Open Mic

July 2011

Point: PR-Wise, Rupert Murdoch Didn't Do Himself Any Good In His Appearance Before a Parliamentary Committee Last Week

Arthur Sando Posted July 25, 2011 at 2:14 AM

[Editor's Note: This commentary first appeared on Jeff Grimshaw's The TV News, which can be found at, and we appreciate Jeff letting us reprint it.]

As the News Corp. scandal continues to snowball, the company has done a couple of things right.

Running full-page apologies in all the British newspapers was one.

Having Rupert Murdoch meet personally with the family of the murdered girl whose cell phone was hacked was another.

Announcing creation of a Management and Standards Committee was a third. But while the Committee will be independently chaired, two News Corp. Board members will have direct governance and oversight, so that seemingly calls into question how independent the Committee really will be.

Most disappointing from a PR perspective, however, has been Rupert Murdoch’s performance before a committee of the British Parliament. After claiming it was "the most humble day of his career,” he acted anything but humble.

In answering questions, he pleaded ignorance, assigned blame and took no responsibility. He said The News of the World was too small a part of his empire for him to know what was going on there, and, when asked, point blank, “Mr. Murdoch, do you accept that, ultimately, you are responsible for this whole fiasco?,” his answer, astonishingly, was a simple, “No!”

He then went on to blame "the people I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted."

Here was his chance, served up on a platter, to show that he truly was humbled and sorry, but, instead, he stonewalled. It was a golden opportunity to demonstrate real courage and leadership, to say that even though perhaps he is not legally responsible for what has happened, as the Chairman and CEO of News Corp, he bears moral responsibility for the culture he’s created in his company and the behavior that has resulted.

The fallout from Hacking-gate is still far from over, with the FBI now investigating possible wrongdoing on this side of the Atlantic.

Murdoch told Parliament that he has no intention of resigning, and that he’s “the best man to clear this up.” A good way to start that process would be for him to re-think and restate his answer to the question of responsibility.

Potpourri: An Email from Oprah; Surviving Carmageddon

Chuck Ross Posted July 15, 2011 at 6:06 AM

We’ll get to Oprah in a moment.

First, as any resident of Los Angeles knows, we’re on the eve of Carmageddon -- a wonderful phrase coined a few months ago, though I’m not sure by whom.

Carmageddon is the insane closing -- for 53 hours -- of 10 miles of the busiest highway in the country, starting at about midnight tonight, July 15, 2011. Interstate 405 will be closed from the middle of West L.A. clear through to the beginning of the San Fernando Valley.

We’ve been told that it’s necessary so a bridge over the highway -- we call it a freeway out here -- can be torn down.

If you know L.A. traffic -- even on a weekend -- you know what a traffic mess we can likely expect from this closing.

Our advice -- go with the flow and go nowhere further than your living room couch.

We’re surprised no one has thought of putting on a Carmageddon marathon on TV. It would consist, of course, of favorite road movies.

So we’ve come up with our own list of such films. Go out and rent some of them and relax over this Carmageddon weekend.

We’re talking road picture in the broadest sense of the word. So besides some of the good Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Dorothy Lamour films that actually have "road" in their titles -- “Road to Morocco” is probably the best -- we’d argue that a film such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is a terrific road movie.

So, with a tip of the TVWeek cap to my colleagues Dennis Liff, David Klein and Kurt Gardner, here are some more enjoyable selections. We've tried to be more creative than just mentioning the National Lampoon vacation films:

“Sullivan’s Travels”
“Duel” (TV movie)
“Mad Max” (released in 1979—the original “Road Warrior” movie)
“O Brother, Where Art Thou”
“It Happened One Night”
“Easy Rider”
“Ride the High Country”
“Bonnie and Clyde”
“Gun Crazy”
“Little Miss Sunshine”
“Y Tu Mama Tambien”
“Breathless” (French version)
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles”
"Narrow Margin" (original 1952 version)
"Silver Streak"
"North By Northwest"
"The Grapes of Wrath"
"Hot Rods to Hell"
"The Wizard of Oz"
"Midnight Run"

And perhaps our all-time favorite in this category, Albert Brooks' classic "Lost in America."


