Asked to address the controversial seizure of phone logs from Associated Press journalists by the Department of Justice, President Barack Obama on Thursday said he had no regrets for prosecuting individuals responsible for leaking classified information because they placed the country at risk.
"I make no apologies and I don't think the American people would expect me as commander-in-chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed," he said, standing alongside Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the White House Rose Garden.
I wonder how far this logic goes. If the Feds are investigating a murder in Los Angeles, can they just clean the hard drive of every LA Times reporter who may have gotten a tip?
We all had a good chuckle yesterday over Seattle Times editorial board member Jonathan Martin's unselfconscious post about the "The Stranger’s obsession with the Seattle Times." Martin attempted to use our crappy search engine to find the number of times we've written about his paper since the beginning of the year (he says 22) compared to the number of times we've written about, say, "Ed Murray" or "the homeless" (Martin alleges 16 and 7, respectively).
How many hours did he labor over Slog, typing in search phrases? Geez... talk about obsessed.
But as usual when it comes to his editorial board, I question Martin's math. I can't make our search engine work any better than Martin, but I'd be damn surprised if I've personally written fewer than 22 posts critiquing the Seattle Times this year. And if I'm obsessed, it's not like I'm unaware. In fact, I'm frequently taunted for my Seattle Times posts within the office (fuck you, Paul). Indeed, a few years back, after forcing their hand on a particularly big story, I printed up Seattle Times business cards with the title "Volunteer Ombudsman."
So yeah, I'm a bit obsessed with critiquing the publication that claims to be our state's unchallenged paper of record since it successfully drove Seattle's other daily out of business.
That said, 22 posts on one subject may seem like an obsession to somebody like Martin, who only has 39 bylines since January 1, but it's a drop in the bucket within the context of the 3600-plus posts that have scrolled through Slog over that same period. I mean, a little perspective. As of yesterday afternoon, the Seattle Times entire seven-member editorial board had only generated 199 bylines this year, compared to 372 from me alone. Sure, when you throw in their approximately 200 unsigned editorials, they collectively have me beat. But not Paul, whose freakish 777 bylines this year (and counting) nearly doubles the combined output of the Seattle Times ed board.
I'm not saying Martin and his colleagues are lazy. But if his paper can afford the luxury of a seven-member ed board, surely it can afford to hire a real ombudsman instead of relying on volunteers like me to keep it honest.
Nina Frazier at Mashable says that a controversy erupted over the Photo of the Year winner from the World Press Photo Foundation:
World Press Photo submitted the files for forensic review following controversy that spiraled from a blog post by image analyst Neal Krawetz, who alleged that the photo was actually a composite of three separate images. The story was later picked up by tech blog ExtremeTech.
However, after carrying out its own investigation, World Press Photo said Krawetz's analysis is "deeply flawed."
"It is clear that the published photo was retouched with respect to both global and local color and tone. Beyond this, however, we find no evidence of significant photo manipulation or compositing," two photo experts said in a World Press Photo statement released Tuesday.
Experts said that no pixel in the image, which is really quite striking, was moved out of place, though the image did go through considerable lightening and darkening. It's getting easier and easier to manipulate photographs, and soon we'll be able to manipulate them on a granular level as soon as we take them—this product was a real eye-opener for me. So at what point do photos become as untrustworthy as drawings? Are we ever going to reach that point? Are we already there?
“We are responding to the desire by our fans to experience the brand in more ways,” said John A. Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief marketing officer. “They imagined themselves as which pony they would be or which pony they identified with the most.”
So Hasbro created Equestria Girls, a parallel world in which the My Little Pony characters were reconceived as teenage girls in high school. To maintain continuity, Hasbro retained the same creative talent, animation style and message of friendship.
The full-length animated movie version of these new ponies-turned-teens will be released in June. Click over to the NYT story for a picture of the fillies.
Obviously, the real question is: Will Bronies like this new universe? Or is this aimed at the original My Little Pony market of 5- to 10-year-old girls, who probably do identify with and imagine themselves as the characters? I can't tell. I mean, I kinda hope that adult male Pony fans are imagining which pony they would be, and not, you know, a different verb. But I don't know. I've mostly seen it go the other way, and a new hot teen version makes that suuuuuuuper icky.
