A crew of Fox News reporters witnessed the attack on the Guardian’s correspondent in Bozeman. According to their firsthand account, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands as the reporter was posing questions to him.
The crew wrote: “He then slammed [Jacobs] into the ground behind him. [We] watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter.”
Jacobs was taken by ambulance to a hospital and treated for an elbow injury.
Gianforte pleaded guilty to a charge of assault and was sentenced to four days in jail as a misdemeanor. The sentence was later changed to 40 hours of community service, a fine and a compulsory anger-management course.
In a statement, the Guardian US editor, John Mulholland, said: “The president of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian. To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the first amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.
“In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats. We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them.”
and while I never did fulfill my desire to scarf down a bag of Cheetos and/or a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos, I did decide that maybe I should challenge myself to write ten blog posts. In the dark ages, before Twitter and Facebook, before the corporate media began to emulate the blog model, et al, I did post a hell of a lot more content here. Ten posts was not a particular daily metric I tried to achieve, I was happy with five posts, but ten happened every once and a while. Now, to be honest, I’m not a long-winded person, so it isn’t like I typically write five hundred or a thousand words of my own per post, I’m more of a blogger of the Kottke school, pointing you to read something interesting somewhere else, while liberally quoting from the original source.
I did other things yesterday too, but I didn’t post my tenth post until 7:30 PM. If blogging was a job, each day of work would typically be a long day.
Pippen Peruses the Newspaper
According to Erica Berger, insisting upon ten posts a day means more click-bait articles, more shallow articles, less actual journalism will be practiced.
Every journalism student knows they are supposed to shine a spotlight on the issues that matter. It’s a sad truth that some of our greatest reporters have had to bail out in search of a saner or more impactful job. But it’s hard to do that when your boss wants you to churn out 10 posts a day. And when journalists are expected to maintain an active social-media presence and share their thoughts on every fresh twist in the 24-hour news cycle, it’s difficult to find the time to identify the stories that truly need telling.
I still tend to avoid reading stories in The Huffington Post, since they seem intent upon running a sort of digital sweatshop for underpaid young writers, but some of their political stances are worthy of note. Like this:
The Huffington Post has started appending an editor’s note to the bottom of posts about Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, calling him a “racist,” a “liar” and a “xenophobe,” and reminding readers of his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
“Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.,” reads the note, which was added to an article about Trump’s feud with Fox News published last night. The note also includes links to prior coverage of Trump’s comments.
A Huffington Post spokesperson told POLITICO that the note will be added to all future stories about Trump.
“Yes, we’re planning to add this note to all future stories about Trump,” the spokesperson said. “No other candidate has called for banning 1.6 billion people from the country! If any other candidate makes such a proposal, we’ll append a note under pieces about them.”
I’ve never had the opportunity to use a Bloomberg terminal, but this seems like a fairly large and systemic breach of trust. If I was a corporation with a contract with Bloomberg, I’d seriously look into canceling it, or at least not renewing without financial concessions.
The company confirmed that reporters at Bloomberg News, the journalism arm of Bloomberg L.P., had for years used the company’s terminals to monitor when subscribers had logged onto the service and to find out what types of functions, like the news wire, corporate bond trades or an equities index, they had looked at. Bloomberg terminals, which cost an average of more than $20,000 a year, are found in nearly every banking and trading company.
Bloomberg said the functions that allowed journalists to monitor subscribers were a mistake and were promptly disabled after Goldman Sachs complained that a Bloomberg reporter had, while inquiring about a partner’s employment status, pointed out that the partner had not logged onto his Bloomberg terminal lately.
The incident led to broader concerns about the line at Bloomberg between its lucrative terminal business and the hypercompetitive newsroom, threatening to undermine the credibility of both. In a secretive world that thrives on opacity, traders and financial firms jealously guard every speck of information about their activity to avoid tipping their hand on their trades and investments.
“On Wall Street, anonymity is critically important. Secrecy and the ability to cover one’s tracks is paramount,” said Michael J. Driscoll, a former senior trader at Bear Stearns who now teaches at Adelphi University. He added: “If Bloomberg reporters crossed that line, that’s an issue.”
…In the early 1990s, when Bloomberg L.P. had just started to build its news division, reporters were encouraged to leverage the terminals as a way to get a leg up on the competition, said several former employees who would discuss practices only anonymously. Reporters often went on sales calls to talk to banks and hedge funds about the news division to help the company sell terminals. The practice became much less pervasive as Bloomberg became an established news outlet, although many Bloomberg veterans still consider the news division solely a means to sell more terminals.
