The first half of 2007 stands out for big deals, compelling products and a shift in the television-news pecking order. Scandals are taking a backseat to the media industry's serious stuff this time.
Here are my choices for the Big 12:
The best-kept secret:
On May 1, the news broke that Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.'s chief executive, had bid $5 billion in an unsolicited takeover of Dow Jones & Co. The bombshell capped years, or decades, of planning for the media mogul. On Tuesday, the plot thickened as Dow Jones and News Corp. basically reached an agreement on the guidelines for ensuring the editorial independence of The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones' flagship asset. (The company also owns MarketWatch, the publisher of this column, among other properties.)
The worst-kept secret:
It was News Corp.'s much-speculated, official announcement of a business channel, to be launched in the fourth quarter. The venture would represent CNBC's stiffest challenge to date and raise the stakes in business news.
There's a new sheriff in town:
And his name is Charlie Gibson, the anchor of ABC's evening-news broadcast. After languishing behind rival Brian Williams of NBC and (yes, even) Katie Couric of CBS for a time in late 2006, Gibson gained momentum. His straightforward yet informal style is appealing to the viewers.
David Halberstam dies at 73.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author, who was killed in a car crash near San Francisco on April 23, was a journalistic hero for myself and many others.
Don Imus exits:
The radio fixture got his comeuppance after he uttered one-too-many shocking quips. CBS, his radio home, and MSNBC, his cable-TV outlet, shoved Imus out after he called the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" on April 4. He apologized profusely but the damage had been done.
Who's that girl?
Our embarrassing national obsession with silly celebrities has grown to mammoth proportions and shows no sign of abating. (See item below.)
The great invisible media merger:
While it wasn't as sexy as the speculation surrounding the News Corp.-Dow Jones talk, the combination of Reuters Group and Thomson Corp. would carry a much bigger price tag (an estimated $17 billion) and shake up the information-news corridor of the media biz.
The not-so-great media merger:
In satellite radio, the two key players Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. proposed a combination. This supposedly high-flying industry of the future wasn't even strong enough to support two players, for now.
Don't they wish they could have a mulligan:
Portfolio magazine greatly disappointed many readers and critics with its shockingly dull debut, following a lot of hype. All was not lost, though, for the Conde Nast launch. The book did contain 185 pages of ads.
The incredible shrinking ratings:
Katie Couric's flop as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News" continued to stun the TV industry. CBS chief Leslie Moonves -- and the powers across the media industry -- also had to be reassessing the audacious strategy of discarding the traditional evening-news format and embracing something revolutionary. Apparently, the public wasn't quite ready for a dramatic change at the dinner hour.
The campus massacre gave a glimpse into how the modern media, which now include bloggers and instant journalists carrying cell-phone cameras, will be reporting big stories from now on.
The "Money Honey" hits some turbulence:
Maria Bartiromo, the biggest star on CNBC, sparked plenty of headlines (and awful puns) when she was accused of traveling with a Citigroup executie on the financial-service giant's corporate jet. The bigger story than whether Bartiromo was acting as a journalist or a private citizen centered on ethics and how close reporters should get to their subjects.
CNN: the most trusted name in fluff
This has to be the quote of the week, if not the millennium, courtesy of Paris Hilton:
"I am thrilled that Larry King has asked me to appear on his program to discuss my experience in jail, what I have learned, how I have grown and anything else he wants to talk about," the hotel heiress said in a torturously constructed statement. "Larry King is not only a world-renown journalist, but a true American icon. It will be an honor to do his show."
The remarks come close to leaping off the page and belting out "God Bless America." Do those words make you feel, like Mike Myers' Coffee Talk Lady would say, all or what?
For all of Hilton's adoration, King was hardly her first choice. The starlet's beleaguered but wily publicist, who probably crafted that bit of fluff, could have inserted King's name where he had crossed out the likes of Meredith Vieira of NBC's "Today" and Barbara Walters of ABC.
After competing for the cheap "get," many journalists pulled back when word leaked out that the Hilton camp was going to rake in big bucks from . Hilton's handlers began to resemble rug merchants in an Istanbul market, desperate to unload their wares.
Enter CNN, and Larry King.
Has anyone noticed that "the world's most trusted name in news" isn't exactly covering itself in glory these days? Don't forget Wolf Blitzer's meltdown during the Anna Nicole Smith saga. The news network's decision to replace morning anchor Soledad O'Brien with "Fox and Friends" fixture Kiran Chetry was questionable.
Maybe we all should accept that news and entertainment have become so intertwined that there's no distinguishing between them.
At this rate, I half-expect CBS to get it over with and finally shove Paris, Britney, Lindsay and God knows who else into a house for a breathless installment of "Big Brother: The Hollywood Apocalypse."
Of course, it would be written into the contract that, as each person is booted out, Larry King gets first dibs on the interviews.
MEDIA WEB QUESTION OF THE DAY: What media event did I overlook from the first half of 2007?
WEDNESDAY PET PEEVE: "We work as hard at breaking a Britney Spears story as NBC would work on breaking a President Bush piece," TMZ.com Managing Editor Harvey Levin told the New York Times. Now there's something for the journalism craft to feel reassured about.
THE READERS RESPOND: "Print journalism isn't dead or dying, it's simply taking advantage of a whole new printing process that is faster, cheaper and eminently more accessible." Matt Coleman
(Media Web appears on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Feel free to send e-mail to .)
By Jon Friedman