Anyways, this is the actual world you live inside of, in case you were wondering, not a wacky Monday-afternoon asleep-at-the-desk dream. Real life! Brought to you by Hasbro.
Oh. South Seattle. Nice to see that the Seattle Times is so interested in targeting "relevant information" to the residents of Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Columbia City, Rainier Beach, Georgetown, South Park, Mount Baker, and Seward Park.
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP...The government would not say why it sought the records. U.S. officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have leaked information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.
You can read that May 7 story here. President Obama's second term is quickly getting weighed down by these sorts of eminently avoidable scandals, and their liberal base isn't eager to defend them from critics, when they're committing shitty Bush-Administration-style acts like this.
Cable News Guests Were Largely White Men. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, white men make up only 31 percent of the U.S. population. On evening cable news, they represented a much larger percentage of guests — 62 percent of guests on CNN, 60 percent on Fox, and 54 percent on MSNBC.
There is also this:
White Guests Hosted Most Often On Cable News. Fox News had the largest proportion of white guests — 83 percent. African-Americans were the largest non-white group on all networks, representing 19 percent, 10 percent, and 5 percent of guests on MSNBC, Fox, and CNN, respectively
Are we arriving at a stage in American history when there's no such thing as universal news programming? Meaning, in our moment, Fox and CNN are not transnational but instead are for white Americans what Univision is for Latin Americans and BET for black Americans.
Last week you loved Clarence Ramsey—that is until you heard about this. Now you feel uncomfortable about that.
WELL, HAVE NO FEAR, because here's the NEWEST person for you to love on the internet: Melinda Brown Duncan BAY-BEE, who has a few choice and hilariously filthy (and on point) words to share with the leadership of Detroit. I'd vote for her anytime, and anywhere. (That is until we hear that she did something terrible. What a fickle internet we are!)
In what certainly looks like the first casualty of right-wing media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting's takeover of Fisher Communications, Seattle Pulp has been shut down, along with Portland Pulp. The Seattle site launched two years ago and was billed as covering the city's lifestyle beat "with a more urban, witty and fun voice," targeting the 18-34 age demographic.
However, Kevin Cotlove, Director of Content at KOMO, says closing the site had "nothing to do" with the pending Sinclair merger. "It was a business decision solely related to the performance of those sites." Fisher's website says the site earned a million annual pageviews.
"I adored writing for Seattle Pulp," a former Pulp staff writer, who prefers not to be named, explained to me via email this morning. "We weren't huge, but we did inform our readers of interesting, local happenings... It's a sad day any time a locally-focused website is shuttered, because it means lost jobs and lost voices."
Will Bourne, who became editor in chief of The Village Voice in November, and Jessica Lustig, the deputy editor since January, are leaving the weekly publication.
They met with the staff at 11 a.m. on Thursday and said that Christine Brennan, executive editor of Voice Media Group, had instructed them to lay off or drastically reduce the role of five employees on the 20-person staff. Rather than carrying out the cuts, they resigned and left immediately.
Good for Bourne and Lustig. Cutting (or drastically reducing) the staff of the Voice by a quarter would have been a truly awful experience. And working in that post-cut newsroom would probably have been worse than being unemployed. If these cuts go through, I can only imagine that the Voice's scope is going to have to be drastically reduced.
Yesterday I got a tip that Seattle Times employees—including the reporters—were expected to pony up for their own website's paywall (at a discounted rate, but pay nonetheless). Is that a real thing? As a reporter, I frequently have to search our website's online archives for linking, providing context, or developing backfill on articles. It didn't seem possible that a newspaper would actually charge its reporters for an essential function of their jobs. That would be like installing payphones on everyone's desk and pocketing the money. So I wrote to Seattle Times executive editor David Boardman:
Hi, David. I just heard that Seattle Times reporters must pay to pass the newspaper's paywall (at a reduced rate).