Now, on to the email I received the other day from Oprah. OK, I must confess that she probably sent it to some of you as well. When her show ended I signed up -- as I'm sure thousands of others did -- on her website to get emails from her. (Turns out she’s posted this on her website as well.)

Here’s her first email to all of us Oprah fans that popped into our in-boxes on Wednesday, July 13, 2011:

Hello friends of Summer,

I haven't written lately because my technically challenged self could not access
this email account.

So many barriers were put in place to protect the account, I ended up barring
myself from access.

So here we go... Last week was at Allen Conference, with all the movers and
shapers of our world. Met some fascinating people like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of
Facebook. Dynamo woman. So exciting to see women crack that glass ceiling and
burst through it.

Came home inspired to work harder and do better.

Started out the week taking swimming lessons. Moving beyond my amateur doggy
paddle. Learned the breast stroke today.

Over a year ago I pulled a picture from O mag of a woman gliding through water.
It was such a striking image of Freedom and possibility I put it on my vision
board (which I've still not completed). Today when I finished my swimming
lesson I passed the vision board lying on the table where it's been since 2009.
I had an aha moment. I had just become that woman, gliding through the water!

For years I've been a challenged swimmer, afraid of the water and fighting it.
Today I learned to move with the flow.

This I've known forever is the great metaphor of life. "Move with the flow".
Don't fight the current.
Resist nothing. Let life carry you. Don't try to carry it.

Sometimes we just have to be reminded. A swim lesson did it for me.

I've brought the metaphor to life as I try to evolve OWN into its full
potential. Erik Logan and Sheri Salata, presidents of Harpo today will bring
their unique partnering leadership into alignment with the network.

In all things you must have alignment for "flow" to occur.

This I've known forever, but couldn't make it happen, because we were all so
focused on ending The Oprah Show.

So as of today... Harpo Team and OWN team become ONE.

Our intention is to use the cable platform and the internet platform and the
mobile platform to create messages that fill you up and bring you to new levels
of awareness about yourself, ourselves, and our world; our potential...

It's an incredible challenge ahead trying to figure out what kind of shows and
programming will resonate with you, inspire you, bring a little piece of light
into your already crowded existence. But I feel called to do it, and will be
relying on your feedback, emails and tweets and message boards to let me know
what you think.

We're gearing up for October, The Oprah Show team of producers will be producing
the Rosie show in Chicago at Harpo studios.

I'll be in L.A working on "Next Chapter".

I'm also taking The Oprah Show library of 4560 shows and redesigning them into
the 100 best lessons I've learned about everything that can help you live a
better life. Those will start airing Oct. 10. Same day as Rosie.

At my core I'm a teacher, masquerading as a talk show host.
And now I'll have a nightly class on OWN.

But for now, I'm enjoying every breath of Summer.
I hope you all are appreciating the warm sun and blue sky where ever you are.

Everyday I wake up grateful. For the smallest things and big things:

Health. Living in the U.S.A. Freedom. Democracy.
Promise and Potential. Growth.
And tiny pleasures like bathing my dogs or picking vegetables.

I have a garden, and every Thursday we harvest our veggies. I grew up in
Mississippi, too young to appreciate what it means to pull beans from the vine.
Then I just thought it was work, now I get a little thrill from every onion and
corn stalk. Yes I'm growing CORN in my back yard. And beets and lots of basil.

I cook for Stedman, but have a limited repertoire.

Next I think I may want to take one of those Tuscany cooking courses.

Will let you know how it goes.

The Best of Life to you,
Oprah Winfrey#

Rupert Murdoch: Too Much Jack Bauer and Not Enough Betty Ford. At 80, Can He Find His Moral Compass? An Intervention Begins NOW

Chuck Ross Posted July 13, 2011 at 12:19 AM

We all should be able to expect--at a minimum--when we read stories in our newspapers that no illegal means were used in the gathering of the news stories.