Bloomberg LP is in damage-control mode. Some of its largest customers have publicly accused the firm’s journalists of snooping on their usage of Bloomberg terminals, the firm’s wildly profitable information service for investors.
Every Bloomberg terminal customer knows you just need to tap twice on the greenbutton in the top-left corner of the keyboard in order to chat with a customer service representative. Fewer of them are aware that the transcripts of those conversations are stored by the company and could be viewed by any employee.
Several former Bloomberg employees say colleagues would look upchat transcripts of famous customers, like Alan Greenspan, for amusement on slow workdays. The transcripts were typically mundane and hardly incriminating, but who wouldn’t enjoy watching a former US Federal Reserve chairman struggle to use a computer? And, in theory, the substance of someone’s query to customer service could reveal specific information that he’s interested in, tipping off a reporter to a story.
It’s common for companies to keep logs of their interactions with customers. What makes Bloomberg different is that any employee, including journalists, could access those logs through thefunction on their terminals. Trippet said that access was revoked from journalists.
and worse of all, Bloomberg knew about it a while ago, but didn’t think it a problem, as Buzzfeed reports:
Executives at the financial information company Bloomberg have known about journalists using the company’s terminals to spy on clients at least since September 2011 — more than a year before the practice turned into a scandal that threatens the company’s relationships with its clients. That month, Erik Schatzker, an anchor at Bloomberg TV and host of “Market Makers,” was reprimanded for making on-air comments about using terminal data to track the activities of at least one story subject, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. One source said the matter was a very big deal internally but was handled quietly.
Editorially, this information was seen as so benign that surfacing it was an open practice, if not openly encouraged. Internally, reporters are taught to “harness the power of the terminal” to mine for stories, one former newsroom source said. Bloomberg reporters can see the aggregate number of readers for a specific story, but cannot identify the individual readers. Indeed, not unlike at some other digital media companies, sources said half of the annual bonus for Bloomberg reporters is based in part on story views, so seeing which stories are gaining traction among readers is valuable in helping reporters determine what to chase. According to the former newsroom source, reporters pitch a lot of what Bloomberg calls “people movers” stories (i.e., a Morgan Stanley banker being hired by UBS) because they get a lot of traction among clients.
What started as a fun project turned out to be a rather fascinating and unique experiment. Over the course of a year, page by page, source by source, I re-reported and rewrote one of Bob Woodward’s books.…
Wired is an infuriating piece of work. There’s a reason Woodward’s critics consistently come off as hysterical ninnies: He doesn’t make Jonah Lehrer–level mistakes. There’s never a smoking gun like an outright falsehood or a brazen ethical breach. And yet, in the final product, a lot of what Woodward writes comes off as being not quite right—some of it to the point where it can feel quite wrong. There’s no question that he frequently ferrets out information that other reporters don’t. But getting the scoop is only part of the equation. Once you have the facts, you have to present those facts in context and in proportion to other facts in order to accurately reflect reality. It’s here that Woodward fails.
Over and over during the course of my reporting I’d hear a story that conflicted with Woodward’s account in Wired. I’d say, “Aha! I’ve got him!” I’d run back to Woodward’s index, look up the offending passage, and realize that, well, no, he’d put down the mechanics of the story more or less as they’d happened. But he’d so mangled the meaning and the context that his version had nothing to do with what I concluded had actually transpired. Take the filming of the famous cafeteria scene from Animal House, which Belushi totally improvised on set with no rehearsal. What you see in the film is the first and last time he ever performed that scene.
Here’s the story as recounted by Belushi’s co-star James Widdoes:
One of the things that was so spectacular to watch during the filming was the incredible connection that [Belushi] and Landis had. During the scene on the cafeteria line, Landis was talking to Belushi all the way through it, and Belushi was just taking it one step further. What started out as Landis saying, “Okay, now grab the sandwich,” became, in John’s hands, taking the sandwich, squeezing and bending it until it popped out of the cellophane, sucking it into his mouth, and then putting half the sandwich back. He would just go a little further each time.
Co-star Tim Matheson remembered that John “did the entire cafeteria line scene in one take. I just stood by the camera, mesmerized.” Other witnesses agree. Every person who recounted that incident to me used it as an example of Belushi’s virtuoso talent and his great relationship with his director. Landis could whisper suggestions to Belushi on the fly, and he’d spin it into comedy gold.
Now here it is as Woodward presents it:
Landis quickly discovered that John could be lazy and undisciplined. They were rehearsing a cafeteria scene, a perfect vehicle to set up Bluto’s insatiable cravings. Landis wanted John to walk down the cafeteria line and load his tray until it was a physical burden. As the camera started, Landis stood to one side shouting: “Take that! Put that in your pocket! Pile that on the tray! Eat that now, right there!” John followed each order, loading his pockets and tray, stuffing his mouth with a plate of Jello in one motion.
First off, Woodward wrongly calls the cafeteria scene a rehearsal, when half the point of the story is that Belushi pulled it off without ever rehearsing it once. Also, there’s actually nothing in the anecdote to indicate laziness or lack of discipline on Belushi’s part, yet Woodward chooses to establish the scene using those words. The implication is that Belushi was so unfocused and unprepared that he couldn’t make it through the scene without the director beside him telling him what to do, which is not what took place. When I interviewed him, Landis disputed that he ever referred to Belushi as lazy or undisciplined. “The greatest crime of that book,” Landis says of Wired, “is that if you read it and you’d just assume that John was a pig and an asshole, and he was anything but. He could be abrupt and unpleasant, but most of the time he was totally charming and people adored him.”
John Belushi was a recreational drug user for roughly one-third of his 33 years, and he was a hard-core addict for the last five or six, from which you can subtract one solid year of sobriety. Yet in Wired, which has 403 pages of narrative text, the total number of pages that make some reference to drugs is something like 295, or nearly 75 percent. Belushi’s drug use is surely a key part of his life—drugs are what ended it, after all—but shouldn’t a writer also be interested in what led his subject to this substance abuse in the first place? If you want to know why someone was a cocaine addict for the last six years of his life, the answer is probably hiding somewhere in the first 27 years. But Woodward chooses to largely ignore that period, and in doing so he again misses the point. In terms of illuminating its subject, Wired is about as useful as a biography of Buddy Holly that only covers time he spent on airplanes.
Of all the people I interviewed, SNL writer and current Sen. Al Franken, referencing his late comedy partner Tom Davis, offered the most apt description of Woodward’s one-sided approach to the drug use in Belushi’s story:
“Tom Davis said the best thing about Wired,” Franken told me. “He said it’s as if someone wrote a book about your college years and called it Puked. And all it was about was who puked, when they puked, what they ate before they puked and what they puked up. No one read Dostoevsky, no one studied math, no one fell in love, and nothing happened but people puking.”
I had to cheer when I read the news the other week about a French company that’s selling an ad-blocking service on the Internet. Xavier Niel, the entrepreneurial owner of the web-service provider Free, is threatening to smash the advertiser-supported “free-content” model. That model has transformed Google’s Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt into media barons who make William Randolph Hearst look like a small-time operator. Niel, it seems, would also like to make the Internet “free,” but in a way that horrifies the so-called content providers — that is free of paid advertising.
As publisher of a magazine that specializes in substantive, complex, and occasionally lengthy journalism and literature, and that also lives off advertising, I’ve long objected to Google’s systematic campaign to steal everything that isn’t welded to the floor by copyright — while playing nice with its idiotic slogan “Don’t be evil.”
A confidential Philip Morris document from the mid-1990s named Malcolm Gladwell as one of the tobacco industry’s top covert media assets. This roster of “Third Party Advocates” was a who’s who list of known corporate shills, including Bush press secretary/Fox News anchor Tony Snow, Grover Norquist, Milton Friedman and Ed Feulner, head of the Heritage Foundation. In journalism terms, a “Third Party Advocate” means “fraud.”
We’ve never been fans of Sully ‘round these parts, we haven’t forgotten some of his more odious positions. It wasn’t even very long ago that Sullivan thought anyone opposed to the Iraq War was a traitor, or worse.
Anyway, Mark Ames has a good run-down of a few of Andrew Sullivan’s greatest hits, well worth your time to refresh your memory of the positions Andrew Sullivan has held, all the way back to his fact-free debunking of the Reagan October Surprise when Sullivan was only 28.
Andrew Sullivan is all over the news after announcing he’s going solo, parting ways with Tina Brown shortly after she put a pillow over Newsweek’s face.
