Friday, May 17, 2002
In a faith-based initiative, we have hired Rachel P. Olivier to serve as gossip columnist. I say faith-based because she seems totally unqualified to hold her new post, which was awarded on the strength of her last name alone. The young Ms. Olivier, further, is agoraphobic in the extreme, preventing her from straying beyond her sleep chamber here at the Like Father Like Sun
compound to places where current gossip actually circulates. Self-sequestered in her quarters, which are unadorned save for a stained sofa and stacks of accumulated back issues of magazines dating back to the early 1980s, she offers this brief, vintage 1987:
Sun backer Tommy Boy Tisch was, in 1985, married to Nell Scovell, later a writer for such television classics as Coach, Newhart, The Simpsons, and The Wilton North Report. Tisch would demonstrate his similarity to bungling hotel and real estate developing cousin Jonathan Tisch by letting slip a desirable property from his grip when Scovell filed for divorce soon thereafter. Scovell would go on to write a piece on marrying into wealth for the September 1987 issue of
Spy titled, variously, “How to Marry a Millionaire” or “Gold-diggers of 1987.” The Tisch-Scovell connubiality went tastefully unmentioned, though the piece noted – in a possible dig at Tisch – that “for most investment bankers, any times [copulating] more than none is a lot.” I’d wager the poor little rich boy wasn’t getting any action.
Now, I may not be a qualified media consultant, and Ellen Kampinsky’s genius surpasses my own easily, but the Sun
is in so wretched a state that even my dilettante’s evaluation of the paper’s problems is worth heeding.
The initial giddiness over having found so ridiculous and half-assed an enterprise passed, reading the Sun
has become an exercise in tedium, though the Graham Roumieu
watercolor did succeed in making an impression on us. Aside from Roumieu’s effort, the Sun
is much like the Village Vocie
, whose take on matters can almost always be conjectured correctly in advance, making an actual read of the contents an irrelevant and redundant exercise. Today, we have a Rachel P. Kovner
story on charter schools that her dad is sure to love, a call to vigilance against the weapons stockpiling of several filthy Arab regimes, and an attack by a third-rate hack
on Noam Chomsky, the most oft-repeated exercise in conservative post-September 11 "journalism." Never does the Sun
surprise, it merely repeats itself in a mechanical fashion.
Articles last week pointed to signs of life emanating from the Sun
: higher than expected circulation figures and a Virgin
ad. That ad is repeated today, though no other evidences as to the paper’s vitality are to be found. The paper is, little more than one month into its career, a rusting hulk. Watch this space, Seth
and Ira, for we will be offering seriatim advice on reclaiming that hulk and augmenting your readership.
Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Dearest readers, please excuse this update, tardy in the extreme and frankly not up to snuff. We were left incapacitated by today’s awful news, which took us like a thunderclap out of clear skies, and are only now able to provide you with our reckoning of today's tragedy. Ellen Kampinsky
is abandoning Seth Lipsky
and Ira Stoll, vacating the Sun newsroom
in favor of the editorial offices of Glamour
. Allow me to anticipate your likely question at this point (“Why, Mr. Olivier, should I give a flying fuck about a non-entity’s departure from a paper that is pretty much a corporate non-entity?”), and explain what it is that makes Kampinsky worthy of that flying fuck
Kampinsky is remarkable in every regard, from the Michael Berryman
-like prominence of her forehead to her work as a media visionary. Her vita
, in fact, catalogs her achievements, some of which, like powershopping.com and Microsoft’s Sidewalk guide, were modeled on visions so brilliant (almost hallucinatory) that they had to be busted by the Man and subsequently shuttered. Perhaps this is what the Sun
is going for.
Anyway, to assure an uninterrupted delivery of Kampinsky’s brilliance, I’m lining up a subscription to Glamour
. It will supplement the “direct-marketing publications” Kaminsky developed in one of her earlier incarnations that lodge themselves in my mailbox daily.
Adieu, Ellen. Let’s hope Seth and Ira are able to capture some of your particular genius for promoting worthless bullshit that nobody wants
, and keep their sub-par paper running long enough to run your obituary.
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
To our faithful readers (or reader): My deepest apologies. I screwed up. Last Friday I laid into the Sun for both failing to run my favorite film critic
in the world, and for reviewing foreign films
at the expense of American films
. Turns out, however (and thanks to MediaMouth for catching it) that not only was the estimable James Bowman
in that edition, but he was reviewing the very movie
I used as an example of the good work Hollywood
is putting out these days. How the hell did I screw up?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, I completely missed the story because it started on the front page. Looking at it now, there is a picture of some lady in an orange box. I guess I figured it was just another (slightly more upscale) Sun version of the NY Post’s habit of using women on the cover to boost circulation (although others are not averse to this---this morning I bought the Post but picked up the Daily News, assuming it was the Post because it had a somewhat revealing picture of Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas on the cover. Oh well—at least I got the Daily News for a quarter! Eat it newsies
!). Turned out the lady in the orange box was Diane Lane—she’s always been a bit generic looking to my mind, I didn’t recognize her, and didn’t notice the Bowman byline—I was distracted by the story next to it; “Man Frames Dog For Setting Fire.” With a story like that, what else are you going to look at? The review starts on page one, then jumps to page ten, which I also missed entirely (including David Blum’s rant against all these TV reunion shows—fine by me), having gone straight from the dog arsonist to the movie review page. No Bowman, bang I got me a story.
