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For Viacom Freelancers, Neither Happiness Nor Health for Christmas

MEDIA • Viacom screws over its army of freelancers by rolling back benefit programs drastically. Merry Christmas! [MixedMedia/Portfolio] • The Washington Post is sending veteran reporter and inveterate partier Keith Richburg to town to take over the paper's New York bureau. He's well known for throwing parties with, get this, as many as 30 people! Will Manhattan will be able to handle it? [NYO] • No holiday party at Time Inc. or the New York Times. Suckas! [Radar]

Maxwell Wheat Will Not Be L.I. Poet Laureate

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• Nassau County had its first poet laureate all picked out: Maxwell Corydon Wheat Jr. Then they discovered his poem that begins "Males and one woman / Sip coffee mornings in the White House, / Talk of desires about Iraq." So that's a no. Good call, incidentally: The poem is beyond awful. [NYT] • Meet Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, a SUNY-Albany nanotech scientist who happens to be the best-remunerated state employee in New York. After last week's record pay hike, his various salaries add up to an annual windfall of $947,538. Not that anyone's counting. [NYP] • Nothing like a crazed-insurance-broker yarn: Noel Lauria bought a bow and fired arrows out his UES window, landing a stray one through a neighbor's terrace door. His explanation to the cops: "I'm turning 40." [NYDN] • Oh, goody, another "edgy" magician dangling over Times Square. The ingredients in the current mess: a guy named Criss Angel, a glass box, 6,000 pounds of concrete, and a crappy A&E show to promote. Go concrete! [amNY] • And over the weekend, all manner of deformed, tattooed, and hairy freaks played baseball. Also, there was a Coney Island charity game, with the Sideshow By the Seashore performers battling the Cyclone staff. See what we did there? [Metro NY]

‘Times’ Not Fit For Journalism Students

Spring Break!
Today's Times profiles a class at SUNY Stony Brook devoted to teaching kids the difference between "good" and "bad" journalism. As we meet the students, they're enthusiastically parsing an article titled "Girls Go 'Wild' For Booze, Sex" for instances of sloppy research and biased news-gathering. The bane of our era, they are told in many, many words, is the temptation to massage data until it fits a preexisting viewpoint (we thought Stephen Colbert simplified the whole notion a year ago, by coining the term truthiness). So, how did the Times article itself do, pitted against Stony Brook's exacting standards?

Bitchin'

Hip-hop producer Timbaland called fellow producer and former friend Scott Storch "a bitch" at Marquee. Katie Couric was spotted flirting with a young guy who may or may not have been smoking weed at Peasant in Nolita. Manhattan Mini Storage is getting flack from Republicans and Paris Hilton alike for some of its ads around the city. Married Island Def Jam CEO L.A. Reid exchanged a number of rather flirty e-mails with a female co-worker in 2005, but she insists they were just kidding around. Former state comptroller Carl McCall is claiming he's Elliot Spitzer's choice to head up SUNY as either chancellor or chairman of the Board of Trustees, but a source close to Spitzer says no way. Jon Bon Jovi is doing charity construction work in Brooklyn.