January 22, 2018

Brisbane interview

Brisbane: "I totally understand the reporter going into full 100-percent defense mode arguing every point. That's what you kind of would expect somebody to do. But I figured that the editor would be, you know, 100-percent adult in the room and acknowledge where there were flaws and try to sort of essentially mediate an understanding that this could have been done differently and better. They relied for their sourcing on people who were in active ongoing disputes with the people they were criticizing. They didn't mention this kind of stuff. And they also grossly mis-described what was going on and who they were writing about. There were a lot of problems, but I got nothing. I spent hours and hours in that room with these guys, and there were many times when I thought, 'Why am I in this room talking these people? Why why am I giving them this much'-- frankly I don't want to say respect, they deserve respect, but, 'Why am I giving them this m

They didn't mention this kind of stuff. And they also grossly mis-described what was going on and who they were writing about. There were a lot of problems, but I got nothing.

I spent hours and hours in that room with these guys, and there were many times when I thought, 'Why am I in this room talking these people? Why why am I giving them this much'-- frankly I don't want to say respect, they deserve respect, but, 'Why am I giving them this much of the benefit of the doubt?' I have zero doubts having talked to a lot of people about this. They have some serious problems --the fact they can't acknowledge it struck me as neurotic institutionally."

What sometimes followed a public editor's conclusion was a rebuttal by those involved. The public editors have published letters from the executive editors, and in the case of Urbina's story, Brisbane published a response from editors Bryant and Berke. "Everyone is entitled to opinions. But facts are facts. And the public editor's column about our June 26 story on shale gas economics gets many of them wrong. As a result, the column's conclusions are, quite simply, misguided and unsupported." Urbina recalls in an email to me that Brisbane went into the meeting with his mind made up and that, "his meeting us was a pro-forma gesture so that he could the write his column with the veneer of due diligence."

August 24, 2017

Jack Baruth handed you the truth, how did you handle it ? The truth about cars 2014/07/theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction/

Jack Baruth handed you the truth, how did you handle it ?

The truth about cars's theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction.

August 4, 2017

Immigration in America is more popular than immigration in Town, ST, America

Lefteris Jason Anastasopoulos, a lecturer and data science fellow at Berkeley's School of Information, provides one answer: Support for immigration "may be greatly overestimated."

In an email, Anastasopoulos writes that

polls conducted by large survey organizations never ask about immigration in geographic context. Instead they ask questions about whether respondents support increasing immigration or granting amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the "United States" overall rather than, say, Dayton, Ohio, or Wilmington, North Carolina, places where immigration has been rapidly increasing over the past few years. This kind of abstract framing tends to push respondents toward giving more "politically correct" answers to standard poll questions about immigration.

The result is

a significant underestimation of the backlash against newly arriving immigrants and an overestimation of the support for immigration among the public.

July 13, 2017

Wired: Ben Garrison, influencial -alt-right-cartoonist

Ben Garrison isn't a Nazi, or a murderer, but the self-described libertarian's political cartoons have made him a darling of the so-called alt-right. In Garrison's work, "social justice warriors" are pudgy, pink-haired, and squalling; mainstream media outlets are metaphorical trash cans and dinosaurs; Islam is a murderous wolf devouring politically correct sheep. Hillary Clinton's a corrupt witch, and President Trump is muscular, square-jawed, and beige, with flowing yellow hair.

July 11, 2017

Robot journalists to write up quarterly earnings stories on companies like Krispy Kreme.

Today, a handful of content mills circumnavigate the need to have any humans involved at all. These aren't backstreet backlink marketeers, either: outlets as big as the Associated Press have cut some costs by employing (or deploying) robot journalists to write up quarterly earnings stories on companies like Krispy Kreme. This kind of robotic software can take a bunch of statistics such as company results--or baseball and basketball scores--and create content. A company called Automated Insights created this automated writer fleet, and the firm's robotic authors produced more than a billion pieces of content last year (likely for a fraction of the price that even the cheapest content mill can get away with paying). Compared to the shoehorned-in keywords that sometimes cause mill writers to mangle sentences in ways Shakespeare would blench at, Automated Insights' work could be in contention for a Pulitzer.

