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Groveling Gross, Shooing Shuster….

I am a regular listener to the Slate Magazine podcasts (also here) in all its various forms. Most weekdays they have a professional reading of a recent post in the online publication, and over time they have developed political and cultural “gabfests” which (more often than not) are worth listening to for both the opinions expressed (frequently off the cuff) and the strange dynamic interaction among the Slate staffers involved.

Of all the forms and formats on the podcast, the most difficult to listen to has been a roundtable (a variation of the gabfest, I assume) linked to The Big Money — an economic policy Slate spinoff. The central staffer for these podcasts seems to be Daniel Gross, a usually informative and interesting commentator on economic affairs who also works for The first few postings of the Big Money podcasts were of such poor production quality that I could not make it through the first few minutes, and today’s post from Gross — an interview with Matt Miller about his new book — marked a great improvement. I could finally hear both participants without any problem.

That said, Gross spoiled an otherwise interesting exchange with Miller by multiple references to the podcast’s sponsor, In fact, one would think this podcast was less about Miller’s book than it was about the sponsorship. Now, I am a big fan of and would recommend it to anyone who is comfortable with listening to books, etc. But Gross goes overboard with his incessant references to — to the point of embarrassment. I am sure he is grateful to his sponsor, but let’s not turn this podcast into an infomercial….

And while I am picking on media folks, let me give a two-thumbs down on David Shuster, the MSNBC “fill-in” host who is now settling into the vacancy left by David Gregory when he moved up from “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” to “Meet the Press“. MSNBC is a mixed bag — Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are political personalities often good for a laugh or two, and thank goodness they were wise enough to give Rachel Maddow her own show which is actually pretty interesting for both its tone and approach. But among these folks, Shuster seems more like a mediocre local news anchor than someone deserving of the stature represented by Gregory’s old seat. It is amazing to think that this guy actually won awards for his news reporting (it was a local story, from what I gather); and I was not surprised to learn that he did a stint as a Fox News reporter during the Clinton impeachment episode and the 2000 election. Why Matthews (whom he worked for until recently) or Russert (who I think was in charge of hiring folks like him) brought him on board is baffling — he just doesn’t fit. Among his biggest and most vocal critics is “Morning Joe” Scarborough — someone whose politics I disagree with, but in this case I think he has it right: Shuster just doesn’t belong.

Hopefully, MSNBC will drop 1600 as soon as they can after the inauguration (its focus, after all, is on the transition), and better yet that they send Shuster packing…..

January 8th, 2009 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments

Slate Gabfest turns slugfest….

I think I have mentioned in some past post that I am hooked on Slate Magazine’s Daily Podcasts, especially the Friday “Gabfest” with John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon and David Plotz. (I am still amazed and annoyed that they have paid no attention to the archiving of past shows — seems as if someone dropped the ball in early 2007 and no one has bothered picking it up again. But an addiction is an addiction — and so I keep on listening despite those little annoyances….)

I usually listen to the podcasts while working out or driving to campus — and I have been doing neither over the past week as I attempt to do some writing while dealing with my intermittent (almost semi-annual) computer crashes (see yesterday’s post — which should have been titled: HP sucks!).

This AM I did manage to get to the local YMCA, plugged in for an hour of boredom on a cardio-machine, and went right to last Friday’s Gabfest podcast. First thing I noticed is that this one was listed at more than 40+ minutes — longer than their usual half hour (+ or -) exchange. And the reason became clear about twenty minutes in when strange things happened as they approached the third topic on their planned agenda for the day (they typically do three topics and then something called “cocktail chatter”) — the recent John Edwards “affair”. Dickerson explained (in a post-production announcement) that they edited the show and would go right to the “chatter” segment — but then return for an extended “director’s cut” (unedited) version of the Edward’s discussion which turned into a pretty interesting exchange. About eight minutes into the usual give and take, the group was joined into by a fourth person at Slate who had been (I believe) sitting in quietly at the production table. He broke into the already heated discussion to express his anger and disagreement with Bazelon’s views on why the Edwards story ought to be covered by the mainstream media — and the gabfest turned into a vocal slugfest that was more like a verbal barroom brawl than the usual banter. There is a question as to whether the parties involved knew the tape was still running — but accolades for all concerned who obviously gave their permission to broadcast the melee uncensored….

Worth the listen at I sure hope they don’t take it down…..

July 31st, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments