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Inside Dateline: The 'Mank blog'

Oprah-Frey story not over for the blogosphere.

February 5, 2006 |

Oprah story is not over in the blogosphere (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

Here in the mainstream media, the Oprah story is over. Newspapers and TV have moved on to other things. But check the blog world — it’s not over.

Type “Oprah” into Blogpulse or Technorati. And you’ll see a chorus of online voices carrying on about how she first endorsed James Frey’s work, then brought the author back to body slam him on live TV.

So far, Oprah is also taking quite a hit on this. She’s caught in the middle. On one side, people who bought both the book and Oprah’s initial over-the-top enthusiasm and who now feel betrayed... not just by Frey, but by Oprah for leading them astray. Some quotes from e-mails Dateline viewers sent us:

“Oprah failed to do her homework and wants to blame it on Frey.”“Somehow, the American people have given her way too much power and its gone to her head.”“You put your name on a product, it better be what you say it is.”

On the other side are a lot of people—also loyal fans, who still like the book and feel Oprah went too far by using her TV show to even the score with Frey:

Suddenly a host who could do no wrong can’t do anything right.

“She was wrong and knew better” “Shame on you Oprah.”“What more did she want from him... blood?”

Keep in mind that on the ‘Net, it’s always been cool to slam people who are on top.

How she dealt with the shock of the Frey affair is a surprising miscalculation for a woman whose strong suit is her uncanny ability to connect with her audience.

It’s all a sort of dent in that intimate relationship she has with her viewers, who look to her for daily guidance on how to dress, what to read, and how to behave in a crisis. After all, nobody’s buying Montel’s favorite things.

January 30, 2006 |

Your responses to Sunday's 'Mank blog': James Frey's appearance on Oprah

Dear Josh: Just a quick note to inform you that Oprah is in fact a journalist and has been for a number of years. Oprah was a reporter and journalist in Baltimore, Maryland for a number of year. She than took a job for a national company in Chicago before she starred in the Oprah Winfrey Show. --Richard W. Henneberry Sr., Baltimore, Md.

Personally, I think the book was excellent!!! I think that Oprah was pretty harsh on him. Being the mother of a son who has experienced some of these things in life well knows that these people see things a lot differently than normal people. Come on now, whether she hung herself or slit her wrists, she still committed suicide. He may have twisted things but he did not lie about the majority of the book. I feel that Oprah bashed him and the look on his face in that interview was devastating. Let it go. How come his next book "My friend Leonard" is not being destroyed also? --Sue Cummings, Southbury, Conn.

I'm reading the book right now. I love it. I don't care what Oprah says... she's a legend in her own mind anyway. I just hope James doesn't take too much of her pontificating to heart and have a relapse! --Mary Nagle, Allentown, Pa.

I propose that all those who purchased this book return it to their bookseller - asking for a refund based on being sold fiction when a memoir was what was required. Perhaps a bite into the profits will make Mr. Frey and his publisher sit up and take notice. --Jan Stanners, Canada

Personally, I am disgusted with Oprah's waffling. It would have taken more integrity to stand by the guy and what he had written and would have made more sense if, in fact, his book actually does touch the people who read it and if they do find a sort of universal truth to his message. Showing her throngs of fans just how much pride she takes in the "truth" by inviting Frey on as a guest again and then ripping him a new one is not just rude, but it is crass. This is one of the reasons I am no Oprah Winfrey fan. She is insincere, and I think fame and power mean more to her than any "truth" she can possibly find.  --Dani Kebschull, Soldotna, Alaska

I feel offended because of your comment that all alcoholic/addicts lie. I am a recovering alcoholic/addict of 24 yrs. I don't lie! If you meant alcoholic/addicts lie when actively using, you're right. Unfortunately, that's what happened to Oprah. Mr. Frey may not be actively using but I don't see him in active recovery. He is simply dry. Most of his behavior is probably still like it was when he was using/drinking. --Judy Walker, Salem, Ore.

If only The Smoking Gun, Oprah, Dateline, and all the avid readers out there would apply themselves this hard to scrutinizing the accuracy of the writings and statements that come out of Washington... --Rachel Gilmore, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

January 29, 2006 |

Turning Frey into a million little pieces (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

One blog topic outstripped all the others this week. It’s a story of redemption, of lying, of betrayal, of anger, and of vengeance— in that order.

I’m talking about the .

