18 Jun

The Faster Times – AOL Hell: An AOL Content Slave Speaks Out

You’d think it’d be fun, wouldn’t you? Writing about “The Simpsons” and such for money. It’s every slacker’s dream job. And I was making $35,000! I remember that I crossed a certain threshold, soon after I got my new job: I stopped buying “Sensor” brand razor blades, and upgraded to “Schick Quattro” brand razor blades. This was exciting. The “Quattro” had four blades instead of the measly two blades of the “Sensor,” plus a sideburn trimmer on the back, plus it vibrated to supposedly aid the shaving process. This was the big time.

Some people struggle to write for their whole lives, and only dream of ever getting paid for it. And here was I was, Mr. Big-Shot-Razor-Blade-Man, getting paid a real salary. I could sit at home and write in my pajamas while eating take-out food; and that’s what I did. I was so grateful.

But this was part of the problem. We — by which I mean me and my fellow employees — were all so grateful. Which allowed us to ignore — or willfully overlook — certain problems. Such as the fact that AOL editors forced us to work relentless hours. Or the fact that we were paid to lie, actually instructed to lie by our bosses.

via The Faster Times – AOL Hell: An AOL Content Slave Speaks Out. Highly depressing read, both into the writing practiced at AOL and what this business considers important (just generating stupid trivial trash to generate pageviews).

08 May

Throwing Fire – LastPass Disclosure Shows Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

LastPass announced nothing more than that their recent statistics looked strange, and because of that they wanted to stay on the safe side just in case there was a breach—although that was unlikely—and the press responded exactly as it would if LastPass had been caught trying to cover up a definite leak.

(In the worst case scenario, a breach of LastPass’ data would reveal nothing more than master password hashes that are virtually uncrackable if the original password has just minimal complexity. Everything else, including information about individual websites and passwords, would be nothing more than an encrypted blob, the contents of which are inaccessible without the original password.)

You can argue if it’s wise to store your passwords online, but at least treat the few companies who act right right.

By acting the way they were supposed to, LastPass only hurt themselves — and that’s why we can’t have nice things.

via Throwing Fire – LastPass Disclosure Shows Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Even the technology journalism sites can’t get things right on occasion.

02 Apr

Nieman Journalism Lab – Baseless speculation! Frank Rich and the price of paywalls for writers

So publishers are turning away from models that emphasize economies of abundance, and toward ones that impose economies of scarcity: apps. Paywalls. Subscriptions. Et cetera. By strategically isolating their content from the pulsing, prodding world of the open web, outlets are attempting to reclaim analog artifacts of containment for a digital world whose every impulse is expansion.

Whether that will work as a business model remains to be seen. But it leads, it’s worth noting, to a basic problem: Increasingly, the motivations of writers and the motivations of the businesses they work for are at odds with each other. Journalists, enabled by the web, are increasingly defining success according to exposure, and news organizations are increasingly defining success according to the limitation of exposure. That’s a huge generalization, sure, but one that will become increasingly valid, I think, in an ecosystem that imposes a tension between walled gardens and open fields.

via Nieman Journalism Lab – Baseless speculation! Frank Rich and the price of paywalls for writers. Good point to recognize this difference, but the point must still be made that both need to be paid, and half to find a system that enables writers and publishers to make money off the content.

27 Mar

NYTimes.com – Radiation + Cable Anchor + Science = ?

Nancy Grace’s behavior on Monday could be seen as simply laughable. But I think it’s far more serious than that, particularly as long as this channel called HLN includes the word news in its description.

She’s smart enough, with a New York University master’s degree in law, to know what she’s doing. I do think she’d benefit, if she wants to keep analyzing news related to science, to spend some time at the university’s great Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting program.

Particularly in situations like this one, where there is an implicit tendency toward emotional reactions and away from rational consideration of hazards, there is a heightened need for the media to remain anchored in reality.Another option for CNN would be to drop the word news from this channel’s description and seek out Charlie Sheen as a co-host.

via NYTimes.com – Radiation + Cable Anchor + Science = ?. Cable news no matter the network typically is a pile of fail when it comes to science.

04 Feb

Union of Concerned Scientists – FoxNews.com Article Uncritically Passes on Climate Misinformation

A January 24 FoxNews.com article, “Five Reasons the Planet May Not Be Its Hottest Ever,” uncritically repeated a number of discredited claims by climate contrarians questioning whether or not the planet is warming. The story, which does not include a byline identifying the author, featured only climate contrarians. Evidence-based conclusions about climate science were shut out.

The arguments at the heart of this piece are at this point very familiar to anyone following this issue. Here are the main claims made in the article and why they miss the point or simply wrong:

via Union of Concerned Scientists – FoxNews.com Article Uncritically Passes on Climate Misinformation. Nice take down UCS.

24 Jan

The New Yorker – News Desk: Why Is Eric Schmidt Stepping Down at Google?

