I hope one of them is Comic Sans Serif. I hate that font.
A weblog about urbanism, technology, & culture.
but is largely describing how Saskatoon City Council operates in Saskatoon. It’s really depressing.
Simmons was raised mostly in Boston, where every loss is like a death in the family, and even at 44, he watches sports with the delight of a kid — albeit a kid who’s a multimedia mogul. During the NBA playoffs, which last nearly two months and end in June, he’ll be a fixture on ESPN and ABC, via NBA Countdown. His 700-page Book of Basketball, despite being fatter than Eddy Curry in the off-season, debuted at Number One on The New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list. He goaded ESPN into making documentaries, which yielded 30 for 30, an excellent, Emmy-nominated series he executive-produces. His lively B.S. Report podcast, where he interviews jocks, actors, comedians college buddies, his dad, and Barack Obama, was downloaded 32 million times last year, and to keep him from bolting in 2011, ESPN gave him his own well-staffed website, Grantland. TV, books, documentaries, digital — it’s the sportswriter version of the EGOT.
“We have similarly thorough backgrounds when it comes to movies, TV, sports and other worthless things,” says his friend Jimmy Kimmel, who hired Simmons as a joke writer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “Bill’s very funny, he’s married pop culture and sports more than anyone else, and he built his own media empire from a little blog.”
That’s not just tickle-tickle buddy talk. Simmons started to accrue a huge following in 1997, when he began blogging on AOL’s Boston website in the role of an irritant and smart aleck, under the name Boston Sports Guy. Last summer, a Canadian columnist called him “an honest-to-God magnate” and “one of the defining figures” in digital media. All magnates have haters; Simmons makes it easy by frequently getting into feuds.
On NBA Countdown, Simmons plays a slightly exaggerated version of himself: a comedic troublemaker, “the wild card who doesn’t give a shit,” he tells me. “I’m part historian, part know-it-all, and part shit-stirrer. I don’t hold back – that’s the key.”
During a recent Countdown, he denounced Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson, whom Simmons has tagged as the most overpaid player in the NBA. “Joe Johnson did not deserve to be on the all-star team,” he says, so outraged and high-pitched he’s nearly yelping. “Even he had to be shocked he made it.” After the show goes off the air, Countdown host Sage Steele turns to him, shaking her head. “You,” she tells him, “are a psycho.”
The shit has been successfully stirred: Within minutes, Twitter is in flames. “Never hated a sports analyst as much as I hate Bill Simmons,” I read as I scroll through his mentions, followed by “I want to punch him in the face,” “He is such a douche” and “If Bill Simmons ever got in a car accident, I would be happy.” There are compliments, too, but, let’s face it, those are boring.
Simmons has 2.6 million followers on Twitter. Many can’t wait to tell him what an idiot he is. (The Simmons brand has a strong ripple effect: Even his wife, known as the Sports Gal, has 25,000 followers, despite not having tweeted in almost a year.) Sports Twitter is a mire of stupidity, homophobia, and violent threats. It’s probably the most inane culture on Twitter; at least on Politics Twitter, you occasionally come across a fact.
Simmons uses Twitter almost exclusively to promote and link to Grantland material. He doesn’t reply to people who think he’s a douche, or want to punch his face. He also writes fewer sports columns than he used to, partly because TV and movies occupy more of his time. The Internet gave him a career, an audience, wealth, influence, and fourth-row seats for the Clippers. But lately, Bill Simmons is kind of over the Internet.
And this is how it happened.
Once Simmons got an ESPN assignment, he quickly found an audience. But just as immediately, his relationship with the Worldwide Leader in Sports was full of conflict. “ESPN was idiotic,” says Simmons, who can match any athlete for self-confidence. “They fucked with my column for the first year, taking out jokes, and I was pissed off. They were rebuilding their site around me, but they were paying me nothing. So I had a meltdown: I didn’t turn in a column. I was like, ‘Attica! Attica!’ ” He laughs. “I was probably smoking too much pot.”
ESPN rewarded his work strike with a raise. “Bill likes to be in control,” an insider says. “In the early days, he was very upset about where they placed his column, versus where other columnists were. He’s a great advocate for himself and his brand.”
