Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Floyd Landis Falls on Sword, Tries to Stab Armstrong

The answers from Floyd Landis raised the same question about Lance Armstrong:
How could anyone so dominate a sport so dominated by drug abuse if he weren't cheating too?

You've heard, seen or read the story by now. If not, here you go.

Floyd Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour de France, who lost his title after a positive drug test, finally admitted that his consistently vociferous denials of drug use were all lies. He doped throughout his career, he confessed.

In falling on his sword, Landis was not content to kill his own reputation. He claimed that Armstrong helped him cheat, even storing "clean" blood in Armstrong's refrigerator.

Armstrong was as dogged by drug use accusations as fellow cyclists en route to seven consecutive Tour de France titles. And he has been as vocal in his denials as Landis once was. A denial he had to trot out again, with added attacks on his former teammate's credibility, after Landis' announcement.

Unlike Landis — and so may other big-name cyclists felled by drug tests, if not killed by drugs themselves — Armstrong has been able to maintain innocence by repeating, almost mantra-like, "I have never failed a drug test."

Perhaps it is for that he deserves the greatest congratulations.

It is clear that the question is no longer whether Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs, the question is only whether he was a superior doper among equal competitors or a superior competitor among equal dopers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

NOT the "Female Viagra"

"When men show up at the pharmacy to pick up prescription drugs for sex problems, they have several options. Viagra. Cialis. Levitra. That hasn’t been the case for women with similar problems."

So begins a CNN story about flibanserin, a drug designed to boost a woman's libido that the FDA is considering. A story on CBS News' website calls it, "female Viagra."

The problem with these comparisons? While they're both pills and they both relate to sex, flibanserin does not treat the same kinds of sex problems that Viagra treats in men. It is not the "female Viagra."

Viagra can make a man able to have sex but it doesn't give him the desire for it. In fact, Viagra's maker, Pfizer, was forced to pull ads that intimated that the drug rejuvenated a man's sex drive. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra do nothing for libido.

It may not seem like a big deal. But it's another example of media outlets demonstrating that they don't understand the things they're reporting. This one doesn't require a lot of technical or medical knowledge to get right. You just have to pay attention.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

THE Campaign Ad of 2010

I know that there's a lot of time between now and November so it could be too early to make such a pronouncement. I also know people not paying close attention will scan this post and think I am taking a political stand here. I am not. My comments are not meant as either endorsement or derision of Dale Peterson's candidacy or his campaign tactics.

So listen up!

I am curious about whether Peterson, hoping to win the Republican nomination for Alabama's Agriculture Commissioner, is a product of today's anti-incumbent political climate or is merely capitalizing on it. And whether you can virtually command people to vote for you.

So listen up!

I'll say this: Peterson's ad didn't leave much room for parody. Good satire makes you pause and think for a moment before deciding it's not real. How much farther out than this can you get before your spoof is too obvious?

I did learn how indispensable firearms are for agriculture. Apparently you can't grow cotton without a shotgun.

So listen up!

Yes I Do Deserve Your Best

I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.

— Marilyn Monroe

A friend posted that on her Facebook page and I wanted to comment but refrained. She's going through a rough time and I didn't want her to think my thoughts were directed at her.

So they go here instead.

My first thought was, it depends on how bad the worst is and how good the best is. And how much of each there are. Then I thought, screw that. Anyone who says I don't deserve her best, regardless of the prior qualifying statement, probably isn't worth the effort.

Even Marilyn Monroe.

Advice to Reporter Advising Candidate: Don't

Media consultants help politicians better deal with reporters and communicate on camera. Basketball players have coaches, why not public servants? And who better to coach you on how to deal with reporters than a reporter?

(If you are looking for media training, I know a guy.)

The problem is when the media consultant is a current reporter who is covering the candidate's campaign, especially when the candidate names the reporter while introducing his campaign staff.

This happened in south Florida where congressional candidate Allen West says in the video below that West Palm Beach TV reporter Angela Sachitano "does our media relations."

The Palm Beach Post reports that Sachitano's boss at WPTV-TV, Jeff Brogan, doesn't believe the relationship compromised her journalistic integrity but that her work for West was "inconsistent with our policy."

It was also inconsistent with having a brain.

Look, if you live somewhere long enough you are (I hope) going to know a lot of people. One of them may run for congress. You might even give him some tips on how to perform better on camera, what reporters are looking for and how to answer their questions.

But if you're a real journalist, does anyone need to tell you to stay away from his campaign appearances? Or to inform your bosses at work that you're friends with the guy and shouldn't do stories about him or his opponent?

Full disclosure: I worked with Brogan at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati from 2002-2004. Please do not construe this post as casting aspersions on him.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Story vs. The Facts

Do media need to get the facts right or just the story?

There is a difference. If you tell me that two plus two equals five and I report that, I have reported the story correctly but I have reported the fact incorrectly.

Is that OK? Should we be happy to get the story straight, even if its information is wrong? The news director at WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh seems to think so.

Last Friday, the WPXI reported that former Pittsburgh Steelers player Santonio Holmes was escorted off a commercial flight at Pittsburgh International Airport. Turns out that Holmes was not escorted off the plane. He was merely admonished for not turning off his iPod prior to landing. He left the plane with the rest of the passengers.

The station later updated its story without clarifying that its earlier report was untrue.

"The story changed and we changed it," WPXI news director Mike Goldrick told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We didn't feel like we needed to correct it because we don't feel like it was wrong. The story we got, we reported, and when the story changed we reported it."

"The information we had at the time was right. The information changed," Goldrick said.

I guess that depends on what the definition of information is. The facts the station had at the time were wrong. The facts didn't change. Holmes was either escorted off the plane or he wasn't. Unless there were two separate flights, Holmes was not escorted off the plane earlier in the day and left it on his own later.

It happened only one way. If you reported something else, you got it wrong, no matter how accurately you reported the story you heard.

Now that the news cycle is no longer 24-hours but second-to-second, we can expect a lot of stories to change as first reports increasingly become less factual. As getting it first takes more priority over getting it right, people will become more skeptical of media reports. They'll need, like reporters once did, independent confirmation from another source before they'll believe what they see, hear or read.

When that happens, what will separate the mainstream media from ordinary bloggers?

Rush Movie "Beyond the Lighted Stage"

A new movie that began shooting almost 40 years ago comes out soon. "Beyond the Lighted Stage" documents the slow rise and steady popularity of Rush. No. Not Rush Limbaugh. Rush, the rock band.

If you are of a certain age, and a fan of what was once called Album Oriented Rock, chances are the soundtrack to your life story includes at least one Rush song.

There was nothing like them. Who else sang about black holes? Trees as allegory? And I'm glad I never listened to close to the words to "The Necromancer." I don't even want to know what that's about. And they played with a technical precision unmatched by most of their contemporaries.

Rush had its critics. Ken Tucker, commenting on its lyrics, wrote that drummer/lyricist Neil Peart had the best deal because "he gets to write this caca but doesn't have to sing it."

Fortunately for the band, critics have little sway over record sales. But radio airplay did so it was a dose of irony that gave Rush its first mega-smash on AOR stations. "The Spirit of Radio" decried the very thing that most stations had become.

"Integrity, yeah, integrity!" Yeah.

That song came from the album "Permanent Waves," which was the first Rush album I bought (on cassette tape!). Some of their earlier work was a little too out there for me, as it was for the legions who ignored it when it first came out, but "La Villa Strangiato," a 9-minute instrumental from the LP (or cassette, in my case) "Hemispheres," was always a favorite.

Rush's 1981 release "Moving Pictures" continued Peart's trend of more accessible themes, though I never found any meaning in the band's most famous song, "Tom Sawyer." If that was the song that sparked Ken Tucker's comment about Rush's lyrics, I wouldn't argue, but it's one of the coolest sounding songs ever.

That was the last Rush record -- and I actually bought the vinyl version of this one -- that I bought. After that their music veered too far into electronics and preachiness for my taste.

But I enjoyed Rush's 2003 concert DVD "Rush in Rio" and will probably buy "Beyond the Lighted Stage" when it comes out on DVD too, especially if it delves beyond their struggles to find an audience and into their creative process. Even on the songs I don't like, I can appreciate the artistry that went into making them.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

CNN's Rich Sanchez Ad-Libs a Tease

Apparently not knowing what "ad-lib" means. Sanchez is a one-man blooper reel. Here's the latest example as he does a Ron Burgundy, blindly reading whatever shows up on the teleprompter.

Tip for wannabe teevee news anchors: When it says, "Up Next... Ad Lib... A Tease," you're not actually supposed to say that. You'd think that would be unnecessary advice but, as you can see below...