(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘news

“Relationships have two key components: ‘being close’ and ‘feeling close’.”*…

The marvelous Matt Webb muses on Dunbar’s Number…

150, Dunbar’s number, is the natural size of human social groups. Robin Dunbar’s 1993 paper, where he put forward this hypothesis, is a great read – it’s got twists and turns, so much more in it than just the 150 number…

Dunbar’s number and how speaking is 2.8x better than picking fleas,” from @genmon.

Dunbar’s original paper is here.

* Robin Dunbar

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As we ruminate on relationships, we might recall that this date in 1954 was, according to the True Knowledge Answer Engine, the most boring day since 1900. The site analyzed more than 300 million historical facts and discovered that April 11, 1954 was the most uneventful news day of the 20th century. No typically newsworthy events occurred at all… though of course now the day has become a bit more newsworthy because it has the distinction of being so completely uneventful.

Photo by left-hand (license)

“I rather think that archives exist to keep things safe – but not secret”*…

Brewster Kahle, founder and head of The Internet Archive couldn’t agree more, and for the last 25 years he’s put his energy, his money– his life– to work trying to make that happen…

In 1996, Kahle founded the Internet Archive, which stands alongside Wikipedia as one of the great not-for-profit knowledge-enhancing creations of modern digital technology. You may know it best for the Wayback Machine, its now quarter-century-old tool for deriving some sort of permanent record from the inherently transient medium of the web. (It’s collected 668 billion web pages so far.) But its ambitions extend far beyond that, creating a free-to-all library of 38 million books and documents, 14 million audio recordings, 7 million videos, and more…

That work has not been without controversy, but it’s an enormous public service — not least to journalists, who rely on it for reporting every day. (Not to mention the Wayback Machine is often the only place to find the first two decades of web-based journalism, most of which has been wiped away from its original URLs.)…

Joshua Benton (@jbenton) of @NiemanLab debriefs Brewster on the occasion of the Archive’s silver anniversary: “After 25 years, Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive are still working to democratize knowledge.”

Amidst wonderfully illuminating reminiscences, Brewster goes right to the heart of the issue…

Corporations continue to control access to materials that are in the library, which is controlling preservation, and it’s killing us….

[The Archive and the movement of which it’s a part are] a radical experiment in radical sharing. I think the winner, the hero of the last 25 years, is the everyman. They’ve been the heroes. The institutions are the ones who haven’t adjusted. Large corporations have found this technology as a mechanism of becoming global monopolies. It’s been a boom time for monopolists.

Kevin Young

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As we love librarians, we might send carefully-curated birthday greetings to Frederick Baldwin Adams Jr.; he was born on this date in 1910.  A bibliophile who was more a curator than an archivist, he was the the director of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City from 1948–1969.  His predecessor, Belle da Costa Greene, was responsible for organizing the results of Morgan’s rapacious collecting; Adams was responsible for broadening– and modernizing– that collection, adding works by Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Willa Cather, Robert Frost,  E. A. Robinson, among many others, along with manuscripts and visual arts, and for enhancing the institution’s role as a research facility.

Adams was also an important collector in his own right.  He amassed two of the largest holdings of works by Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as one of the leading collections of writing by Karl Marx and left-wing Americana.

Adams

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“To ask whether the mainstream media has a conservative or liberal bias is like asking whether al-Qaida uses too much oil in their hummus.”*…

What we talk about when we talk about “the mainstream media”…

Everyone is constantly yelling about the mainstream media, and rarely are we referring to the same thing. Just take the recent whirlwind of news about Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York: A guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show said that the mainstream media, too busy hating on Trump, gave Cuomo a pass on his leadership during the pandemic. The Washington Post’s Max Boot wrote that Cuomo’s various scandals show how the mainstream media is tougher on Democrats than on Republicans. David Sirota, founder of the Daily Posterargued that the “media machine” was too busy celebrating Cuomo to cover him adequately. The Poynter Institute weighed in: “It might be time to dispel the thinking that the so-called ‘mainstream media’ is protecting” Cuomo. Brian Flood, a media reporter for Fox News, contended that the mainstream media went easy on Cuomo while he botched the early vaccine rollout. Meantime, Cuomo’s camp apparently believed that his bad press was manufactured by “a mainstream media desperate for clicks.”