But in all the media excitement over Sullivan’s decision to rely on the much-maligned subscription model for his revenues (“bold experiment!”… “A thrill!”… “a flag of hope for every writer!”… “a dramatic stand!”…) no one raised the most obvious question of all: Why would subscribers pay to support one of the most colossal serial-failures in American journalism of the past two decades?
Sullivan is getting away with it and profiting from failure thanks to two key elements to his media business model: Blogger cronyism, providing a network of media suckups all too eager to offer free PR to Sullivan’s business in the hope that “Sully” will logroll back at them some day; and the American public’s amnesia.
I happen to know just how rotten Sullivan is because over at the S.H.A.M.E. Project, we just published a profile on one of the most rancid political figures of our time, Charles Murray — a vicious right-wing sociopath and racial eugenicist who got his start as a counter-insurgency expert during the Vietnam War, using starvation and crop destruction as a means of “behavior control” on restive Thai villages.
Murray’s fraudulent racial eugenics theories “proving” that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior gained a foothold in mainstream discourse, thanks to Andrew Sullivan. What’s more disturbing is that even as Sullivan has disavowed some of his far-right causes of the past — like smearing critics of America’s wars as traitors, denouncing “decadent” coastal America, denouncing what he called the “libidinal pathology” of gay sexual culture, smearing anyone not with the Likkud program as anti-Semitic, and so on — the one far-right belief he won’t let go of is racial intelligence, “human biodiversity” and the whole range of rancid Nazi eugenics revived in 1994 by Charles Murray’s discredited book, The Bell Curve.
The iPad only News Corporation experiment called The Daily is shutting down, surprising few. I’m amazed it lasted as long as it did.
Marco Arment speculates that one reason is that The Daily expenses were greater than its revenue. Of course Rupert Murdoch could have chosen to continu losing money on The Daily – the New York Post supposedly loses nearly $100,000,000 a year, but a leaner organization would have served News Corp better:
Well-established news sites are much better for news. Editorials and feature articles need to either be free, like most blogs, or consistently great and worth paying for, as in magazines such as The New Yorker or The Atlantic. But The Daily offered an overreaching mix of ineffective news coverage and unmemorable editorials and features. I’ve never seen anyone share a link to something in The Daily saying that we had to go read this great article that would make us want to subscribe. (In fact, I’ve simply never seen anyone post a link to anything in The Daily.)
The Daily required an extremely large staff to produce. And even with supposedly over 100,000 subscribers, netting them at least about $3 million per year plus ad revenue, that’s simply not enough to pay for a staff that large. (Not even close.)
Murdoch reading News of the World – source unknown
Jack Shafer thinks Murdoch just got bored with it…
When you’re as wealthy as Rupert Murdoch ($9.4 billion) and you control a company as resource-rich as News Corp (market cap $58.1 billion), shuttering a 22-month-old business like The Daily doesn’t signify failure as much as it does surrender.
Murdoch knew what he was getting into when he launched the iPad-only (and then smartphone, Android tablet, and Kindle Fire) publication in February 2011. At a press conference, the mogul claimed to have invested $30 million pre-launch and assumed running costs of about $500,000 a week. According to a report in the New York Observer, attributed to a “source,” the operation was amassing annual losses of $30 million. But again, for someone like Murdoch, $30 million is chump change. His New York Post loses up to $70 million a year, according to some accounts, and you don’t see him closing it. Such losses are rounding errors in the company’s entertainment budget.
To place The Daily venture in scale, the last attempt to start a national, general-interest print newspaper from the ground up—USA Today—lost $600 million over the course of a decade before turning its first profit in 1994. (In today’s money, that’s more than $1 billion.) The National, the national sports daily, lost $150 million (about $250 million, corrected for inflation) in 18 months before closing in June 1991. In the late 1990s, when Murdoch was trying to crash the China satellite TV market, he had invested $2 billion and was losing $2 million a week according to his former right-hand man in that enterprise. So, please, let’s not obsess too much over Murdoch’s squandering of $30 million a year on a failed experiment. In the history of journalistic bets, this was a trivial gamble.
There are almost as many diagnoses of what killed The Daily as there are dollars lost. And most of them are right.
I was never a subscriber, but I did read The Daily during its free month. There was rarely anything of interest to me- it seemed to be a lite version of Newsweek and the New York Post. I won’t miss it.
