Thursday, August 04, 2005

Katie Couric: "Everybody needs recharging"

Katie Couric: "Everybody needs recharging"

Katie Couric says she'll decide this fall whether to continue her long-running morning television partnership with Matt Lauer. The "Today" show co-anchor faces the question because her contract expires next May. "I have, when it's operating on all four cylinders, one of the best jobs in television," she told The New Yorker magazine. "At the same time, everybody needs recharging." Couric, 48, has been approached by CBS News about its evening news anchor job. NBC Universal executive Jeff Zucker said last month that he hoped Couric was at the network "for many, many years to come."

Will Couric jump to CBS?

Will Couric jump to CBS?

Katie Couric says she'll decide this fall whether to continue her morning television partnership with Matt Lauer. The "Today" show co-anchor's contract expires next May.

"I have ... one of the best jobs in television," she told The New Yorker. "At the same time, everybody needs recharging."

Couric, 48, has been approached by CBS News about its evening news anchor job.

NBC Universal executive Jeff Zucker said last month that he hoped Couric would remain at the network "for many, many years to come."
Page was compiled by Cheryl Bowles from Tribune news services and staff reports.

Katie Couric to Leave "Today"?

Katie Couric to Leave "Today"?
Christina Ficara - All Headline News Staff Reporter

New York, New York (AHN) - With an expiring contract approaching, an aggressive push for a new position, and longtime controversy over a replacement change, NBS's "Today" morning show sweetheard, Katie Couric, is considering an amicable split.

An interview published Monday in the New Yorker magazine quotes Couric who says, "Everybody need recharging."

According to reports, Couric's $13-million-a-year contract expires next spring, and she's met twice with CBS boss, Les Moonves, over the possibility of replacing Dan Rather as the CBS evening news anchor.

In recent months, speculation as swirled around the seasoned morning host that she's aided in the boost of ratings for competeing morning show host Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America."

Couric has been the host of "Today" for 14 years, leaving some critics to believe a fresh face is well overdo. However, no news of a successor has been announced by the network.

Katie told the magazine she will make her decision this fall.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Industry contemplates Couric's life after 'Today'

By Verne Gay

And so, it is finally "official": Katie Couric told The New Yorker in a profile out this week that she will decide sometime this fall whether she will continue in the job that has made her one of the highest-paid and most well-known news figures on the planet.

While Couric suggested the end may be near -- confirming speculation that has surrounded her for months -- she also told the magazine, "I have, when it's operating on all four cylinders, one of the best jobs in television. At the same time, everybody needs recharging."

Some industry observers have long thought Couric would stay at her post another year after her contract ends in May. Reasons: Her final year could be construed as a "victory lap," capping one of the longest host tenures in "Today" history (another year would give her a total of 15).

Meanwhile, some insiders think that Couric, 48, has no idea what she will do after leaving "Today," while she has reportedly scotched thoughts of starring in a syndicated program.

Another year presumably buys her time to figure out her future.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Couric: "Today" Decision Tomorrow

Couric: "Today" Decision Tomorrow
by Josh Grossberg

Katie Couric isn't ready to make up her mind just yet.

NBC's Today cohost, who's being courted by CBS to take over its permanent evening news anchor job, tells the New Yorker magazine that she doesn't plan on announcing her future plans until fall at the earliest.

Speculation has risen in recent days that Couric, 48, might say so long to Matt Lauer, the Peacock and her alarm clock, when her $13 million-a-year deal expires next May and take over the anchor seat vacated by Dan Rather five months ago.

However, the early morning TV queen says she's in no hurry to start sleeping in.

"I have, when it's operating on all four cylinders, one of the best jobs in television," Couric told the New Yorker. "At the same time, everybody needs recharging."
She did cop to feeling a bit beaten up over Today's ratings slump.
"I feel like a human piñata," Couric said in the new issue of the magazine. "The disappointing thing is, no candy is going to spill out."

The number one-rated morning show for the past 10 years, Today saw its lead over ABC competitor Good Morning America, fronted by Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson, shrink drastically--from an average from 1.3 million viewers last year to a mere 43,000 viewers one week in May, according to Nielsen Media Research.

During that time, the network axed Today show exec producer Tom Touchet--who had held the reins since November 2002 and who, per industry wags, frequently clashed with Couric over the show's direction, and replaced him with former sports producer Jim Bell.
The show quickly rebounded with hot "gets," including Couric's one-on-one with runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks and Lauer's highly publicized clash with Tom Cruise, widening the gap over GMA to 700,000 viewers the week of June 20.

In the New Yorker interview, Couric took the diva criticism in stride, noting that it "goes with the territory, unfortunately, of being successful and female."
She also added that her girl-next-door likeability, which made the show a ratings powerhouse after she replaced Deborah Norville in 1991, has also made her an attractive target. According to the magazine, Couric's Q rating for viewer approval still exceeds Sawyer's, but her negative rating has increased by 20 percent.

Asked whether she'd ever considered an image makeover, Couric demurred.
"I've never tried to be über-sexy," she said. "I want to age gracefully."
Whether that means making the move to straight news, Couric wouldn't say.

As for Lauer, 47, instead of an evening news job, he told the New Yorker he imagined himself following in the footsteps of the man he replaced at Today, Bryant Gumble, and semi-retiring by the time he's 50.

"I don't want to work five days a week," he said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Campaign spotlights 'real' women

I think one of the worst parts of summertime for a woman is finding a bathing suit. There's nothing like dragging in a dozen or so bathing suits into a dressing room and not coming out with a single one.

Back to square one.

Why does picking out a bathing suit, or even clothes for that matter, have to be so hard?

It's amazing to me to see all these girls on television and in movies that are around my age and are so tiny.

Sometimes I have to beat it in my brain that they have personal trainers who work hours everyday with them, and people who watch every morsel of food that they put into their mouth.

With the help of Dove and its new campaign, this season for shopping shouldn't be too bad. I think advertisers are getting smart and realizing not every woman in the world can look like those public figures we see donning every magazine page and televison commercial. The campaign for real beauty by Dove that has been seen in just about every advertising outlet know to mankind hits the right spot.

Rather than looking at women, who stand taller than 6-feet and weight less than my left leg, Dove embarked on a campaign that portrays a more realistic woman's body.

The six women, all shapes and sizes, can be seen on billboards, magazines, Web sites and other advertising outlets, in untouched photographs and standing in their bare essentials.

The women are not models and Dove is trying to get women to stand tall and celebrate their curves.

I was listening to The Today Show this morning and something Katie Couric said really caught my attention.

More women over the age of 35 are developing and suffering from eating disorders.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological disease, and at least eight million people in the United States suffer from some type of eating disorder.

A woman who stands 5'4" tall is supposed to weigh at an average of 145 pounds, wear a 11-14 dress size, have a 36-37" bust, 29-31" waist and 40-42" hips.

Dove's campaign is in the right direction for the 21st century and hopefully, more women will see that beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes.

Mary-Allison Lancaster is the Managing editor of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 25.867.4876.