The trouble started on the ‘Net, when the revealed that Frey’s book “A Million Little Pieces,” his simultaneously raw and hardboiled memoir of addiction and recovery... was actually a good part fiction.

It turns out that conning Oprah can make you wealthy. She put Frey’s life story in her book club and it sold more than three and a half million copies.

At first, Oprah defended Frey. Bloggers accused her of not caring about the truth. And that’s apparently what made the difference.

Suddenly, the issue wasn’t James Frey’s credibility— it was Oprah’s. It was time to throw down: Oprah called Frey on the carpet. She apologized to her viewers and slammed him for being a liar. (Btw, an estimated 9.5 million people watched.) 

Pants on Fire: Frey struggled to defend his fictionalized memoir on Oprah’s show last weekPhoto illustration by Newsweek; George Burns / Harpo Productions-AP (cover photo); Damien Donck for Newsweek (book photo)


The result was that bloggers were as tough on Oprah as on Frey. "Oprah eats crow," "damage control," "She totally ambushed the guy," and "Oprah giveth and Oprah taketh away," were some of the quotes I read.

Oprah did act like the first— or maybe the last— person in this country who’s shocked to discover that people with a history drug and alcohol addiction tell lies.

Now, Oprah’s not a journalist. You should not expect the  same set of standards on talk-TV as on the news. But I have to say: It was nice to hear Oprah doing something besides gushing. Imagine if she’d been this tough on Tom Cruise.

Maybe this will lead to publishers doing a better job of making sure their writers tell the truth. Maybe talk shows will raise their standards too, and we’ll all be better informed as a result.

Then again, he’s now rich and she’s still famous. Don’t count on the world changing too much.

January 23, 2006 |

Your responses to last Sunday's 'Mank blog'

I don't know what scares me more, the fact that the government wants to know my every move online, or what the implications of Internet monitoring can lead to. What is next? Censorship of the exchange of ideas on the Internet is not far behind. Think it can't happen? Look at what the Bush Administration has already demonstrated what it is capable of. (Referring to illegal wire tapping). --Adrienne Slack, Lakewood, Wash.

I absolutely agree with Josh on government snooping. I realize a lot of Web engines have turned over the information. But I feel the government and all other affiliations should not be prying on what we are doing on the Internet. --Michael L. Northway, East Alton Ill.

The Mank Blog gets better each week. I went to and it's a fantastic site. Any time you have Ray Nagin and the Three Stooges in the same piece, that's focusing on the important stuff. Keep the Mank coming. --David Stubbs, Fairfield, Conn. *We would, however, want you know that the site has videos that might not be safe for kids or work.

We already have a situation where unpopular laws and bills are commingled with other more popular laws and bills that different Congressmen want to get passed. We do not need the same thing to happen with our rights. Don't let the government invade our privacy by diguising the issue as one of stopping child pornographers. If that is their true intent, let them find another way to do it without infringing upon the rights of every American citizen. --Ralph Harrison,Granite City, Ill.

Another well done segment and mercifully needed after watching all the insects crawling around the food in the supermarkets. Yuch! Here's a suggestion--make the Mank Blog segment longer. Josh is much more entertaining, informative and personable than a bunch of sick looking food. Oh, and thanks for putting Mountain Top, PA on the map. WE appreciate the notoriety. Well done once again, Josh! --Christina Knoedler, Mountain Top, Pa.

Maybe the plantation comment Hillary Clinton made is embarrassing to a lot of Americans because it brings back memories of a time that they want you to think never existed, but to some of us who families suffered under that system we shouldn't criticize Hillary. We should praise her for telling the truth! --D.Hardin, Chicago, Ill.

January 22, 2006 |

What do you Google? (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

Apparently, the government wants to know what you’re doing on the Internet. One of the biggest blog topics this week is .

I have two opinions here: The government cracking down on kiddie porn... good idea. The government learning everything you search for on the ‘Net? Bad idea.

Now, I also want to know what you’re doing out there on the Web. So I checked and , and found a lot of traffic headed to a sort of video blog called . It’s a place where you can post your own videos about nearly anything—from to this .

Now, if the Justice Department goes after my Web-surfing habits, they’ll discover I spend a lot of time on a site called . I usually check it in the evenings or when I’m, you know, working. is for the Three Stooges lover in all of us—okay, in all of us guys. (Site may have video and photos not safe for kids... or work.)

