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kottke.org posts about journalism

An Online Collection of American Prison Newspapers (1800-2020)

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 22, 2021

cover of the Anarchist Black Dragon, a prison newspaper

cover of Scroll, a prison newspaper

an article called The Wheat Field at Gettysburg published in a prison newspaper

cover of Our Thing, a prison newspaper

cover of The Bridge, a prison newspaper

Since 1800, when the first newspaper was published in a NYC prison, over 500 newspapers have been published in prisons around the country. JSTOR is hosting a growing archive of such publications: American Prison Newspapers 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside.

With the United States incarcerating more individuals than any other nation — over 2 million as of 2019 — these publications represent a vast dimension of media history. These publications depict and report on all manner of life within the walls of prisons, from the quotidian to the upsetting. Incarcerated journalists walk a tightrope between oversight by administration — even censorship-and seeking to report accurately on their experiences inside. Some publications were produced with the sanction of institutional authorities; others were produced underground.

(thx, caroline)

What Else Is There to Say About Climate Change?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2021

Sarah Miller, author of this 2019 article on Miami real estate & rising oceans, recently wrote this resonant piece, All The Right Words On Climate Have Already Been Said.

I told her I didn’t have anything to say about climate change anymore, other than that I was not doing well, that I was miserable. “I am so unhappy right now.” I said those words. So unhappy. Fire season was not only already here, I said, but it was going to go on for at least four more months, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. I didn’t know how I would stand the anxiety. I told her I felt like all I did every day was try to act normal while watching the world end, watching the lake recede from the shore, and the river film over, under the sun, an enormous and steady weight.

There’s only one thing I have to say about climate change, I said, and that’s that I want it to rain, a lot, but it’s not going to rain a lot, and since that’s the only thing I have to say and it’s not going to happen, I don’t have anything to say.

Miller continued:

Also, for what? Let’s give the article (the one she was starting to maybe think about asking me to write that I was wondering if I could write) the absolute biggest benefit of the doubt and imagine that people read it and said, “Wow, this is exactly how I feel, thanks for putting it into words.”

What then? What would happen then? Would people be “more aware” about climate change? It’s 109 degrees in Portland right now. It’s been over 130 degrees in Baghdad several times. What kind of awareness quotient are we looking for? What more about climate change does anyone need to know? What else is there to say?

This is where I am on the climate emergency most days now (and nearly there on the pandemic). Really, what the fuck else is there to say?

Learning from the Five Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Making

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2021

Zeynep Tufekci has written an important piece for The Atlantic on the mistakes that the media, public health officials, and the public keep making during the pandemic and how we can learn from them. A big one for me is how scientists & other public health officials and agencies communicate their knowledge to the public and how the media interprets and amplifies those messages.

Thus, on January 14, 2020, the WHO stated that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” It should have said, “There is increasing likelihood that human-to-human transmission is taking place, but we haven’t yet proven this, because we have no access to Wuhan, China.” (Cases were already popping up around the world at that point.) Acting as if there was human-to-human transmission during the early weeks of the pandemic would have been wise and preventive.

Later that spring, WHO officials stated that there was “currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” producing many articles laden with panic and despair. Instead, it should have said: “We expect the immune system to function against this virus, and to provide some immunity for some period of time, but it is still hard to know specifics because it is so early.”

Similarly, since the vaccines were announced, too many statements have emphasized that we don’t yet know if vaccines prevent transmission. Instead, public-health authorities should have said that we have many reasons to expect, and increasing amounts of data to suggest, that vaccines will blunt infectiousness, but that we’re waiting for additional data to be more precise about it. That’s been unfortunate, because while many, many things have gone wrong during this pandemic, the vaccines are one thing that has gone very, very right.

This pair of statements she highlights — “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” and “There is increasing likelihood that human-to-human transmission is taking place, but we haven’t yet proven this, because we have no access to Wuhan, China” — are both factually true but the second statement is so much more helpful, useful, and far less likely to be misinterpreted by people who aren’t scientists that making the first statement is almost negligent.

How Reporters Should Cover Government Going Forward

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2021

Press Watch’s Dan Froomkin imagines a speech that new editoral leadership at large American newspapers should give to their political reporters.

It’s impossible to look out on the current state of political discourse in this country and think that we are succeeding in our core mission of creating an informed electorate.