Monday, July 18, 2005

J.K. Rowling, the author with the magic touch

'It’s going to be really emotional to say goodbye,' says Rowling as she writes the last book in the Harry Potter saga
By Katie Couric
Dateline NBC

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND— It seems like yesterday, he was a lonely unwanted orphan stuck with his insufferable relatives on Privet Drive. Harry Potter, the pride of Hogwarts, has come a long way in the last seven years and so has his creator.

J.K. Rowling is celebrating the publication of her new book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and this past weekend, here at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, she met with some of her most rabid fans for a special reading. She also talked with us in a rare and exclusive interview about the latest adventures of the boy who lived.

J.K. Rowling: Harry has, I think, taken the view that they are now at war. He does become more battled hardened. He’s now ready to go out fighting. And he’s after revenge.

The literary juggernaut known as Harry Potter continued to cast its spell on wizard wanna-be’s all weekend, as copies of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” flew off the shelves faster than a golden snitch.

For devoted fans, it meant the end of two long years of hankering for the new Harry. And for booksellers, it marked the publishing event of the year.

“It is also a moment of great celebration for reading and literacy,” said Barbara Marcus, executive vice president of Scholastic. “But behind all the excitement is the genius of J.K. Rowling.”

You might say J.K. (a.k.a. Jo) Rowling is the author with the magic touch. That’s certainly what they were thinking at a Potter party Friday night, when she held a private reading, something she often does to launch a new book.

Only this time, it was followed by a kids-only Q&A.

Rowling: I love it. They ask the best questions, you know? They really know the books back to front. In fact it’s now reaching the point where I feel I should revise this kind of event. I’ve now produced six novels and I feel I should go back and read them all meticulously to make sure I know what’s going on. Because I have been caught out, people have asked me questions and I’ve—“What books are they in again? Who are you talking about?"

Call it “Hogwarts Heaven” for those chosen few aficionados, most of whom had won contests hunting for Harry’s most bewitched fans.

So needless to say, I felt privileged J.K. Rowling granted her only “Half-Blood Prince” television interview to a muggle like me.

Katie Couric: Not many adult journalists are being given this opportunity so I’m very, very flattered. And why have you decided to keep the number of grownups at a minimum?

Rowling: Mainly because I’ve just had a baby, to be totally honest with you. It’s pressure of time. I just couldn’t really fit a whole bunch of interviews into the, you know, the nursing schedule, so I just decided that I was going to try and focus on the kids this time.

The 39-year-old native of England and her Scottish husband, Neil Murray, have some kids of their own. They just had their second child together, and Jo has one older daughter from a previous marriage.

Rowling: And we’ve got a mad dog as well that your crew met earlier.

Jo says her growing family has given her new perspective, and made writing more of a labor of love.

Rowling: I took a break, as you may remember, between the end of “Goblet” and “Phoenix.” And then since I started writing again, I have to say I’ve absolutely love it. But I am pacing myself a little better.

Couric: How are you doing it differently?

Rowling: I think that emotionally, I’ve probably felt a little bit more balanced when I started writing again. And, although, life was actually fuller because I got married again and was pregnant for most of the writing of “Phoenix.” I was almost pregnant for most of the writing —in fact for all of the writing of...

Couric: Maybe pregnancy makes you more creative.

Rowling: Well, I was also pregnant while writing “Philosopher’s Stone” so actually half of my novelistic output has been done while pregnant, so.

Couric: So maybe you shouldn’t stop having babies.

Rowling: No, really Katie, I think we’ll stop here. That’s not a good enough reason.

Her publisher may disagree. Not including this newest novel, the wildly popular series about the sensational but shy, young wizard has sold some 270 million books in 62 languages, even Braille, turning a generation of couch potatoes onto the lost art of reading.

Couric: You ever get mobbed by throngs of 11-year-olds?

Rowling: The most embarrassing one was last year. I was in a café in Edinburgh, and I got up and I went into the ladies room, and I heard a whole lot of people come into the bathroom and a lot of whispering. Didn’t really think about it. Came out of the cubicle to find about 11 teenage girls all standing holding bits of paper. And you really don’t want to be ambushed in that situation preferably. So that one was, I mean, they were they were adorable. But I would have preferred them to wait while I was out of the ladies room. Call me prudish.

And this seven year phenomenon shows no sign of waning.

“Half-Blood Prince” is expected to out-sell the fastest selling hardback in history, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

“Harry Potter five was the largest product release ever in the history of,” says Jan Baker-Strand of “And it was nearly double the size of Harry Potter four.”

That’s why for book six, Potter’s publisher, Scholastic, ordered a printing of 10.8 million copies, the largest first printing of any book ever.

Couric: You’ve said the opening chapter of this book has been brewing in your mind for 13 years.

Rowling: It has, yeah. You find out a lot more back story, really a lot. Harry finds out a lot more about the past which hopefully will be useful to him in the future. You see, I’m even measuring what I’m saying because I can see it written on fan sites, with them analyzing what I’ve just said, and thinking “What does this mean?” But you know, you could go a little bit mad.

Her paranoia is justified. Spoiler sites and stolen book pages have plagued previous installments. So, in the months leading up to book six’s release, binderies both home and abroad were forced to take extraordinary security measures to make sure Harry’s secrets were safe.

Couric: There were basically armed guards everywhere. People had to wear ID badges. And one employee joked that as of yet there had not been a body cavity search.

Rowling: No you wouldn’t want it in a body cavity. This is a big book.

Still, rumors were rampant the manuscript had leaked, especially after betting Web sites based in Britain were taking odds on whether or not Harry’s headmaster Dumbledore was doomed. For those of you who haven’t read the book yet, we won’t spill the beans.

Rowling: They think Dumbeldore’s a goner. Well, I will say that I have actually never said that a major character is going to die.

Couric: So it’s not true?

Rowling: I’m not saying that.

But even Jo couldn’t have conjured up this Potter plot: Last month, two men were arrested for allegedly trying to sell a stolen book to a British tabloid. British police confirm one of them was charged with possession of a firearm.

Couric: Do you ever feel like the world has gone mad?

Rowling: Has gone insane? Yeah, absolutely. I mean ultimately what is this? It’s a kid’s book. And I mean obviously it’s my life. I mean I’ve worked very hard on it. But 15 years ago, if someone had said “You know yeah, you’ll publish it, it will be popular, and they’ll be guns involved.” I think it’s just— it’s surreal isn’t it?

Meanwhile, Rowling’s money keeps... well, rolling in.

Never mind the books, the first three Harry Potter movies have grossed over $2.5 billion. And the fourth film, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” comes to theaters this fall.

Couric: I know that you’re very modest about your success. On the other hand, I read, Jo, that you are one of four self-made female billionaires in the world—

Rowling: Billionaires?

Couric: No, is that wrong?

Rowling: It’s okay— well— You feel really sorry for me, I’m not a billionaire, what a tragedy.

Couric: Well—

Rowling: No, this about that figure came from Forbes Magazine.

Couric: Right.

Rowling: And I have been told that they are speculating on all possible future earnings, all past earnings. And, frankly, they’re adding figures together that don’t exist. So I am not a billionaire. I’ve got plenty of money, more money than I ever dreamed I would have. But I am not a billionaire.

Couric: So the b-word does not apply?

Rowling: No, not at all. But if we assume that they’ve inflated the other women similarly. So, you know, relatively speaking, I’m doing okay.

