Kate Storey reports on the rise and fall of Gawker 2.0, this week's essential reading for new-media navelgazers. After the smoking remains of the site were auctioned off, the new owner (Bryan Goldberg, a frequent target of the original Gawker) had a plan to revive the site and its aggressive model of journalism. But two years on, the latest post is still founder Nick Denton's 2016 signoff. What went wrong?
A year after he bought it, hired a pricey staff of media veterans, and announced big plans, Goldberg and Bustle Digital Group abruptly shut it down. Or, to be more precise, decided not to get it going again in the first place.
The master plan of Bryan Goldberg, potential media mogul, was becoming increasingly difficult to decipher. But a close examination of what, exactly, happened at the new almost-Gawker reveals a great deal about a man who appears to know what he wants but isn’t exactly sure how to get it.
Here's the new owner's cousin, also a subject of hostile Gawker reportage:
“It was pretty satisfying to see [Gawker] destroyed by Peter Thiel,” Lodwick told me this spring. “My favorite thing about how the Gawker story ended for us was we got to own it. It wasn't even a big deal for Bryan; he just bought the brand for, relatively speaking, pocket change at an auction. It was kinda like Gawker was destroyed by the world, and then we got to have this little victory lap at the end.”
Uh Oh. Read the rest
After 23 years at Fox News, its chief news anchor Shep Smith is off to pastures new.
"Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter," Smith said. "After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged. The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many. It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor. I’ve worked with the most talented, dedicated and focused professionals I know and I’m proud to have anchored their work each day — I will deeply miss them.”
His contract was reportedly renewed only last year. Rumor is that he was told to stop being critical of all the pro-Trump rhetoric on the channel and abruptly quit rather than eat it.
His instant departure comes hours after
Secretary of State Attorney General William Barr met privately with Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, presumably to discuss wavering support for President Donald Trump among the channel's on-air personalities. Read the rest
Splinter was the news site at G/O Media (the successor to Gawker Media), housing left-leaning current affairs commentary and anchoring the groups' more advertiser-friendly tech, game and sports "verticals". The new owners have already demonstrated some unexpectedly poor judgment, and now they're shuttering Splinter and ordering other editors there not to write about it.
In an email to staffers obtained by HuffPost, Paul Maidment, the media group’s editorial director, instructed editors not to publish posts about Splinter’s demise.
“I see no compelling reason for any of our sites to be writing about the decision to cease publishing Splinter,” Maidment wrote. “There is already external coverage, LeadPR will handle our external communications, and this is a time to be respectful of colleagues who have just received difficult news and for whom we will be trying to find new positions.”
He went on to issue a warning: “Any reference to Splinter in anything we publish needs my prior approval, as per our editorial policy. Please make sure all your staff are aware of that. You will be accountable if anything not approved by me gets published.”
This is how you run a McDonalds franchise. The managerial talk here sounds alien to most journalists and like nails on a chalkboard to Gawker writers, whose "unsparing self-coverage" is merciless and traditional.
The new CEO, Jim Spanfeller, formerly was at Forbes and Playboy, prestigious media brands that have faded in recent years: Forbes began publishing anything pumped into its database by unpaid bloggers and Playboy has fewer readers than we do. Read the rest
Ashley Feinberg's "brief history of overreaction" hilariously chronicles the New York Times' current roster of columnists and their haters.
Many readers of the New York Times were astonished by Bret Stephens’ Aug. 30 column, which warned that Nazi-style propaganda was on the march because he couldn’t handle being called a bedbug in a joke on Twitter. But Stephens was simply carrying on a now-familiar tradition in the opinion section: spending hundreds of words in the country’s most prominent newspaper to complain that someone was mean to the writer online. Facing the leveling effects of the internet—and especially Twitter—where anyone can make fun of anyone else, the credentialed columnists of the Times have consistently lost their sense of proportion, turning their attention away from a criminal presidency or impending ecological collapse to use their platforms to try to accomplish what normal people would do with a “lol” or the mute button. Here is a brief history of that practice under editorial page editor James Bennet, who took over the section in May 2016.
