Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Random notes: June 1, 2017.

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

The NYT is offering buyouts to some of the staff.

In a memo to the newsroom, Dean Baquet, the executive editor, and Joseph Kahn, the managing editor, said the current system of copy editors and “backfielders” who assign and shape articles would be replaced with a single group of editors who would be responsible for all aspects of an article. Another editor would be “looking over their shoulders before publication.”

I probably would not have noted this story if it wasn’t for another aspect of it: the paper of record is also eliminating the “public editor” position.

Mr. Sulzberger, in a newsroom memo, said the public editor’s role had become outdated.
“Our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be,” he wrote. “Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office.”

Am I reading this right? Is Sulzberger basically saying he plans to turn the role of the public editor over to the screaming mob – you know, the screaming mob that threatened to cancel their subscriptions because the paper published views by someone they disagreed with?

On Tuesday, The Times announced the creation of the Reader Center, an initiative that appeared to overlap somewhat with the public editor’s role. The center will be responsible for responding directly to readers, explaining coverage decisions and inviting readers to contribute their voices.

Or am I reading this wrong?

Speaking of “reading this wrong”, there has to be more to this story than meets the eye:

A New York City police sergeant who fatally shot a mentally ill woman in her Bronx apartment in October was charged on Wednesday with murder in the woman’s death.

The charges are “second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide”. He’s already been suspended without pay, and was “stripped of his badge and gun and placed on modified duty” after the shooting.

Initially, the police said that Sergeant Barry persuaded Ms. Danner to drop a pair of scissors, but that she picked up a bat and tried to swing at him. Only Sergeant Barry was in the bedroom with Ms. Danner.

Some people might say that I’m a cop groupie, and that I want to make excuses for cops. It’s true that I’ve been through two citizen’s police academy classes. I think I have an informed perspective on how the police work. But I also think I’m a rational and reasonable person. I’m a lot more sympathetic to the views of people like Grits and Radley Balko than I probably let on (though a lot of that has to do more with the courts and jails than boots-on-the-ground police work).

I wish we did a better job of handling mental illness in this country. I think the APD, in particular, is making great efforts in this area. But a lot of their recent shootings have been of emotionally disturbed/mentally ill people. I wish that wasn’t the case. But in all the recent cases I know about, unless new evidence has emerged, these were emergent situations where either an officer or a bystander was in immediate danger and the police officers didn’t have a choice on how to respond.

Someone in one of my CPA classes made the point: we expect the police to solve, in 30 minutes, family and social problems that have taken years – even generations – to emerge.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said Sergeant Barry had not followed police protocol for dealing with people with mental illness. Specifically, he did not use his stun gun to try to subdue Ms. Danner, and he did not wait for a specialized Emergency Service Unit to arrive.

I quoted Tam back in October when this happened, and I’ll borrow from her again:

A baseball bat to the cranium is lethal force and don’t kid yourself otherwise. You start lethal forcing at me and I’m gonna lethal force right back at you to make you stop.

And if Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill don’t believe a baseball bat is lethal force, I invite them to join me in Times Square and let me swing baseball bats at their heads.

The “didn’t wait for ESU” thing may be more defensible, but that’s a policy violation, not a murder charge. And if he believed someone was being carved up with scissors, or was doing themselves harm, was he supposed to wait for ESU to arrive, whenever that was? I’ll also concede the point that the officer may have lied about the circumstances: I hope not, but if that is the basis for the prosecution, it should come out at trial. Meanwhile: body cameras.

And finally, speaking of “lethal force right back at you”, I should have noted this story last night. But it was still kind of emergent, and I had a bad day yesterday.

Two bounty hunters show up at a car dealership because they believe a wanted fugitive may make an appearance. They may, or may not, have identified themselves as “federal agents”.

After several hours, bad guy shows up. Bounty hunters corner him in an office. Bad guy goes for his gun, apparently drops it on the desk, goes to retrieve it. There’s a scuffle.

And when it is all over, both bounty hunters and the bad guy are dead.

I don’t know what lessons can be learned from this. Maybe “don’t drop your gun”? Or “if you have the tactical advantage, press it”? It just seems bizarre and worth noting.

Obit watch: March 19, 2017.

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

I’ve been thinking most of the day about what I want to say about Jimmy Breslin, or if I want to say anything at all. I might tomorrow, but I wanted to get the obits up tonight: NYT. NY Daily News obit: there’s a lot of related material at their site, too.

For the historical record: Chuck Berry.

From the arts beat.

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Two stories that I think are noteworthy.