But Rowling hasn’t forgotten what is was like before she became synonymous with fame and fortune— less than a decade ago, when the only checks coming in to her house were welfare checks.

Rowling: Last year, when I was pregnant with Mackenzie, Neil and I were on the other side of Edinburgh. And we were very near the flat in which I finished writing "Philosopher’s Stone." I hadn’t been back there since I had left it and moved to a new house. And I said to Neil, “Let’s go around the corner, this is where I used to live.”

And when I clapped eyes on the place, I burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying. For a moment, I was back where I had been all those years ago. It brought back this tidal wave of emotion. And I think it hit me so hard how life had changed. And in all respects, how wonderful it was.

And I’m standing there and I’m looking at this place and I’m thinking, it was almost like, I would see the ghost of myself standing in the window and I would be able to communicate to that person, “It’s all going to be okay. You know, you’re working so hard, and it will be okay. And it will be more than okay, it will be fabulous.” I will never forget how it felt to go back there.

While Rowling understands everyone loves a rags-to-riches story, she says “happily ever after” is not automatically her epilogue.

Rowling: This was something that I always had difficulty with expressing when it had all just happened to me, and everyone wanted my emotions to be very simple. They wanted me to say, “I was poor and I was unhappy, and now I’ve got money and I’m really happy.” And it’s what we all want to see when the quiz winner wins the big prize, you know. You want to see some jumping up and down, for everything to be very uncomplicated. The fact is, I was living a very pure life. There was no press involvement, there was no pressure. Life was very pure and it became more complicated.

Jo told us, she’s already begun writing book seven— the one in which she will bring the Harry Potter saga to its climactic end.

Couric: If you, God forbid, got hit by a bus...

Rowling: Yeah, it’s perfectly possible, I’m a very distracted person.

Couric: Does anybody know your ideas for book seven?

Rowling: No.

Couric: Nobody? Not a soul?

Rowling: No.

Couric: Not Neil?

Rowling: I wouldn’t tell— Neil would forget. You know, he wouldn’t be a good person to tell anyway. No, no one knows. Which is good, because if I do get hit by a bus, I would really hate to think someone else was going to take over. It’s my baby.

And as she looks forward to a literary life beyond Harry Potter, Jo says she will savor her final journey aboard the Hogwarts Express.

Couric: When you finish it, and obviously you have a lot of work ahead of you, are you going to be sad or—

Rowling: Yeah. It’s going to be really emotional to say goodbye. I’m going to find it very difficult. But it must be done, it must be done. It’s been a fabulous ride, but you have to know when to get off, and I know when to get off, and it will be the end of book seven.

Couric: Terrifying, though, to think about what you’ll do next—

Rowling: No, liberating. Definitely. Yeah. It is. The world is my oyster. I can do whatever I like.
© 2005 MSNBC Interactive

© 2005


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Could Alexis Glick be the next Katie Couric?

By GAIL SHISTER Knight Ridder Newspapers

Alexis Glick, who three years ago was managing more than 200 floor traders at the New York Stock Exchange, is being mentioned as a possible successor to “Today” co-anchor Katie Couric.

Since crossing over from CNBC to NBC’s “Today” as a correspondent a year ago, Glick is getting increasing face time. She’s seen almost daily in the 8-9 a.m. segment.

Couric, 48, has been “Today’s” co-anchor since April 1991. Her estimated $12 million-a-year contract is up next May. Glick, 32 and, like Couric, a mother of two, is a far less costly TV newbie.

Do the math.

“Nonsense,” new “Today” boss Jim Bell says. “It’s summer. People are taking time off. Alexis is getting experience in the 9 o’clock hour, a place we really want to use to build our bench.”

Smoothie Natalie Morales, an MSNBC anchor since 2002, appears frequently in “Today’s” first two hours and sometimes sits in for Couric. (Glick hasn’t subbed for Couric yet.)

The boys’ side of the bench includes MSNBC’s Lester Holt, weekend “Today” co-anchor, and David Gregory, NBC’s chief White House correspondent and a weekend fill-in for Holt.

There could be more, Bell says.

Before joining CNBC in April 2003 as senior trading correspondent for its popular weekday morning show “Squawk Box,” Glick was a rising star on Wall Street.

At Morgan Stanley, she became the first woman to manage the stock-exchange floor operation of a heavyweight Wall Street firm.

Glick “is a fresh face,” Bell says.

“She’s smart, a mom, worked on Wall Street. She has a unique background. We can use her for lots of different stories. She’s doing great. She’s getting experience to be part of the best team in morning TV.”

Bell is looking to infuse “a different sensibility and feel” to “Today’s” last hour, formerly a hodgepodge of disparate elements without much of a personality.

It features the same on-air talent as the 6-8 a.m. show — Couric, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Al Roker.

To help give the 8 a.m. segment a distinct look, Bell recently named former “Maury” executive producer Amy Rosenblum as senior producer for “Today’s” third hour.

“Having fresh eyes and fresh ideas is a good thing,” he says.

Also a good thing, for “Today,” is its June ratings surge.

In the most recent weekly Nielsens (June 20-24), “Today” averaged 5.5 million viewers — 700,000 more than ABC’s “Good Morning America.” CBS’ “Early Show” had 2.3 million viewers.

It was “Today’s” 498th consecutive weekly blue ribbon and the fourth straight week it beat rival “GMA” by more than 475,000 viewers, NBC says.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Lauer-Couric Feud Still Going Strong

New reports about NBC�s sputtering "Today" show confirm what readers have known for a long time � the program�s co-hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer are locked in a bitter feud.

As long ago as November 2003, we reported that a "civil war" was brewing between the two stars, and revealed: "Things are not so happy at the morning show.

Story Continues Below

"Katie doesn�t like Matt. Despite her TV persona, our source describes Katie as 'mean. This lady can be vicious and stomp you out like a bug.'"

Then in February 2004, disclosed that Couric "has pitched NBC into a 'storm watch' with vicious infighting that threatens the success of the entire network.

"She is reportedly angry that [Lauer's] interviews are overshadowing her role."

And this past May 17, we reported that the "Today" show's lead over its ABC rival, "Good Morning America" � which in recent years has been as much as 2 million viewers � had dwindled to 70,000 in the previous week. reported, "Couric's reputation as a liberal diva hasn't washed well with the public, and may be the real cause behind the show's woes."

Now NBC network chief Jeff Zucker has conceded that the program has lost its innovative edge.

Despite the problems, Couric is said to be angling for a sharp pay raise when she signs a new contract next year � $20 million a year, up from a reported $15 million.

But reports continue to circulate that Couric and Lauer are at odds. Even the National Enquirer reports that Couric and Lauer have "a strained off-screen relationship." Lauer "is fed up with Couric's diva antics � and he may walk if she signs a new contract," according to the paper.

The Enquirer quotes a "Today" show source as saying: "Katie�s become almost insufferable since she became one of the highest-paid women in show business. Her ego became over-inflated."

But Couric could be in for a shock when she sits down with the network to hammer out a new deal.

Due to the narrowing gap between "Today" and its ABC rival, "there's no way her agent cans say she's worth as much as she was for her last contract," said network-news analyst Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the weekly Tyndall Report.

