Search the Site

Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

The Non-Profit Journalism Keeps Coming

As the economics of high-end journalism continue to worsen, it is interesting — and, if you’re a fan of journalism, encouraging — to see how much non-profit journalism is being created. NPR is of course the most famous model but there’s also ProPublica, Pierre Omidyar‘s First Look Media, and a lot of other foundation- and philanthropist-funded projects.

Add to this list The Marshall Project, a “not-for-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering America’s criminal justice system.” It’s being launched by Neil Barsky, a former journalist, hedge-funder, and most recently film director. (He’s also a friend of mine, but don’t hold that against him.)

Here’s the rest of the Marshall Project’s mission statement:

How Does that Steak Frites Happen?

If you want to remind yourself what a really good magazine article can be, check out Willy Staley‘s N.Y. Times Magazine piece “22 Hours in Balthazar.” Balthazar is a SoHo restaurant that’s been around long enough to be an institution but is still good enough to inspire devotion from scene-setters, tourists, and locals alike. How?

That’s the question the article (and photographs) answer, in an elegant and fact-filled manner. For instance:

For now, everything is quiet at Balthazar. The last guests from the night before left just a few hours ago, and the nighttime porters are still finishing their thorough scrub of the restaurant. But the delivery trucks are starting to arrive all over again, idling on Crosby. Men in lifting belts wheel hand trucks stacked high with food from across the globe: 80 pounds of ground beef, 700 pounds of top butt, 175 shoulder tenders, 1 case of New York strips, all from the Midwest; 5 pounds of chicken livers, 6 cases of chicken bones, 120 chicken breast cutlets; 30 pounds of bacon; 300 littleneck clams, 110 pounds of mussels from Prince Edward Island, another 20 pounds from New Zealand, 50 trout, 25 pounds of U10 shrimp (fewer than 10 pieces per pound), 55 whole dorade, 3 cases of escargot, 360 Little Skookum oysters from Washington State, 3 whole tunas, 45 skates, 18 black sea bass, 2 bags of 100 to 120 whelks, 45 lobster culls. That’s just the fish and meat order.

Golfing the Length of Detroit

I overlapped a little bit at the New York Times with Charlie LeDuff and let me just say that his reputation as a one-of-a-kind reporter is thoroughly deserved.

He now works for the Fox TV news station in Detroit. If you have ten minutes to spare, you should check out his recent piece: “Charlie LeDuff Golfs the Length of Detroit”.

Is it a) one of the most interesting pieces of reporting you’ll ever see? b) a kind of cultural criticism that almost never shows up in mainstream journalism? c) a golfing adventure that even the most adventuresome golfers have never considered?

N.Y. Times, Playing Role of the Pot, Calls the Wall Street Journal’s Kettle Black

I love the New York Times (and not just because I used to work there) but goodness gracious, this kind of thing really hurts its credibility.

An article about News Corp.’s decision to split off its publishing business (including the Wall Street Journal) from its entertainment business contains the following sentence:

Both companies would maintain their controversial dual-class share stock structure, which enables the Murdoch family to control nearly 40 percent of the voting power.

Well, guess what other family-run news organization maintains a dual-class share stock structure? Yes, the New York Times — as well as the Washington Post and others, as Rupert Murdoch pointed out in announcing News Corp.’s move. This fact, however, isn’t mentioned in the Times article. But here’s the reality: given the turmoil in the newspaper business in general and at the Times in particular, it’d be easy to argue that if anyone’s dual-class ownership is “controversial,” it is the Times‘s more than the Journal‘s.

The Times article also omits that the new publishing unit will include News Corp.’s education unit and HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest book publishers. (Our books are published by William Morrow, a division of HC.) The Journal‘s coverage of the story is superior.

A New Revenue Source for Journalism?

Felix Salmon recently proposed an interesting new profit source for newspapers like The New York Times. Citing the Times‘s recent expose on Walmart and the resulting drop in the company’s share price, Salmon wonders why the company doesn’t charge companies for early access to big stories: 

[S]houldn’t the NYT, which can always use a bit of extra revenue, take advantage of the fact that its stories can move markets so much? Not directly: I’m not suggesting that the New York Times Company should start buying out-of-the-money put options on Mexican corporates in advance of its own stories. But how much would hedge funds pay to be able to see the NYT’s big investigative stories during the trading day prior to the appearance of the story? It’s entirely normal, and perfectly ethical, for news organizations, including Reuters, to give faster access to the best-paying customers.

