Media

Friday, August 10, 2018

"Memphis Most" Promotion Showcases Parking Lot Under Interstate

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 2:16 PM

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You know what? I'm not going to complain. It could have been worse. It could have been.  Given the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal's batting average on stuff like this lately, we should all be thankful that the background photograph for this self-promoting ad was taken in Memphis. You can even see a little skyline in the upper left.
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But mostly, it's just a shot of Bass Pro's southern parking lot.
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Under the interstate.
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This isn't a recent issue. The ad's from July. But, like they say, if you haven't read it, it's still a parking lot under the interstate.

That's so Memphis. To somebody. 

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Sinclair/Tribune Mega-Merger Collapses. What Does it Mean for WREG?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 11:37 AM

Race to the Bottom
  • Race to the Bottom
The controversial, law-bending $3.9 billion merger of Tribune Media and Sinclair TV collapsed Wednesday, August 8th, when Tribune Media's board voted to terminate the deal.

The merger, which seemed likely, given the FCC's initial willingness to misapply the outdated "UHF discount" rule, became considerably less certain last month when the FCC criticized Sinclair, casting doubt on Sinclair's proposed divestitures, which might amount to divestiture in name only. Or, per the actual concern, "sham transactions."

Historically, Sinclair's content has been right-wing. Recently, it has become overtly Trumpian, with mandates for local stations to air editorial segments by Boris Epshteyn, the Russian-born Republican political strategist and investment banker who is now the "chief political analyst" for Sinclair. Epshteyn was also a senior advisor in Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.


The president has been more than happy to return the favor. 


What made Trump's endorsement especially troublesome — even for him — is the fact that Sinclair's stations operate unbranded. So, in terms of affiliation, the Sinclair stations the president endorses often are actually affiliates of the NBC, ABC, CBS networks he criticizes.

And some Sinclair stations are FOX affiliates. Welcome to the media ownership funhouse.

While much attention is focused on the big, national networks such as CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc., Sinclair has been creating a vast web of local, network-affiliated stations. Local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined.

In addition to ending the merger, Tribune is suing Sinclair.

The stake in this deal for Memphians was news station WREG Channel 3. It now appears that for the foreseeable future, Memphis' Channel 3 will remain a Tribune Media property.

Bye, Boris. 
Boris Epshteyn — Not coming to WREG.
  • Boris Epshteyn — Not coming to WREG.

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Shirtless Man Celebrates 20 Years of NGAF

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 2:50 PM

Stay shirtless, my friends.
  • Stay shirtless, my friends.
What are you looking at? Never mind, I know. You're looking at me. And, with a lusciously lumpy dad-bod like this one, why wouldn't you be? Besides, that was the whole point of this Shirtless Man fiasco, wasn't it? To be seen? To make my pale flab stand out, establishing the lean, muscular soul beneath it all — the fearless manufacturer of creative nonfiction? Truth be told, I was scared to death. Twenty years later, photographic evidence of my skinful romp across the pages of the 1998 Memphis Flyer's "summer issue" still fills this considerable gut with butterflies.

Angry vampire butterflies zooming on meth.

What were we thinking? There was no real precedent for stunts like this. There was no Sacha Baron Cohen out on the road, erasing the boundaries between reality and satire. The Daily Show wouldn't launch for another year. But there I was, finally discovering an application for my weird Theatre & Media Arts degree, standing in the offices of The Commercial Appeal, applying for a writing job, as shirtless as the day I was born.

"Why?," you might ask. I certainly have, many times. After all these years the best answer I've come up with is also a question: "Why do people jump out of airplanes?"
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In 1998, I toiled most days in a windowless room in the Flyer's old offices on Tennessee St., cold-calling potential classified advertising customers. I'd only just begun to do a little freelance writing on the side and was certain that nobody would be interested in this cockamamie idea I'd cooked up with my friend and and fellow wannabe writer
Jim Hanas. I can still remember the confused look on Flyer editor Dennis Freeland's face as he repeated the original pitch back to me.

"So you just take your shirt off and go out and do things?" he asked, blinking doubtfully. Like his eyes might be undressing me against their will. "What kinds of things?"

"Oh, you know," I answered, making things up on the fly because I honestly hadn't thought that far ahead yet. "Test drive cars, apply for a loan, try to get a job, buy a shirt, go to a topless club." Next thing I knew, I was on assignment and negotiating with a security guard at the Peabody Rooftop Party.

"You need to put a shirt on, sir," [the guard] says, sidling up to me.

