Oops, Lee Abrams Did It Again.

Tribune Co. Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams struck again.

In his latest think piece sent out to newsrooms across the county, this one titled "Celebrity Crimes Against Humanity," he included a quote that has been attributed Mariah Carey:

"When I watch TV and see those poor kids starving all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean, I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."

Abrams used the quote as an example of the "cultural disease" that the Tribune newspapers, which include the Sun-Sentinel, can help "change."

"What I mean here," Abrams wrote, "is that <sic>We can't underestimate our importance these days. We can change this cultural disease. Exciting and important time to be in the information business like the 80s was an exciting time to be in show biz....we can't blow it by offering dated TV that's over slick and cliche ridden or Print too sluggish and bland. Our position is too important."

One problem with this is that the Carey quote is bogus. She never said it. And a staffer pointed that out in the comments under Abrams' piece. "Not sure if you care, but that quote you attributed to Mariah Caray is an urban legend debunked by Snope.com."

Abrams also included a quote from 1995 Miss America Heather Whitestone. Here's Abrams' words:  

Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever."
Miss America 1995 from Alabama
Heather Whitestone (and she won??!!)

Another commenter pointed out that, "in fairness to Heather Whitestone, she became deaf at the age of 18 months old. And anyone familiar with ASL (American Sign Language) knows that it does not follow the normal grammar structure ...."

The Tribune staffers weren't done calling truth to power yet. The next comment:

"I think your next blog entry should admit that that this "Brave New World" of "work(ing) hard at being Intelligent but unconventional" isn't as easy as it seems if you're also trying to stay professional and responsible. Sorry, I didn't like the targeting of female celebrities at the front of your blog; particularly when having to dig back more than a decade. But even better that someone was able to point out that the Mariah quote was an urban legend, already mishandled in the media."

Ouch. This after Abrams recently continued another bogus myth concerning the Chinese translation of crisis.

Abrams reacted by deleting the Carey quote, which isn't included in the version that is reprinted after the jump. But all the comments are there. Abrams is also wondering why all those female anchors and reporters at Tribune TV stations have to dress so stodgily.

"Pondering: Why do news anchors, mostly Female ones seem to dress as if they're 20 years older than they are??" Abrams writes. "Seems to me that why it may be an attempt to appear more respectable, in reality it adds to a certain stiffness and 1988 playbook. If someone is 30, I think its ok to dress like you're 30 instead of trying to fake it. We have enough problems with fake." 

I won't bother going over the rest of piece except to say that Abrams seems to have been deeply mesmerized by a female British voice in a commercial, remarks happily that crime mugshot pages in newspapers are like "watching Cops on steroids," and that TV station WSFL here in Fort Lauderdale is going to create a soundtrack "instead of standard issue and annoyingly dated 'TV Music.'"

January 23, 2009

THINK PIECE: CELEBRITY CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT

THINK PIECE: CELEBRITY CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT


CELEBRITY CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. What I mean here is that We can't underestimate our importance these days. We can change this cultural disease. Exciting and important time to be in the information business like the 80s was an exciting time to be in show biz....we can't blow it by offering dated TV that's over slick and cliche ridden or Print too sluggish and bland. Our position is too important.

Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever."
Miss America 1995 from Alabama
Heather Whitestone (and she won??!!)

"Wal-Mart... do they like make walls there?"
Paris Hilton


Scary stuff...we can't feed this machine. we need to work hard at being Intelligent but unconventional. Inspirational. Agents of change.

I sent around that Honda video last week. Got about 200 emails about it, sort of like this one:

Fantastic. If some our TV products felt like this, toned themselves like this... well not necessarily this, but in this vein, I promise they'd see higher ratings. So many local TV new casts try waaaayyyy too hard to have the bull-shit-cliche "wacky news team" and it's embarrassing.

The thing is, he's right. Another thing is we have the talent to change it. So.....let's go.

I think it all boils down to stepping out and taking it seriously. Its not optional arts and crafts...its part of surviving and remaining relevant in the emerging new era. We need the same courage to do it in TV

In Hartford, I saw a wonderful Sales video. My only thought was---Whoa! If they did this kind of thing in their day in/day out production, they'd instantly separate themselves from the pack. It was dramatic. It was visually arresting...they used a wonderful British Female voice...it bordered on magical. Then you watch the station, and it's fine...but would be infinitely fine-ER if they took the approach they took on the presentation video! Here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHm7wvegM94

We have the talent to do this everywhere. We have to liberate ourselves from old school creative thinking to execute. (not easy to do!) that includes:

*Talking to people instead of "announcing" to them.

*Using a world of voices to sell the message instead of the standard issue "TV announcer" that is hilariously tired. The Brit voice that Hartford used was cheap...easy...and SO effective, not to mention interesting and cool.

*Not being fearful that cerebral and ultra modern visuals are "too weird".

*Deliver the message with an 'in your head' vs.. 'in your face' POV.

*Subtle..but powerful vs.. sell sell sell!

