Late-stage journalism

Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand, When we with daisies lie, That commerce will continue, And trades as briskly fly. Read the rest

Interview with the founders of io9

Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders on 10 years of io9.

Annalee: We wanted to have a vision of the future for our readers that wasn’t completely silly but that wasn’t hopeless and dystopian. And again, part of covering science was very important to that because it was about how our stories could actually infect reality in a good way, and that what we dream can come true and that science and science fiction are part of the same project, which is to progressively improve reality for the maximum number of people.

They planned on naming it "Futurista" but couldn't get the domain. 'io9.com' turned out to be tough because of i/1 and 0/O confusion, and because the domain was heavily penalized by google due to prior use for porn, but the site was so good (and so successful) it didn't matter for long. Read the rest

Publishers play dumb after buying traffic

Ozy was paid to run sponsored stories for clients such as JPMorgan. Ozy, among many others, bought traffic to run up the page view counter, making them appear successful and exposing sponsors' branding to "millions" of "readers". Now the nature of that traffic has been exposed and excuses are being made.

The incident is the latest glimpse at the roots of a crisis of trust in online publishing. Blue-chip advertisers increasingly doubt whether their online ad spending reaches real audiences, and JPMorgan in particular has taken steps to ensure its ads only appear on quality sites. But even quality sites present risks.

Working in collaboration with ad-fraud consultancy Social Puncher, BuzzFeed News identified several other reputable publishers who also received the same invalid traffic during a similar timeframe as Ozy. They include Funny or Die, a video comedy site founded by actor Will Ferrell and several Hollywood producers; Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., a publisher of local newspapers in more than 20 states, which receives the traffic as part of a deal with video company Tout; Bustle Digital Group, a fast-growing digital publisher focused on young women; and PCMag, the venerable computing publication. All except CNHI say they have stopped using the traffic in question.

The charitable view, which casts publishers as desperate rather than fraudulent, is that they think human beings were paid to visit the sites. Even then, this is as legit as chaining a dog to a TV set because someone told you Nielsen boxes are motion-activated. Buzzfeed reports that it's all bots anyway. Read the rest

Breitbart plotted to ruin Twitter, emails show

Breitbart, Steve Bannon and co. mused often about destroying Twitter, reports Buzzfeed, exploring financial and legal options to bring the site to heel and Jack Dorsey to his knees.

On Jan. 15, Yiannopoulos sent a peace offering to Twitter — a cordial email to Jack Dorsey asking for his verification to be restored in exchange for a detente. A screenshot of an email tracker Yiannopoulos used registered that the email was opened 111 times.

But Dorsey never responded.

And so the “#war,” as Bannon called it, carried on.

Begging is not a position of strength. But Twitter ignoring the alt right and its fellow travelers still had consequences.

This is hilarious, though:

[Chuck] Johnson didn’t just short Twitter from behind the scenes. He had helped create a Twitter account @shortthebird in July 2015 and organized a campaign to put stickers and posters up around the company’s San Francisco headquarters with the hashtag #shorttwitter. (The hashtag never really took off, however, as it was simultaneously being employed by Twitter users to joke about their physical stature.)
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NBC fires Matt Lauer over "inappropriate sexual behavior"

NBC fired Matt Lauer after learning Monday of The Today Show presenter's "inappropriate sexual behavior".

Co-host Savannah Guthrie announced the firing on-air, flanked by Hoda Kotb. A statement, attributed to NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, described a "a detailed complaint" that "represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment."

"While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News," Lack continued, "we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

A New York Times exposé of The Today Show presenter is also expected imminently; questions related to it may have informed the decision to fire Lauer without delay.

"We just learned this moment ago, this morning," said Guthrie. "As I'm sure you can imagine, we are devastated. ... We do not know more than what we shared with you. ... I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is loved by many people here. And I'm heartbroken for my brave colleague who came forward to tell her story."

