The Insider

Dec 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The Insider was at the first screening, in New York, Nov. 18, of “Live From Baghdad,” the HBO adaptation of former CNN producer Robert Weiner’s book about the news network’s breakthrough in 1991 by virtue of its reporting on the U.S. attack on Iraq.
The Insider wishes she’d been at the last screening of “Baghdad” in Atlanta last week. Who was there (or not) and what was said (or not) was swathed in soooooo much more subtext in the city where CNN is headquartered.
Only in Atlanta would there have been so raucous a response to former CNN chief Tom Johnson’s taking the stage, throwing wide his arms and saying: “There’s a palace coup. I’m back.” The ink on his new-employee paperwork was still wet when the bombing of Baghdad was so vividly described via phone by the only foreign journalists in the Iraqi capital: CNN’s team.
Resonating more viscerally: The presence of Marianne Pearl, whose husband, Daniel, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was slain by terrorists last year. Ms. Pearl has been going through CNN-sponsored journalist survival training in Georgia.
Ms. Pearl is taking the survival course because she is headed for “a dangerous place” as part of a documentary project said to be in the works with HBO. Stay tuned.
Of the three men who talked through the first wave of bombing, only former anchor Bernard Shaw was present (he’s portrayed with slightly more pulse and expression by Robert Wisdom). Former CNN bigfoot Peter Arnett (portrayed with a wonderfully wry hammyness by Bruce McGill) was absent. John Holliman, the founding CNN correspondent who died in a 1998 auto accident, was missed, said one of The Insider’s favorite wags, Mr. Arnett was not.
Is that the sound of Santa scratching The Insider’s name off his list?
Though “Live From Baghdad” has received raves from critics, The Insider’s discerning wag said: “There’s life. There’s art. There’s TV movies.”
The Insider suspects she’s not the only one being delisted by Santa.
… Part II
Only a week after AOL Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons said it is time for disgruntled company executives to stuff a sock in it or take a hike, personnel at CNN, Turner Broadcasting, Time Inc. and the conglomerate’s corporate level were asked to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to management. That opportunity came last week in the form of an employee survey consisting of 80 questions, some generic (Do you have confidence in AOL Time Warner leadership?), some reworded to reflect the particular division in which the surveyee works (What kind of job is Turner Broadcasting doing?). There were five check-off responses (from strongly disagree to strongly agree) and space to write in explanations for those answers where the surveyee checked “partly agree/partly disagree” or to state feelings about issues not specifically addressed by the questions (Do you think the merger of Time Warner and AOL was a good idea?).
The Insider’s favorite question? “Do you think anybody will pay attention to this survey?” If asked whether she thinks that’s a rhetorical question, The Insider, who clearly is paying attention, would check “strongly agree.”
The survey, a first for the beleaguered combined company, will roll out through other divisions early next year. The first wave of surveys are to be turned in by Dec. 20. Based on early internal reaction to the timing alone, The Insider is just glad she’s not among those who will have to read all the responses.
… Part III
And the winner is … each and every person who entered the “Name That Two-`n-One News Organization” contest soliciting suggestions for names for the entity that might result from talks about a possible merger of ABC News and CNN.
From “A Loyal Reader” comes: “How about MNN: Mistake News Network or DINN: Dumb Idea News Network or DNN: Desperate News Network (of course the “D” could also stand for Disney). But since most of CNN’s new talent are ABC alumni who couldn’t get what they thought was their deserved airtime, it might as well be called ABCNews2.”
From “DG” comes: “Best Damn News Organization Period, an homage to the Fox Sports program, which isn’t good (let alone the `best’) and is only tangentially related to sports.”
From a longtime e-correspondent, a civilian known to The Insider as DANOFHOLLY, comes: “I’d vote for the Iger Sanction but only because TASS was already taken and is slightly passe.”
Someone quick of acid tongue and long enough in the tooth to remember the Soviet Union’s news organ quipped that if TASS weren’t already taken or passe, CNN Headline News would become HalfTASS.
Do ya’ think The Insider has given up on getting anything but a lump of coal this year?