[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.
Last night, while running a live-Slog of the coverage of the Watertown firefight and the ongoing pursuit of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, I had to make a number of decisions about what to run and what not to run. When you're this far away from a breaking news story, that's basically all that this meta-coverage is: Determining what's trustworthy and what's not, and publishing the information that you determine to be accurate. During the live-Slog, I included information that someone on the Boston Police scanner was said to have mentioned the name of a Brown University student who disappeared a month ago. I also included links to an online amateur detective investigation into theories about that student's involvement in the bombing. (Here's an apology from one of the moderators of that thread.) Despite mentions by reputable sources on Twitter, it seems that the student's name was never on the scanner; for information about what really happened, check out Alexis C. Madrigal's great story in The Atlantic.
I didn't accuse the student of committing the bombing. I didn't even say that the student was the suspect. I pointed out that he was trending on Twitter and included all the information that I had at hand. This was something that happened all over the internet; Gawker said that "it increasingly looks like" this student is the suspect. And a very Twitter-friendly reporter went so far as to publish a tweet that read something like "It is [student's name]." That reporter apparently then deleted the tweet and, a few minutes later, published a story excoriating the press for IDing the wrong student. I don't include these other examples to exonerate myself of making a decision; I made the decision.
People want to blame Twitter for mistakes like this, but this sort of thing has happened before the internet became a news source, and it will doubtlessly happen again. Do I wish the student's name never became involved with the situation? Absolutely. And if I knew then what I know now, of course I wouldn't have run the information. And I apologize to the family for being a part of the wave of misinformation that consumed their search for their missing loved one. I can't imagine the pain and heartbreak that this situation has caused for them. I hope that, if something good can come out of all this, it's that the increased visibility will result in someone finding their lost family member.
But I do believe that the student's name was news last night, during the manhunt. One of the most useful things about the internet is that you can instantaneously take a snapshot of what a significant number of human beings are thinking about at any given moment, without having them, say, physically assemble for a protest. In times like this, that's news. For a few hours last night, right or wrong, that student's name was news. One day, there will be another situation like this. And the news provides a precedent; it's how we hold onto memories of traumatic times. Maybe the next time someone decides to crowdsource a police investigation, the story of this student will give more of the amateur detectives pause. But for that to happen, the story of this mistake has to be disseminated. It's an imperfect process, but it's the process that we've got.
Actually it was 90 minutes between CNN announcing that an arrest of the Boston bomber was imminent, an arrest was certainly made, that maybe they ought to be cautious about early information, and then, finally, actually, that CNN had been completely full of shit. TPM has compiled the video:
The best line: "We don't want to get too far ahead of this."
Holy lord, I love Raffi. Sometimes, people who you like as a child turn out to be creeps. And sometimes, they turn out to be really great grown-ups (like Mr. Rogers, who was one of the loveliest humans ever). Right now, children's singer-songwriter Raffi is taking to Twitter to lament the awfulness of Canadian teenager Rehtaeh Parsons's recent suicide, and rape culture and slutshaming in general, specifically calling out men to address their own issues and adults to fix some of the systemic fuckups that lead to these tragedies.
"rape culture"? what has society become—who tolerates such hideous violence& insult to human dignity? MEN, Youth—SPEAK OUT!! — Raffi Cavoukian (@Raffi_RC) April 12, 2013
A McDonald's ad that looks like a public service ad for mental health services has been pulled from Boston public transportation this week... In a statement to Time, McDonald's denies ever approving the ad, and blames a marketing process error. From their statement: "We can confirm this ad was not approved by McDonald's. We have an approval process in place... Regrettably, in this incident, that process was not followed. We sincerely apologize for this error."
What on earth possessed someone to to try advertising cheeseburgers via a spoof suicide hotline, we may never know. Click here to see the ad. Or if you want to see all the rest of the ads on that Orange Line train car, which do put this one in a better context, go here. (The idea for the campaign is kind of funny, just shoddily executed.)
This morning, Gawker Media owner Nick Denton sent a memo to all his employees about the length of their headlines. Gawker published that memo:
Our wordy headlines are a growing disadvantage. That's why from tomorrow we're going to warn you in the Kinja editor to keep your headlines below 70 characters — and we're going to only display 70 characters on the front page even if you go longer.
The idea is that Google and Facebook punish long headlines by clipping them at around the seventy character mark, so Denton is trying to get the maximum number of eyeballs on each story by making the headlines legible across multiple platforms. The problem with this kind of edict, though, is that accuracy suffers, and the headlines are likely going to get more and more tabloidy. Sometimes a story needs a long headline; if you're writing about crimes, you even set yourself up for possible lawsuits if you drop an "alleged" or two for the sake of space.
