PETER JENNINGS DIES OF LUNG CANCERThe announcement was made by Charles Gibson on ABC at 11:41 p.m. Sunday: "Good evening. From ABC News headquarters in New York, I'm Charles Gibson. And it is with a profound sadness and true sorrow that I report to you Peter Jennings has died, tonight, of lung cancer. Peter died in his apartment here in New York. With him was his wife Kayce, his children Elizabeth and Christopher, his sister Sarah as also there. His family just a moment ago released a statement and I want to quote it. Peter died with his family around him, without pain and in peace. He knew he had lived a good life." The announcement was quickly picked up by the other broadcast and cable-news networks and posted on their websites. (Oddly a full hour after the ABC announcement, CBS News -- which in recent weeks has been depicting its website as its future face -- and Google's news portal had yet to post a story about Jennings' death.) On its website, the BBC referred to Jennings as a "newsreader," a British term describing announcers who read the news but who generally do not engage in on-the-spot reporting or make editorial decisions as Jennings did. However, the BBC item noted that "Mr. Jennings was the face of ABC News whenever a major story broke." Jennings' death attracted the kind of worldwide attention that Edward R. Murrow's did in 1965 at age 57. Both were heavy smokers. Both died of lung cancer.
CBS HOLDS ONLINE AUDITIONS FOR PODCAST INTERVIEWER
CBS has issued its first "Podcast Call," urging would-be Internet reporters to submit online auditions to its website before August 26 for a chance to interview the stars of the TV network's fall lineup in Hollywood next month. CBS is urging "amateur DJs" (union members are not eligible) to record a three-minute audio interview with any other non-professional and email it to them online. The winner will be flown to Hollywood on September 9 and returned home on September 11. Full details can be downloaded from http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/rules_regulations.pdf.
CSI: NY CAST MEMBER TO LEAVE AFTER SECOND EPISODE IN FALL
The executive producer of CBS's CSI: NY has revealed that one of the six primary characters is being written out of the series in the first two episodes of next season. Anthony Zuiker told TV Guide, "I can't say [more than that]. It's big." Last week the fan website CSI Files, citing unnamed sources, said that the departing star will be Vanessa Ferlito, who plays Aiden Burn in the series. No reason was given for her departure.
NOVAK APOLOGIZES FOR CNN OUTBURST
Robert Novak on Friday apologized for his outburst last week on CNN's Inside Politics,in which he swore at fellow panelist James Carville, then stormed off the set. "I apologize for my conduct and I'm sorry I did it," he told Reuters. However, he denied that his behavior was an effort to forestall any discussion of his involvement in the Valerie Plame case. After Novak's departure, anchor Ed Henry said that he had planned to ask Novak about his role in the investigation of the leak of Plame's identity as a CIA agent. "That had nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing," Novak said. "I was sorry he said that." Some observers have noted that Henry appeared to have a copy of Who's Who on his desk. Novak had suggested that finding Plame's name was relatively easy since it was listed under her husband's entry in Who's Who.
SHAPIRO CRITICAL OF MISSING-WOMEN COVERAGE
NBC News President Neal Shapiro on Friday appeared to agree with minority activists who have accused the news media of focusing their attention on missing white, attractive women while ignoring missing black, attractive women. Appearing on NBC's Dateline,Shapiro, who is rumored to be leaving the network, remarked, ""Our mission is to try to cover America. And that means all facets of America. And when our coverage doesn't reflect that, it distresses me. That said, I think it's important that people in the industry talk about it. I think the fact that I'm talking about it, I think the fact that Dateline NBC is devoting airtime to it, means we take it seriously. And we have to do better." Shapiro's remarks came as Fox News personality Greta Van Susteran returned to Aruba for additional coverage of her ratings-grabbing investigation of missing teenager Natalee Holloway. She told the Associated Press: "I obviously don't program for the people in the newsroom or my friends or the people I went to law school with. I program for the viewers." Asked about Dateline's report, Van Susteran commented: "I wish we did more on missing minorities. But I'm not going to be bothered by the critics."
