The Mr. Bill Show: I’ve

The Mr. Bill Show
: I’ve seen the rumors that Bill Clinton is up to replace Bryant Gumbel in a few places.

I love the idea for one reason: It would be different. CBS has failed many times to create a successful morning show by copying the other successful shows.

Clinton would be entertaining. If you love him or hate him, you’ll be entertained by him in any case. He’s smart. He’s born for media. He’s charming. He’s a supreme communicator. He’d have something to say. And wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

Search me
: Nick Denton added a cool Google search of his site to his page. I plan to steal it if he lets me.

: I just did it anyway. My son showed me how to create the Google search, then I stole Nick’s adaptation of it. Thanks, Nick.

: Kottke is trying to tell someone something:

You know how after you poke a hornet’s nest with a stick and all the hornets come streaming out and they are all buzzing around pissed off and they sting you with their stingers but it’s not really their fault because they’re hornets and that’s all hornets know how to do even though all you would like is for them to stop stinging you and go back into their nest? Yeah, that.

Get me rewrite
: Ken Layne is right: It’s apparently a good thing when Matt Welch loses his internet access for 40 hours, for he spends the time staring intently at the LA Times until the newsprint spontaneously combusts and then he writes about it. Go there and start with “One last note about the LA Times…” (well, that’s a lie if I ever saw one) and keep reading. He gives you what should be a 101 course in journalism at the University of the Streets.

Matt demonstrates why a reporter showing off his writing style (“He works amid ghosts. Downtown ghosts. Buildings and streets that once held a city together…”) is a service to no reader (save perhaps the writer’s possibly proud mother). I hate having to read a story for 10 paragraphs before getting to the point.

That, students, is why God invented The Lead (or, if you insist on not getting to the point in the first paragraph, at least get to it by the third in what became known as The Hook Graph). Getting to the point is the most basic service to the reader. The reader is busy. The reader bought a newspaper to find out what the hell is going on. So tell your dear reader.

When I was TV critic at People, I started ending my reviews with grades (which later became the essential conceit of Entertainment Weekly) and many colleagues actually got mad at me; they said that people wouldn’t read the review if they could get a summary in one letter; I said that was exactly why I did it: It’s a service to get to the point.

I’ve been telling some people lately that this is one lesson print can take back from the Web: Print, too, needs a good user interface. On the Web, we have very little space and time to get to the point and to entice our readers to invest the time in a scroll or a click. Print reporters and headline writers would do well to remember this even when writing for their captive readers: Get to the point in the head and lead and spare us your show-off style.

Matt then respectfully takes the Times to task for not reporting until now on the new newspaper project, he, Ken, and a few others are working on. Reporting on yourself and your own industry is tough but necessary and it’s pitiful that the Times came in last here. He also tweaks them for printing an unsubstantiated rumor that Rupert Murdoch is an investor. I wish Murdoch were involved and if he isn’t, I hope the rumor at least gives him the idea. LA could use a NY Post. It is a far better model for an alternative paper than the NY Sun. The Post isn’t about journalism. The Post isn’t about showing off. The Post is about New York.

I love tabloids because they get to the point. They think like a reader. They fight on behalf of the reader. They respect for readers’ time and don’t waste it on pud-pulling stylistics. They aren’t afraid to say something.

And then (or actually, this being a weblog, first) Matt uses a Howard Rosenberg TV column to give a wise lecture on the virtues of covering news — yes, even crime — instead of just sucking thumbs in 17-part series, as too many columnists and prize-hungry newspaper editors do; again, they are more interested in showing off than actually serving the reader’s needs.

Read it all. And get ready to subscribe to the paper coming from Matt, Ken, et al.

: I hate that I often dredge up stories from my professional past here. It’s so damned egotistical (it’s showing off) and it makes me seem like some old warhorse hack (it makes me feel as if I should start writing my memoirs… but I’m only half the age of Jim Bellows, who just wrote his).

Anyway, Matt’s post about TV criticism in the LA Times reminded me of the time I almost went to work for the Times. So here’s one last story from my past (that’s a lie):

After I left San Francisco for New York, I quickly missed California. At first, I missed Northern California but soon it was generic California, anyplace with iceplant on the freeways. So I went job-hunting at the LA Times. I ended up seeing the then-editor of the entertainment section and he wanted to hire me as a second TV critic, besides Rosenberg. He said he wanted a critic “who actually watches TV.” (I don’t mean to slap Rosenberg; he has always been very nice to me,but it’s what the guy said). I loved the idea; was going to take the job. But then, at the last minute, the entertainment editor got bad news: He wasn’t allowed to hire another TV critic; office politics, he explained. But a top editor offered me a consolation prize: I could come to the paper to cover the LA Olympics Arts Festival. Me? Arts? I’m a TV guy, a tabloid guy, a mass guy, a guy of the people, a cultural slob! I don’t do ballet. I don’t do ethnic folk dance. I don’t do performance art. What the hell would I do in that job except growl? I said no. My mentor and pal at People, Peter Travers (now the movie critic and more at Rolling Stone) used all this, without my knowledge, to get my other mentor at People, then-editor Pat Ryan, to make me TV critic at the magazine. And that’s how I became a TV critic afterall. And the rest is… Entertainment Weekly.

: Howard Owens also weighs in on the LA paper here (he could use permalinks; I went to some effort to get you this one), raising some concerns about the business of papers. I say it depends on the business plan. The new paper is not going to defeat the Times in classified ads or big display advertising; it can work as a business with extremely low costs and targeted advertising and a loyal audience paying a fair price. My one business concern for them is distribution. It’s easy to distribute in New York; we have newsstands — and we have sidewalks on which to place them. We also have homeless people happy to don ugly T-shirts and sell newspapers to people walking on said sidewalks. LA is going to be tough. They need creative distribution — say, along with the morning copies of Variety, on freeway exit ramps, and such. Maybe parking valets can double as hawkers.