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Friday, July 22, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The other day a bright young diplomat from China set me an examination question. My first thought was that it sprang from that admirable Chinese trait of searching out enduring patterns in the clatter and chaos of events. Then it struck me that anyone watching the train crashes on either side of the Atlantic should be asking something similar. The US faces an unsustainable debt burden alongside sustained political paralysis. Strategic decision-making is held hostage to ideological polarisation. Democrats and Republicans may well escape a calamitous default with an 11th-hour deal on the debt ceiling. But a sticking plaster will not bridge the rancorous divide over tax and spending that piles deficit on deficit. In Europe, the stakes have been higher still. The European Union’s core project, the single currency, has been buckling under the weight of sovereign debt and political discord. Solidarity has been lost to resurgent nationalisms. Germany’s Angela Merkel says that 60-odd years of European integration is under threat. Yet the leader of Europe’s most powerful nation has seemed frozen in the headlights of indecision. So here is the question: do these twin crises represent one of those damaging but short-lived spasms that have periodically disturbed the advance of the wealthy economies? A rerun of, say, the 1970s? Or are the shocks of an entirely different order – a harbinger of accelerating decline as the west surrenders two centuries of global hegemony?" (FT)

"The media industry used to be full of powerful families. London had the Rothermeres; Los Angeles had the Chandlers. The Hollywood studios began as family outfits. But a combination of regulation and technology has broken media monopolies. Beginning in 1948 America’s courts smashed the old, vertically integrated studios. The internet is undermining the dominance of mass media and handing power to start-ups, bloggers and companies like Google and Yahoo! for whom news is a peripheral business, not a consuming passion. Most of the families have sold up or stepped back from day-to-day management. At first some gave way to big characters who treated their businesses as fiefs. But these days the suits are firmly in control. Michael Eisner was pushed out of Disney in 2005, to be replaced by the quieter Bob Iger. Time Warner is run by Jeff Bewkes, a kind of anti-mogul who has streamlined the company. Viacom is controlled by the rarely seen Sumner Redstone, but run by a former corporate lawyer. Silvio Berlusconi is ailing politically and his media empire is under attack—by Sky Italia, a News Corporation outfit. Mr Murdoch inherited a newspaper business and boldly turned it into a multi-media empire. Arriving in Britain in the 1960s, he invented the modern tabloid newspaper—a stew of sexual titillation, moral outrage and political aggression. In America he broke the stranglehold of the three major broadcast TV networks. His Fox News Channel has enraged liberals—and piled up profits. The coups continue, but the judgment looks increasingly faulty." (TheEconomist)

"Fashion legend Arnold Scaasi and publishing insider Parker Ladd are tying the knot after 50 years together. They'll exchange vows next week before a judge and four guests followed by a 75-person bash at Le Cirque. We'd expect a baronial turnout for Ladd and the designer, who's dressed Barbara and Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbra Streisand and Lauren Bacall. Scaasi, 81, told us that Ladd, former Scribners editor and VP of Literacy Partners, will wear 'a navy blazer and white pants.'  He's still deciding whether he'll follow suit." (PageSix)

"Mayor Bloomberg is reported to have bought himself an estate in Southampton called Ballyshear for a reported price of $20 million – a drop in the bucket for him maybe – but something palatial in the traditional sense. While the media has broadcast the news with the statistics and details of the quite grand house (22,000 square feet, swimming pool, formal gardens, stables), there’s another element that may have been what really attracted our mayor to this property. It’s almost as if the builder’s legacy has been awaiting him. Ballyshear was completed in 1913, designed by architect Burrell Hoffman for a Wall Street tycoon named Charles B. Macdonald. The son of a Scottish immigrant and a Canadian who was part Indian and brought up in Chicago .." (NYSocialDiary)
"Early on in my career as a newspaper reporter in London, a grizzled newsroom veteran summoned me over to his desk for a stern talking to. 'Harnden, you're letting the side down,' he told me. 'You're bringing in all these stories but your expenses are pathetic. You need to start claiming some more.' Helpfully, he pulled open his desk drawer, which was stuffed full of blank taxi and restaurant receipts.Although it has been years since London's newspapers moved away from the famed Fleet Street -- where my newspaper, the Telegraph, had its own pub, the King and Keys, to which the news editor would run to get his sodden reporters if there was a story breaking -- its spirit lives on. The late Sunday Times foreign correspondent Nicholas Tomalin was right when he once observed that the attributes most required of a British 'hack' -- the term most of us still use to describe ourselves -- were 'rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.' Whereas our American counterparts have long viewed themselves as comparable to lawyers and doctors, we British hacks still see ourselves as practitioners of a grubbing craft rather than members of an upstanding profession. (The public, which views us as on a par with real estate agents, prostitutes and perhaps even criminals, tends to agree.) As recently as the mid-1990s, it was standard practice for British reporters to spend three hours over a liquid lunch in the pub before returning to file their copy. Stories were sometimes pronounced 'too good to check.' When seeking an additional element of confirmation on one story, I was told that it was 'close enough for journalism' and that a bit of artful conjecture would do. An editor once dictated a quotation to me and then, winking, offered the opinion that he was sure my contacts were good enough to find someone to say it anonymously. My deadline was five minutes away." (ForeignPolicy)


"SINGAPORE has been able to punch above its own weight and have a vibrant economy because it has remained open to foreign talent to add to the pool which can be developed locally, Mr Lee Kuan Yew reiterated on Friday. Speaking at the closing session of the two-day South Asian Diaspora convention, he acknowledged that the influx of foreigners had been discomforting for some Singaporeans, but reminded that the alternative would be slower growth for the country. The former Prime Minister was responding to a question at a dialogue with more than 600 participants on how a fundamental tenet of Singapore's economic model - being open to foreign talent - also caused angst among Singaporeans and had been an issue at the recent General Election. Mr Lee made clear that he firmly believed that the more talent a society had, the better it will be able to grow. 'If Singapore depends on the talent it can produce out of three million people, it's not going to punch above its weight. It is because we've drawn talent from across the globe that we have a vibrant economy which is way beyond what three million Singaporeans and the talent they produce can do...'" (StraitsTimes)

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