There are many ways to think about what constitutes the mainstream media, if such a thing exists at all. It can refer, simply, to any newspaper or to your local daytime talk show; at its most pernicious, the “mainstream media” represents a conspiracy of gatekeepers. “The elite media set a framework within which others operate,” Noam Chomsky wrote. “That framework works pretty well, and it is understandable that it is just a reflection of obvious power structures.” A popular academic argument describes the mainstream media as actors who wield “power over discourse,” which conjures a certain image: wealthy, white, male. As independent local news withers, and media companies become increasingly corporatized—under the control of large conglomerates and hedge funds—that critique rings all the more true. To Sheryl Kennedy Haydel, a scholar of historically Black college and university newspapers at Louisiana State, the term “mainstream media” remains useful as long as journalism has an equity problem. “The people who are the decision-makers, or even the reporters, don’t look like the nation you and I live in,” she told me…

To some, “mainstream” can be synonymous with “popular”; yet Fox News, consistently ranked the most-watched cable network, is perhaps the loudest megaphone ranting against the mainstream media’s “corrupt cabal.” In May, the Pew Research Center released a report finding “wide agreement” among Americans surveyed that a certain set of outlets are in the mainstream media: ABC News, CNN, the New York Times, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal; 73 percent said that Fox News belongs to the mainstream. Yet The Sean Hannity Show did not make the mainstream ranks. And among respondents who rely on Fox for political news, as well as those who tune in to NPR, majorities said they believe their preferred source to be mainstream yet different from most other outlets. HuffPost might be the mainstream media, the poll said, but BuzzFeed probably isn’t. The more one looks at the results, the more contradictory they appear.

What is clear is that those of us who use the phrase “mainstream media” have only a loosely shared understanding of reality, at best. And yet we continue to use the same term, one weighted with history, to describe a phenomenon that sounds assured and entrenched but is actually amorphous and dynamic. Perhaps the ambiguity of “the mainstream media” reveals something profound about the messy information ecosystem we’re in…

The history and the current state of a concept– “mainstream media”– that obscures more than it clarifies: “Inside the Lines,” from Savannah Jacobson (@srjacobson1) in @CJR.

* Al Franken

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As we honor honest inquiry, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that police raided The Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village, resulting in three days of demonstrations by members of the gay community that launched the gay rights movement.

A framed newspaper clipping covering the police raid hangs inside The Stonewall Inn (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 28, 2021 at 7:18 am

“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable… On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.”*…

Avviso from Antwerp dated 26 Dec 1663

The birth of commercial journalism: from Andrew Pettegree‘s wonderful The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself. (Via Rafat Ali)

* “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.” – Stewart Brand, in conversation with Steve Wozniak at the 1984 Hackers Conference

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As we muse on the news, we might recall that it was on this date in 1944 that Harry S. McAlpin made history when he became the first African American journalist admitted to a White House press conference.

Even though he was admitted to the press conference, McAlpin and other Black reporters still faced racism by press committees that controlled credentials for Congress and the White House.

Time Magazine reported in 1944: “For the first time, a Negro newsman was admitted last week to the President’s regular press conference, granted credentials … [to] Harry McAlpin of the Atlanta Daily World (circ. 23,000) and the Negro Newspaper Publishers’ Association.

“Reporter McAlpin went into the conference without having been accepted by the Congressional Galleries’ standing committee or by the White House Correspondents’ Association, which ordinarily pass upon an applicant before credentials are issued. No Negro has ever received their approval…

McAlpin was among the founders of The Capital Press Club, because in the 1940s the White House Correspondents’ Association and the National Press Club practiced racial segregation, barring African American journalists from membership…

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 8, 2021 at 1:01 am

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”*…

A reporter at work covering the Eichmann trial, 1961 [source]

The [New York] Times is becoming a newsy entertainment outlet, à la Jon Oliver, with a business model more like Netflix or Hulu than catchphrases like All The News That’s Fit to Print might suggest. The Times says so itself, announcing a slew of movie and TV deals with Netflix and Amazon, the Hollywood writing room replaced by the New York newsroom. To quote [the Times‘ media columnist, Ben] Smith in a recent piece slamming one of his colleagues: “The paper is in the midst of an evolution from the stodgy paper of record into a juicy collection of great narratives, on the web and streaming services.”

