Media Guy's Worst Media Feuds Of 2008

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NY Post: Ashley Dupre
"It's a really tough road for her to have a music career because she's a prostitute."
Andy Greene, assistant editor at Rolling Stone, on Ashley Dupre's 15 minutes of fame.

1. MICROSOFT VS. YAHOO
The year's most unsettling courtship: Microsoft's hapless pursuit of Yahoo, , to Yahoo's great horror. Watching one tarnished brand try to forcedly breed with another tarnished brand is like watching bad porn. But this was like watching bad porn on an endless loop, with the volume turned way up -- and not even Steve Ballmer could find the darn remote.

2. SARAH PALIN VS. THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Her convention acceptance speech was a folksy triumph -- but once Sarah Palin got off script, well, don'tcha know, things got interesting! Occasionally chillingly, accidentally precise about her own shortcomings ("You can actually see Russia from land here!"), she more often -- particularly in her clueless interview with Katie Couric -- regarded the English language as her own rambling, substance-free Bridge to Nowhere.

3. SAM ZELL VS. HIS EMPLOYEES
The ballsy, outspoken Chicago real-estate mogul intended to ride to the rescue of the newspaper industry with out-of-the-box thinking. Instead, he was boxed in like every other impotent executive in the embattled newspaper industry. But Zell chose to one-up his sad-sack fellow moguls by publicly lashing out -- in invariably condescending and often off-color tirades -- at his own employees. Well, at least those he hasn't laid off yet.

4. REVEREND WRIGHT VS. HIS OWN EGO
Initially it seemed that Barack Obama's pastor's greatest beef was with the entire nation ("God damn America!"). Then he seemed intent on dissing his longtime parishioner (once Obama rather belatedly disowned him). But his shameless, gloating performances at the National Press Club and elsewhere suggested that Wright didn't really care who he took down as long as the spotlight kept shining on him.

5. DAN RATHER VS. CBS (CONTINUED)
This one's been brewing for years, but in 2008 Dan Rather finally got the saddest sort of upper hand: His legal team drummed up convincing evidence that CBS had stacked the decks against Rather and colleagues in an effort to placate the Bush administration during the network's supposedly impartial examination of a controversial "60 Minutes" report about Dubya's military service. Stay tuned: This one will last into 2009.

6. WALL STREET VS. REALITY
Credit-default swaps: trading away risk, just like that, like magic! Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, most business journalists gave Wall Street a pass in the boom years, because all that newfangled financial engineering was just too complicated to parse, let alone explain to readers and viewers. Turns out Wall Street didn't really understand any of it either.

7. DAVID LETTERMAN VS. JOHN MCCAIN
Rule No. 1 of late-night-TV politics: Don't piss off Dave. Former favorite guest John McCain got hammered by the "Late Show" host for not only canceling at the last minute but lying about the reason: He had to rush back to Washington to deal with the financial crisis! In fact, he went across town to do a sit-down with Letterman's corporate colleague Katie Couric. Um, did McCain think Dave wouldn't notice?

8. THE MAGAZINE INDUSTRY VS. ITSELF
Earlier in the year, as the newspaper industry continued to death-spiral, the magazine industry opted for blind optimism. But by mid-fall, the glossy world -- perhaps even worse prepared than the newspaper industry for a digital future -- not only began laying off employees by the thousands, it started shutting down titles, often killing off their web incarnations, too. Magazine publishers, it seemed, just lost interest in ... publishing.

9. MCCAIN-CAMPAIGN OPERATIVES VS. SARAH PALIN
Finger-pointing and recriminations are inevitable in the aftermath of any failed campaign, but the post-election trashing of Sarah Palin by unnamed McCain-campaign operatives who cried foul to Fox News -- she was, they alleged, even dumber than we thought (Africa is a continent?), and a shopaholic to boot -- was possibly even uglier than the McCain campaign itself.

10. SUMNER REDSTONE VS. MORTALITY
Media conglomerates are doing badly these days, but Sumner Redstone's National Amusements Inc., through which he controls Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., is saddled with a particularly daunting level of debt service. What's an 85-year-old mogul to do? Hope that his usual, opaque managerial song-and-dance, along with a little asset-shuffling (Brother, can you spare a billion for a long-in-the-tooth theater chain?), will delay the inevitable.

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