Media

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Commercial Appeal: Best Place to Work in Memphis is Nashville

Newspaper honors Memphis businesses by giving them plaques with pictures of Nashville.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 2:22 PM

It's nice to see the Commercial Appeal honoring Memphis' best workplaces. Like Bartlett City Schools which, according to this Facebook post, were ranked second in the “Top 10 Large Business Workplaces” category. But wouldn't it be even nicer if the plaques had a picture of the Memphis skyline on them, instead of Nashville?
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Local journalism. Can't beat it.

Andy Wise Leaving WMC Post. Tags Decision #WiseChoices

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 11:41 AM

Look how they follow you.
  • Look how they follow you.
WMC consumer advocate Andy Wise is making a change. More details will be available at 1 p.m. Right now all we know is that Dec. 15th is the newsman's #LastDay.
And that he has some parting wishes, none of which involve Fly on the Wall.
Merp. 
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hello Boris! FCC Clears the Way for Right Wing Sinclair's Channel 3 Takeover

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 12:37 PM

Race to the Bottom
  • Race to the Bottom
Well, we all knew it was going to happen, didn't we? When's the last time something awful that could happen didn't happen, am I right?

Channel 3 is about to become a Sinclair Broadcast station.

Via Freepress.net

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to erase several longstanding media-ownership limits that prevented one broadcast company from controlling too much media in a single market.

The agency rolled back a local television-ownership rule that barred a broadcaster from owning multiple stations in smaller local markets and weakened the standards against owning more than one top-rated station in the same market.

The FCC also gave its blessing to so-called joint sales agreements, or JSAs, which allow a single company to run the news operations of multiple stations in a single market that would otherwise compete against each other. The vote also overturned the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, which prevented a single company from owning a daily newspaper, TV and radio stations in the same market.

Today’s moves clear the way for the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media, a deal government agencies including the FCC are now reviewing. Should regulators approve the merger, the resulting broadcast giant would control more than 233 local-TV stations reaching 72 percent of the country’s population, far in excess of national limits set by Congress on broadcast-TV ownership.

Fly on the Wall's been watching this story since news of the intended merger broke earlier this past Spring.

With their overemphasis on crime and safety in the urban core, Memphis' TV-news stations already affect a potent, subtle, and effective right-wing bias. Today's media news suggest things are about to get less subtle. On Monday, May 8, Tribune Media Co. announced its 42 television news properties, including Memphis' WREG-TV, would be acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.9 billion.

If approved by the FCC Sinclair, will operate 233 stations in 72-percent of America's broadcast markets. The company will additionally assume $2.7 billion in debt.

Sinclair has a long, unapologetic (though occasionally denied) history of aligning itself with conservative politics and making local news less local. There's no point in repeating the origin story when this Memphis Flyer Viewpoint from 2003 does such a fine job of condensing things.

Like many a media empire, Sinclair grew through a combination of acquisitions, clever manipulations of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, and considerable lobbying campaigns. Starting out as a single UHF station in Baltimore in 1971, the company started its frenzied expansion in 1991 when it began using "local marketing agreements" as a way to circumvent FCC rules that bar a company from controlling two stations in a single market. These "LMAs" allow Sinclair to buy one station outright and control another by acquiring not its license but its assets. Today, Sinclair touts itself as "the nation's largest commercial television broadcasting company not owned by a network." You've probably never heard of them because the stations they run fly the flags of the networks they broadcast: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and the WB.

The new deal, which also gives Sinclair part ownership in the Food Network, still requires FCC approval, but, as noted by CNN, the Trump administration has shown nothing but interest in approving these kinds of mergers. Once approved Sinclair plans to swiftly liquidate all real estate connected to Tribune Media's print holdings. That makes sense since, as noted by The Baltimore Sun, Sinclair Broadcast Group does two things very well: "It knows how to run local stations lean and mean. And it makes some of the most visually engaging local news in the country."
This also means Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn's ongoing surrogacy will become a regular feature in the Memphis media landscape.