It’s impossible to look out at the looming and in some cases existential challenges facing our republic and our globe — among them the pandemic, climate change, income inequality, racial injustice, the rise of disinformation and ethnic nationalism — and think that it’s OK for us to just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

He continues:

First of all, we’re going to rebrand you. Effective today, you are no longer political reporters (and editors); you are government reporters (and editors). That’s an important distinction, because it frees you to cover what is happening in Washington in the context of whether it is serving the people well, rather than which party is winning.

Historically, we have allowed our political journalism to be framed by the two parties. That has always created huge distortions, but never like it does today. Two-party framing limits us to covering what the leaders of those two sides consider in their interests. And, because it is appropriately not our job to take sides in partisan politics, we have felt an obligation to treat them both more or less equally.

Both parties are corrupted by money, which has badly perverted the debate for a long time. But one party, you have certainly noticed, has over the last decade or two descended into a froth of racism, grievance and reality-denial. Asking you to triangulate between today’s Democrats and today’s Republicans is effectively asking you to lobotomize yourself. I’m against that.

Defining our job as “not taking sides between the two parties” has also empowered bad-faith critics to accuse us of bias when we are simply calling out the truth. We will not take sides with one political party or the other, ever. But we will proudly, enthusiastically, take the side of wide-ranging, fact-based debate.

Government reporters. Yes, exactly. Worth reading in its entirety.

How the NY Times Got the Pentagon Papers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2021

NY Times reporter Neil Sheehan, who was a Vietnam War correspondent, won a Pulitzer Prize, and obtained the Pentagon Papers for the Times, died yesterday at the age of 84. In an interview to be published posthumously, Sheehan revealed for the first time how he obtained the classified report on the Vietnam War from Daniel Ellsberg.

He also revealed that he had defied the explicit instructions of his confidential source, whom others later identified as Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst who had been a contributor to the secret history while working for the Rand Corporation. In 1969, Mr. Ellsberg had illicitly copied the entire report, hoping that making it public would hasten an end to a war he had come passionately to oppose.

Contrary to what is generally believed, Mr. Ellsberg never “gave” the papers to The Times, Mr. Sheehan emphatically said. Mr. Ellsberg told Mr. Sheehan that he could read them but not make copies. So Mr. Sheehan smuggled the papers out of the apartment in Cambridge, Mass., where Mr. Ellsberg had stashed them; then he copied them illicitly, just as Mr. Ellsberg had done, and took them to The Times.

Over the next two months, he strung Mr. Ellsberg along. He told him that his editors were deliberating about how best to present the material, and he professed to have been sidetracked by other assignments. In fact, he was holed up in a hotel room in midtown Manhattan with the documents and a rapidly expanding team of Times editors and reporters working feverishly toward publication.

What a wild tale. Read the whole thing…the kicker is worth it. Thanks to the efforts of Ellsberg, Sheehan, and other journalists, you can now read the complete non-redacted report on the National Archives website.

NY Times Retracts “Caliphate” Podcast

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2020

Caliphate, Rukmini Callimachi’s podcast for the NY Times about ISIS, was one of my favorite podcasts of 2018 — I recommended it in a post in June of that year. The NY Times has now retracted a central story in the podcast, that of an alleged ISIS executioner from Canada named Abu Huzayfah.

During the course of reporting for the series, The Times discovered significant falsehoods and other discrepancies in Huzayfah’s story. The Times took a number of steps, including seeking confirmation of details from intelligence officials in the United States, to find independent evidence of Huzayfah’s story. The decision was made to proceed with the project but to include an episode, Chapter 6, devoted to exploring major discrepancies and highlighting the fact-checking process that sought to verify key elements of the narrative.

In September — two and a half years after the podcast was released — the Canadian police arrested Huzayfah, whose real name is Shehroze Chaudhry, and charged him with perpetrating a terrorist hoax. Canadian officials say they believe that Mr. Chaudhry’s account of supposed terrorist activity is completely fabricated. The hoax charge led The Times to investigate what Canadian officials had discovered, and to re-examine Mr. Chaudhry’s account and the earlier efforts to determine its validity. This new examination found a history of misrepresentations by Mr. Chaudhry and no corroboration that he committed the atrocities he described in the “Caliphate” podcast.

As a result, The Times has concluded that the episodes of “Caliphate” that presented Mr. Chaudhry’s claims did not meet our standards for accuracy.

From a Times piece about Chaudhry’s hoax:

Before “Caliphate” aired, two American officials told The Times that Mr. Chaudhry had, in fact, joined ISIS and crossed into Syria. And some of the people who know and have counseled Mr. Chaudhry say they have no doubt that he holds extremist, jihadist views.

