Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Phoenix, no ashes.

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Lawrence was kind enough to throw me a backlink for my SF Bay Guardian entry. So I thought I’d note here, just for the record, that the Providence Phoenix is also closing down. From what I can tell, the PP is part of the same media group that owned the Boston Phoenix, which shut down last year. (Also, this gives me an excuse to exercise the “Rhode Island” tag.)

I remember picking up a few issues of the PP back when I was going up to Rhode Island on a semi-regular basis, but I don’t recall much about it beyond it being a fairly generic alt weekly. Again, I’m sorry for the folks who are losing their jobs; no snark here. But it is hard to see what the PP had to offer that isn’t duplicated elsewhere.

Also, this gives me a chance to link to yesterday’s TechDirt article about SXSW: Populous, a consulting firm that’s been working with SXSW organizers, is proposing “clean zones” for SXSW:

According to the report, the “Clean Zone” would be a perimeter around some part of the city that:
“protects the brand equity of SXSW and its sponsors but would be made to work with existing businesses and their interests so as to uphold sponsor values and private property rights—in return this may involve a financial exchange linked to the permit process that provides the City with additional funding for security and safety personnel.”

Part of the “clean zone” proposal talks about doing “soft searches” for “forbidden items”. It isn’t clear what that means, though there’s speculation that “forbidden” = “doesn’t have an approved sponsor logo”.

The current policy of the City with respect to the permitting process as ‘first come, first served’ and/or ‘must treat everyone equally’ appears to have become detrimental to event planning process and management of the key stakeholder interests. The SXSW event is one of the largest events in the world, and bespoke treatment is needed to facilitate a continuing safe event in Austin.

A fair number of people seem to be reading this as part of SXSW’s ongoing struggle to get rid of “unofficial” SXSW events, and I kind of think it is hard to read in any other way.

I’ve felt for a while now that SXSW is too big, and I’ve expected a major disaster of some sort. But the funny thing is: we had our major disaster this year, and none of these proposals (or any other proposal I’ve heard) would have prevented it. As a matter of fact, the only thing I can think of that would have prevented it, is more substantial barriers on the closed-off streets.

Kind of seems like SXSW is becoming all the things the AusChron purports to dislike, doesn’t it?

Guardians of the Bay Area.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

The San Francisco Bay Guardian is shutting down.

I’m sorry for the people who are losing their jobs, but my main reason for making note of it here is that I did a fair amount of coverage of their legal battle with SF Weekly back in the day: a battle that included, yes, hookers and blow. (Also here, here, and here.)

Random notes: October 13, 2014.

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The New York Times may have killed their chess column. Or perhaps not.

Greg “Three Cups of Tea” Mortenson is trying to make a comeback. (Previously.)

The WP also has a longish story about the Navy silencer scandal, covered previously here.

At one pretrial hearing, a defense attorney for the auto mechanic, Mark S. Landersman of Temecula, Calif., accused the Navy of impeding the investigation by destroying a secret stash of automatic rifles that the silencers were designed to fit. Prosecutors immediately objected to further discussion in open court, calling it a classified matter.
The destroyed weapons were part of a stockpile of about 1,600 AK-47-style rifles that the U.S. military had collected overseas and stored in a warehouse in Pennsylvania, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

I really don’t have much to say, but the thought of a warehouse full of “AK-47 style rifles” brings a goofy smile to my face.

Well. Well well well. Well.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

ESPN analyst Bill Simmons has been suspended for three weeks after he made profane comments about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a podcast.

Original hattip on this to Jason Snell at Six Colors.

This is getting a great deal of attention, but there’s one aspect I want to point out: the ESPN Ombudsman’s page has disappeared from the site. Attempts to access it, either from the “ESPN Ombudsman” link (under “ESPN Feedback”, bottom left corner of the ESPN homepage) or direct links to columns (such as the one linked by Romenesko today) redirect to a generic “ESPN Blogs” page.

I’m not sure if this should be ascribed to malice or stupidity, but it is an interesting coincidence.

Edited to add, 9/24/2014 9:17 PM: Probably stupidity, since the Ombudsman’s page is back now. In that vein, this makes for interesting reading.

Today in journalism fraud.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

I have read and admired a fair amount of William Langewiesche’s work. He did some excellent reporting on Pakistan’s nuclear program, and is one of the better mass-market writers on aviation related subjects.

But.

Some of you may have been following Chevron Corp. v. Donziger. For those who haven’t, briefly: Donziger filed a lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador alleging that Chevron polluted drilling sites. Donziger won a $19 billion judgment in the Ecuadorian courts, but it turns out that there was massive fraud perpetrated by Donziger and the Ecuadorian courts. Overlawyered has a Chevron tag if you want more details.

The point, and I do have one, is: Langewiesche was asked by Vanity Fair to do a story on the suit. (Interesting point: “Donziger’s wife at the time worked in corporate communications at Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher.“)

Langewiesche did the story.