It wasn’t Simmons’ last fight with his bosses. They’ve suspended him from Twitter twice for tweets: for referring to Boston sports-radio hosts who worked for an ESPN affiliate as “deceitful scumbags,” and also for saying an interview that aired on ESPN was “awful and embarrassing.” Does he think they were right to suspend him? “No, I don’t.”
ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Company, and some of Simmons’ behavior — like, say, calling soccer “gay” or mocking people for being fat — makes him a far more troublesome employee than Mickey Mouse. Periodically, the two parties get annoyed at one another. ESPN president John Skipper once said working with Simmons was “about 99.8 percent great.” (“Working with ESPN is 99.1 percent great,” Simmons counters.) Convincing the network to do 30 For 30 required “a year of arm-twisting,” he says. When it was a success, and his basketball book had been a big hit, his contract was up for renewal. “I had a little leverage.” He told ESPN that he wanted his own site, or he’d leave and do it elsewhere.
Grantland’s success, like Simmons’, has resulted from good fortune as well as talent. Since 2002, Boston teams have dominated pro sports, tallying eight titles in twelve calendar years, including baseball, basketball, hockey, and football. No other city has ever had that kind of success, and it brought a lot of attention to Simmons. No wonder he loves Tom Brady so much.
“When we were launching, we didn’t realize technology advances would help us so much.” GIFs, Instapaper, wi-fi, embeddable links — all foster the ease of promoting a digital magazine. “The iPad has been a godsend — it’s probably the greatest thing that’s’ happened to Grantland. Nobody knew the fucking iPad was coming. I didn’t. We hit at the right time.”
In a recent month, Grantland, according to comScore, had 4.7 million unique visitors, which represents just a sliver of ESPN’s 62 million unique visitors and pales compared to Yahoo Sports’ 57.9 million. (Even Deadspin, the Johnny Lawrence to Simmons’ Daniel LaRusso, had 13.8 million.) But the site’s balance sheet isn’t the point. ESPN likely pays him more than $5 million a year, the insider estimates — not because of Grantland, but because Simmons is a guy with big ideas, a one-man vertical-integration engine.
Now that he oversees an empire, Simmons says he doesn’t care as much about Boston teams. “It’s not life-or-death anymore,” he says with a shrug. But that might not be true. His daughter loves L.A.’s hockey team, the Kings, so he took her to see them play his team, the Bruins. “Boston won, and I taunted her on the way home. She started crying. She was, like, six years old.” A few years later, they went to another Kings-Bruins game, and this time her team won. “She was yelling and high-fiving everyone,” Simmons says, “and she taunted me.” Of course she did. It’s in the bloodline.
At the time, my then colleague (and current business partner) Mark Fabiani and I were working at the White House as lawyers in the counsel’s office and began to receive calls from mainstream media outlets asking us to respond to various bizarre items related to the late Vince Foster, a fellow White House lawyer who had tragically taken his own life in the summer of 1993. At first, we ignored the calls, as there was nothing to the story beyond the terrible loss of one of the president and first lady’s friends. However, as the calls continued without letup, and the nature of the questions became even more bizarre—to the point where we were asked to comment on alleged eyewitness sightings of Foster—we knew we had to get to the heart of the matter and began asking the reporters the basis for their questions.
All roads led to a mysterious source—the newly exploding Internet.
One Saturday morning in the midst of an oppressively hot D.C. summer weekend, Mark and I found ourselves squirreled away in a stuffy room on the fourth floor of the Old Executive Office Building, where there was a bank of computers from which you could access the “World Wide Web.” Remember—this was the pre-Blackberry, pre-Google, dial-up world of 1995, when only around 10 percent of the public had Internet access and the White House had just barely launched its own web page.
Eight hours later, we emerged from our warren of cubicles having seemingly been transported to a parallel universe. Online we found early versions of chat rooms, postings and other information showing there was an entire cottage industry devoted to discussing conspiracy theories relating to Foster’s death, including numerous online reports of people claiming to have seen him. Those reports would be picked up by so-called news sources that most Americans at the time had never heard of—conservative outlets such as Eagle Publishing’s Human Events or Richard Mellon Scaife’s the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. From there, the story would migrate to right-leaning outlets we were familiar with, such as the New York Post, the Washington Times and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal—all before eventually ending up in the mainstream press.