"But I thought this was a party."

"It is a party, sir, but you need to put a shirt on."

"What kind of party is that?"

"It's a private party open to the public for a $5 cover charge."

"And I have to wear a shirt?"

"We prefer it."

"So I don't have to wear a shirt if I don't want to?"

"You need to put a shirt on, sir."

"But look at this sunburn I have here. Terribly painful. OWWWWWWWW! Jesus that hurts to touch it."

"I know how painful that can be, but you need to wear a shirt."

"Do I have to button it?"

"No."

"Can I just wear a vest?"

"You can just wear a vest."

"Do I have to button that?"

"No."
It was really just one shirtless fat guy. Mother was so proud.
  • It was really just one shirtless fat guy. Mother was so proud.
The original shirtless package spawned two sequels. Because I don't know how to relax I turned my honeymoon into a working getaway, and wrote about the big boy's swinging European vacation for the Flyer. The whole original adventure was recreated in a multi-page spread for a popular women's magazine for men. Rose McGowan was Maxim's cover girl for March 1999, but I was the hot topless attraction inside.

A paraphrased but very close to accurate note from my Maxim editor: "Can you give us the same story but take out the philosophy?"
Real v Fake
  • Real v Fake
I couldn't. Which is to say I didn't really know what that meant. So wrote the thing and instructed them to cut anything deemed too philosophical, which they did. They also manufactured a fictional origin story — In the Maxim version I'd become shirtless because gas splashed on my shirt while filling up my car. Hated that part because this was always supposed to be a true story. Right down to the scotch and chocolate milk. But the check cashed.

I might describe "Shirtless Man" as my "Freebird," but, as it happens, I've also written exactly one song that people ask me to play over and over again.

I'm a two-hit wonder!

But Shirtless Man's sordid tale of insecurity and sideboob, wrapped up in tragically fake machismo, has taken on a life of his own. A few years back he was reborn on social media when Memphis artist/photographer Jonathan Postal took a photo originally snapped in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and photoshopped it Zelig-like into historical scenes, alongside Abraham Lincoln, Bob Dylan, and Martin Luther King. Twenty years after the eye-assaulting fact — after filling a wall with awards for investigative reporting, disaster coverage, consumer affairs reporting, beat reporting, feature writing, criticism, and blogging — it's a little weird that somebody always hollers out "Shirtless Man!" whenever I appear in any official capacity. Not that I'd prefer things any other way.
Traumatizing entire families since 1998. - DAN BALL
  • Dan Ball
  • Traumatizing entire families since 1998.
I hadn't realized it was my shirtless anniversary until primo photographer Dan Ball posted a previously unpublished photo from the original adventure to his Facebook page. It's a great shot, considering the subject matter. And much to my surprise, seeing in a public space didn't induce the usual wincing shudder. In fact, I wanted to share it right away.

Maybe, after 20 years, I'm actually a little bit proud of that guy. 
Also pictured, Workingman's Sideboob. - DAN BALL
  • Dan Ball
  • Also pictured, Workingman's Sideboob.




 

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Commercial Appeal Sees Blurry Future for Ivan Rabb: Dammit!

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 10:51 AM

The Gannett owned Commercial Appeal has asked readers an important question: "Where will Ivan Rabb fit in?"
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Judging by the portrait of Dillon Brooks, Rabb will be the blurry power forward in the top-right background. Dammit. 
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Body Double: Trump's Other Memphis Connection

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 5:11 PM

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Of course, we all remember the time Donald Trump cost 2,500 Memphians their jobs. Don't we? You know, that time when the POTUS of today totally went after Holiday Inn like it was NATO? No? Well, it happened, and here's a link. That inglorious moment isn't Trump's only Memphis connection either. It's certainly not the weirdest. That distinction may belong to this little gem right here. It's not new information, but it's new to us and exactly the kind of thing we here at Fly on the Wall like to pass along.

