North Dakota station thrilled with Ron Burgundy experiment
The New Republic didn’t like seeing Ron Burgundy on a local newscast in Bismarck, North Dakota. Burgundy, of course, is the Will Ferrell character in Anchorman 2, a parody of the TV newsman who’s busy getting free media exposure of late to promote the Paramount Pictures film, due out later this month. By letting an in-character Burgundy co-anchor Saturday night’s newscast on KXMB TV, wrote TNR’s Laura Bennett, the station was “essentially yielding their newscast to Ferrell’s hijinks.”
The actor, charges Bennett, made a “mockery” of the station’s “daily professional existence.”
No way, says KXMB General Manager Tim Reiten.
In a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Reiten mounts a vigorous defense of the decision to mix show biz with news biz over the weekend. It rests on several points:
1) Comments on the station’s site, says Reiten, run in favor of the stunt. “Ninety-five percent of them are very complimentary,” says Reiten.
2) The station has become the “talk of the town” since Saturday night, according to Reiten.
3) Ron Burgundy performed well. Just to make sure that the newscast would come off properly with a comic in a co-anchor’s chair, the station pre-taped the newscast, according to Reiten. They did a practice run, too, during which Burgundy uttered the word “crap.” “He asked, ‘Can I do that for real,’ ” recalls Reiten. No, came the response. “And he agreed,” says Reiten. “Any of my fears” about Burgundy going nuts “turned out to be unfounded. He was professional. He didn’t do any hijinks,” says the general manager.
When asked whether KXMB scheduled Burgundy to make his appearance on a Saturday night because that’s a slow news time, Reiten said no -- that was when Ferrell’s people were available. And on the matter of selling out the newscast to a satirist, Reiten notes that the station discussed that concern and decided to do the pre-recording just to be “on the safe side.” In advance of the Ferrell appearance, Reiten kept the whole thing a secret; only six people at the station knew that it was in the works. “I jokingly called it the Manhattan Project,” says Reiten.
“Everywhere I go now, everybody’s going up to me or my wife and saying that was such a great thing. It’s been really nothing but positive for us here,” says the general manager.
By Monday morning, the newscast had gotten 400,000 views, according to a station employee. A non-Burgundy iteration would have fetched between 10,000 and 30,000.
Fox News host: Was Bashir’s resignation ‘enough’?
Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
For a couple of weeks there, the operative question among MSNBC watchers was this: Was Martin Bashir’s contrite apology for his vile remarks about Sarah Palin sufficient? Or did he deserve to be bounced out of his job?
Yesterday supplied something of an answer. Bashir resigned. Or “resigned.” The first sentence of a statement from MSNBC President Phil Griffin was this: “Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately.”
So he’s gone.
Yet, “‘Fox & Friends” host Elisabeth Hasselbeck today asked Palin, “Obviously his comments were hurtful and wrong. Do you think resigning is enough? He did apologize. He resigned instead of being fired. Was that enough?” Palin responded that she’d accepted Bashir’s apology and also credited the media for abhorring Bashir’s behavior.
But just what additional steps was Hasselbeck thinking about here? What other consequences should Bashir suffer?
Bill O’Reilly’s never-ending evolution on gay marriage
Some significant moments in the gay marriage position of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly:
Marry a duck
May 26, 2009: O’Reilly discusses a decision by the California Supreme Court that gay marriage would remain illegal: “If the California Supreme Court had allowed the gays to marry, then anybody could have gotten married. You could have married a duck. Because it would have been equal protection. And you can always explain, “Look, I want to marry three women” or “I want to marry two guys, because I’m in love.” This, that, and the other thing.
“Homosexuals” prevail on the merits
March 26, 2013: O’Reilly discusses arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage. “The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That’s where the compelling argument is. We’re Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else. That is a compelling argument. And to deny that, you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side . . . And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the bible.”
In the same appearance, he said he doesn’t “feel that strongly about it one way or the other.”