Photo: David Shankbone

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"Save Free TV": Fun 1970s anti-cable TV public service announcement that showed in movie theaters

Back in the 1970s, cinemas saw cable TV as a threat to their business model. So they attempted to sway public opinion with PSAs like this. (r/ObscureMedia)

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Blog collects clips of anime floppy disks

Anime floppy disks is dedicated to collecting depictions of floppy disks in anime, but offers occasional special treats such as magneto-optical disks in anime.

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Jon Stewart visits Colbert, lampoons Trump

Orange Julius wants "equal time" in the media. Jon Stewart attempts to balance out Colbert's obvious bias, and show Trump some love. Read the rest

Disney paid 'at least' $177 million to settle #pinkslime lawsuit over ABC News reports on gross meat product

This summer, ABC News made a historically large payout to settle a defamation lawsuit over 'pink slime,' or what the meat industry likes to call 'lean finely textured beef.'

No, that's not referring to Hulk Hogan, but there is a worrisome connection between this media lawsuit and the one backed by Peter Thiel against Gawker, which silenced that publication.

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Armed with leaked transcript, Politico exposes all of Wall Street Journal's chummy interview with Trump

It seems someone at the Wall Street Journal wasn't happy with how its interview with President Trump came out, because the raw transcript—revealing plenty of "meat left on the proverbial carcass"—ended up being published at a different venue.

In this case, that perception [of the Journal's obsequious smarm] will also be fed by the Journal’s decision not to release a more complete transcript. Plenty of reporters have declined to challenge Trump on each outrageous claim he makes. Others have shown a willingness to engage in small talk and stroke Trump’s ego. But their outlets have been largely transparent in reproducing those conversations for the record. By failing to follow the precedent set by other newsrooms, the Journal played into the narrative that it has taken a softer approach.

One thing the transcript exposes is how Trump's compulsive, obvious lies ("the leader of the Boy Scouts told him his jamboree speech was “the greatest speech ever made to them.”") are politely ignored despite being perfectly topical and worthy of fact-checking and reporting. Friendly media smooths over his endless bullshit, while adversarial media takes it at face value. All agree that the resulting circus is worth it, but don't care much to think whether it was worth it. Read the rest

The heartwarming story behind the internet's premier testicle clickbait site

K. Thor Jenson, one of the enduring lights of web culture, spent two years writing clickbait about balls for a good cause: testicular cancer research.

I signed on with the foundation in early 2015. Together, we developed a business plan for the site. We quickly realized that a 100% testicle-focused site would run out of material pretty quickly, so we started brainstorming what would be under the umbrella. Testicular stories, sure, but also stories of “ballsy” behavior. Sports, as long as the ball was the focus of the piece. Ball pits. Energy balls. Balls of snakes. You get the idea.

Since 2015, The Ball Report has published 1,073 posts, many astoundingly successful, and with serious journalistic work amid all the bollocks: "When a viral story about a gang member dying after spray-painting his testicles gold started to spread, I was one of the first to debunk it. I wrote a dense history of the practice of “teabagging” in video games."

[Cheers, John!] Read the rest

RIP John Severson, Surfer Magazine founder

John Severson, the iconic figure of surfing media, has died at age 83. His 1961 film Big Wednesday is arguably the greatest of the early surf films, part of a lifetime of innovations in surf media. Read the rest

Intelligence leaks are why the U.S. media knew more about the Manchester attack than their British counterparts

Britain's Home Secretary is "irritated" that U.S. intelligence officials leaked "confidential" information about the Manchester terror attack to American media, allowing them to reveal key details before U.K. media were cleared to do so. The attacker's name, the high death toll, and the fact that it was a suicide bombing were among the facts finding their way to CBS and NBC before being disclosed to local outlets.

Amber Rudd said US conduct had been "irritating" and said she had made clear to her American counterparts that such leaks "shouldn't happen again".

The episode comes just a week after US president Donald Trump defended his right to leak classified intelligence to other countries' leaders. Mr Trump has also criticised leaking from the US intelligence establishment.