That said, this is probably good for business on the internet. I bet the Huffington Post will counter by making all their headlines 35 characters, and then BuzzFeed will respond with an all-Emoji headline format, and from there on out, it's not very long until everyone's getting handjobs at Starbucks. Slog will continue to make our headlines as long as they need to be, because fuck SEO. [TWEET THIS!]
Seattle-based Fisher Communications, which owns and operates KOMO-TV, KOMO Newsradio, and KVI-570 along with 19 other TV stations in eight states, has agreed to be acquired by Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting for $373 million. The $41 per share price represents a five percent premium over yesterday's close, and is up 44 percent since KOMO actively started seeking a buyer in early January.
But while that may be good news for Fisher shareholders, it kinda sucks for audiences here in Seattle. Sinclair is infamous for forcing its stations to air right-wing propaganda just before elections. Just two weeks before the 2004 presidential election, Sinclair ordered its 62 stations to air the Swift-Boat-funded "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" without commercials, a film that slandered Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's war record. During the 2010 midterm elections Sinclair stations ran a 25-minute infomercial that described President Obama as a "socialist" and accused him of raising money from Hamas. Last year, Sinclair stations in swing states Ohio and Florida ran anti-Obama election eve specials in the slot normally occupied by Nightline.
So yeah. That's who'll be running KOMO from here on out. And you thought that media ownership around these parts couldn't get any worse.
Hall of Fame motivational speaker LaDonna Gatlin, sister of music legends The Gatlin Brothers, is so inspiring and upbeat it’s hard to believe she once attempted suicide!
It's not easy to marry publicity and attempted suicide, but that doesn't mean you can't try. (A follow-up attempt from the same press release: "It’s hard to believe that anyone could take 31 Ambien and live—but LaDonna Gatlin did just that!")
illegal immigration Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.
Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.
It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it's really not. Labeling a person as an "illegal" serves to dehumanize them eyes of the reader. There's a great episode of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley that addresses the topic in depth. Well worth listening.
So yeah, this is a big deal. And a big step toward a more rational immigration debate.
Also of note, especially in the context of the debate over both our state and federal Dream Acts, is the following extra bit of instruction from AP's editors: "People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally." Because, you know, to do so would be to imply that the children were culpable for an act over which they had zero control.
To put it simply, this is a newspaper company—Hearst, as it turns out—throwing up its hands in defeat. Here’s a company, by its actions, saying: we can't make serious money off of local journalism anymore. Nowhere is this more evident than in its choice to highlight a Selena Gomez story that can be read on any news outlet from Redmond to Richmond instead of anything that’s actually from Seattle.
I just couldn't wait for my Seattle Times paywall to kick in, so I clicked a bunch of headlines today to use up my monthly allotment of free articles, and presto:
Surprisingly, unlike the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other relevant newspapers, the Seattle Times paywall appears to be pretty damn nonporous—in other words, no getting around it by clicking through offsite links from Google News, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. You know, the way most modern humans find 99 percent of the content they consume.
Also, no obvious URL-editing workarounds or page-loading tricks. It's a pretty solid wall.*
I suppose, maybe, this could be intentional. They might see this as the only way to keep Google from stealing all their money. Or perhaps it just represents a lack of technical sophistication—a paywall that doesn't distinguish the HTTP referer would be much easier to implement. Either way, it can't help but reduce the paper's online readership, but I guess that's a sacrifice they're willing to make in return for higher subscription revenues.
* Actually, I've already discovered a couple of ways around the paywall, but Tim says it would be poor sportsmanship to share them on Slog, because suddenly he's all BFF with Frank Blethen or something.
More than a week behind schedule, the Seattle Times set up its paywall, so viewing their website now costs $4 per week. This would probably be well worth the price if the articles were particularly unique. But they're not. Lots of other news outlets, from mainstream broadcasters to neighborhood blogs, cover the same sorts of stories, and they post their articles online without charging a penny. The hardest part for local news readers is assembling all those stories from across the region in one place (which is what the Seattle Times essentially did on its homepage), but in this day and age, it's easy to peruse all those outlets' articles on a single screen.
That's why I've made a list on Twitter that puts all the free local news stories in one place.
You know that paywall that the Seattle Times was supposed to put up in March, but recently announced would be delayed? Well apparently, they've delayed the delay.
Unless, of course, they're just fucking with me. Perhaps there is no paywall (and possibly never will be a paywall?), and they're just popping up these warnings in order to snag subscriptions from the most gullible low-hanging fruit?
Nah, that would be way too devious and clever for the Seattle Times. Well, too clever anyway.
The Seattle Times announced last month that they would erect a $4-per-week website paywall starting in mid-March. But now we're heading into the days of late-March... and their "quality journalism" is still free as ever. So what's up? Jill Mackie, the vice president of public affairs, says they "will be launching digital subscriptions, slightly later than we initially expected, but soon. At this point, I can't share a specific date."