"NBC is entitled to ask her to take a pay cut."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Katie Couric's 'Today' Plummets; GMA Gains

Katie Couric's days as America's leading morning lady may be coming to an end.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Couric's "Today" show saw its lead over ABC's rival "Good Morning America" fall sharply - to about 70,000 viewers last week. The paper said the estimates are based on preliminary information from Nielsen Media Research.

Story Continues Below

"Today" has led the ratings pack since 1995. But the latest numbers show that momentum may be on the side of ABC.

"In recent years, the lead by 'Today' over 'Good Morning America' has been as much as two million viewers. Thus far, for the season that began in September, 'Today' (average audience about 6 million viewers) has led 'Good Morning America' (about 5.4 million) by more than 600,000 viewers."

NBC has moved to improve ratings by dumping the show's executive producer last month. But NBC's troubles may be deja vu, when its ratings fell at "Today" as its then host Bryant Gumbel went from likable to politically correct and nasty.

Couric's reputation as a liberal diva hasn't washed well with the public, and may be the real cause behind "Today"'s woes.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Jerry Graham: Remote Control

Producers: The power behind networks

Television is a producer’s medium. The title is often misunderstood, confused with the money person behind movies and theater. In TV news programs, it’s the producer who decides what stories to run, in what order and at what length. The anchors may get the public recognition, but the producers set the tone for the program and are usually responsible for success or failure.
Think what "60 Minutes" would have been without Don Hewitt. Better yet, look what has happened to the program since Hewitt was forced into retirement.

A current example of the importance of the producer is the trouble plaguing the "Today" show. The morning program’s ratings have been dropping drastically in the past few years and another producer has been replaced, the fourth in two years.

ABC’s "Good Morning America" has been steadily gaining on "Today" closing the gap in viewers from 2 million to 270 thousand. This is no small matter since "Today" is NBC’s biggest money maker, bringing in an estimated $250 million per year.

When "Today" was riding at its highest, the producer was the so-called boy genius Jeff Zucker, who took over the show when he was just 29 years old. He had a sense of what the public wanted to see and was able to balance hard news content with feature stories in a way that showcased the talents of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. Zucker was so successful that NBC made him head of the entire network.

What followed was another classic illustration of promoting someone out of a right job into a wrong one. Zucker may have been ideal for balancing the everyday, every minute demands of running a daily news program, but he has bombed as a network boss. NBC has gone from first to fourth in the ratings and is desperately seeking a hit show.

One theory of television watching holds that the channel that was on when a viewer goes to sleep will be the one on in the morning. That would indicate that the success of ABC’s "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and "Grey’s Anatomy" have been a boon to Dianne Sawyer, Charles Gibson and "Good Morning America."

The "Today" show has become the subject of a series of stories about its decline. The New York Times recently reported dissension between Couric and her colleagues, and there are published rumors that Lauer is looking forward to the end of his contract. Gossip blogs have started chipping away at Couric, criticizing her hair and clothes, and comparing her behavior to the domestic diva, Martha Stewart.

But the show is not dropping viewers because of its cast. "Today" has lost its way because of its story selection and the dumbing down of its subject matter.

At one time, the first half hour of "Today" was serious journalism, a must-stop for newsmakers. Now, more time is spent on the Michael Jackson trial than on the war in Iraq. Stories about 5-year-olds being handcuffed by police, buffalos on the loose on a tennis court, little league violence, Amber Frey and Scott Peterson and the like dominate. The program emulates tabloid newspapers, rather than serious journals.

Recently, a featured guest was Nicole Devenish, communications director for the White House. She deftly answered a series of questions about Social Security, the economy and John Bolton without a hint of challenge from Lauer or a follow-up interview from the other side.

The program also failed to mention the top story in major newspapers that morning, GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s decision to rescind the rules that have emasculated the Ethics Committee and its investigation of Tom DeLay.

Old habits are hard to break so I still turn on "Today" at 7 a.m., but my patience is running out. The program is in danger of becoming more about its cast members than about the audience and what we’re interested in knowing.

I’ve already switched to "Morning Edition".... (read Full article)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Jimmy Buffett, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, Paul Newman, Katie Couric and their friends headline gala

Jimmy Buffett, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, Paul Newman, Katie Couric and their friends headline gala Second Annual Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction

Jimmy Buffett, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, Paul Newman, Katie Couric and their friends headline gala Second Annual Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction.

Based on their success last year, Jayni and Chevy are thrilled that scores of their friends from the world of Hollywood and professional sports will be participating in The Second Annual Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction which is now live online at

Have you ever been invited by Paul McCartney as his VIP quest to see him in concert and gone backstage after the show? Do you prefer VIP treatment from Jimmy Buffet or Michael Bolton? Would you enjoy discussing Paul Simon's musical career with him over a leisurely NYC lunch or spending a day with movie legend Paul Newman at his Connecticut camp? Billy Joel will be giving up his Broadway seats to enable winners to attend Movin' Out in style. Are you a fan of Dave Matthews, Elton John or Pearl Jam? This auction has something for every fan!

From the television world, Katie Couric will give you a behind the scene Today Show tour or you can mingle with Al Roker and Deborah Roberts at a barbecue at the Chase home. Special packages are also available with Jon Stewart, The Ellen Show, Dave Letterman, Conan O'Brien and SNL.

Sport fans can have Mohammad Ali autograph a pair of his gloves with their name or they can enjoy a round of golf at Trump International. NASCAR fans will be delighted that Jeff Gordon donated his winning Daytona 500 racing tire. New York City insiders can attend a Yankees game in the owners box or get a power table at Rao's. Additional lots are included from Pierce Brosnan, Lucy Liu, Sylvester Stallone, Ashton Kutcher, Donna Karan, and dozens more.
Friends of the environment can purchase raffle tickets for a Ford Hybrid-which is the first vehicle to combine SUV capability with low environmental impact.

Jayni and Chevy founded the Center for Environmental Education as a non-profit organization that grew out of their realization that K-12 teachers lacked easy access to inspiring environmental resources and it is rapidly becoming the leading virtual source for students and teachers for Environmental Education.
The auction is now live at (more at Noted Blogs)

Breast Cancer Cure With The Power Of Fame

Breast Cancer Cure With The Power Of Fame

There is no known cure for breast cancer. More than 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year worldwide. The incidence of breast cancer has nearly tripled in the past 50 years. A woman's lifetime risk has increased from 1 in 20 in the 1950's to 1 in 7 today. Scientists don't know why most women get breast cancer, yet breast cancer is the most frequent tumor found in women the world over. What can a woman do when fate has played a cruel joke and a woman's very life can be in question? What do you do when an intimate part of your body becomes host to an assassin, a foreign element assigned to debilitate, maim and kill?

