“We interrupt this program for an important update!”

The Death of the Media

“Some trash has been found.”

angry robot attacks

On Sunday, CNN interrupted “Reliable Sources” to report …on four objects CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield called “the most promising lead so far.” But she then proceeded to discuss with correspondent Will Ripley that the major discovery was likely trash.

“When you actually get down to the ocean and you recover the items, it might turn out to be a different story,” Ripley said. “That seems to be the case that we are now learning.”

In related news, some cigarette butts were spotted near the CNN driveway. Coincidence? Some say “No!”


Dancing with the Gregory: NBC Has A Solution

Meet David Gregory's hair

Tiger Beat on the Potomac (thanks, Charlie!) tells us:

NBC’s “Meet The Press” finished a distant third in both total viewership and the demo this week, marking yet another devastating loss in what has been a brutal winter for the former king of Sunday morning public affairs programming.

“Meet” brought in just 2.804 million viewers for its March 23 program, far behind ABC’s “This Week” with 3.400 million and CBS’s “Face The Nation,” which topped with 3.938 million. In the demo, “Meet” had just 805,000 viewers, trailing ABC’s 1.053 million and CBS’s 1.177 million.

So what is NBC going to do? Replace The Death Rattle with Morning Squint and the Meat Puppet, as previously rumored?

HuffPo reported last week that, in the face of low ratings and mounting criticism, NBC is “doubling down” on Dancin’ Dave, betting that that the oh-so-desireable Yout-of-today will be drawn in using web-only interviews and increased digital engagement.


Yup, when people are running away from the stench of rotting corpses, what you do is offer them more ways to smell the rot in different venues.

Well, I suppose it could be worse: they could have decided to have Grandpa Walnuts co-host. Oh, wait.

Whiny (media) kid is whiny

The Death of the Media

Brainiac Nate Silver writes a column that is almost like a parody:

During FiveThirtyEight’s tenure with The New York Times, Mr. Krugman referred to FiveThirtyEight or to Nate Silver 21 times. Over all, 15 of these references were favorable, as compared to five neutral references and one unfavorable one.

But Mr. Krugman’s views of FiveThirtyEight have changed since it re-launched March 17 under the auspices of ESPN. The columnist has mentioned FiveThirtyEight four times in just nine days, all in negative contexts. (Mr. Silver has frequently criticized what he calls “pundits” and “opinion journalists,” including those who write for The Times.)

And then Silver makes a chart of all the times Krugman has said anything about him over the lifespan of 538, and rates them.

I’m not kidding.

There was a kid in my grammar school who did this and weekly presented his evidence to the teacher that the other kids did not like him. I think at that point the teacher felt sorry for us that this little dweeb would be following us for life, tallying the number of outrageous slings and arrows fate shot at him to prove to us that we did not like him. We could have stone cold told him that and saved him the trouble.

And this is the New Media for which we are supposed to be cheering?


“Some say,” some said: Journalism

The Death of the Media


The Guardian UK tells us:

There are reasons to be cheerful about the future of news media, according to the latest review of the industry in the United States by the Pew Research Centre.

It believes the news business looks a little healthier than of late, thanks in part to an influx of new investors and new jobs being offered by new digital start-ups.

But the report also notes that traditional media organisations, which continue to dominate the industry, are still shrinking at a fast rate, with declining revenue and job losses.

So Jeff Bezos is a reason to cheer? Ezra Klein hiring self-loathing gays is a breakthrough? What else is going on in the Media? In a different article, The Guardian tells us:

A US newspaper has told its reporters that their annual bonuses will depend on the number of online stories they file.
The Oregonian, the paper distributed in Portland, Oregon, has demanded that journalists post new articles three times a day, according to internal documents revealed by Willamette Week.

Reporters are also expected to increase their average number of daily posts by 25% by the middle of the year and an extra 15% during the second half of the year.

They are also being required to post the first comment under any significant article on the website, Oregonlive.com, in order to stimulate online conversations among readers.

Um, trolling? They are going to drive readership and ad revenue by trolling?

Anyway, it is good to know that the state of the US news is being reported in the UK.

Your Daily Benghazi

Death of the Media

The Five at 5 Hive have managed to tie the Malaysian Jetliner to benghazi! Benghazi! BENGHAZI!!1! Take it away, Raw Story:

“Imagine if you’re one of those family members and you know that another country has the means, has the ability, has the economic wherewithal to actually get this investigation going in the right direction,” she said, “where you can get some answers for these poor people, how frustrating. It’s like having a cure for a disease and you just can’t reach out and take it.”

Co-host Andrea Tantaros agreed.

“Watching the footage, and watching the footage of that Malaysian woman that was being played over and over last night, it’s just so sad,” Tantaros said. “But think how long it took for them to get this kind of media attention. Living in Malaysia, the government seemingly ignored these people, they didn’t want their stories to get out, they weren’t talking to them.”

She warned co-host Bob Beckel, the show’s Democratic foil, to plug his ears with his fingers.

“They were saying, ‘No one has come to my house, no one has told me what has happened,” Tantaros said. “Bob, get ready, put these in your ears. Feels like the families of Benghazi, just saying. And we’re better than that.”

But clearly Tantaros is not better than that. This is our media, people. We get what we deserve.

(Full disclosure: I went to high school with the late Ambassador Stevens, so, yeah, this is personal.)

A Data-Driven World

news reporter

“[Giles] probably sat in math class thinking, ‘There should be more math. This could be mathier.’” — Buffy

I’ve been enjoying the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Village Punditocracy, fretting their noggins to the bone over Nate Silver’s relaunched 538 Blog, that purports to be data-driven news.

