Saturday, July 4, 2009


Here's some internecine media fireworks to admire alongside the crappy shooters with which your asshole neighbor is presently littering your street and freaking out your dog.

My esteemed colleagues, a tiff that has been bubbling up between Norm Clarke and Robin Leach spilled over earlier tonight. Norm, of late, has been increasingly snarky about some of Robin's stuff. Earlier this week, for instance, in his Review-Journal column, writing about a tasteless upcoming Criss Angel trick, the Patched One referred to "Leach, taking a breathless booster tone, ...". That was eyebrow-raising.

Today, though, the gloves came off, sort of, over the news that Mirage ventriloquist Terry Fator is divorcing his wife of 18 years. About three hours ago on his @Norm_Clarke Twitter feed, The Patched One wroth:

If you can't read it, it says: "A competitor is claiming, again, that he has an 'exclusive' -- this time Re Terry Fator's divorce. Vegas Confidential had it hours ago. WTH"

Norm had been Tweeting about the Fator breakup for six hours by then. It didn't take much sleuthing to find this Tweet from @Robin_Leach:

The Jolly Brit wroth: "Breaking News: Top Strip headliner reveals longtime marriage is ending. Full exclusive on shortly. He says 'A sad day' ". That was about an hour after Norm started his Tweets, so Norm clearly wins this round.

I caught Norm via text-message to ask him about his decision to go public with his displeasure. He wrote back: "I made a similar comment on Twitter a couple weeks, saying a 'celebrity blogger is claiming an exclusive on a press release that came out yesterday.' I hoped that would nip it in the bud. It didn't."

As I said, this has been festering. I asked Norm why it mattered so much to him.

"It mattered to you when Perez Hilton plagiarized you. It matters when a competitor claims 'exclusives' that appeared first elsewhere. We all try to be professionals, especially when it comes to giving credit where it's due. It's the honorable thing to do."

Fair enough, and for the record both Norm and Robin have routinely given me, this blog and my podcast proper credit. So I have no complaint of my own, but can see what Norm's issue is. I asked Norm if he had tried to address this with Robin privately. This was the exchange:

Norm: I pointed out some examples of "exclusives" that weren't by e-mail a couple months ago. His response was that he wasn't responsible for the headlines.

Do you buy that?

Norm: No, I don't buy that, not when "exclusive" keeps appearing in the text and tweets. It's tabloidy.

A bit later, Norm texted me again: "Just got a message from RL saying he doesn't write headlines or put it in his I guess an editor is inserting it in stories and tweets."

Why, if I didn't know better, I'd think Norm was getting snarky again. I don't know how that works, either, given that I've been at events where Robin was Tweeting and it doesn't seem like there are any intermediate steps between his hitting "send" and the Tweet appearing on my phone.

I contacted Robin via email. He's out on the beat right now Tweeting away about Steve Wyrick's Fourth of July publicity stunt. He began by insisting: "The story posted on the Vegas DeLuxe website is not marked exclusive."

Well, no. Not anymore. Here's the earlier screenshot...

...and how it looks now.

Robin also wrote: "I had an exclusive interview with Terry very early this afternoon and Tweeted accordingly at first possible moment on a holiday weekend. When I learned Terry talked with Norm after me and I posted the full interview and story on the website I did not use the word exclusive."

Hmm. That actually raises an interesting question. What *is* an exclusive, anyhow? I mean, Norm broke the story, that's clear, but I wouldn't begrudge Robin from also calling it "breaking" since it is very new news and the proximity of their scoops pretty close.

But the issue here is Robin's use of the term "exclusive." There's a difference between an "exclusive" and an "exclusive interview," isn't there? Robin clearly shouldn't claim he had the Fator news "exclusively," but can he say his interview with Fator was "exclusive"? Sure! Used loosely, that could just mean that Robin had a one-on-one interview with Fator. That gets unwieldy, to be sure -- by that definition, every single interview I conduct one-on-one could be considered an exclusive -- but the TV media does this all the time. Captain Sullenberger had already been on CBS and NBC by the time Fox News called their chat with him "exclusive" when he spoke to them the next day. And, remember, Robin Leach comes out of a TV tradition.

And another thing, in Robin's defense: I have no doubt Robin generally has no idea what Norm reports or when. It's all flying by so fast, who has the time to research everybody else's minute-by-minute work? I've fallen prey to this, too; I've thought I was breaking something that had been buried in a Mike Weatherford column I had missed from weeks earlier. When it is noted, I fix it if it can be verified. (The Review-Journal, by the way, never makes such corrections for anybody once they've claimed to be first on something that they were, in fact, third or fourth on. But that's a whole other thing.)

In any event, the whole lot of it gets very messy. But The Jolly Brit, taking a cue from the gazillion feud-plagued celebs he's quizzed over the eon, insisted it's not.

"Competition is healthy and I'm glad we both got the story," Robin concluded. "I don't know what you're noticing--Both of us doing the best job we can! I have the greatest respect for him."

Norm-Robin photo credit: SteveDacri.Com


Anonymous said...

Is there a difference between 'exclusive' and 'exclusive interview'?? Really?

If so, that seems like journalistic inside baseball to me.

Exclusive to me means 'stuff someone else doesn't have' or at least 'doesn't have right now.

If one of them knew the other had it, it's in poor taste to use the term exclusive, as far as I see it.

- Hunter

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear what I mean - if someone doesn't know, I can understand the confusion.

Given the pressure to be 'first', I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the term 'exclusive' is used often without any real meaning. I have no idea if that happened in this case but in general, I believe that terminology has been devalued by its overuse.

As far as TV tradition, etc... - the point is how the public perceives it - no semantic gyrations get past that eventuality.

- Hunter

mike_ch said...

They should both know what an exclusive looks like. They got an education on it when they were both scooped by a column on the other side of the country for the year's biggest gossip story, Steve Wynn's divorce.

Anonymous said...


ecgladstone said...

How dare you sir, I reported this grudge match hours ago! lol

When readers decide that absolute accuracy is more valuable to them than hearing about professional grudges, then reporters will no doubt be supplied with solid support staff to vet their reports at all times (don't hold your breath).

Mr. Leach's journalism experience predates his TV work significantly, btw.

Troy in Las Vegas said...

That is what I was thinking, it seems like a big ego trip to be the first, or only, to have something. The news seems so eager to report something so quickly it is often not even correct.