One video is called "." Another one is called “.” Good title.

But as , from Death Valley, California to Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, I discovered came from the Crescent City.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin made the mistake of saying his city would return to being, in his words, "chocolate." It was the kind of remark that would put a lot of white politicians out of job. But what I really loved was Nagin’s explanation.

Nagin: How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about.

Okay, that should win some kind of award.

And there was a lot of blog traffic about Hillary Clinton’s remark that Republicans run the U.S. house “like a plantation.”  She added, “And you know what I’m talking about.”

Well, no I don’t. The only people it apparently made sense to were conservative bloggers, who used words like "racist," "absurd," and "ludicrous."

But then reported how Republicans and conservative media had already used the word “plantation” at least seven different times over the years to describe Democrats.

And of course, no one complained when that happened.

I’m going back to

January 16, 2006 |

Some of your e-mails re Sunday's edition of the 'Mank blog':

Hey there! I think you're awesome and are doing a wonderful job! I love your ties and shirts! :)--Ashley Perkins, Westminster, Vermont

This was first Mank blog experience and just wanted to say good job! People whine about some of the most stupid things these days! You're absolutely right about the theater owner! This country is about freedom on many different levels. Just as movie makers have the freedom to make and distribute movies about whatever subject they desire, theatre owners have the right to screen what they want. If a movie theatre owner doesn't agree with the subject matter in a movie, it is his right not to screen it. And then the customer has the right to see it at another theatre. People need to understand that not everyone supports the same causes. --Kate, Long Island, N.Y.

I would have to disagree totally on the subject "of Brokeback Mountain." You say that if an owner disagrees with the movie, he shouldn't have to show it. You also pointed out that there were plenty of other theatres offering showtimes of the controversial movie. However, in our whole tri-state area (I live in southeast Indiana), only two theatres offer "Brokeback Mountain"! Tell me, if all owners have this power of "censorship" of sorts, then how would the public see the majority of controversial movies? Movies such as "Hostel" play at every theatre, with graphic content such as nudity and extreme violence, but a love story that happens to involve two men is somehow worse? A movie about homosexual males isn't groundbreaking, but I'm tired of the resistance to such issues. Homosexuality isn't some epidemic that will go away. I mean, this is the 21st century, right? Get over it, and get with the times. --Mandy, Rising Sun, Ind.

I'm glad you got Bill O'Reilly's panties in a wad. Josh, I can't see a bad thing to say about you. I just think you are the cutest thing ever! --Phyllis, Valparaiso, Ind.

Hey - I loved it. Yea!!! A war on whining!!! Imagine! And wow - Asians playing Asians - so what if the geishas are Japanese, not Chinese - better than having Brittney Spears playing her. And yes, "here in America", it used to be that you could make decisions based on your personal moral standards - not based concern over an impending ACLU visit. I don't imagine THAT will last much longer, but good for you, SLC theater manager! You know, I seldom watch TV because I have such a low tolerance for crap, but I may reconsider at least on Sunday night. --Kristen Hall, Rockbridge baths, Va.

There's nothing wrong with the Mank blog. Frankly, i think people ought to give him a break. I, for one, do not think that his suits and ties are not all that bad. Plus, i like how he's straight-to-the-point in addressing emails and issues brought up on the Dateline news casts. Go Josh!!! --Dianna Skivington, Marietta, Pa.

After watching the Sunday night dateline, I have to comment. I have no problems with the blog and I appreciate different opinions. However, in regards to the "Brokeback Mountain" censorship, I must disagree. I have lived in Salt Lake City for five years now and I have a big problem with Miller pulling the movie. Yes, we can attend other theatres, but that's not the point. Utah does not understand the meaning of separation of church and state and this is just another example. Just because an extreme LDS churchmember is a homophobe does not mean that it cannot be portrayed on the big screen. Miller owns half of this city and the LDS church owns the other half. There are a laundry list of other problems here, but this movie is one of the few to get national attention. I am a straight, non-Mormon and I love this city, but I just wish that the leaders could be more accepting and open to different lifestyles: Mormon, non-Mormon, gay or straight. --Allison, Salt Lake City, Utah

What is the big deal with blogs. I don't get it. Basically they seem to be a repeat of content delivered in a different format. I just don't get the popularity of blogs. --Eydie Pinney, Encinitas, Calif.