Secularists “hammer” Judeo-Christian roots
Last night: O’Reilly discusses the imaginary War on Christmas, his favorite holiday topic and one on which he has locked broadcast horns this week with “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart. The alleged attacks on Christmas, O’Reilly charged on his program last night, are the project of “secular progressives,” an interest group that wants to . . . well, let O’Reilly explain:
In order to remake the United States into a progressive nation, the committed left must diminish Judeo-Christian tradition which stands in opposition to them. So they must get the religious influence out, out of the public arena. All the so-called progressive countries are secular. Just look at the map. But here in America we have maintained most of our Judeo-Christian traditions but they are under attack.
What’s one of the ways in which these traditions are under attack? Gay marriage -- it’s No. 4 on O’Reilly’s list of priorities for secular progressives. Again, O’Reilly:
Number 4, gay marriage. And here the secular progressives have won. They have turned public opinion around and gay marriage is now legal in many places. Once again, the Judeo-Christian philosophy opposes marriage unless it is between one man and one woman. And it took years for the secularists to hammer that point of view into the wall but they succeeded.
The Erik Wemple Blog throws up its hands. Can anybody make sense of this evolution?
Good riddance to MSNBC’s Martin Bashir
Conservative America just lost one of its talking points about left-leaning network MSNBC. For the past couple of weeks, the network’s critics have slammed it for a lack of accountability in l’affaire Martin Bashir, who on Nov. 15 made nasty comments suggesting how Sarah Palin, who had foolishly compared public debt to slavery, should be treated to a most horrific form of slave punishment: Defecation in mouth. In his next broadcast, Bashir apologized, but people wanted something more.
Today they got it. Bashir has resigned from the network, an occasion marked, as always, by dueling releases of boilerplate. From Bashir:
After making an on-air apology, I asked for permission to take some additional time out around the Thanksgiving holiday. Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the President of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation. It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments.
I deeply regret what was said, will endeavor to work hard at making constructive contributions in the future and will always have a deep appreciation for our viewers who are the smartest, most compassionate and discerning of all television audiences. I would also wish to express deepest gratitude to my immediate colleagues, and our contributors, all of whom have given so much of themselves to our broadcast.
From MSNBC President Phil Griffin:
Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with msnbc. Martin is a good man and respected colleague -- we wish him only the best.
At Bashir’s usual 4:00 p.m. slot today, Joy-Ann Reid took over hosting duties, as she has done since Bashir went on his “pre-planned vacation” at the start of Thanksgiving week. Gone from the top of the screen is the “Martin Bashir” branding.
Its disappearance speaks to the inadequacy of apologies in a bloodthirsty medium. Here’s a portion of Bashir’s Nov. 18 mea culpa: “My words were wholly unacceptable. They were neither accurate nor fair. They were unworthy of anyone who would claim to have an interest in politics, and they have brought shame upon my friends and colleagues at this network, none of whom were responsible for the things that I said and at a place where we try every day to elevate political discourse.”
There was simply no way to puncture the thoroughness of the declaration. Bashir didn’t hedge, make excuses or somehow circumscribe the acts that warranted a show of remorse, as Rush Limbaugh so famously did back in 2012 in the Sandra Fluke controversy. That still wasn’t good enough. In an appearance on Fox News Sunday on Nov. 24, Palin herself chided the network for having failed to punish Bashir, even as she accepted his apology. “As for the network’s condoning those type of statements — ’cause there’s been no punishment of the fella who said these words — that’s hypocrisy. That’s a given, though, when a conservative woman says something that they take offense, they usually just kind of pooh-pooh it, laugh it off, it’s no big deal,” said Palin.
Bashir doesn’t appear to have succumbed to a three-strikes-and-you’re-out situation. As NewsBusters’ Noel Sheppard made clear in this post, the host never exactly elevated the standards of cable news, but nor did he compile a record of recent infractions on the magnitude of the Palin comment.
More like general mediocrity. Or tendentious mediocrity. At his 4:00 p.m. start, Bashir followed a number of MSNBC programs hosted by folks like Tamron Hall, Andrea Mitchell, Alex Wagner and Thomas Roberts: A progressive lineup, for sure, but one that didn’t lean so far forward as did Bashir.
