Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Al Jazeera America Beat MSNBC for 2 Hours in the Key 25-54 Ratings Demo

Last month, Ronan Farrow — the network’s outward attempt to court Millennial viewers — hit his lowest 25-54 demographic rating ever just one week before his and Joy Reid‘s shows were both nixed — moving newsman Thomas Roberts back into two daytime hours. Since then, MSNBC has openly touted its move towards hard news and some “changes in primetime” to help stave the decline.

But has it paid off so far?

Sure, it’s only been a month, but here’s one reason to think the situation is getting dire over at the peacock cable network: On Monday, March 30, MSNBC lost two daytime hours in the key 25-54 demographic to fledgling cable news network Al Jazeera America (AJAM).

During the 2 p.m. ET hour, AJAM’s live news hour racked up 28k in the demo, beating out Roberts’ 14k demo-garnering broadcast for MSNBC. And during the 3 p.m. ET hour, AJAM’s half hour of live news plus investigative series Fault Lines scored 21k in the demo, outpacing The Cycle‘s 18k demo rating on MSNBC.

What’s especially noteworthy about a network like AJAM beating out MSNBC for two hours is that, just 16 months ago, the Qatar-owned network was bringing in a zero demo rating during its primetime hours. And this comes as MSNBC supposedly focuses on reworking its network to compete with an overtaking CNN and an ever-dominant Fox News.

As we reported earlier today, in the first quarter of 2015, MSNBC saw a 45% decrease in primetime demo viewership, and a 39% decrease in daytime demo viewership — both year-over-year from Q1 2014.

In addition, the quarter saw the network’s 6-9 a.m. staple Morning Joe lose its third straight quarter in both demo and total viewership to CNN’s New Day, a 20-month-old show.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mike Pence, Then and Now

By Taegan Goddard

“Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual’s as a ‘discreet and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.”
— Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), on his campaign website in 2000.

“I don’t support discrimination against anyone. I don’t support discrimination against gays and lesbians or anyone else. I abhor discrimination.”
— Gov. Mike Pence (R), quoted by the Indianapolis Star at a press conference addressing his controversial “religious freedom” law.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Triangle Head Joe Scarborough Usurps Chuck Todd, Commandeers Meet The Press Segment

By Karoli

On its surface, this segment is yet another Hillary Clinton email segment, featuring Neera Tanden and Joe Scarborough as panelists. But it's really about Joe Scarborough's ambitions at NBC/MSNBC and the weight he likes to throw around.

Mediaite has a good take on the overall segment:
A panel featuring mostly professional pundits considered the latest development in the Hillary Clinton email story, and ended up yelling, to the extent that it was impossible to make out any of what the three or four people talking were trying to say. It got so bad even host Chuck Todd could no longer control it. Yet for all that hollering, no real point was made; whether anything was learned depended on what you knew of the story going in; whether any side was advanced or defended depended upon your ideological preconceptions.
Of course, that's exactly what Joe Scarborough wants. It's hardly a deep dark secret that he wanted that Meet the Press gig. He didn't get it, but he got the promise that he'd appear on it as much as he wanted to, which gives him plenty of room to be a jerk and tank the show -- as if Chuck Todd wasn't doing that on his own without any help.
Scarborough, the Republican congressman turned MSNBC talking head and host of Morning Joe, had been after Gregory’s job for years, according to former NBC employees. And inside MSNBC’s New York offices, Scarborough is known as a prima donna who doesn’t respond well to “no.”
Jihad Joe isn't one to sit meekly and accept his fate, either. Watch him marginalize Chuck Todd in this segment while trying to step all over Neera Tanden with the Fox News talking points and imagine him hosting this show weekly, if you can. It almost makes Chuck Todd look like a decent choice.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’

The boom and bust in North Dakota has trapped people there, with little hope of work or escape.

Friday, March 27, 2015

6 Desperate Ways the Church of Scientology Is Trying to Stop 'Going Clear'

Alex Gibney's damning HBO documentary has set off a war with the famously aggressive church.

By Kali Holloway

The Church of Scientology has a well-publicized history of going after its critics with everything it has, including its tons and tons of dollars, which reportedly total about $3 billion. So it’s not all that surprising that, as Alex Gibney’s much talked-about Scientology documentary “Going Clear” – which numerous reports claim uncovers some fairly batshit revelations – heads to HBO on March 29, the Church has undertaken a full-scale, multimedia counterattack. Here are six ways Scientology, gloves off, is going after Gibney and everyone involved in "Going Clear."