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance journalist, writing features for the BBC and The Sunday Times of London. He is based in the United Kingdom.

Bonus thought: could robo-journalists avoid biased reviews such as those of June Chu, Dean of Yale University's Pierson College ?

June 10, 2017

Walt Mossberg created a much different approach to product reviews

As a product designer, it was frustrating to see a product reviewed and rated based on the number of features it had, even when many of those features would never be used. And I saw how the magazines had influenced the design of new products. Design engineers and marketing people would tend to pile on feature after feature without much thought to usability. That made products take longer to design, harder to use and less reliable.

In 1991, Walt Mossberg created a much different approach to product reviews that not only made it easier to assess a new product but also changed how products would be designed.

Continue reading "Walt Mossberg created a much different approach to product reviews" »

January 27, 2017

Pussifictation of hats, Reminiscence


Are you on the side that don't like life
Are you on the side of racial strife
Are you on the side that beats your wife
Which side are you on?

Are you on the side who loves to hunt?
Are you on the side of the National Front?
Are you on the side who calls me cunt?
Which side are you on?

-- Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, is the author of the forthcoming "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest."

Continue reading "Pussifictation of hats, Reminiscence" »

January 19, 2017

Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts

The media is getting played, too

"The American press has focused a disproportionate amount of attention on Russian hacking and cyberattacks, and the reporting itself has only muddied the truth for most in the audience:

-- says Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, in an interview with CJR. Watts is now a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, where he analyzes social bots, trolls, and websites that intelligence agencies say are the foot soldiers of Russia's information war.

"The hacking generates information, which promotes Russia's influence campaign, but the end objective is to convince people to choose a candidate based on Russia's preference. This is getting confused, because people hear 'hack' and they think their votes are being changed."

It's a classic page from the Cold War playbook, says Watts, adding that Putin has brought new meaning to the Soviet-Era doctrine of using "the force of politics" rather than "the politics of force."

"The main success of this campaign is not that it took place, but the panic we are in now," Meister adds. "We've lost our self-confidence in our system, in our democracy, in our elections and in our media. That's the biggest success of the Russian campaign."

Continue reading "Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts" »

January 7, 2017

The Baffler, Explanation for what, Vox ?

David Johnson explains Vox.

In its brief history, Vox has become a model in an industry that's moved from entrenchment to retrenchment. Vox's rapid growth, its dream team of policy bloggers, its cachet with the White House, its ability to attract blue-chip advertisers such as Chevrolet and Campbell's Soup, and its tech innovation have become the envy of competitors. Why? What is the secret of and its thriving parent company Vox Media, which, according to a report this spring in Bloomberg Technology, is profitable and valued at $1 billion? Are there applicable lessons for the dwindling segments of the media industry that still care primarily about journalism? Or, is the Vox Media success story largely the product of clever--perhaps even deceptive--marketing?

Targeting an audience advertiser crave:

'who, exactly, are the promontories in this broad range? Let the enterprising Vox staff explain: "We want to find the grad student whose research will change everything, the Hill staffer who sees a better way, the entrepreneur who's figured out what's wrong with the system, the industry leader with a vision of what could be different." If these are the ingredients of a broad range of thought and a freewheeling exchange of opinions...'

Continue reading "The Baffler, Explanation for what, Vox ? " »

July 2, 2016

Facebook makes the news

According to a statement from Tom Stocky, who is in charge of the trending topics list, Facebook has policies "for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality" of the items that appear in the trending list.

But Facebook declined to discuss whether any editorial guidelines governed its algorithms, including the system that determines what people see in News Feed. Those algorithms could have profound implications for society. For instance, one persistent worry about algorithmic-selected news is that it might reinforce people's previously held points of view. If News Feed shows news that we're each likely to Like, it could trap us into echo chambers and contribute to rising political polarization. In a study last year, Facebook's scientists asserted the echo chamber effect was muted.