But Canadian law enforcement officials, who conducted an almost four-year investigation into Mr. Chaudhry, say their examination of his travel and financial records, social media posts, statements to the police and other intelligence make them confident that he did not enter Syria or join ISIS, much less commit the grievous crimes he described.

You can read more about this on NPR. Callimachi has been reassigned by the Times; the paper’s editor in chief Dean Baquet said, “I do not see how Rukmini could go back to covering terrorism after one of the highest profile stories of terrorism is getting knocked down in this way.”

Update: Here’s a statement from Callimachi on the retraction. It reads, in part:

Reflecting on what I missing in reporting our podcast is humbling. Thinking of the colleagues and the newsroom I let down is gutting. I caught the subject of our podcast lying about key aspects of his account and I reported that. I also didn’t catch other lies he told us, and I should have. I added caveats to try to make clear what we knew and what we didn’t. It wasn’t enough.

There are several listeners of the podcast in her mentions that do not feel as though they were misled. I’d have to go back and listen to the whole thing again to have an opinion, but I would like to note that Caliphate told a story and showed the behind-the-scenes at the same time. That non-traditional approach was really compelling, a key aspect of the show’s success IMO. Because you’re dealing with violent organizations and sealed investigations (neither ISIS nor government groups like the FBI want their information out there), there are limits on how stories like this can even be told. Callimachi and her colleagues creatively found a way to tell this one: by being upfront and transparent about those limitations and explicitly showing their work, misgivings and all. But perhaps, as she said, it wasn’t enough.

What Do Foreign Media Correspondents Think of the US?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

Media correspondents from all over the world spend months and years in the United States, reporting on our current events, politics, and culture. In this illuminating video from the New Yorker, several of them talk about what they think of our country. As outsiders, they’re able to see things that Americans don’t and can talk to people who may not otherwise feel comfortable talking to (what they perceive as) biased or corrupt American media. They’ve also observed an unprecedented level of division and are aware of the disconnect between America’s rhetoric about freedom and the sense that they’re reporting from a failed state.

The Black Music History Library

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2020

Black Music History Library

The Black Music History Library is a list of resources (books, articles, podcasts, films, etc.) about the Black origins of popular and traditional music. From the about page:

There are many notable archives doing similar work, yet it isn’t uncommon for some to have a limited view of Black music — one which fuels US-centrism and a preference for vernacular music traditions. This collection considers the term “Black music” more widely, as it aims to address any instances in which Black participation led to the creation or innovation of music across the diaspora. Plainly speaking, that means just about every genre will be included here.

Black artists have often been minimized or omitted entirely when it comes to the discussion, practice, and research of many forms of music. This library seeks to correct that. It is time to reframe Black music history as foundational to American music history, Latinx music history, and popular music history at large.

The library was created by music journalist Jenzia Burgos after her Instagram slideshow went viral back in June, demonstrating a need for a more comprehensive resource. In a thread announcing the site, Burgos envisions the site as a “living library” that will shift and grow with reader contributions — you can send in resources via this form. (via @tedgioia)

The Winners of the Malofiej International Infographics Awards for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2020

Malofiej Awards 2020

Malofiej Awards 2020

Malofiej have announced their 28th International Infographics Awards for 2020, which they refer to as “the Pulitzers for infographics”. You can check out some of the top infographics here, culled from newspapers, magazines, and online media from around the world. The full list is available here, complete with links to the online winners.

Fixing Racial Bias in Journalism

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2020

For her series Counternarratives, artist and media critic Alexandra Bell takes newspaper articles and layouts from the NY Times that demonstrate racial bias and fixes them. For example, Bell took the notorious double profile of Michael Brown and his killer Darren Wilson and placed the focus entirely on Brown:

Counternarratives Alexandra Bell

In this video, Bell explains her process:

I think everything is about race. Black communities, gay communities, immigrant communities feel a lot of media representations to be inadequate, biased. There’s a lot of reporting around police violence and black men, and I realized a lot of the arguments that we were having were about depictions. I started to wonder how different would it be if I swapped images or changed some of the text.

See also Kendra Pierre-Louis’ recent article for Nieman Lab: It’s time to change the way the media reports on protests. Here are some ideas.

Fox News Moves Closer to the Truth as COVID-19 Crisis Deepens

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2020

The Washington Post made this short video that shows how Fox News personalities were talking about the COVID-19 pandemic a week or two ago — it’s a Democrat hoax!! — compared to their more recent coverage that aligns closer with the truth.

For weeks, some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump.

Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham accused the news media of whipping up “mass hysteria” and being “panic pushers.” Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance “yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

It has never been more plain that Fox News is not journalism but conservative propaganda. They, along with Trump, some conservative members of Congress, and conservative talk radio, were just straight up lying, misleading the public, and peddling conspiracy theories until it became overwhelmingly clear that this is a serious situation, as experts had been saying for weeks. The video shows completely contradictory statements made by the same people days apart; as Andrew Kaczynski says, “what a damning indictment”. I’ll go further than that: Fox News endangered the lives of Americans with their false and misleading coverage. People will suffer and die unnecessarily because of it.

I’d urge you to show this to your red state relatives and ask them to defend Fox News as journalism, but I don’t think it will actually do any good. The whole point of propaganda is to deprive people of, as Hannah Arendt puts it, the “capacity to think and to judge”.

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie-a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days-but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

Media Paywalls Dropped for COVID-19 Crisis Coverage

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2020

In recent years, many media outlets have joined publications like the WSJ and NY Times in erecting paywalls around their online offerings, giving visitors access to a few articles a month before asking them to pay for unlimited access. Due to the continuing worldwide COVID-19/coronavirus crisis and in order to make information about the pandemic more accessible to the public, several publications have dropped their paywalls for at least some of their coronavirus coverage (thanks to everyone who responded to my tweet about this).

Among them are The Atlantic, WSJ, Talking Points Memo, Globe and Mail, Seattle Times, Miami Herald (and other McClatchy-owned properties), Toronto Star, Stat, Dallas Morning News, Medium, NY Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor and several medical/science journals. Notably, The Guardian relies on online subscription revenue but doesn’t put anything behind a paywall, including their coronavirus coverage.

In addition, a group of archivists have created an online directory of scientific papers related to coronaviruses, available for free download.

“These articles were always written to be shared with as many people as possible,” Reddit user “shrine,” an organizer of the archive, said in a call. “From every angle that you look at it, [paywalled research] is an immoral situation, and it’s an ongoing tragedy.”

Kudos to those media organizations for doing the right thing — this information can save people’s lives. Let’s hope others (*cough* Washington Post) will soon follow suit. And if you find the coverage helpful, subscribe to these outlets!

BTW, like The Guardian, kottke.org is supported by readers just like you who contribute to make sure that every single thing on the site is accessible to everyone. If you’re a regular reader, please consider supporting this experiment in openness.

Update: Added the NY Times to the list above. I am also hearing that many European papers are not dropping their paywalls in the face of the crisis.

Update: Added several media outlets to the list, including Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. At this point, it seems to be standard practice now (at least in the US & Canada) so this will be the final update. (thx, @maschweisguth)

Should Political Journalists Vote?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2020

I was reading this NY Times piece on their policies for reporters and editors around impartiality and politics — “newsroom staff members may not participate in political advocacy, like volunteering for candidates’ campaigns or making contributions” — and ran across this from the paper’s chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker:

As reporters, our job is to observe, not participate, and so to that end, I don’t belong to any political party, I don’t belong to any non-journalism organization, I don’t support any candidate, I don’t give money to interest groups and I don’t vote.

I try hard not to take strong positions on public issues even in private, much to the frustration of friends and family. For me, it’s easier to stay out of the fray if I never make up my mind, even in the privacy of the kitchen or the voting booth, that one candidate is better than another, that one side is right and the other wrong.

And similar perspectives from a 2008 Politico piece. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems like a deeply weird approach — and ultimately an intellectually dishonest one. Not voting is taking a political position — a passive one perhaps, but a political position nonetheless.1 There’s no direct analogy to not voting or not taking private positions on political issues for other areas of reporting, but just imagine being a technology reporter who doesn’t own a mobile phone or computer because they don’t want to show favoritism towards Apple or Samsung, a food reporter who is unable to dine at restaurants outside of work, or a style reporter who can’t wear any clothes they didn’t make themselves. Absurd, right? We do live in an age of too much opinion dressed up as news, but pretending not to have opinions ultimately does harm to a public in need of useful contextual information.

  1. My history professor in college was fond of saying: “Everyone has a world view. Even if you don’t have a world view, that’s a world view, isn’t it?” His name was Dr. Janus, which seems super appropriate vis a vis that quote.

