A headline on the UK news talked about complaints that the government is using an additional 3500 soldiers to help with security at the Olympics. Why complain? The security seems crucial; and given that the soldiers are being paid anyway, and were not going to be deployed elsewhere, the opportunity cost of their time does not seem very high. (I’m assuming that the British Army is not maintained permanently larger for use in security in such events.) This seems much more efficient than hiring some temporaries for security, who might not be as well-trained and who would require pay.
If you believe Olbermann’s camp — yes, that’s an “if” worth thinking about — the conflict came down to a simple issue: while Current was willing to pay its new anchorman $50 million, it wasn’t willing to spend the money to bring his show up to a professional standard:
A new paper from Chris Edmond at the University of Melbourne examines how the quantity and quality of information impacts regime change. This is particularly timely in light of the Arab Spring taking place across the Middle East, and the current goose chase for Muammar Gaddafi.
Edmond constructs a simple model to study how a regime’s chances of survival are affected by changes in information technology. He finds that information alone does not destabilize an oppressive regime. In fact, more information (and the control of that information) is a major source of political strength for any ruling party. The state controlled media of North Korea is a current example of the power of propaganda, much as it was in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, where the state heavily subsidized the diffusion of radios during the 1930s to help spread Nazi propaganda.
By last Friday, New York City was in full-on hurricane panic mode. Public transportation was scheduled for a Saturday shut down, stores were selling out of batteries and flashlights, windows were being taped, sandbags stacked; three-hundred and seventy thousand people were evacuated. This was going to be bad, the local media kept telling us. Really, really bad. Even the number-crunching, data-driven Nate Silver got in on the action, posting an extensive piece on his fivethirtyeight blog that if Hurricane Irene got close enough to New York City, it could be the costliest natural disaster ever. And by Friday, it was heading straight for the Big Apple.
By midnight on Saturday, things (in the words of NBC anchor Brian Williams) were “getting a bit sporty” in NYC. Wind was gusting, rain was coming sideways. The streets were empty, save for dozens of intrepid local TV news reporters deployed throughout the city, standing ready to report on the impending damage. Which, remember, was going to be bad.
The center of Irene hit New York around 9am Sunday. Winds reached 65 mph, the strongest in 25 years. By 10 am, the worst was over. No hurricane-shattered skyscraper windows, no preemptive power outages, no real flooding to speak of. The general tone among New Yorkers Sunday morning was, “That’s it?” But to watch the local TV news on Sunday, the storm had been epic. Rather than call in their battalion of reporters stationed around the area, the NYC TV news media kept reporting. All day.
Q. Why does liberal media bias exist in the first place? What would you suggest as a way that a) journalists could be more aware of their own bias and limit it in their reporting; or b) the profession of journalism could attract a more unbiased (or merely more representative) cohort? – Jack
You don’t have to be all that sharp to see that there’s a lot of hacking going on lately. As I type, Rupert Murdoch and his allies are testifying before British Parliament over the mushrooming News of the World disaster. It seems like everyone on earth is getting hacked: consultants and cops, Sony and the Senate, the IMF and Citi, and firms ranging from Lockheed Martin (China suspected) to Google (ditto) to dowdy old PBS. But is there really more hacking than usual of late, or are we just more observant?
To answer this question, we put together a Freakonomics Quorum of cyber-security and I.T. experts (see past Quorums here) and asked them the following:
Why has there been such a spike in hacking recently? Or is it merely a function of us paying closer attention and of institutions being more open about reporting security breaches?
L.A.’s “Carmageddon” is over. For those in the rest of the country, or Angelenos who spent the last two months trekking in Bhutan or in monastic seclusion, Carmageddon was the result of the complete closure of a major Los Angeles freeway over the weekend. The results?
Carmageddon was predicted by almost all journalists and government officials to be a brewing traffic nightmare of unprecedented dimensions. Only a day before the event I was reading predictions by our transportation authorities stating that traffic as much as 50 miles away would reach nightmare-like proportions. Only a very few, including myself, predicted we would see a situation of unusually light traffic reminiscent of the last time a similar situation happened: the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
In fact, Carmageddon saw stunningly low traffic levels, with many who did venture out reporting they had never driven at such speeds in LA in their lifetimes. Moreover, fears that the project (which involved demolishing half of a bridge over the highway) would drag on into Monday’s rush hour proved totally unfounded, as the work was completed and the freeway reopened on Sunday afternoon, many hours ahead of schedule.
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.
A Forbes.com article by Jeff Bercovici discusses the New York Times‘s plan to shut down a rogue Twitter feed called FreeNYTimes, which is meant to circumvent the Times‘s upcoming metered model (some people call it a paywall). As Bercovici writes: It’s clever, but it’s not kosher. “We have asked Twitter to disable this feed as it is in violation of . . .
