BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Every so often our producer at large Mike Pesca reaches into his linty pockets and pulls out a newspaper article or some tape or whatever and we talk about it, so Mike, what's in your pockets this week?
MIKE PESCA: This week I wanted to mention that Hank Azaria's sitcom was canceled by NBC after only 2 episodes.
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah, well okay, that's a shame; I'm a big fan of Hank. But failed sitcom, canceled --what's the big deal?
MIKE PESCA: Nothing. No big deal at all. The sitcom had only 6.8 million viewers. NBC canceled it, and almost no one noticed, and that's exactly how things should work. Contrast that to what happened around the Tina Brown magazine Talk. Talk was not influential; it was not good; and it only had one tenth the readers that the Hank Azaria show had viewers. So why did the New York Times heap attention on the end of Talk as if it marked some sort of significant end of an era?
BOB GARFIELD:Okay, well actually that, that raises an interesting question. Mike, why did the New York Times heap attention on the end of Talk as if it marked some sort of [LAUGHS] significant end of an era?
MIKE PESCA:An excellent question, Bob, and I think it's because while the readers of the New York Times couldn't possibly care about the end of talk, the writers certainly did. It was a classic example of media elites as it were totally miscalculating what anyone outside of their circle could ever care about. The New York Times in an example of spectacularly bad judgment thought the death of this totally unremarkable magazine should go on the front page two days in a row where you should read sentences like this one. Tina Brown quote "helped found the American cult of celebrity and became one of its reigning deities." Deities! Perhaps Insignifica, Goddess of the Trivial? And to say that the "founded the American cult of celebrity" -- you, you have to go back to Walter Winchell, P.T. Barnum, William Randolph Hearst who was the founder of the company that wound up pulling the plug on Talk -- I mean the bottom line here is that the New York Times shouldn't have contributed to the hype all along, and after it was demonstrably proven that they had mis gauged public interest in the issue of Tina Brown, their coverage of Talk went right over the cliff with the magazine!
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, that was excessive. Now I know you have an interview in your pocket too.
MIKE PESCA:Right. This is Wolf Blitzer interviewing John Ashcroft on CNN last Sunday. The bulk of the interview was about the war on terrorism. Then things came around to Enron and Ashcroft said this:
JOHN ASHCROFT: I've made clear that I believe that the Justice Department and its function should be undertaken by others, and-- I will have no--involvement in the matter because of my recusal.
MIKE PESCA: So Bob, this is a chance to put yourself in the place of the interviewer--
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah, a geek in wolf's clothing--
MIKE PESCA: -- and I ask you -- what would your followup question to Ashcroft be?
BOB GARFIELD:I don't know. Could think of several things I might have asked him, like so tell me, Mr. Attorney General, do you intend to recuse yourself from every investigation involving everyone who may have contributed money to one of your political campaigns and what about the rest of the members of the Bush administration, almost all of whom were on the-- Enron gravy train -- will they recuse themselves as well? Might have started there.
MIKE PESCA: Yeah, those are all good questions. Wolf went in a different direction. Let's hear what he said.
JOHN ASHCROFT: ...and-- I will have no involvement in the matter because of my recusal.
WOLF BLITZER: Okay, so that's that -- Attorney General I'll let you go but let me ask you one question --your home town team - the St. Louis Rams, the Green Bay Packers - later today - you're now the attorney general of all of the United States -- do you have a, do you have a dog in this fight? [LAUGHTER]
MIKE PESCA: Yes, the question one of America wanted to hear.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, you know he, he was - it was a softball - or you know a football or whatever. All right. Okay, we've done news; we've done sports -- Mike, how about the weather?
MIKE PESCA: Here in New York it started off a little nippy on Monday and then it heated up by week's end. How are things down in Washington?
BOB GARFIELD: About the same -- 50's during the day; about 30's at night.
MIKE PESCA: And what would that be with the wind chill?
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] I don't know.
MIKE PESCA: My point exactly! The wind chill, the heretofore much-bandied-about Talk Magazine of the meteorological world has been all but ignored this year.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay. Your theory?
MIKE PESCA:Well, they, the National Weather Service, did change the formula about how they calculated the wind chill, and the old formula used to overstate the effects of wind chill; it made it seem a lot colder than what it really was. So the new chart is less severe in terms of what the wind chill does to the temperature.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, so it sounds less severe, and therefore weather forecasters aren't as drawn to it.
MIKE PESCA:Well that's what I thought - I thought the inability to hype the cold temperatures caused weather forecasters to ignore wind chill altogether. In fact I found out that the reason was much more mundane. It turns out that most weather forecasters use one particular type of software, and that software hasn't been sufficiently updated to include the new wind chill calculations, so that's why no one talks about the wind chill on the news.
BOB GARFIELD: And you heard here first. Thank you, Mike!
MIKE PESCA: Yes, you're welcome, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: Mike Pesca, our producer at large, occasionally comes on to empty his pockets of everything. [MUSIC]