News

The Insider: Diss ‘N’ Dat

The Whatnot, responsible for last week’s column, is serving time in the cranky corner this week—don’t ask and The Insider won’t have to tell the Muppet Santa—so yours truly is back at the keyboard at the end of a week that left her with much to share. Luckily, a digital edition means never having to say you’re sorry but you’ve run out of room.

Dan Abrams

Dan Abrams

There was the head-scratching announcement from Dan Abrams that he is starting Abrams Research, a “global strategy firm” that will help business leaders make “smarter decisions about marketing and communication.”

“Huh?” was the widespread response in Big Apple media circles, where Mr. Abrams has a reputation for needing, not giving and not heeding, good image advice; for managing his own public relations by going outside (and ahead of) the official loop; and for getting himself onto Page Six, the New York Post gossip page everyone loves to read unless it’s dishing about them.

Founding client? Ron Perelman, the billionaire whose messy personal life and oversized business bully persona has defied all of the high-priced image management his money could buy. Who’s next? Mark “Do I Look Like Martha?” Cuban, the self-styled maverick who saved himself $750,000 and bought himself a whole regulatory thicket with a stock sale after an insider’s heads-up call? The Big Three automaker moguls who pleaded corporate poverty to Congress after they flew in on gas-guzzling private jets? Star Jones, the walking PR no-no who attended the $20 million party tossed in Dubai last week even as the rest of the world was contemplating whether their next paychecks might be their last for a while? Or maybe the party planners who invited Ms. Jones, as if her 15 minutes hadn’t long ago run out in every time zone known to man? Or Harvey Weinstein, the oh-so-hard-to-like media mogul whose attempt to cut and run to Lifetime with Bravo’s hit “Project Runway” actually resulted in him being sued, at least nominally, along with NBC Universal last week in Lifetime’s latest court gambit.

Then there’s the concept of tapping working journalists to gather advice to give the high-priced clients. For most working journalists, that would be a strategy sure to guarantee that their next paycheck would be their last from that news outlet. Ethics, you know.

NBC News is going to continue to use Mr. Abrams as a contributor of legal commentary, although his new day job coaching moguls on how to manipu-, ummm, manage their image would seem to be in contradiction to journalism’s goal of getting to the truth, not the appearance. Whether one agrees with NBC insiders about how Mr. Abrams would not be commenting on anything involving his clients, this Insider thinks it’s clear that NBC News should re-examine its comfort level with this arrangement.

Of course, that’s an opinion offered freely (if gratuitously), not high-priced advice.

Speaking of prickly personalities who have been known to step in the occasional image mess, Andy Rooney’s musings on his newspaper roots at the end of the widely watched Barack Obama edition of “60 Minutes” included what seemed to The Insider a glaring omission. On the list of people he credited with making TV journalism what it is were Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. The latter two names were contemporaries of Dan Rather, whom Mr. Rooney did not credit.

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney

The Insider wishes she could report whether that omission was merely underscoring what CBS News insiders say is Mr. Rooney’s longstanding distaste for Mr. Rather, or whether the omission was a judicious move, given that Mr. Rather is putting CBS News through the legal wringer.

But her request for a conversation with Mr. Rooney was met with an official statement that “Andy Rooney’s essay last night speaks for itself.”

Well, no, it doesn’t.

Whatever one’s personal feelings about Mr. Rather, as “Evening News” anchor and “60 Minutes” contributor, he defined CBS News for a quarter of a century. And it took Mr. Brokaw and the late Mr. Jennings a few years to develop profiles that could compete with Mr. Rather’s.

Speaking of profiles, while NBC’s “Today” dispatched its anchors to four “Ends of the Earth” to report on global climate change and its effects on increasingly precious water and CBS’ “The Early Show” dispatched anchor Harry Smith to the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, ABC’s “Good Morning America” put its anchors through the rigors of [dramatic pause] answering personal questions on the “Hot Seat”! Without follow-ups, but with contrived video. Sam Champion “snuck” into Robin Roberts’ apartment to rummage through her trademark trove of necklaces.

Take Chris Cuomo’s tearful turn on the “Hot Seat,” which is really just a bar-height aluminum chair/stool.

Mr. Cuomo is developing into a comfortable morning persona without the too-frequent reminders that he has two children. Shazam! as Gomer Pyle used to say. But his emotional explanation of why he mentions his daughter on-air far more often than he does his younger son raises some longstanding gender stereotypes. As the son of political icon Mario Cuomo, he said, he is trying to protect his son from what he experienced: the burden of growing up in the shadow of a famous father.

Ladies (and evolved gentlemen), start your e-mail engines. Is it possible he thinks a daughter might not confront a similar challenge? The Insider hopes that in addition to putting money away for their children’s college education, the Cuomos also sock money away for therapy for her (“Daddy thought I would not try to measure up to him!”) and for him (“Daddy treated me like I was doomed to be a professional sissy!”).

It’s Diane Sawyer’s turn on the “Hot Seat” today. The Insider can hardly wait.

But even if Ms. Sawyer reaches deep into her inner ham and scales the stool wearing a pig-tailed sherpa hat and high-altitude goggles and stands on her highest heels, The Insider must doff her sweeps stunt hat to “Today’s” Ann Curry and crew for what can only be called a heroic assault on Mount Kilimanjaro that was cut “short” at 16,000 feet because of acute altitude sickness.

To end on a lighter note: If you want a good giggle, Google up the video of the commercial for Coke Zero that opened the Nov. 13 edition of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” when Daniel Craig was a guest. Done as a James Bond spoof—Mr. Kimmel doesn’t look bad in a white dinner jacket—its highlight finds Kimmel, James Kimmel, going all “McGyver” on us and ingeniously using a well-shaken, not stirred, two-liter bottle of Coke Zero as a jetpack.

Gotta run. The Whatnot has turned around in the cranky corner so she can see the TV.

No “Supernatural” for you for two weeks, Missy Whatnot!


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