Tag Archives: journalism

Well this was disappointing…

The posts on The Players Tribune are not written by the players.  If I would have thought about this, I would have realized that they were too well written…

Richard Sandomir of The New York Times provides that answer in an excellent feature on The Players’ Tribune that ran this weekend. Much of Sandomir’s piece looks at how The Players’ Tribune beat mainstream media to David Ortiz’s comments about drug testing, which is notable in its own right (and has even prompted a thoughtful response from Dan Shaughnessy, of all people), but the part that’s perhaps even more interesting, and concerning, is his discussion of how articles on the site come to be:

Like nearly every post on the site, the Ortiz essay was not written directly by its bylined athlete but instead crafted from a recorded interview with a Tribune staff producer. Hoenig said these interviews are less traditional question-and-answer sessions than monologues with questions to nudge the conversation along. Editing is minimal, he added, and the athletes get the final approval. The staff producers who talk to them do not get bylines.

It may not be shocking to many that most of the well-written pieces appearing on the site aren’t actually just the result of a professional athlete sitting down at a keyboard, but the actual discussion of this process raises plenty of questions. The way The Players’ Tribune presents its pieces is at best disingenuous, and it’s problematic from a couple of standpoints.

First off, there’s the nature of the portrayal. Having these pieces appear under an athlete’s byline, with no addition of “With [journalist],” suggests they’re actually written by the athlete. They may be using the athlete’s words, but it’s the uncredited producers who are actually assembling them into a piece. Yes, Hoenig says editing is minimal, and yes, athletes are signing off on the final pieces, but presenting these pieces as if they’re essays carefully crafted by the athletes themselves rather than assembled from interviews gives the wrong impression and context to readers. It also does a disservice to the athletes (and other prominent figures) who do actually write their own material.

No second chance for Stephen Glass: The long, strange downfall of a journalistic wunderkind

The entire back story to this is fascinating

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.

Want to be a freelance journalist?

Here is what it pays

I went freelance full time in December 2011 and made $17,000 in the first seven months, an average of almost $2500 a month. Making that little was, more or less, the plan. I had savings and I knew I needed to “get my name out there.” I wrote for free. I wrote for very little. I wrote pieces I didn’t want to write. I said no to almost nothing.

Slowly, it started to pay off. A story I wrote for The Awl prompted an editor at The Verge to contact me. I’ve written a number of features for them that paid between $750 and $1,500. After flying on Emirates Airlines and enjoying the in-flight magazine, I pitched the editor. He liked them and I continue to write features that pay a little less than a $1/word. I wrote slideshows for Complex.com for $10/slide (about sports, not hot women). I wrote a feature ($1,000) and blog posts ($250) for ESPN.com’s Grantland, and a photo-driven bit for ESPN The Magazine ($800).

I did pieces for BuzzFeed ($300), Penthouse ($750-$1,500), The Wall Street Journal’s sports section ($1/word), SBNation’s Longform unit ($1,750), Splitsider ($100), Guyism.com ($300/story), Street Fight ($0 but a slice of equity), The New Republic’s website ($150), and other outlets. Some paid more than they needed to, some paid less than they should. Deadspin gave me $100 for two pieces I wrote in Kiev, Ukraine. That seemed low, especially when they offered Jay Mariotti $1,000. (I’m 1/20th as valuable as he? Perhaps not untrue, but still, ouch.) At various points, I had contracts with mediabistro.com ($900/month), NBC ($350/month), Outside ($433/month), and Pacific Standard ($600/month).

I pitched and wrote constantly. I submitted invoices to between six and 12 outlets a month. But while I found consistent work, there were no massive payoffs. The most I made for a single piece was $2,200, although I did help launch and continue to edit American Soccer Now, a soccer website. I was paid a one-time fee of $10,000 and given a bit of equity. In my accounting, I spread that money over the six months starting in June, 2012 and now spend two hours a day working on the site, essentially for free.

I did less glamorous work, like ghostwriting a self-help guide ($40/hour) and some light editing and web production for a major media company ($50/hour). These weren’t my favorite assignments, but they paid well and freed me up to take a flyer on other pieces with low rates but potentially a bigger impact. Plus, while we’d all like to think there’s some magical fairytale land where freelancers write what they want when they want, that simply isn’t true. I have talked to many, many freelance writers while trying to figure out how to make it as one over the past eight years, and the vast majority take the occasional (or frequent) lucrative gig when it arrives.