*Forcing ourselves to be original and interesting. Maybe 15 years ago there was no need...but today, there IS!

*Admitting that most sales presentations and, quite honestly, local TV production, is so slick, plastic, hyped-out and predictable that it's more cheesy than compelling.

*Accepting that we have a responsibility to DO SOMETHING about the state of TV...and AFDI

*Patriotism. America is no longer the innovation center when it comes to local TV production. We can change that.

*Courage.

*Art. Art may not directly affect revenue, but if we behave like artists on the creative side, I can't think of a better tool for our revenue army to use as a weapon of differentiation.

*Pride. Not accepting average.

*Forget about "other stations". They're all living in 1988 creatively. WE need to create the new standard.

*Lexus and Apple. Two modern brands. Check their vibe. No pukey V/O's, goofy slogans or over-sell.

We have a massive opportunity that costs nothing. It's all about.....AFDI

Also in Hartford, saw Courant's historical election pages. They DIDN'T 'save it for the web' or bury it...they put it front and center and man, you get chills.

The reinvention of WSFL in South Florida is coming along well. They're going to create a soundtrack for the station instead of standard issue and annoyingly dated "TV music"
It'll add to them being "in your head" and not 'in your face'

Pondering: Why do news anchors, mostly Female ones seem to dress as if they're 20 years older than they are?? Seems to me that why it may be an attempt to appear more respectable, in reality it adds to a certain stiffness and 1988 playbook. If someone is 30, I think its ok to dress like you're 30 instead of trying to fake it. We have enough problems with fake.

Did you know that the Chicago Tribune has an amazing Listener Advantage site? I sure didn't.

I just spent some time with Kathleen O'Hara and her team going through the Subscriber Advantage program. HEY---THIS THING IS HOT ...BUT----As is an issue at most newspapers:

*Its a mystery. Seems to be a revenue/data collection opportunity that is a complete throwaway. I think we need to blow this thing out. It's our version of an airline rewards program, but you simply cant find it.
Go to Southwest or any big airline and they are AGGRESSIVE about their program....we hide it.

A few thoughts:

*It needs visibility. It is "old school" newspaper to bury this like we do. If a program of this standard was on TV or radio (or airlines) they'd be all over it!

*The incentive opportunities are awesome. Play catch with Lou Pinella. BUT--Go to Trib Points to learn how. Front row seats to U2 show, etc....

*I think we need to make it an ALL PROPERTY program ala Breaking News Bureau.

*New name? I'd suggest something along the lines CHICAGOPOINTS and tie in WGN, Chicago Magazine, etc....Pulling our resources TOGETHER.

Bottom line: THIS THING IS HOT...extremely well done, but as is common in newspaper thinking (old wave) it's so underplayed that it's kinda sad. What an opportunity!! I strongly encourage us to blow this wide open!

The Chicago Tribune Breaking News site is playing with some ideas, including:

*minute and second timer that gives site immediacy. Its up...check it out
*use of a master map on top so you can quickly see "where" the stories are happenning.
*popular mug shot page . It's like watching "Cops" on steroids...
*color coding stories by type.

Speaking of Chicago, Shocking...a positive review of the tabloid Chicago Tribune from an industry trade paper. Not that they matter...they dont, but it's still shocking! Rumors had it that Chicago WOULD fall into the lake and cease to be if this newspaper made such a dramatic change (even though it's only in the newsstand/street copies). I guess the point is that Chicago did NOT fall into the lake, and the CT had the courage to AFDI something that had, from what I understand, been in the "discussion" stage since about 1950. Good, noticable change/evolution is a key component to our survival and GROWTH...in print or on a screen.

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003931797

AND:
Heres a video plated around the Tower this week. the RIGHT attitude!!
-Lee

http://multimedia.tribune.com/ctc/new/full/FullTab1.html

...It's all up to us to noticably and aggressively meet the creative demands of 2009, or fade away....

Posted by Lee at January 23, 2009 08:49 AM

Comments

I really like the look of that Hartford Courant paper at 2:28 in the video. The title up the Left side really opens up the front of the paper. Very much a internet CMS type design on a print paper.

Posted by: Michael Harrison at January 26, 2009 09:13 AM

Not sure if you care, but that quote you attributed to Mariah Carey is an urban legend debunked by Snopes.com...

Posted by: Jim Kimberly at January 26, 2009 09:49 AM

And in fairness to Heather Whitestone, she became deaf at the age of 18 months old. And anyone familiar with ASL (American Sign Language) knows that it does not follow the normal grammar structure that we are used too.

Posted by: Michael Harrison at January 26, 2009 11:26 AM

I think your next blog entry should admit that that this "Brave New World" of "work(ing) hard at being Intelligent but unconventional" isn't as easy as it seems if you're also trying to stay professional and responsible. Sorry, I didn't like the targeting of female celebrities at the front of your blog; particularly when having to dig back more than a decade. But even better that someone was able to point out that the Mariah quote was an urban legend, already mishandled in the media.

Posted by: Jill Roberts at January 26, 2009 04:24 PM



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