A woman who dies of breast cancer is robbed of an average of nearly 20 years of her life. Breast cancer knows no social boundaries. It’s a disease that can affect anyone. Some prominent women whose lives that have been touched by breast cancer include: Anastacia, singer only 29 years old! Jill Eikenberry actress age 52; Ann Jillian, 48, Actress; Peggy Fleming age 49 figure skater; Kate Jackson age 50 (Charlies Angels); Olivia Newton-John age 50 actress singer; Patti LaBelle, age 57, singer; Diahann Carroll, age 63 Actress/singer; Rue McClanahan, Hollywood actress, Rue is best known for her portrayal of Blanche on the hit sitcom “The Golden Girls;” Shirley Temple Black age 70 Actress/singer; Betty Ford, Former First Lady; Nancy Reagan age 77 former first lady; Melissa Etheridge age 43 singer; Lynn Redgrave, age 59, actress; Edie Falco Sopranos star, Tami Agassi, sister to tennis star Andre Agassi, and the beautiful Suzanne Summers actress. Dusty Springfield the singer, died from breast cancer at age 59. Breast cancer also took the lives of Linda McCartney and Jill Ireland. This is a disease that has plagued women for centuries. The mother of Louis XIV of France died of breast cancer in 1666. These high rates of breast cancer are not acceptable to the women of the world and must be met with scientific research that provides results.

Despite over a decade of research, and more than $1.7 billion spent, hundreds of women worldwide are dying from breast cancer every day. Yet doctors don’t know how breast cancer starts or how to cure it. Doctors are still approaching treatment for breast cancer in the same old fashioned ways: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Barbaric treatments…And scientists keep doing the same old redundant research that’s simply not working. Over 30 US federal agencies and dozens of foundations, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are conducting or funding research, but: No one knows how much money is being raised every year. No one knows how much money is being spent every year. No one knows where the money is going. Meanwhile, mothers, sisters and daughters are dying-at a rate of nearly 110 women a day. It’s time for a new approach to cure this deadly killer. We don’t want you to have to under go surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

A global action is the only answer to rising cancer deaths. Someone needs to answer the action call on all types of cancer. Newly formed International Celebrity Cancer Research Foundation has answered that call on global cancer. ICCRF’s war on cancer will be fought with the power of fame with celebrities from all 192 countries of the world. But the war on cancer can only be won with the support from the citizens of the world. Each and every one of you can answer your personal call to action to help fight the global war on cancer by supporting ICCRF’s battle on the war on cancer now.

Billionaires whom we have been recommended that we should contact for support include: Paul Allen, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jon Huntsman, William and Alice Goodman, Ann Lurie, Jamie and Karen Moyer, Harold C. Simmons, Alfred Mann, Sumner M. Redstone, Michael Milton and the Palm beach billionaires. There are simply too many billionaires to mention them all. The combined wealth of the three Microsoft billionaires alone is more than ten times the amount spent by the U.S. Federal Government on research to fight cancer and other deadly diseases. We could use help from the media with publicity stories, ads and promotions to get the word out. We are particularly interested in looking for assistance from the billionaires of the world; there are approximately 600 in the world. Billionaires like Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google billionaires), Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner, and Oprah Winfrey and others who control the media could get our life-saving message to the world fast.

Here’s what some very influential and famous people have to say about breast cancer research. Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta Jones, "Catherine and I are committed to do everything possible to eradicate this disease," says Oscar-winner Michael Douglas. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, “I lost my aunt to breast cancer about two years ago and my very good friend Liz to ovarian around the same time," says Wilson, who is married to Tom Hanks. "I've seen what these cancers are really like and we have to support more research.” Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw, “Steven and I are passionate about improving women's health," says Capshaw.”

Stars that we know that are interested in supporting cancer research including breast cancer research include: Melissa Etheridge, Charlie Sheen, Kirk and Anne Douglas, Sting and wife Trudie Styler, Larry King, Sylvester Stallone, Nicole Kidman, Bon Jovi, Julia Roberts, Jack Lemmon, Dustin Hoffman, Denzel Washington, Warren Beatty, Candice Bergen, Angie Dickinson, Sally Field, Larry Hagman, Merv Griffin, Carroll O'Connor and his wife, Nancy, Robert DiNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Sean Penn, Gwyneth Paltrow, Carmen Electra, Gene Wilder, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, Michael J. Fox, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Leonardo Di Caprio, Sigourney Weaver, Bruce Willis, Billy Joel, Tim McGraw, Robbin Williams, Elizabeth Hurley, Tiger Woods, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Will Smith, Katie Couric, George Clooney, Mike Myers, Ben affleck, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Al Pacino, P Diddy, George Lucas, Oliver Stone, Drew Barrymore, Britney Spears, Barbara Streisand, Gene Hackman, Fred Thompson , Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, Donald Trump, Donald Sutherland, Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Sidney Poitier, Tom Arnold, Quincy Jones, Eminem, Shaquille Oneal, Adam Sandler, Steven Soderbergh, Bono/U-2, Patti LaBelle, Rosie O’Donnell, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Actor Rob Lowe, he was moved to serve as a spokesperson for the Lee National Denim Day, which raised money for breast cancer research, because his grandmother and great-grandmother both suffered from the disease, Sharon Osbourne, Britt Ekland, Westlife, Simon Cowell, Emma Thompson, Philip Treacy, Geri Halliwell, Paul McCartney, and Lance Armstrong.

Country music stars who support breast cancer research include: Wynona Judd, Amy Grant, Donny Osmond, Martina McBride, Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Toby Keith, LeAnn Rimes, the Dixie Chicks, Lonestar, Brad Paisley, Diamond Rio, Trick Pony, Alan Jackson, SHeDAISY, Terri Clark, Lee Ann Womack, Phil Vassar, Buddy Jewell, Joe Nichols, Amy Grant, Anne Murray, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Tracy Lawrence, Tammy Cochran, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lee Greenwood, George Jones, Rascal Flatts, Emerson Drive, Bering Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Clint Black, Steve Wariner, Kenny Rogers, Alabama, Faith Hill and Sara Evans, Richard Marx, Anne Cochran, Lee Ann Womack, Terri Clark, Dave Koz, Sophie B. Hawkins, Jonatha Brooke, Heart’s Anne and Nancy Wilson and Mercy Me.

We are also hoping that more of my celebrity friends will come forward as spokespersons and spread their wings to help support our breast cancer research. My friends and acquaintances include: Steven Seagal, Charlie Sheen (Charlie, has done a great job for breast cancer research by leading an effort in the fight against breast cancer, by encouraging the American public to take part in a National Denim Day), Wesley Snipes, Danny Glover, Erik Estrada, Tom Arnold, Dolph Lundgren, Roger Clinton, Bill Clinton, Usher, Clint Black, Hulk Hogan, Ivana Trump, Clint Black, John Secada, Sylvester Stalone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Reno, Eddie Money, Paul Hogan, Jay Leno, Danny Glover, Danny Aiello, Larry Hagman, Lee Majors, Tyson Becford, Jennifer Tilly, David Hasselhoff, Richard Branson, Brendan Fraser, Cindy Crawford, (whose grandmother died from breast cancer), Cher, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and other stars that I have had the good fortune of meeting in person and others celebrities that I hope to meet in the future. How about Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnon, Mick Jagger and Pamela Lee Anderson. (Photos of Denny and the stars can be viewed at his promotional group listed below.) We have star friends who are bigger than life and they are ready to become our spokespersons. But we still need your donations to get our celebrities to international print and broadcast ads to get the word out. We, the people of the world can cure breast cancer as well as all the cancers of the world.

