Journalism

In just a decade, ‘content’ trumped ‘news’ (and those who reported it)

 Ten years has seen the evisceration of newsrooms; the alteration of form, function, and distribution of information; and the emergence of a distorted public discourse. Oh, joy.

Since 2007, I’ve written about the stark reductions in numbers of reporters and editors in America’s daily print newsrooms. During that time, I’ve witnessed more than 20,000 newsroom jobs vanish. Now, it seems, only about 30,000 men and women toil in those newsrooms.

MediaI chose toil deliberately. First, those who remain have had to meet the continued and unchanged corporate demand for product or content once produced by twice their number. Second, the job has changed: In addition to the still-present demand for print content, those 20,000 face the imposition of onerous digital deadlines and unbelievable expectations of quantity. Post so many stories a day, or an hour, they’re told. That, of course, has impacts on the quality of those stories.

For many, those who remain even have different titles — they are no longer reporters or editors. They have become “community content editors,” “content coaches,” “presentation team members,” “engagement editors,” “headline optimizers,” “story scientists,” or “curators in chief.”

Yes, the operations of those places once known as “newsrooms” are rapidly and radically changing. But that obvious observation obscures a few emerging realities about how information (once known as “news”) is crafted and distributed.

Continue reading

Woman-Power

Goodbye forever, Phyllis Schlafly, 9/5/16

Schlafly’s personal formula was to marry rich, employ a housekeeper while proudly touting her housewife credentials, follow her bliss (into enterprises for which she did not require a living wage), and then work to deny equality for all women.

We knew you too well and for too long, hypocrite extraordinaire.

She was a conservative who was against the New Deal, feminism (“Men should stop treating feminists like ladies, and instead treat them like the men they say they want to be.”), an equal rights amendment to the Constitution (“I simply didn’t believe we needed a constitutional amendment to protect women’s rights.”), legalized abortion, laws against the harassment of women in the workplace (“Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women.”), sex education for children in public schools (“Sex-education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.”), and the Supreme Court’s ban on teacher-led prayer in public schools (mind you, she only wanted Christian prayer in all children’s schools, of course). Continue reading

ArtSunday

Leiber and Stoller: behind the music

Jerry Leiber is gone now but Mike Stoller is still with us. And thankfully, we have Hound Dog – the story of one of pop music’s greatest songwriting teams told in their own words.

Hound Dog: the Leiber and Stoller Autobiography [with David Ritz] (image courtesy Wikimedia)

“…we were… part of the rhythm and blues and rock and roll revolution…. we found ourselves by sheer coincidence or exceptionally good fortune, smack dab in the middle of the action.” – Mike Stoller

My Aunt Mary Ann, my mother’s youngest sister, was only eight years older than me. What that meant was that she was a teenager in the later 1950’s. Like any teenager of the period, she had a portable record player and a huge stack of 45’s. I spent every visit to my grandmother’s house when I was six-seven-eight listening to those records. I heard Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, The Drifters, The Coasters, and, of course, Elvis.

I don’t know how many other kids my age were falling madly in love with rock and roll and rhythm and blues. But I did, and I’ve never fallen out.

So when a friend of mine surprised me with Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography as a birthday present, it was like being that second grader all over again. Continue reading

Translating Ryan Lochte’s bullshit into English

Fake apology. Fauxpology. Unpology. Non-apology apology. It’s all bullshit and you’re an idiot if you play along.

I’ve spent decades in the corporate world, and way too much of that time has been dedicated to crafting artful PR bullshit. I’m not proud of the fact, but truth is I’m good at it. And when making the language behave unnaturally is your stock in trade, you get really, really good at spotting it when other people start force-feeding perfectly honest words into the sausage grinder.

Which brings us to the much-discussed Ryan Lochte “apology.” Which, by the way, was written for him by some weasel in his agent’s office. Said weasel understands the basics, but sadly has all the grace and nuance of a hyena on a Cialis bender.

Didn’t work, though. See the fat, middle-aged guy with an open sore on his mouth loitering by the edge of the dance floor? That’s Lochte. See all the sorority girls easing away from him? Those are his former sponsors.

Anyhow, here’s Lochte’s fauxpology. Continue reading

Korn-Ferry_Hay-Group

When is sharing a password a federal crime? And when isn’t it?

By Carole McNall

Korn-Ferry_Hay-Group.jpgI glanced at the sexy headline: Sharing your Netflix password is now a federal crime, court rules.

Intrigued, I read the story. Then I read the court case, United States v. Nosal.

I discovered, within a page and a half, that the headline writer had created his or her own legal precedent. The blunt statement that made a sexy headline was far less nuanced and far more definitive than the actual decision.

The story I read was bylined, which I always take to mean a reporter actually does something to gather the information. But for many reporters, “gathering information” for this story seemed to mean finding it on another website and doing a little rewrite.

So let me offer some context for evaluating the sexy headline.