"Bottom Line With Boris," doesn't even sound like a real news segment. It sounds like something made up by the Onion News Network. But it's real — at least in the sense it exists. And if the FCC approves Sinclair media's rule-fudging acquisition of WREG, former special assistant to President Donald Trump, Boris Epshteyn will be popping up on Memphis TV screens several times a week.

For whatever it's worth, Mr. Bottom Line is also the sixth person questioned by the House Intelligence Committee in its ongoing Russia probe. Throughout the campaign Epshteyn was pro-Putin and his financially conflicted commentary mirrored Russian propaganda on the Ukraine. He parted ways with Trump in March, but continues to stand by his man in his private sector editorials.

This week Politico broke news that Sinclair tripled its weekly order for must-air "Bottom Line with Boris" segments.

Memphis won't be alone. If/when the Sinclair deal goes down — and there's no reason to believe it won't — 72-percent of all Americans will live in a Sinclair market. It's a big deal, to borrow from Vox, "Because local news programs are some of the most-watched shows in America."

"Most watched" translates to 4-times the combined audience of the top three cable news stations — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

While national news outlets like CNN become targets in political info-wars, local news delivers the eyes and ears of the nation, and Trump-entangled Sinclair is on the verge of acquiring Memphis' top-rated station.
Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?
  • Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Richard Ransom Announces Plan to Curb Violent Crime Reporting at WATN 24

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 5:32 PM

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“Reporting crime all the time is not a responsible or accurate reflection of life in our city and I am proud to work with a news team that wants to inform you, not scare you.” — Channel 24 anchor/managing editor Richard Ransom
Richard Ransom, who left his position at Memphis' top-rated WREG, to join the news team at WATN Channel, 24 says he wants to break the cycle of "if it bleeds it leads" TV-journalism. In a brief but compelling interview with Smart City Memphis, Ransom described lazy “crime all the time” coverage, as  low-hanging fruit. "It also doesn’t reflect the city I know," he said. "It glorifies violence and can fuel racial stereotypes."

That all sounds good, and just about right, but can we expect real change?
"Based on our sample, WATN-24 (formerly WPTY) appears to have the highest percentage of mayhem in the Memphis market. In fact, among Memphis stations, Channel 24 seems to devote the least amount of time to news reporting." — Guns & Bunnies, a Memphis Flyer cover story from April, 2017.
  • "Based on our sample, WATN-24 (formerly WPTY) appears to have the highest percentage of mayhem in the Memphis market. In fact, among Memphis stations, Channel 24 seems to devote the least amount of time to news reporting." — Guns & Bunnies, a Memphis Flyer cover story from April, 2017.
Local Memphis 24 has little to lose with this experiment and everything gain.  Judging by the results of a  Memphis Flyer survey from earlier this year, it was the station devoting the largest percentage of its time to crime reporting while producing the least amount of non-crime-related news content. It has also been a perennial cellar-dweller in the ratings game and any attempt to generate more  relevant news programming would be a step in the right direction. A serious attempt to deemphasize crime in favor of useful news might even disrupt the local broadcast market.

Or it will prove once and for all that broadcast consumers prefer being entertained, enraged, and scared to being informed.





Thursday, October 26, 2017

Start Halloween Weekend Right With a Tribute to Sivad and Fantastic Features

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 10:00 AM

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Every now and then Fly on the Wall likes to publish something "From the Morgue," which, in newspaper jargon, means an article we published some time in the past that's been filed away. But in this case the expression's especially fitting. It's late October — time to remember Memphis' original horror host Sivad. All links have been updated, so readers should be able to sample some of the movies that made Fantastic Features so fantastic. 

The horror first took control of Memphis television sets at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 29, 1962. It began with a grainy clip of black-and-white film showing an ornate horse-drawn hearse moving silently through a misty stretch of Overton Park. Weird music screeched and swelled, helping to set the scene. A fanged man in a top hat and cape dismounted. His skin was creased, corpse-like. He looked over his shoulder once, then dragged a crude, wooden coffin from the back of the hearse. His white-gloved hand opened the lid, releasing a plume of thick fog and revealing the bloody logo of Fantastic Features.