Are America's Schools Failing … or Thriving?

An article published in the American Journalism Review last week by Paul Farhi argues that despite the popular narrative, America’s schools aren’t doing so badly. He writes:

Some schools are having a difficult time educating children – particularly children who are impoverished, speak a language other than English, move frequently or arrive at the school door neglected, abused or chronically ill. But many pieces of this complex mosaic are quite positive. First data point: American elementary and middle school students have improved their performance on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study every four years since the tests began in 1995; they are above the international average in all categories and within a few percentage points of the global leaders (something that few news reports mention). Second data point: The number of Americans with at least some college education has soared over the past 70 years, from 10 percent in 1940 to 56 percent today, even as the population has tripled and the nation has grown vastly more diverse. All told, America’s long-term achievements in education are nothing short of stunning.

The Downside of Living in a Need-to-Know World

I like keeping up with things, large and small, as much as the next person.

Or maybe I don’t. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

As someone who’s done a lot of journalism, I certainly have an appetite for being first with a story. In fact, most of the journalism I’ve written was stuff that no one else was writing about. But there’s a big difference between looking off the beaten path and trying to land a scoop within a beat that 100 other journalists are covering. I was never much into that. I understand that news organizations value the scoop but I do question how valuable such scoops really are — especially these days, when the first-mover often gets drowned out by the 1,000 who follow.

But lately I’ve been thinking about the information flow from the demand side rather than the supply side.

Pew Study: People Undervalue Their Local Newspaper

A new research report from the Pew Research Center reveals that while Americans get their local news from a variety of different sources, they far undervalue their local paper as a major source of that news. Authors Tom Rosenstiel, Amy Mitchell, Kristen Purcell and Lee Rainie write:

In all, the data in a new national survey show that the majority (64%) of American adults use at least three different types of media every week to get news and information about their local community—and 15% rely on at least six different kinds of media weekly.

The most interesting statistic is the mixed messages that people send about their local newspaper. While 69 percent of Americans claim that losing their local newspaper would have no impact, their reading habits show that people rely on print and online papers for 11 out of 16 major news topics. The authors write: “In other words, local TV draws a mass audience largely around a few popular subjects; local newspapers attract a smaller cohort of citizens but for a wider range of civically oriented subjects.”



The Sportswriter Is a Pimp

Things have been rough in the journalism business of late — so rough that one veteran sportswriter felt he had to pursue an alternate career. An award-winning sportswriter for a paper in New Hampshire, has pleaded guilty to running a prostitution ring.

Transparency vs. Responsible Journalism

Annie Duke, the professional poker player and Rock Paper Scissors tournament winner, has a new internet show. A recent episode included appearances by Rafe Furst and Jason Calcanis, discussing privacy and responsible journalism in the face of the recent WikiLeaks scandals.

Super Sad Super Crunching

Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Super Sad True Love Story (more here), paints a compelling but amazingly bleak picture of a future ravaged by the twin evils of predictive analytics and texting. Following the truly prescient Snow Crash, his characters are obsessively plugged into their “äppäräts,” souped-up versions of today’s app phones. (One of the funnier lines occurs when one character makes a disparaging reference to another character’s outmoded hand device, saying: “What is this, an iPhone?” (Kindle 1244).) Here is a world where credit scores, eHarmony-compatibility predictions and rankings are ubiquitously at hand. Characters routinely choose the reality of the shadows on their screen over the real world.

Why the Israeli Organ-Harvesting Story Is Probably False

A strange story has broken out in Sweden and Israel, with an article in Aftonbladet, a Swedish newspaper, by a journalist named Donald Bostrom.
According to The Times, Bostrom’s article “accuses the Israeli Army of harvesting organs from Palestinians wounded or killed by soldiers.”

What Does This Sad Story Say to You?