But when Facebook changes its algorithm -- which it does routinely -- does it have guidelines to make sure the changes aren't furthering an echo chamber? Or that the changes aren't inadvertently favoring one candidate or ideology over another? In other words, are Facebook's engineering decisions subject to ethical review? Nobody knows.

The other reason to be wary of Facebook's bias has to do with sheer size. Ms. Caplan notes that when studying bias in traditional media, scholars try to make comparisons across different news outlets. To determine if The Times is ignoring a certain story unfairly, look at competitors like The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. If those outlets are covering a story and The Times isn't, there could be something amiss about The Times's news judgment.

Such comparative studies are nearly impossible for Facebook. Facebook is personalized, in that what you see on your News Feed is different from what I see on mine, so the only entity in a position to look for systemic bias across all of Facebook is Facebook itself. Even if you could determine the spread of stories across all of Facebook's readers, what would you compare it to?

"Facebook has achieved saturation," Ms. Caplan said. No other social network is as large, popular, or used in the same way, so there's really no good rival for comparing Facebook's algorithmic output in order to look for bias.

What we're left with is a very powerful black box. In a 2010 study, Facebook's data scientists proved that simply by showing some users that their friends had voted, Facebook could encourage people to go to the polls. That study was randomized -- Facebook wasn't selectively showing messages to supporters of a particular candidate.

June 29, 2016

Economics of News: New Statesman Alan Rusbridger on paywalls and funding schemes

Knives out for the Beeb; is Facebook a threat or opportunity ?

Is there an economic model for serious news? Let's hope so - but the gales blowing through my old industry are now truly frightening. When I stepped down from the Guardian just over a year ago, my Guardian Media Group colleagues were happy to go on the record to emphasise their confidence in increasing digital revenues and a future based on growth. But something profound and alarming has been happening in recent months and all our eyes ought to be on the West Coast giants - especially, but not only, Facebook - that are cleaning up quite extraordinarily.

-- Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian and principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

November 18, 2015

Idiocy and pomposity of mass media

"The first blogs were a reaction against the idiocy and pomposity of mass media.
Now social media is dominated by the same stories that would have made the local television news. We're in an era of mass social media. I think smarter readers are seeking refuge in subcultures."

Mr. Nick Denton of Gawker Media, in an interview by Instant Messenger on Tuesday

October 19, 2014

Elizabeth Wurtzel, wife material

It's not like I called boyfriends at 2 a.m. because something was wrong: I did it because I liked to talk in the dark when there was nothing good to watch on TV anymore.

Not that I am all to blame for my messed-up love life. I was in the same relationship with different people for 30 years. I know a bad idea when I see one, and I like what I see. If a man drank Jameson for breakfast and then smashed the bottle into bits on the bathroom tiles possibly by mistake, he was my boyfriend.

Continue reading "Elizabeth Wurtzel, wife material" »

April 10, 2014

The dissolve on cinema

The Dissolve provides great retrospective on film and actors. Example, the broken-down grace of Bill Murray.

February 25, 2014

Better track geography and know where stories are being published and talked about

Going forward, this study provides an interesting foundation for thinking about how our media are interrelated, and how various facts, anecdotes, and bits of misinformation make their way to the public.

"Can we start exploring the data not from identifying these topics of keywords upfront, but asking an algorithm to surface some of those for us?" asks Graeff. "What are some unusual things or clusters of news stories that will allow us to get a sense of news stories that otherwise wouldn't be seen?"

In the future, Graeff says he'd like to be able to better track geography and know where stories are being published and talked about. The team is also interested in using natural language processing to track the spread of quotations from source to source. In addition, "automated coding and sentiment analysis" could be used to better understand how perspectives in the newsroom are molding stories -- tools like OpenGender Tracker.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a suite of tools that activists, journalists, and academics can learn from. Says Graeff: "A lot of what we show here is that there are better methods for studying the media as a so-called media ecosystem that allow us to really understand how a story goes from barely a blip to a major national/international news event, and how controversies circle around that."

