the paper, the stakes have never been higher - even though nothing is likely to change. But how will family head Albert Sulzberger Jr., address the controversy? Gawker has obtained a copy of his opening remarks.
Last week we shocked ourselves—and others—by actually enjoying Keach Hagey's Village Voice Press Clips column. Would this bonhomie survive another week? You can probably guess, but you might as well click through anyway for the full report.
We were recently directed to PX This., the "witty, irreverent (star-studded) four year journal of a struggling New York commercial-artist/fashion-designer moonlighting as a maitre d' at some of Manhattan's most well-known restaurants." While perusing its contents, we came upon the following entry (all contents completely [sic]):
• Networks sue FCC to make it stand up to Parents Television Council right-wing nutjobs. One can dream. [WSJ]
• Joanne Lipman wants to steal James Stewart from The New Yorker for her new Conde biz mag — which nearly has a name. [NYP]
• More books were sold in 2005 than 2004. A sales uptick for a print medium? How unusual. [NYT]
• Former Conde editorial director James Truman has a prototype for his new Culture & Travel, which is not — not at all, he says — the art mag Si wouldn't let him do. [NYP]
• Mike Wallace once tried to kill himself. [NYDN]
• Hachette to launch Shock mag next week. It's "Life magazine for the new millennium," says founder Mike Hammer, formerly of Maxim and Stuff. We suppose this means its gross pictures — such as one of a rotting human head in the first issue — are shot by Margaret Bourke-White and Alfred Eisenstaedt. [WSJ]
• In his forthcoming bio, Ed Kosner is not very nice to Mort Zuckerman. We're just shocked. [WWD]
• Jack Shafer, de facto Times ombudsman, doesn't care for Howell Raines' new memoir. [Slate]
• NYTer Sharon LaFraniere wins $25K Michael Kelly Award. [Kelly Award]
On this morning's Today show, former Times editor Howell Raines sat down to promote his new memoir, The One That Got Away. Naturally, much of the conversation centered on miniature fabulist Jayson Blair, who Raines refers to as a "dwarf" in his book. When asked if he was guilty of being mean-spirited, Raines does the honorable thing: he blames his son.
• Howell Raines' new book — The One That Got a Way — has an unoriginal title. [WWD]
• Bidding for Plame memoir reaches seven figures. And it sounds like the Howell Raines book party was boring. [NYP]
• People named Time Inc.'s mag of the year, for its excellent coverage of, among other things, the ill-fated Zellweger-Chesney nuptials. [WWD]
• More investors are shorting Times Co. stock. Oh, poor Pinch. [NYP]
• ABC anchor Bob Woodruff's recovery continues, but it's still unclear when he'll be able to return. [LAT]
• More evidence 750 Third Avenue will rival 4 Times Square in coolness: New cafeteria will offer sushi bar, custom salad station, international specials. [Media Mob/NYO]
• Well-hung Clinton to speak at News Corp. retreat. [Media Mob/NYO]
• Forbes editor Bill Baldwin doesn't read Jon Friedman's column. [MW]
• Assuming a net worth of $1.3 billion, and spotting him a generous five inches to start with, Mark Cuban's penis is fifteen inches long. [Page Six]
• Speaking of penises, Charlie Sheen may have been spending quality time with Las Vegas transvestite Kayle Coxx. The extra "x" is for how super creeped out we are by this story. [R&M]
• Staying on the topic of dicks, former NYT executive editor Howell Raines is living in Pennsylvania and working on a civil war novel in which Robert E. Lee explains how the war was everyone's fault but his own. [Lowdown]
• Suge Knight is down to his last eleven dollars. Apparently dangling Vanilla Ice out of a window doesn't produce as much loose change as it used to. [Daily Dish]
• If a stroke hadn't felled Jay Presson Allen, Liz Smith would have killed her with Vioxx. [Liz Smith]
We wanted to read New York mag's article today on Howell Raines, his new book, and his post-Times life. Really we did. But then we got to the full-page portrait that opens the feature and, man, we just couldn't get any further. Are we appalled? Are we intrigued? Is it the jowls? Is it the nose? Is it the dark, penetrating eyes? We have no idea. But we haven't been able to look away.
• Hachette looks to trim payroll costs (huh, feel like we've heard that before someplace); and Time's Jim Kelly throws a party for Joe Klein. [NYP]
• Feeling you haven't been reading enough memoirs lately? (And, really, don't we all feel like that?) Not to worry: There'll be twice as many next year. [WSJ]
• And the newspaper business continues to slowly die. [NYT]
• In new Howell Raines memoir, only two chapters of 43 are about the Jayson Blair saga. [E&P]
• Jann Wenner's longtime assistant is set to leave the company, and, remarkably for that shop, everyone likes her. [WWD]
• Problem-ridden ABC News hunts for GMA email leaker. This much we know: It wasn't Krucoff. [NYO]
• Howell Raines' new memoir is good. [WP]
• Is Conde considering moving publishers around? Perhaps. [WWD]
• "The Feds yesterday arrested two young Wall Streeters and a mole at a Business Week print shop for running a trans-Atlantic insider trading scam that enlisted investment bank colleagues and a stripper to rack up $6.7 million in ill-gotten gains." It's ledes like this that make it impossible to stay mad at the Post. [NYP]
• NYT names a new real-estate editor; Joyce Cohen has fun with capital letters. [HuntGrunt]
• 'Times' gets new ThuStyles deputy editor; remarkably it's not a gay man. She is, however, a former Observer m.e., which the Observer doesn't mention. [Media Mob/NYO]
• Yesterday's American Media bloodletting will cut the mag publisher's workforce by 9 percent. [WWD]
• And will save the company about $10 million. [NYP]
• With Katie Couric heading to CBS, NBC is days away from a deal to bring Meredith Vieira to fill her clickety stiletto heels. [NYT]
• Gabe Sherman agrees: Times Discovery Channel might be on its way out. Plus Hearst in the new tower, Lapham at Michael's, and Raines at Harvard. [NYO]
• The New York Times has finally done something to make Jack Shafer happy. So now he'll cancel his subscription. [Slate]
• The Week names Nick Kristof Columnist of the Year. We imagine Andrea Peyser is devastated. [E&P]