But the best existential crisis, screaming into the void as it were, has to be the reaction from Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic who really seems to be taking it personally. And so he is shaking his fist at the clouds and muttering darkly at the kids to stay off his lawn (Emphasis mine):

The quality of opinion journalism in America is a matter of concern for opinion journalists, too. Opinion, after all, is easy. In a democratic society, moreover, opinion is holy. “It’s just my opinion”: with those magical words, which are designed to change the subject, Americans regularly seek sanctuary from intellectual pressure on their utterances. Their opinions do not deserve such immunity, of course, and neither do the opinions of columnists. The state of American punditry is not strong. A lot of it is lazy, tendentious, and lost to style. But Silver’s outburst is nonetheless a slander. There are all sorts of pundits just as there are all sorts of quants. The editorial pages of The Washington Post in particular are regularly filled with analytical and empirical seriousness. But Silver wishes to impugn not only the quality of opinion journalism, he wishes to impugn also its legitimacy. The new technology, which produces numbers the way plants produce oxygen, has inspired a new positivism, and he is one of its princes. He dignifies only facts. He honors only investigative journalism, explanatory journalism, and data journalism. He does not take a side, except the side of no side. He does not recognize the calling of, or grasp the need for, public reason; or rather, he cannot conceive of public reason except as an exercise in statistical analysis and data visualization. He is the hedgehog who knows only one big thing. And his thing may not be as big as he thinks it is.

Phew! I hope he remembered to breathe!

Paul Krugman wants some context around the data, which is not a bad point at all:

I feel bad about picking on a young staffer, but I think this piece on corporate cash hoards — which is the site’s inaugural economic analysis — is a good example. The post tells us that the much-cited $2 trillion corporate cash hoard has been revised down by half a trillion dollars. That’s kind of interesting, I guess, although it’s striking that the post offers neither a link to the data nor a summary table of pre- and post-revision numbers; I’m supposed to know my way around these numbers, and I can’t figure out exactly which series they’re referring to. (Use FRED!)

More to the point, however, what does this downward revision tell us? We’re told that the “whole narrative” is gone; which narrative? Is the notion that profits are high, but investment remains low, no longer borne out by the data? (I’m pretty sure it’s still true.) What is the model that has been refuted?

“Neener neener, people have been citing a number that was wrong” is just not helpful. Tell me something meaningful! Tell me why the data matter!

In my past, I remember having a calculus teacher who told us students that everything, every question can be expressed as an equation, ultimately, which means ultimately as data. From Craps in Vegas (two dice, six sides so 36 possible combinations; however there are more ways to roll a 7—craps—than there are to roll a 2) to Archimedes creating a Death Ray to fight off invading Romans’ war ships, using sunlight and mirrors in an array (like frying ants under a microscope), it all can be attributed to numbers.

But sometimes you need to roll the dice, and other times the Romans might sneak in at night.

Like my favorite book as a kid, The Phantom Tollbooth, words and numbers are not mortal enemies, but neither is much good without the other when you are trying to understand the world. I think Krugman has the greater point–and he used words to make it.

Vox (Updated)

I try to not ascribe motive to the actions of others, but sometimes it is hard not to. Take Ezra Klein’s decision to hire Brandon Ambrosino for the news blog site, Vox.

Now, aside from Ezra (may I call you Ezra?) trying to fill in coverage areas with science, policy, reporters hired recently, he hired openly gay Ambrosino (presumably to cover gay issues). But when you look into Ambrosino’s work, it becomes clear that he is not exactly a spokesperson for gay rights. He really might be a self-loathing character out of Boys in the Band. Let’s look into this:

  • Hails from a deeply religious and conservative family
  • Attended Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University
  • Wrote an apologia for the University, “it’s not as bad as you might think” which sort of put Ambrosino on the radar of Conservatives
  • Says that there is nothing anti-gay about not wanting to give gay people marriage rights
  • Declared that he would go fishing with the Duck Dynasty star — after that man’s homophobic rant
  • Defended Alec Baldwin’s critics when Baldwin used gay slurs against a photographer
  • Claimed that he chose to be gay (and gave more fuel to the fundies’ claim that it is a lifestyle choice and not innate)
  • Finds “ex-gay therapy interesting”

Maybe Ambrosino thinks he is edgy instead of self-loathing? The evidence suggests otherwise, but this is only a blog post, not a clinical diagnosis. I doubt very much that anything Ambrosino will write will speak for or even to the gay community, just for himself. I doubt that Ambrosino will develop much of a following from the Castro or Christopher Streets, either, but he probably will have the Xristian Xrazie demographic locked in.

And now onto motives that I try not to ascribe: I can only conclude that the reason one hires an apparently, self-loathing, gay man is because you are uncomfortable with gay people yourself, Ezra. And from reading the linked articles, Ambrosino is not that good a writer. You could have done better. Much better.

Everything I read about Vox tells me that my initial impression of Klein was right: sooner or later bloggers who sell out for access become the thing they mocked. Welcome home, Ezra.

(Equality Matters)


The Sunday Talkies is up at Crooks and Liars

blam-blam darth

As always, Nicole Belle has the rundown, and once again her head notes to the post are required reading.

Today Nicole takes on Maddow’s recent claim that “we” were all fooled by the bad intelligence that led us into the Iraq War, etc. But especially she takes on the claim that the media was fooled.

Bravo, and well done Nicole!

The only thing I would add is to carefully look at Face the Nation’s discussion of Ukraine: there is not one single person who is not a hawk or a neocon. It is really shocking that the breadth of opinion is from A to B and back again.