"Ah. Goooood eeeevening. I am Sivad, your monster of ceremonies," the caped figure drawled, in an accent that existed nowhere else on planet Earth. Think: redneck Romanian.

"Please try and pay attention," he continued, "as we present for your enjoyment and edification, a lively one from our monumental morgue of monstrous motion pictures."


In that moment, a Mid-South television legend was born. For the next decade, Sivad, the ghoulish character created by Watson Davis, made bad puns, told painfully bad jokes, and introduced Memphians to films like Gorgo...


The Brain That Wouldn't Die
...

and Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.


Watson Davis' wisecracking monster wasn't unique. He was one of many comically inclined horror hosts who became popular regional TV personalities from the '50s through the '70s. According to John Hudgens, who directed American Scary, a documentary about the horror-host phenomenon, it all began with "Vampira," a pale-skinned gorgon immortalized by Ed Wood in his infamously incompetent film Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Although a Chicago-area host calling himself "The Swami" may have been the first costumed character regularly introducing scary movies on television, the big bang of horror hosting happened in 1954, when the wasp-wasted actress Maila Nurmi introduced her campy, Morticia Adams-inspired character on The Vampira Show, which aired in Los Angeles.

via GIPHY

In 1957, Screen Gems released a package of 52 classic horror films from Universal studios. The "Shock Theater" package, as it was called, created an opportunity for every market to have its own horror host. "Part of that package encouraged stations to use some kind of ghoulish host," Hudgens explains. "Local television was pretty much live or had some kind of host on everything back then."

Overnight, horror hosts such as New York's "Zacherly" and Cleveland's "Ghoulardi" developed huge cult followings. "TV was different in those days," Hudgens says. "There weren't a lot of channels to choose from, and the hosts could reach a lot more people quickly. Ghoulardi was so popular that the Cleveland police actually maintained that the crime rate went down when his show was on the air, and they asked him to do more shows."
Dr. Lucifer
  • Dr. Lucifer

Tennessee's first horror host was "Dr. Lucifer," a dapper, eyepatch-wearing man of mystery who hit the Nashville airwaves in 1957. Since Fantastic Features didn't air until the fall of 1962, Sivad was something of a latecomer to the creep-show party. But unlike most other horror hosts, Davis didn't have a background in broadcasting. He'd been a movie promoter, working for Memphis-based Malco theaters. His Sivad character existed before he appeared on television. At live events, he combined elements of the classic spook show with an over-the-top style of event-oriented marketing called ballyhoo. So Davis' vampire, while still nameless, was already well known to local audiences before Fantastic Features premiered.

"You've got to understand, things were very different back then," Elton Holland told the Memphis Flyer in a 2010 interview. "Downtown Memphis was a hub for shopping, and going out to the movies was an event. And back then, Malco was in competition with the other downtown theaters, so when you came to see a movie, we made it special.”

To make things special Holland, Davis, and Malco vice president Dick Lightman became masters of promotion and special events. Davis and Holland were neighbors who lived in Arkansas and car-pooled into Memphis every day. During those drives, Davis would float ideas for how to promote the films coming to town.

The studios only provided movie theaters with limited marketing materials. Theater businesses had in-house art departments that created everything else. What the art department couldn't make, Davis built himself in the theater's basement. When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to town, he built a giant squid so large it had to be cut in half to get it up the stairs. He constructed a huge King Kong puppet that towered over the lower seats. For the film Dinosaurus, he built a Tyrannosaurus rex that was 20 feet tall and 45 feet long. It sat in the lobby, roaring and moving its tail.


"All movies were sold through exploitation," Holland explained. "And horror movies were the best ones to exploit. ... I remember when Watson first told me he wanted to be a monster. He was thinking vaudeville. He wanted to put on a show."