In today’s Washington Post, there’s an incredibly affecting long article about a down-and-out family in Indiana. It’s called “Nowhere to Go But Down.” Husband and wife have both lost their jobs; there’s a teenage son and a very young daughter, and it looks like they’re all going to have to move back to Michigan to live in the basement of the wife’s mother. I urge you all to read it, and to look at the photo gallery too.

When Data Tell the Story

This morning, my paper copy of The Times included a replica of the paper’s special section on the moon landing from July 21, 1969. You’ve probably seen the iconic main headline: “MEN WALK ON MOON.” The lead article is by John Noble Wilford (who’s still going strong, btw), and includes one of the most elegant little uses of data I can recall seeing in a news article:

Let's Hope They're Not Swan Songs

Even in the days of Woodward and Bernstein, writes Mark Kemp in Paste magazine, print journalism “wasn’t ever entirely noble” — but today, it’s “crumbling faster than week-old bread.” With “fond memories” of what the newspaper industry once was, and hope that it has a future, Kemp put together a list of the top 10 songs about newspapers and journalism.

The Free Press Is Somewhat Less Free

Freedom House has released its 2009 Freedom of the Press Survey. For the seventh consecutive year, it notes, global press freedom has declined, with declines occurring across all regions for the first time. Israel, Italy, and Hong Kong were downgraded from “Free” to “Partly Free.” (Is it time for someone to study the correlation between economic meltdowns and press freedom?) . . .

A Voucher System for Investigative Reporting

Dozens of proposals are floating around suggesting different ways to fix what seems to be the broken business model for newspapers. Michael Kinsley‘s Op-Ed, working backwards from the gross numbers, provides a devastating critique of the claim that micropayments on the Internet could save the industry: Micropayment advocates imagine extracting as much as $2 a month from readers. The Times . . .

What Can Magazines Learn From an Air-Conditioner Company?

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik The other day I had a company come and remove two air conditioners from my office in order to clean them, store them for the winter, and return them in the spring. It wasn’t cheap: $269 for the first one and $249 for the second. But I like air conditioning, and I figured it was worthwhile to . . .

Ralph Steadman Answers Your Questions

Ralph Steadman, self portrait from Stop Smiling magazine. Last week we solicited your questions for British cartoonist and caricaturist Ralph Steadman. He graciously fielded your questions about his friendship with the late Hunter Thompson (a “partnership and provocation,” he called it), why his work can be found on beer labels, and why an artist should constantly imitate himself. He also . . .

Bring Your Questions for Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman, self portrait from Stop Smiling magazine. British cartoonist and caricaturist Ralph Steadman is best known as the late Hunter Thompson‘s collaborator. Starting with their first assignment together — illustrating the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s (Steadman forgot his “colors” and drew with a friend’s makeup samples) — Thompson and Steadman invented a genre of narrative storytelling that may (or . . .

Cheating, Casinos, and Accuracy: A Q&A With the Author of Bringing Down the House

Ben Mezrich Ben Mezrich‘s book Bringing Down the House — a nonfiction account of six M.I.T. card-counters who made millions in Las Vegas — has sold more than a million copies and was translated into 18 languages. But the changes made in the recent movie adaptation, 21, have (besides helping to bring in $23.7 million in the movie’s debut weekend) . . .

When Journalists Gripe

Media employees have plenty to complain about these days — layoffs, dropping revenue, and of course, accusations of bias. But now there’s a place for frustrated journalists to vent: It’s an anonymous message board with no dates, locations, or any identifiers save a number. Here’s a recent post: I’m angry because after a Sunday when I wrote the A1 . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Receiving a kidney: a personal account. (Earlier) A wonderful meditation on globalization and journalism. Online game’s in-world economist issues his first newsletter. (Earlier) “The Wallet Test” captures honesty on camera. (Earlier)

Will This Weed Really ‘Save Humanity’?

Here’s my nominee for quote of the day, from a (gated) front page article in today’s Wall Street Journal: “This plant will save humanity, I tell you.” The person who said that is O.P. Singh, a horticulturist for the railway ministry of India. What plant is he talking about? A shrubby weed called jatropha, whose seeds contain an oil that . . .