My favorite word for the NYT's opinion section under Bennet is prosciutto: fancy, fragile, salty, undercooked ham. Read the rest
Fredo Corleone is the childish, easily-led brother from The Godfather whose weakness and insecurity lead him to betray his family. Chris Cuomo is the childish, easily-led CNN anchor whose weakness and insecurity lead him to getting into public fights with people who call him Fredo.
"Punk-ass bitches from the right call me Fredo!" Cuomo says in this video clip, which presumably starts after he was thusly named by someone. "My name is Chris Cuomo! I'm an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from The Godfather. He's the weak brother. They use it as an Italian aspersion. Any of you Italian? It's a fuckin insult to your people. It's an insult to your fuckin people. It's like the N-word for us. Is that a cool fuckin thing?"
"You're a much more reasonable guy in person than you seem on television," says the man who called him Fredo.
"You wanna play, we'll fuckin play. If you've got something to say about what I do on television then say it."
"Hey man, listen, I don't have a problem"
"Well you're gonna have a big fuckin problem. Don't fucking insult me. You call me Fredo, I'll call you punk bitch, you like that? You want that to be your nickname?"
"I didn't call you that."
"You called me Fredo! You know my name's not fuckin Fredo! You did not think my name's Fredo, don't be a fuckin liar. Stand up like a man. Own it, own what you said. You're gonnna have a fuckin problem. Read the rest
Mediawatch was a column that ran in Britain's Gay Times for almost 25 years, with author Terry Sanderson cataloging coverage of LGBT issues by the mainstream press. The archives are being posted online in a blog format, and Buzzfeed published an interview and retrospective with Sanderson himself.
Poofters. Benders. Shirtlifters. Bumboys. Lezzies. This was how British tabloid headlines referred to gay men and lesbians in the 1980s — an echo of the taunts heard on the street before a beating. The stories beneath would expand on the pejoratives, justifying them with news of “sick”, “evil”, “predatory” gays — all arising from a presumption: that readers would agree.
The twist is that the readers didn't agree. The pervasive homophobia of British newspapers was increasingly out of step with the times, revealing more about the neurotic obsessions of Fleet Street creeps than the country at large. The open bigotry evaporated in the early 1990s as circulations began to decline and reality asserted itself.
But I must admit to being taken aback by just how homophobic they were. Sanderson chronicles not merely slurs and AIDS-baiting headlines, but calls for reprohibition, pogroms and executions--all delivered in the same blurting, jokey yet seething-angry tabloid cadence that foreshadows the reactionary right's approach to social media now.
One thing stood out to me in particular: an old quote from Garry Bushell, then a columnist in The Sun, remarking that Stalin had the right idea by getting rid of the poofs. By the time I hit my teens in the 1990s and started paying attention, such talk was not merely history, but forgotten: Bushell was a mainstream TV star by then, an award-winning critic, but I never saw a whisper of that talk. Read the rest
Here's an interesting example of how journalists sometimes use a version of the facts to support faleshoods. Check out the following, posted by Daily Mail reporter David Martosko, quoting a teenager on Trump's use of the racist "Pocahontas" slur.
At the Elizabeth Warren rally I asked a 17-year-old supporter who will vote next year to comment on Trump's "Pocahontas" nickname for the senator. This is a verbatim transcript of her answer.
"I think that it's really hypocritical because not only is he making fun of someone for like, something that she didn't really like, say, um, but I do feel like he says so many like, racial slurs against like, and she just like presents themselves to be like, so like negative towards like minorities and stuff like that, that the fact that he is mocking her and calling her Pocahontas when he does nothing for Native American rights is really freaking dumb.
What Martosko wanted to establish here was that the teen—and perhaps by implication young Warren supporters in general—is confused and foolish. He did this by including all the ums and ahs of speech, filler terms such as "like", and extraneous commas.
Most people saw this "verbatim" text for what it was, and Martosko was thoroughly ratioed by readers.
But what, like, is going here?
