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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Israel is in the process of watching a peace treaty unravel. I don't mean the one with Egypt, but the one with Syria. No, I'm not crazy. Since Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy in 1974, the Israelis have had a de facto peace agreement of sorts with the al Assad family. After all, there were clear red lines that both sides knew they shouldn't cross, as well as reasonable predictability on both sides. Forget about the uplifting rhetoric, the requirement to exchange ambassadors and the other public policy frills that normally define peace treaties. What counts in this case is that both sides observed limits and constraints, so that the contested border between them was secure. Even better, because there was no formal peace agreement in writing, neither side had to make inconvenient public and strategic concessions. Israel did not have to give up the Golan Heights, for example. And if Syria stepped over a red line in Lebanon, or say, sought a nuclear capacity as it did, Israel was free to punish it through targeted military strikes. There was usefully no peace treaty that Israel would have had to violate.  Of course, the Syrians built up a chemical arsenal and invited the Iranians all over their country and Lebanon. But no formal treaty in the real world -- given the nature of the Syrian regime -- would likely have prevented those things. In an imperfect world of naked power, the al Assads were at least tolerable. Moreover, they represented a minority sect, which prevented Syria from becoming a larger and much more powerful version of radical, Sunni Arab Gaza. In February 1993 in The Atlantic Monthly, I told readers that Syria was not a state but a writhing underworld of sectarian and ethnic divides and that the al Assads might exit the stage through an Alawite mini-state in the northwest of their country that could be quietly supported by the Israeli security services. That may yet come to pass." (STRATFOR)


"Two years after their merger, seated side by side in a corner conference room at AOL’s (AOL) Manhattan headquarters on March 20, Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington say they couldn’t be happier. 'Our relationship is the strongest it’s ever been,'Armstrong says, adding that he’d happily sign a new contract to keep Huffington past February 2015. She’ll re-up, she says, provided he stops throwing things at her. (She’s joking.) When Armstrong paid $315 million for HuffPo in early 2011, he sought to reposition AOL away from its declining dial-up Internet access and search businesses in favor of ad-supported original content sites. His other gamble: making Huffington, the left-leaning doyenne of cable talk shows, the face of the new company, with a four-year contract and control of all of AOL’s editorial content, including Patch, TechCrunch, and more than a dozen other sites. The Arianna brand had digital cachet: She launched her news aggregator in 2005 largely on personal charm and connections, and built it into a clicks machine whose Web traffic, when AOL bought it, matched that of the New York Times. Announcing the acquisition, Armstrong called Huffington 'a master of the art of using new media to illuminate, entertain, and enhance the national conversation.' Armstrong, like Huffington, is media-savvy and idea-driven. Credited as a principal architect of Google’s (GOOG) ad-sales operations, he jumped to AOL’s top job at 38 when Time Warner (TWX) spun off the company in 2009. He’s built a reputation for being patient with products—notably Patch, the money-hemorrhaging local-news hub—but fickle with people, having fired a string of high-level managers. Just how these two outsize personalities would cohabit was one of the big unknowns surrounding the merger, by far Armstrong’s biggest acquisition. Despite the smiles and repartee, their relationship has been strained by HuffPo’s heavy spending and lackluster ad sales, and they’ve both explored the idea of dissolving the partnership, according to three people familiar with the conversations who were not authorized to speak on the record. Armstrong and Huffington say that’s untrue. By last year, however, Huffington’s responsibilities had been scaled back to just HuffPo, and in the last few months, Armstrong has begun to surround her with his allies on the business side, naming entrepreneur Jimmy Maymann HuffPo’s CEO and making AOL board member Susan Lyne CEO of AOL’s Brand Group, which includes HuffPo." (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)


"In his search for a new morning television host that lasted months, the new head of CNN, Jeffrey Zucker, considered dozens of names, some boldface and some unknown. It wasn’t until he paired Christopher Cuomo, the former ABC anchor he hired in January, with a young Washington correspondent named Kate Bolduan that he thought he had a perfect match.On Thursday, in something of a surprise, Mr. Zucker named Ms. Bolduan the co-host of CNN’s forthcoming morning show, which has attracted considerable interest in the television business this year, given Mr.
Zucker’s past life as a former producer of NBC’s “Today” show.“We were floored with excitement when we saw Chris and Kate together on screen,” Mr. Zucker said in a statement, referring to the “screen test” of the two hosts that took place about four weeks ago.Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Bolduan will lead the new show, which will have its premiere in the late spring, replacing “Starting Point,” which was hosted by Soledad O’Brien.They will be joined by Michaela Pereira, a new hire by Mr. Zucker who is a morning host on KTLA, the most popular local morning newscast in Los Angeles. “Chris, Kate and Michaela are a dynamic team that will give our viewers in America a new way to start their day,” Mr. Zucker said in his statement.Mr. Zucker has declined interview requests since taking over as chief executive of CNN Worldwide in January. But his pairing of Mr. Cuomo, 42, and Ms. Bolduan, 29, suggests that he sees an opening for a morning show that is generationally different — or, to put it more bluntly, a morning show that has younger faces." (Brian Stelter)


