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.
Today’s tween is no longer a child but not yet an adolescent; too old for Barbie dolls and Disney Junior, too young for Facebook and to understand the search results that pop up when she googles “sexy.” She is old enough to text, want designer jeans and use Instagram, but too young to have her own credit card and driver’s license. Still, she is a malleable thinker, consumer and marketing target. Each day, she is exposed to eight to 12 hours of media, depending on her age, that hones her understanding of how she is supposed to act. She spends a significant portion of her day plugged in – communicating, posting photos, playing games, surfing the web, watching videos and socializing. When TV, music, social media and the Internet are used as baby-sitters – when adults don’t ask girls questions or encourage them to think critically (and sometimes even when they do) – a dangerous scenario emerges: The media start to parent.
Abigail Jones, Sex and the Single Tween, Newsweek.
An important and slightly horrifying long-read on pre-teen girls and media.
Related 01, and Horrifying: The YoutTube trend in which girls ask they internet if they are pretty or ugly.
Related 02, and Awesome: It’s Girls Being Girls, a YouTube Channel and Tumblr by Tessa, a senior at ASU, featuring and supporting cool, interesting, personal, inspiring content for girls by girls. Get in touch with her if you want to contribute!
Narcissism is a developmental stage, not a symptom of the times. Young adults have been condemned as the “Me Generation” since at least the turn of last century. Then they get older, get appalled by youngsters nowadays, and start the condemning themselves.
Oliver Burkeman, This Column Will Change Your Life: Consistency Bias, The Guardian.
TL;DR: We change too; it’s not just the times, the world, or the others.
We want the best news product in the world, but we don’t want journalists working for us.
Jason Calacanis, founder of the recently launched Inside.com, a news service designed to serve human-curated news digests to readers on mobile devices.
The start of Inside is the latest instance of mobile apps, including Circa and Yahoo’s News Digest, turning to people to help filter the din created by endless streams of content found online. Graham Holdings, the education and media company that used to be the Washington Post Company before it sold the newspaper to Jeff Bezos, released Trove last week, an overhaul of its Social Reader app that now combines human curation and algorithms to present news stories.
FJP: It sounds like an interesting trifecta of ambitions, which Calcanis discusses in an interview with Nieman Lab, excerpted below.
01. Like Netflix, it will learn your preferences and serve you accordingly.
Nobody’s figured out mobile news. The great thing about mobile it’s going to be a magnitude bigger than the web. Now that we’re in people’s pockets and we’ve learned what they want to do, we’re going to be able to really optimize people’s experience to get them to the great stuff. If they want all of the news, they can go to the all-update feed. If they want news just tailored to them, I think over the next year or two we’re going to really be able to know, hey, Staci really likes media stories and she’s really into The New York Times and she really likes these five entrepreneurs and this is her favorite baseball team — and these are the five or six types of stories she doesn’t want. She doesn’t want Kim Kardashian in her feed, because she’s voted her down twice, so we’ve never going to show it again in my topics.
02. The company wants to be Google-proof.
To make a Google-proof company, I wanted to have a killer brand that people would remember and come to like — a product so compelling that it has a repeatable effect. The problem at Mahalo or eHow is you use it for two hours to get your baking recipe, then you don’t use it again for two months — then you use it again for putting up curtains. You really rely on people going to Google.
With news, people will go directly to a site, which makes it impervious to Google. And the app ecosystem is also impervious to Google. They can’t control apps even though they have a big footprint in Android, nor have they shown a propensity to control the app ecosystem on Android. I think they would get a revolt on their hands if they did.
03. All this curation will be of strictly original content, to cut out the middle men and help great journalism get discovered.
We don’t see ourselves as the destination. We see ourselves as the curator of the best journalism in the world, so we’re very specifically only linking to the original journalist. We’re training our curators to understand The Huffington Post or Business Insider, which might do 70 to 80 percent aggregation of other people’s content and 20 to 30 percent original, and how to know the difference. So if Business Insider pulls a quote from The New York Times story and we find it on Business Insider, we’re actually going to wind up linking to The New York Times. We see ourselves as an antidote to the sort of middleman role and people rewriting other people’s content. We’re going to really actually do the work to figure out who came up with the original story.
When I graduated from university, I worked in ministry of women affairs for six months and I was working on criminal cases. One day when I was crossing the Puli Sokhta bridge, I saw addicted people under the bridge. They were laying there, and their situation was unbearable. When I saw this, I thought: the women who are suffering from a problem, at least they know that they are human beings. They are not forgetting their own personalities. But these people, they get this sickness, they forget who they are. So, that made me think to change my field.
Shabnam S., a 25-year-old woman from Afghanistan, in The Therapist.
The piece is part of a series by Jeffrey Stern, a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, called Afghanistan: On Its Own, in which Stern chronicles how vulnerable groups (women, minorities, youth, businesses dependent on foreign presence) are preparing for the withdrawal of foreign troops this year.
Shabnam, for example, writes about how jobs including her own are funded by foreign money:
Nowadays, people are graduating with good grades from universities. They go and search for jobs, but they cannot get them. For my own job, funding is provided by foreign countries. Once 2014 comes, foreign forces will leave and it is concern for all. We are all concerned, scared. But with all these challenges and with all this thinking that comes to our minds, we still try to believe that even after the foreign forces leave Afghanistan, we can stand on our own feet. And that we should still help these people on our own, somehow. But we understand that we are losing our budgets.
And the other concern we have is that, right now, there are organizations working against drug sellers, working against people who are importing, using, producing drugs, but when the foreign forces leave, there will be insecurity. And that insecurity will increase the rate of drug sellers and drug users and drug importers. That’s a big concern, because it is a big problem for us, we will have even more people addicted to the drugs. Now, there are organizations who are taking care of child labor, street children and other children, but in the future there won’t be such a thing. That will make more children drug users.
See the other pieces in the series, published in Foreign Policy, here.