September 23, 2021

Media Decoder: House of Cards: Episode seven and father figures

Do reporters care about the tiny trophies of governance? Ashley Parker and David Carr review episode seven of the Netflix series “House of Cards,” and discuss whether the people who wield pens care about getting one with presidential pixie dust on it.

The recap of episode seven is, like all of our lookbacks, rife with spoilers, so avert your eyes if you have not seen it yet. And if you want to catch up with past chats, you can find episode one, two,three, four, five or six for the clicking.

Episode 7

Synopsis: Congressman Frank Underwood gets his education bill signed, which gives him juice and credibility for further adventures. Zoe Barnes invites Janine Sikorsky, the White House correspondent of her former employer, The Washington Herald, over to the dark, blogging side of journalism. Peter Russo seeks redemption, or at least election to the governor’s post in Pennsylvania. And Ms. Barnes and Mr. Underwood celebrate Father’s Day.

Carr: First off, I love the parallel opening juxtaposition of a bill signing in the Oval Office and a recovery meeting in a church basement. The first is all about hierarchy, ceremony and celebration, while the second is a place where all people are the same and the only thing being celebrated is another day of sobriety.

Much of this episode revolves around the effort to redeem Congressman Peter Russo and clean up his past for a run for governor. As Jane Hu and Carrie Frye noted in their excellent recap on The Awl — and I thought we were the only people nerdy enough to do this — Mr. Russo is forced to sit like some kind of potted plant while other people in the room talk about him in the third person.

Part of the cycle of redemption is the coming-out story in which the public figure admits that mistakes were made. In this instance, Janine Sikorsky, who at Zoe’s urging is contemplating leaving The Herald, is writing the comeback story of Mr. Russo so she has a “gritty” clip to give her cred if she decides to join Zoe at Slugline. They go through the by-now familiar kabuki in which she asks about terrible things and he minimizes at every turn. It seems a bit off, though. At one point, she asks if he “only” used marijuana and cocaine. To which I say, what’s left, shooting heroin in your eyeballs? I would think cocaine is enough to create more than a speed bump in the comeback narrative of an elected official.

With all that out of the way, can we talk about pens? In this episode, Frank hands across a pen from the bill signing ceremony to Zoe as if it were one of those pen-like gadgets from “Men In Black.” He says it is “part of history” and she seems to receive it as such, but in my experience reporters don’t care about tchotchkes like that. Working there, Ashley, you would know better. And do reporters literally go into the Oval Office for bill signings? I’ve only been there once and it didn’t seem like it was big enough to hold all those people.

Parker: Well, reporters would never be in a position to receive a signing ceremony pen — unless, like Zoe, they happen to be sleeping with, say, a member of Congress. So I think it’s the naughtiness of it she cares about, not the actual pen.

A brief caveat though: I don’t cover the president, and have never ridden on Air Force One. But I have seen enough Instagram photos and Tweets to know that the one tchotchke reporters seem to savor as a point of been-there-done-that pride are the tiny packs of Presidential MMs they give out on Air Force One. I imagine that all across Washington these specialty MMs — complete with the Presidential Seal — are decorating desks and bookshelves and stuffed in drawers as a souvenir from a reporter’s maiden Air Force One ride.

To answer your question, though, I had to run it by our White House team — and the short answer is no. As Jackie Calmes explained rather succinctly, “Bills usually aren’t signed in the Oval.” And Peter Baker explained further: “If it’s a bill they want to highlight, they can stage an elaborate ceremony in the Rose Garden or East Room. If it’s a minor bill or one they don’t want anyone to pay attention to, they won’t have any media in at all. It’s their choice.”

However, there will always be a “pool” of reporters accompanying the president at any bill signing, and this would include a print reporter. The job of the pool reporter, which rotates daily, is to track all of the president’s movements/statements/events/etc. and send out a report to all of the other reporters who weren’t able to be there.

