@MayorEmanuel Revealed; Frank Rich Leaves the NYT; Spies in Scientology
That moment right before the identity of an author of a fake Twitter account is revealed is inherently one of hope. If you're at all like me, you want the writer to be worthy of the half-second of resulting fame and not be a self-important, hipster-trickster douchebag barely old enough to shave. In Dan Sinker, fabricator of @mayoremanuel, the hilariously profane Twitter feed acting as a stream of consciousness from newly elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I got what I wanted. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal wrote that Mr. Sinker has "a heart made out of Chicago and balls of punk rock" and it turns out that Mr. Sinker is not only a teacher of journalism, but he used to publish a zine called Punk Planet. A zine! Somewhere Carl Sandburg is smiling.
If that seems like a lot of fuss over a Twitter account, you probably haven't been following @MayorEmanuel. The profane, brilliant stream of tweets not only may be the most entertaining feed ever created, but it pushed the boundaries of the medium, making Twitter feel less like a humble platform for updating your status and more like a place where literature could happen. Never deviating too far from the reality of the race itself, @MayorEmanuel wove deep, hilarious stories. It was next-level digital political satire and caricature, but over the months the account ran, it became much more. By the end, the stream resembled an epic, allusive ode to the city of Chicago itself, yearning and lyrical.
For reasons that aren't abundantly clear, Frank Rich is leaving the The New York Times, where he pens a really long Sunday column on whatever topic he chooses, to go to the much smaller New York Magazine where, it seems, he'll actually have to do some work. No one really knows why this is happening. Some point to a long friendship with New York editor Adam Moss; others speculate that Mr. Moss is handing over big bags with a "$" painted on them. I thought the most interesting chin-stroking came from Megan Garber at Nieman Journalism Lab. She posited that the move might have to do with the Times' soon to be erected paywall, which maybe has Mr. Rich fleeing for the more open environs of Mr. Moss' property. Either way, it's certainly a high-brow/brilliant moment for the editor and his new columnist.
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.
Gawker writer John Cook did a great piece for The New York Observer -- topped with a disclosure that Gawker passed on the story without explaining why -- about a New York media figure who's been a mole for the Scientologists for like 20 years. Wait, what?! A Gawker writer toiling for the now Elizabeth Spiers-helmed Observer. That is strange.
John Connolly is a well-known, and well-liked, character in New York media circles. He's a former NYPD detective and stock broker who landed a third career as an investigative reporter for Vanity Fair, where he is a contributing editor, Radar, the Daily Beast, Gawker and other outlets. Connolly is an investigator of the old school, employed more for his ability to run a license plate number than his facility with prose. In 1990, while freelancing for Forbes, he was accused by a federal judge of using his old NYPD badge to obtain sealed court documents. According to USA Today, his stint as a stockbroker ended in the 1980s with a $100,000 civil penalty and lifetime ban from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He's a mischievous tipster, an inveterate gossip, and an information broker of the highest order. He speaks with a cartoonish New York accent and knows literally everybody. And according to the two highest ranking Scientology officials to ever leave the church, he's been a paid informant for the cult for two decades.
The commercial and critical success of Oscar nominee "Inception" should be an lesson to Hollywood executives that good movies can also make money. It hasn't been, as Mark Harris described in a GQ article, "The Day Movies Died." Mr. Harris surveyed forthcoming releases and found not an "Inception" among them. He asked Scott Rudin to explain and the producer produced this rather disgustingly phrased-analogy:
For the studios, a good new idea has become just too scary a road to travel. "Inception," they will tell you, is an exceptional movie. And movies that need to be exceptional to succeed are bad business. "The scab you're picking at is called execution," says legendary producer Scott Rudin ("The Social Network," "True Grit"). "Studios are hardwired not to bet on execution, and the terrible thing is, they're right. Because in terms of execution, most movies disappoint."
The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times all reported that JP Morgan Chase was set to take a big chunk of Twitter. Turns out Chase had invested in a fund that owned 10% of Twitter, as reported on Techcrunch, in a corrective post. Oops! Anyway, Techcrunch founder Michael Arrington, as you might imagine, had a little to say about the error and the publications' failure to correct:
But they then screwed up on the easy part -- fixing the story with updated facts. Admitting the parts that were wrong. Getting their readers the most updated, correct data.
I know why these guys didn't update. Because it's embarrassing to get facts wrong and if you have to update, correct, or retract it's seen as a weakness and you can lose reader trust.
It's exactly the opposite. Admitting you were wrong isn't a weakness.
The NYTimes has directly called us out over posting early rumors occasionally. This was my response. I think it's time we had a longer conversation about Process Journalism, and a publication's duty to its readers.