The Insider

Jun 4, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Making waves on the Forbes yacht
It was a three-hour cruise, but instead of Gilligan and the Skipper, the crew consisted of former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes and a few dozen of their media friends. And instead of the Minnow, the ship was the Highlander V, the magnificent 151-foot Forbes family yacht.
The occasion was a sunset cruise past Lady Liberty and `round lower Manhattan to celebrate “Forbes on Fox,” a weekly business program airing on FNC. When a reporter reminded Mr. Ailes of the continuing disparagement of FNC and its newsgathering capability by the AOL Time Warner executives who oversee CNN, Captain-that is, Mr. Ailes-fired right back: “They copy everything we do. The only thing they don’t emulate is the fair-and-balanced part. … They tried to hire Bill O’Reilly, I’m told. You look at the screen of CNN before Fox News came along, you look at it today-it’s very clear what’s going on.”
Mr. Ailes pronounced himself “flattered” by all the attention from his chief competitor-“flattered that they don’t seem to have any ideas of their own. And the ones that they do have, like `Spin Room,’ fail.”
Mr. Forbes, a politician known for his ability to stay “on message” as well as for being a gracious host, cited FNC’s “more mainstream philosophy” when asked why he had chosen to do business with Fox over its competitors. As for the bigger picture, “We need a real overhaul of the Telecom Act of `96,” he said. “Free up the media business to make huge amounts of investments” in new technology, he added. “It’s going to make the dot-com boom look like an hors d’oeuvre at a feast.”
Wanted: Verrrrrry tall lookie-loos
Speaking of CNN, The Insider turned bright green with envy when she heard that Jeff Greenfield’s new contract accommodates his desire to do his new show, “Greenfield at Large,” from Santa Barbara, Calif., for two months out of the year. The Insider is now merely mint green with envy, having heard that while there are no plans for “At Large” to make extended forays outside New York, there will be occasional day trips to such exotic locales as the Hamptons during its celebrity-stocked summer film festival. Home base for Mr. Greenfield-and for CNN’s new top anchor Aaron Brown, a former colleague of Mr. Greenfield at ABC News-will be rented studio space on an unglamorous block of West 57th Street in Manhattan. There’s no room at CNN’s cramped bureau opposite Madison Square Garden.
There may be a windowed studio in both CNN anchors’ future, but if it is to be on the street, a la “Today,” “Good Morning America” and “The Early Show,” it seems unlikely to be in the massive AOL Time Warner headquarters edifice being built on Columbus Circle. Due to “a design-driven decision” deemed “best for the location,” says AOL, CNN studios in the new HQ are currently staked out on the eighth floor, which was not the first thought that went through The Insider’s head when CNN’s new visionaries said they were determined to raise the profile of CNN in New York.
Fetes accomplished at NBC headquarters
With Andy Lack’s promotion to NBC president and Neal Shapiro’s promotion to NBC News president taking effect Monday, it was party-hearty-and video-time at NBC’s 30 Rock headquarters in New York last week. The staff of “Dateline NBC” feted Mr. Shapiro, the longtime executive producer for whom most would walk over coals, with toasts and a video homage to “Citizen Kane,” in which Mr. Shapiro’s Rosebud was Rosenwasser, as in Marc Rosenwasser, the newly named No. 2 to David Corvo, who will succeed Mr. Shapiro as “Dateline” executive producer. A day later, the news division turned out in force to toast Mr. Lack, cut an impressive cake and debut a video that included an appearance from Howard Stringer, the Sony topper who, like Mr. Lack, rose up from the ranks of CBS News. Mr. Stringer offered advice on how to win friends on Wall Street (a big bag of EBITDA) and influence Hollywood. A highlight, The Insider hears, was the explanation by Bob Wright, who’s now NBC chairman, on how to get to the 52nd floor, where Mr. Lack now has his office. Get on the elevator and press 5, then press 2.
The final word
New Yorkers’ favorite gossip source, The New York Post’s Page Six, last week breathlessly reported that Katie “Will She Or Won’t She Leave `Today’ When Her Contract’s Up?” Couric and Jeff Zucker, the longtime NBC News boss and pal who’s now president of NBC Entertainment, had been spotted lunching with AOL Time Warner “honchos,” spurring talk that a big deal was in the works. Hold the antacid. They were dining sans AOL Time Warner executives at Artusi, a nifty little restaurant that happens to be on the first floor of the old Time Warner headquarters building in Rockefeller Center. If location, location, location were all it took to start another round of speculation, Page Six might also have noted that the restaurant faces Black Rock, CBS’s headquarters.