The customer always gets what they want: In the case of an ads-driven business model where the advertiser is the true customer, that’s balanced political news alongside frivolous lifestyle stories as a canvas for ads. In the case of subscribers, it’s being flattered by having their own worldviews echoed back at themselves in more articulate form. Nobody actually pays for news, unless your livelihood depends on it, which is why outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg will still flourish, but nothing vaguely resembling news will otherwise remain in a subscription-driven world…

Ideology is like body odor: someone else’s absolutely reeks if strong enough, but you can’t even notice your own. If you remain convinced, in the year 2020 AD, that this or that national outlet remains the megaphone of disinterested chroniclers and selfless truth-seekers, then the BO in question is surely your own. But don’t expect everyone else to put up with the stink.

The Times will triumph financially, dramatically so, and utterly fail as an intellectual institution, at least by its former standards. Sure, the Times staff, like fourth-century Roman emperors intoning the half-remembered tropes of the Roman republic, will speak of ‘objectivity’ and ‘the first draft of history’. But only they and their subscribers will actually believe it. The editorial branding will be august pronouncements about ‘the paper of record’, but the business model is pure Netflix: All The News Fit To Binge.

Advertising-funded journalism is not, as some journalists persist in believing, some ineluctable law of the universe. It’s an entirely contingent artifact of a weird confluence of factors: industrialization and the mass consumer economy, urbanization and burgeoning immigration, plus the secular decline of 19th-century Jacksonian political machines.

As I’ve written before, in century-ago-seeming 2019, and which is doubly correct now, American media is in the process of regressing to 19th (or perhaps even 18th) century models of journalism. Ben Franklin posted under two-dozen different pseudonyms including such bangers as Silence Dogood and Alice Addertongue, and displayed as much nastiness or wit as such modern-day lights like @neontaster or @ComfortablySmug.

Gonzo journalism? Samuel Adams helped organize the Boston Tea Party, and then reported about it after the fact, a level of ‘gonzo’ that even Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson never quite reached. Through almost the end of the 19th-century, the revenue model for most newspapers was subscriptions from party loyalists when a paper like The Press Democrat meant just that: the Democratic paper in that town giving that faction’s version of events (with some anodyne wire-service news mixed in).

We assume that this idiosyncratic late-20th-century form of American journalism is an essential ingredient to liberal democracy, the sine qua non juju that makes civil liberties and accountable government possible. And yet, our Western European peer nations, which one side of the American political spectrum loves to draw comparisons with when they’re not threatening to move there, have an utterly different journalistic culture…

Antonio Garcia-Martinez (@antoniogm) muses on his interview with Martin Gurri (author of The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium)… Into the morbid interregnum? “Twilight of the Media Elites.”

Garcia-Martinez’s full piece is eminently worth reading in full– and best understood in tandem with his conversation with Gurri: “The Prophet of the Revolt.” (For a variation on this diagnosis, see also: “Why Facts Are Overrated.”)

For an argument that yes, the full range of facts and the journalism that reports them do matter, but no, we’re not necessarily doomed to a cacophonous interregnum– that journalistic institutions, while troubled, can be saved– see “The First Amendment in the age of disinformation” by Emily Bazelon (in the New York Times…).

And for a set of painful reminders that this conversation is taking place against an active set of campaigns to widen social and cultural divisions via disinformation, see “The Media Manipulation Casebook.”

* Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

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As we sieve signal from noise, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924, four days before a British General Election, that the [London] Daily Mail published the “Zinoviev letter.” Purportedly a directive from Grigory Zinoviev, the head of the Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow, to the Communist Party of Great Britain, ordering it to engage in seditious activities, it “predicted” that the resumption of British-Soviet diplomatic relations (by a Labour government) would hasten the radicalization of the British working class. Offensive to many British voters and frightening to others, the letter– now widely-viewed by scholars as a forgery– aided a Conservative landslide.

But historian A. J. P. Taylor argued that the more important impact was on the psychology of Labourites, who in his estimation for years afterwards blamed foul play for their defeat. Though that was accurate, it distracted them from grappling with the broad political forces at work in Britain and postponed what (Taylor argued were) necessary reforms in the Labour Party.

Zinoviev, who never had to lift a finger…

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