I was not aware, until Lawrence forwarded me this Vulture article, that the NYT had fired theater critic Charles Isherwood. And “fired”, apparently, does not mean “laid off because we’re cutting back on arts coverage”. but instead means “here are some boxes, pack your s–t, security will escort you out the door”. I’m having a hard time remembering the last firing I heard about at the paper of record that was supposedly “for cause”. Technically, they didn’t even fire Jayson Blair (he resigned first).

This hasn’t gotten a whole lot of coverage: the only other story Google turned up was from Forbes, and I’m not linking to it because it doesn’t say much. It sounds like the paper is saying he was too close to (and exchanged “improper” emails with) some prominent theater producers, while the pro-Isherwood side seems to be spinning those emails as perfectly reasonable, and sees the problem as Isherwood not getting along with others at the paper (especially Ben Brantley, the other (and senior) critic).

This came across a mailing list I’m on over the weekend, and I found it interesting as well: the search for “Porgy and Bess”, the 1959 film version directed by Otto Preminger. It has a great cast: Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier, and Sammy Davis Jr., but prints are extremely rare. There was one known to be in the hands of a private collector (who died last year: his widow still has it) and one owned by the “National Audiovisual Institute of Finland” who loaned out their copy for two NYC screenings in 2007.

Why is it so hard to find? Reply hazy and faded (the 70mm prints have all apparently turned pinkish, but there are supposedly some good 35mm prints), but some people suggest that Ira Gershwin and his wife hated the movie and used a contractual clause to have most of the prints destroyed. Other people dispute this theory. But the main problem seems to be: nobody wants to pay for a home video restoration.

Which is a damn shame, in my humble opnion. I’ve never seen a productuon of “Porgy and Bess”, but I’d like to. And I’d purchase a good quality DVD or blu-ray release, especially if it came with decent extras. This sounds like a job for the Criterion Collection.

(At least one person on that same mailing list claims this whole article is “frankly, nonsense” and asserts he saw a good print “just a few years ago in New York”. I wonder if he saw one of the 2007 Finnish print screenings.)

I’ll leave you with this still, which for some reason I find oddly charming:

The guy on the right is Otto Preminger. I’m sure you all know who the guy on the left is.

Obit watch: February 22, 2017.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

The Statesman is reporting the death of Gary Cartwright, one of the best of the Texas Monthly stable of writers and author of several true crime books.

I’d been reading Cartwright’s work for TM since…well, since my family first moved to Texas and started subscribing to Texas Monthly, and that was (mumble mumble) years ago.

I don’t see an actual tribute on their website yet, but I’m sure one is in progress and I’ll link it here. About 2 1/2 years ago, when Cartwright turned 80, they did run a tribute to him which contains links to other TM writers favorite stories. (Some of my favorites from that list: “Leroy’s Revenge”, which you should not read if you love dogs, but has a sort of gonzo feel to it. “Otis Crater was late for the fanciers’ organizational meeting at the Cherokee Lounge for good reason. He had just stabbed a U-Totem attendant following a discussion of the economic impact of a five-cent price increase on a six-pack of beer.” Also, his profiles of noted stripper Candy Barr and private investigator Jay J. Armes.)

I confess: I haven’t read Blood Will Tell yet. I probably should, but the main reason I haven’t is that I was reading Cartwright’s coverage of T. Cullen Davis in the magazine as it was happening. I have read, and endorse, Dirty Dealing, his book on the Judge John Wood killing and the Chagra family.

Even though I think TM has been going downhill recently (my mother dropped her subscription last year after (mumble mumble) years), I always found Cartwright’s work a high point in any issue. He can’t be replaced.

Edited to add: tribute by John Spong.

More detailed Statesman obit.

Edited to add 2/23: also from TM, “23 Writers and Editors Remember Gary Cartwright”.

Silly season.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

A few random items, some more silly than others.

  1. “I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don’t like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”
    (I don’t have strong feelings about pineapple on pizza, but I like this guy.)
  2. Wayne Shaw is a backup goalkeeper for the Sutton United soccer team. “His own team referred to him as the Roly Poly Goalie. He is 46 years old, 6-foot-2 and somewhere around 322 pounds, or 23 stone as the British papers usually put it.” During their game against Arsenal on Monday, Mr. Shaw ate a meat pie on the sidelines. There was a spot bet that he’d do this, which paid off at 8-1.
    Problem: Mr. Shaw admitted that he was aware of the spot bet; and, while he didn’t bet personally, he was aware of other people who had. This could be considered “spot fixing”.

    On Tuesday, Shaw was forced to resign from the club after the Football Association’s gambling commission said it would investigate if consumption of the pie was a breach of betting regulations.

    (For the record, it was a “meat and potato” pie. The paper of record does not report the pussy content of the meat pie. Also, note that this silly article already has two corrections appended.)