Story of the week, from my perspective, is the revelation of just how far our news organizations have fallen in importance. Seems as if we are witnessing the future of America; where industries get outsourced, job by job, and sent to some place where a salary of 50¢ an hour is nearly a middle class wage. Is this the Bain Capital model of the future? I find that depressing, and my connection to journalism is only as a reader, and through genetic history.1
The story has been percolating for a while, a recent piece on NPR’s This American Life was the blow-up event:
ACT TWO. FORGIVE US OUR PRESS PASSES. Producer Sarah Koenig reports on a company called Journatic, that is producing local journalism in a brand new way. Or is it really journalism? (23 1/2 minutes)
Turns out there was an insider, Ryan Smith, at Journatic feeding information because he was concerned.
From the Guardian U.K:
If the best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist, Journatic’s greatest ruse has been to convince the world that the company and its workers barely exist. Google the word “Journatic” and it’ll take a lot of digging through search results to find the company’s bare-bones website, because the site itself, as one blogger has reported, contains code that eliminates it from Google search results.
That’s strange for a company that’s had such a large impact on newspaper journalism. Over the last two or three years, the Chicago-based content provider has infiltrated dozens of mid to major newspapers across the country and obtained contracts to produc so-called “hyperlocal” news content. Those deals often lead to a horde of firings of editorial staff at those news organizations, as some full-time office-dwellers cede work to a small army of low-paid freelancers living all around the globe.
In this brave new media world, the face-to-face has been rendered as obsolete as health benefits and vacation pay, leading to a bizarrely disconnected state of affairs between the newspapers and the people putting words on its pages. I’ve copyedited or written news stories for a handful of major US newspapers over the past 18 months – the Houston Chronicle in Texas, San Francisco Chronicle in California and Newsday in Long Island, New York and others – yet it’s doubtful that any of the editors or senior executives for those news organizations could pick me out of a police line-up. In fact, it’s unlikely they could tell you a single personal detail about me or the other journalists behind the bylines of countless stories that appear in their print editions or on their websites, as provided by my employer.
Had editors at these newspapers requested a meeting with the individuals producing this new content, they’d have racked up a staggering amount of frequent flier miles. Journatic’s ranks are full of people like myself – home office-based US freelancers located far from the area they are covering. (I’ve never stepped foot in the Lone Star state once, much less visited the offices of the Houston Chronicle.) A second group of the company’s workers have been recruited from beyond the North American continent in developing countries like the Philippines and various African nations.
A final group of Journatic workers would be literally impossible to track down. Why? Because they don’t actually exist. They’re as fictional as Sherlock Holmes or the Sasquatch.
Anna Tarkov of Poynter has a good overview of the entire fake byline story which concludes:
“Part of the reason Journatic keeps taking over more papers is so few people are talking about it and aren’t fully aware of what they’re doing,” [Ryan Smith] said by email. “Maybe now that the story is out, the public will be willing to spend money on good journalism instead of demanding quality information for free. That has definitely helped lead desperate newspapers to consider companies like Journatic.”
Someone who hopes the public will indeed listen is the non-partisan media advocacy group Free Press. They’ve posted a petition on their site that allows signers to contact Tribune and other companies known to work with Journatic to let them know how they feel about their news being produced overseas.
Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, explained his organization’s interest in an emailed statement: “Runaway media consolidation appears to have reached a new low. The idea that companies like Tribune would sack local journalists while outsourcing their jobs to other countries is appalling, but sadly not unexpected if you’ve been watching the downward spiral of the corporate media giants. But this rock-bottom moment in U.S. journalism may offer a moment of clarity about what happens when you continually put profits above public service.”
Michael Miner has been covering the story for a while:
The Tribune Company announced Monday it’s turning over TribLocal to Journatic—which the Tribune describes as a “Chicago-based media content provider” that “aggregates data.” Not just Chicago-based, it’s Tribune Tower-based, and Journatic’s approach to journalism is to turn it into piecework done at home. For weeks it’s been advertising for writers and offering these terms:
Position: Per Piece Writer Treatment: 1099 Independent Contractor Time: You choose when you work, but we are looking for day availability Location: Remote. As a contractor, you choose where you work Pay: Per-piece, roughly $12/hr. For example $4 stories take about 20 +/- minutes, and $2 stories take about 10 +/- minutes. Interest in Journatic heated up a month ago when it put together a 20-page mock neighborhood section for the Tribune. That’s when executive editor Peter Behle sent employees a notice that said in part, “Reporters will be sniffing around—and they are not authorized to talk with anyone about Journatic under any circumstances. Better yet, if you receive a reporter inquiry and tell us about it (without responding), we’ll pay you a $50 bonus.”
