Communications/Media Week-in-Review: May 4-10, 2009

Sports + Media + Politics + Entertainment + Business

The annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner was held Saturday night and while I can’t say I missed it after attending the last three years, I did check out the replays on cspan.org and peruse the tsunami of tweets from the Washington Hilton.

President Obama delivered plenty of good one-liners (shrewdly relying, as President Bush did, on self-deprecation) and got big laughs when he opened with a bit about needing the teleprompter “to speak from the heart.” Later, when announcing his plans for the second 100 days, President Obama said, “I will learn to go off the prompter and Joe Biden will learn to stay on the prompter.”

MY 3 FAVORITE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS DINNER MEMORIES:

  • 2006: My first WHCA dinner, I was a guest of the Houston Chronicle, the hometown paper of my boss

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.  President Bush shocks – and rocks – the audience by coming out with lookalike actor Steve Bridges.  The President spoke in polite terms while Bridges said what was really on the President’s mind. Memorable exchange, from the AP story: Bridges opened like this: “The media really ticks me off — the way they try to embarrass me by not editing what I say. Well, let’s get things going, or I’ll never get to bed.”

“I’m absolutely delighted to be here, as is (wife) Laura,” Bush replied. “She’s hot,” Bridges quipped.

  • 2008: I was a guest of the Associated Press. Great dinner conversation with two of my favorite people: Deb Reichmann, one of Washington’s great reporters…and President Bush’s National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, who told a very funny tale about how his future wife thought he was a tennis pro when they met. Josh Earnest was also at our table. At the time he was Iowa Communications Director on the Obama campaign (now a White House spokesman). He promised me that on the campaign trail, then-Senator Obama would never don the baseball cap of a team besides the White Sox.
  • 2008: CBS late night host Craig Ferguson was very funny without being mean-spirited. Loved this line, to President Bush: ‘I remember eight years ago when you said you were going to return dignity to the White House. And by the way, I thought you were fantastic on Deal or No Deal (a few days after the President taped a good luck wish for an Iraq veteran appearing on the NBC game show).

MY 3 LEAST FAVORITE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS DINNER MEMORIES:

  • 2006: Steven Colbert – mean and not funny.
  • 2007: Rich Little was hired for a sweeter touch following the Colbert debacle of the year before. Colbert bombed, but not as badly as the one-time world’s greatest impersonator. It was painful to watch. I was a guest of USA Today that year.
  • Each year, the way the audience yakked loudly, drowning out the presentations to the college scholarship recipients. They fixed that this year by having Mrs. Obama participate.

FAVORITE WHCD TWEET: From “silbatron”: “Only one place can u watch someone yell “OMG it’s timothy geitner” and ignore owen wilson. White house corresp dinner 09.”

MORE FROM THE WHCD: The 3,000 guests for the second year in a row did not include representatives of The New York Times, which has decreed it is inappropriate to be so chummy with Administration officials. Huh? The paper did cover the dinner, however, and used one of President Obama’s jokes as Exhibit A for the too-cozy-for-comfort argument: “Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me. My apologies to the Fox table.” …Kudos to the AP’s Jennifer Loven, reigning White House Correspondents’ Association president, for canceling dessert and donating the $13,000 in savings to So Others May Eat, a Washington non-profit which provides services for the homeless and extremely poor…hearty congrats to Michael Abramowitz, formerly of the Washington Post (now with the Holocaust Museum) and still a good guy, for being honored with the Aldo Beckman award.

VP RIBBED IN VEGAS AD: The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority used a full-page ad
The Vegas Convention Authority Has Some Fun With the VP's Knack for Misspeaking

The Vegas Convention Authority Has Some Fun With the VP's Knack for Misspeaking

Monday’s edition of USA Today to poke fun at Vice President Biden’s penchant for misspeaking – and specifically his H1N1 flu comments on the Today show that he would recommend against traveling in airplanes or riding the subway. The ad read: “Mr. Vice President, if you had said it here, no one would have known,” with the tagline below: “What happens here, stays here. Only Vegas.” A spokesman said he thought the VP would be a good sport about it.

SPORTS/POLITICS RUMOR OF THE WEEK: Tuesday the New York Daily News reported that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is interested in being a reporter on HBO’s Real Sports show.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: New York Football Giants (love that) DE Justin Tuck on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show Tuesday, discussing how the team handled the media invasion so well after the Plaxico Burress arrest last season: “We support our teammates, which doesn’t make for a good story. We’re all about team. You can start a landslide with one little comment. “ Tuck indicated that Giants ace VP of Communications Pat Hanlon coached the players on what questions to expect.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: These clips are worth doubling back for:

“The Life of a Behind the Scenes Player,” by Eamon Javers / Politico / May 7, 2009 – a great read about the world of back-benching in DC: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22209.html

“Team Handball Has it All, Except An American Interest,” by Stefan Fatsis / NY Times / May 9, 2009 – The most obscure of the summer Olympic sports is something we should be good at – if only we knew about it. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/sports/othersports/10cheer.html?_r=1

“No Child in Action: Rising Scores Show Why We Can’t Retreat,” by Margaret Spellings / Washington Post / May 4, 2009 – My old boss, the former Sec of Ed, makes the case for NCLB – and our kids – in a compelling op-ed.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/03/AR200905...

“Brian Lamb: An Outsider Inside Washington,” by Bob Kemper / Washington Examiner / May 9, 2009 – A terrific profile of the CSPAN founder (and fellow Purdue Boilermaker). http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Brian-Lamb-An-Outsider-Inside...

“MANNY BEING SUSPENDED” COVERAGE GIVES MLB SHORT SHRIFT: Much of this week’s coverage of the 50-game suspension of Dodgers star Manny Ramirez followed the theme of this excerpt from USA Today:

“Major League Baseball, battling to woo fans in a recession, now must overcome the perception the sport remains polluted with players using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.”

While that may be true, and nothing will surprise baseball fans anymore now that so many stars of the past 10 years have turned up dirty, the headline for me this week was that MLB’s anti-drug program is working. For the first time, a mega-watt star was caught and punished. That sends the right message to fans and young players alike.

KENTUCKY DERBY DREW BIGGEST AUDIENCE IN 20 YEARS - NOW ON TO THE PREAKNESS: We learned this week that Mine That Bird’s shocking 50-1 upset win of the Kentucky Derby was watched by16.3 million viewers – the most since 1989. Give my old pals at NBC Sports kudos for promoting to women, including on NBC Universal cable nets Bravo and Oxygen, but the number still surprises me. There was not much buzz heading into the 135th Run for the Roses – and no superhorse in the field, traditionally a prerequisite for a monster number like that. How did all those people know it was going to be a race for the ages?

And for TV trivia buffs, the worst markets for the NBC’s Derby coverage? Los Angeles and San Francisco, which each posted 6.0 ratings.