What we learned in those eight hours became the basis for our 332-page report, written so that those of us in Clinton White House responsible for fielding questions about these bizarre rumors could apprise mainstream reporters of what we called the “media food chain”—basically, so that we could show them how such a wacky conspiracy theory like the supposed murder of Vince Foster had even become a news “story” at all. We would simply hand the memo to the reporter asking questions, tell him to review it and to come back to us with any remaining questions. Few did.
But we also realized that this was just the beginning. Like the scene in Bugsy where Warren Beatty, playing the mobster Bugsy Siegel, arrives in the Nevada desert and the sees the future of gambling (modern Las Vegas), those eight hours in the White House computer room were our eureka moment about the future of media and politics. We saw the transition from an electorate that passively consumed the information put before it (a joke at the time was that a political rally was a family watching a political commercial on television) to an electorate that could use technology to actively engage in the creation, distribution and self-selection of information.
(Of course, had we been just a little more business-savvy, we would have immediately relocated to Silicon Valley instead of writing that report.)
The California Supreme Court has denied disgraced former journalist Stephen Glass a license to practice law.
Pointing out in its ruling that “Glass’s journalistic dishonesty was not a single lapse of judgment” but “involved significant deceit sustained unremittingly for a period of years” — made the more reprehensible because it took place “while he was pursuing a law degree and license to practice law, when the importance of honesty should have gained new meaning and significance for him” — the court found that Glass had not adequately redeemed himself.
For all of Glass’ past history — and I’ll get to that, at length, in a moment — the judgment is remarkable. The last time California barred a lawyer before he’d even practiced his first case, it involved a man named Eben Gossage, who served three years for killing his sister then returned to prison for possession of heroin.
If you recall, Glass was The New Republic associate editor who in the late 1990s fabricated in whole or part dozens of articles, mostly published in The New Republic but also for Harpers, Rolling Stone, and the now defunct George magazine. At the time, it was the journalism scandal to end all journalism scandals. Glass vanished for a while, heading off to law school (and a brief stint as an improv comedian) before finally passing the California bar exam in 2009. The California State Bar promptly banned him from practicing, based on his prior moral turpitude, a decision he successfully appealed. The case wound through the courts, leading to today’s final decision by the state’s Supreme Court.
Aaron Gordon of Sports on Earth watched 32 NFL games to determine the best and worst NFL announcers.
As I suspected, Chris Collingsworth (NBC) and Mike Maylock (NFL Network) do pretty well.
The testimony by the editor, Alan Rusbridger, gave a public airing to the debate over how to balance press freedom against national security concerns, an issue that became more acute once The Guardian began publishing material leaked by Mr. Snowden in June.
The American and British governments have said the disclosures, which detail how the National Security Agency and its equivalent in Britain, Government Communication Headquarters, gather vast amounts of data, damage national security and help hostile governments. Journalists and transparency advocates have countered that the leak spurred a vital debate on privacy and the role of spy agencies in the Internet age.
Mr. Rusbridger said Tuesday that the governments’ measures “include prior restraint,” as well as visits by officials to his office, the enforced destruction of Guardian computer disks with power tools and repeated calls from lawmakers “asking police to prosecute” The Guardian for disclosing the classified material in news articles.
As he testified before a Parliamentary committee on national security, he faced aggressive questioning from lawmakers, particularly those of the ruling Conservative Party. Some asserted that The Guardian had handled the material irresponsibly, putting it at risk of interception by hostile governments and others. Others said the paper had jeopardized national security.
At one point during the hearing, Mr. Rusbridger was asked, to his evident surprise, whether he loved his country. He answered yes, noting that he valued its democracy and free press. After Mr. Rusbridger’s testimony, a senior British police officer, Cressida Dick, refused to rule out prosecutions as part of an investigation into the matter.
Since the revelations, newspapers, particularly those that have dealt with Mr. Snowden’s material, have also had to adjust to a harsh new reporting environment, security experts and journalists said, as governments and others seek secret material held by reporters.