Who was sharing passwords and why? The password sharing happened when David Nosal and two others decided to leave the executive search firm Korn/Ferry. Before they left, they began downloading information from Korn/Ferry’s confidential database of search candidates. Even after their access to the system was revoked, they continued downloading, using the freely given password of someone still working at Korn/Ferry.

The firm emphasized the confidentiality of the database through messages ranging from a required agreement for all new employees to a pop-up message every time someone did a custom search.

Eventually, Korn/Ferry discovered the access and criminal charges were filed. This month’s decision was the second appeal of Nosal’s conviction on those charges to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

OK, there’s the federal crime. But what law did they violate? Continue reading

BLM

Why does Roger Ailes want to see Mississippi burn?

Or Rudy Giuliani or the rest of the crew at Fox News?

Photography by Jonathan Bachman

Let me set this straight very simply. Someone punches me in the face. Repeatedly. I manage to get up and punch them back.

Ghouliani would have us believe that I am the instigator in that case.

Seriously, it is THAT simple.

Do I agree entirely with BLM tactics, rhetoric, source of funding, etc., etc., about a bunch of things I’m just not wasting my precious life fact-checking? No. Continue reading

ArtSunday

Writers of slender acquaintance: Rudyard Kipling

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Another in the series I began last week about writers who have become neglected. This week’s choice is one whose literary reputation has been as high, as low, and as controversial as any writer in the history of literature. Rudyard Kipling has been revered – and reviled – by authors as diverse as Jorge Luis Borges, R.K. Narayan, and George Orwell – who noted that Kipling:

…sold out to the British governing class, not financially but emotionally. This warped his political judgement, for the British ruling class were not what he imagined, and it led him into abysses of folly and snobbery, but he gained a corresponding advantage from having at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like.

For those who know Kipling – and that’s almost everyone – only for “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” or The Jungle Book or Kim – Kipling is a dimly remembered writer of exciting stories for young readers. But he was a complicated figure who produced a wide range of work with interesting themes. Continue reading

Donald-Trump-snake-oil

Does Trump actually want the job?

If Donald Trump really is running for president, he’s doing it all wrong.

trump-hillaryNew poll this morning:

In new poll, support for Trump has plunged, giving Clinton a double-digit lead

Support for Donald Trump has plunged as he has alienated fellow Republicans and large majorities of voters overall in the course of a month of self-inflicted controversies, propelling Democrat Hillary Clinton to a double-digit lead nationally in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

For pure political theater, there simply hasn’t been anything like this in my lifetime. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Music

Asian-American band to SCOTUS: review our trademark victory

by Amber Healy

It’s not often a winning party in a long-fought legal battle asks the Supreme Court in the United States to review a lower court’s ruling that had been made in its favor. But for the Portland, Oregon-based, Asian-American dance-rock band The Slants, that’s just what happened this week.

In December, The Slants won the ability to legally register and protect their band name, something the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had said was offensive to Asian Americans. It was a victory nearly six years in the making.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled that the USPTO was in violation of the Constitution by rejecting the band’s trademark application by a 9-3 margin. The court found that the section of the archaic and little-known Lanham Act used by the USPTO to deny the application, the “disparagement” portion, could not be used to prevent or deny the application. Continue reading

Judy Greer

Big Bang Theory presents: top ten reasons men should pursue careers in the sciences

Hey boys – what should you be when you grow up?

I know a lot of young men out there are trying to decide what to do with their lives. Fireman? Policeman? CEO? Doctor? Lawyer? Low-level marketing manager?

Great ideas, all, but here in America it’s important to take your cues from our alpha arbiter of social possibility, network television. So, let’s have a look at what CBS has to say on the subject.

First: this is a scientist.

Now, here are some reasons to be a scientist, based on his experiences over the past few years of his life: Continue reading

Trump Cook Out

Hypocrisy Watch: FOX reporter cares deeply about the liberty of those who agree with him

Donald Trump, Kim Davis and Cook Out: because the Constitution guarantees redeemed sinners the right to fast food.

First, the headline:

‘Hell No!’ Cashier refuses to serve Trump backers

Shannon Riggs and her cousins were famished after attending a Donald Trump rally last week in Richmond, Va., so they decided to drop by Cook Out – a regional restaurant chain known for its tasty burgers.

The group was decked out in Trump swag – from T-shirts to those iconic red hats emblazoned with the campaign’s slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Continue reading

Journalism

State of the news biz in 2016? Oh, my god … it’s really bad.

Newsies dread this time of year. It’s when the Pew Research Center releases its annual State of the Media report. And the findings, for print newsies, are bad, bad, bad.

Ad revenue down. Trust measures down. Newsroom staffing down. Circulation down.

CATEGORY: JournalismOh, look — digital ad revenue up. You remember back in the early Oughts when newspapers began to chase that digital ad revenue, right? They were hoping as print ad dollars fell, digital ad dollars would offset the loss, maybe even bring the same high profits. All would be good.