The piece he produced was extraordinarily sympathetic to the lawsuit, so much so that Donziger himself proclaimed it “the kind of paradigm-shifting, breakthrough article that I think is going to change the entire case from here until it ends in a way that is favorable to us.”

But it wasn’t just “sympathetic”.

The reporter asks Donziger to prepare lists of dozens of questions to be asked of Chevron. And he begs Donziger to help him prepare arguments about why there’s no need for him to do face-to-face interviews with Chevron officials, as they’ve requested, even though he spent days meeting with Donziger and his legal staff.
“I want to avoid a meeting, simply because I do NOT have the time. But I don’t want to go on record refusing a meeting,” writes Langewiesche. “Perhaps I could say that my travel schedule is intense . . . ” He not only submits his emails to Chevron for Donziger’s approval (“What say, Steve. I gotta send this tonight”) and even lets him rewrite them. “Let me know if this works,” Donziger says in a note returning one of them. “I was a little aggressive in the editing.”

Langewiesche also sent Donziger a copy of the story before it was printed. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that is a violation of journalism ethics. Especially since

…Chevron did not get to see the story before it went into print, nor submit lists of questions it wanted Langewiesche to ask Donziger. Nor did Chevron get the face-to-face interviews they asked for. Except for a single phone conversation just before the story appeared, Langewiesche insisted all their communication be via email.

And, of course, there were errors. Including one major one: an expert hired by Donziger was quoted as saying cleanup would cost $6 billion.

But the man had repudiated it a full year before the Vanity Fair story appeared, warning Donziger in a letter that the estimate was based on faulty assumptions and was “a ticking time bomb which will come back to bite you, and very badly, if anyone attempts due diligence on it.”

I am looking forward to reading VF‘s response. Certainly, these are just accusations, but they are accusations backed up by Donzinger’s email, which was obtained as part of a court order related to the ongoing fraud case.

(Hattip: JR.)

Classic Austin cliches.

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Anyone who’s spent time in Austin is familiar with the complaint that too many Austin residents like to sit around and talk about how things were so much better when the Armadillo World Headquarters was in business, and how they saw Shiva’s Headband there, and rent was only $25 a month, and there was no traffic and abundant dope and and and…

The official name was Armadillo World Headquarters. But anyone who enjoyed live music just called it the ‘Dillo.

Yep. That’s your Statesman.

Obit watch: July 31, 2014.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Jay Maeder, who worked for the Daily News and Miami Herald, has passed away.

I note this for two reasons. Reason #1:

He also contributed posts to the City Room blog of The New York Times. They were discontinued after similarities were found between descriptive passages in the posts and those in articles he had written for The News.

Awk. Ward.

Reason #2: Mr. Maeder was also the last writer for the “Annie” comic strip, which was cancelled in 2010.

Well, isn’t THIS interesting?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Some of my readers may recall my review of Busted and my complaints about state, local, and Federal officials not taking corruption in the Philadelphia Police Department seriously.

Well.

Well well well. Well.

A group of Philadelphia narcotics officers repeatedly robbed and assaulted the drug suspects they were supposed to be investigating, engaging in a campaign of brutality that lasted nearly six years, federal authorities said Wednesday.

More:

One year later, during an illegal search of a suspect’s home, the officers held a suspect by his ankles off the edge of an 18th-floor balcony while demanding information, according to the complaint.

Somebody’s been watching too many movies.

I have trouble linking to the two Philadelphia newspapers, but I think this one will work for the Inquirer coverage. The names of the indicted cops (Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser) ring a faint bell with me, but they don’t overlap with the cops in Busted. (Possibly they were peripheral characters in that book, but I don’t have it in front of me to check.)

The LAT claims “five of the six officers could face life in prison”, but we should keep Ken’s advice in mind. In any event, it should be interesting to watch this play out; does the chief go next? Does the Philadelphia PD come under federal supervision? And do Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Lasker have anything to say? (There’s nothing on the Daily News site. Philadelphia newspapers are weird.)

Stay tuned to this blog for more “As the Badge Turns”.

Edited to add: Oh, I wanted to highlight this part, too:

In the midst of the scrutiny, Liciardello, Reynolds and a third member of the unit, Jeffrey Walker, filed suit against Philadelphia trial lawyer Michael Pileggi, saying multiple civil rights suits he had filed on behalf of clients alleging abuse had unfairly tarnished their names.

Man, that’s brazen. That’s like Lance Armstrong brazen.

Pileggi’s insurance company settled the case for a relatively small sum. But in an interview Wednesday, the lawyer said all of the allegations in his client’s lawsuits “came to fruition [in the federal case] – beating up, false arrests, stealing.”

