Top Reads of the Week
Published on October 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Movies: J.K. Eisen on his favorite horror movies, and Sara Foss on "Argo"

Music: Sara Foss on the joys of the CD bargain bin

Media: Sara Foss on free speech and Internet trolls

Free Speech, Outing and Creepshots
Published on October 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

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.


Exposing A Troll
Published on October 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at Gawker, Adrian Chen does some good work in a piece on a notorious Internet troll.

I've always wondered what motivates these people, and apparently they believe the First Amendment allows them to anonymously post creepy photos of young women, taken without their consent. And that if their identies were to be revealed, it would be tantamount to fascism.

Uh huh.

It's true that the First Amendment does protect a whole range of offensive speech, but it doesn't protect the speakers from certain consequences, like being revealed as a total asshole to friends, co-workers and acquaintances.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on October 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

Creative Writing: Steve LeBlanc's rainbow lullaby

Parenting: J LeBlanc on weaning, and Cindy F. Crawford on adjusting to kindergarten

Movies: Sara Foss on "Looper"

Sports: Sara Foss on soccer memories

A City Without a Newspaper
Published on October 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

My old colleague Wade Kwon writes about living in the second largest city in America without a daily newspaper, Birmingham, Ala.

"I’ve been away from the daily newspaper biz some 7 years and 1 week. Mighty strange things have happened since I left that scene in Birmingham.

Today marks a new era for my hometown, one in which both newspapers I grew up with are no more. In their place is a new three-times-a-week publication with a familiar name, the Birmingham News.

It is a topsy-turvy world when you realize that the Crimson White, a student-run newspaper down the road at the University of Alabama, publishes more frequently. Or that any number of smaller towns in Alabama still throw papers 6 or 7 days a week: Anniston, Cullman, Decatur, Dothan, Florence, Gadsden, Montgomery, Opelika, Selma and Tuscaloosa.

Or that of the three papers in Alabama shouldering this downsizing wrought by owner Advance Publications (Huntsville and Mobile being the other two), Birmingham was the only one to see a jump in Sunday circulation, a healthy 13 percent increase from March 2011 to March 2012.

And yet Birmingham becomes the second largest city in America without a daily newspaper. New Orleans, which has seen its fair share of hardships, is the largest. Her citizens, business leaders and politicians have rallied to save, even offer to buy, the Times-Picayune, but to no avail. Our city has resigned herself to muddle along as always."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on October 5, 2012 by Sara Foss

Politics: Cabot Nunlist on whether government should invest in research and development

Movies: Sara Foss on "The Master," and also on how there will always be good movies and people who care about them

Creative writing: Steve LeBlanc writes a poem

Television: Sara Foss on "Twin Peaks"

Top Reads of the Week
Published on September 28, 2012 by Sara Foss

Politics: Cabot Nunlist on why you should care about gerrymandering

Obervation: Sara Foss on noticing the important stuff

Create writing: Steve LeBlanc writes a poem

Sports: Sara Foss presents her week 4 NFL picks

Top Reads of the Week
Published on September 21, 2012 by Sara Foss

Politics: Cabot Nunlist on the 47 percent controversy

Birthdays: Sara Foss on why adventurous birthdays are better

Movies: Sara Foss on "Sleepwalk With Me"

Sports: Sara Foss on which NFL teams will win in week 3

Top Reads of the Week
Published on September 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Sara Foss on the appeal of bad movies, and the new sci-fi film "Robot & Frank"

Healthcare: Cabot Nunlist on how we can (and should) provide better health care for everyone

Food: Sara Foss on eating and hiking like a king


Top Reads of the Week
Published on September 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

Business: Sara Foss on her indifference to new stores

Movies: J.K. Eisen on "Compliance," and Sara Foss on "Premium Rush"

Sports: Sara Foss provides her week 1 NFL picks

Top Reads of the Week
Published on August 31, 2012 by Sara Foss

Politics: Cabot Nunlist writes about trickle-down economics

Travel: Jennifer Johnston writes about her trip to Nepal and Bhutan in a three part series you can find here, here and here

Parenting: R.B. Austen writes about her transition back to work after having a baby

Journalism: Sara Foss writes about another newspaper massacre

Movies: Sara Foss writes about "Bernie"

A Newspaper Massacre, Redux
Published on August 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Back in June, I wrote about Advance Publications and their decision to publish four of their newspapers, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Register, just three days a week, and operate as a digital news portal 24-7.

As I suspected, Advance was just getting started. This week they announced that they also planned to destroy the Syracuse Post-Standard and the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, which will also reduce their printing schedule to three days a week and beef up their web focus.

My feeling is that these changes are premature, unnecessary and unfortunate. Advance isn't just shifting its operation online - it's gutting its newsroom operations, and forcing readers to rely on their crappy websites. I took a look at, the site that supposedly serves readers in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, today, and my head practically exploded. Rather than a site focused on the community I care about - Birmingham, where I used to live - I stumbled upon a hodge-podge of regional and national stories, with haphazard local coverage.


Top Reads of the Week
Published on August 24, 2012 by Sara Foss

Sports: Steven Reeves wrote about Lance Armstrong last month; here's a link to his post, which talks about the doping allegations and predicts the cyclist's fall from grace

Music: Tony Are hails two obscure folk singers

Nostalgia: Sara Foss on our attachment to childhood pleasures and things

Movies: Sara Foss on "ParaNorman"


Top Reads of the Week
Published on August 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

Journalism: Margaret Hartley on the battle between publicists and editors

Movies: Sara Foss on "Ted"

Parenthood: Adam Rust on the power children have over their parents

Rejuvenation: Sara Foss on staying in the octagon house

Publicists Vs. Editors
Published on August 12, 2012 by guest author: Margaret Hartley

Friday was National S’Mores Day, which this year shows up right at the end National Stop On Red Week and about a month before Brazilian Music Day. This according to a publicist I like to refer to as LaToya, who also likes to let me know what is “just around the corner.” And in case you are wondering, Halloween is just around the corner, as is back-to-school season, Get In Shape Month, New Year’s and, for all I know, Easter.

LaToya likes to get ahead of herself. Actually, LaToya is more of a conglomerate of flacks than an actual person. Because I am a features editor at a newspaper, every day I get dozens of emails and phone calls from publicists, all convinced they can fool me into thinking a blatant promotion for a multinational company is a story idea.

“Working on a story for your back-to-school issue? UP-Brand Snack Products are the perfect fit for a healthy lunch.” Yeah, right. Do they think I was born yesterday?

Most of these publicists have such improbable names —  Krista, Alessandra, Trina, Debrah, Jordanna — that I have to think they are made up. I’ve dubbed them all LaToya, after a particularly sorry publicist who called me at 6:15 p.m. on a Thursday, clearly hoping I had already left the office and ill-prepared to talk to someone who wasn’t an answering machine. “LaToya,” I said. “We do not run stories about national products.”


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