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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who Can Write A Book In 40 Days?

Tonight for your enjoyment, a few articles that have popped up over the last several weeks about Wolf Blitzer, John King, and Ali Velshi. Earlier this month, the Obama girls started attending their new schools in Washington, D.C and it prompted Wolf Blitzer to share a story about his own first day of school:

In response to that, the Buffalo News ran the following story:

The sight of young daughters-elect Malia and Sasha Obama going to a new school this week made CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer wistful for his primary education experience in Buffalo.

Blitzer, who moved to this area with his family from Poland when he was 1 and is a Kenmore West graduate, is only slightly less prone to talking about his hometown than the late Tim Russert was. He reminisced on “The Situation Room” about his very first first day of school.

“I remember that day very well; School 81, Buffalo, N.Y., going to kindergarten,” he said. And then, inevitably, more memories surfaced.

“Every first day of school, the teacher is always asking the same question: ‘So what is your real name, Wolf?’ It is my real name, in case you’re wondering.”

We know Blitzer got his first name from his grandfather.

What we don’t know is what nicknames that inspired from his schoolmates. Bet there’s a story there. Maybe for the next “Situation Room?”

Last week the Boston Herald ran this story about the Dorchester native, John King:

CNN’s John King was a 13-year-old kid growing up in Dorchester during the city’s first year of forced school busing.

And if you had asked the Boston Latin student during those racially divided times if there would have been a black president in his lifetime, he “probably would have laughed at you.”

As Barack Obama prepares to make history Tuesday when he’s sworn in as the country’s first black president, King is readying for his next big step.

The former AP scribe is throwing his hat into the competitive Sunday morning political talk show arena with this weekend’s debut of “State of the Union with John King.” The program replaces “Late Edition,” which Wolf Blitzer hosted for a decade.

With the historic presidency, King, 45, says it’s a great opportunity and time to host such a show.

“We’re going to plant a flag on Sunday mornings,” said King, who will compete with David Gregory, George Stephanopoulos, Bob Schieffer and Chris Wallace.

“With the excitment and the interest about the new administration, people are going to be looking around,” King said. “People are hungry and thirsty for information, so there’s an opportunity to build an audience.”

King’s passion for politics was sparked during his blue-collar beginnings in Dorchester. He was one of seven children raised on King Street near St. Mark’s Parish. His father was a guard at the old Charles Street Jail. His mother worked at the old First National Bank on Morrissey Boulevard. Both his parents have since died.

King’s first paid job was delivering the Boston Herald. “I had a Herald paper route. I grew to having 60-something houses at one point,” he said.

His father was involved in the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, read all the newspapers and was “always talking politics in a spicy way.” Boston Mayor Kevin White, King recalled, often had the middle name “son of a bitch.”

After the annual Dorchester Day Parade, local pols would stop by the King family’s barbecue.

“I just got it from being there,” said King, a father of two who married CNN colleague Dana Bash in Chatham last year. “My mom and dad talked politics all the time around the house.”

King eventually went to work for the Associated Press in Providence, Boston and Washington, D.C., before joining CNN in 1997. During his AP run, he covered former Bay State Gov. Mike Dukakis’ bid for the presidency.

King’s reporting during the most recent White House election earned him high praise from his CNN bosses. His 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday program includes Howard Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources” and his state-of-the-art “Magic Wall.”

While the show will feature smart, tough newsmaker interviews, CNN’s chief national correspondent plans to get out of Washington, D.C., as “often as we can” to talk to everyday people.

“People who work in Washington sometimes become hostage to the language of Washington,” he said. “You have to remember that there are people on the receiving end, and they live in places like Dorchester, Massachusetts.”

Also earlier this month, The New York Observer talked to Ali Velshi about writing a book in 40 days.

"It's the kind of thing you can read in one sitting," said Ali Velshi.

Mr. Velshi, CNN's chief business correspondent, was speaking to The Media Mob on Thursday morning about his newly published book, Gimme My Money Back: Your Guide to Beating the Financial Crisis.

Mr. Velshi said that the slim volume—one of the first books out of the gate pegged to the current financial crisis—aims to walk a general audience through the basics of personal finance.

"The first chapter is the history of how we got here," said Mr. Velshi. "That's the timely part of it. The rest of it is a real primer in how markets and investments work."

Not only is the book a quick read, according to Mr. Velshi, but it was also a quick write. The CNN correspondent said that his first meeting about the book with his publisher Sterling & Ross took place on November 5th, the day after the presidential election. Roughly 40 days later, the first printed copy of the book rolled off the presses.

How'd he get it done so fast?

Mr. Velshi credited his editor Tom Wynbrandt, who practically camped out at CNN during November and December, organizing Mr. Velshi's words and passages and combing through transcripts of his previous analysis on TV. "I went into it saying I wanted a book that was accessible," said Mr. Velshi. "That meant inexpensive, paperback, and easy to read."

On Wednesday evening, a crowd of TV newsmen and women descended on McCormick & Schmick's, a seafood restaurant in midtown Manhattan, to celebrate the book's publication. On our way in, the Media Mob bumped into Christine Romans, Mr. Velshi's co-host of CNN's Your $$$$$, and Victor Neufeld, the former CNN producer and charming man about town.

Inside, the private basement room was packed with wine-sipping well-wishers, including CNN U.S. President Jonathan Klein, executive vice president of CNN Worldwide Ken Jautz, and American Morning anchor John Roberts.

At one point in the evening, Mr. Klein stood at the front of the room and congratulated the author. He joked that Mr. Velshi was typically asking for more money. So the CNN boss was happy to hear that Mr. Velshi was now talking about giving money back.

"Between the book and the economy and the newsroom and my schedule, I don't get out much," said Mr. Velshi, the next morning. "So I was just kind of excited to be there."

So why should cable-TV attuned investors listen to Mr. Velshi's advice rather than, say, CNBC's manic Mad Money man Jim Cramer?

"Cramer is a guy I respect," said the diplomatic CNN anchor. "He's a guy that I consider a friend. I listen to Jim Cramer. Jim has an encyclopedic knowledge. You listen to Jim because you want to know about specific companies and how they're going to perform."

"You don't read my book to be a stock picker," he added. "You read my book to have a broad investment strategy because you're not otherwise planning on spending a lot of time day-trading. Mine is the book you read because you've never wanted to be involved in finances, or you don't understand your finances, but you'd still like to retire comfortably."

Mr. Velshi said he is aiming to publish a follow-up book sometime around the fall of 2009, which would focus more on how to optimize one's portfolio.

In the meantime, Mr. Velshi hopes his first book will help catch some of his viewers up to speed on the basics. "I put a book together that is not gimmicky and not all together novel," said Mr. Velshi. "It's fair, and it's easy to read, and it allows you to take action immediately."

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