Bring back newspapers?

The chorus of voices harping on CNN and Twitter for reporting heaps of misinformation and just plain nonsense in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings continues to grow, with David Carr offering a rundown on nytimes.com; earlier this week, a Slate headline declared, "Breaking News is Broken." In that article, Farhad Manjoo advised readers to skip the moment-to-moment coverage and, instead, to read "your favorite newspaper's home page" the...

The rise of “bling-bling”

The Hip Hop Word Count, as detailed in this week's New Yorker, offers a great encapsulation of the basic ways in which algorithmic methods have and will become central to the study of language and literature. This database of rap and hip-hop lyrics, the brainchild of artist and academic Tahir Hemphill, compiles thousands of songs to allow for tracking, analysis, and comparison. Hemphill shows how, for example, the...

No access, no peace

The continually unfolding Manti Te'o scandal offers an incredible case study in evolving notions of journalistic "objectivity" as outsider news outlets—like Deadspin, which broke the story—become increasingly mainstream. Deadspin has always argued that its irreverent attitude, which has entailed many thinly sourced stories that would never make it into a newspaper or magazine, actually allows for a different kind of objectivity than the he-said-she-said print media style. The...

Archiving

"In full makeup and makeup-free, she can be found shaking her famous ass onstage, lounging in her dressing room, singing Coldplay's "Yellow" to Jay-Z over an intimate dinner, and rolling over sleepy-eyed in bed. This digital database, modeled loosely on NBC's library, is a work in progress—the labeling, date-stamping, and cross-referencing has been under way for two years, and it'll be several months before that process is complete. ... These are the...

12-12-12

On 12/12/(19)12, the thoughts of NY Times editors went straight to letter writing. Sounding something like carnival barkers, they alerted their readers: "Those who put off writing after to-day will never again while they live have this opportunity! When again a person takes pen in hand to indite a letter with the figures 12-12-12 in the date line, an entire century will have passed, and the earth will...

Real people, real letters

I'm fascinated by the ways in which "real people"—which, funnily enough, is how both reporters and academics refer to non-reporters and non-academics—have semi-spontaneously used epistolary genres to respond to the ongoing economic crisis. There are, of course, the letters to the editor and op-eds that have been the way for "real people" to talk back to the media for centuries. But we could also see the Occupy movement's...

Postal politics

Matthew Yglesias has a great article about why an efficient, corruption-free postal system is a good indicator of an efficient, corruption-free government. Now, if only we could put this information to use and get mail-in elections nationwide.

Why is a Chameleon like a Mermaid?

In April 1691, a reader wrote in to a new periodical, The Athenian Mercury, with a pressing question: "Whether, since Mermen and Mermaids have more of the humane shape than other Fishes, they may be thought to have more Reason." I can honestly say this question had never occurred to me before reading the Mercury, the world's first question-and-answer periodical. (The editors didn't really answer the question of reason, but gave...

In defense of recaps

David Simon demonstrated a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of the narrative form in which he operates when he came out against the now-ubiquitous phenomenon of weekly TV recapping. Simon argues about recappers, "They don’t know what we’re building. And by the way, that’s true for the people who say we’re great. They don’t know. It doesn’t matter whether they love it or they hate it. It doesn’t mean anything...

Giving readers what they want?

One of my favorite anecdotes about working as a local-daily journalist is that my most popular story ever was about something that never happened. One day in September 2007, the local police in Guilford, Conn., started getting a lot of calls that there was a dead mountain lion on the side of I-95. By the time the state DEP people got there, though, the animal was gone. Not...

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