Was Eric Schmidt pushed or did he jump? Both. According to close advisors, the Google C.E.O. was upset a year ago when co-founder Larry Page sided with his founding partner, Sergey Brin, to withdraw censored searches from China. Schmidt did not hide his belief that Google should stay in the world’s largest consumer marketplace. It was an indication of the nature of the relationship Schmidt had with the founders that he—as Brian Cashman of the Yankees did this week—acknowledged that the decision was made above his head. He often joked that he provided “adult supervision,” and was never shy about interrupting the founders at meetings to crystallize a point. In the eleven interviews I conducted with him for my book on Google, he freely told anecdotes about the founders, sometimes making gentle fun of them, never seeming to look over his shoulder. Yet he always made clear that they were “geniuses” and he, in effect, was their manager. After a bumpy first couple of years after he joined Google as C.E.O. in 2001, they had developed a remarkable relationship. But also a weird one. How many successful organizations have a troika making decisions? Schmidt, according to associates, lost some energy and focus after losing the China decision. At the same time, Google was becoming defensive. All of their social-network efforts had faltered. Facebook had replaced them as the hot tech company, the place vital engineers wanted to work. Complaints about Google bureaucracy intensified. Governments around the world were lobbing grenades at Google over privacy, copyright, and size issues. The “don’t be evil” brand was getting tarnished, and the founders were restive. Schmidt started to think of departing. Nudged by a board-member friend and an outside advisor that he had to re-energize himself, he decided after Labor Day that he could reboot.

via The New Yorker – News Desk: Why Is Eric Schmidt Stepping Down at Google?. Typically when I’m posting to The New Yorker, I’m talking about how it’s a super long article with tons of detail and sources. This is super short article but man it details the entire story of Schmidt leaving Google as C.E.O. In all honesty this should be used as an example to journalism students everywhere.

03 Jan

Toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq : The New Yorker

Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” and generations of journalists have followed his maxim. But the opposite can also be true: the farther away you are, the better you can see. At Firdos Square, the farther from the statue you were, the more you could understand.

Very few Iraqis were there. If you were at the square, or if you watch the footage, you can see, on the rare occasions long shots were used, that the square was mostly empty. You can also see, from photographs as well as video, that much of the crowd was made up of journalists and marines. Because of the lo-fi quality of the video and the shifting composition of the crowd, it’s hard to give a precise number, but perhaps a quarter to a half consisted of journalists or marines. The crowd’s size—journalists, marines, and Iraqis—does not seem to have exceeded several hundred at its largest, and was much smaller for most of the two hours. The Iraqis who were photogenically enthusiastic—sledgehammering the statue, jumping on it after the toppling—were just an excitable subset of all Iraqis there. “I saw a lot of people watching with their arms crossed, not at all celebrating,” Collier noted.

via The New Yorker – Toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. This is a classic New Yorker story, take a single idea or story go really in depth, pull interesting nuggets and raise questions.

12 Dec

Geek Juice – Journalists need to learn what a ‘hacker’ really is

The misconception that what these teenagers did is ‘hacking’ needs to be corrected. Journalists need to research what they’re talking about, especially if they are doing a cover story for one of the biggest newspapers in the country.

Today, I’m stepping up to the challenge. I shall once and for all make it clear what ‘hacking’ really is, while also helping you understand how a group of kids can take down a corporate website with little to no knowledge of even the basics of hacking.

via Geek Juice – Journalists need to learn what a ‘hacker’ really is. Journalism unfortunately by it’s nature leads people with limited training in any area other than writing to report on areas upon which they have no or limited knowledge thus leading them to say incorrect/stupid stuff.

11 Dec

The Economist – Another WikiLeaks inkblot: American exceptionalism, American hypocrisy

The more plausible that line of thought sounds to you, the more WikiLeaks will strike you as something akin to a terrorist enterprise. But the more you see a hegemonic America as a problem and not a solution, the more WikiLeaks will strike you as a welcome check on a dangerous, out-of-control hyperpower drunk on its own good intentions. In that case, it may seem that the American political establishment and the collaborating media has grown blind to the hypocrisy so clearly apparent to others in its approach to WikiLeaks because it has forgotten that freedom and democracy have meaning apart from their role in justifying the operations of the far-flung secret-shrouded state.

via The Economist – Another WikiLeaks inkblot: American exceptionalism, American hypocrisy. This is probably the best explanation as to why the Wikileaks story is so polarizing.

11 Dec

The Associated Press – Respected media outlets collaborate with WikiLeaks

Unlike earlier disclosures by WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of secret government military records, the group is releasing only a trickle of documents at a time from a trove of a quarter-million, and only after considering advice from five news organizations with which it chose to share all of the material.

"They are releasing the documents we selected," Le Monde’s managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, said in an interview at the newspaper’s Paris headquarters.

WikiLeaks turned over all of the classified U.S. State Department cables it obtained to Le Monde, El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany. The Guardian shared the material with The New York Times, and the five news organizations have been working together to plan the timing of their reports.

They also have been advising WikiLeaks on which documents to release publicly and what redactions to make to those documents, Kauffmann and others involved in the arrangement said.

via The Associated Press – Respected media outlets collaborate with WikiLeaks. This is an interesting aspect to the story of Wikileaks and the document dump it’s performing.