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The Insider

Jan 7, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ABC News begins 2002 a winner
Ratings for “ABC 2002,” 31/2 hours covering New Year’s Eve celebrations and performances around the world, were modest compared with “ABC 2000,” a `round-the-clock extravaganza that peaked with a prime-time average of 18.6 million viewers. But the ABC News special guaranteed that the Alphabet Network would win a night that’s not known for big audiences.
Still, the prime-time portion of the ABC News special anchored by Peter Jennings was the big viewer (an average of nearly 9 million) and demo (2.2/8 in adults 18 to 49) draw for two hours, leading to the inevitable question of whether ABC News might be able to build a franchise out of holiday coverage.“Clearly the audience liked it,” said Marc Burstein, executive producer of ABC News Special Events, who wasn’t making any announcements when he said, “We’re looking at all sorts of possibilities” in the future.
ABC News President David Westin was more Kissinger-like in his response to The Insider’s question about whether more holiday news specials are expected: “The viewer response we’ve seen to `ABC 2002′ is certainly encouraging. I hope so, but we thankfully have 363 days left to think about it.”
Ken Burns makes years fly by for `Today’
Ken Burns has accepted an assignment that could change the image he has earned with his passion for marathon PBS documentaries such as “Jazz,” which ran 19 hours in 2001, and “The Civil War,” which ran 11 hours in 1990. He’s doing a documentary about the “Today” show’s 50 years for its golden anniversary show Jan. 14. He has interviewed seminal players from the show’s past (Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley) and present (Katie Couric and Matt Lauer), and he has had access to a ton of archival material.
All this for a mini-masterpiece that has a running time of five minutes. No, not five hours. Five minutes, which is more like the length of the average pledge break around which a Burns project is typically wrapped.
The Insider will move on to another subject whilst you catch your breath and wait for another sign that the apocalypse is nigh.
Greta Van Susteren on looks
Greta Van Susteren, as anyone who has followed her CNN career for nearly 11 years knows, is neither fashionista nor fashion victim. She’s got a sharp focus on her self-image and has long resisted attempts to turn her into a TV babe. Now that she has been wooed away from CNN and her fast-growing show, “The Point,” by Fox News Channel, home of some very babeacious newswomen, TV veterans are betting there’s at least a modest makeover in Ms. Van Susteren’s future.
“There goes that conventional wisdom,” said Ms. Van Susteren, who may settle into the 10 o’clock hour at Fox perhaps as soon as February, giving the news channel its first regularly scheduled prime-time show to originate from Washington.
She knows few people at Fox outside of the handful of executives with whom she and her husband, A-list trial lawyer John Coale, dealt while nailing down such things as a three-year prime-time guarantee and a salary that starts at a reported $900,000 a year.
But she feels as though she has known “Fox News Sunday” moderator Tony Snow since she was a college coed working toward a law degree. A couple of years ago, after the Washington Post ran a picture of the clean-shaven, close-cropped Mr. Snow when he sported a beard and “a lot of hair,” the Fox commentator received the following message from Ms. Van Susteren: “You look like every guy I ever went out with in college.”
She didn’t say it like a babe. She said it like the woman who fearlessly boils down her decision to venture into Fox’s den like this: “I am either going to succeed or I am going to fail. I have never failed before.”
For media moguls, thin skin comes with the job
One of the things that has never failed to amaze The Insider in covering our business lo these many years is the thin skin of those in the media. For example, “60 Minutes” practically invented the practice of attack journalism as a Mike Wallace or Dan Rather aggressively attempted to stick a microphone in somebody’s face as they were trying to duck into a restroom or wherever. But let a reporter try to do the same with, let’s say, a Larry Tisch, who owned CBS for a while and-well, fahgedaboutit-the man would go ballistic. (And hey, what’s that you say? You have a problem with something The Insider wrote? You think I’m a what? Why, how dare you, you no good …) Case in point-AOL Time Warner’s profile in the current Fortune magazine titled “Has Eisner lost the Disney magic?” To give you an example of the tone of the piece: “`Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t consider [the company’s current poor performance] a crisis,’ Eisner told me. `We’re being buried a little prematurely here.’ The thing is, he said that back in 1999, when Fortune called Disney `the world’s most troubled entertainment giant.’ It remains just that today.” Ouch! And The Insider hears Mr. Eisner isn’t happy with the piece. In response, one top Disney said, “We’re all being questioned as to how much money we’re spending advertising in or on AOL Time Warner properties.”