1. Buying A Super Bowl Ad. After the film was lauded by critics from numerous outlets after its Sundance Film Festival premiere in January, the Church ran an ad before America’s biggest television event. The commercial, titled “The Age of Answers,” looked like any generic ad for a new rising technology, except that the hot, new gadgetry shown is an e-meter. “Imagine an age in which the predictability of science and the wisdom of religion combine,” says a voice over in the deep, disembodied voice of someone who knows more than you. A few seconds later, the words “spiritual technology” appear on the screen, which in a literal flash blend to become the word “Scientology.”
The Super Bowl ad, which appeared in markets around the country, likely cost the Church millions by even the most conservative estimates. Not that it matters when you have billions, but it's a mark of commitment, nonetheless.

2. Sending a Five-Page Letter to the Hollywood Reporter Calling Every Ex-Scientologist in the Film a Liar. Earlier this month, the Hollywood Reporterrequested to screen the documentary with high-ranking Church officials. Instead, Church spokesperson Karin Pouw suggested the magazine send a list of questions relating to allegations, which she in turn would “be happy” to answer. But in lieu of answers to the 20 individual questions asked, Pouw responded with a five-page letter, which you kind of have to read to marvel at the astounding over-the-top attacks.  In it, she essentially offers individualized takedowns of each participant, and attempts to discredit them in numerous personal ways. Pouw writes:  

In two hours this film racks up more falsehoods, errors, embellished tales and blatant omissions than were committed by Rolling Stone, Brian Williams and Bill O’Reilly combined. By our calculation, the film on average includes at least one major error every two minutes.

Rather than provide a response to each of these questions, which are part of Gibney’s propaganda, I am going to take up the sources of these allegations so you understand their motivations to spread hatred, religious bigotry and lies. We are not trying to discredit these people. It is simply that Mr. Gibney is miscrediting them.

The inclusion of any one of these liars is enough to irrevocably taint the film as biased propaganda.

But the letter contains more than just blurbs essentially accusing each participant of lying, it includes links to several videos. Which brings us to our next point.

3. Producing a Series of Mini-Documentaries to Defame Everyone Associated with the Film and the Book Upon Which It’s Based. The Church apparently decided to enter the realm of documentary filmmaking in its own defense, producing several films that individually attack those who appear in or were part of the creation of "Going Clear." Titles include “Sara Goldberg: The Homewrecker,” “Marc Headley: The Soulless Sellout,” “Marty Rathbun: A Violent Psychopath,” “Mike Rinder: The Wife Beater,” and more. Each is filled with the hallmarks of fear-mongering filmmaking: haunting orchestral musical scores; greyscale images of the accused; that tabloid-news “swoosh” noise between segments; etc. (Again, the full list of films is in the letter.) Check out “Spanky Taylor: The Drama Queen,” below:

4. Purchasing Google Ads to Redirect and Confuse People Looking for Information About the Film. As the Daily Beast recently noted, a Google search for “Going Clear” brings many hits, but it’s the top hit that’s most curious. Marked “Going Clear Documentary—HBO's Going Clear‎,” it leads to the URL Freedom Magazineis published by the Church of Scientology, and says its dedicated mission is "Investigative Reporting in the Public Interest." Granted, most Internet users know the first return on any search is likely to be a paid ad, but there are likely many who don’t know. When those seekers click on the link, they’ll find themselves on a page titled “Exterminating” [Director Alex] Gibney’s Propaganda,” which features a video takedown of Gibney that immediately starts playing.

5. Starting a Twitter Account Under the Guise of Merely Being a Media Watchdog. The Church has launched a Twitter account under the name Free Media Ethics, which describes itself as “taking a resolute stand against the broadcasting and publishing of false information.” While that lofty goal may be its true ambition, all it really seems to do is tweet mean stuff about “Going Clear.” That includes name-calling people involved in the film, criticizing the documentary’s musical score and tweeting taunts about how the movie failed to fill a room.
6. Taking Out a Full-Page Ad in the New York TimesOn January 16, the Church took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to denounce the movie. Its method? Comparing it to the now widely discredited Rolling Stone University of Virginia rap expose. The ad’s headline reads, “Is Alex Gibney’s Upcoming HBO ‘Documentary’ a Rolling Stone/UVA Redux?” When trying to minimize press for your issue, hitching your wagon to another story still making headlines might not be the best way to go.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Downton Abbey has been officially canceled


Image from the PBS show Downton Abbey (Screenshot)
Bad news for “Downton Abbey” fans. Executive producer Gareth Neame announced Thursday that Season 6 will be the last year of Crawley family drama.

