Brother Rod's Traveling Salvation Show

As the Illinois state Senate began its impeachment trial, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) did the nonsensical. He got out of Dodge and headed for the bright lights and big city.

After the sideshow of the possible attempt to sell the Obama Senate seat and the circus that was the process that gave us Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), where else would Blagojevich want to go but the land of "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" — Manhattan!

In doing so, he became one of the biggest "gets" for television in recent memory — except that seemingly anyone who wanted Blagojevich got him. Larry King, Rachel Maddow, Diane Sawyer, Geraldo Rivera. And, of course, the cringe-inducing appearance on "The View." Just when we thought Illinois's Office of the Governor had been stripped of all dignity, enter Joy Behar, mussing the Blago mane and asking for a Nixonian "I am not a crook." Could "Saturday Night Live" be next?

Bill-O’s Problem with Oakland

Last Friday I was flipping through the channels on my television and what do you know, the footage from the Jan. 7 riots in Oakland was running on “The O'Reilly Factor.”

Bill O'Reilly, who has been extremely critical of San Francisco and the Bay Area in general, claimed that the protesters are out of line for coming out against the BART Police. He claims that people have the right to be upset about the execution of Oscar Grant, but should just let the BART Police figure this out in the courts. That the people of Oakland have no morals because they are upset about this obvious police brutality yet haven't protested the higher-than-national-average violent crime, "the gang problem, the downtown blight or any of the 124 murders last year.”

Coulter Too Quick To Cry Foul

Poor Ann Coulter. She’s made millions spewing hate in book after book, and on television show after television show. But now Coulter wants us to feel sorry for her because NBC canceled an interview with her on yesterday morning’s “Today Show.”

The fiery blonde had been scheduled to appear to hawk her latest book, Guilty, but her appearance was canceled — and Coulter’s crying CENSORSHIP!

Nonsense. You want to talk censorship? Try getting booked as a liberal on the morning talk shows. For my latest book, Trainwreck, I was rejected by “Today,” “Good Morning America,” CBS and CNN’s morning show. But I didn’t whine about it.

News Blankout

Now that media owners have decided the only way to keep their profits way high is to gut their staffs without regard for coverage or public service, I want to provide a public service of my own.

In the absence of enough writers to do even a bare-bones job, here's another idea whose time has come.

How about fill-in-the-blank stories? These generic scripts and articles would report on the most commonplace current events. They could fill the pages and airtime between the advertising and keep conglomerates' revenue incoming with far less outgoing to the writers, reporters, producers, etc., now that so many have been laid off.

The Mumbai Tragedy: Beware of Innuendo Concerning Pakistan

There is enough that is horrible and tragic about the terrorist attacks and killings of innocent people in Mumbai (the Indian city long known in the West as Bombay) in the last several days without some careless media reporting and premature accusations by Indian officials suggesting Pakistani government responsibility making matters worse.

Full disclosure: I represented Pakistan in the 1990s, have visited the country several times, and made many close Pakistani friends during the time I helped Pakistan recover hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. government owed it.

Observing the Supreme Court in Action

The United States Supreme Court refused to grant C-SPAN prompt access to the audiotape of the arguments before it last week in Fox TV v. the Federal Communications Commission. The case raises interesting questions about the agency’s administration of its indecency laws — what language may not be broadcast. As Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times Adam Liptak noted, the high court is not a lexicographer, but it has been called upon to mediate the use of four-letter words by media. Given the level and ubiquity of foul language on radio and television, one wonders what standard is left to administer by the FCC. Do four-letter worlds necessarily have sexual or excretory meaning, exclusively? When is swearing “vulgar” or “indecent”? Indeed, should government be in the censorship business?

No Laughing Matter

Last weekend two news clips caught my eye. One reported that former “SNL” comedy writer Al Franken (D) pulled ahead of Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman (R) in that state’s senatorial contest (40-34, according to one poll). The front page of The Washington Post advised, “Comedian Becomes Serious Contender.” Franken’s campaign has been stimulated by appearances by Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, and $6 million of ads paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

In a second news item, CNN announced the premiere of a new comedy-news show, starring D.L. Hughley, a stand-up comic and former L.A. gang member. Hughley commented, “I’m, like, ‘Come on, man. I barely even know how to read. I’ve got a GED.’ ” CNN stated it was entering “into the well-established genre of news delivered with a satirical smile,” according to The New York Times, which highlighted the new program in its Arts section.

Bill Headline

Bill Headline could have endured a lot fewer jokes had he decided on a different career. But he chose television news at CBS and later CNN, and journalism was infinitely better for it. I'm sure he got tired of all the smirks, but he just ignored them (or at least pretended to) as he pursued excellence, going for the uncommon highest standards in a profession that sometimes reaches for the lowest.

Bill died suddenly over the weekend, in a freak accident. He leaves a legacy of class that will be hard to match. His move to CNN signaled the transition from Chicken Noodle News to the major leagues. With his quiet but firm guidance, the D.C. bureau went from ragtag to smooth. Yet he was always able to push people to be their best without demeaning them.

‘Colbert Report’: Unlikely Leader of the Weeknight

I never thought I would write this, but after three years on the air, “The Colbert Report” is consistently funnier than not only its Comedy Central predecessor, “The Daily Show,” but every nightly comedy program.

When “The Colbert Report” first aired, I wondered how the show would stay fresh, relying on what I thought was essentially a single joke. It seemed likely that “The Colbert Report” would have exactly the same problem “Saturday Night Live” has when it tries to stretch a five-minute sketch into a feature-length movie — it might work at the beginning, but eventually it’s going to seem stale and tired. The opposite has happened.

Gibson’s Responsibility

During the infamous O. J. Simpson double murder trial, The New York Times correspondent covering that cause celebre wrote that The National Enquirer had beaten the “legitimate,” high-class press to some important stories.

It did it again with the John Edwards scandal. During the Clinton impeachment era, Hustler editor Larry Flynt hired an investigative reporter to expose the sex scandals of certain national politicians who were haranguing Bill Clinton for his sexual adventures. Flynt said it was their hypocrisy, not their sexual habits, he intended to uncover. I recall these instances because they expose a sad state of post-Watergate investigative journalism by mainline media that has left questionable and sensationalistic media to unearth important controversial stories.