NBC LOOKING FOR "NEWS CZAR"
NBC has begun an intense head-hunting search for a "news czar" who would oversee the news output of its NBC TV network and its CNBC and MSNBC cable networks, according to Newsweek. The network has reportedly talked to: Susan Lyne, CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia; ESPN and ABC sports programmer Mark Shapiro; and Patricia Fili-Krushel, a Time Warner exec., about taking the post. HAZZARD DOES DUTYThat sound emanating from the executive offices of Warner Bros. must have resembled the "Yeeeeeee-haaaaaa" that punctuates The Dukes of Hazzard as the studio counted up receipts indicating that the movie earned $30.6 million in its opening weekend. Some analysts expressed concern, however, over the fact that the box office take on Friday was bigger than it was on Saturday -- never a good sign. Figures for Sunday are based on an educated guess. Official figures are due to be released later today (Monday). The movie benefited from the fact that it was the only one opening wide. Coming in in second place was New Line's Wedding Crashers, which had made it to No. 1 the previous week. In its fourth weekend, it took in an additional $16.5 million, a drop of just 18 percent from the previous week. Its total now stands at $144.1 million. Warner's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory dropped 36 percent in its fourth week to $10.6 million, bringing its gross to date to $169 million. Continuing to impress, the documentary March of the Penguins expanded to 1,867 theaters and pulled in $7.1 million, up 77 percent from the previous week. Its gross now stands at $26.4 million, making it the second-highest-grossing documentary in history after last year's Fahrenheit 9/11. Overall, the box office appeared virtually flat with last year, although estimates indicated that it might be 1 percent higher, a statistically insignificant percentage. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:1. The Dukes of Hazzard, $30.6 million; 2. The Wedding Crashers, $16.5 million; 3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, $10.6 million; 4. Sky High, $9.0 million; 5. Must Love Dogs, $7.4 million; 6. March of the Penguins, $6.9 million; 7. Stealth, $5.8 million; 8. Fantastic Four, $4.1 million; 9. War of the Worlds, $3.6 million; 10. The Island, $3.1 million.
COMING: MOVIE GALLERY IN A BOX
Movie Gallery, the nation's No. 2 DVD rental chain behind Blockbuster, said Friday that it is likely to roll out large numbers of DVD vending machines over the coming months but that it has yet to decide on a manufacturer. Movie Gallery exec Thomas Johnson told Home Media Retailingmagazine that the machines "let us go into markets that are smaller than we need for a store and into areas where we may not be able to get real estate." He indicated that logical locations for the machines would include grocery and convenience stores.
WHAT'S GONE WRONG WITH HOLLYWOOD?
Universal Pictures distribution chief Nikki Rocco says the studio is going "back to the drawing board" following the box-office failure of the critically praised Cinderella Man. In an interview with USA Today, Rocco remarked, "Good movies are supposed to buck this [downward] trend. You hear how it's all about the product, but we have an excellent movie that people just aren't turning out for. [The problem is] something bigger." Meanwhile, New York Times media writer David Carr has blamed this year's slump at the box office on a tectonic shift in the industry that has increasingly seen filmmaking focused on "the wants and needs of 17-year-old boys on any given Saturday night." In a feature article appearing today (Monday), the day after the critically reviled Dukes of Hazzard posted a $30-million opening at the box office, largely by attracting male teenagers, Carr wrote that he had interviewed several studio directors who declined to speak on the record but who "sounded less like masters of the universe than prisoners of the current paradigm." In the article, Carr quoted David Thomson, author of The Whole Equation, A History of Hollywood, as saying, "In the same way that audiences have lost their taste for film, filmmakers have lost their passion. ... It is not surprising that some of the moguls are giving up as well. They are as depressed and tired of the business as the rest of us." Carr concluded: "The people who built the current version of Hollywood did so by coming up with movies that people felt compelled to see -- not as a matter of marketing, but as a matter of taste. What was once magic, creating other worlds in darkened rooms, has become just one more revenue stream."