About the Author

Denny Armstrong counsels and writes about the global cancer problem. Mr. Armstrong has recently formed the new International Celebrity Cancer Research Foundation. You may join the war on cancer by joining ICCRF’s group and supporting the cause to find better treatments and a cure for all types of cancer. visit his group

What If TV News Had Covered D-Day?

Imagine: What if today’s American TV news had been there to cover D-Day, June 6, 1944? Kaie Couric information included.

“Good morning, this is Peter Jennings at ABC News in Washington with this special report. The War Department is confirming this morning that Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy, is now in motion. Unfortunately, the news from the battleground is grim for American forces. Despite attacking with the largest military force in history, the Allies appear to have lost this battle before it has begun. We start our coverage with reporter Terry Moran, who is embedded with U.S. Army forces at a stretch of Normandy that the War Department has designated ‘Omaha Beach.’”

Terry Moran: “Peter, here at Omaha Beach, everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. The Allies sent 29 amphibious support vehicles to this site. Of those, 27 have sunk. We are pinned down by German gunfire. In addition, we now know the entire beach is heavily mined along its six-mile expanse. Observers tell us they expect that more than 2,400 Allied soldiers will die in the next few hours. We now go to reporter Martha Raddatz, who is embedded with forces at Utah Beach.”

Martha Raddatz: “News is no better for the Allies here at Utah Beach. A navigational error placed Allied forces several miles to the north of their intended landing site. As a result, the Allies are running into less resistance than expected, but they are also giving the Germans an opportunity to strengthen their defenses before the attack is joined. It appears that the Allies have committed the crucial mistake that will cost them the war. Now we shift to Juno Beach and reporter Dan Harris.”

Dan Harris: “Here at Juno Beach, the Allies are having to deal more with reefs and shoals than with bullets and grenades. The landing crafts arrived too late to avoid these natural barriers. As a result, an estimated 30 percent of the crafts have been crushed before they could reach the shoreline. The Allies likely will suffer 1,200 dead on this beach alone as Operation Overlord stumbles onward. Back to you, Peter Jennings.”

Peter Jennings: “We now are receiving reports from the small French village of St. Mere Eglise, where we understand Allied paratroopers began to drop last night. The news from there is dire. Scores of U.S. paratroopers have accidentally landed in the town square and are being slaughtered by German soldiers before the Americans can free themselves from their parachutes. Now we go to Katie Couric for a preview of this morning’s ‘Today Show.’ I’m not sure why we’re going to Katie Couric, since she works for NBC, but such is the fog of war. Katie?”

Katie Couric: “Thank you, Peter. This morning on ‘Today’ we will ask the question that is on every American’s mind: Is Operation Overlord the first Allied failure against Adolf Hitler? For that answer, we turn to NBC’s chief military analyst, Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey. What is your take, General?”

Gen. Barry McCaffrey: “Paratroopers are missing their targets. Landing craft are arriving late. And now we are getting estimates that as many as 14,000 French civilians will die in this brutal, fruitless attack upon the European continent. What can I say? If Operation Overlord was to have any chance at all against these formidable German defenses, everything had to go perfectly. Instead, everything has gone haywire. The Roosevelt Administration must accept that this mission has failed, that we cannot possibly mount another operation of this magnitude, and that we must consider suing for peace with Hitler. This morning, Katie, I truly fear for America.”

Katie Couric: “Speaking of fear, don’t miss tonight’s breathtaking episode of ‘Fear Factor’. Share the thrills as that ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ James Cagney attempts to tap dance blindfolded atop a 70-foot flagpole while Hollywood starlet Tallulah Bankhead confronts her loathing of clothing. That’s all tonight. …”

About the Author

Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who serves as a news strategist for private enterprises in the United States. To comment on this article, write him at or visit his Web site

Friday, April 29, 2005

Katie VS Kelly

WHAT a week for Katie Couric. First came a raft of negative publicity for the "Today" show, following the firing of its executive producer.

On Monday, a scathing Times story blamed Couric's "downright scary" image for the program's declining ratings.

Then Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television, gave high praise to another network's morning personality - Kelly Ripa - at an off-the-record meeting of magazine execs on Tuesday.

When asked whom he would steal from another network, Zucker said: "I'd love to rip off Kelly Ripa because she's as natural as you can get on TV. I think she's fantastic. Incredibly talented."

Could Zucker be hinting at a future "Today" with Matt and Kelly?

After all, Ripa's blond, perky and - unlike Couric - not known as a diva.

Yesterday, NBC publicists went on a p.r. offensive, saying there are no such plans in the works.

And, to be fair, TV insiders say Kelly is too lightweight for "Today."

"I can't imagine Kelly anchoring the pope's funeral - and I doubt Jeff Zucker can either," says media analyst Andrew Tyndall.

Besides, Tyndall adds, Ripa isn't necessarily immune from the same backlash Couric's dealing with: "Kelly hasn't been around nearly as long as Katie," he says. "A couple of scandals, a couple of people who want to talk behind her back - give it time."

Still, it's indisputable that Couric's reign as America's morning sweetheart is tarnished.

Is Kelly ready to claim the title? Here's how the pair stacks up.

Show: "Live with Regis and Kelly" (ABC)
Age: 34
Love interest: Husband, actor Mark Consuelos
Children: Michael, 7; Lola, 3; Joaquin, 2
Big break: Playing Hayley on "All My Children" in 1990
Reported contract: $40 million for 5 years
Personal style: Downtown cool
Shade of blond: Beach
Pet cause: Kids
Viewers: 3.6 million a week


Show: "Today" (NBC)
Age: 48
Love interest: Sometime boyfriend, Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner
Children: Elinor, 9; Caroline, 5
Big break: Replacing Deborah Norville on "Today" in 1991
Reported contract: $65 million for 5 years
Personal style: Westchester mom
Shade of blond: Honey
Pet cause: Colon cancer awareness
Viewers: 6 million a week

(Thanks NYPost)

ABC to NBC: Smell the coffee

By Peter Johnson, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — In 2002, three years after Tony Perkins began reporting the weather for ABC's Good Morning America, tourists who stopped by the show's Times Square studios still thought he was Spencer Christian, who preceded him in the job.
Perkins mentioned it one day to GMA co-anchor Charles Gibson. "I said, 'People are still calling me Spencer Christian. They're not getting it,' " Perkins recalls. "Charlie said, 'You know, for five years when I did this show the first time around, people called me David Hartman. It just takes time.' He's right."

The same four words — "it just takes time" — also might apply to GMA's come-from-behind fortunes. After six years of trying to compete with, let alone beat, network TV's top-rated morning juggernaut, NBC's Today, GMA is within striking distance: The viewer gap between the two programs has gone from 1.3 million to 270,000 in the past year.

Last week, in a move that got national attention, NBC blinked and acknowledged that Today needed its own wake-up call. NBC-Universal president Jeff Zucker fired executive producer Tom Touchet, who had run Today for two years, and replaced him with a morning-show novice, NBC sports producer Jim Bell. Bell is Today's fourth producer in five years. (Related story: More Today than yesterday)

Today needs to "get back to what the hallmarks of the show have always been: strong journalism on an agenda-setting news program," says Zucker, who took Today to first place when he produced it in the 90s.

With the race tightening for the first time in a decade, there's a chance America could be on the cusp of witnessing something that rarely happens in morning television: a shift in viewer loyalties.