Jim Lehrer’s Rules of Journalism

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2020

The long-time host of PBS NewsHour Jim Lehrer died this week at the age of 85. In this age of news as entertainment and opinion as news, Lehrer seems like one of the last of a breed of journalist who took seriously the integrity of informing the American public about important events. In a 1997 report by The Aspen Institute, Lehrer outlined the guidelines he adhered to in practicing journalism:

  1. Do nothing I cannot defend.*
  2. Do not distort, lie, slant, or hype.
  3. Do not falsify facts or make up quotes.
  4. Cover, write, and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.*
  5. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.*
  6. Assume the viewer is as smart and caring and good a person as I am.*
  7. Assume the same about all people on whom I report.*
  8. Assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
  9. Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story mandates otherwise.*
  10. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label them as such.*
  11. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.*
  12. Do not broadcast profanity or the end result of violence unless it is an integral and necessary part of the story and/or crucial to understanding the story.
  13. Acknowledge that objectivity may be impossible but fairness never is.
  14. Journalists who are reckless with facts and reputations should be disciplined by their employers.
  15. My viewers have a right to know what principles guide my work and the process I use in their practice.
  16. I am not in the entertainment business.*

In his 2006 Harvard commencement address, Lehrer reduced that list to an essential nine items (marked with an * above).

These are fantastic guidelines; as veteran journalist Al Thompkins said recently: “I would like to add a 10th rule: Journalists should be more like Jim Lehrer.”

Addendum: Even though this is a mere blog that has different goals and moves at a different pace than traditional journalism, I try (try!) to adhere to Lehrer’s guidelines on kottke.org as much as possible. I found out about his rules on Twitter in the form of a context-free screenshot of an equally context-free PDF. Lehrer would not approve of this sort of sourcing, so I started to track it down.

All initial attempts at doing so pointed to the truncated list (as outlined in the Harvard speech and in this 2009 episode of the NewsHour), so I wrote up a post with the nine rules and was about to publish — but something about the longer list bugged me. Why would someone add more rules and attribute them to Lehrer? It didn’t seem to make sense, so I dug a little deeper and eventually found the Aspen report in bowels of Google and rewrote the post.

In doing all this, I rediscovered one of the reasons why Lehrer’s guidelines aren’t followed by more media outlets: this shit takes time! And time is money. It would have taken me five minutes to find that context-free PDF, copy & paste the text, throw a post together, and move on to something else. But how can I do that when I don’t know for sure the list is accurate? Did he write or say those things verbatim? Or was it paraphrased or compiled from different places? Maybe the transcription is wrong. Lehrer, of all people, and this list, of all lists, deserves proper attribution. So this post actually took me 45+ minutes to research & write (not counting this addendum). And this is just one little list that in the grand and cold economic scheme of things is going to make me exactly zero more dollars than the 5-minute post would have!

Actual news outlets covering actual news have an enormous incentive to cut corners on this stuff, especially when news budgets have been getting squeezed on all sides for the better part of the last two decades. It should come as no big surprise then that the media covers elections as if they were horse races, feasts on the private lives of celebrities, and leans heavily on entertaining opinions — that all sells better than Lehrer’s guidelines do — but we should think carefully about whether we want to participate in it. In the age of social media, we are no longer mere consumers of news — everyone is a publisher and that’s a powerful thing. So perhaps Lehrer’s guidelines should apply more broadly, not only for us as individuals but also for media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter that amplify and leverage our thoughts and reporting for their own ends.

The Year in Good News 2019 (and the Bad News About Good News)

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2019

From Future Crunch, 99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2019. Here are a few representative entries:

8. In Kenya, poaching rates have dropped by 85% for rhinos and 78% for elephants in the last five years, in South Africa, the number of rhinos killed by poachers fell by 25%, the fifth annual decrease in a row, and in Mozambique, one of Africa’s largest wildlife reserves went an entire year without losing a single elephant.

16. China’s tree stock rose by 4.56 billion m^3 between 2005 and 2018, deserts are shrinking by 2,400 km^2 a year, and forests now account for 22% of land area. SCMP

38. Type 3 polio officially became the second species of poliovirus to be eliminated in 2019. Only Type 1 now remains — and only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. STAT

We definitely don’t hear enough good news from most of our media sources. It’s mostly bad news and “feel good” news — that’s what sells. (Note that “feel good” news is not the same as substantive good news and is sometimes even bad news, e.g. heartwarming stories that are actually indicators of societal failures.) In the past few weeks I’ve also posted links to Beautiful News Daily and The Happy Broadcast, a pair of sites dedicated to sharing positive news about the world.

