Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tiger, Harvey Levin, Time Warner and Murdoch and American journalism


Tiger, Harvey Levin, Time Warner and Murdoch and American Journalism

By Evan Weiner

December 15, 2009

(New York, N. Y.) -- In all the stories about Tiger Woods, the one that doesn’t stand out is how much money charities will end up losing because people like Harvey Levin keep pushing the envelope and claim it is journalism. This much is known, Woods dropped out of his own charity tournament in late November and attendance was way off without the golfer at the Thousand Oaks, California course.

That meant a loss of money that would be given to charities and people who need help. That is not something Levin and his ilk give much thought to.

What happened with Tiger, the mistresses, his family is Tiger Woods’ business and he has to deal with his problems. The general public does not need to know what is going on. The public does not have a right to know even though Tiger Woods is a public figure. Woods is a golfer and a corporate pitchman, he is not a governor of a state who spent time with a hooker in Washington, DC, he is not a governor of a state who decided to take off to Argentina to be with his lover and disappeared for five days and not tell any state officials about not being around which is unconscionable for the leader of a state and should be an impeachable offense.

Woods is a golfer. That is what he does best.

The Woods story is taking a familiar route with the media being led by the nose by people like Levin and his benefactor Rupert Murdoch. Levin and Murdoch together in bed? Yes, you see Levin’s TMZ television show is picked up by Murdoch’s WNYW in New York and his stations in Chicago and Los Angeles. TMZ’s franchise TV show is distributed by Warner Brothers Domestic Television Distribution and the show is also partially produced by Warner Brothers Telepictures along with Levin. So two of the United States’ three cable TV news entities have an interest in TMZ and further the Woods story as Murdoch’s FOX and Time Warner’s CNN are giving the people what they want or are they?

And the media pile on includes spin doctors, public relations agents, the amateur and professional psychiatrists and others who are giving their professional advice to Tiger and how he can reclaim his pedestal. It seems like we have heard this story before with Alex Rodriguez the last sports icon to fall last spring. The Yankees won a World Series and Alex Rodriguez seems to be doing fine.

The Tiger Woods story doesn’t resonant in gyms or in the Eastchester, New York CVS store. Inquiring minds need to know, so I asked a woman who has worked at the store for a long time whether there has been a spike in sales of Murdoch’s New York Post, the National Enquirer, People, US, Star the Globe and all the other “entertainment” magazines and papers and the answer was a resounding no.

The National Enquirer is on the ropes financially; the New York Post has lost a chunk of circulation and is in the red. CNN and FOX would not be profitable without the Cable TV Act of 1984 which does not allow a la carte cable TV pricing.

Murdoch, the hero of the conservatives and moralists, really does pull the wool over his audiences’ eyes sort of like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. His audience never seems to notice that he hired the former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s hooker as a sex columnist for his New York Post, or that the Post has ads for escort services or that his WNYW TV station runs spots for escort services.

Levin is an interesting story. He nearly blew up the O. J. Simpson case as a reporter for KCBS in Los Angeles back in 1994 by showing a video with a wrong time code of the prosecutor Marcia Clark searching Simpson’s home before a search warrant was issued. Levin had to apologize for his mistake, but he has continued having a TV career despite his almost over-the-top miscue.

Levin is now the host of The People’s Court. AOL helped get TMZ.com off the ground. AOL was owned by Time Warner when that happened in 2005.

The court TV genre is popular but perhaps it is time for either the House or Senate’s Committee on Legislative Oversight start taking a serious look at Levin and others in the genre if a veteran TV booker who shares a first name with a one time gossip columnist and a last name with a baseball writer is correct. According to the booker, court shows look for people who are over the top who get easily excited and are interesting. Before the court shows are taped, there is a lot of alcohol available to drink and then it is show time. To get a plaintiff to sue a defendant on the show, the plaintiff is given a sales pitch by a producer which consists of what do you have to lose, you probably aren’t going to get your money anyway from this man or woman so come onto the show and you are guaranteed something.

There is a catch though. The plaintiff might win a judgment but the show’s budget has been stretched and that the plaintiff might not get the all of the money from the show’s producers because the show’s budget has been stretched.

If Congress could investigate TV game shows of the 1950s, they can look into Levin and others who engage in this type of genre. After all, Levin has no problem going after people like Tiger Woods or Mel Gibson or Britney Spears or Michael Richards (by the way, how did TMZ not run afoul of the do not tape performances announcement that accompanies all performances and put the Richards meltdown on a website without getting sued for copyright infringements?)

Woods is just the latest in a long line of people who were placed on a pedestal by the media and now the media is feasting over his rapid demise as an icon and idol. Golf writers, who sound a lot like baseball writers who were caught with their collective pants down by not writing about alleged steroid usage in the sport (although the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell and sportscaster Bob Costas did write and talk about their suspicions) are now doing a mea culpa.

Leonard Shapiro in the Washington Post has expressed some sort of guilt by not following Tiger Woods into the bedroom. Shapiro in his column also fingers fellow writers for not following Woods on his sexual romps.

This is what the Murdochs, Levins, Time Warners have created. But the point is that people don’t care. No matter what the media barons say, it doesn’t sell newspapers, if scandal did, Murdoch would be rolling in dough with the New York Post and not blaming the Internet for the decline of newspaper readership. TMZ would be pulling a 46 percent share of the audience during its time slot and the National Enquirer would be flying off the shelves.

Back to the gym, there was a conversation between a senior woman and a man from one of the Caribbean islands. The woman said “look men like sex, Tiger Woods is a man, he is a powerful man and woman throw themselves at him whatever happened, it is his business.” The man in the other end of the conversation had an interesting point about the American media, how they like to build up people and then knock them down and that didn’t happen in his home country.

Back in the 1980s, the veteran New York sports columnist Dick Young used to write about “My America”. Young’s America in his mind cared about law and order so he expected that the Major League Baseball players who were linked to cocaine usage would get booed upon their return from court or a suspension or even jail time. None of that ever happened because people just want to be entertained.

In the 1980s and 1990s, grown men used to quiver in line when Mickey Mantle did baseball card autograph shows even though they knew about Mickey’s drinking and infidelity.

They loved the Mick.

Tiger Woods is an entertainer. No more, no less. He is not the Commander in Chief conducting two wars, nor is he trying to turn around a severe recession. He is not trying to find a cure for cancer. He is not a school teacher nor is he is member of the clergy. He is a golfer. That’s it.

But Levin and is ilk have hurt charities in their quest for an extra three viewers to make their presentations more valuable for advertisers and knock Woods from his media made throne. The Professional Golf Association donates a piece of the gate in every city that a tournament is played to local charities. Without Woods, charities are going to suffer. Tiger Woods drives the gate and that part of the story is going unreported by Murdoch, by Levin, by CNN. They just a reporting on how much money Tiger Woods could lose in endorsements.

It is a sad, sad commentary on what passes as the news industry in the United States. But as a one time WNEW-FM, New York disc jockey turned WABC-TV, New York political reporter named Pat Dobson once said on the air, the media just follows the New York Post’s lead.

It is that mentality that is sinking the journalism business rapidly.

One last thing, when Tiger Woods returns to the golf course, he will be welcomed back by the consumer just like those baseball fans who cheered the guys linked to cocaine in the 1980s.


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