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Monday, August 19, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Fourteen hours of straight news every day. Hard-hitting documentaries. Correspondents in oft-overlooked corners of the country. And fewer commercials than any other news channel. It sounds like something a journalism professor would imagine. In actuality, it is Al Jazeera America, the culmination of a long-held dream among the leaders of Qatar, the Middle Eastern emirate that already reaches most of the rest of the world with its Arabic- and English-language news channels. The new channel, created specifically for consumers in the United States, will join cable and satellite lineups on Tuesday afternoon. Al Jazeera America is the most ambitious American television news venture since Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes started the Fox News Channel in 1996. It faces some of the same obstacles that Fox eventually glided over — including blanket skepticism about whether distributors, advertisers and viewers will give it a chance. But that is where the parallels to other channels end, because Al Jazeera America is going against the grain of seemingly every trend in television news. 'Viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,' said Ehab Al Shihabi, the channel’s acting chief executive, on a news conference call last week. He was explicit about what will be different, saying, 'There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.'   Mr. Al Shihabi and other Al Jazeera representatives say proprietary research supports their assertions that American viewers want a PBS-like news channel 24 hours a day. Originally the new channel was going to  have an international bent; now its overseers emphasize how much American news it will cover and how many domestic bureaus it will have, which some see as an effort to appease skeptics." (Brian Stelter)


"As she so often does in photographs, Martha Stewart looked relaxed and confident when she walked out of the front doors of the New York State Supreme Court building in Lower Manhattan on March 5, a hint of ironic amusement shadowing her smile as she looked out at the swarm of photographers gathered on the steps. She had spent the day testifying in the matter of Macy’s versus J. C. Penney and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the public company that she founded, runs, and controls. The courtroom was packed, the wooden benches filled with spectators and the press, who had come for Stewart’s turn on the witness stand. Loved, hated, debated, and hugely influential, she was still, after some 30 years in the public eye, one of the most famous women in America, and one of its most successful ... Famous for her almost manic devotion to her work—she sleeps about four hours a night—Stewart seemed to be everywhere. In late April, her dating life, or lack of it, hit the headlines after she announced on the Today show that she was looking for a man. 'I’d like to have breakfast with somebody,' she told Matt Lauer. 'I’d like to go to bed with somebody. Sleep with somebody'—which was translated, in a screaming front-page headline in the New York Post, as: MARTHA: I NEED A MAN—FOR SEX. She then signed up for Match.com on-air, and with Lauer scrutinized the profiles of several of the 1,000 men who responded, then selected two—Stan, a filmmaker, and Larry, a steel trader—met them on the show, and, accompanied by NBC’s cameras, went out on a date with each one. In the process, millions of viewers learned that 'so far Aquarius and Sagittarius have worked out pretty well' for Stewart, that she liked public displays of affection, and that she was looking for an 'intelligent, established, and curious” man who 'relishes adventure' and 'can teach [her] new things.'" (VanityFair)


"Five years after Caroline Kennedy refused to release financial information during her bid to take over Hillary Clinton’s US Senate seat, newly filed documents reveal a personal fortune that could be as high as $500 million. Very private Kennedy declined to release the data in 2008. She subsequently withdrew her request for then-Gov. David Paterson to appoint her to Clinton’s seat. (If she had been running for office, Kennedy would’ve been required to report assets, credit card debt, mortgages and income from sources that total more than $5,000.) But now, Kennedy has had to file documents with the US Office of Government Ethics for her nominated role as Ambassador to Japan. Estimates in 2008 were that Kennedy could be worth anywhere between $100 million and $250 million. But, according to paperwork filed by Kennedy last month, that number could be even higher. 'She’s very rich, probably worth between $250 million and $500 million,' said one legal eagle who reviewed the publicly available documents. 'From the figures, it looks like she earns between $12 million and $30 million a year from her trust and from her investments.' The documents reflect that beyond her holdings in family trusts, she has positions through Phil Falcone’s Harbinger Capital, Apollo, Goldman Sachs, Vornado Realty Trust, JP Morgan, Blackstone and the Arctic Royalty Limited Partnership, which reportedly relates to two family-owned oil companies. She also reports almost $1 million annually from speaking engagements and royalties from books." (PageSix)


"I hate billionaires. I loathe, disdain, and want to throw them in a wood chipper; take your pick, I can’t stand to be in a room with them. Millionaires are a different story. Their wealth is either inherited and has been (properly) half-squandered, or they are self-made men who actually make something, or they are lottery winners. Inherited wealth, while obviously a windfall, usually offers gradual acclimation. The small-time manufacturer or franchisee likewise generally doesn’t have Maserati dreams materialize overnight. As for lottery winners, typically they were in dire straits before (hence, they play the lottery) and thus usually keep their heads while remembering their days in sanitation. But billionaires are a breed apart, akin to the overnight celebrity. They  'invent' something (usually service-related rather than real) that happens to catch on. Not that this would be such a bad thing. The problems arise when supposed geniuses who have much more in common with the latest sweepstakes winner than Albert Schweitzer start believing their own hype, which is almost immediately." (GuySomerset)


"Long time readers of the NYSD might recall that I wrote a book for Hermes Pan back in the early '80s when I was living in Los Angeles. It was intended to be a memoir and in the process of interviewing Hermes, we became friends and I got to know him quite well. Eventually I did put together a book, although we were not able to find a publisher (it was no tell-all and Hermes avoided controversy for several reasons even though he was in his 70s and his career had ended). I called the book 'The Man Who Danced With Fred Astaire.' Years later, about two or three years ago, some writer researching Hermes met his surviving family of nieces and nephews and came upon Hermes’ copy of my manuscript. The writer, whose name escapes me now, contacted me to interview me. I later learned that he’d lifted my title for his book — which infuriated me but his publisher insisted I had no rights to it. It was published and subsequently forgotten. Hermes Pan’s life story is almost a fable, like the name he was given at birth (the Pans were Greeks and had a much longer name beginning in Pan ... but it was Anglicized by his father). The man was always a dancer from childhood, never trained but eventually became a seat-of-the-pants professional in the late 1920s in New York. He was working in the chorus of a Ruby and Kallmar Broadway musical called 'Top Speed' when the ingĂ©nue, a young actress named Ginger Rogers told him she was going out to Hollywood because Talkies had come in and they were beginning to make musical pictures. This was 1930. She told Hermes he should consider the move because they needed singers and dancers for their movies." (NYSocialDiary)

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