Is this accurate? If so, why is that the policy? What's the rate they pay? Does that complicate their own reporting? Like, how do reporters gather backfill from the paper's archives without paying? Have there been problems (reporters losing a password and/or having trouble looking at the website)? Have there been complaints?
Eater.com has the details, and quotes departing critic Hanna Raskin as saying the position is being replaced with someone who will "write press releases, create brochures and represent the paper at public events." While Raskin says that Seattle Weekly hasn't "ruled out the possibility" of running restaurant reviews, it is "unclear who might write them," which makes it sound pretty damn unlikely. To have less food coverage in Seattle—less public discussion of what's become a great local food and restaurant scene—is sad.
I've emailed Seattle Weekly's new editor in chief Mark Baumgarten for comment. Baumgarten took the editor in chief job last month.
UPDATE: Mark Baumgarten responds:
The new Food + Drink Editor position will not involve writing press releases and brochures as a primary function, although it will involve contributing to public communication about developments with our Food + Drink coverage. It's one of the editor's many tasks, as it is one of mine. In fact, I just wrote a press release about Hanna's departure and the new position this morning.
The press release is after the jump.
Seattle Weekly's editor in chief Mark Baumgarten writes:
Seattle Weekly will continue to review restaurants. The shape of that review coverage and who will be writing those reviews will be largely determined by the editor we hire to run the section.
I'm not sure I've ever seen such a brazenly dishonest mismatch between a letter to the editor and the Bizarro World headline the editor slapped on it, but then I don't often read letters to the editor in the Seattle Times, so who knows?
Someday, I hope to be as fair, balanced, neutral, and objective as the Seattle Times.
JOE FRANCIS Probably hoping LA jails have a tooth-whitening program.
The Los Angeles Times reports today that Girls Gone Wild Founder Joe Francis has been convicted of five misdemeanor charges—including false imprisonment and assault causing great bodily injury—after a 2011 attack on three women. LA city attorney Carmen A. Trutanich lauded the victims' courage to come forward.
From the LA Times account of that night:
The group was taken to Francis' gated home, where a physical altercation ensued between Francis and two of the women as he allegedly attempted to pull one of them away from the others, authorities said.
Francis grabbed one of the women by the throat and hair and pushed and slammed her head into the tile floor four times, according to authorities.
The women were escorted out of the house and allegedly told a taxi would not be called and paid for if they called the police.
Francis faces serious jail time—up to five years. He'll be sentenced tomorrow in LA County superior court. Good riddance.
Remember those colorful '90s bookmarks (and rulers, binders, postcards) printed with weird plastic lines on them so that if you turned them one way or the other, a different picture would appear, or the picture would move back and forth? Like thisHarry Potter one. That technology is called "lenticular printing," and I've only ever seen it as a gimmick for for kids' books or Cracker Jack prizes.
Well, Spanish organization ANAR, which works with abused children, just figured out a way to use it in their street ads to solve a major messaging problem. It's a problem that faces many groups that work with systematically abused populations (battered women, enslaved immigrants, sex workers): How do we get our information delivered just to the eyes of someone who needs to see it when they may be walking down the street with their abuser? ANAR wanted a way for kids to see an ad with a phone number they can call for help, and an adult to just see a generic anti-child-abuse PSA.
I'm not sure how publicizing it on the web really serves the ads' secretive purpose, but I guess it wasn't going to stay completely secret for long. It's just a lesson in creative messaging for the public good. (And it makes me look at shiny rainbow Lisa Frank binders in a whole new way.)
On the left, we have Kim "Even My Armpits Are Fat!" Kardashian. (Let me pause for a moment and say: Like most women, I feel acutely aware of all the ways my body can fail to please others at any given moment, but dear lord, it has never occurred to me that you can have FAT ARMPITS.)
On the right, we have Gwyneth "World's Most Beautiful Woman" Paltrow.
There's no in between, really. It's either Ol' Fat Armpits McGee or Mrs. Goop. You choose.