“The old model was kind of like your house,” said Marc Frons, the chief information officer of The New York Times. “You locked your front door and windows, but not your desk drawer, even if it had your passport inside. In the new model, you have locks on everything.”
The Guardian, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal declined to comment about internal security arrangements.
But Mr. Rusbridger told Parliament that the newspaper “went to more precautions over this material than any other story we have ever handled.”
Senior Guardian editors were initially skeptical this year when asked to hand over their cellphones before discussing Mr. Snowden’s documents, said a person with knowledge of the reporting process, who did not want to be named discussing confidential security procedures.
That soon changed when they reviewed the information Mr. Snowden had supplied, this person said. The documents, they came to realize, would be of intense interest not only to the American and British governments, from which they were taken, but also to other governments like China and Russia seeking an espionage edge and hackers seeking to embarrass either government agencies or the publications reporting on the material.
Eventually the same editors insisted that meetings be held in rooms without windows and that any electronic devices nearby be unplugged. Computers that contained the information could never be connected to the Internet. And reporters who needed to consult with colleagues in other countries about the documents had to fly them over physically and meet in person, despite the extra costs. On one occasion, Mr. Rusbridger said, encrypted documents were sent via FedEx.
Greenwald has been a careful observer of politics since his childhood in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, where he watched his grandfather serve as a city councilman. In high school, he joined the debate team, and during his senior year, at 17, he decided to run for city council.
“In high school I was always a little … I forged my own path,” he said.
But Greenwald learned — after two unsuccessful campaigns before the age of 25 — he wasn’t cut out for politics.
“My grandfather would try to represent poor homeowners against the powers that be in the city. He taught me that whatever skills you have should be devoted toward undermining the people who are the strongest and most powerful,” Greenwald said. “In politics, you need a desire and ability to please large numbers of people. That’s definitely not in my interests and not what I do well.”
In 2011 the publisher of Guy Kawasaki’s New York Times bestseller, Enchantment, could not fill an order for 500 ebook copies of the book. Because of this experience, Guy self-published his next book, What the Plus! and learned first-hand that self-publishing is a complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process. As Steve Jobs said, “There must be a better way.”
With Shawn Welch, a tech wizard, Guy wrote APE to help people take control of their writing careers by publishing their books. The thesis of APE is simple but powerful: When a self-publisher successfully fills three roles—author, publisher and entrepreneur—the potential benefits are greater than with traditional publishing.
Guy and Shawn call this “artisanal publishing.”
Artisanal publishing features writers who love their craft, and who control every aspect of the process from beginning to end. In this new approach, writers are no longer at the mercy of large, traditional publishers, and readers will have more books to read.
APE is 300 pages of tactical and practical inspiration. People who want a hype-filled, get-rich-quick book should look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want a comprehensive and realistic guide to self-publishing, APE is for you.
A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I wanted to join one of the many roundtables that the new Saskatoon Afternoon Show is having on News Talk 650 CKOM. I am on the air at 5:15 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday where we discuss a wide variety of topics with David Kirton unless there is something breaking like the FBI not finding Jimmy Hoffa’s remains today in Detroit. The Saskatoon Afternoon Show has a variety of interesting guests coming in and out all show all week long so even if you dread the idea of listening to me, there are a lot of great topics and people to listen to.
When I moved to Saskatoon in 1984, 650 CKOM was the only rock station in town (750 was country, and CFQC was kind of mellow and not that appealing to a 10 year old) but believe it or not, Brent Loucks (and Penny Murphy) was the morning host. A lot has changed (other than Loucks does not look a day older than he did in 1984) but its cool to be on the radio station you woke up to as a kid.
For the past 15 months, the brothers Ford have spent two hours on Sunday afternoons moonlighting as comically pugnacious AM radio talk jocks, jawing about key issues – fiscal restraint, lazy politicians, the primacy of subways – and shining a light on important community causes.
As they are targeted by aggressive local media, especially in the past two weeks as allegations of drug involvement swirled about them and the mayor’s office suffered some key departures, their Newstalk 1010 show, The City, has proven a comfortable bunker where they can shut out their naysayers and regroup.