I’m lucky. I’m making it work. I learned plenty about the economics of business, the good and the bad, especially that I am a poor negotiator. Still, I made a little more than $50,000 in the last six months of 2012 and around $45,000 during the first half of this year. It’s possible to succeed in this gig economy. It’s also exhausting. I’ve grown more ambitious and pitched bigger stories to larger outlets, but nothing has hit yet. Still, I keep trying.

If the media covered the United States like it covered foreign countries

Here is the situation,

Let us say that a guy got drunk at a bar outside of Mobile, Alabama, got in a fight with some dudes about University of Alabama versus Ole Miss college football, and ended up shooting them dead in the parking lot.

Terrible, right? Stupid, violent, too many damn guns, shame, right?

Now imagine that some foreigners slapped a crappy pseudo-anthropological analysis on top, full of weird historical references, non-sequitur references to the church, and misguided assumptions about ethnicity.

It would look like this

Yet another massacre has occurred in the historically war-torn region of the Southern United States – and so soon after the religious festival of Easter.

Brian McConkey, 27, a Christian fundamentalist militiaman living in the formerly occupied territory of Alabama, gunned down three men from an opposing tribe in the village square near Montgomery, the capitol, over a discussion that may have involved the rituals of the local football cult. In this region full of heavily-armed local warlords and radical Christian clerics, gun violence is part of the life of many.

Many of the militiamen here are ethnic Scots-Irish tribesmen, a famously indomitable mountain people who have killed civilized men – and each other – for centuries. It appears that the wars that started on the fields of Bannockburn and Stirling have come to America.

As the sun sets over the former Confederate States of America, one wonders – can peace ever come to this land?

The Life of a Syrian Citizen Journalist

Hussein worked for his family’s real estate company before the Syrian uprising became increasingly violent 8 months ago. Frequent bombings and gunfire between President Bashar al-Assad forces and Syrian rebels turned the country into one of the most dangerous place in the world. Most jobs in Syria, including Hussein’s in Quasir, disappeared. Hussein, a pro-revolution activist who asked not to use his last name for fear of retribution, began taking pictures and videos of the violence and sending them to TV stations, free of charge. Blockades and attacks on foreign journalists in Syria has made real-time information about the conflict more and more scarce. Broadcaster are increasingly relying on untrained citizen journalists like Hussein for insight into what’s going on in the country.

In other Syrian news, the violence intensifies.

What passes for tech journalism

So this is the scene in the Silicon Valley

It’s tough being a journalist, especially if you’re covering technology and living in Silicon Valley, because it seems as if everyone around you is getting fabulously rich while you’re stuck in a job that will never, ever make you wealthy. What’s worse is that all these people who are getting rich don’t seem to be any brighter than you are and in fact many of them don’t seem very bright at all. So of course you get jealous. And then you start thinking maybe you could find a way to cash in on this gold rush. But how do you make gobs of money when your only marketable skill involves writing blog posts?

This is the conundrum, but lately I’ve been thinking of a business plan that sounds like it could work. First you establish yourself as an “influencer” by posting a lot of noisy stuff on a blog and building an audience. Then you need to “monetize” your influence. You tell all the VCs in the Valley that you are starting an “angel fund,” and you ask each one to give you, say, $500,000. They go along because (a) $500,000 is pocket change to these guys — so small, in fact, that they don’t care if they lose every penny of it; and (b) you’re an influential hack and they don’t want to piss you off; and (c) they figure you can maybe write nice things about their portfolio companies, which would be especially useful if/when one of their portfolio companies gets caught up in some scandal; and (d) if any independent journalists write something critical about one of the VC’s portfolio companies, you can can use your influential personal blog to savagely attack those journalists and try to discredit them.

So you raise $10 million or $20 million, and now you’re an “angel investor.” Step two is you go around to startups and tell them you’d really like to invest in their companies. Not big investments — maybe $100,000. They don’t need your money; they can raise money from anyone, and usually you’re one of 10 or 20 small investors in a round. But the value you add is that you’re an “influencer” and can be helpful when it comes to getting good press or offsetting bad press. (See paragraph above.)

You might think of this as a new kind of PR, only you’re way meaner and more effective than a PR flack, and instead of getting paid in billable hours, you’re taking payment in angel-round equity, which in a few years should be worth 10-100x whatever those billable hours would have been worth.

In fact this is a new version of an old racket that used to be practiced in the tech space by guys who called themselves “independent analysts.” Their deal, back in the day, was this: “Pay seven figures a year to buy a corporate subscription to my newsletter and I’ll say nice things about your company, and when the press needs a quote, I’ll be there to puff you up. Or, don’t buy a subscription and I will bash you relentlessly.” Most big companies paid up and considered it a cost of doing business.