I watched your blog with interest, hoping to understand more about blogging. I found that what you said was of interest, not the usual stuff you hear on the news shows, but yet at the sametime, I was still left lacking in my education of what a blog is for, so my family explained to me that it is like an email chat room, or daily diary. I hope to see it again next Sunday to understand even more. Thank you. --Denise L. Ball, Yakima, Wash.

I would like to thank you for your opinion about the theater in Salt lake City choosing not to show "Brokeback Mountain" I also believe that it is Larry Miller's choice to show the film or not. I for one, appreciate a business owner standing up for his own convictions instead of bowing to the thought of it making him money. --Rachael, Payson, Utah

I understand that the guy that did not want to play the movie "Brokeback Mountain" is his choice if it bothers him. And it is playing in other theaters in that area. BUT! It is illegal to discriminate in this country. If this guy choice to not play a movie because it had African-Americans in the movie it would be a huge deal in the media that this guy discriminates toward blacks in his theater. I'm sure even you would have a different story if that were the case. So don't say its OK to discriminate. Its wrong and illegal. --Chris Harris, Charlotte, N.C.

Josh Mankiewicz did another outstanding job on this week's "Mank Blog". I find this feature both interesting and informative with a touch of humor. Keep up the great work!!!  --Gary Dolny, Mountain Top, Pa.

Hi Josh. I like your shirt and tie. And for the ones that don't, that's ther problem. As for Bill O'Reily he will whin if the suns to hot! Keep up the good works! --Kathy Jackson, Clinton TWP, Mich.


Second edition of the 'Mank blog' (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

Here’s the thing: I read e-mail just like anyone else. And apparently a lot of you found last week’s Mank Blog kind of, well, irritating.

So let me start off by saying, you’ll be even more irritated now.

attacking my opinions, my sense of humor, my shirt and tie, and my reference to my mother.

And now you’ve crossed a line: Youleave my shirts and ties out of this.

So what’s on the blogs this week? According to and , everything from A to Z: A being Alito and Z being Ziyi Zhang.

  • Ziyi Zhang is one of the stars of “Memoirs of a Geisha,” on the blogs because while it’s set in Japan, none of the three female leads is actually Japanese. Maybe this is really progress— because not so long ago Asians didn’t get to play Asian roles. David Carradine star of ? Not Asian. played a Japanese man; and, playing ? John Wayne.
  • There’s plenty of controversy both on the blogs and the MSM about the movie "Brokeback Mountain." ("MSM" means “mainstream media” to bloggers.) But it’s not about who’s in the movie. A theater owner in Salt Lake City has imposed his own brand of censorship, by . Should anyone be concerned about this? Seems to me the owner has no public duty here. It’s his theater, and if he’s offended by the movie, he shouldn’t have to run it. And here’s something else: "Brokeback Mountain" is playing in Salt Lake in a lot of other theatres. Maybe everyone should stop whining. By the way, you can still catch the 9:45.

And after being humiliated by David Letterman about the made-up "war on Christmas,"

On the plus side, he did re-run part of last week’s Mank Blog. And he referred to me as an analyst. Thank You, Bill.


Your comments on the 'Dateline' blog segment:

Hi. I watch Dateline all the time, and I loved the blogging piece by Josh Mankowitz last night. It was really useful and I loved how funny it was. I can't possibly find the time to go blog-surfing (even if I knew how to do it) so I think it would be great if he could do this kind of thing weekly. And he should keep it funny--it was a nice pick-me-up after that gut-wrenching interview with Lacey Peterson's mother. Thanks for asking my opinion! --Mary Peitz, Peidmont, California I liked the "Mank Blog." Just the right touch of humor, sarcasm, and truth. Josh, thanks for not skewering bloggers, as some of your colleagues in the print media are doing these days. --Beth,Redmond, Washington   I think it's great. I like the fact that all people who want to can put their opinion "out there". It is a good medium for hearing how we think. I also think it is a good idea to educate more people about the blog.....many still don't know they can express themselves and share opinions, beliefs or just general information. I am 46 years old and I have been using computers since the late 70's. I have seen the Internet be born and grow. I think the blog, e-mail and all that goes along is a great help to us. I still remember typing code to retrieve files! The things we enjoy now are wonderful. --Dave Zirkle I enjoyed Mank's blog tonight greatly. Fast-paced and relevant without taking itself too seriously. I will make a point to watch Dateline more often because of this segment. Kudos also to Mank for pointing out that Bill O'Reilly's ridiculous Christmas-under-siege campaign is just an attempt to get publicity by trying to create outrage about a non-existent issue. --Bill Pai,Alameda, Calif.