Noted.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

The LA Weekly profiles Nick Ut, legendary AP photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner. He’s still working as an AP photographer in LA.

You may not recognize the name, but you’ll know the photo; it is one of the two most famous Vietnam War photos. I won’t embed it, but you can find all over the place, including here.

I’m not generally a big fan of the alternative papers, but this is a swell article. Some pull quotes:

Ut believes in skill, too. But on a deeper level, he trusts in luck and fate. Many photojournalists were killed in Vietnam — 135 total, according to Faas’ count. By Ut’s estimate, 90 percent of the AP photographers who covered the war got shot while there.

Pulled mostly so I can plug Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina; haunt your local used bookstore for a copy.

…three months after he took Kim Phuc’s picture, he was hit in the leg by mortar fire. He was on his way to visit her. Her house, unfortunately, was located near an entrance to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of supply routes used by the Viet Cong. After the mortar shell blew up, Ut noticed holes in his camera. Then his shirt. Then his thigh.

Young photographers today, who “shoot 15 frames a second,” exasperate him. “Too fast. Picture lousy. One frame. Show the best picture. That’s how I learned. Look for the picture first.”
Besides, “If you come back with 500 pictures from one assignment? Your boss will yell at you. Too many! Who wants to look at all those pictures?”

Today, the 35mm Leica M2 camera with which he shot Napalm Girl is in a museum — the Newseum, in Washington, D.C.

Gratuitous Leica for the win! (I do wish the Weekly had gone into more detail about what Ut uses today. But then again, this isn’t an article targeted at professional photographers.)

If it weren’t for bad luck…

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

I’ve briefly touched on, but never discussed in detail, Philadelphia’s two troubled daily newspapers (the Daily News and the Inquirer). In brief, they’ve gone through bankruptcy, ownership changes, ownership conflicts, and more ownership changes.

Early last week, the papers were bought by a group of investors led by Lewis Katz.

Last night, Lewis Katz and six other people were killed in a private jet crash.

This is sad and awful and I don’t intend to mock anyone’s death. I note it here because it seems like the Philly papers are just one hard luck story after another. Mr. Katz’s son is apparently going to take his place on the board that manages the papers; if you read the linked article about the purchase, though, it doesn’t seem clear that the late Mr. Katz or his partners had a turn-around plan for the papers, or that they even expected to win the bidding war for them. With Mr. Katz gone, I suspect that’s going to complicate things even more.

(Hattip: Jimbo.)

News of the world.

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

The female editor of a major daily newspaper has been forced out of her position.

Also, the NYT let their executive editor go.

Today in literary fraud.

Monday, May 12th, 2014

When asked about questions about the story’s veracity by the Israeli newspaper Haaetz, the film’s director said, “That is exactly like the people who deny the existence of concentration camps. This is a true story. Everything that happened during the Holocaust is unbelievable and impossible to grasp, and people therefore also find it difficult to believe this story.”

Yeah, well, maybe. But I think you can ask questions about a story without being a Holocaust denier; the key is the phrasing. “What you’re saying happened doesn’t line up with what we know, historically, about the Holocaust, including the testimony of other survivors, Ms. Defonseca. Can you explain the differences?”

In related news, Misha Defonseca has been ordered to repay $22.5 million to her former publisher Mt. Ivy Press and Jane Daniel, who owns Mt. Ivy.

Misha who the what now? $22.5 million? That’s Steve King money!

Ms. Defonseca wrote a book called Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years. It didn’t sell well in the US, but was popular in Europe: it was adapted as an opera and as a French film, “Surviving With Wolves”.

…Misha Defonseca wrote of her experience of being a young Jewish girl on her own during World War II, fleeing into the woods where she was adopted by wolves, and killing a Nazi soldier.

The LAT is a little less clear on this next step than I would like, but apparently there was a dispute between Ms. Defonseca, Mt. Ivy, and Vera Lee (“a French speaker chosen to work with Defonseca”).

A judge found that Daniel and Mt. Ivy had withheld royalty payments, hidden money in offshore accounts and failed to market the book. Rights for the book reverted to Defonseca, and she was to be awarded damages of $32.4 million.

This now also becomes an excellent example of “Be careful what you wish for, because you may just get it.” Ms. Daniel, of course, appealed the verdict. And as part of the appeal, she hired people to take a closer look at Ms. Defonseca’s story.

Which turned out to be almost complete bullshit.

An American geneologist worked with Belgian counterparts to track down Defonseca’s true origins. She was born Monique De Wael in Brussels, where she attended Catholic school during the time she had claimed to be lost in the woods.
One part of the story was true: As a young girl, she lost her parents. Both had been members of the Resistance and were deported and killed. She was raised by relatives — not wolves.

And she’s admitted the fabrication:

“This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving.”

Interestingly, Wikipedia has a “Fake memoirs” page, but it does not break out Holocaust memoirs into a separate category.