That’s good money for dropping a dime. A Journatic writer would have to write 13 stories to earn as much, and that’s even if they were the important $4 stories.
But now that word is out Journatic’s less guarded, and I just got off the phone with Brian Timpone, the CEO.
and what do the out-sourced reporters actually write? Miner followed up:
Timpone had told me that data was collected and processed for Journatic in the Philippines but the writing is all domestic. Someone promptly posted a Journatic ad she’d spotted on a Filipino website that contradicted him: it said, “We’re looking for writers to work on events stories.” Journatic wanted Filipino writers “able to commit to 250 pieces/week minimum” at 35 to 40 cents a piece.
What’s the Filipino contribution to TribLocal Homewood-Flossmoor? I asked Timpone.
He directed me to the “Homewood-Flossmoor Athlete Tracker” on a back page. It’s a list of athletes from the local high school now playing varsity sports in college and their latest accomplishments, however humble—such as, “Has started 26 games this year, hitting .232 with nine RBIs.”
“That’s the kind of stuff we do in the Philippines, if you want to know,” said Timpone. He explained that when Journatic came into Homewood-Flossmoor, it created a database of around “100 newsmaking organizations”—such as women’s clubs, churches, schools, and athletes. With the athletes, the schedules of the teams they play for are loaded into the database, and then the teams’ websites are patrolled for results. “In the Philippines they collect the data and put it in the system. You need a program to do it.
“The school lunch menus might be formatted by Filipinos,” Timpone went on. “Say there are 25 school lunch menus released every Sunday. We have someone gather them and put them in the system. It’s not writing. We need people who speak English and are literate. It’s a typist job, but people don’t want to be called a typist.”
Side note: Jack Shafer posted a brief, interesting history of the byline itself:
Where does the sanctity of the byline come from?
Obviously, every news story should brim with the truth. But does an accurate story become unclean if the byline does not match the name of the writer (or writers) who produced it? In even the most professional of newsrooms, editors frequently do sufficient work on a piece – reporting and re-reporting sections, composing long passages without the assistance of the bylined writer, redefining the story’s parameters – that they deserve a byline or at least a co-byline. Yet magazine, newspaper and wire editors rarely receive this credit for their extraordinary interventions. Even so, I’ve never heard anybody claim that the readers of these pieces were in any way hoodwinked.
If bylines are so holy, why do the very best newspapers in the land allow government officials, foreign ambassadors, politicians, captains of industry and other notables claim sole bylines for their op-ed pieces? Almost to a one, these articles are composed by ghostwriters, yet journalistic convention denies the ghosts credit. If Journatic is deceiving the public, so too are the op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and many other newspapers. See also the books that unacknowledged ghostwriters write for their celebrity clients.
Not to go all Foucault (PDF file) on you, but the meaning of authorship has flexed over the centuries, depending on the direction that ideas about property and authority were taking. In the middle of the 1800s, as the American newspaper gathered cultural force and influence, bylines were still rare ornaments. Their assignment was inconsistent, even to writers who “deserved” them. Karl Marx, who wrote a column for the New York Tribune in the 1850s, complained that his contributions were sometimes published with his byline, sometimes as unsigned editorials, and sometimes not at all, as James Ledbetter pointed out in the introduction to Karl Marx: Dispatches for the New York Tribune. That said, Marx was not shy about submitting 125 columns written by his partner in communism, Friedrich Engels, as his own work.
One early advocate of bylines was Civil War General Joseph Hooker, who imposed them on battlefield correspondents in 1863 “as a means of attributing responsibility and blame for the publication of material he found inaccurate or dangerous to the Army of the Potomac,” as scholar Michael Schudson wrote in Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers. To be technical about it, journalistic bylines didn’t exist in the 1800s, as the term had yet to be invented. Instead, journalistic works credited to an author were called “signed articles” or “signature” pieces, as W. Joseph Campbell wrote in his book The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms.