Well, this is the model I was thinking about, but it turns out someone beat me to it — it’s called CrunchFund, and in the past few days we’ve seen the machine in action, and it is indeed a beautiful thing.

Phone hacking is a “worthy tool”?

Umm, you have to read this for yourself.

After Paul McMullan, a former deputy features editor at Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid, had finished his jaw-droppingly brazen remarks at a judicial inquiry on Tuesday, it was hard to think of any dubious news-gathering technique he had not confessed to, short of pistol-whipping sources for information.

This is his justification

“Phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool, given the sacrifices we make, if all we’re trying to do is get to the truth,” Mr. McMullan said, asking whether “we really want to live in a world where the only people who can do the hacking are MI5 and MI6.”

No, he said, we do not.

“For a brief period of about 20 years, we have actually lived in a free society where we can hack back,” he said.

Journalists in Britain have traditionally justified shady practices by arguing that they are in “the public interest.” Asked by an inquiry lawyer how he would define that, Mr. McMullan said that the public interest is what the public is interested in.

Which means of course…

The year he became deputy features editor, he said, the department had a budget of £ 3.1 million — more than $4.5 million — to pay sources, buy stories and hire outsiders to find addresses, medical records and other information. “That was the joy of working for Murdoch,” he said. “They had that big pot of money.”

The other problems are these pesky privacy laws.

Mr. McMullan said he thought that privacy was “evil,” in that it helps criminals cover up their misdeeds.

According to McMullan and others, there was no privacy for anyone who would help them sell newspapers.  They could do anything to anyone as long as the public was interested in it and they could pull it off.  It was a company with no sense of ethics at all.

So much for journalism

For most of us you are either for or against CBC but it doesn’t matter what you think of the CBC, you can’t pretend to think this qualifies as journalism by the London Free Press.

CBC Money DrainCBC bureaucrats, production people, and journalists are feeling a little cramped in their 23-storey broadcast palace in Montreal.

Earlier this month, the federal government asked developers and others for information about the redevelopment of the CBC tower that dominates the corner of René-Lévesque Boulevard and Papineau Street in Montreal.

Federal documents indicate the 1970s-era Maison Radio-Canada "doesn’t provide enough flexibility for CBC technical and office space requirements."

So, Crown Corporation executives are pushing for a $1.6 billion public-private redevelopment of the property, which would also provide its French operation with bigger headquarters through "a new construction on the existing site or a major retrofit of the current space."

The feds have also asked for companies with expertise in "engineering, architecture, and interior design² to propose a full technical plan for a redeveloped Maison Radio-Canada."

The City of Montreal says the redevelopment would also include 2,200 new housing units plus new retail space.

Taxpayers subsidize the CBC to the tune of $1.1 billion annually.

Personally I think the CBC does a horrible job of explaining it’s $1.1 billion subsidy and I know that Quebecor is upset about it but I am not sure that using that term palace, inserting the subsidy line into most of their stories or using a graphic depicting a CBC Money Drain contributes anything or makes me want to take Quebecor seriously as a new outlet.

If I was Quebecor I would be more worried about my mediocre website, irrelevant news channel and editing like we see above and be less worried about what CBC’s future plans are.

CNN’s new advertising

I was watching CNN this week and was stunned by the poor job the anchor was doing bringing any kind of accountability to the Republican guest.  Considering that their advertising was “Keeping them Honest”, they seem to do a horrible job of it, even their respected hosts like Wolf Blitzer.  In an attempt to appear non-partisan, they are not keeping anyone honest by not taking a stand on anything. 

The “let’s leave it there” that you hear over and over again means that guest can lie to your hearts content and no one will call them on it.  In many ways it has made them less reliable than MSNBC and Fox News.  Jon Stewart goes to town on CNN in this 2009 segment.

image

What is scary about this segment is that it isn’t that far off base.  CNN seems to be going through the motions more than actually being a news source I can trust.

The News Corp. Coverup

This is from the Columbia Journalism Review.  It’s structured in a way that you want to read and watch all of it.  My question is how did everyone not see this coming?  You have a news organization that has made it’s name being intellectually dishonest and selling sensational stories and now they seem shocked that this could have happened.  I like Prime Minister David Cameron but News Corp. is engaged in this kind of stuff all over the world.  My gosh look at the libel suits brought against the News of the World.  This kind of behaviour is part of their corporate structure and they rewarded their staff for doing it.