And this is the other reason I screwed up—I genuinely don’t like reading the Sun. I don’t like paying for it. I feel like it’s a con—I’m paying fifty cents (which could otherwise go to the food
fund) for 12 printed pages of reprinted material from other papers, for ads, and for things like Daily Candy that I can get for free online. It pisses me off. I would rather read the collected fifth-rate Chandler-esque fake-tough-guy columns of Steve Dunleavy
than read the Sun. I would rather wallpaper my house with the demented scribblings of Bill Gallo
than read the Sun. I would rather read the least funny comic strip in history
every day, all day long, than read the Sun. It’s the worst value for the money of any newspaper that has ever existed. So sometimes I speed through it. Either way, though, I’m the one that erred, and I apologize. As penance, I will refrain from making reference to James Bowman for at least one week.
And this is in addition to the punishment Grady Olivier already inflicted on me
Monday, May 13, 2002
“American liberalism doesn’t seem to be able to understand why the Arab boycotts and the Jewish boycotts are not the same,” today’s Sun
editorial states apropos of the respective communities’ boycotts of the Post
. The Post, the Sun
says, “has been running some of the most eloquent editorials in support of Israel.” And how!
And how necessary that support is, what with the casualty figures
neatly demonstrating how Israel is suffering mightily from Arab persecution.
’s introduction of this double standard in community action surprises no one who has been reading the paper regularly. On every available opportunity the Sun
has attempted to marginalize criticism of Israel by branding the act as racist, uninformed by history, or flat-out irrational. Not that Seth Lipsky
seems at all interested in rationality. Today’s editorial characterizes boycotters not as persons rationally putting forward a program to influence policy in a manner favorable to their interests, but as persons “uncomfortable with the Jewish people’s historic and religious claim to the land.” Rational negotiation is of course impossible with someone of the belief that He Himself authored their land claim. The very idea of the Palestinians reconciling themselves to the profoundly irrational religious claims to “the land” is itself as irrational as, say, forcing Macy’s to stage its fireworks display in the early afternoon in deference to that portion of the citizenry that is afraid of the dark.
So Long Seth! For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, Need A Vowel Mnookin
is leaving The Sun in order to hook up with Newsweek. He will be missed. Zwanzig
had a few parting nuggets for the readers of Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews
site. “The Sun is amazing, and we've done more damage with fewer people than any news organization I know,” Seth writes, and he’s right—The Sun has injured the cause of journalism more in four short weeks than the combined efforts of the NY Post, the National Enquirer, and Mallard Fillmore combined. Superfly
Mnookin continues, “other metro reporters will soon learn to fear Rachel Kovner and Ben Smith.” And as long as those reporters are currently attending college (Ms. Kovner’s beat) or live in fancy Brooklyn neighborhoods (Mr. Smith’s), he may be right.
But why leave the Sun? Seth
writes, “This is an great chance to work with brilliant journalists…” Maybe its also “an great chance” to work with copy editors with an iota of skill.
Big Ben Smith, I hope you were given hazard pay
on filing today’s story. Mr. Smith
’s piece, on a growing refusal on the part of Muslim shopkeeps to stock the New York Post
, contained quotes from numerous merchants in the insufferable Boerum Hill-Carrol Gardens-Park Slope area where we presume Mr. Smith, along with thousands of parentally subsidized agents of gentrification
, resides. We were surprised to read a quote from a newsvendor on Rockaway Parkway. The possibility that Mr. Smith ventured beyond Flatbush Avenue to speak with the man in person is of course remote, though if he did actually make the trip, we sincerely hope the Sun
sprung for Nagmash fare for the young reporter. He should apply for a transfer to Rachel Kovner’s Higher Ed desk, assignments on which would spare him contact with the unwashed masses.
We get word today from Master William
that “ Business is good
.” We remain skeptical. The piece notes that a full 14 per cent of the paper’s subscriptions were gifts to the congregants of one Manhattan synagogue (whose rabbi gets a mention in a companion editorial). Despite the full-page ads being commissioned, the Sun
remains a most dismal property, and its readership seems unlikely to grow significantly. Israeli-Palestinian tensions at their apex, furious denunciations and boycotts of the paper the Sun
wishes would take it seriously as a rival, a full $20 million in cash, and the Sun
cannot scare up the 25,000 readers it aimed for. What happens when tensions are relieved?
Steinhardt et al. attempted to apply Say's Law
to the mechanics of New York publishing. They are finding the real world to differ a bit from Bruce Kovner's favorite neoclassical economics texts, and are losing money quicker than Roger Hertog
could have on his own while enjoying a readership that numbers in the mid-teens - two of whom buy the paper solely to ridicule its contents publicly.
Later today: a few words on the Sun
’s most disingenuous editorial to date.