My new Think Again column is a follow-up to my previous one focusing on journalism at the Washington Post and its problem with right-wing bloggers. It’s called “Conservatives vs. Good Journalism: The Continued Contamination of The Washington Post” and is described as follows: “’Ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton’s lame and self-indicting defense of conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin’s prejudice-laden post on the Norway attacks provides yet another sign of the demise of the paper’s journalistic standards,’ writes Eric Alterman.” You can find it here.
Following up on my column is a post by Ron Kampeas at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency who has a reader who notes that the situation was actually worse than I described. Rubin posted that Friday night at 9:07 about the debt deal and thus could easily have corrected her false one. The same friend has scoured Rubin’s archives and found other Sabbath postings, which means she appears to have lied to Pexton, who failed to do his homework here as well. Kampeas concludes: “making Jewish observance an excuse when it clearly is not—well, it rankles. There’s way too long a history of Jews having to take risks to observe Shabbat for it to be used as a bad faith out.” Let’s hope (but not expect) that the Post takes some action and both Pexton and Rubin apologize to readers.
Mr. Pexton, the Post Ombudsman, can be reached at 202-334-7582 or at email@example.com for those with additional questions. For more on this, see “The Mail” below.
Now here’s Reed:
Washington’s Shark Week
Summer TV programming is a notorious wasteland, one routinely populated by crappy reality TV, primetime reruns, and movies that you didn’t want to see when they came out four years ago. OK, it’s not all bad, there’s usually plenty of baseball and, in recent years, some cable TV channels have notably bucked the trend by intentionally running the occasional high-quality original series during the summer. But to do that requires a lot of time and investment, two valuable commodities that most networks can’t often command. So, an alternative way for them to break through the summer’s media miasma involves settling on a larger programming theme and then generating a cultural buzz around it. Get the public to buy into the “event,” in other words, and you’ve got a better shot at a ratings winner.
For a perfect example of this strategy, look no further than Discovery Channel’s annual steel-cage-and-teeth-gnashing extravaganza known as “Shark Week,” which is currently chewing up primetime this week for the 23rd consecutive summer. That this branded block programming has become something of a highly anticipated summer TV tradition—replete with boffo ratings, merchandising tie-ins, and viral audience participation—is not so much a mystery as it is a marvel of consistent marketing. Shark Week is all about being fun and kitschy and, literally, splashy. But, if you’re tuning in to watch in-depth and insightful documentary filmmaking about these creatures, you’re likely to be disappointed. I mean, to give you a sense of the intellectual and scientific heft of these shows, consider that, this year, they designated a member of the cast of Saturday Night Live, well known for this (NSFW) song, as “Chief Shark Officer.” The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, this ain’t.