February 17, 2014

activist journalism grows

Breitbart News Network, a group of activist, conservative news sites -- including Big Government, Big Hollywood and Big Journalism -- said on Sunday evening that it was adding at least a dozen staff members as it opens operations based in Texas and London. Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, said that those offices were the beginning of an expansion that would add a new regional site roughly every 90 days. California, Florida, Cairo and Jerusalem have already been chosen as expansion sites, he said.

Mr. Bannon said he was taking his cue from The Huffington Post, the liberal news and commentary site that has been growing rapidly overseas. He said there was an audience hungry for his brand of activist journalism. "There is a growing global anti-establishment revolt against the permanent political class at home, and the global elites that influence them, which impacts everyone from Lubbock, Tex., to London, England," he said.

Continue reading "activist journalism grows" »

December 10, 2013

Wikipedia's creed

Wikipedia's creed: "The encyclopedia that anyone can edit."

Aaron Halfaker's suggested revision:

"The encyclopedia that anyone who understands the norms, socializes him or herself, dodges the impersonal wall of semi-automated rejection and still wants to voluntarily contribute his or her time and energy can edit."

November 1, 2013

David Ogilvy: How to Write

Original "Mad Man" David Ogilvy. On September 7th, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo to all agency employees, titled "How to Write" and found in the 1986 gem The Unpublished David Ogilvy (book):

People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally.

5. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

6. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

7. Check your quotations.

8. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning -- and then edit it.

9. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

10. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

If you want ACTION, don't write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

September 21, 2013

Aeon magaine

People say Aeon Magazine is great.

Soon, if it's not true already, magazine brands will matter more as marks of quality or tone than they do as gatherers and arrangers of content in a unified experience. By predicating its publishing model on stories that can be pried from the bundle and whose ideas stand on their own, Aeon confirms itself as a bankable brand synonymous with quality and depth. It publishes stories based not on how many clicks their headlines might generate, but on engaging people's attention for a meaningful period of time. That is the standard to which magazines of the mobile era must aspire.

-- Pando

"The longer we can defer making any commitments to a specific business model, the better we'll be," says Paul Hains,, "because the landscape is changing all the time."

That means Aeon's stories are free, even while the publication pays its writers at rates comparable to those paid by broadsheet newspapers. (The founders won't say exactly what that rate is, but Brigid Hains says 60 cents a word is "not a bad guess.") It also means there are no ads, and the editors don't mind if you leave the Aeon website to read a story somewhere else. A link to "Read later or Kindle" is placed on the same line as the by-line and the word-count, a subtle indicator that the story is king, even if it means readers ultimately spend less time on the site.

Continue reading "Aeon magaine" »

October 16, 2012

Supreme Count decision on Obamacare: But wait, there's more

The CNN and Fox producers are scanning the syllabus. Eight lines from the bottom of page 2, they see the following language: "Chief Justice Roberts concluded in Part III-A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause." They immediately and correctly recognize that sentence as fantastically important. The individual mandate is the heart of the statute, and it is clear that the Court has rejected the Administration's principal theory - indeed the only theory that was discussed at great length in the oral arguments and debated by commentators.

Into his conference call, the CNN producer says (correctly) that the Court has held that the individual mandate cannot be sustained under the Commerce Clause, and (incorrectly) that it therefore "looks like" the mandate has been struck down. The control room asks whether they can "go with" it, and after a pause, he says yes.

The Fox producer reads the syllabus exactly the same way, and reports that the mandate has been invalidated. Asked to confirm that the mandate has been struck down, he responds: "100%."

The Bloomberg team finishes its review, having read the Commerce Clause holding and then turned the page to see that the Court accepted the government's alternative argument that the individual mandate is constitutional under Congress's tax power. At 10:07:32 - 52 seconds after the Chief Justice began speaking - Bloomberg issues an alert: "OBAMA'S HEALTH-CARE OVERHAUL UPHELD BY U.S.SUPREME COURT." Bloomberg is first, and it is right.