In case you haven’t heard, an accident on the Washington metro claimed nine lives last week. But then again, chances are you have heard, as the crash got wide coverage over the airwaves, on the net, and in the papers (by my count, at least five articles appeared in The Times). This is usually the case when trains or planes are involved in deadly disasters.
Last week, Israel’s oldest newspaper, Haaretz, took a one-off chance, temporarily replacing its workaday reporters with 31 of the country’s leading poets and authors. The writers, as writers do, ran amok. They filed epic front-page news reports on daily life in the first person; ruminated about childhood in an interview with the country’s defense minister; and delivered the weather report as a sonnet. The market report, written by a celebrated children’s book author, read like a fairy tale: “Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place … Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9 percent to a level of 1,860 points …”
It is always interesting to watch what happens when the media latches onto a given issue and then, as the reality on the ground evolves — sometimes radically — the media fails to catch up to, or even monitor, the changes. This means the public is stuck with an outdated version of conventional wisdom which, even if it were true . . .
A reader named Mason DeCamillis writes in with a question/complaint: Why does it take several weeks for magazines to update my mailing address when I move? I just changed my address with two magazines (on their respective websites), and both say it will take up to two publication cycles for the change to take effect. That seems crazy. When I . . .
| Via Andrew Sullivan: romance novel sales are up — after generating $1.375 billion in revenue in 2007. Expect these numbers to rise, even as other areas of the entertainment industry suffer, because romance novels tend to do better in economic downturns. O.K., so if we’re spending the recession fighting off zombie banks, can we expect a big spike in . . .
| Mad Money host Jim Cramer took a drubbing from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last night (watch online). But talk about creative destruction — at the end of the interview, Cramer accepted a challenge to take a more hard-nosed, investigative tack on his own show. Imagine if Cramer had gone on Mad Money in August of last year . . .
I took the plunge and bought a Blu-ray player Monday, on sale at $300 instead of the $600 list. Since $300 was my reservation price, I derived no consumer surplus. But its absence was made up for when I logged onto Netflix to receive Blu-ray instead of DVD disks in the mail. For only $1 extra per month, I get . . .
Since the recession was made official, and even before, magazine covers brought out a host of recession-related imagery: downward-slanting arrows, roller coasters, and even (groan) the passé bear or bull. Back in October, Vanessa Voltolina, writing for Folio magazine’s blog, asked BusinessWeek‘s art director Andrew Horton what makes a good or bad recession cover. “There are a slew of recession . . .
If you’ve visited the home page of Amazon.com anytime in the past several months, it’s hard not to notice its big house ad for the Kindle (and now the Kindle 2). And I don’t blame them. Amazon is an amazing company that could probably sell just about anything. (As a writer, I am grateful they started out with books.) With . . .
The notion of micropayments — a pay-per-click/download web model — is hardly a new one. But as a business model it hasn’t exactly caught fire, or even generated more than an occasional spark. Lately, however, the journalism community has become obsessed with the idea. This is what happens when an existing business model begins to collapse: alternative models are desperately . . .
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 . . .
The streaming music site Muxtape has returned as a free platform for musicians to promote their music.
Emerging in a time when cassette tapes had long been an anachronism, Muxtape became a go-to site for music fans to string together their favorite songs and share the virtual mix tapes with friends and internet passers-by. Founded in early 2008, the site quickly became ensnared in licensing disputes and was shut down last August.
Newspapers are disappearing faster than alpine glaciers, and a new paper by journalist-turned-public-policy scholar Eric Pooley suggests the two may be related. Pooley’s paper argues that newspapers have failed as referees of the public debate on preventing climate change, reporting junk economics and good economics with equal weight. In these muddied waters, Pooley suggests, it’s harder for the government to . . .
New York magazine, riffing on Drew Barrymore‘s starring role in the film adaptation of He’s Just Not That Into You, suggests 10 other self-help books that should be Barrymore vehicles, including Freakonomics: Drew Barrymore stars as a free-spirited Northwestern economics grad student who ventures into the Cabrini Green projects on the south side of Chicago to research the lives of . . .
Despite NBC banning sexually explicit ad content from the Super Bowl broadcast, Comcast customers in parts of Tuscon were exposed to about 30 seconds of a pornographic film which interrupted Comcast’s Super Bowl coverage on Sunday. According to The Huffington Post, Comcast suspects the work of hackers. The company is paying each of its affected customers a $10 refund. Blog . . .
I’ve made no secret of my Pittsburgh Steelers fandom — the most recent example is here — and so yes, Sunday was a happy day in our house. The problem is that my productivity suffers afterwards because there’s so much post-game stuff to monitor.
A Palestinian in a tunnel between Gaza and Egypt. (Photo: Moises Saman/The New York Times) A pair of recent articles — one in The New York Times and the other, a McClatchy report, in The Seattle Times — describe in close-up detail how Palestinians living in Gaza have gotten back to work digging tunnels that lead into Egypt. These tunnels, . . .