Until then, enjoy their quality journalism for free, such as their fine editorial from yesterday that argues developers who benefit from building taller towers in South Lake Union should should pay less towards low-income housing.
One great reason: "The Times has property on the market and would be hurt by a sudden increase in the city’s fee," the paper points out. Doesn't that make you feel generous about paying for quality journalism, Seattle?
The Seattle Times editorial board opposes hiking fees on South Lake Union developers who exceed the old height limits, decrying the proposal as a "last-minute money grab." But all you really need to know about the paper's outspoken opposition is this:
The Seattle Times also has an interest. Over the years, The Times has sold property in South Lake Union and invested the money in this newspaper. The Times has property on the market and would be hurt by a sudden increase in the city’s fee.
Then, you know, it really isn't an appropriate subject for an editorial, is it? A press release, maybe. From corporate communications. But to wrap a public policy argument around their publisher's personal business interests is more than a little bit disingenuous.
It's also not much of a public policy argument. "The area is booming," say the editors. "Investors are ready to roll." So, um, isn't that exactly the right time to try squeeze a little more revenue out of developers in exchange for a rezone that permits taller, more profitable buildings? Besides, the city has plowed lots of resources into the SLU neighborhood—streets, utilities, street car, etc.—to the benefit of Amazon, Vulcan, et al. So what's the harm in trying to up our return on investment?
Amazon could afford a higher fee, but might decide it didn’t want to, and invest elsewhere.
“A stare-down of Jeff Bezos is not a game I’d be interested in playing,” says Seattle land-use attorney Jack McCullough, referring to Amazon’s founder and CEO.
Really? City Hall should be afraid to stare down Jeff Bezos? He's just another billionaire, for chrisakes, not fucking Medusa.
It's a stupid argument in defense of a selfish cause, unbefitting of a publication that fancies itself our state's paper of record.
The Seattle Times has this nifty little interactive feature where you can balance the state budget by selecting various revenue increases and spending cuts. It reminded me that I forgot about Medicaid expansion when I wrote about the low-hanging fruit yesterday. That's another $259 million in cost savings right there.
But you know what's missing from their list of revenue options? The $160 million that would be generated by fixing state law to reimpose the estate tax on married couples (the Supreme Court recently invalidated it on a technicality).
Oops. I'm sure that was just an innocent mistake, right? I mean, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen is one of the nation's most outspoken advocates for repealing the estate tax. No, I'm confident that didn't influence the editors at all, if only on an unconscious level.
On March 15, the board of directors of Maxim parent Alpha Media Group announced that they have "entered the process of exploring a potential investment, partnership or sale" for the 16-year-old, 2 million rate-base monthly that targets 18-to-34-year-old men.
Once young men figure out you can see breasts for free on the internet, Maxim will really be in trouble.
It took weeks of pleading from the victim, a thorough explication of their error from me, and finally, a threatening letter from an attorney, but the Seattle Times has finally issued a correction on that Rob Holland hit piece they're so proud of:
Information in this story, originally published Feb. 9, 2013, was corrected March 16, 2013. The story incorrectly said a consultant’s report said Rob Holland allowed Michael Martin to use his Port credit card to buy camera equipment at Fry’s Electronics. In fact, the report described the Fry’s transaction as “potential unauthorized purchases” that were “unsubstantiated.” The transaction was documented by a $31 invoice with Martin’s name as the customer and Holland’s credit card number.
Huh. Their defensive phrasing shows that they still don't seem to get it. Regardless of how well documented they believe the allegation to be (and as I've explained, it's not well documented at all), "the story incorrectly said a consultant's report said." That was the totality of Martin's complaint: The original article asserted that the report concluded something that it had not concluded. They should have left the correction at that, instead of feebly attempting to back up their own unsupported conclusion.
What's missing from this half-assed correction is a hint of regret. But I guess it's better than nothing.
(And to be clear: We all make errors. Indeed, The Stranger dedicates an entire issue to acknowledging ours. It just shouldn't require a letter from an attorney to get a reporter to correct such a demonstrably inaccurate factual assertion.)
Of course, it's not just daily newspapers that are struggling these days. Boston Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich announced today that the 47-year-old alt-weekly is ceasing publication immediately:
As everyone knows, between the economic crisis beginning in 2007 and the simultaneous radical changes in the media business, particularly as it has affected print media advertising, these have been extremely difficult times for our Company and despite the valiant effort by many, many past and current staff to attempt to stabilize and, in fact, reverse our significant financial losses, we have been unable to do so and they are no longer sustainable.
For the moment, the Providence and Portland Phoenixes will continue to operate "as long as they remain financially viable," but today's announcement is sure to exacerbate pangs of job insecurity at alt-weeklies nationwide. You know, except here at The Stranger. Because we're invincible!