Davis' plan to create a scary show wasn't original. The "spook show" was a sideshow con dating back to when 19th-century snake-oil vendors traveled the country hawking their wares. Slick-talking performers would hop from town to town promising entertainment-deprived audiences the chance to see a giant, man-eating monster, so terrible it had to be experienced to be believed. Once the tickets were sold, it was loudly announced that the monster had broken free and was on a bloody rampage. The idea was to cause panic and create a confusing cover for the performers to make off with the loot.
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In the early 20th century, the spook show evolved, and traveling magicians exploited the public's growing fascination with spiritualism by conjuring ghosts and spirits. By mid-century, they developed into semi-comical "monster shows" that were almost always held in theaters. Today's "hell houses" and haunted mansions are recent permutations of the spook show.

When England's Hammer Films started producing horror movies that were, as Holland says, "a cut above," he, Davis, and Lightman took the old spook-show concept and adapted it sell movie tickets. They went to Memphis State's drama department and to the Little Theatre [now Theatre Memphis] looking for actors so they could put a monster on a flatbed truck in front of the Malco.

Davis dressed as Dracula, Holland was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and another Malco exec played Frankenstein. The company also included a wolfman and a mad doctor.

Davis sometimes joined Lightman on inspection tours of other Malco properties. On one of those tours, the men saw an antique horse-drawn hearse for sale on the side of the road. They bought the hearse that appears in the Fantastic Features title sequence for $500. It also appeared in various monster skits and was regularly parked in front of Malco theaters to promote horror movies.

"One time we had this actor made up like a wild man," Holland said, recalling a skit that was just a little too effective. "While Watson did his spiel about the horror that was going to happen, the chained wild man broke loose and pretended like he was attacking this girl. He was going to jerk her blouse and dress off, and she had on a swimsuit underneath." One 6'-3", 300-pound, ex-military Malco employee wasn't in on the joke and thought the actor had actually gone wild. He took the chain away, wrapped it around the wild man's neck, and choked him until the two were pulled apart.

Music to Sivad to...
  • Music to Sivad to...

The proliferation of television eventually killed ballyhoo promotions and all the wild antics used to promote movies. At about that time, the studios started "going wide" with film distribution, opening the same film in many theaters at one time instead of just one theater in every region. This practice made location-specific promotions obsolete. By then, the Shock Theater package had made regional stars out of horror hosts all across the country. WHBQ approached Davis and offered him the job of "monster of ceremonies" on its Fantastic Features show. The show found an audience instantly and became so popular that a second weekly show was eventually added. Memphis viewers apparently couldn't get enough of films like Teenage Caveman...


and Mutiny in Outer Space...


Joe Bob Briggs, cable TV's schlock theater aficionado who hosted TNT's Monster Vision from 1996 to 2000, says that "corny" humor was the key to any horror host's success or failure. "Comedy and horror have only rarely been successfully mixed in film — although we have great examples like Return of the Living Dead, Briggs says. "But comedy surrounding horror on television was a winning formula from day one. In fact, it's essential. If you try to do straight hosting on horror films, the audiences will hate you."

In 1958, Dick Clark invited New York horror host Zacherly to appear on American Bandstand. "This wasn't the year for the comedians, this was the year for the spooks and the goblins and the ghosts," Clark said, introducing "Dinner With Drac," the first hit novelty song about monsters. Four years later, Bobby "Boris" Puckett took "Monster Mash" to the top of the charts. In the summer of 1963, Memphis' favorite horror host hopped on the pop-song monster bandwagon by recording the "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll/Dicky Drackeller" single.


Novelty songs such as "What Made Wyatt Earp" became a staple on Fantastic Features, and Sivad began to book shows with the King Lears, a popular Memphis garage band that influenced contemporary musicians like Greg Cartwright, who played in the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers before forming the Reigning Sound. Although "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll" never charted, Goldsmith's department store hosted a promotional record-signing event, and 2,000 fans showed up to buy a copy.

In 1972, Fantastic Features was canceled. And though Davis was frequently asked to bring the character back, he never did. Horror movies were changing, becoming bloodier and more sexually explicit in a way that made them a poor fit for Sivad's family-friendly fright-fest. In 1978, Commercial Appeal reporter Joseph Shapiro unsuccessfully tried to interview Davis. He received a letter containing what he called a cryptic message: "Sivad is gone forever" is all it said.