The fact is that most of us talk just as the teen did, when challenged to speak extemporaneously. This can be true of even polished and well-prepared speakers. Listen to politicans and pundits on cable news panels, with an ear for the fillers, and you might be surprised. Read the rest
The chumbox — the weird clickbaity news "recommendations" hanging under blog posts and news stories across the web — so often cites a mysterious "gut doctor" that Vox's Kaitlyn Tiffany tracked him down. THROW OUT THIS VEGETABLE NOW.
The gut doctor, to me, is elusive. I have refreshed every website he has been seen on dozens of times, and for me, he will not materialize. Yet, luckily, all of these screenshots contain a visible link to a website for a company called United Naturals. Here, I am greeted by the smiling face of Dr. Vincent Pedre, whose bio describes him as “a Certified Medical Doctor, a Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner, and Chief Wellness Officer at United Naturals.” He apparently went to my alma mater for his undergraduate degree. (Go Big Red! Also: Oh, no!) He then attended the University of Miami for medical school, before founding Pedre Integrative Health, “where he takes a largely holistic approach to medicine.”
Following below is my favorite variant of the "throw out this vegetable" ad, as the vegetable in question is clearly the God Emperor of Dune at the point of His death, glistening sandtrout exploding from His appalling body, joining Hwi Noree in the banquet of the Gods.
Read the rest
Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, has a book out about journalism, ethics and truth. Unfortunately, many paragraphs turned out to be plagiarized from other writers. To the seemingly oblivious Abramson, it seems incomprehensible that this might be a problem. To her publishers, the vast sunk costs involved (it paid about $1m for the copied-and-pasted hackintome) have forced them to pretend that it isn't.
And then there's the errors. Even before it was out, reviewers noticed problems ranging from major cities situated in the wrong states to insulting factual flubs about the young journalists Abramson thinks she's schooling.
And now this, spotted by Chris Krewson:
CPM refers to cost per mille, a measure used in advertising, and makes no sense as written here. In any case, it certainly was not a term devised by Nick Denton to calculate traffic bonuses.
"The lack of understanding about digital is stunning," Krewson writes.
Ah, but whose lack of understanding about digital?
The problem with all the mistakes in Jill Abramson's book on journalism is you'll never know who made them. It's the paradox of plagiarism: all discussion that depends on authorship, intent, context -- all of it becomes pointless. You can't very well blame Abramson for someone else's mistake, can you?1
Her book supposedly honors the traditions of 20th century journalism but has become a gravestone marking their death. The corpses will now be fucked by social media companies, billionaires and fascists until there's nothing left to fuck but the cold stone where they lay. Read the rest
When bots finally accounted for half the traffic on the internet, Media Experts speculated that algorithms would start identifying bots as a better advertising target than humans. Max Read points out that fear of "Inversion" is now quaint. Now everything is so fake online that no-one trusts numbers at all.
Read the rest
In the future, when I look back from the high-tech gamer jail in which President PewDiePie will have imprisoned me, I will remember 2018 as the year the internet passed the Inversion, not in some strict numerical sense, since bots already outnumber humans online more years than not, but in the perceptual sense. Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real. The “fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is less a calculable falsehood and more a particular quality of experience — the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “real” but is also undeniably not “fake,” and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in your head.
Former New York Times ombudsman Margaret Sullivan can't believe the media is making the same mistakes it made in the run up to the 2016 election: "Too many journalists allow Trump to lead them around by the nose, which is why you’ve heard so very much about that migrant caravan in recent weeks."
With the president as their de facto assignment editor, too many seem to respond “how high?” when Trump says jump.
Wide-eyed coverage of his politically driven pet issues — primarily the supposed horrors of immigration — has dominated the past few weeks of news, with a fixation on the refugees coming north through Mexico. ... Journalists too often parrot what the president says, and giddily follow his shiny-object distractions du jour.
Singled out for brutal criticism are Axios's Jonathan Swan, The Hill, Fox News and other usual suspects who breathlessly convey Trump's wisdom without skepticism or journalistic acumen. But she also praises other outlets for getting over their squeamish indifference to lies and reporting them as such, and for the trend of sucessfully ignoring vacuous Trumpspeak.
I made a picture for you (above) for use later this week on social media, when it really starts to sink in. Read the rest
William Sitwell, editor of UK grocery chain Waitrose's in-house magazine, has resigned after calling for the killing of vegans. He was responding sarcastically to a pitch from freelance writer Selene Nelson, and Nelson collapsed his context.