And while they may infuriate critics by using the show’s bully pulpit to beat up opponents, the station’s management intends to keep them on the air for as long as it can without running afoul of Canadian election law. If they delay registering their candidacies for the 2014 election, it may be difficult to remove them until late in the race. (Mayor Ford has said he will be registering “the first day I can possibly register” in early January next year.)
Newstalk 1010 hatched The City in the fall of 2011, with centrist councillor Josh Matlow as host because, according to the station’s program director Mike Bendixen, “a lot of our listeners were fed up with just hearing about all the screaming and yelling and nonsense that was happening at City Hall.” Six months later, after an overture by someone on the mayor’s staff, Mr. Bendixen handed the show over to the Fords.
Critics instantly howled, but many of them have helped give the show a wider resonance than it might otherwise have. Twitter traffic during the shows overflows with mockery of the Fords, an apparent love-to-hate phenomenon. What are deemed as outrageous comments are dutifully reported, echoing out across social media.
That may be in part because sitting mayors hosting radio shows are rare in Canada. They are far more common in the U.S. One of the most high-profile examples was New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who regularly antagonized enemies and common folk alike who dared call in during his Friday morning radio show.
“It unravelled because Duffy couldn’t keep quiet. He sent emails all over the city and he told too many people about it and some of them told me,” Mr. Fife told CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme in a talk-back when the story broke that night.
Unreal and kind of funny at the same time. Duffy finally gets an out of the problems that he is in and the sinks it because he can’t stop talking about it.
Just a related note. I can’t see Duffy resigning because what else can he do now? Would any media outlet touch him?
My colleague Andrew Coyne recently renewed his call for political advertising reform — specifically an end to anything even remotely resembling a public subsidy for it, which I could not possibly support more; and a requirement that party leaders voice their own ads, which somewhat offends my free-speech Spidey senses. But as the Conservatives prepare to roll out some Justin Trudeau attack-mailers, at taxpayer expense, featuring an outrageously misleading quotation, I keep coming back to a perplexing question: We wouldn’t stand for the level of dishonesty and deception we routinely see in political advertising if it came from someone selling pickup trucks, hamburgers, underwear or shampoo. So why the hell do we put up with it from people trying to sell us the people who will run the country?
I have heard the justifications for the exemption of political advertising from Advertising Standards Canada standards any number of times, and at no time have they ever made much sense to me.
It’s impossible to evaluate the truthiness of an ad during an election campaign. So? Do it afterwards and report back. Political advertising isn’t just a campaign phenomenon anymore anyway. Not hardly.
Voters understand and discount hyperbole. That doesn’t seem to be what the parties think, or else they wouldn’t constantly rub hyperbole in our faces.
We need unfettered dialogue and debate in politics. Amen, assuming equal right of rebuttal. But then why not afford people selling vastly less important products the same leeway? I’m reminded of an amusing scenario that Allan Gregg recently imagined: Burger King accusing McDonald’s of using beef rife with botulism, and McDonald’s firing back by claiming that Burger King’s product is swimming in E. coli. And just wait until Wendy’s gets in on the act! Why should politicians be afforded this absurd slanderous luxury if burger joints aren’t?
In 2012, newspapers lost $16 in print ads for every $1 earned in digital ads. And it’s getting worse, according to a new report by Pew. In 2011, the ratio was just 10-to-1.
The digital ad revolution, always “just around the corner”, remains tantalizingly out of reach for most newspapers, which explains why some stalwarts like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have moved to subscription models for their websites to bolster digital ad growth. Just today, the Washington Post announced a paywall.
It’s bad. What’s happened.
Who killed newspapers? The classic response is the classifieds, and it’s true that websites offering direct information about housing, rentals, cars, and other goods and services that once found a unique home in newspapers have gutted the old revenue model. “More than three-quarters of print classified revenue has been lost since 2000,” Pew reports.
But as you can see, the majority of print’s ad decline since 2003 has come from retail ads (the most common slice of most newspapers’ revenue pie) and national ads. Here’s the breakdown of that $25 billion lost over ten years. It’s about $11 billion each from classifieds and retail ads, with the remainder coming from national ad spots.
Former SNL writer, activist, and comedian, Joe Bodolai leaves a stirring suicide note on his blog.