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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

May 27, 2007

A long time ago when I taught high school English, I introduced a requirement that all sophomores had to take Media Studies for one trimester because it was my belief that the strongest force in their lives was not the books we wanted them to read but the television and films they were consuming. If it was true in those long ago days when I taught high school, it is infinitely truer now when media is more immersive and ubiquitous than ever. And, in that long ahead time when I won’t be doing what I’m doing now I would like to go back to that, teaching media.

I am, as evidenced by this column, fascinated by the effects media is having on us. Programs like The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, the amazing effects of the internet – the massive explosion of communication and information is transforming the world. And I find the effects amazing – sometimes a bit distressing. I mean, do we REALLY need all the pop star magazines that litter our magazine racks? [This week various magazines gave you a choice of which version of the Brad and Angelina story you wanted: blissfully happy, breaking up, indulging in a ménage a trios. Something for everyone.]

It gives me pleasure to know that some of our erstwhile Presidential Candidates are using You Tube to let the world see a slightly lighter side of themselves as well as to get out their various messages. This wouldn’t have happened a decade ago – and You Tube and its cousin video sharing sites are influencing the way campaigns are conducted. Hillary, for example, is using YouTube to soften her steely image.

Messages there reverberate throughout the political world – recall the bump in Barak Obama’s digital world? Barak alienated a goodly number of digerati, at least for a moment, when his campaign was approached by a follower who was maintaining a very popular Barak Obama website. The costs were getting high so he asked for some money. The Obamaites took over the site, made it their own and then never paid him a solitary sous.. [Bad P.R. in the new media age; the web has a life of its own and it’s not very forgiving.]

On Sunday, I had The Sopranos on in the background, watching one of the final episodes of what has been one of the great television dramas of all time. It’s a little sad to see it come to an end; it is good that it is ending with its integrity intact – and with a sense that it will end decisively. I tip my hat to David Chase – and to HBO, which supported this ground breaking drama – an epic video novel.

Speaking of HBO, it’s no secret that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas – witness the comet like fall of Chris Albrecht, now ex-CEO of HBO and the man credited for much of HBO’s success. He allegedly was inebriated, got angry at his girlfriend and made the mistake of attempting to throttle her in front of the Vegas police. He was gone in almost a blink of an eye, not before returning to AA which he should never have left.

However, the Time Warner shareholders were apparently far less concerned about the Albrecht Adventure than they were about a stagnating stock price coupled with what some shareholders felt was egregiously generous pay packages for senior staff on the corporate level. [Just as a matter of principal, I voted my few shares of T-W against the executive compensation package proffered by the Board. It felt good to make a small statement.]

We are immersed in a mega media world that is fascinating and frustrating, infuriating and inspiring. Acts of courage and extreme venality are around us all the time and, at the end of the day, we are what we choose to consume out of the mouth of the media. We can be well informed about the world around us or we can have our mental faculties devoured by the Brangelina stories on the checkout stand.