Continue reading "Supreme Count decision on Obamacare: But wait, there's more" »

July 27, 2012

Maddow's talent is explication

Rachel Maddow's show - no less partisan or liberal than Olbermann's, but marked by less conflict and more explication, less righteous fury and more policy wonkery - has become a prototype for MSNBC, a new idea for how liberal anger might play on TV, and the network has added shows by hosts who think very much like she does: Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry. "She's a model for everyone at this channel," says Phil Griffin, the head of MSNBC. "They look at her and, in their own ways, they want to be like her."

Maddow's talent is explication, of rendering complex topics clearly, and so her show, uniquely for cable news, reserves the first 18 minutes of airtime for a lengthy essay, a deconstruction of a single political topic, usually some obscure conservative shift in a state legislature, or some ripple in the foreign-policy universe that has gone unnoticed. Most political talk shows are filmed so tightly that the heads of their hosts fill the screen, so that the host's personality is front and center. The Rachel Maddow Show uses a far wider shot, so that Maddow herself occupies a smaller part of the screen, off to the side. The shift is subtle, but the message is starkly different. Bill O'Reilly, on Fox News, is a combatant and a champion. Maddow is a guide. O'Reilly's show says, Look at me. Maddow's says, Picture this.

Continue reading "Maddow's talent is explication" »

May 19, 2012 on attribution_and_credit

Linking is indeed key. You get a story from somewhere else, you link to the original when you post about it. That's the first rule of web attribution.

There are reasons why AllThingsD is far more respected than CNET.

"Enthusiast site" is pejorative. Enthusiast implies that MacStories is produced by zealous hobbyists. Not naming the site at all implied that the site was not worthy of being named. To later attribute it to "" rather than "MacStories" implies that it is something less than a fellow peer publication, and not even worth the effort of hitting the shift key to camelcase the M and S. MacStories is the name of the website; is MacStories's domain name. This is subtle, yes, but it is a disparagement nonetheless -- the most begrudging form of attribution that could have been added.

I don't see the angle on it. Why not err on the side of magnanimity?

Continue reading " on attribution_and_credit" »

August 2, 2011

The very best of the Awl: Brown Semiotics

To some people, it's about, like wizards, and that's cool. But to me, it's about how capitalism creates a structure of self-serving rituals to make individuals believe that they are members of a community."

"Oh," Emma said. Her therapist had told her if she felt uncomfortable at any time she should picture herself in the place in the world she most loved, and to make it as realistic as possible. She closed her eyes. "I'm at the Brentwood Town Center Jamba Juice right now with Taylor Swift. She just ordered an Apple and Greens with a Power boost and I got a 3G with a flax boost. I'm wearing a sundress from Kitson and Uggs, and she's writing a text to John Mayer about..."

"Anyway, I'm late for Shakespeare Rewrites Shakespeare..." Masha said.

"Oh," Emma said. "I was going to take that, but, in the end I was just looking for, you know, a class on just Shakespeare."

Masha sniffed. "What does 'just Shakespeare?' even mean?"

"I don't know. Reading his plays and discussing them?"

-- Sarah Miller is the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl, which are for teens but adults can read on the beach.

March 23, 2011

Why can't states grasp the absurdity of giving welfare to film and TV producers?

In the definitive document on this issue -- a paper published in December by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- senior fellow Robert Tannenwald notes what he tactfully calls "flaws" in various studies the states have commissioned to justify the subsidy. Even after our recent experience with gullible or mendacious accountants in financial scandals like Enron's, it's actually shocking that reputable accounting firms would pull some of these stunts, such as counting the allowances film crews get paid for expenses as a benefit to the state, then counting the same money again when it is spent. Or assuming without explanation that the average film crew member makes $82,400 a year, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics sets that figure at $35,000. The most outrageous double counting, of course, is telling one state after another that it can bring in billions by enticing the same movies away from other states.