But not everyone agrees with what Bill, above, said. Scroll below to read what Mankiewciz said.

Here are some more of your e-mails about the subjeft:

I was somewhat taken aback by the ontention that the "war on Christmas" is just something some right-wing talking head made up. I am a registered independent, and do not tune in to any right wing talking head, but I would strongly disagree. But as a practicing mainline protestant, I have noticed that some so-called liberals have "declared" a war on all things Christian. Christianity seems to be singled out for their constant disrespect. And just because David Lettermain declares the whole thing untrue doesn't make it so. --Julia O'Brien When I went to school, we had a Christmas tree, we sang holiday songs, and had a party before Christmas break. Now, none of that is aloud. If you want to make a difference in this world, research on how America is bowing to the ACLU and is loosing its heritage, culture, and identity. You would never see that happening in an Arab society. By the way, I watch the David Letterman show that night that Bill O'Reilly was on. David was actually rude to Bill and squirmed under pressure. --Joseph Tevis, Omaha, Nebraska Honestly, anyone who thinks that there has been no war against Christmas and all the religious aspects that Christmas signifies and honors, is either extremely naive or is purposely disregarding all the facts that surround this sad situation. No one can make a legitimate argument denying the numerous attacks on Christmas in schools, programs, manger scenes, public squares, choral programs, retail stores, newscaster language, and print and video media, and proclaim truthfully that there has been no war against Christmas. --Kiley Klitzke, St. Louis, Mo.


Welcome to the Mank blog (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

It’s a new year. You’re trying to live up to your resolutions or maybe just shake that hangover.

But in cyberspace, there wasn’t even a pause in the debate underway around our world-wide water cooler.

I’m talking about the blog world, where private thoughts somehow morph into public opinion.
We went to two companies that monitor Internet buzz: and , to find the most blogged-about topics on the net this week.

Some were predictable, about the top news stories. Others weren’t.

There was a lot of blogging about , the crooked Washington lobbyist who’s about to start naming names. Is it a tempest in a teapot, or another teapot dome?

Here’s something I kept waiting to hear: that in the days ahead, more Republicans than Democrats will be named. Because they’re more corrupt? No, because if you’re trying to bribe people, you generally bribe people in power. Those of you pursuing a lobbying career may want to keep that in mind.

There’s a lot of blogging on a story that didn’t make headlines— . Before you ask, let me say that the fact that Patrick Cranshaw’s death received a lot of attention is a perfect example of the gulf between the cyber-world and the real world.  Mr. Cranshaw played the role of “Blue” in old school, a film that passes for funny if you have no sense of humor. But in the blogosphere his death marked the day the laughter died.

That nutty “war on Christmas” thing got plenty of traction on the blogs before it ever hit your TV set. Now a lot of bloggers say it’s finally been put to bed with O’Reilly’s appearance on Letterman. (Click here.)

But here’s what I want to know: why did it fall to David Letterman to make it clear what a giant, laughable lie that all was? And here’s my take on that: There’s more than one religion in this country. Most of us understand that. And those talking heads so obsessed with that war on Christmas? What they’re really worried about is finding a new way to attract attention to themselves. Nothing wrong with that—just don’t take any of it seriously.

Now, don’t everyone blog in at once.

Blogging on Dateline (Susan Leibowitz, Dateline producer; and Jesamyn Go, Dateline web producer)

On Sunday’s Dateline, Josh Mankiewicz reported about the “blog world.”

For the uninitiated, a “blog” is basically a “Web log,” a personal website where a person’s private thoughts are recorded, like an online diary. Other people can respond to these thoughts online, and blogs and bloggers communicate with each other. Like anything published, some blogs are more popular than others. Some are read by opinion makers, while others communicate mostly with one’s family members and friends.  Click here for a dictionary definition.

If you didn’t know what the word meant, then we  daresay you’re a bit behind. “Blog” was 2004’s “Word of the Year” according to Merriam-Webster.

So for this segment, we read through some of the postings online and enlisted the help of two companies that monitor Internet buzz (Technorati and Blogpulse) to find the most blogged-about topics on the ‘Net this week.

To read up on blogs, and what’s hot online (it’s changing all the time), here are links from Technorati, BlogPulse, and