Rummy's Really a Pressroom Junkie
Imagine this: You're the dean of the Pentagon press corps and planning a retirement party miles away at your wire service's downtown Washington HQ. You invite SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, known for snarling at the press, and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And they show up! That's exactly what happened at Reuters last week at reporter Charlie Aldinger's retirement party. And attendees say it wasn't just a quickie stop. Pace gave Aldinger, 68, a medal for his service to the country--22 years on the beat--and he and Rumsfeld stayed for over two hours, a rare tribute to a journalist. "I was deeply moved by it all," says Aldinger.
The Coyotes on Old Wolf's Tail
OK, so we know that Fox is king of cable news, largely at CNN's expense, but now it looks like Ted Turner's brainchild is under attack from the other side. Little MSNBC is making an advance during the key 6 p.m.-to-9 p.m. period, hounding Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room, Paula Zahn, and Lou Dobbs. "This is really big news," says MSNBC's Jeremy Gaines. First, let's be clear: CNN has more viewers. But, as they say in TV, only the "demo" matters, and in the key 25-to-54 demographic that ad rates are based on, MSNBC is nipping at CNN. Here, The Abrams Report has seen a 35 percent jump in just a year, though it still lags behind Dobbs. But Hardball With Chris Matthews, up 52 percent, edges Blitzer by 1,000 viewers in the demo, and Countdown With Keith Olbermann, up 39 percent, ties Zahn. MSNBC's Gaines credits "consistency" and good hosts for the trend. At CNN, they note that total viewers are still higher and say that any February pop was due to MSNBC's Olympic coverage. "People were tuning in to watch Bode Miller slip and slide down a ski slope," says spokeswoman Edie Emery, "and they got Chris Matthews instead."
A Snapshot of Presidential Power
White House photographers last week got a lesson in presidential authority. Already in place for a Bush visit to a New York seniors facility, the newsmen were asked by the master of ceremonies if they'd take pictures of the crowd before President Bush arrived. No one stepped forward. That is until Bush heard and called on Reuters photographer Larry Downing to get snapping. "Ask and ye shall receive," grinned Bush. "The president just sort of ambushed me," said Downing. Downing is something of a Bush fave. In Istanbul in 2004, Downing recalls taking a picture of NATO officials, then pausing to write down their names. From behind, a man asked, "Do you need any help with the names?" It was the prez.
With David E. Kaplan and Dan Gilgoff