Signatures and signed articles became more common at newspapers by the late 1890s, as Alfred Balch noted in Lippincott’s Monthly (December 1898), conveying the growing status of journalists. “[I]t is the experience of every man who writes that signature makes him more careful,” Balch wrote, and this was good for publishers, too, he added. Yellow journalists Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst enthusiastically promoted their best writers (Richard Harding Davis, Sylvester Scovel, Ambrose Bierce, Nellie Bly, Stephen Crane and Eva Valesh, for example) by rewarding them with bylines, making celebrities out of them or adding to their established celebrity. But many publishers still disdained bylines because of the attention they focused on the writer at the expense of the publication. New York Times publisher-owner Adolph Ochs led the resistance, as Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones wrote in The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times:
Adolph had an ironclad policy on who got individual credit at the New York Times, insisting that “the business of the paper must be absolutely impersonal.” Bylines on stories were virtually nonexistent, and no editor, reporter or business manager was permitted to have stationery with his name on it.
For the record, speaking only for myself, I have no objection to paying a reasonable price for online access to news. I pay the New York Times, pay the WSJ, pay some trade publications (Ad Age, for instance), and I’m ok with that. I don’t think news has to be free. But then I’m old.…
My grandfather was a newspaper man his whole life, and several of my relatives have made a living in various parts of the news industries, though as far as I know, nobody is currently employed thus [↩]
Mike Daisey deceived a lot of people with his fable about Chinese factory workers, including This American Life.
Ira Glass writes:
I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.
The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week’s episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.”
Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.
We’re horrified to have let something like this onto public radio. Many dedicated reporters and editors – our friends and colleagues – have worked for years to build the reputation for accuracy and integrity that the journalism on public radio enjoys. It’s trusted by so many people for good reason. Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards.
A press release with more details about all this is below. We’ll be posting the audio of the program and the transcript on Friday night this week, instead of waiting till Sunday.
“This American Life,” the public-radio show, has retracted a China piece that it says it never should’ve run. …The retracted story was by a monologist named Mike Daisey, who described journeying to the gates of Foxconn, the Apple supplier in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. He said he interviewed hundreds of workers, finding girls who were twelve and thirteen years old and others whose “hands shake uncontrollably” from chemicals used to clean iPhone screens. He said he visited other factories and saw surveillance cameras over the beds in dorm rooms, some kind of “sci-fi, dystopian, ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘1984’ bull[BLEEP].” And in the end, he winds his warning around to us, the consumers: “They’re making your crap that way today.”
But Daisey lied. He made up things about his trip, and the show’s attempts at fact-checking failed to uncover them. It all fell apart when Rob Schmitz, a seasoned reporter who is the China correspondent for the public-radio program “Marketplace,” got suspicious and tracked down the translator who’d worked with Daisey. It’s worth a listen, but, in short, Schmitz discovers that Daisey made up scenes, never took notes, conflated workers, never visited a dorm room, and so on. Watching it unravel from Beijing makes me wonder: What does the debacle say about how we all look at China? Why were so many people so eager to believe it?
For the past year and a half, I’ve reported on Apple’s supply chain in China, where I work as Marketplace’s China Correspondent, based in Shanghai. When I heard Daisey’s story, certain details didn’t sound right. I tracked down Daisey’s Chinese translator to see for myself.
“My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism. And it’s not journalism. It’s theater.” – Mike Daisey For years, reporters in China have uncovered a sizable list of problems that have shown the dark side of what it’s like to work at factories that assemble Apple products. Mike Daisey would have you believe that he encountered—first-hand—some of the most egregious examples of this history all in just a six-day trip he took to the city of Shenzhen.
Nearly twenty years ago, I spoke to Edward R. Murrow’s top producer, Fred Friendly, who told me he thought of Bill Moyers as “the Murrow of our time…the broadcaster who most upholds his mantle.” But while Murrow remains television journalism’s most admired historical figure, it’s all but inarguable that Moyers long ago surpassed his achievements.
This is no knock on Murrow, who, after all, spent most of his career on radio. His See It Now–the program that helped take down Joe McCarthy in 1954–enjoyed just four years of life in a regular prime-time slot before it gradually disappeared as an occasional series, unable to find a sponsor. Defenestrated at CBS, Murrow gave up on network news entirely and accepted John Kennedy’s offer to head up the USIA in 1961. But when Bill Moyers likewise found his brand of journalism unwelcome on network news, he had another option. He was able to return to PBS, where he had begun his career as a broadcaster fifteen years earlier. With his decision to found his own production company, Public Affairs Television (PAT), together with his wife and executive producer, Judith Davidson Moyers, he assured himself complete editorial independence, and in the quarter-century that followed, he fashioned a body of work without parallel in the medium’s brief history.
