The media year of 2015 has one loud, controversy-addicted politician at its heart, but also included reporting disagreements, and some tragic deaths.
It has been a year of amazes, hardly any of them welcome in the media world.
Well, maybe some of them.
While a reality television superstars apparently triumphal march to the White House is devoting a good many citizens the willies, who can resist the riveting narratives supplied by the downfall of Brian Williams?
Its ridiculous. Legislator are always looking for some subterranean reason why people want to go after their nominee .
The thwarted attempts to humble Fox Newss resident megalomaniac, Bill OReilly? The ongoing tragicomedy of the ladies of The View ? And the comeuppance of Gawker Media?
Herewith, a gala of the best, if occasionally alarming, media stories of the past 12 months.
DONALD TRUMP, KING OF ALL MEDIA : The erstwhile reality television superstar, who played a billionaire real estate mogul on NBCs long-running hit The Apprentice , has exploded any number of widely held premises in the political-media complex.
Bob Simon became a much-honored correspondent for CBS Newss venerable Sunday show, practising journalism that blended cynicism, humor, empathy, and profound spirituality .
Among them was the certainty that Trumps frontrunner status in the Republican presidential field was by definition illusory and temporary; that his often-offensive pronouncements against Mexicans, Megyn Kelly, POWs, and Muslimsto name just four of his targetswould speedily disqualify him in the minds of voters; and that his refusal to hire a media strategist and purchase advertising time in Iowa and New Hampshire would doom his ability to control his campaign message.
Much to the consternation of the GOP establishmentindeed, the American powers that be as a wholeTrump has interrupted long-established truths of presidential campaigning, displaying a previously unknown virtuosity in manipulating the countrys broadcast and cable news networks into covering him wall to wall and thus depriving his rivals of much-needed attention in the mainstream media.
The Donald is no doubt justified in taking a measure of credit for the unheard-of, record-breaking viewership of the presidential primary debates. All this, while betraying an ignorance of domestic and international policy details that successful White House aspirants generally try to master.
Perhaps Trumps success in the political big-time shouldnt have been a shock, devoted his undeniable talent at constructing the Trump brand through near-constant engagement with the Fourth Estateand the conflict-loving superficiality of much of the news medias political reporting.
THE Democrat TOP LADY VS. NEW YORKS GRAY LADY : Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz considers The New York Times Hillary Clintons media lapdog, but thats scarcely the view of the Democratic frontrunners loyalists and campaign operatives.
They have suspected the newspaper of record of anti-Hillary bias ever since the Times spearheaded Whitewater scandal reporting in 1992, following up with Times columnist William Safire calling the then-first lady a congenital liar, and persisting to the present day, with the Times questioning the fundraising and favor-granting practises of the Clintons and their charitable foundation, and breaking the private email story in the run-up to the 2016 election.
James Carville insists that the papers chronic unfairness is obvious: Does anybody claim anything to the contrary? Its like people claiming theres no climate change. You can find someone, but it would be very hard to find somebody who doesnt work there.
Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet pushes back: What I would say to my fellow Louisianan, James Carville, is that, being a pundit, he likes to opine about things when he doesnt know anything about them. Its absolutely no truth to the rumors. Its ridiculous. Legislator are always looking for some subterranean reason why people want to go after their candidate.
THE LIFE( AND NEAR-DEATH) OF BRIAN : In a network news division chronically beset by turmoil and bad PR, the toppling of longtime NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was a new low. Williamss self-inflicted woundtelling tall tale about his exploits in journalism , not only on NBC but also during numerous late-night talk indicate appearances and other public situates over the yearsearned him a six-month suspension without pay in February.
The hammer came down mere weeks after Williams signed a reported $50 million, five-year contract to continue anchoring NBCs marquee news program after a decade of ratings success; nearly everyone predicted that he could never be rehabilitated.
Enter Williamss close friend and mentor Andy Lack, the former NBC News president who came backafter a 15 -year-absenceto run not only the roiling broadcast news division but also the ratings-challenged cable outlet MSNBC.
After a grudgingly chastened Williams claimed to have learned his lesson and promised never to do it again, Lack installed him as MSNBCs live breaking news anchor, proving that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong where reference is wrote, There are no second is acting in American lives.
THE UNSINKABLE, UNBELIEVABLE BILL OREILLY : The win and still champion of Fox Newss prime-time schedule( indeed, of all of cable news) is no Brian Williams. The 66 -year-old host of The OReilly Factor whose successful formula is an intoxicating mixture of faux populism, avuncularity, brute bullying and ragecommitted journalistic sins arguably far worse than Williamss, literally fabricating various fantasies about his supposedly death-defying coverage of the Falklands War, his presence on the doorstep of a JFK assassination figure at the very moment that the man was committing suicide with a shotgun, and other egregious whoppers.( Check out this memorable exchange about inducing up stuff between OReilly and Al Franken in his pre-senatorial days ).
But, in stark contrast to how NBC News execs handled the Williams imbroglio, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes backed his most durable superstar to the hilt after David Corn of Mother Jones began uncovering OReillys lies in February.