Davis, who borrowed his name-reversing trick from Dracula, Bram Stoker's blood-sucking fiend who introduced himself as Count Alucard, died of cancer in March 2005. He was 92 years old.
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* A version of this article appeared in the Memphis Flyer in 2010 —- but with out all the nifty links and embeds. 


Monday, October 9, 2017

Dick Pics: News Channel-5 Nashville Appears on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 2:48 PM

Memphis plays itself.
  • Memphis plays itself.
Last Week Tonight's latest installment of "And now, this..." was a thigh-slapping compilation of all those times when local weather people have gone all American Vandal and drawn dicks on TV. The segment included a snippet from Nashville's TV-5
(Video excerpt below).


Everybody should totally take the time to watch this whole important clip because there are so many more dicks where those came from. Still, it's kind of a shame Oliver didn't dive a little deeper into Memphis' sordid "things that look like dicks" history. Like the infamous "welcome to Memphis" sign that looks like a bouquet of dildos. 
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For reference, here's a picture of said sign next to an actual bouquet of dildos.
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And what about that enormous sperm-shaped ribbon of asphalt terminating at the Bass Pro Pyramid? Hmmmmm?
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And while we're on about it, I know she's from Columbia, TN not Memphis, but if you're going to do a segment on things that look like penises, does it get any better than the money-shot campaign materials created by District 65's Sheila "rape-and-incest-aren't-verifiable" Butt?
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Maury Co. Courthouse my behind!

UPDATE:  Your Fly on the Wall often teases and must admit his own mistakes. Because the penis-drawing begins with balls over Memphis I originally identified the news feed as being from WMC in Memphis. But it is News Channel 5, Nashville. I regret the error. It's even funnier this way. Nashville drawing balls over Memphis. Same as it ever was.

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"Bride Closure Begins Tomorrow," WREG Reports

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 9:11 AM

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Gosh, that just sounds terrible for everybody involved.

And while we're checking out the local TV typos it's nice to see that the folks at Fox 13 are every bit as good at misspelling disturbing as they are at perpetuating racist fear of undocumented workers. 
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We're pretty sure that was an accident, though. Well, the spelling part, at least. On the other hand, from the impeccable helmet-hair to the flanking finger-pistols, this pose seems to have been something the Foxites executed on purpose. 
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Friday, September 22, 2017

"It seems shallow, but there's much more to this hole than what meets the eye."

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 1:08 PM

Y'all.
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WREG:
 It seems shallow, but there's much more to this hole than what meets the eye.

"The hole was so deep he disappeared," Gabrielle Adams said. "All I heard was him crying; that's when my mom came and went through there with her head first."...

The hole is about 5-foot-4 — a long fall for a 1 year old...
But what about the adults?

"I'm holding her legs so she won't slip through. She was trying to breathe, but he was still through there."

Covington says the hole curves inside and she had to maneuver down several feet just to lay a finger on her grandson.

"I couldn't breathe, all I could say was 'Lord take me and not my grandchild.'"

Holding back tears, she remembers the moment she finally got a grip on Mon'Terrio.

"I grabbed his shirt then I grabbed his arm then I started praying, and I saw a light and he came on through."
Whew. That was intense. Like Honey I Shrunk "Ace in the Hole" intense.

Please don't misunderstand, falling into holes can be scary, especially for small children. Holes are dark. They conjure grim visions of oblivion. Tendencies toward superheroics and vigilantism may be accelerated, even defined by such a brush. But, unless the hole in this story turns out to be one of the thousand hole-like maws of Xylthos the muck demon it's probably exactly what it looks like: A 5-foot-deep hole/lawsuit-waiting-to-happen. Is it news? Sure. But I think it's also "Shizzle?"

Remember "Shizzle?" That's the special quality WREG wants to see more of in breaking news according to a now year-old help wanted listing. Why run a boring procedural about what it takes to get a potentially hazardous park hole filled when you can relate a harrowing multigenerational struggle against a 5-foot hole that's so much more than just a hole, but really isn't?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nobody's Banned "Gone With The Wind" in Memphis — Even if the Commercial Appeal Says So

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 5:21 PM

Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
  • Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
Let's talk about the B-word. No. Let's talk about the C-word.