Nelson, who writes about food and travel, had suggested ideas on "healthy, eco-friendly meals" as "popularity of the movement is likely to continue to skyrocket".
Sitwell had emailed back 10 minutes later, saying: "Thanks for this. How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat?" He also suggested making them eat steak and drink red wine, with Nelson responding: "I'm certainly interested in exploring why just the mention of veganism seems to make some people so hostile".
Waitrose is a very British institution: superficially upscale but with plenty of cheap stuff lurking in the aisles to help middle-class snobs keep up appearances.
It's no wonder an editor of its food magazine would let slip some jocular contempt for specialized cuisine or minority tastes – or that he'd have no idea that he is in fact the easy meat. Read the rest
I hope that Gus Johnson's deconstruction of how cable TV news covers viral videos will itself be reported upon in this style by cable TV news.
Take any excuse to watch Charlie Brooker's deconsctruction of a similar TV news segment formula from the UK:
Have you ever wondered Why Do Reporters Talk Like That? It's the modern version of the classic unplaceable elite accent. The superficial qualities change with time and locale, but the underlying focus on structural clarity, cadence and diction are timeless and international.
Read the rest
The New Yorker invited white supremacist sponge Steve Bannon to headline its festival. The magazine is famous for its cartoons' caption competitions, but it was discovered not so long ago that the phrase "Christ, what an asshole" perfectly captions all of them.
I propose that editor David Remnick's excuse for inviting Bannon — "I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation" — is even better.
Read the rest
They're still on the stories' own URLs, but are gone from the homepage. Eric Lipton, an investigative reporter at the Times, points out: "But names of OP-ED writers still there."
Readers want to know who is behind a story before they commit to reading it, and this prevents it from happening. Current controversies over the Times' peaky opinion page, its chummy coverage of the far-right and its tendency to be steered by conservative anger are all becoming more personalized by obsessive readers. So it's inevitable that it will appear to be about certain individuals in some vague, paranoid way. Read the rest
Last week, The Atlantic hired Kevin Williamson, a conservative famous for his flamboyant bigotry, a flair most famously exhibited when he wrote that women who have abortions should be hanged along with their nurses and doctors.
Online outrage was immediate, drawing attention to his other greatest hits: transgender women commit genital mutilation and are “effigies” of women; rape accusers should be publicly named; the poor are lazy and their communities should be abandoned; and a comically fabulated account of meeting a black child he compared to a primate and described as "three fifths" of a Snoop Dog. The Atlantic itself described him as "gratuitously nasty" way back in the mists of 2016.
"These are not views one would typically associate with the Atlantic," wrote Jordan Weissman at Slate. Sarah Jones, at The New Republic, wrote that it marks the mainstreaming of the reactionary right.
What I noticed, though, was the general assumption that The Atlantic's current brass simply didn't know about the things he'd written. Williamson deleted his Twitter account, after all, as if to hide his past from his new editors. (Compare to the New York Times, which recently hired a columnist only to fire her hours later over tweets it claimed it had never seen.)
But I had a hunch: I thought (and said as much) that Williamson was hired explicitly because of what he had written about women, black kids and the poor. To well-off center-leaning liberals, Williamson is the perfect post-Trump conservative: superficially literary, ostentatiously nasty, profoundly disgusted by the weak, yet (and this is super-duper important) opposed to the current president. Read the rest
I chanced upon an ancient backup of my RSS feed subscriptions, a cold hard stone of data from my time at Wired in the mid-2000s. The last-modified date on the file is December 2007. I wiped my feeds upon coming to Boing Boing thenabouts: a fresh start and a new perspective.
What I found, over 212 mostly-defunct sites, is a time capsule of web culture from a bygone age—albeit one tailored to the professional purpose of cranking out blog posts about consumer electronics a decade ago. It's not a picture of a wonderful time before all the horrors of Facebook and Twitter set in. This place is not a place of honor. No highly-esteemed deed is commemorated here. But perhaps some of you might like a quick tour, all the same. Read the rest