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the US leaks, Ms Rudd said: "The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise.

"So it is irritating when it gets released from other sources and I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again."

There are so many interesting prongs here: echelons of the U.S. security apparatus that don't care about intelligence partners, sources in the White House and elsewhere leaking whatever they get their hands on, the futility of trying to manage what the media knows in the presence of all this, the presumed inability of America's intelligence partners (such as the UK) to extricate themselves... Read the rest

Roger Ailes dead at 77

Roger Ailes, the disgraced former Fox News chief and accused sexual harasser, is dead at 77. His wife, Elizabeth Ailes, released a short statement, as published by The Washington Post:

“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning. Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many,”

Ailes founded the network in 1996, steering it to supremacy over cable TV rivals and providing conservative viewers with a sympathetic source of news and opinion. He was forced to leave last year amid the organization's still-roiling sexual abuse scandal, which has also claimed the jobs of his successor, Bill Shine, and star anchor Bill O'Reilly.

Update: Aaron Stewart-Ahn found a flattering photo of Ailes to remember him by. Read the rest

Remember ebola? Media-inflamed health scares, quantified

Just how overblown was the media panic over ebola? This interactive chart compares media coverage of a dozen health scares, from mad cow disease to zika. Read the rest

The Alt Right's journey from message-board to mass-media

Read Max Read's sharp précis of what happened to the internet over the last few years: the slow drifting of message-boards to the right as their inhabitants grew from sad kids to angry adults, then the sudden explosion of that pattern across social networks run by corporations with only an ambivalent interest in stopping it.

This was the core value of message-board political consciousness: sovereignty, a concept similarly important to the politics of the far right. Posters and trolls wanted to reserve for themselves on the internet the power and freedom they couldn’t find off it. And as the online and offline spheres slowly merged over the course of the 2010s, that sovereignty expressed itself as an abject refusal to resocialize — the reservation of a sacred right to be cruel. The puckish left-libertarianism that had characterized the early message-board political activity of groups like Anonymous transformed into a revanchism, seemingly intended to protect “Kekistan” — the joking name, from the LOL-like word Kek, for the safe spaces of the frustrated men of the internet.

This was the sensibility galvanized in 2014 by — what else? — a depressed and frustrated man’s rambling, 9,000-word post falsely accusing his game-developer ex-girlfriend Zoë Quinn of exchanging sex for video-game reviews

Tim O'Brien's painting of Pepe is fantastic: a poisoned meme made creepily, grossly real.

One of the interesting oddities about the Alt Right is a "geek fallacies" thing: loyalty to parasitic luminaries, even though they're crudely exploitative, too weird to be on television, and all seem to hate one another. Read the rest

Why the NYT hired a science denier

The New York Times' new columnist, Bret Stephens, is an everyday conservative: he thinks institutional racism is imaginary, that campus rape is a big lie, and that the "Arab Mind" is "diseased". But these are just opinions, and common ones on the right. It is his anti-science positions, on display in his first fact-mangled column about climate change, that has galvanized disgust.

Much has been said about him, but it is the Times itself that has committed a "jaw-dropping error" and whose warped motives promise that it will be repeated.

Ryan Cooper in The Week directs particular ire at the Times' claim about wanting a diversity of voices, where the agreement of millions is enough to justify a hire. This allows so many possibilities that it betrays the excuse.

If the Times were really committed to ideological diversity in its op-ed page, it would at a minimum hire a conservative who actually supports President Trump, and perhaps even more importantly hire someone with Bernie Sanders-style politics. (Sanders is the most popular politician in the country, yet there are more supporters of torture among columnists of our two major national newspapers than supporters of the senator.)

What we see here is that the neurotic upper-class liberal need for civil debate over important issues stops the moment we reach territory they actually care about. ... A rich, glib, dumb, anti-Trump conservative, on the other hand, can give Upper East Side cocktail parties that frisson of intellectual disputation while conveniently avoiding most of the actually important questions.

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