No.

Let's talk about the fact that there's an armed guard in front of the Orpheum protecting folks with families who spend their days booking Broadway shows, coordinating the High School Musical Awards, developing concert programs, planning summer camps and curating a popular film series. That's a dangerous job now, apparently, and media — local and otherwise — only add fuel to the fire by misrepresenting what happened there this week when it was announced that, after a good, 34-year run, the Downtown playhouse would drop Gone With the Wind from its popular Summer film series. No matter what you may have read at The Commercial Appeal's website this week, nothing has been banned in Memphis. Not Gone With the Wind or anything else. The word "banned" implies a kind of authority the good folks at the Orpheum just don't have over the distribution and screening of media in Memphis. Any mainstream media that uses that word chooses to pour fuel on a fire that, judging from the presence of the guard out front, may get somebody —probably not the author or editor — burned.
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The Orpheum did what every cultural institution in the country does every single day. The staff made a curatorial decision — a decision that would be valid even if Gone With the Wind wasn't controversial. Why should Gone With the Wind be a tradition and not Selma? Or Bambi or The Big Lebowski for that matter? Why should there always be room for Gone With the Wind and never room for Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust, which is more regionally appropriate, and tells a different and more vital story of the American South than the blazing, over-the-top romance of Gone With the Wind.

Never heard of Intruder in the Dust you say? This is why we curate. We also curate because culture shifts, what's relevant now may not be relevant 5-minutes from now. And relevant or not, a 4-hour film like GWTW is ultimately a less valuable  investment for theaters like the Orpheum than a 90-minute flick that also sells out. Mad Max: Fury Road, for example, would save the Orpheum two full hours-worth of overhead on everything from labor to utilities.


So many popular films have been made since 1939, and there are only so many slots on the Orpheum's Summer series. While there's nothing wrong with reviving  popular films, there are too many great films to choose from to guarantee any one a permanent spot on any lineup. Unless, of course, that film somehow speaks  to a community's identity and has a renewing effect for those who attend. If Gone With the Wind is that film, what does it say about our community?
What fresh bullshit is this?
  • What fresh bullshit is this?
Let's also take a minute to talk about propaganda like this article that begins with an admission by the author that, in 2014, he warned everybody that the Left would ban Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles — a paranoid fantasy that hasn't, and isn't likely to come to pass anytime soon. His proof: OMG Look what happened to Disney's Song of the South!

The stat, referenced by Alt-Right-friendly Breitbart, comes from a 75th-Anniversary survey by YouGov.com, a digital polling site described here as, "An online global community of people who like to share their views and opinions on life... marketed more towards individuals who wish to express their opinions about current events and controversial topics." It's an "opinions for prizes" shop so we're looking at a self-selecting sample in a celebratory context, and maybe not an accurate, contextualized example of community opinion.  The money quote:

"If there is one last bastion of racism still accepted in America, it is the racial condescension we always see from the left, this constant treating of minorities, especially blacks, as children who are unable to deal with a statue or a word or a movie."

The problem here is pretty basic — and ironic. Unlike the practically homogenous Right, fighting to uphold this film and its paternalistic race narratives — the Left is made of minorities as sure as Soylent Green (another slot-worthy film) is made of people.

There's an even bigger problem with this kind of hysterical, and historically unsupported crankmongering. Let's forget how easily this rhetoric comes apart by inserting nouns like Watermelon and Fried Chicken in place of Gone With the Wind in the headline, and for the sake of argument, let's accept Breitbart's highly questionable stats at face value. Let's allow that 73% of African-Americans do, in fact, love Gone With the Wind so much they want to marry it and have its babies, whether they know anything about birthing or not. So what? That stat doesn't mean the film's cultural value merits a guaranteed slot on any Summer film series any more than any other classic or popular film. It's a meaningless number used in the service of specious rhetoric.