But at this point I feel obligated to remind myself (and perhaps you as well) that focusing mostly on positive news isn’t great either. A number of thinkers — including Bill Gates, Steven Pinker, Nicholas Kristof, Max Roser — are eager to point out that the world’s citizens have never been safer, healthier, and wealthier than they are now. And in some ways that is true! But in this long piece for The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman addresses some of the reasons to be skeptical of these claims.

But the New Optimists aren’t primarily interested in persuading us that human life involves a lot less suffering than it did a few hundred years ago. (Even if you’re a card-carrying pessimist, you probably didn’t need convincing of that fact.) Nestled inside that essentially indisputable claim, there are several more controversial implications. For example: that since things have so clearly been improving, we have good reason to assume they will continue to improve. And further — though this is a claim only sometimes made explicit in the work of the New Optimists — that whatever we’ve been doing these past decades, it’s clearly working, and so the political and economic arrangements that have brought us here are the ones we ought to stick with. Optimism, after all, means more than just believing that things aren’t as bad as you imagined: it means having justified confidence that they will be getting even better soon.

See also other critiques of Pinker’s work: A letter to Steven Pinker (and Bill Gates, for that matter) about global poverty and The World’s Most Annoying Man.

The Happy Broadcast

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2019

For the past couple of years, Mauro Gatti has been publishing The Happy Broadcast, his antidote to negative news and “the vitriolic rhetoric that pervades our media”. Here are a couple of recent examples:

Happy Broadcast

Happy Broadcast

You can also follow The Happy Broadcast on Instagram. See also Beautiful News Daily.

Sacha Baron Cohen Says Tech Companies Built the “Greatest Propaganda Machine in History”

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 22, 2019

In a keynote address to the Anti-Defamation League, entertainer Sacha Baron Cohen calls the platforms created by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other companies “the greatest propaganda machine in history” and blasts them for allowing hate, bigotry, and anti-Semitism to flourish on these services.

Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history- — the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

When I, as the wanna-be-gansta Ali G, asked the astronaut Buzz Aldrin “what woz it like to walk on de sun?” the joke worked, because we, the audience, shared the same facts. If you believe the moon landing was a hoax, the joke was not funny.

When Borat got that bar in Arizona to agree that “Jews control everybody’s money and never give it back,” the joke worked because the audience shared the fact that the depiction of Jews as miserly is a conspiracy theory originating in the Middle Ages.

But when, thanks to social media, conspiracies take hold, it’s easier for hate groups to recruit, easier for foreign intelligence agencies to interfere in our elections, and easier for a country like Myanmar to commit genocide against the Rohingya.

In particular, he singles out Mark Zuckerberg and a speech he gave last month.

First, Zuckerberg tried to portray this whole issue as “choices…around free expression.” That is ludicrous. This is not about limiting anyone’s free speech. This is about giving people, including some of the most reprehensible people on earth, the biggest platform in history to reach a third of the planet. Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. Sadly, there will always be racists, misogynists, anti-Semites and child abusers. But I think we could all agree that we should not be giving bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target their victims.

Second, Zuckerberg claimed that new limits on what’s posted on social media would be to “pull back on free expression.” This is utter nonsense. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech, however, this does not apply to private businesses like Facebook. We’re not asking these companies to determine the boundaries of free speech across society. We just want them to be responsible on their platforms.

If a neo-Nazi comes goose-stepping into a restaurant and starts threatening other customers and saying he wants kill Jews, would the owner of the restaurant be required to serve him an elegant eight-course meal? Of course not! The restaurant owner has every legal right and a moral obligation to kick the Nazi out, and so do these internet companies.

A call for more research and questioning by journalists

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

Jeff Jarvis with some good comments (based primarily on a paper by Axel Bruns) arguing that the media in general needs to start with deeper questions, more research, referencing actual research, and demonstrable facts instead of presumptions. Excellent ideas.

He begins with this quote from the Bruns paper:

[T]hat echo chambers and filter bubbles principally constitute an unfounded moral panic that presents a convenient technological scapegoat (search and social platforms and their affordances and algorithms) for a much more critical problem: growing social and political polarisation. But this is a problem that has fundamentally social and societal causes, and therefore cannot be solved by technological means alone. [Emphasis mine.]

Agreed. Jarvis via Bruns then argues that these metaphors are too loosely defined, leaving room for broad usage, unclear meaning, resulting in moral panic more than actual research and fact based analysis.

He follows up with a number of articles and further research from the paper, backing up his point. Then numerous examples of media using the filter bubble shortcut. I encourage you to click through to the article and dive a bit deeper.