“Millions of people around the world have followed the journey of the Crawley family and those who serve them for the last five years,” Neame said in a statement. “Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and ‘Downton’ is no exception. We wanted to close the doors of 'Downton Abbey' when it felt right and natural for the storylines to come together and when the show was still being enjoyed so much by its fans. We can promise a final season full of all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up ...”

For fans who have been following “Downton” gossip, the cancellation is hardly surprising. The British show has been rumored to be ending for quite some time. The decision not to renew "Downton Abbey" beyond Season 6 reportedly was made by the cast. TV Line reported last week that the majority of the actors wanted to leave the show, which was consistent with earlier reports that actors were searching for work in the U.S. The cast even made several comments that indicated the end was near.

Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson, said in November that he couldn’t see the show going beyond another season or two. “In my heart of hearts, I can't see it going more than two [seasons] more,” Leech told E! Online. “I think the period of time we want to tell, we're coming to the end that us as actors we can keep playing these characters.”

Maggie Smith also stirred up some controversy recently when she said Season 6 would be her last. “I mean, I certainly can't keep going,” the actress told the Sunday Times (via Radio Times) regarding her character, Lady Violet. “To my knowledge, I must be 110 by now. We're into the late 1920s.” The series began in the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

“Downton Abbey” is the highest-rated show on PBS. The Season 5 finale drew in 9.8 million viewers. A premiere date for Season 6 has not been announced yet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Malicious user hides trojan links in cloned Steam Greenlight pages

Malware links briefly appear in fan-voting section despite $100 submission fee.

By Kyle Orland

A malicious user exploited the somewhat open submission structure of Steam's Greenlight section over the weekend to briefly hide malware links in cloned versions of legitimate game pages.

Polygon reports that a Steam user going by the handle bluebunny14 posted copies of pages for five games to the Steam's Greenlight section over the weekend. The cloned pages copied the text, screenshots, and videos of existing Greenlight games, including Melancholy Republic and The Maze, to look exactly like legitimate titles seeking attention in Steam's fan-voting area. But the cloned versions of the pages also included links to purported "beta version" links for the games that instead linked users to what Polygon calls "a known Trojan."

After being posted Sunday, the malicious links were reportedly removed by early Monday, and the cloned game pages themselves reportedly removed by Monday afternoon. "Community members alerted us of the situation over the weekend by flagging the content," said Valve's Doug Lombardi in a statement. "Our Community Moderators responded quickly by removing all malicious links from the fake Greenlight material and then we banned the submissions. We are taking further steps to deal with anyone involved in posting the links. We'd like to thank those who reported the issue in addition to our Community Moderators, and we encourage everyone to report any suspicious activity in the future by using the flag icon located throughout the Steam Community."

Steam Greenlight launched in the summer of 2012 as a clearinghouse allowing the community to vote on game concepts and in-progress projects it would like to see offered for sale on Steam. But the section was quickly flooded with spam submissions for fake and offensive listings, and misleadingly sourced clones of copyrighted and trademarked games.

To "cut down on the noise" of these fraudulent submissions, Valve instituted a one-time, $100 fee for Greenlight developers in September of 2012. "It was obvious after the first weekend that we needed to make some changes to eliminate pranksters while giving folks in the community the ability to focus on 'their kind' of games," Valve UI designer Alden Kroll told Ars at the time. While that fee apparently didn't stop bluebunny14's malicious submissions over the weekend, it will likely slow down the same user from continuing to post more malicious links under different accounts.
Open app marketplaces, like those on many smartphone platforms, are often plagued with fake listings purporting to be popular games and software, sometimes hiding malware behind the legitimate-seeming facade. Since its launch in 2003, though, Steam has cultivated a reputation as a more carefully curated marketplace of the best of the PC gaming marketplace, without risk of viruses or other malware.

Steam's curated image has been diluted somewhat in recent years, though, as the number of games available on the service has skyrocketed, doubling in the last 18 months to encompass over 4,000 distinct titles. Over 3,200 submissions have garnered enough user votes to be officially "greenlit" by Valve in the last two years, and over 570 of those games have been officially released on Steam.