The last time it happened was the ill-fated pairing of Lisa McRee and Kevin Newman, who replaced Gibson and Joan Lunden; by the time Gibson was called back and paired with Diane Sawyer in 1999, the gap between GMA and Today was 3 million viewers.

Now, will it be Today's team of Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Al Roker? Or will viewers switch to GMA's Sawyer, Gibson, Robin Roberts and Perkins?

Viewers slow to switch

Morning-show viewers are famously loyal; they get used to watching in their pajamas. Changing anchor allegiance has occurred just a handful of times in the 30 years since Today and GMA began duking it out for the title of America's premiere morning program.

But GMA "is now good enough that if you switch from Today to GMA, you'll stay," says Steve Friedman, who has produced both Today and CBS' perennial third-place Early Show.

GMA has adopted the quick pace of cable news, uses better graphics and is more consistent than Today with its mix of news and features, Friedman says. Today, meanwhile, "changes from day to day and doesn't seem comfortable in what it's doing — and consistency is everything in the morning."

He suspects that 488 weeks in a row in first place may have made "America's first family" at Today complacent. "It's not very healthy when every Thursday the ratings come out and you say, 'How much did we win by this week?' It takes the edge off. TV is better when it's contested, and now there is a contest. It's up to Today to respond."

Today co-anchor Couric says: "We want to make this show better and smarter. We're competitors, and we obviously would like to win by more, but we're confident that we produce the best show on television and will continue to do so."

Says her partner, Lauer: "Clearly the numbers are closer now. There's ebb and flow in the morning, and at the moment we need to push forward and innovate. But we're still No. 1. I'm not ready to jump off the bow of a ship."

Roker, Today's weatherman, says: "We had the field to ourself, and everybody has gotten better. Now we have to get better, too."

The stakes are huge for NBC and ABC. NBC is estimated to make more than $300 million a year on its three-hour Today franchise; the cash cow does wonders for NBC's bottom line. ABC makes an estimated $154 million a year on the two-hour GMA, but a move into first place could add millions.

Unlike evening-news and newsmagazine viewership, which has been down in recent years, morning-show viewing has been rising: Americans are getting up earlier. But this season, only GMA is drawing more viewers: 7%. Today is down 5% and The Early Show is off 3%.

The value of promotion

Morning shows not only help set the national news agenda, but as Today first discovered in the go-go years in the '90s with hits such as Friends, Frasier and ER, they're also powerful promotional vehicles for the networks.

The shows drive viewers to prime-time entertainment franchises, from NBC's Fear Factor to ABC's Desperate Housewives to CBS' Survivor. It's not a one-way street: Those programs send contestants and stars to the morning shows, which help draw viewers.

Since ABC has scored this season with Housewives, Lost and Alias and NBC's prime time is in a ratings slide, NBC executives are quick to tie GMA's success to ABC's No. 2 spot in prime time.

Though that's partly true, says GMA executive producer Ben Sherwood, it doesn't "explain the CBS anomaly. The network is first in prime time yet is in third place in the morning with The Early Show. There must be something else at work: We air the most urgent, relevant and watchable program."

What drives morning-show viewers to sample another show and stay there can be debated.

GMA news anchor Roberts, who is viewed as a probable successor to Gibson or Sawyer, says a certain "comfort level" at GMA has finally kicked in, one that viewers might have sensed.

"Come on," she says. "We all do the same pieces. It might be a different order, and we all get our fair share of exclusives. But people talk about morning TV being intimate, conversational and comfortable, and the thing they say to me over and over is, 'We would invite the four of you over for coffee.' That's the highest compliment."

Numbers out today will show whether the gap has increased or decreased. But in the past six years, Today has lost 5% and GMA has gained about 22% — ever since Gibson and Sawyer were drafted to save a show viewers had abandoned.

Gibson and Sawyer were supposed to stay a short time until ABC figured out their replacements. Six years later, neither of them has any plans to move. But Gibson has been substituting a few days a week for Peter Jennings on World News Tonight while Jennings is treated for lung cancer; Gibson has long been considered a possible successor.

No time for celebration

After years spent getting GMA running smoothly, Sherwood and others are wary of predicting victory over Today, especially because GMA has yet to notch a single weekly win over its rival.

"Numbers will go up and down, but the pattern of the last six years is unmistakable. GMA is growing, and the Today show is declining," says Sherwood, who has been in the job a year and is credited with expanding on a foundation begun by predecessor Shelley Ross. "We all know there's much more work to do, much more of a mountain to climb, and this is the steepest and most slippery stretch."

Gibson, who beat Today with Joan Lunden during his first stint on GMA, is more bullish about GMA's chances of reclaiming first place. "I think we're going to get 'em," he says. "It may not be this week. It may not be this month. But there's a pendulum that swings, and people have begun to look around."

Sawyer, who once anchored the old CBS This Morning in the '80s, is cautious. "We all know that what happens today can be completely reversed tomorrow."

And she hints that the media would like to start a war between rival morning-show personalities, something she wants to avoid, saying that she is a big fan of Today and its anchors: "They're fantastic."

"I know it's jazzy to make it personal about each and every one of us," Sawyer says. "A lot of this high drama about what's going on and what has changed is a bit of a soap opera that doesn't take place in the minds of the viewers."

Couric at the core?

Perhaps, but after Touchet was fired last week, readers e-mailed USA TODAY and pointed the finger at Couric, saying the program now revolves around her.

Monday, New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley savaged Couric in a review, saying she had become Today's overbearing queen. Today, Stanley wrote, "has turned Couric's popularity into a Marxist-style cult of personality. The camera fixates on Couric's legs during interviews, she performs in innumerable skits and stunts, and her clowning is given center stage even during news events."

Says Couric: "It comes with the territory. I think she (Stanley) has written about my legs twice now. I'm beginning to get nervous. My legs are still sturdy and strong and serving me well."

But Stanley also criticized Sawyer, saying she handles interviews and banter with Gibson with "creamy insincerity."

(Viewer perceptions of personalities — so-called Q scores, performed by TVQ Evaluations, Inc. — show that Couric and Sawyer share the same high negatives: 16% of viewers rate both women "fair or poor," compared with 11% for Lauer and 8% for Gibson. But in terms of positives, 16% of viewers say Sawyer is "one of my favorites," compared with 12% for Couric and Lauer and 9% for Gibson.)

In an e-mail, reader Bill Kauzlarich of Farmington, Ill., wrote, "I'm a big fan of Katie (love those legs and heels), but she sure seems full of herself."

Monday, in a letter to USA TODAY, Mokhtar and Sohair Hamada of St. Louis asked whether Touchet was the problem or whether Couric had made viewers such as themselves switch to GMA. "Is it the producer whose name and face we have never seen on the Today show, or is it the lead anchor Katie Couric? Or is it both?" they asked.

Shirley White of Birmingham, Mich., wrote: "Katie's style has evolved into a know-it-all interviewer who constantly speaks over her guests and at times comes off abrasive."

"Are people tired of me?" Couric asks. "I hope not. I continue to love doing the show. I think familiarity for people is a great thing, particularly in the morning. I really think as personality-driven as these shows are, they're very content-driven as well."