Looks like some ex-Boston Phoenix staffers have been busy: This week, they launched the first issue of The Media, an ad-free, online-only alternative weekly. The layout is pretty old-school, which makes it feel kind of refreshingly new-school. You should read The Media's manifesto, which is titled "Fvck the Media." Like all good manifestoes, it's made up of some exciting stuff:
When I began to consider maybe starting something new, I thought hard about the specific voids left by the decline of alt-weekly journalism as well as pre-existing online publications. Some feel that the role of alt-weeklies is now carried out by blogs, but it's not. There is a specific rhythm to putting out a weekly, a thoughtful pace that the speed of the Internet diminishes.
It was a great privilege to be a part of the last generation working in the newsroom of one of the country's best alt weeklies. There was something special about how the Phoenix connected the dots between arts and music and alternative perspectives on news, politics, and activism. Recently on her Tumblr, Claire Boucher a/k/a Grimes wrote what many called a "feminist manifesto" (though it was more a personal essay about resisting oppressive behavior that is often normalized in music). "I don't want to have to compromise my morals in order to make a living," she wrote, and many of her words resonate in media just as much as music. But what really struck me came eight grafs down: "I'm sad that it's uncool or offensive to talk about environmental or human rights issues."
In the music world it's too often deemed cliché, naïve, idealistic, or straight-up uncool to talk about politics, news, activism, or environmental and human rights issues. The Phoenix was a breath of fresh air from that; a place that approached music and film with the same sort of critical contextualization it did news and politics. The alternative media world is lacking new publications like this, where folks can go for the experimental music coverage and stay for pieces on the climate crisis and feminism and weed and Occupy. This is the sort of publication I hope The Media will be.
This is exciting stuff. I wish them well, and I'll be keeping a close eye on how the experiment progresses. You can follow The Media on Twitter.
That a West Virginia Republican legislator would make such a stupid and mean-spirited proposal isn't really news. Nearly every state house has its share of Republican crazies. But that Fox News thinks its a topic worthy of discussion rather than ridicule, well that's downright scary.
I regularly denounced editors as a species, insulting them with such disparagements as, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those who can’t even teach, edit.” Editors, I liked to say, were all failed writers, and bitter about it, but that kind of logic produces such similarly flawed thoughts as critics are all failed performers or failed somethings. Having now reached an age of reason, that little lull just before senility, I do feel inclined to apologize for those blanket indictments of all editors.
I do recall sometimes feeling frustrated in my kill-the-editor campaign by the fact that every time I wanted to take a flame thrower to the copy desk, one of its tireless drones would find a hideous error I’d made in a story and save my ass...
[Liquor control board] officials say that compliance checks at spirits retailers show that 93 percent of them are following the law and denying sales to minors. That’s about the same compliance rate that liquor stores had when they were run by the state.
That is basically everything I wanted to know. All of the "news" preceding that—about liquor stings and how many citations each store has (the highest is Safeway, with nine citations)—doesn't seem super-relevant once you read the above paragraph. You can let your kids back out of the house now, folks! The streets are as safe (or unsafe) as they always were.
This could be the start of something great. The humans at the Sunlight Foundation have come up with a gadget that cross-references whatever you're reading against a whole slew of collected press releases and other such source material in an effort to speculate how much of it has been plagiarized. The thing seems to need a bit of fine-tuning, because the last few of my blog posts and articles checked out A-okay, and pretty much all I do is plagiarize all day long—basically just surf the information superhighway in search of material that's worth plagiarizing for money and sport.* In fact, I plagiarized this entire post.
It's not really feasible for each of us to track each piece of information to its source (nor would it be efficient), so, instead, we use clues—who wrote this, where is this published, does this square with other information we know. But the trouble is that these clues aren't perfect indicators, at least in part because even credible publications and professional journalists sometimes regurgitate information without giving it a careful vetting, a process often referred to as churnalism (just as gross as it sounds).
I should think this tool stands to greatly improve if and when it acquires the functionality to cross-reference the piece in question against other works of journalism (or blogging) already out there, but Atlantis was not built in a day. As I said in the first sentence of this blog post**, this could be the start of something great, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.
It's like a waterboarding of information every time you turn on the internet, people—time to see who's refilling your bucket during the breaks.
*BIG money and lousy sport. **Sometimes I plagiarize myself because I think I'm wicked smart.