There's no giving this devil his due here. The Donald in Chief says "fake news," when he means, "news I don't like." But way out there on the fringes of this textbook B.S. there is — as there always is with presidents and other public figures — plenty of grotesque caricature, propaganda, and general misrepresentation; all magnified in a politically polarized, social media environment.The modern myth-busters at Snopes.com have compiled a list of photo-manipulations that have been widely shared on the W.W. web. Some of them impossibly flattering, some not so flattering. In the latter category, among the most recognizable is an image that's been used to make the golf and fast food-loving POTUS appear even more bloated and slovenly than he is in real life. Turns out, in this instance, Trump's nearly crimson face has been pasted onto the body of Memphis' infamous bad-boy pro golfer, John Daly. And yeah, in the original Big John's teeing off while puffing on a cigarette. Like you do. If you're John Fucking Daly.
John Fucking Daly
  • John Fucking Daly
This isn't the first time internet artists have recognized Daly's viral potential. It all began when somebody unearthed this photo, which is basically a Renaissance painting.
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Commercial Appeal Mistakes Memphis Band Lucero for Mexican Entertainer — DAMMIT

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 12:39 PM

Whoa! It's totally like we're seeing double.
  • Whoa! It's totally like we're seeing double.
Everybody makes mistakes, even your pesky Fly on the Wall. But the particular mistake I'm highlighting here makes me think it's time to abandon any faint shreds of almost certainly false hope we may have harbored that whatever's wrong at the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal will work itself out.

When the bot and/or out-of-towner editing Memphis' daily paper can't distinguish between Lucero the Mexican entertainer and Lucero the enormously popular Memphis band, there's a problem. When said bot and/or out-of-towner turns to a general image search instead of scanning the local paper's own archives, it's really bad.

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The error was made announcing the lineup for the Mempho Music Festival

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Commercial Appeal Names Harding Academy Volleyball "Volleyball of the Year"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 8:25 PM

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In the photograph to the right you can see an unnamed woman* holding onto a very special volleyball named Lauren Deaton. For those who don't already know her, Lauren is a Harding Academy volleyball. Go Lions! She was very recently named "Volleyball of the Year"  by The Commercial Appeal, Memphis' once proud, now Gannett-owned daily newspaper.

Lauren's father Wilson, the sports equipment whose life was famously celebrated in the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, had nothing to say about his daughter's achievement. He just sat there in silence, his crimson smudge of a face an infuriating enigma.  It was almost like he was saying, "Why wouldn't she be Volleyball of the Year?" So I got defensive and said, "What's your point?" But he just kept his silence while somehow also asking, clear as day, "Are you saying my daughter Lauren's not good enough to be Volleyball of the 
Wilson Deaton
  • Wilson Deaton
Year?" And I said "no" and we went on like that for some time before Wilson finally thanked me and bounced down the sidewalk. I watched him roll to his Mini Cooper where Lauren had been patiently waiting, also not saying a thing.

As the pair drove off I couldn't help but think I'd get better interviews if the CA would give awards to people instead of stupid balls. Maybe that's racist of me. I just don't know anymore.
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*Congratulations to the actual Lauren. Awesome job! We're sorry the CA makes it sound like you're gear. 

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The CA Takes a P — Dammit Gannett!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Look, Gannett, it's not that I've got so much going on in my life that I don't have time for your nonsense. It's just that there's so much more interesting nonsense to think about. Like, "Can anybody else see that face in the leaves outside my writing window or have I finally gone starkers?"
I've started calling him Leaf Garrett
  • I've started calling him Leaf Garrett
But I can't think about that now. Now I have to think about this. 
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Is it a "P" that's missing or an apostrophe? Maybe the reader worries for "parents in decline." Maybe she worries for "aren'ts" in decline. That doesn't make any sense unless kids today are moving away from contractions. I suppose I could scan the syndicated advice column to discover the truth of the matter but if I'm honest with myself I probably wasn't gonna read this filler content anyway. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dammit Gannett and other Media Follies — Long Weekend Roundup!!!

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 3:52 PM

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I planned to write a whole column goofing on WMC’s time machine. See, the well-intentioned tweet above notes that the City of Memphis was created 199 years ago (in 1819) and goes on to note that WMC has been “in love ever since” even though the 70-year-old media company was founded in 1948. Maybe you can be in love with Memphis retroactively, and find some kind of familial agape love to get you through the years of slave trading and civil strife. But who has time to dwell on that while Memphis still still has a dying daily newspaper to kick around? Especially when that newspaper has a time machine of its own. And instead of going back in time and not completely screwing itself up, the Gannett-owned sadness chose instead to bring back Houston High’s 2015 soccer team to win the state championship.
"Stop, you're BREAKING THE TIMELINE!!!"
  • "Stop, you're BREAKING THE TIMELINE!!!"