Did I mention that there's an armed security guard in front of the Orpheum? Because there is. Because the folks over there made what should be the kind of uncontroversial curatorial decision that is 100% their's to make. Whether it's in light of the tragedy in Charlottesville, or just because it's Tuesday. Now people feel endangered because this vintage playhouse — a true Southern cultural treasure — wants to mix things up, expanding its offerings and its audience in the process. It's bad enough that propaganda organs like Breitbart have become so influential. But it's shameful when local media turns up the pressure by reenforcing false narratives with badly chosen language.



UPDATE: To be fair as I can be the CA's John Beifuss has done great work all around. The CA's issues stem from Gannett and a culture defined by consolidation not community.







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Friday, August 4, 2017

Shelby Co. D.A. Has Twitter Meltdown, Internet Watches

Posted By on Fri, Aug 4, 2017 at 12:34 PM

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Commercial Appeal, Tennessean, Other Tennessee Papers to be Edited Outside of Tennessee

Gannett Announces Plans to Close Nashville Design Studio

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 10:36 PM

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You know all those weird mistakes in the Commercial Appeal that make it seem like it's being edited somewhere else, because it's actually being edited someplace else? Well, as of October 1, 2017 the CA won't even be edited in Tennessee. Neither will The Tennessean, the Knoxville News Sentinel or any of the Volunteer State's Gannett-owned papers.


From The Tennessean:
Gannett and the USA TODAY NETWORK Tuesday announced plans to consolidate its Nashville Design Studio, with design work shifting to similar operations in Des Moines, Iowa, Louisville, Ky., and Phoenix, Ariz.

The closure will affect up to 88 jobs once the transition of work is complete on October 1. However, there will be some remote-work opportunities for Nashville employees aligned with the other studios. "The Nashville Design Studio team has been a valuable part of the USA TODAY NETWORK," said Mizell Stewart III, Vice President /News Operations at USA TODAY NETWORK. 

Also form The Tennessean — and note the use of the word continue:

"Readers will continue to enjoy beautifully designed print editions, while at the same time enjoying our outstanding news coverage on their smartphones, tablets and desktops. We are fully dedicated to providing the best and most engaging content possible — however our readers want to consume it."

Unless further changes are announced it appears all production work and editing for Gannett's 100+ daily newspaper properties will be done at one of the USA Today publisher's three remaining studios in Des Moines, IA, Louisville, KY, and Phoenix, AZ.

Gannett announced it would sell the Tennessean's offices in August, 2016. They announced the closing of their Asbury Park design studio in April. The Commercial Appeal's offices are also on the market and overnight employees have been advised to work from a coffee shop, home, or some other location that makes them "feel secure."


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NewsMax CEO Worries About Sinclair Broadcast's New Acquisitions, Media Consolidation

It's a Conservative-Propaganda-Organ-Eats-Conservative-Propaganda-Organ World Out There. Be Careful Where You Step.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 2:15 PM

Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?
  • Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?
Industry trade magazine AdAge reports that Christopher Ruddy has asked the FCC to take time and carefully weigh any decision allowing the Sinclair Broadcast Group to go through with a deal that would bring the media conglomerate a total of of 233 local TV-news stations, including Memphis’ WREG.

Via AdAge:

"I am calling for delay," Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, a conservative outlet with a 24-hour cable news channel, said in an interview. "I think it needs more vetting."

Ruddy, a friend of President Donald Trump, adds a conservative voice to liberal critics of the deal who are wary of Sinclair building a network of local stations featuring the company's pro-Trump commentary.

If you don't know who the players are here NewsMax is a frankly conservative multi-platform media company where TV hosts comfortably compare unflattering news reports about President Trump to “lynchings.” That comparison's no anomaly at NewsMax, which recently dipped its toe in the cable news business. Though marketed as Fox-light it's been a reliably safe space for Right-Wing cranks and conspiracy theorists.

Sinclair's been collecting local news stations. Holdings currently include ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliated properties in an environment where local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined with NewsMax tossed in like a set of Ginsu knives. Frankly conservative and unapologetically Trumpist, Sinclair requires local stations to air segments by former Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn, the sixth person interviewed in ongoing probes into Russia's impact on U.S. elections.