Whatever standards of fairness those folks struggled to establish, Bashir generally failed to push into the next hour of programming. Most infuriating to the Erik Wemple Blog was that Bashir appeared to delight in a certain brand of interview, in which he’d ask a liberal (or some non-conservative) to guess what conservatives were thinking. Over many months of watching Bashir’s program, we’d occasionally drop a transcription of such moments into a tickle file, for use at some future moment. Since there’ll few discussions of Bashir in this space going forward, what better time to trot out some samples?
Sample No. 1: On Sept. 30, Bashir was chatting with Democratic Rep. Steve Israel:
Bashir: Why do people like [House Speaker John] Boehner and others like Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Why do they continue to act as if the American public is actually behind them when the polls generally show the exact opposite?
Steve Israel: Well, they keep saying, listen to the American people. What they really mean is, listen to our echo chamber
Bashir: Isn’t there something, finally, sir, utterly reprehensible about an individual party that looks forward to throwing 12 million people off health care?
Not surprisingly, Israel responded that it was indeed reprehensible.
Sample No. 2: On Nov. 13, Bashir asked Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison: “I understand, sir, that the only thing that Republicans currently agree on is opposing the ACA, but when do they actually look beyond their pet project and do something that might actually benefit the country as a whole, like reforming the immigration system, which we all know will benefit the nation economically and in all other ways?”
Sample No. 3: On Sept. 18, Bashir put this question to the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page: “Clarence, why do Republicans think that a debt ceiling fight that failed two years ago and contributed to the country’s downgraded credit rating -- why would that work now? Why would that work this time around?”
Sample No. 4: On Oct. 14, Bashir queried MSNBC.com’s Irin Carmon: “Irin, you might think it couldn’t get any worse, but of course it does. One so-called protester even went to the White House and started waving around a confederate flag. What exactly is the message that they’re seeking to send the president?”
I don’t know, Mr. Bashir, why don’t you ask them?
This is the sort of broadcasting MSNBC will be missing from now on. Reid’s replacement show is already a massive improvement.
Fox News contributor Lauren Ashburn: Credential crisis?
Fox News contributor Lauren Ashburn has looked defensive of late. A frequent guest on Howard Kurtz’s CNN media program before the pair decamped to Fox, Ashburn was the founder and editor of the news site Daily Download. That site is now defunct and, when BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski asked her what happened with it, Ashburn didn’t respond.
She later provided a statement to Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon, stating that grants that had financed the site had run out. “[O]perating an advertising-based niche website without additional funding is tough going in this economy,” said the statement.
Good move, in all: Ashburn bootstrapped the Daily Download thing into television appearances and is now riding high, turning in regular hits on Kurtz’s new program on Fox, “Media Buzz.” Who cares if her Daily Download leadership stops being a useful credential?
And speaking of crumbling credentials, “Media Buzz” has changed its introduction of Ashburn for her appearances. In the first two months after the program launched in early November, she was routinely identified as a “Fox News contributor and a former managing editor of USA Today.” Starting in November, however, she became a “Fox News analyst who writes the top Twitter talk column for foxnews.com.”
Perhaps Fox News bagged the “managing editor” thing because it’s misleading.
In May, the Erik Wemple Blog asked USA Today whether Ashburn had ever served as a “managing editor,” a title that had been attached to her at least once on CNN programming. A spokeswoman for USA Today replied that Ashburn’s last title at the organization was “Managing Editor/USA TODAY Live.” It was incorrect, said the spokeswoman, to suggest that Ashburn was a “managing editor” of USA Today, a title that has a loftiness far in excess of Managing Editor/USA Today Live. USA Today Live produced USA Today segments for Gannett TV stations. Like Daily Download, it no longer exists.
No one can take issue with her current description. Ashburn is indeed a Fox News contributor, and here is her Top Twitter Talk column. Yet the dents to Ashburn’s resume raise a question: Just what does she bring to CNN and Fox News’s coverage of the media?
Slate’s Dave Weigel yesterday delivered a dreary verdict, writing that Ashburn “has almost nothing to say about anything.” Kurtz, when pressed in May on his CNN show about why he’d worked closely with Ashburn on the Daily Download, cited her expansive television experience. In other words, she’s had some media training. But why Kurtz continues to promote her remains unknown.