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Newly Paroled Media Guy Reflects on the Media World of 2010

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EDITOR'S NOTE: You may remember Simon Dumenco from his short-lived "Media Guy" column in these pages -- or, more likely, from his notorious arrest and conviction in 2007 for saying "darn" while doing a guest spot on CNBC, escaping notice of the five-second-delay censor and thereby running afoul of the newly restrictive Homeland Terror Family Protection Television Language Purity Act, which Congress made law in late 2006. Last week, he was paroled from Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. (Despite repeated efforts by his lawyer to correct sentencing paperwork that listed him as "Simone," Dumenco was unable to get transferred from the minimum-security women's prison made famous by ex-resident Martha Stewart.) We asked him to reflect on the culture shock of experiencing the dramatically changed media landscape of 2010.
Alderson really changes a guy's perspective.
Alderson really changes a guy's perspective. Credit: AP

I guess my biggest shock is that The New York Times suspended its paper edition. When it disappeared from the prison library, they didn't tell us why. I just assumed it got pulled for the same reason The Nation and Cat Fancy got pulled -- because they violated the Un-American Media Non-Requisition Act of 2007, which, of course, prohibited the expenditure of federal funds on liberal publications. Anyway, obviously newspapers were doomed well before I landed in the clink. But to be back on the streets only to discover that the Times has gone exclusively to a podcast format is just unsettling. Though I hear that Alex Kuczynski's "Happy Sassy Super Rich Girl Shopping Hour" podcast is pretty good.

Speaking of happy, I'm amazed at how thoroughly Katie Couric reimagined the "CBS Evening News." I watched it the other night (we only got Fox News at Alderson, of course), and then went back and read some articles on Google about her plans for the show before she took it over. Back in 2006 she told The Washington Post, "Sometimes when you watch the evening news, it's all gloom and doom -- and some of it has to be, because the world is a complicated and pretty scary place right now. But there has to be a place for more hopeful stories." I mean, I understand that, but the segment I saw the other day about that terror widow's weight-loss secrets? Look, I'm happy she was able to drop 20 pounds, and when I saw her "after" photo, I thought, "I'd do her." (Prison -- Alderson especially -- changes everything.) But to me it just seemed like she'd lost weight because she was depressed and stopped eating. Or was I missing something?

I still find it weird that former Men's Health Editor Dave Zinczenko is now a U.S. senator. I heard about that in prison, but I only just caught him on C-Span this week. I have to confess that I'm loving the whole intern sex scandal he's caught up in. I mean, "You wanna touch my abs?" What kind of a come-on is that? Also, it's weird to see him without hair. Is that a recent development, or did Rodale's health plan not cover Propecia?

I just finally got to experience firsthand the repercussions of the Viral Video Emergency Energy Act of March 2007. After the Great Northwest Blackout of 2006 -- when, of course, YouTube's server farms overwhelmed the electrical grid in Oregon and surrounding states -- limiting viral-video clip length to no more than 10 seconds to conserve power seemed like a draconian measure. But now that I've seen the 10-second version of the viral video that caused the blackout in the first place -- the Oprah Winfrey-Will Ferrell sex tape -- I can't imagine that I ever would have needed to have seen the whole eight minutes. This might just be the parolee in me talking, but for my money, 10 seconds did the trick, if you know what I mean.

Bono's Forbes PortfolioWeek 2.0 -- his roll-up of the late, great Forbes, Business Week, Business 2.0 and Conde Nast's Portfolio -- is much better than I expected. Still, I'm sorry he wasn't able to preserve each of his acquisitions as individual titles. God only knows what he was smoking when he went on that buying spree in 2006-2007.

I'm not surprised, frankly, that MySpace folded. And that Gawker merged with Hallmark. And that Us Weekly merged with The New Yorker. In fact, I vaguely recall writing a column back in 2006 in which I predicted every one of those eventualities.

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