This weird and probably misplaced act of heroism seems to have adversely affected the timeline, devolving Gannett’s copyediting staff to the point they can’t spell the name of their own damn newspaper. 
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And, perhaps most alarmingly of all, the CA has begun to insert random photos of Burt Reynolds into its content. And not the good ones, either.
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Friday, April 27, 2018

Dammit Gannett: Fabulous Prizes Edition

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 9:27 AM

Picking on the Commercial Appeal used to be its own reward, back in the day when they were the big corporate Goliath and we were the little dude with a slingshot. As the paper has continued to decline, it's become a weekly, though not entirely joyless, chore. Still, it's good to feel appreciated. So thanks, Jim Palmer, for this cartoon inspired by Fly on the Wall's regular "Dammit Gannett" feature.
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Jim's a first generation Memphis Flyer vet who contributed illustrations for columns by Lydel Sims. He's the creator of Memphis' own Li'l E and your Pesky Fly's very favorite cartoon about the journalist's life. 
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Will WREG dodge the Sinclair bullet? FCC commissioner criticizes policy decisions.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 11:19 AM

Race to the Bottom
  • Race to the Bottom
A recent tweet by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel argues against policy rulings custom built to enable the Sinclair Broadcast group's $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune media. The move she criticizes would transfer ownership of WREG Memphis and push the overtly Conservative company's local market reach well past what's previously been allowed.  Rosenworcel's comments were inspired, in part, by President Donald Trump's apparent endorsement of Sinclair over "fake news" media like "CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS."
What makes Trump's endorsement especially troublesome — even for him — is the fact that Sinclair's stations operate unbranded and so, by way of affiliation, these Sinclair stations the President endorses often are the same NBC, ABC, CBS stations he also criticizes. And sometimes Fox stations as well.

Welcome to the media ownership funhouse.

Sinclair has been collecting network affiliated stations in an environment where cable news gets all the attention even though local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined

Via Common Dreams:
"Critics, including Rosenworcel, are concerned that under Chairman Ajit Pai, who Trump appointed last year, the FCC is moving deliberately to allow the Sinclair-Tribune merger to go through. Known for pushing right-wing viewpoints within the stations it already owns, the broadcaster drew ire this week after a viral video showed how local anchors nationwide are forced to read the same pre-packaged scripts."

When the FCC cleared a path for Sinclair's acquisition in May it was widely assumed that the deal would go through quickly, but that hasn't been the case. Delays have resulted from ongoing wrangling with antitrust officials in the Justice Department and the FCC's internal investigation into decisions made by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and "whether there had been [FCC] coordination with [Sinclair]."






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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Great National Pancake Day Robbery + A Thirsty Burglar

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 11:55 AM

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Fly on the Wall's always looking to spot new trends in TV reporting and WMC's recent marriage of food and crime news looks promising.
From this list of headlines we discover two things: It's national pancake day (who knew?). Also, the International House of Pancakes in Midtown was robbed.

Good news/Bad news
  • Good news/Bad news

WMC has also alerted Mid-southerners to the activities of a very thirsty burglar who'll break into your house and steal all your Capri Sun. We bet this fiend would grab your SunnyD too, given half a chance. 
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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Local 24 Reports Violent Crime from the Distant Future

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 12:51 PM

If we're reading Local 24's tweet correctly, a shooting occurred 17,999 years in the future, on a thoroughfare that doesn't exist in this timeline: Avenue Ave.
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This tweet raises a number of questions but I'm mostly interested in the deterioration markers CSI officers use to develop a forensic profile of victims that won't be murdered for thousands of years. 

I guess we'll just have to read the whole story to find out.


"No Room for Dispair" : The CA Prints Big Typos in Big Type

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 9:07 AM

The Commercial Appeal got it wrong on a number of accounts. Fact is, there's plenty of room for despair, no matter how you spell it. Even if you're not a subscriber and didn't see it in person, you've probably already seen Tuesday's most egregious error making the rounds on social media. I was too depressed to post about it yesterday. I'm out of jokes and tired of typing sentences like, "Since becoming a Gannett property, shrinking staff, and shipping design and editing work to hubs outside Memphis there has been a noticeable decline in the quality of our daily newspaper."

So write your own punchlines. 
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Poop on Pees: A Commercial Appeal Headline Gone Wild

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 2:31 PM

Some names present special challenges for headline writers who have to pack a lot of information into only a very few words. Clarity can be especially difficult if the headline writer needs to identify a person whose name is also a verb. The sports section in today's Commercial Appeal provides us with a classic example of how  inconsiderate word placement can transform the meaning of a sentence.
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How hard would it have been to simply reverse the names? — "Titans Vrabel scores twice with Pees, LaFleur?"

Way too hard for Gannett. Dammit.
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