  3. I haven’t been following this story closely (the Atlanta newspapers aren’t part of my nutritious media breakfast) but the NYT has a rundown of the Atlanta city contracting scandal, which includes bricks through windows and dead rodents left on doorsteps.

Blood in the streets!

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

This used to be the “Bloody Monday” thread, where I covered all the firings after the last day of the NFL regular season. But we’ve reached the point now where teams aren’t waiting for Monday to start firing people.

For example, general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly are both out in San Francisco. The official announcement came after the game, but there was widespread “speculation” that they were both out: Baalke actually appeared on San Francisco radio before the games and confirmed his firing.

This is the second consecutive season the 49ers have fired their coach after just one year, having fired Jim Tomsula after the 2015 campaign. It’s the second time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that a team has replaced back-to-back coaches after only one full season each, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, with San Francisco also having done so in 1976 and ’77.

San Francisco was 2-14 this year.

(On a side note, is it just me, or are San Francisco’s newspapers mostly really bad? On a second side note, Gregg Easterbrook would be totally insufferable, if he’d been writing TMQ this year.)

Speaking of bad teams, San Diego fired head coach Mike McCoy, which is a good start. Now if they’d just fire the entire rest of the team.

McCoy was 28-38 in four years with the team, and 5-11 this year. You may recall that San Diego gave hapless the Cleveland Browns their only win this season.

This is not a firing, but worth noting: Gary Kubiak is out as head coach in Denver. This seems to be tied to his personal health issues, which I’m really not comfortable discussing or speculating on. I hope he comes back at some point.

There’s speculation that Sean Payton may be moving to the Rams, which should be interesting. Do the Saints want to keep him? If so, why? It seems to me that since their one Super Bowl win, the Saints have been a giant ball of disappointment: almost as if the football gods were out to get them for Bountygate. Is Payton a good coach? Can he do something with the Rams? Or did he just get lucky once?

I’ll try to post updates here if anybody else gets axed today.

Edited to add: more from the “not quite a firing, but” department: Lane Kiffin will be leaving Alabama before the national championship game. It’s not quite a firing because he’d already signed on as head coach of Florida Atlantic, but the general expectation seemed to be that he’d at least hang around for the title game. However, there were complaints about the Lanester showing up late for events: it kind of sounds like Bama got tired of his (stuff) and suggested he leave now.

There are rumors that Jim Irsay may clean house in Indianapolis, but nothing definite yet. Chuck Pagano just held a press conference and said he hadn’t talked to Irsay, and that he expected to be back; I’m sure Irsay is filled with joy at hearing this.

Firing watch and norts spews: November 29, 2016.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

This is an actual ESPN headline:

espn
Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. May the dead rest peacefully, and may the survivors recover and find peace as well.

Recent firings that I missed over the past few days:

Brian Polian out in Nevada, though this is being spun as “by mutual agreement”. The team was 23-27 over his four years, and 5-7 this year.

Ron Caragher out at San Jose State. 19-30 in four seasons, 4-8 this year.

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#AB of a series)

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

I want to get this up while it is still fresh, but I don’t have as much time to think and write about as I’d like: I’m actually down at the cop shop tonight.

The chief recently had a closed door meeting with his commanders. Apparently, during the meeting, he laid into a few of them about not following his direction, especially with respect to relations with the minority community.

Someone taped the meeting and provided a copy to the Statesman. (Edited to add 10/21: Link fixed. Thanks, Uncle Kenny.)

Quick thoughts, based on a skim of the article:

  • Taping the meeting and giving a copy to the press strikes me as questionable.
  • I don’t see anything really outrageous in what the chief said.

I may have more to say on further reflection.

Breaking news from the blotter.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Suspect number three in the shooting of Judge Kocurek is now in custody.

According to the Statesman report, he was run to ground in New Orleans.

According to federal authorities, Burgin led federal agents on a car chase in Southwest Houston on Sept. 22 that resulted in a crash and a foot chase. Burgin escaped and had been a fugitive ever since.

It seemed to me that the HouChron (at least online: I don’t see the print edition these days) was awfully quiet about the chase, the search, and the $10,000 reward that was offered for this guy.

Onyeri and the others are accused of committing mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, document fraud, access device fraud and money laundering from January 2012 to November 2015 in Austin, Houston, the state of Louisiana and surrounding areas.

Impressive resume, even without the “tried to kill a judge” part.

TMQ watch.

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Our blog traffic has spiked up in the past couple of days, and we haven’t been able to figure out why. It doesn’t seem to be tied to anything specific we’ve written (our stats just show a lot of folks looking at the homepage/archives) but there do seem to be two things that are kind of popular: our list of Austin city council members, and people looking for Gregg Easterbrook’s ‘Tuesday Morning Quarterback”.

