• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, August 10, 2009

WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?

A friend of mine told me a couple of years ago that the team owner he worked for had endless patience for the boorish off-track behavior of his driver "as long as he keeps winning."

I guess the same goes in journalism.

There was lots of reporting last week that NBC (read that GE) and Fox management, at the highest levels, had met and agreed to end the personal attacks that go on between their hosts -- most noteably at 8 p.m. ET. When an on-air person or those networks are in the news, that's fair comment, but the stuff about wives and children and other bad taste blasts should stop. It makes all involved look small. I'm not going to rehash the whole thing here, if you are so interested, see the story in last Friday's Washington Post or check out MediaBistro.com.

The deal didn't last long. The Grassy Knollist on MSNBC, in effect, showed his employers a middle finger and went right back at it last week. No surprise, the "Worst Person In the World" over at Fox News fired right back.

You try a very public act of defiance like that and see how soon the paycheck stops. But, apparently, because these guys bring in an audience -- and that translate to revenue -- they can get away with it.

The most insulting thing, to me, is the one who is also permitted to pollute Sunday night football claimed he did what he did to protect his journalistic credibility. BS. It's all about ego, not ethics.

Speaking of out-of-control media egoheads, Post writer Dana Milbank was forced to apologize for a so-called joke directed at Hillary Clinton. That appeared on a video on the paper's website. That's at least strike 2 on Milbank. Previously, he had been slapped-down by supervisors for commenting on cable on former Vice President Dick Cheney wearing hunting safety orange clothing.

Whatever happened to just reporting?

Too bad Roger Penske doesn't own these media companies. If he did, these guys would find out what Paul Tracy, Kevin Cogan, Gary Bettenhausen and Jeremy Mayfield learned the hard way.

Elsewhere, there was a lot of talk last week about Twitter; what some businesses find acceptable or not. In yet another example of lowered standards, I heard a Phoenix talk show host describe Twitter as a "primary news source." PRIMARY!

No matter how trendy, it's a mistake for one racing organization to suddenly start issuing its news releases in a Twitter-type format. Journos get a brief message but then are expected to download a file for the full story. In some I got, images were added. Especially these days, the goal should not be trendy, but to make it easy for people to access the information. I bet no one involved thought to ask some actual media folks about this first. If that basic had been done, here's one thing that surely would have been pointed out: Sometimes, and in some places, poor signal strength makes downloading a time-consuming process. If I had been asked, I also would have said I don't need the images.

Just the facts, please, in a simple E-mail. Skip the gimmicks.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:

Wednesday (August 12) -- Newsmakers: Vicki O'Connor (Atlantic series), John Doonan (Mazda), Clark Campbell (VW). Panelists: Jeremy Shaw, Mike Kerchner, Jamie Reynolds.

August 19 -- Newsmaker: Brian Wolfe (Ford North America motorsports director). Panelists: Dustin Long, Larry Henry, Bob Margolis.

August 26 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: Holly Cain, Jeff Wolf, Bobby Bennett.

[ Show news nuggest Thursday . . . ]