But that leads to another journalistic weakness in reporting academic studies: stories that takes the latest word as the last word.

Absolutely. And pretty much everyone does that at some point so it’s a good reminder to us all to consider new research and explanations of the day within broader historical context and preexisting knowledge.

The whole article (and the research paper, although I myself haven’t gotten to that yet) is worth a read, the main point of Jarvis is a good one; more questions, more research, deeper thinking. Looking at people and how they use the technology, not just the tech itself.

I do have to caveat this though by mentioning the Jarvis dismisses Shoshana Zuboff’s work on Surveillance Capitalism by portraying it as “an extreme name for advertising cookies and the use of the word devalues the seriousness of actual surveillance by governments.” One could debate whether Zuboff should have used another word, separating the practice from that of governments, but by saying “advertising cookies” Jarvis makes one of those surface remarks he raves against in his piece, somewhat discrediting it.

The Story Format Leaps from Instagram to Big Media

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2019

I know this probably isn’t brand new, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a few articles published by big media companies that are influenced by the design of Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Just to be clear, these aren’t published on Instagram (that’s been going on for years); they are published on media sites but are designed to look and work like Instagram Stories. The first one I noticed was this NY Times piece on Guantanamo Bay.

Media Stories

You can see the Instagram-style progress meter at the top. And then there’s Curbed’s The Ultimate Guide to Googie, where the progress meter is indicated more playfully by the little car at the bottom (it even switches directions based on whether you’re paging forward or back through the story). Curbed EIC Kelsey Keith says it was built using “Vox Media’s new custom storytelling kit tool”.

Media Stories

The third piece I can’t find again — I think it was a WSJ or Washington post article — but it too was influenced by the Stories format.

It’s a good move for these companies. Snap & Instagram have worked hard to pioneer and promote this format, it’s perfectly designed for mobile, and people (especially younger folks) know how to use it. Nominally, these articles are just slideshows, a format that online media companies have been using forever. But I’d argue there are some important differentiators that point to the clear influence of Instagram and to this being a newish trend:

1. The presentation is edge to edge with full-frame photos and auto-playing videos.

2. There’s no “chrome” as there would be around a slideshow and minimal indication of controls.

3. They read best on mobile devices in portrait mode.

4. The display of progress meters.

5. Navigation by swiping or tapping on the far left or right sides of the screen, especially on mobile.

Have you seen any other examples of media companies borrowing the Stories design from Instagram?

Update: Various media outlets are using Google’s AMP Stories to make these. You can see examples on CNN, the Atlantic, and Wired.

Media Stories

This is likely what my mystery third story was built with. (via @adamvanlente)

Big News Orgs Get New Public Editors (Against Their Wishes)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2019

This fits into the burgeoning category of “this is cool but I wish it weren’t necessary”: the Columbia Journalism Review has appointed public editors for a group of four news organizations because they won’t do it themselves.

Public editors and ombudsmen have historically stood as critical advocates for consumers of news, identifying blind spots the outlets can’t see themselves and operating as collectors of critical opinion when decisions go awry. The flameout of public editors in the US, which reached a point of despair in 2017, when The New York Times sent its last public editor packing, is the most visible sign of the growing distance between news organizations and the people they serve. As attacks on the media have increased under the presidency of Donald Trump, the response of newsrooms has, more often than not, been to form a defensive huddle.

That stance is particularly dangerous now, as the nation braces for another presidential election, one that is almost certain to be more partisan, more vicious, and more focused on the perceived failings of the press than any other in the history of the country. It’s a bad time for newsrooms to retreat from their readers.

And what great choices for editors: Gabriel Snyder (NY Times), Ana Marie Cox (Washington Post), Maria Bustillos (MSNBC), and Emily Tamkin (CNN). Here’s CJR editor-in-chief Kyle Pope answering some questions about the project. And here’s Tamkin’s first piece, on CNN’s practice of regularly interviewing people without expertise or responsibility.

Guilfoyle has not worked as an economist. She has not crafted foreign or immigration policy. She is not an expert on Central America. What possible value, I wondered, were CNN’s viewers getting from watching Guilfoyle speak about this subject? If Cuomo wanted Trump talking points, couldn’t he have just played a clip of Trump himself? If Cuomo wanted someone behind Trump’s immigration policy to explain it, shouldn’t he have brought in a member of the administration?

But again, it’s a bummer that a small organization like CJR has to foot the bill for this on behalf of these media organizations’ readers and, you know, democracy.