That’s a key issue in the growing phone-hacking scandal involving The News of the World, the now-shuttered U.K. tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

As The New York Times reported on Tuesday, July 12, 2011, “The scandal that has enveloped Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in Britain widened substantially on Monday with reports that two of his newspapers may have bribed police officers or used other potentially illegal methods to obtain information about Queen Elizabeth II and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Others on the police payroll have been bribed to use restricted cellphone-tracking technology to pinpoint the location of people sought by the papers in their restless pursuit of scoops, according to two former journalists for the tabloid shut on Sunday, The News of the World.”

Indeed, some of the allegations seen to come right from a script of Fox’s now-retired hit show “24,” featuring Jack Bauer as our ends-justify-any-means hero.

For example, the article says: “Separately, an inquiry by The New York Times, which included interviews with two former journalists at The News of the World, has revealed the workings of the illicit cellphone-tracking, which the former tabloid staffers said was known in the newsroom as ‘pinging.’ Under British law, the technology involved is restricted to law enforcement and security officials, requires case-by-case authorization, and is used mainly for high-profile criminal cases and terrorism investigations, according to a former senior Scotland Yard official who requested anonymity so as to be able to speak candidly.”

The Times article continues: “According to Oliver Crofton, a cybersecurity specialist who works to protect high-profile clients from such invasive tactics, cellphones are constantly pinging off relay towers as they search for a network, enabling an individual’s location to be located within yards by checking the strength of the signal at three different towers. But the former Scotland Yard official who discussed the matter said that any officer who agreed to use the technique to assist a newspaper would be crossing a red line.”

The paper adds that The News of the World paid $500 for each instance of pinging, and that one source said that the pinging requests went to the police to carry out.

No one has made a claim that Murdoch directly knew about any of the illegal and alleged illegal and unethical methods used by The News of the World and perhaps at two other papers he owns in the U.K., the tabloid The Sun and The Sunday Times.

But Murdoch, who turned 80 in March, has had a lifelong love affair with newspapers and certainly has encouraged his tabloids especially in their coverage of stories that emphasize the salacious and the scandalous sides of life.

In the past, he’s found it good business to cater to our basest instincts.

But this scandal is proving that there’s a limit to what the public--let alone politicians, lawmakers and law enforcement--will accept.

Murdoch needs to demand the resignation of anyone connected with these methods, no matter how high up in News Corp. or its British subsidiary, News International, the various investigations lead.

More important, Murdoch needs to renounce illegal and unethical methods of newsgathering in no uncertain terms.

And he needs to mean it.

With the passing of Betty Ford this week, I’m reminded of the courage she showed when her family staged an intervention because of her drinking and prescription drug use. After being treated for alcohol and chemical abuse, she founded her Betty Ford Center.

Murdoch needs to show the same conviction in stopping abusive journalistic practices.

Wouldn’t it be terrific if he decided to use some of his fortune to fund a journalism program at some university that would become widely known for the same kind of excellence in its field that the Betty Ford Center is known for in its area of expertise.

That other papers may also engage in illegal or unsavory newsgathering practices is no excuse for Murdoch to engage in them. As a colleague here at Crain said to me in recent days, many of us are taught at a fairly young age about what’s right and wrong and how far you can go in the pursuit of various activities. They’re lessons we learn in Sunday School.

Writing this, I’m in New York just catching up with the print version of Murdoch’s New York Post from Monday, July 11. I’ve stopped at page 3, having caught myself staring at a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow in a red bikini, looking terrific.

The caption says that it’s a shot of her taking an outdoor shower on Steven Spielberg’s yacht sailing near Sardinia in the Mediterranean.

Hmm. What the caption doesn’t say is that the picture was probably taken by some paparazzi with a very long camera lens without Paltrow having any knowledge that it was being snapped until it appeared in print.

