My colleague Alex Goldman told me he thinks of this as “a mesmerizing stock ticker of the world’s perversions.”
The way I rose in journalism was, well, first, I leapt at the opportunity to do an internship at ABC News, but that could have been anywhere. The more important thing is that once I got there, I always brought ideas to the table. Diane Sawyer met with all the interns at the beginning of the summer and said, if you have ideas, send them to me. So I would go online and look at what was going on in the world and send her my ideas. I emailed her very politely and very gratefully and said, “Thank you so much for meeting with us. Here are five ideas.” She wrote back and said, “Thank you. These don’t really work.” So I tried again and sent other ideas, and after a while some of them started to get on TV! That was pretty cool.
So eventually when I applied for a job at ABC, they all remembered me as the girl who had all these great ideas and got them on TV, you know? I got recognized just for trying to make something out of nothing and putting myself out there and really respectfully and politely writing emails to a lot of people and sending them my ideas.
Lara Setrakian, founder of Syria Deeply, in an excellent interview with Rookie Magazine’s Anaheed Alani. Good reading for all you aspiring journos.
Bonus: Advice & answers to readers from the FJP archives.
The News Feed is perhaps the world’s most sophisticated mirror of its readers’ preferences—and it’s fairly clear that news isn’t one of them. We simply prefer stories that fulfill the very purpose of Facebook’s machine-learning algorithm, to show us a reflection of the person we’d like to be, to make us feel, to make us smile, and, most simply, to remind us of ourselves.
Derek Thompson, The Facebook Effect on the News, The Atlantic.
Thompson uses data from the BuzzFeed Partner Network (a conglomeration of popular sites) to compare the type of content that goes viral three different ways: Twitter, Search Traffic and Facebook.
It’s a blend of news, like terrorist attacks and music shows, and evergreen silliness with Ryan Gosling and Kim Kardashian.
In Search Traffic:
Just about all of them arguably count as “news.” They describe recent events, whether it’s a bikini sighting, terrorist explosion, or celebrity death.
Of the 20 most viral stories on BuzzFeed’s network, only seven deal with recent events. Only three deal with what you might call national news stories: the Miss America Pageant, Netflix technology, and the Video Music Awards (not quite A1 fare, but news, nonetheless). But the vast majority of these stories aren’t really news, at all. They’re quizzes about your accent, lists of foods and photographs, funny reminders of what life feels like as you age. For lack of a better term: They’re entertainment.
New York? $66,167.27
Los Angeles? $72,126.90
Whenever these cases surface, they’re accompanied by a discussion about whether or not we can or should appreciate the work of artists and writers who are accused of doing terrible things. It’s a question without any satisfying categorical answer, which I suppose is why it generates so much copy. The nuances are endless: does it matter if the artist in question is alive or not? If he or she is dead, does it matter how long? Is there a difference between music that has words and music that doesn’t? Between loving a movie made by an alleged sex offender and loving a work of theology written by one? How on earth do we weigh all of this?
Stephanie Krehbiel, The Woody Allen Problem, Religion Dispatches Magazine.
For those who have been looking for insight on how to think about Woody Allen in light of Dylan Farrow’s testimony against him and his subsequent letter of rebuttal, here is a useful point made by Roxan Gay in Salon:
Lately, we’ve been referring to to our social-media-saturated era as “the age of outrage.” I think what’s going on is more complex than that. We don’t get to hide from the truth anymore. We don’t get to hide from the possibility of multiple truths. This is the age of knowing, of Pandora’s box blown wide open. This is the age of being unable, or unwilling, or having fewer opportunities to look away. This is the age of being confronted with what we are willing to do in the name of what we believe.
And in that light, it’s useful to think about an analogous case and read Krehbiel’s piece, which is quoted above. It tells the story of respected theologian John Howard Yoder and his own version of the Woody Allen conundrum. And it’s a fascinating explanation of Mennonite pacifism, masculinity, and why people can struggle to condemn sexual violence despite a body evidence.
But King didn’t give readers an accurate picture—he gave them a partial and exaggerated one. He has the thickest Rolodex in the business, but he talked to only four people, and his colleagues talked to eight. In a league as large and diverse as the NFL, 12 is not a definitive sample. The SI stories offered no counterbalancing opinion or analysis, so the message was clear: This is the NFL party line. No one will talk on the record. And if anyone does, don’t trust him.
Stephen Fatsis, How Sports Illustrated Botched the Michael Sam Story, Slate.
Background: Sports Illustrated published a piece by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans on how the news that NFL prospect Michael Sam is gay will affect his draft stock. The “eight NFL executives and coaches” they spoke with predicted Sam’s fall to bigotry in the league. None of these sources were identified. Slate breaks it down.
Issue 1: Not a reasonable reflection of reality.
…the issue here isn’t the ungrounded and outdated opinions of a few off-the-record soothsayers. It’s about whether they deserved a platform in the first place, and whether the conclusions drawn from their words were a reasonable reflection of a broader reality.
Then Peter King posted a column in which he too gave his sources cover on the assumption that they wouldn’t talk otherwise.
Issue 2: Not okay to grant anonymity based on assumption.
King assumed they wouldn’t comment on the record so he granted anonymity up front? Maybe my journalistic principles are stuck in the ’50s, but that’s a newsroom no-no. You grant anonymity to get information or to understand background and context. You don’t let a source trash someone anonymously. King wrote that anonymity “would give the best information possible.” But he didn’t give information, only blind, unchallenged opinion. If his sources had spoken on the record and said something mealy-mouthed or had outright lied, King would have performed a journalistic service far greater than letting them shiv Michael Sam in his pursuit of “the truth.”
FJP: The ethics of using anonymous sources is pretty clear. Once you agree to providing anonymity, you stick to it or you’ll find yourself in a lawsuit. But the wisdom of knowing when to grant a source anonymity is far more difficult to come by. Here’s an interesting take on it from the Times, whose readers’ number 1 complaint is anonymous sources.