But back to pens, one of the most affecting scenes in this episode was that the vice president was so desperate for the camera shot, and for the pen in the signing ceremony that was not forthcoming. Later, we see him duck into the Oval Office when no one is looking. He squeezes the leather of the president’s chair, scoots himself up to the mahogany desk, clasps his hands and allows himself to imagine for one moment what it would feel like to be commander-in-chief. Then, he notices the pen, slips it in his breast pocket, and walks out.

David, what did you make of that image?

Carr: I thought that the big press gang scene in the Oval Office was a confection. In terms of people vying for pens — and camera positions — no one ever lost their job by overestimating the pettiness of the Beltway ruling class.

I find it interesting that the meme of the vice president as inconsequential and off-the-ball persists in popular culture. “House of Cards” and HBO’s “Veep” both have number two’s who seem more like two-year-olds, even though the last three vice presidents — Dick Cheney, Al Gore and now Joe Biden — have had significant portfolios and the ear of the men they served. While its true that vice presidents have rarely taken on heroic dimensions in the American narrative, their role seems to have grown in real life while shrinking in the popular imagination.

I think it’s telling that Frank Underwood always goes to great pains to address the vice president with a great deal of formality — “Mister. Vice. President” — because he seems to sense that the title is all the man has. Dan Ziskie does a great job of making Vice President Matthews seem full of himself and tiny at the same time. And the scene in which he steals into the president’s office and tries the desk on for size is well played. He seems like a naughty child in need of minding.

Speaking of which, there is the matter of the Father’s Day scene between Zoe and Frank. Other publications will probably do a better job of describing their transgressive interaction. But suffice it to say that while in the past they met on a somewhat equal footing, with each seeking something from the other, the subtext of their respective ages becomes overt in this episode. They know that what they are doing is wrong on many levels and that is a large part of why they like it.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/house-of-cards-episode-seven-and-father-figures/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Brian McGrory Rises From Boston Globe Paperboy to Become the Paper’s Next Editor

Brian McGrory, the new editor of The Boston Globe.Suzanne Kreiter Brian McGrory, the new editor of The Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe announced on Thursday that Brian McGrory, a columnist and former metro editor and a Boston native with deep roots in the community, would be its next editor. The appointment is effective immediately.

Mr. McGrory, who has worked at The Globe for the past 23 years, will replace Martin Baron, the newspaper’s editor for the past decade. Mr. Baron has been named the editor of The Washington Post, and officially left The Globe last week.

Chris Mayer, the Globe’s publisher, said he chose Mr. McGrory from a pool of internal and external candidates because of his ties to Boston and his ability to motivate the newsroom. “He’s a terrific mentor and leader in terms of inspiring great journalism,” Mr. Mayer said. “It’s that ability to inspire the talent and attracting and retaining the talent.”

Mr. McGrory said that he plans to build on “the accountability journalism the paper has been known for” and doesn’t plan to make drastic changes.

“After Marty Baron’s extremely successful tenure here, we don’t need any overhaul,” said Mr. McGrory. “We don’t need a drastic change in direction.”

Mr. McGrory, 51, grew up in Weymouth, Mass., and began his connection to The Globe as a paperboy for the newspaper. In a video posted on The Globe’s Web site, he recounted how he started his own newspaper for his fifth-grade social studies class. “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do and, oddly enough, the only place I ever wanted to do it was The Boston Globe,” he said.

After attending Bates College, and working at The New Haven Register and The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., he joined The Globe in 1989. His career at The Globe has included reporting for the metro desk, and working as a roving national reporter and as a White House correspondent.

He is the nephew of the longtime Washington columnist Mary McGrory, who died in 2004.

In a column that year for The New York Times by Maureen Dowd, Ms. Dowd quoted Mr. McGrory as recalling his aunt’s advice about navigating the mores of Washington: “Always approach the shrimp bowl like you own it.”

He became a metro columnist in 1998 and later the section’s editor.

A statement released by The Globe highlighted his work leading the metro desk on investigating corruption on Beacon Hill and enhancing the desk’s narrative journalism. In the last couple of years, he wrote a twice-weekly column.

He recently published his first nonfiction book, “Buddy,” about raising a pet rooster as he adjusted to suburban life with his fiancée and her children from her first marriage.