-- Michael Kinsley

Continue reading "Why can't states grasp the absurdity of giving welfare to film and TV producers?" »

December 5, 2010

refudiation ? Not Crass, Class

As Politico's editor in chief, John F. Harris, and its executive editor, Jim VandeHei, very candidly expressed in August: "More traffic comes from an item on Sarah Palin's 'refudiation' faux pas than from our hundreds of stories on the complexities of health care reform or Wall Street regulation."

She Who Must Not Be Named
Published: December 3, 2010
The left talks about Sarah Palin more than the right does. Why feed the machine?

May 21, 2010

Cass Sunstein, blog leader

Junior Minister for 4Chan ?

Sunstein had, during his academic career, a penchant for publishing trial balloons -- they were a necessary part of his inquiry, a perpetual what if? Now, with their author a government official, some of these conjectures seem more worrisome. Sunstein has, for example, written often about the corrosive effects of rumors and falsehoods on democratic discourse (it is the subject of one of the two books that were published while he was waiting to be confirmed last year), and in a 2008 paper, he proposed that government agents "cognitively infiltrate" chat rooms and message boards to try to debunk conspiracy theories before they spread. The paper was narrowly concerned with terrorism, but to some, these were dark musings. The liberal essayist Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon, called the proposal "spine-chilling."

Continue reading "Cass Sunstein, blog leader" »

March 24, 2010

Plagiarism Software Spared The Times an Embarrassment ?

Could Plagiarism Software Have Spared The Times an Embarrassment?
Craig Silverman, the editor of Regret the Error, a Web site that reports on accuracy and honesty in the press, says most plagiarism by journalists is caught only when someone complains. That's what happened last month at The Times, which had to endure the mortifying experience of having a bitter cross-town rival, The Wall Street Journal, point out the theft of half a dozen passages from one of its news articles.

Silverman thinks The Times could have avoided the embarrassment with computer software designed to ferret out plagiarism by comparing news articles about to be published with millions of published works on the Web and in various databases. Such software is in wide use in the academic world, but has few takers in the news industry. Silverman said it makes many journalists uncomfortable because it seems to assume guilt.

Most journalists who commit plagiarism, like Zachery Kouwe at The Times, say they did not intend to take the words of others. "If it really is an accident," Silverman argues, "let's catch the accident before it gets into print." You can read more of Silverman's case.

February 22, 2010

He said, she said reporting due to 'Regression to a phony mean'

This is a post about a single line in a recent article in the New York Times: Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right.... Reporter David Barstow spent five months--five months!--reporting and researching the Tea Party phenomenon.
Based not on a subjective assessment of the Tea Party's viability or his opinion of its desirability but only on facts he knows about the state of politics and government since Obama's election, is there any substantial likelihood of a tyranny replacing the American republic in the near future?

I think it's obvious....that the answers are "no." For if the answers were "yes" it would have been a huge story! No fair description of the current situation, nothing in what the Washington bureau and investigative staff of the New York Times has picked up from its reporting, would support a characterization like "impending tyranny."

In a word, the Times editors and Barstow know this narrative is nuts, but something stops them from saying so-- despite the fact that they must have spent over $100,000 on this one story. And whatever that thing is, it's not the reluctance to voice an opinion in the news columns, but a reluctance to report a fact in the news columns, the fact that the "narrative of impending tyranny" is ungrounded in any observable reality, even though the sense of grievance within the Tea Party movement is truly felt and politically consequential.

My claim: We have come upon something interfering with political journalism's "sense of reality" as the philosopher Isaiah Berlin called it (see section 5.1) And I think I have a term for the confusing factor: a quest for innocence in reportage and dispute description. Innocence, meaning a determination not to be implicated, enlisted, or seen by the public as involved. That's what created the pattern I've called "regression to a phony mean." That's what motivated the rise of he said, she said reporting.

-- Jay Rosen

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May 26, 2009

Coffee archives

The NYT puts it archives to good uses with a masterpage on coffee.