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Who Thought of It First?

November 13, 2006 12:00 AM

It is a small, small world, after all. Both "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer and "Today's" Matt Lauer reported live from the Old City of Jerusalem last Friday morning. Ms. Sawyer's appearance was for the second installment of "GMA's" long-promoted series revealing the seven wonders of the modern world. "Weekend GMA" anchor Bill Weir was in Tibet at the stunning Potola Palace the day before, after an adventure-filled train ride from Beijing. Mr. Lauer had, like Ms. Sawyer, flown to Israel Thursday. His trip was to kick off a three-part series on the world's religions. While "Today" executive producer Jim Bell said he was not surprised to see Ms. Sawyer in Jerusalem, where one of her stops was the Wailing Wall, he denied Mr. Lauer's trip was designed to blunt the impact of Ms. Sawyer's trip. He told Blink that "Today's" series had first been on the calendar last spring, when Mr. Lauer went to Cannes and Istanbul to do a story on "The Da Vinci Code." He said Mr. Lauer was to have gone on to Jerusalem, among other locations, to work on the religions series, but "GE security asked us to reconsider." That pushed it from the May sweeps schedule to the November sweeps lineup, Mr. Bell said. Pfffft! responded "GMA," which is mounting another attempt to overtake "Today" as the No. 1 morning show. (When Ms. Sawyer landed an exclusive post-rehab interview with Mel Gibson, "Today" pulled all of its national ads after 7:30 a.m. With no national ads, the later-and less-watched-half-hours were not rated by Nielsen Media Research, a move that cost "Today" ad revenue but allowed the NBC morning show to brag that even up against the Gibson get, it had higher ratings.) "In Jerusalem and Beijing, they showed up looking for permits months after we'd applied for ours," Jim Murphy, new senior executive producer of "GMA," said last week. He and Mr. Bell exchanged tart comments:

"To me it's just another example of [`GMA'] following," Mr. Bell said. "It's, `Where in the World is "GMA" today?"'

"GMA's" wonders of the world "is a big-concept thing. They came up with a small-concept thing," Mr. Murphy said. "I find it just unusual that people would tell little white lies when discussing shows about religion."

One point on which there is no doubt: Mr. Lauer's live report was accompanied by some spooky live scuffling between a man who wasn't accepting Mr. Lauer's permits to be near the West Wall of the Old City and a man with a very large gun on his belt. There were a handful of men who were visible behind Mr. Lauer and who seemed eager to get in a few licks should things escalate. They didn't. And Mr. Lauer, who never missed a beat, finished Friday-as scheduled, Mr. Bell said-from a roof overlooking the scene of the scuffle. -Michele Greppi

Guts, but No Glory, for Comedy Central

Comedy Central shocked and awed the blogosphere last week when it became the first media outlet to report that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was resigning his post. On the network's Indecider Blog, at 12:15 a.m. (ET) Wednesday, a Comedy Central blogger, citing a White House source, declared, "Rumsfeld will be out of the administration tomorrow," and gleefully added, "Suck it, Drudge!" But according to a Factiva news archive search, Comedy Central has not won over the hearts and minds of the mainstream media. Not one major publication has credited the site with breaking this worldwide news headline. "We are disappointed in the lack of acknowledgement from the mainstream media," said a Comedy Central spokesperson, who pledged the network's blogging efforts would stay the course. -James Hibberd

Honor for Harbert

The Caucus for Television Producers, Writers and Directors will honor E! Networks/ Comcast Entertainment Group President and CEO Ted Harbert with its special Chair Award at the organization's 24th annual black-tie gala, to be held Dec. 8 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Film and television producer Tracey E. Edmonds, recently named president and chief operating officer of Our Stories Films, will also be honored with the Caucus's Diversity Award for her longtime work to uplift the black community.

-Tom Gilbert