For pretty much everything you need to know about Sinclair and Boris, and what might happen to Memphis' WREG if the FCC approves Sinclair's latest takeovers click here.

So basically we've reached this weird patch of Spacetime where a company invested in a national cable news product promoting kooks and conspiracy theorists can run headlines like "Local Broadcast Wins as National Media Increasingly Distrusted" with a straight face.

Welcome to The New Fairness in a marketplace of ideas that's somehow even worse than it was when  irresponsible media narratives were seeded and tended by media organs with no agenda beyond basic profit motive.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dammit Gannett: "Where's Elvis" Edition

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 3:07 PM

Maybe it's time to change Fly On the Wall's long-running "Neverending Elvis" tab to "Disappearing Elvis." This is from Saturday's Commercial Appeal. And it's starting to feel personal. 
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Memphis Billboard Contains Porn

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 2:19 PM

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Well, it contains the word, anyway.

A Memphis billboard off I-40 near Whitten Rd. has a strong message for glossy women's mag readers: "Cosmopolitan  Magazine Contains Porn." Which seems a little extreme, if you ask me. Unhealthy body standards, sure. And maybe a peculiar strain of neurosis-inducing content obsessed with the male gaze. But — and I haven't consulted with Mae Beavers for the definitive ruling — to call it porn sounds like a stretch.
Your mama does.
  • Your mama does.
This isn't a new complaint. One of the loudest "Cosmo = porn" voices is a Hearst heir. She's been at it a while.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Commercial Appeal Editor To Staff: "Work From a Coffee Shop."

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 5:51 PM

Are you lonesome tonight?
  • Are you lonesome tonight?
Before cracking the latest, darkest chapter in a seemingly endless series of dark chapters, about the last dark days of the Commercial Appeal, it might be helpful to remind readers why the CA's parent company Gannett is exactly like one of the voracious, many-tentacled gods inhabiting the nightmare world of horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft's deities are terrifying because they aren't supernatural. On the contrary, like sprawling media companies in possession of properties in distant, disconnected markets, they follow a system of natural laws far beyond the scope of human understanding. They are essentially materialist, trans-dimensional beings originating somewhere else in the multiverse and, as such, they are indifferent to any  suffering or destruction caused by self-interested incursion into the human realm. So too, enormous media conglomerates pursue agendas that are so far removed from the basic needs of Jane and Joe Subscriber from Anytown USA, it becomes impossible to accuse executive leadership of malice, no matter the resulting chaos. The madness is evident in everything from Gannett's gutting of local news staff, to its reliance on unknown editors from far away places who can't be expected to know the landscape.

As bad as it all sounds, the worst was only prelude to unspeakable terrors lurking just beyond the horizon. See, The Commercial Appeal's a ghost these days — a ghost running on a skeleton crew. Its longtime home at 495 Union is for sale, and even when the enormous structure is occupied during much-reduced business hours, vast expanses lie empty, unused and unknown. Who knows what fell creatures lurk in the cold gloom of the parking lot, let alone the ragged wastes between circulation and the morgue? If I worked in a building possessed by some outside entity with interests so utterly unconcerned with my own, I know I'd probably dock my laptop at the neighborhood coffee shop instead of my cubicle. And judging by this actual, sad, verbatim memo from the CA's newly installed Executive Editor Mark Russell, that's what management suggests as well: Get Out!!!

"A few updates:

*Starting today (Monday), building security in The CA’s 495 building has been reduced to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For this week, if you work after 5, and need an escort to your car, please ask a colleague to accompany you. If you are worried about working in your department alone after, say, 6 or 7 p.m., please consider leaving at 5 to work from a coffee shop, home or some other location that has what you need and where you feel secure. And the same thing goes for someone starting at 6 a.m. Please work from a coffee shop or home if you are worried about being safe coming in at 5:45 before security starts this week. Later this week, I will update you on the security plans going forward when I know more."
But does he really want to know more? Is it worth the madness to come?

(Click the vid to hear the memo read aloud in the style of Welcome to Night Vale)
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