Here’s an example of timing. Right on the tail of Osama bin Laden’s death and the extravaganza of a Royal Wedding, Tina Brown, the doyenne of dish, served up a red hot cover story on Newsweek, which she is revamping and presenting in a print/internet combo package with The Daily Beast.
It kicked off a week that exploded with supporting evidence of the premise — the complicated dynamics of political wifedom in modern, media-driven society:
- Jailed, married global politico, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on suicide watch at Rikers Island following sexual assault charges by a New York hotel maid. KAPOW!
- Revelation of rationale – Maria Shriver terminates cohabitation with Terminator Schwarzenegger when he confesses a ten-year old love child with a former household worker. POW!
- Wronged political wife and evolving power attorney Alicia Florrick, in a hotel elevator with her college amour/legal colleague for a passionate tryst — maybe??? – in the season finale of the popular television series upon which The Good Wife cover story was likely timed. VaVaVOOM!
I observed La Tina firsthand when she swept into town for an unscripted Q&A with journalism students at SMU.
Oh, she is a force! She engages with her posh parlance and passion for topics and taste-makers across the spectrum. She is a human buzz machine, so you can see how it works — from her brain to final copy.
- ”May-December pairing”– the mentoring of young journalists by seasoned staff writers.
- “Eclectic calibration”– rollouts of fast-breaking news and serving it up on evolving basis
- On WikiLeaks – ”He is the biggest sleazeball of the western world. But it’s a valuable tool.”
- Regarding political leanings of news entities — “The Daily Beast is ”polypolitical.”
She acknowledges the short spurt attention of news audiences in the age of Twitter and the Internet. ”Our brains are being re-wired. You can’t lead with six paragraphs of throat clearing at the beginning of the piece. It has to be provocative….the best written….the most juice.”
But she’s also knowledgeable and facile on any facet of politics, business, economics and the convergence of issues and truths that will change everything. She loves the wild swings in story cycles. “The news craziness suits me,” she enthuses.
Flashback to Tina’s childhood to trace her M.O. She grew up in a show business family. Her father was a prominent figure in the British film industry — producer of the Agatha Christie films, among others. Her mother was press secretary to mega-actor Laurence Olivier during his marriage to Vivian Leigh, the portrayer of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.
She experienced a glamorous girlhood in a salon filled with the prominente. She was privy to see and hear what went on behind closed doors, a heady view not known by the general public. When she took the reins of Tatler, a stuffy chronicle of upper-class/aristo life, she infused it with tidbits of insider knowledge that shocked and tantalized. Magazine sales soared and Tina was off and running. She imprinted that same spin on Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.
It’s an underlying truth of human nature. People love a dose of dish in the daily news and information regimen. Think of those old I Love Lucy shows about who gossips more — men or women. It’s both.
Living in the U.K., I saw first-hand the tabloid frenzy that ensued with the Fergie toe-sucking scandal and Diana/Charles/Camilla love triangle. There were traffic jams every morning at the corner news agent with everyone battling to pick up the latest tidbit on the demise of the Royal marriages — the froth atop the more serious issues of economics and the future of the monarchy.
It’s the core of the media/entertainment business. You have to attract an audience. Tina understands that. She is a box office girl. And now she commands a global staff — with Newsweek bureaus worldwide.
It will be fun to watch. Stay tuned!
May 18, 2011