In November, it was left to OReillys Fox News colleague, George Will, to publicly censure the host of The Factor for shoddy journalism in his latest ghost-written best-seller, Killing Reagan .
Relying on a memoranda OReilly never bothered to acquire or read, OReillys book claimserroneously, Will proclaimed, citing other published sourcesthat the White House staff seriously considered invoking the 25 th Amendment to replace the 40 th chairwoman for physical and mental incapacity.
You are actively misinforming the American peopleyou are lying, OReilly wailed at Will, who coolly shot back: You are something of an expert on actively misinforming people.
CHANGING OF THE LATE-NIGHT GUARD : Cultural icons David Letterman and Jon Stewart renounced their nighttime thronesStewart for an unknown upstart from South Africa named Trevor Noah to take over Comedy Centrals Daily Show ; and Lettermans Late Show to Stephen Colbert, a Daily Show alumnus and superstar of Comedy Centrals The Colbert Report. While both the 31 -year-old Noah and the 51-year-old Colbert are smart and talented satirists, they have yet to equal their predecessors audience appeal, and CBS executives are said to be concerned about Colberts ratings plunge in his 3months on the broadcast network.
Samantha Bee will become the only female late night host when her indicate premieres on TBS on Feb. 8, 2016.
THE VIEW GETS EVEN UGLIER : The once-dominant, much-imitated women-oriented panel show, created by Barbara Walters, may not be the ratings machine of years past.
But it continues to be, in its 19 th season on ABCs daytime programming schedule, the go-to venue for melodrama and acrimony both behind and in front of the camera. A compendium of the chaos that has clouded The View includes: the firings of newbie panelists Nicolle Wallace and Rosie Perez, and the second abrupt deviation of Rosie ODonnell( who was lured back after ceasing in 2007 and this October was sued for slander by a sacked producer who claimed the comedian fell down rages, called at the staff, insulted them, and was so vicious that some of the staffers on the indicate spoke of Ms. ODonnell using the word dislike ); the desperate escape of executive producer Bill Wolff only months after he replaced the defenestrated Bill Geddie; the regular angry meltdowns of moderator Whoopi Goldberg, who reportedly kvetched backstage that ABC execs habitually treated her like a slave; and rumor that the indicate might eventually face cancellation if GOOP doyenne Gwyneth Paltrow doesnt accepted a rumored seven-figure offer to committee what canned cohost Jenny McCarthy has called the Titanic. Say what you will about the 86 -year-old Baba( who retired from the show in May 2014 ), she knows when to leave a sinking ship.
ROLLING STONE RETRACTS UVA STORY : After much disagreement and an independent investigation by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, on April 5 Rolling Stone publication retracted Sabrina Rubin Erdelys story about an alleged campus rape at the University of Virginia.
The schools 13,000 -word report into the piece, A Rape on Campus, quoth multiple inadequacies in Erdelys reporting and editorial oversight at the magazine.
GAWKER DISCOVERS THAT, YES, KARMAS A BITCH : After a decade of providing snarky rumor about media figures, politicians and Hollywood celebritiesand creating a host of lifestyle, tech, and sports blogs that, in sum, amounted to a profitable $40 million annual businessGawker founder and majority proprietor Nick Denton has had a change of heart.
Hulk Hogans potentially ruinous suit in Florida concerning Gawkers partial posting of a sexuality video starring the wrestling iconwhich is expected to come to trial next year before a judge who is clearly sympathetic to Hoganprobably had something to do with Dentons road-to-Damascus conversion.
But the near-universal condemnation of Gawkers July item outing a heterosexually married Cond Nast executiveand the staff insurrection that resulted when Denton pulled the story and proclaimed he was ashamed of itundoubtedly sealed the deal.
Still reeling from the controversyduring which his top two editors cease, followed by several other staffersthe mortified Denton announced that the news site would, from now on, be 20 percent nicer and concentrate on politics.
THE POWER OF A PICTURE : The image of 3-year-old Syrian son Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey, is one of the most powerful media images of the year, encapsulating the drama and many tragedies of the European refugee crisis.
Kurdi had been on a boat with other refugees trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. Aylans brother Galib and mother Rehana also died.
MIKE BLOOMBERG, JOURNALISM SAVIOR? NAH !: After three words as mayor of New York, the 73 -year-old billionaire, who once mused about running for chairwoman, tried gun-safety and environmental activism and full-time philanthropy before deciding that he was getting bored and needed to return to the helm of the 35 -year-old financial information company that had built him countries around the world 13 th-richest person.
Re-taking the drivers seat in September 2014, he was less than thrilled by what he found: a bloated( to his intellect) journalism powerhouse of 2,400 editors and reporters around the worldand scant attention paid to the development of Bloomberg LLPs cash-generating, core terminal business.
Violent corporate restructuring and bloodletting soon followed, with scores of journalists losing their jobs. Mike doesnt even really like journalists, a Bloomberg insider quipped, remembering the ex-mayorsnotoriously testy interactions with beat reporters during his grudging and often deigning press conferences at City Hall.