Son of a gun. I did go to Sunday School, and I did pay attention to the parables, and ah, this Sunday School kid is trying to explain the legitimate value of the picture by saying that the caption also mentioned the educational fact that Spielberg is Paltrow’s godfather and, ah…#

Royal Couple Melt a Royal Awkward Moment at the Variety Venture Capital and New Media Summit

Hillary Atkin Posted July 12, 2011 at 10:57 PM

It was wall-to-wall coverage on Los Angeles local news stations for the 48 hours between Friday and Sunday afternoon that William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, traversed Southern California from Skid Row to Santa Barbara, leaving a trail of bedazzlement in their wake.

Just think, if it weren’t for the royal couple taking the Southland by storm, the news hole would have been filled with further hype about the dreaded Carmageddon. So thank you, Wills and Kate, for the lovely diversion that provided numerous photo opps and breathless coverage.

The royal spell took hold immediately when the couple touched down at LAX from their nine-day visit to Canada and were greeted by Gov. and Mrs. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before a phalanx of news crews.

Next stop, Beverly Hills. They were taken directly to a business conference highlighting U.S.-U.K. opportunities and investments.

It only took a few moments in the presence of royalty to turn a room full of high-level entertainment executives, new media visionaries and venture capitalists into a giddy group falling all over themselves, taking photos and video of William and Catherine.

One observer likened the scene at the Variety Venture Capital and New Media Summit at the Beverly Hilton to an audience of young girls at a Justin Bieber concert -- without the screaming.

Conference attendees and panel participants, who included heavy hitters like Shari Redstone, director Brett Ratner and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, had been warned that the bathrooms and the patio at the hotel would be locked down beginning at 3 p.m. and that anyone who left the room would not be able to re-enter.

That edict made for rapt attention to the panel discussions preceding the royal visit, “Mega-trends: Finding Opportunity in Today’s Major Societal Movements” and “Masters of Social Media,” in which actress Dana Delany confessed she didn’t know what a VC was -- and how she’s come to love Twitter.

The grand entrance of William and Catherine came smack in the middle of a discussion on the benefits of London's Tech City, an area housing a slew of technology companies and startups, which panelists talked up as the nascent British would-be competitor to Silicon Valley.

It fell to panel moderator Chad Troutwine to introduce the royal newlyweds at about 5 p.m. The crowd immediately jumped to its feet as the world’s most-watched couple -- even more striking in real life -- took their seats on stage with CEOs of several mainly U.K.-based tech companies.

The situation was a bit awkward as their royal highnesses were left entirely out of the conversation, which continued for the next 15 minutes, and were not miked -- although hand microphones were available. At the end, Troutwine asked whether any of the panelists had closing comments. Catherine nudged William's arm, but he looked at her and shook his head. As we said, a-w-k-w-a-r-d.

It was then announced that everyone should stay in their seats as the Duke and Duchess made the rounds to several exhibiting companies that had booths set up on the perimeter of the ballroom, including Hewlett Packard and Qualcomm, which was showcasing its augmented reality technology that overlays a video or game over a photograph viewed through a smartphone. In this case, the example used was a photo of the royal wedding party.

As the couple chatted it up with the vendors, accompanied not by Secret Service but by security from the State Department and Beverly Hills PD, the place turned into a papfest. People became giddy with excitement, being just a few feet away from the royals, close enough to see the full-length back zipper on Kate's asymmetrical lavender dress and examine her cream-colored stilettos, and to notice the lining in the back of William's double-vented suit was showing.

Seasoned executives -- male and female -- stood on chairs to get better shots in the crowd. People even asked others to take shots of them with the royals in the background, behavior most often seen at a rock concert. It was insanity, without the noise -- but with all the heat and light that the heirs to the British throne brought to town.

Whisked out of the hotel, they headed to their next event, at the British consul general's home in Hancock Park, where they also bunked for the visit. Kate changed into a green silk dress by American designer Diane von Furstenberg, knowing full well that every outfit she wore would be intensely scrutinized by the world press.