We don’t have anything new to report on tha second front. Here’s what Easterbrook is saying:

TMQ

We are trying to keep an eye on his Twitter for more substantial updates, but that’s all we have for now.

The other scandal I wanted to touch on…

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

My major source of information on this is an article in the WP. I haven’t seen very much English-language coverage elsewhere, but I welcome links if anyone has them.

There’s a place in Sweden called the Karolinska Institute, a medical school with an associated teaching/research hospital, the Karolinska University Hospital.

The hospital, up until March of this year, employed a scientist, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini. It seems that Dr. Macchiarini was kind of a hot shot:

Macchiarini captured headlines in 2011, a year after he had been recruited by the institute, for his work in regenerative medicine. That year he implanted a “bioartificial” trachea, one made from plastic and the patient’s own stem cells, into a man named Andemariam Beyene.

This is kind of cool, at least to me. Regenerative medicine is sort of a holy grail: imagine if, instead of a heart transplant and the lifetime of anti-rejection/immunosuppressivee drugs, you could just grow a new heart? Or liver? Or spleen?

(Tangentially related: Isabelle Dinoire died in April, though her death is just now being reported in accordance with her family’s wishes. Ms. Dinore was the first person to receive a partial face transplant, and her death is being attributed in part to the immunosuppressive drugs she had been taking.)

So what went wrong?

But in January 2014, as the Iceland Review noted, the trachea Macchiarini had implanted became loose, killing Beyene.

“trachea…became loose”. But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini did three of these surgeries. Two of the patients are dead, and the third has been in intensive care since 2012.

But wait, there’s more:

The investigator who examined his studies said that Macchiarini was guilty of scientific misconduct by omitting or fabricating information about his patients’ postoperative status to make the procedure seem more successful than it really was.

But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini didn’t get signed consent forms from two of the patients, and the one he did get isn’t valid. (“that one signed form would not have been approved’ since the patient wasn’t afforded the option of discussing the procedure with an independent medical expert”).

But wait, there’s more:

The report pointed out that a different synthetic material was used in each transplant, which hinted at a lack of research into which one actually worked and suggested an unreadiness for usage in human beings.

There was also illegal use of “growth-stimulating drugs” without proper permits.

But wait, there’s more! It isn’t just that Dr. Macchiarini was a rogue researcher who has since been fired:

The English version of the report stated:

There are many instances of KI [Karolinska Institute – DB] employees being involved in the discussions preceding and following up surgery. KI has also, in several contexts, cited the transplantations as part of its own activities. For example, they have been quoted as research successes in KI’s evaluations of how research funding has been utilized.

This report opined that KI never should have hired Macchiarini in the first place, considering the references the institution received concerning the surgeon.

It was the usual stuff: negative references, false information on his CV, you know the drill.

Lastly, the report found the hospital extended Macchiarini’s contract twice — once in 2013 and one in 2015 — with “no real evaluation or assessment of Macchiarini’s work.”

But. Wait. There’s. More.

The Karolinska Institute is very closely tied to the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.

On Tuesday, the Nobel Assembly, which is in charge of choosing the recipient of the institution’s prize for physiology or medicine, asked Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson and Anders Hamsten, two of its 50 judges, to resign. Both are former vice chancellors of the Karolinska Institute, the Swedish medical university associated with the Karolinska University Hospital that employed Macchiarini.

(If I understand correctly, those 50 judges are just the ones who decide on the medicine prize.)

The Swedish Minister of Higher Education also fired Wallberg-Henriksson from her position as “Sweden’s chancellor of all public universities”. The minister is also demanding that everyone who was on the board of the Karolinska Institute while Dr. Macchiarini was employed there resign. “Any who choose not to resign will be replaced, Reuters reported.”

By the way: Dr. Macchiarini is also being criminally investigated. It looks like the prosecutors may press involuntary manslaughter charges against him, depending on the outcome of the investigation.

(It occurs to me: this would make for another great “Law and Order” script. Your cold open is a guy walking down the street with his girlfriend when he suddenly drops dead, coroner finds the loose trachea, McCoy charges the doctor with murder…)

(Question for any TV writers who might be reading this: is it okay to write spec scripts for shows that aren’t on the air any longer?)

Edited to add: Just found this: a February article from Vanity Fair. Seems that NBC News did a two-hour long documentary on Dr. Macchiarini.

I swear, I need an AutoText for “But wait, there’s more”: Dr. Macchiarini was also involved in a romance with the producer of the documentary. As in, they were going to get married. By the Pope. Who personally approved their marriage, even though they were both divorced and she is Episcopalian. And who was going to host the wedding at Castel Gandolfo.

“…Who the hell are you and what the hell is wrong with you?”

Headline of the day.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Everyone was loving Montreal’s family-friendly puppet festival until the prison rape part