At an office party held when Bloomberg Newss Zachary Midler won the 2015 Explanatory Reporting Pulitzer Prize, the companys namesake seemed to confirm that assessment, where reference is dryly told one of the celebrants: This is great for the ones who am worried about journalism awards.
THE NINE LIVES OF ARIANNA( AND AOL ): In May, when Verizon announced the $4.4 billion acquisition of historically distressed AOLwhich will forever be linked to its catastrophic merger with Time Warner, which ultimately vaporized $125 million in shareholder equityit represented a moderately happy ending for the once-ascendant Internet company whose demise was, to many in the fields, a foregone conclusion. But it was a win-win for Arianna Huffington, who less than five years ago had engineered the sale of her Huffington Post digital media enterprise to AOL for an eye-popping $315 million.
The 65 -year-old Huffington, who can now draw upon the impressive the resources available to the $190 billion telecommunications behemoth, has long displayed a genius for surfing the Zeitgeist.
When she was married to a conservative Republican California congressman in the 1990 s, she was a right-wing firebrand and acolyte of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
After her divorce from former Rep. Michael Huffingtonwho eventually came out as gayArianna being transferred to Brentwood, befriended politically active movie stars like Warren Beatty, and repositioned herself as a diehard liberal.
She initially launched the Huffington Post in 2005, then a collect of blogs, as a left-wing counterpoint to the influential Drudge Report. Now shes done Drudge one better as a bona fide media mogul.
REBEKAHS RESURRECTION : It was understandable, if not entirely predictable, when Rupert Murdoch restored his 43 -year-old second son, James, to a top leadership position in June, naming him chief executive of 21 st Century Fox, the non-printand thus insanely profitablearm of Murdochs media empire.( James shares authority with his older brother Lachlan, the companys executive co-chairman along with Dad .)
The many commentators who prophesied the derailment of Jamess careerfor his admittedly lackluster performance during the 2011 phone-hacking scandal that resulted in corporate humiliation, criminal charges and the closure ofMurdochs News of the World , Britains most popular tabloidforgot that blood is thicker than money.
More surprising is the return to power of former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, who in September took control of News UK, Murdochs British publishing subsidiary.
She was deeply implicated in the illegal Fleet Street practice of hacking into celebrities cellphonesand that of murdered teen Milly Dowler, provoking public outrage.
The flame-haired Brooks lost her job as CEO of Murdochs News International( basically the same one she managed to get back ), was arrested by the Metropolitan Police, put on trial, and ultimately exonerated on a defense of ignorance. Who knew that Rupert was such a forgiving spirit?
FREE JASON REZAIAN : The Washington Post s Tehran bureau chiefa California-born Iranian-American who was arrested 16 months ago along with his journalist-wife at their home in Irans capitalhas passed the 520 -day mark of being held hostage in the Islamic Republics notorious Evin Prison.
Rezaians Iranian-born wife, Yeganeh Salehi, was released after three months and is awaiting trial on unspecified charges.
After more than a year of physical and psychological abuse and five months of daily interrogations, the 39 -year-old Rezaian was subjected to a secret trial in a so-called revolutionary tribunal, a vague conviction and an indeterminate prison sentence on a bogus accusation of espionage for the United Stateswhose secretary of state, John Kerry, negotiated a nuclear arms deal with the ruling mullahs without first securing the freedom of Rezaian and at the least three other U.S. citizens incarcerated in Iran.
THE YEAR OF REPORTING DANGEROUSLY : While Donald Trump might be willing to give his fanboy Vladimir Putin a pass on the killing of bothersome reporters2 6 in Russia since the former KGB officer presumed power in December 1999, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, although none during the past two yearsits far from obvious how our potential president-in-waiting would respond to the fact that the news biz was even more lethal this past year in Europe and the United States. Of the 69 journalists who died on the job, nine were among the 12 people killed in Paris by gun-wielding Muslim extremists during the assault on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo .
Local television reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman Adam Wardworking the morning shift for Roanoke, Virginias CBS affiliate, WDBJwere shot to death live on the air by a deranged former colleague who, equipped with a body-cam, posted his crime online, apparently taking his cue from the grisly propaganda videos circulated by the Islamic State.
The impassioned, larger-than-life Carrwho had transformed himself, through sheer brilliance and force-out of will, from fissure junkie and girlfriend abuser to loving family man and the countrys most influential media criticcollapsed and died in the Times newsroom at age 58, the same February night that he had expertly moderated a panel on national security journalism.
The 73 -year-old Simon, a self-described Jewish child from the Bronx, was a dashing war reporter who regularly set their own lives on the line, and spent 40 harrowing days as a prisoner of Saddam Husseins army during the first Gulf War.
He became a much-honored correspondent for CBS Newss venerable Sunday show, practising journalism that blended cynicism, humor, empathy, and profound spirituality.
In the sort of preposterous irony that Simon might have highlighted in one of his award-winning 60 Minutes pieces, he diedthe night before Carrnot during a firefight in an exotic war zone but in the back seat of chauffeured Town Car in a entirely avoidable collision on the West Side Highway.
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