There was nary a false step -- wardrobe-wise or otherwise -- as the couple traversed Southern California, delivering good cheer and raising millions of dollars in several charitable endeavors, including the $4,000-a-pop Santa Barbara polo match, where, true to the storybook nature of the entire endeavor, Prince William’s team won the Tiffany trophy, led by his four goals.

The future king of England showed his sense of humor at the star-studded, black tie -- although no one told J.Lo not to wear that green sequined cut-out disaster of a dress -- Brits to Watch BAFTA event at downtown L.A.’s Belasco Theater. William opened his speech by thanking Colin Firth for giving him the line “I have a voice” and then went on to call for lights, camera, action as stars including Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand and Jennifer Garner jockeyed for royal attention.

The lucky few who got some one-on-one attention were raving about it the next day. In what appeared to be the only unplanned aspect of the trip, William and Catherine personally greeted a crowd of well-wishers who had waited outside the Hancock Park residence for a glimpse of them. One man in the crowd asked the prince, "Being that it's Southern California, has anyone yet called you ‘dude’?" “Not yet,” he answered. One woman who had a personal encounter with the royals told TV crews that it was like they had sprinkled magic fairy dust and no one would ever be the same.

Certainly the children at the Skid Row area visual arts school they visited felt the same way, as did the veterans and their families whose welfare the couple championed at a job fair at Sony Pictures Studios, where Wills got more laughs by referring to brother Harry as a low-flying Apache pilot.

Their final appealing flourish to cap off the whirlwind weekend was flying home to London commercial, aboard British Airways, after charming nearly the entire North American continent in the course of their travels.#

NBC's 'The Voice' Distinguished Itself From 'Idol'--and Found a Winning Formula

Hillary Atkin Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:17 AM

Any one of the four finalists on NBC's bangup freshman show "The Voice" could have taken the title. We thought Vicci Martinez, Dia Frampton and especially Beverly McClellan were each worthy of being the champion. But it was Javier Colon who took home a recording contract and $100,000 at the culmination of the hit music competition program--and bravo for him.

No matter the outcome, it was a thrilling conclusion to a 10-week season that brought the buzz – and the ratings – back to NBC after years of the Peacock Network being in the cellar.

One of the fascinating elements of "The Voice" is that it hooked many people who had never been fans of music competition reality shows like “American Idol,” present company included. It has been said by several of the four coaches that the reason they took on the gig was that there would be no substandard talent allowed that they could trash and burn -- someone like “Idol’s” William Hung or Sanjaya, who was better known for his hairstyle than his talent.

The formula worked, and viewers can see in the behind-the-scenes and rehearsal clips that each coach -- Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera -- and their team developed mutual admiration in an environment conducive for artistic growth.

For a staged television show, the emotions that emerged seemed very real. There was no one you wanted to fail -- no one who appeared to be an arrogant jerk who should get sent packing. Each contestant had a unique combination of talent and interesting backstory that made segments of the audience root for them. It was genuinely sad to see many of the finalists let go, particularly for their coaches, ensconced in their big, red, powerful chairs.

There was some internecine squabbling between Aguilera and Levine that originated on the show's premiere and then spread from the pop diva to fellow coaches Green and Shelton, but it only added to the fun.

Aguilera’s obsession with asking several of the male contestants to take off their pants may not have been exceptionally family-friendly, or within the bounds of good taste, but to whitewash the elements of attraction between the star performers and their proteges would have been inauthentic.

All this exposure is good for the careers of these recording artists, especially Shelton -- “Big Country,” as Levine calls him -- with whom many viewers who are not country fans were not familiar. They have all reportedly signed deals to be back for the next season, although whether the three men will get a raise to match Xtina’s higher per-episode salary has not been publicly disclosed.

We will miss “The Voice,” which is slated in the prime slot after the Super Bowl on NBC in 2012. Its next edition is scheduled to return at midseason on Mondays from 8-10 p.m.