The announcement was somewhat of a surprise in a search closely watched by local journalists.

The Boston Phoenix reported the leading finalists for the job were Caleb Solomon, the paper’s managing editor, and David Shribman, a former Washington bureau chief for The Globe and currently the executive editor of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Peter Kadzis wrote in The Phoenix about Mr. McGrory that “having left the trenches of management for the lotus fields of opinion mongering, I just don’t see McGrory getting tapped.” Peter Canellos, the head of The Globe’s editorial page and a candidate mentioned for the job, will continue to report directly to Mr. Mayer.

Mr. McGrory is stepping into a drastically changing job at the newspaper, which is owned by The New York Times Company. A newsroom that is currently staffed with 370 people, a decrease by roughly 40 percent over the past decade.

The paper’s circulation has shrunk by nearly half during that time to a circulation of 230,351 from Monday to Friday, from 438,621 readers in 2002. The Globe is also battling a struggling advertising market. According to The New York Times Company’s third-quarter earnings report, the New England Media Group, which includes The Globe, had a 6 percent decline in advertising revenue.

Mr. Mayer stressed that he recognized that Mr. McGrory did not have a strong digital background at a time when the paper is becoming more dependent on readers who receive access to content digitally. As of Thursday afternoon, Mr. McGrory had only 813 followers on Twitter. But Mr. Mayer said that he was not concerned because the company had plenty of other employees with digital expertise.

“He has some good, strong ideas,” said Mr. Mayer. “We have a lot of digital talent in the organization.”

Mr. McGrory said that while he is just getting into social media, “I’ve been pretty fascinated by it in the short time I’ve been doing it.”
He said he reads the Boston Globe on an iPhone and iPad daily.

“I don’t remember the last time I read the paper by flipping the pages,” said Mr. McGrory. “I’m not a digital guy. But I’m not a printing press guy either.”


This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 20, 2012

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this post misstated the size of The Globe’s newsroom. After shrinking over the decade, the newsroom’s staff is currently 370 people; it didn’t shrink from 370 people.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/brian-mcgrory-rises-from-globe-paperboy-to-become-its-next-editor/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: Curry to Replace Vieira on ‘Today’

NBC announced on Monday that Ann Curry will replace Meredith Vieira as a principal host of “Today” next month, marking a major transition for television’s top-rated morning show.

NBC expects the transition to be a smooth one for viewers because Ms. Curry has been the news anchor on “Today” since 1997. As Mr. Lauer put it during a segment on Monday announcing the change, Ms. Curry is moving “from this cushion and leaping over here and coming over to this cushion.”

“Today” had been bracing for Ms. Vieira’s departure since last spring, when she opted for a contract with the network that would last just one year, rather than the usual longer-term contract. She had been leaning toward leaving for months.

“We will miss you like crazy,” Matt Lauer said of Ms. Vieira on the air on Monday.

For her part, Ms. Vieira said on the broadcast, “Time is one of those weird things you can never get enough of, and I want to spend more of mine with my husband Richard and my kids, who are now rolling their eyes going, ‘No more time, mom!’ But I’m going to do it anyway.”

NBC intends not to lose Ms. Vieira altogether. Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said in a statement that “we are working together on developing her next chapter at NBC News.”

The network said on Monday that Natalie Morales, now a co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of “Today,” will replace Ms. Curry as the program’s news anchor; and Savannah Guthrie, the White House correspondent and MSNBC anchor, will become a 9 a.m. co-host, effectively replacing Ms. Morales.

The changes, announced during the 7 a.m. hour of “Today,” take effect in June, NBC said. The new contracts were finalized more than a week ago, and NBC had intended to make the announcement last Monday, but the killing of Osama bin Laden prompted the network to delay the announcement.

“Today” is by far the top profit maker in network news, and has maintained its high ratings and profits through a skilfully handled series of transitions from established stars to new hosts. The change from Ms. Vieira to Ms. Curry is the first big talent handoff for Comcast to manage since it took over NBC in January.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0413e8196e3c3736a6beff48fff3b71d