Update: Here’s more.  Predictably there looks like there is a cover-up.

What’s Wrong with Television Journalism

Wow, what a post by Kai Nagata

Aside from feeling sexually attracted to the people on screen, the target viewer, according to consultants, is also supposed to like easy stories that reinforce beliefs they already hold. This is where the public broadcaster is caught in a tough spot. CBC Television, post-Stursberg, is failing in two ways. Despite modest gains in certain markets, (and bigger gains for reality shows like Dragon’s Den and Battle of the Blades) it’s still largely failing to broadcast to the public. More damnably, the resulting strategy is now to compete with for-profit networks for the lowest hanging fruit. In this race to the bottom, the less time and money the CBC devotes to enterprise journalism, the less motivation there is for the private networks to maintain credibility by funding their own investigative teams. Even then, “consumer protection” content has largely replaced political accountability.

It’s a vicious cycle, and it creates things like the Kate and Will show. Wall-to-wall, breaking-news coverage of a stage-managed, spoon-fed celebrity visit, justified by the couple’s symbolic relationship to a former colony, codified in a document most Canadians have never read (and one province has never signed). On a weekend where there was real news happening in Bangkok, Misrata, Athens, Washington, and around the world, what we saw instead was a breathless gaggle of normally credible journalists, gushing in live hit after live hit about how the prince is young and his wife is pretty. And the public broadcaster led the charge.

He continues with this.

Jon Stewart talks about a “right-wing narrative of victimization,” and what it has accomplished in Canada is the near-paralysis of progressive voices in broadcasting. In the States, even Fox News anchor Chris Wallace admitted there is an adversarial struggle afoot – that, in his view, networks like NBC have a “liberal” bias and Fox is there to tell “the other side of the story.” Well, Canada now has its Fox News. Krista Erickson, Brian Lilley, and Ezra Levant each do a wonderful send-up of the TV anchor character. The stodgy, neutral, unbiased broadcaster trope is played for jokes before the Sun News team gleefully rips into its targets. But Canada has no Jon Stewart to unravel their ideology and act as a counterweight. Our satirists are toothless and boring, with the notable exception of Jean-René Dufort. And on the more serious side, we have no Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow. So I don’t see any true debate within the media world itself, in the sense of a national, public clash of ideas. The Canadian right wing, if you want to call it that, has had five years to get the gloves off. With a majority Conservative government in power, they’re putting on brass knuckles. Meanwhile the left is grasping about in a pair of potholders. The only explanation I can think of is they’re too polite, or too scared. If it’s the latter, I think it’s clear enough why.

Anyone see anything wrong with this ad?

The Toronto Sun doesn't know what an iPhone isIf you can’t tell the difference between a Windows Phone and an iPhone, how do we trust you to get the important things right. Everyone asks me why I care if a news outlet spells my name right.  CBC is the absolute worst for this.  On camera I spell out my name.  I give the reporter a business card and then when I look online or watch the news, it is spelled wrong.  I don’t care that much but it’s careless and it bugs me and I immediately wonder what else they have gotten wrong.

A couple of reporters have said that I should use the report a typo form and I have and nothing has ever happened so I give up.  Maybe I should legally change my name to Jordan and just give up.  That and maybe I’ll pick up a Windows Phone 7 like the one to my right.

The world’s first newspaper website?

Back at the turn of the century, the Boston Globe would hang large handwritten signs out front with headlines which looked like the world’s first newspaper website/blog.

The Boston Globe breaking news

They eventually added a sports website, with streaming audio.

The Boston Globe breaking news

RSS hadn’t caught on yet so the readers had to actually visit the site.

The Boston Globe breaking news

This photo was taken during the epic 1912 World Series (first 7 games series to go 8 games and first World Series to come down to the final inning).  The practice continued into the 1960s.  Here is the 1945 headline of FDR’s death.

The Boston Globe breaking news

Why not link?

Doc Searls asks why major news outlets don’t link to original sources?

The reasons I’ve usually heard for not linking, or for only linking to internal pages, is that the journal’s site “needs” to be “sticky,” to “drive traffic” past ads, and to maximize the time spent by readers on the site. (Nobody defends the tracking of readers.) Whatever the rationale, not-linking compromises an online journal’s editorial mission — especially if not-linking is policy and not just habit.

The first comment in the post is by Dave Winer who correctly points out that, “People come back to places that send them away.”