Well, Pew says digital ad revenue is up 20 percent to nearly $60 billion. Wow. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ArtsWeek

The joys of binge-watching

Image (1) ArtsWeek.jpg for post 12148

For the past year I have had some health issues that have taken me out of active circulation—nothing life-threatening, but certainly life changing during the period, and for a little while yet. One of these was a broken bone in my foot that had me sitting in front of the television for a solid six weeks, leg up on the hassock and (for the moment) out of the boot thing they give you these days. The other stuff doesn’t need details, but it also involved being relatively immobile for long periods. Plus the interesting effects of some of what they put you on these days for various things. For someone with no real health issues since I got mono the summer I was 20 and some back stuff in my 30s, this came as something of a surprise. Continue reading

Journalism

Newspapers’ big problem: failure to distinguish meaningful from meaningless

Warren Buffett, the newspaper-loving Oracle of Omaha, isn’t loving newspapers quite as much these days. Speaking of the industry’s attempts to create a viable business plan, he told USA Today’s Rem Rieder, “We haven’t cracked the code yet.”

Said Buffett:

Circulation continues to decline at a significant pace, advertising at an even faster pace. The easy cutting has taken place. There’s no indication that anyone besides the national papers has found a way.

JournalismWell, duh, Mr. Buffett. We’ve known about your first two sentences for a decade. And the third? The New York Times is the only “national paper” I pay to read, as a digital subscriber. But I routinely read stories in The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal — as I’m doing this morning over breakfast. The Times gets a ten spot from me every month. Everyone else gets squat.

Unlike millennials, for whom all information must be free, I’m willing to pay. That’s because at my age, I have a long history of paying for news. That’s how newspapers operated: Pay us and read our ads, and we’ll provide you the news you want and need. That was the fair exchange under the previous, and now failed, business model newspapers rode to riches (well, at least their owners) for more than a century.

Continue reading

Race & Gender

‘Total Frat Move’? More like Total F*cking Misogynists

You may have seen your favorite celebrity like Taylor Swift or Gigi Hadid sporting one of these babies [referring to high-waisted bikini bottoms] on their latest social media post … either way, you’re not them. These girls have the body to pull it off. You do not. Snap me photo proof if you think you can.

By Emily Rosman

Above is an example of one of the unsupported claims by The Therapist, an anonymous user on Total Frat Move, or TFM, in an article called “Why Girls Should Stop Wearing High-Waisted Bikinis.”

CATEGORY: RaceGender TFM, a self-claimed “news and entertainment brand that consists of the No. 1 college comedy website on the internet,” is owned by Grandex Inc. Grandex owns other “entertainment” brands like Total Sorority Move, Rowdy Gentleman and Post Grad Problems. Grandex lists 47 executives on its website — only seven are women.

Misogynistic posts like The Therapist’s litter the site, using derogatory language in most articles and treating women as sexual objects.

“Misogyny now has become so normalized,” said Paul Roberts, author of Impulse Society. “It’s almost like we’ve gone back to the Mad Men days.”

Continue reading

Big Bang Theory band names, pt 4 (Saturday Video Roundup)

Thor and Dr. Jones LIVE!

And we arrive at the final installation in our series of lines from The Big Bang Theory that would make good band names. I love the first one.

Liquor and Poor Judgment

The Unified Theory of Comedy

Malibu Koothrappali and His Totally Bitchin’ Dream House

The Wolowitz Coefficient

Tangy Bowl of Cheerios Continue reading

Journalism

Newspapers founder in habit-driven cultures — so the habits need changing

One morning a few weeks ago, I sat at the end of the counter in my favorite diner, Robbins Nest. Lisa brought tea, Jessica asked, “The usual?” and owner Crystal badgered chef Anthony (as usual).

CATEGORY: JournalismI set up my iPad mini to read. I noticed, however, the house copy of the metro daily from the big city two hours north. I picked it up and leafed through the 10-page front section. You know, the section with meaningful news for someone who lives two hours away.

I looked at story after story, page after page. I saw the metro had 11 — that’s 11 — stories from The New York Times in those 10 pages. That’s not unusual: Newspapers subscribe to wire services. Such services act as consortiums to provide newspapers with material they could not afford to report, write, and edit on their own. My own paper subscribed to The Times’ wire service back in the day. So seeing 11 Times stories in the local metro daily wasn’t a surprise.

But I had read each of those Times stories 12 hours before on my little iPad mini — because I’m one of The Times’ million-plus digital-only subscribers.

How does this metro daily — and others — fare financially if it prints stories many of its readers may have read online the day before?

Continue reading

Moment of #Mansplanation

Actually…

I just had a chance to read this op/ed from last year’s NYT: What makes a woman? The subject is still timely, especially thanks to hijinks like those coming out of North Carolina’s statehouse. And I’ve riffed on it before, if with more vitriol. I was a meaner person back then. Now I can just rest on the laurels of my cis-gendered white male privilege, look at this modern debate and all those hoity-toity post-modern nonsensilists and be snide. It’s an important debate, exactly because it’s in the courts and involves human safety, but dammit people, bring your A-game.  Continue reading