"When Shane Smith, one of the founders of Vice Media, pitched a television show to MTV in 2010, it seemed unimaginable that the company that came out of Vice magazine could establish itself as a respected informational source about, well, anything (other than how to decorate your heroin stash). And yet the network bit, and The Vice Guide to Everything ran for eight episodes, balancing ridiculous segments against heavier fare. With its latest television program, VICE, which premieres next Friday, the media company is once again trying its hand at American television. Not just television. HBO. And this time, it’s not trading on its nihilistic reputation. Instead, it’s asking audiences to trust in its international-relations acumen. It wants to be taken seriously. Or at least as seriously as it takes itself. 'This is the grown-up, smarter, more erudite version of Vice,' Eddy Moretti, Vice Media’s executive creative director (and one of the producers of VICE), told Off the Record. In addition to being more earnest than its predecessor, Mr. Moretti said, this show is intensely researched. Like Vanguard but shorter and with more cursing, VICE features three correspondents whose job it is to 'expose the absurdities of the modern condition': Mr. Smith, Dos & Don’ts book editor Thomas Morton and a former intern named Ryan Duffy." (Observer)


"I went to lunch at Michael’s. Traffic was light on the way and traffic seemed lighter than usual at Michael’s. Although I noticed the tables were occupied, for a Wednesday it seemed they turned down the Sound. I was lunching with Nina Griscom, who’s just back from a five day trip to Paris with her daughter. This was a foodie’s delight, according to Nina. Two over from me Debbie Bancroft was lunching with Michael Boodro the editor of the very hot Elle D├ęcor. Next to them Hilary Geary Ross, who often contributes to the Palm Beach Social Diary, was with Dailey Pattee. In the Bay at Table One, where the Hollywood.com gang, Bonnie Fuller, Gerry Byrne and Carlos Lamadrid usually hold forth with their guests on Wednesdays, was just two guys yesterday: Bob Barnett and Howard Wolfson. You know about Bob Barnett? You do if you’re Somebody. He’s a Washington lawyer (although I see him fairly frequently at Michael’s), a partner of the venerable Williams & Connolly -- the Edward Bennett Williams/John Connolly -- law firm. He is married to the wonderful Rita Braver, whom you know from CBS News. I  met him once. I can’t recall where – perhaps in Washington at some event, and remembered him because of his famous wife who had a very pleasant husband. However, I soon learned he wasn’t exactly Mr. Rita Braver, as often it goes in the world of show biz media. This guy represents, or has represented an army of stars, boldfacers, VIPs and even Presidents on book and media details, including Bob Woodward, Ann Curry, Tim Russert, James Patterson, Barbra Streisand, James Carville, Mary Matalin, Dick Cheney, Lynne cheney, James Baker, Karl Rove, Queen Noor, Sarah Palin, David Petraeus, Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Madeline Albright and Barack Obama. The list tells you all you need to know. Whatever he does for his clients, nobody does it better. Barnett’s lunch partner, Howard Wolfson, is counselor to the Mayor and a well known Democratic strategist. Another Washingtonian in the room was Jonathan Capehart, also once associate of the Mayor, and now a columnist for the Washington Post. " (NYSocialDiary)



"MSNBC’s Chris Hayes would like to see more hosts of color on the cable networks – including his own.“It’s a problem,” says Hayes, a lifelong Caucasian. “People’s opinions, interpretations of news, journalistic instincts, editorial concerns are the product of the people they are, the experiences they have, the way they move through the world.“It’s why organizations, companies, the Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court benefit from diversity. … Diversity produces people with a specificity in their world view, and it benefits the product.”Hayes’ product, ‘All In with Chris Hayes,’ debuts Monday in the 8 p.m. slot formerly occupied by Ed Schultz. Rachel Maddow (Hayes’ mentor) follows at 9, with Lawrence O’Donnell at 10.It is a Murderers’ Row of liberal brainiacs. It is also, like the prime-time lineups at CNN and Fox News, blindingly white – a state of affairs to which Hayes says he has given “obsessive thought.”Diversity is his top priority, he says. ‘All In’ will feature a wide variety of guests, especially conservatives. Hayes followed the same practice on his MSNBC weekend show, ‘Up with Chris Hayes,’ which debuted in 2011.“I can’t control my gender, race or sexual orientation,” says Hayes. (He and his wife, law professor Kate A. Shaw, have an 18-month-old daughter.) “I can control who we have on and what voices we introduce to viewers.”" (TVNewser)



"After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s. Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”' (Diane Clehane)



"Consider these assessments of two 2012 Senate races, from Roll Call’s election preview published about a month before Election Day last year:


Nebraska: “The Senate race, once expected to be one of the top races of the cycle, has slipped away from Democrats ever since state Sen. Deb Fischer surprised many — even some of her own staffers — by winning the GOP nomination.”
North Dakota: “If there is one race this cycle that proves campaigns and candidates matter, it’s this one… [T]his once-sleepy race has become one of the most competitive of the cycle."


"File these away. If a month or two before Election Day 2014, the common descriptions of the Senate races in South Dakota and West Virginia sound like Nebraska — where the Democratic candidate is widely regarded as a longshot — then Republicans might be on the way to winning the Senate. If they sound more like North Dakota — essentially, a toss-up that could (and did) go down to the wire — then Democrats likely will once again have staved off the GOP in the Upper Chamber.
That’s because in the wake of Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D-SD) unsurprising retirement announcement Tuesday, the Mount Rushmore State and the Mountain State stand out as two Democrat-held Senate seats that Republicans, on paper, should carry. Capturing both are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a Republican Senate victory. Think of them as the first two dominoes that need to fall for the GOP. How quickly they fall — or if they fall at all — will tell us a lot about the overall Senate picture. Which is why Republicans need to put them away early, like 2012’s Nebraska or 2010’s Arkansas (where ex-Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was obviously dead in the water months before the election) and North Dakota (where now-Republican Sen. John Hoeven blew out his overmatched opponent by more than 50 percentage points in an open, Democrat-held seat).
As mentioned here previously, Republicans need to pick up six net Senate seats to capture the Senate." (CenterforPolitics)

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