I have one question: Why bother?
CNN's press release began: "Award-winning journalist and best-selling author Carl Bernstein, best known for his reporting work with Bob Woodward about the Watergate scandal..."
Whoa! Gimme that again.
So, we can conclude that Bernstein is qualified to offer his learned opinions about the 2008 election based on his groundbreaking work of 30-plus years ago.
Yes, Bernstein recently wrote a well-received biography of Hillary Clinton, titled "A Woman in Charge." But the pinnacle of his career occurred in the era of disco and Archie Bunker.
Naturally, CNN could come out of this looking shrewd if Bernstein could offer insightful, original stuff. Long story short -- it seems that CNN is making a big bet that Hillary Clinton wins a) the Democratic nomination and b) the presidential election
The importance of fame
I fault the mentality of television networks, which want to make stars into brands. Their line of reasoning goes like this: Because someone is famous, he or she will invariably be accepted and appreciated by the audience.
The viewers? Let's face it. They're too busy to care about assessing the genuine news value of one talking head over another. Bernstein was a famous investigative reporter, so the network thinking goes, let's exploit his celebrity value any way we can.
Sometimes, of course, using celebrities can be a constructive move, such as when "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams had fun with his stodgy image and recently hosted "Saturday Night Live." .
Williams was knowingly satirizing himself, and that's what made the difference.
I don't blame Bernstein for accepting the gig. He's no dope. Why shouldn't he continue to cash in on his fame from way back when? If a major news network offers him a chance to enhance his stature as a 21st century pundit, he should go for it. Appearing on CNN couldn't hurt the sales of his books, past and future. A whole new generation has come along since he and Woodward wrote "All the President's Men."
A certain charm
It's fair to say that the seminal event of the 1970s occurred on Aug. 9, 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. Nixon had been covered exhaustively (and skillfully) by a galvanized Washington media corps, led by the Washington Post's dynamic duo of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Say what you will, Bernstein can be a charmer in front of an audience. When he came to my alma mater to give a talk, the buzz on campus centered on whether he could be persuaded to spill the beans on the identity of Deep Throat, the secret source of the Watergate story.
During the Q&A session, someone asked him point blank, "Who is Deep Throat?"
Bernstein nodded gravely and shot back, "Linda Lovelace."
The bottom line is that, when it comes to marketing and packaging the news, nostalgia sells to baby boomers.
CNN, a division of Time Warner , suspects that viewers will feel reassured by Bernstein's presence because he was famous for doing something Very Important, albeit a long time ago.
Yes, he understands power and is no stranger to the intrigue of the White House -- but it was the NIXON White House.
: Will you watch Carl Bernstein on CNN?
: I wish we could have some civility in the noisy cable-TV wars.
Keith Olbermann, the reigning star of MSNBC , loves to try to get under Bill O'Reilly's skin. On his "Countdown" show, Olbermann took a potshot at Fox's new business-news operation. According to a transcript provided by MSNBC, Olbermann said Liz Claman, Neil Cavuto and Alexis Glick of Fox had all been "dropped" by NBC and CNBC, a sister network to Olbermann's MSNBC. Considering the ratings success of Cavuto on Fox News and of Claman wile at CNBC, Olbermann is drawing on a weak hand. Glick, for her part, has emerged as one of the main anchors of the Fox Business Network.
OK, so Olbermann likes to pull on Fox's cape. We get it. But as someone who fondly remembers his witty, inspired work on ESPN's "SportsCenter" shows, I wish Olbermann had loftier ambitions for his program.
News Corp. , Fox's parent, has agreed to acquire Dow Jones , which owns MarketWatch, the publisher of this column.
to my column about the death of American magazines:
"I'm writing to dispute some of your points you made in the Monday column. Specifically, you said that you 'half-expect' to see a New York Times story saying that a 'prolonged advertising shortfall triggered a massive crisis of confidence' in the magazine industry. That would be a whopper of a story based on the available facts. First of all, consumer magazine industry share of the media pie for the first half of 2007 is up 1% compared to the same time period in 2006. It's also worth noting the share of the media spend in consumer magazines in the first half 2007 rose 1.9% compared to first half 2004. Through the first three quarters of this year, our revenue is up 5.6% and pages are off slightly (-1%). Consumer magazine revenue was up in 2005 and 2006. Pages were up in 2005 and down a mere 0.1% in 2006 In short, the consumer magazine industry is holding its own in a very challenging advertising market. There is nothing that suggests a prolonged advertising shortfall.
"You also stated your belief that 'the industry's biggest problem is that magazine editors and publishers still view the Web as more of a curse that a blessing.' If you attended any of our three digital conferences, 'Magazines 24/7,' you would have observed the incredible enthusiasm in which the magazine executives have embraced digital platforms. We are an industry blessed with an abundance of talented writers, gifted designers, sharp-eyed photographers and other wonderful content producers. And they all bring their skills to the digital playground where we reach our users 24/7.
"I could go on but I hope you get the point."
-- Howard Polskin. senior vice president, Communications & Events, Magazine Publishers of America
"Great column/blog/essay/whatever. My wife and I sold our trade magazine publishing company a year and half ago, primarily because it was time to retire. Before doing so, we spent more than 10 years trying to transfer our print magazine franchises into profitable online media business models.
"In many respects, we were successful, but we learned two very important lessons: First, print magazines cannot launch successful online 'brand extensions' as simply a 'repurposing' of print content... Second, the key to launching online media is the information/content/experience offered to visitors (users of the site). The best strategy for the development of successful internet media is to involve the visitors/users in the design and creation of the information/content/experience. Keep up the good work."
-- Humphrey S. Tyler
"Great article; I've Twittered it and may feature it in a future blog post. I see this ALL the time as a freelancer, when I discuss some online concept with an editor and he/she says, 'Oh, so-and-so on our staff handles all that Web stuff,' or 'I'm not really up to speed on that (fill in very basic social media concept here) because so-and-so here does all that." Holy cow, wake up! Thanks again for writing this; too bad that those who most need to read 'n heed... won't."
-- Sheila Scarborough
"I thoroughly enjoyed your column about the magazine industry choking itself to death. I particularly favored the part likening the 'fixing a magazine's problems with a redesign to putting a Band-Aid on a large wound.' I agree."
-- Trevor Roberson
(Media Web appears on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Feel free to send emals to .)
By Jon Friedman