Big time journalists do all kinds of things I would never think to do.
The latest example: When interviewing a young woman who survived the Oklahoma City tornado, CNN's Wolf Blitzer said, "I guess you got to thank the Lord, right?" and then, when the woman didn't immediately answer yes, he asked, "Do you thank the Lord? For that split second decision?" And the woman replied, no, because she is an atheist.
You know, I've interviewed tornado survivors in Alabama, and they were not shy about talking about God. If people want to thank the Lord, they will. You don't have to shove the idea of God down their throat. It's perfectly reasonable to have a conversation, and try to understand the person's outlook, and how their belief system might be playing a role in how they're reacting to the disaster. That's fine. What's not fine is imposing some sort of idea of how a tornado victim is supposed to act and think upon them.
Journalists are supposed to be smart and observant. They're not supposed to bring mawkish God talk into every story that involves a natural disaster or human tragedy. If people want to talk about God, they will. But you shouldn't try to make them.
Here's Slate's Mark Joseph Stern on why Blitzer was out of line.
Paywalls are a good idea, but they are not a panacea for troubled newspapers.
The Awl demonstrates why in a nifty chart, which you can find here.
Having started my career at a paper that no longer exists, the Birmingham Post-Herald, I take newspaper closings personally. Which might explain why I feel compelled to share Charles Pierce's recent piece for Grantland on the folding of the Boston Phoenix.
In related news, here's the latest state of the media report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Kids, do not go into journalism!
I really enjoyed this Slate piece about all the problems with Bob Woodward's book "Wired."
Movies: Sara Foss on "Mama"
Food/Drink: Sara Foss on drinking coffee
Earlier this week the Knight Foundation paid disgraced journalist Jonah Lehrer, a plagiarist and fabricator of quotes, $20,000 to give a talk. This was, of course, a complete insult to real journalists, and perhaps a reason to never pay attention to anything the Knight Foundation has to say ever again. (The Knight Foundation has since apologized for being so stupid, but the fact that it took widespread outrage and condemnation for them to realize the error of their ways suggests that they have, at best, terrible judgment on journalistic matters.)
Anyway, Jonah Lehrer didn't murder anyone, and he should be free to continue on with his life. But I agree with Gawker's Hamilton Nolan - there's no reason Lehrer's future should entail journalism. Some people might think that Lehrer too smart and talented to be banished from the field of science writing forever, but this is absurd - there are plenty of smart, young writers out there who know better than to make up quotes and attribute them to Bob Dylan.
Also, Lehrer's speech was a bit much, what with his blathering on about how he needs a "new list of rules, a stricter set of standard operating procedures." Sorry, but this is nonsense. The rules of journalism are not the problem - Lehrer is. Because the rules of journalism boil down to two basic things: Don't make stuff up, and don't steal from people. It's not terribly complicated, and if Lehrer needs a stricter set of rules, well, he should probably do something else. The fact that he would give a speech touting the need for new rules is an insult to all the journalists who seem to understand the existing rules just fine.
Movies: Sara Foss on "Les Miserables"
Music: Tony Are on why he hates local music
Generosity: Sara Foss on whether you can have too much giving
Health: Kristina Ingvarsson on her struggle with depression
Movies: Sara Foss on "Skyfall"
Politics: Sara Foss on what the Republicans aren't learning
Tradition: Sara Foss on Thanksgiving
Friendship: Sara Foss on reuniting with old friends
Parenting: R.B. Austen on the benefits of playgroups
Gay Marriage: Keith Ross on why it should be allowed
Technology: Margaret Hartley on navigating her moron phone
Travel: Sara Foss on her trip to Colorado
Movies: Sara Foss on "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Politics/Religion: Steve LeBlanc on Mitt Romney, Mormonism and Race
Parenting: J LeBlanc on the tough job of discipline
Sports: Sara Foss on who will win this week's NFL games
We are on vacation.
Music: Sara Foss on the joys of the CD bargain bin
Media: Sara Foss on free speech and Internet trolls
On Monday I posted a link to the excellent Adrian Chen piece on the notorious Internet troll Violentacruz, along with some quick thoughts. Anyway, Chen's story has generated a lot of interesting commentary (as well as some nonsense commentary), and I wanted to put up a couple more links and offer a few more quick thoughts.
- One thing I didn't discuss is the fact that the First Amendment is actually fairly restrictive - it does not mean you can go anywhere and say whatever you want at any time. For instance, privately owned companies such as Reddit can are under no obligation to post content and comments they deem offensive, as John Scalzi explains in a very good blog post on the whole subject. Now, a veneration of free speech is part of Reddit's brand; the site attracts people who are seeking a freewheeling forum for all sorts of vile crap, as well as perfectly normal people who like to read interesting stuff and talk about it. And that's fine. Myself, I take a different approach to curating content. As the proprieter of this here website, I'm perfectly fine with not posting content that I find objectionable. Like, if someone approached me and said, "Hey, can I post upskirt shots of young women that were taken without their consent on your website?" I would say, "No." And they could scream "Free speech!" all they wanted, but I would not be moved, other than to suggest that they go start their own website, where they can do whatever the hell they want.
- Perhaps because I've always signed my name to the things I write, I'm a little bit baffled by the people who seem to think there's some sort of sacred right to anonymity. I've certainly granted anonymity to people that I've interviewed, such as rape victims, and I've allowed some of my friends to post content under aliases, for various reasons. But I can't bring myself to feel at all sorry for Violentacruz, whose hobby was posting offensive crap on forums with names like "Chokeabitch." Actions have consequences, and if your hobby is pissing people off, don't be surprised if there's a little pushback. Like, if you play with fire, you might get burned.