Something's going on, GMA's Gibson says.

"I hope there's a comfort level with the program and that people feel at ease with us, but I don't know. I hope whatever trend is going on continues. I've done this program when it was first, and I've done this program when it was second. And first is better."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Veterans cemetery backer finds same bill across Capitol

Alaska Digest
FAIRBANKS - Rep. David Guttenberg says he and his staff have been victims of legislative plagiarism.

A bill by the Fairbanks Democrat aimed at creating a veterans cemetery is matched word-for-word, except for the title, by a new Senate version by Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla.

Huggins, during the first hearing on his bill Tuesday, was asked how his measure compared.

"I've never seen the House bill. I don't think I've seen the House bill," Huggins said. "I know there's a representative from Fairbanks - was it Dave Guttenberg, is it? - who I think has a bill, but I'm not sure if it's the same, different or whatever the case may be."

That response seemed disingenuous, Guttenberg said, given that the body of Huggins' bill reads the same as the latest version of his bill.

The legislation calls for the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs to build and maintain a veterans cemetery in Fairbanks and would establish a state veterans cemetery fund to pay for upkeep.

Guttenberg said that he would rather have worked with Huggins on the cemetery proposal and was disappointed by the way the Wasilla Republican handled the matter.

"I like the fact that it's got bipartisan support, but it just speaks to character as far as I'm concerned," he said.

House approves elections changes
JUNEAU - State lawmakers approved a bill Thursday lowering the bar for fledgling political parties in Alaska to attain official party status.

The bill approved by the House of Representatives allows parties a place on the ballot if they register at least 2 percent of the state's qualified voters instead of the current 3 percent requirement.

Parties also can be made official by one of their candidates receiving at least 2 percent of the votes in an election for governor, U.S. Senate or U.S. House. Parties now must receive at least 3 percent of the votes cast in a gubernatorial race only.

The sweeping elections bill also increases the cost of requesting an election recount.

Recounts by request will go from $300 to $1,000 for precincts, $750 to $2,000 for House districts and $10,000 to $15,000 for statewide races.

The bill also requires that ballot initiative circulators be U.S. citizens, 18 or older and residents of the state. (read more)

Thursday, April 21, 2005



KATIE Couric's fiery off-air de meanor and slipping ratings were the catalysts for the ouster of "Today" executive producer Tom Touchet, sources say.

Touchet's predecessor, Jeff Wald, who helmed the popular morning show from 2000 to 2002, ran afoul of Couric nearly three years ago and was eventually fired for it.

But sources close to the show say that Touchet's exit had more to do with losing ground to "Good Morning America" in the competitive morning ratings race than anything else.

"Frankly, the numbers weren't where many people think they should be," an NBC insider said, adding that the decision came directly from NBC News president Neal Shapiro and NBC chief Jeff Zucker.

Earlier this week, Couric wasn't even aware that Touchet had been fired and called him to discuss details of the next day's show, a source said.

NBC officials confirmed that Jim Bell, an NBC Sports veteran and coordinating producer for the network's Olympic coverage, is now executive producer of "Today."

Still, reports of Touchet and Couric clashing have been circulating for more than a year.

As far back as February 2004, trade magazines and gossip columns reported that Couric — at $13 million a year, the highest paid TV journalist — was "leading the charge" to have Touchet canned.

A "Today" spokeswoman denied that Couric was involved.

"That couldn't be more false," she said. "It was a decision that came down from management. Katie and Matt (Lauer) were involved as anchors of the show, much (as they would be in) any other decision."

Meanwhile, a spat last winter reportedly among Touchet, Couric and Zucker (the former "Today" boss, who staffers say was the only executive producer Couric truly got along with) resulted in Touchet slamming a glass door so hard afterward that it shattered.

Zucker spent the better part of a decade at "Today" before leaving, Wald lasted only 17 months on the job and Touchet managed to stick around for 29 months.
(source: NYPOST )

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Media Bias Surrounds Ratzinger's Selection as Pope

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 20, 2005

Washington, DC ( -- Before, during and after the selection of German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the next leader of the Catholic Church, media outlets went out of their way to paint him as an out of touch conservative whose stance on pro-life issues like abortion would turn off Catholics.

A Media Research Center report says most U.S. media outlets "have decided to do their best to discredit him by applying extreme and pejorative labels to him and portraying him as the enemy of progress."

NBC's Jim Maceda referred to "the ultraconservative Ratzinger" and Katie Couric asserted that Ratzinger is "known to be quite conservative. He's been called 'God's rottweiler' because of his strict adherence to Catholic doctrine."

Echoing Couric, ABC's David Wright said "he's been dubbed 'God's rottweiler,' a staunch conservative."

Meanwhile, even though her viewers voted Ratzinger the "Person of the Day," CNN's Paula Zahn lamented how "he's butted heads with theologians and teachers, silencing dissent, shutting down debate over [controversial] issues."

Though polls show Catholics strongly back the church's pro-life position on abortion, MRC reports that Zahn devoted a lengthy show to describe how "many Catholic women are praying that the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney will signal" a "revolution" which will change policy on abortion. nat1270.html

MRC noted that NBC's Katie Couric asserted that "according to a recent poll, 78 percent of American Catholics would like the Catholic Church to be less conservative."

However, MRC says "Couric cherry-picked the number she liked since the poll also determined that when asked if the next Pope should 'make church doctrine on abortion less strict,' only 37 percent said he should compared to 59 percent who responded that he should not.

Couric instead used a number from the poll concerning birth control, while ignoring Catholic's support for church doctrine on abortion and other contentious issues.

Overall, the Media Research Center said CBS News was the most egregious in applying negative labels to the new pope.

The media watchdog cited Mark Phillips asking: "He has taken the name of a healer, but where will this arch-conservative lead the Catholic Church?"

CBS anchor Bob Schieffer tagged Ratzinger as "very conservative" before John Roberts described him as "a doctrinal conservative" and "an unswerving hardliner." Phillips then declared that "the cardinals picked the most polarizing figure in the Catholic Church."

Despite the polling results on Catholics, MRC reports Schieffer insisting that "a lot of American Catholics were looking for a Pope who might liberalize some of the rules of the Catholic church."

Other unflattering quotes MRC compiled included ABC's Cokie Roberts complaining Ratzinger was an "extremely controversial choice," and an ABC News producer in Germany said "there's widespread doubt here that he will be able to overcome his reputation as the intimidating enforcer, punishing liberal thinkers and keeping the Church in the Middle Ages."

CNN anchor Jim Bittermann, criticized Ratzinger's "strict fundamentalist" and "hardline" views, calling him "a really astounding choice."

Related web sites:
Media Research Center


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

NBC Chief Mulls Blogs for Top News Anchors

NEW YORK (Reuters) - NBC could create Internet blogs for its top news anchors and celebrity interviewers as it seeks to maintain the appeal of U.S. network news, its top executive said on Tuesday.

NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker said entering the generally opinionated world of blogs might be one way television networks could keep their grip on viewers who increasingly use the Internet for news.

"Over the next two years, network news is going to go through a lot more changes," Zucker said at a Yahoo (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) conference on high-speed Internet use. "This is one of the biggest issues facing traditional network news divisions."

NBC Blog for Top News Anchors