ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* It has been a long time since television and movies were considered competing media, as illustrated again tomorrow morning with the announcement of Academy Awards nominees. The nominees are scheduled to be revealed out in California shortly after 5:30 a.m., meaning that "CBS This Morning," "Good Morning America" (ABC) and "Today" (NBC) can all cover the event live.
Don't be surprised to see Kevin Costner and his epic "Dances With Wolves" in at least three categories: Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.
* A related note: It has been reported "The Russia House," the lush Sean Connery/Michele Pfeiffer film from Jean le Carre's book, has done the most advertising in search of an Oscar. No less than 19 pages of ads have been taken in the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety urging awards consideration by the Academy members.
* Is anybody else appalled at how readily many Americans are willing to cede press freedom in the Persian Gulf war to the judgment of military men and politicians? Last week's "Saturday Night Live" provided an example, in a skit also repeated on NBC's "Sunday Best."
In camouflage fatigues, regular Kevin Neeland was supposedly conducting a military briefing for reporters, with the real-life proviso that he could not answer questions that might aid Iraq or weaken American military posture.
The media people repeatedly asked bonehead questions, heh-heh, such as where the American forces were weakest, what tactics could hurt their morale and what secret passwords the military is using. There was even an Iraqi reporter looking for troop positions.
OK, OK, humor was the intent, and some reporters have been asking dumb questions. Yet the implication of this and an astonishing level of other media discussion recently is that the mere questioning of the official line, or the seeking of facts from other sources, is somehow inappropriate.
In a similar vein, a caller last week suggested to WBAL-AM 1090 talk show host Allan Prell that reporters shouldn't be asking tough questions at briefings, but should be out in the field looking for their own answers. The host politely pointed out that reporters are not being allowed in the field and are merely doing their jobs by asking difficult questions.
The cumulative effect of massive media attention may make it seem this is the best covered war in our history, but the opposite may well be so.
As commentator Richard Reeves said on National Public Radio last week, the war's leading reporting source is not cable's CNN but "PNN -- the Pentagon News Network."