Who but Bill Moyers could have devoted so much time to the work of Joseph Campbell and Robert Bly; done television’s most hard-hitting reporting on the Iran/Contra scandal; investigated the media’s failure in Iraq; defined the human impact of economic inequality; examined the ability of corporations to manipulate the “public mind”; evaluated the real-world impact on local communities of corporate-driven “free trade” agreements; devoted hours and hours of TV to a poetry festival, to the Book of Genesis, to the sources of addiction and to the relationship between the environment and religion, etc.? The variety of topics, moreover, is only half the story. Moyers’s methods were unique. Where else but on a Bill Moyers program were Nobel laureates and laid-off steelworkers invited to speak at length to America, without interruption or condescension?
Bill and I have been friends–and frequent professional collaborators–for nearly two decades. But we first met in Managua in 1987, where he and his crew were talking to protesters outside the US Embassy for his landmark PBS special on The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis. Not long afterward, I spent months speaking to his co-workers at CBS and elsewhere for a magazine profile of him. All were eager to talk, as we were in the midst of one of many brief “Draft Moyers for President” movements, though a few were conflicted. Some felt abandoned by his decision to leave CBS and quit fighting the good fight for network news; but most remained grateful for the opportunities his work had offered them. Onetime CBS Morning News producer Jon Katz told me, “When you work with Bill, it ruins you for everyone else.” Yes, Moyers would “drive the executives berserk with his agonizing over everything, and getting him on the morning news was like a three-month Kabuki dance every time. But the end result was the most brilliant stuff we ever had.”
A few interesting links collected December 10th through December 11th:
Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border– “Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.”In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.”
The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs : A not-so-brief chat with Randall Stephenson of AT&T – By April, twelve weeks after that album came out, the Beatles had the top five spots on the Billboard chart.Now there was a lot of demand for that record — so much that the plant that printed the records could not keep up. Now here’s the lesson. Do you think the guys who were running Capitol Records said, Gee whiz, the kids are buying up this record at such a crazy pace that our printing plant can’t keep up — we’d better find a way to slow things down. Maybe we can create an incentive that would discourage people from buying the record. Do you think they said that? No, they did not. What they did was, they went out and found another printing plant. And another one and another one, until they could make as many records as people wanted. … Randall, baby. we’ve got a hit on our hands. We’ve got the smartphone equivalent of Meet the Beatles.
‘Editor & Publisher’ to Cease Publication After 125 Years– Editor & Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry and a journalism institution that traces its origins back to 1884, is ceasing publication.An announcement, made by parent company The Nielsen Co., was made Thursday morning as staffers were informed that E&P, in both print and online, was shutting down.
“Wait, the conservative opponent of health care reform, fighting (literally) to defeat a plan that would bring coverage to those who lose their jobs, lost his coverage because he got laid off?
I’m not in a position to say whether Gladney sustained genuine injuries or whether he’s exaggerating for 15 minutes of Fox News fame and a lucrative out-of-court settlement.
Either way, the new right-wing cause celebre needs to take up a collection to pay for his medical bills because he doesn’t have health insurance. It’s a fascinating sign of the times.”
Newspapers: Shut up and charge already « King Kaufman – “I wish newspapers would quit talking about this stuff and just start charging. They’ll quickly “understand the value” of their content, which, with rare exceptions like the Wall Street Journal, is something very much like zero, and then get to the real business at hand, which isn’t figuring out how to get people to pay for newspaper Web content, it’s how news organizations can generate enough revenue to do the important work they need to do.”
Drug WarRant – “If you’re reading this, you’re at the new location of Drug WarRant.com.
Our home for the past 6 years was at blogs.salon.com using radio userland software. Radio hasn’t been upgraded in ages, and they’ve announced that the blog hosting will go away in December of this year. This is a big change (and a difficult transition).
I have moved the blog to a server at DreamHost and adapted a WordPress theme to be close to the old look of Drug WarRant. All 3,500 radio posts were exported to MT and then imported into WordPress relatively intact (with some formatting errors). Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do with the old comments — they can’t be retrieved from the Salon server (except manually — over 20,000 of them).”