Robert Caro on Writing and Understanding Power

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2019

Working, a memoir from master interviewer and researcher Robert Caro, is coming out next week. David Marchese, no slouch himself when it comes to interviewing people, talked with Caro for the NY Times Magazine about his career, his process, and his ongoing multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. Caro allows that his insatiable curiosity about getting the whole story might not necessarily be a good thing at times.

I would like to have written more books. I’d like to finish this last Johnson book. But it’s the element of time — you’re always thinking no one will know if the thing you’re working on isn’t in the book. Take the Margaret Frost thing. [The introduction of “Master of the Senate” tells the story of Margaret Frost’s humiliating and failed attempts to register to vote in Eufaula, Ala., in 1957.] You say everybody knows about blacks not being able to vote in the South, so you don’t have to go into that. But I’d remembered coming across testimony from the Civil Rights Commission and I went, This is horrible. A sense of anger boils up, and it leads you to say, “What was it like if you tried to register to vote?” Don’t just say, “It’s hard.” What was it really like? You think you understand how hard life is in the South because you’ve seen movies about it. But then you learn about a guy who wanted to vote, Margaret Frost’s husband, who sees someone drive to his house and shoot out the light on the porch. He was going to call the police but then saw it was a police car driving away from his property. It was like the Jews in Nazi Germany: There was no place for these people to turn. So, do you want to write the book without showing that? The answer is no.

Has anyone ever done an interview with an expert interviewer about the experience of interviewing another expert interviewer? I would definitely read a debrief of Marchese on how to get someone like Caro, who knows all the tricks of the trade, to actually tell you something that they don’t want you to know. I’m also thinking of Errol Morris and Seymour Hersh at the end of Wormwood and how Morris can’t quite get what he wants from Hersh.

Cutting Commentary on News Media’s Complicity in Spreading Hateful Views

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2019

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, a pair of comedians whose hilarious cooking show I’ve previously featured, are back with Get Krack!n, a series that parodies a typical TV morning show. In this clip, they debut a new segment that perfectly skewers how TV media provides a platform for radical kooks to promote hateful agendas for the mutual benefit of both kook & show. (Note: this clip contains swearing and simulated religious bigotry & misogyny.)

They’re not necessarily views that we endorse or share personally, Kate McCartney, but they’re definitely opinions that we are 100% complicit in broadcasting, and that in time we will go to hell for.

This is an Australian show, but a similar panel and topic could easily have appeared on any number of Fox News programs.

Fox News: Unfair and Unbalanced Propaganda

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2019

Jane Mayer, author of the very well-reviewed Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, has a big piece in the New Yorker today on the close relationship between the Trump administration and Fox News.

Hannity was treated in Texas like a member of the Administration because he virtually is one. The same can be said of Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch. Fox has long been a bane of liberals, but in the past two years many people who watch the network closely, including some Fox alumni, say that it has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States. Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor of Presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the author of “Messengers of the Right,” a history of the conservative media’s impact on American politics, says of Fox, “It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.”

Hemmer argues that Fox-which, as the most watched cable news network, generates about $2.7 billion a year for its parent company, 21st Century Fox — acts as a force multiplier for Trump, solidifying his hold over the Republican Party and intensifying his support. “Fox is not just taking the temperature of the base — it’s raising the temperature,” she says. “It’s a radicalization model.” For both Trump and Fox, “fear is a business strategy — it keeps people watching.” As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.” Trump, Hemmer says, has “almost become a programmer.”

The subhead of the piece is: “Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?” If you’ve been paying attention here over the past couple of years, you know I believe the answer to that question is “yes”. See also Blame Fox News for Fake News, Not Facebook, Study: Watching Fox News Has Big Effect on Voting Patterns, Fox News Is Poisoning America. Rupert Murdoch and His Heirs Should Be Shunned., and Fox News Isn’t A Normal Media Company. We Have To Stop Treating It Like One.

How the Relentless Robert Caro “Turns Every Page” in Pursuit of Powerful Prey

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2019

Since 1976, Robert Caro has been writing a multi-volume biography of former US President Lyndon B. Johnson — the first volume is called The Path to Power. In this absolutely fantastic piece he wrote for the latest issue of the New Yorker, Caro details some of his thoughts and strategies about writing and research that have served him well as he’s pursued the topic of power for more than 50 years. Here he writes about what his editor told him at an early stage in his career:

He didn’t look up. After a while, I said tentatively, “Mr. Hathway.” I couldn’t get the “Alan” out. He motioned for me to sit down, and went on reading. Finally, he raised his head. “I didn’t know someone from Princeton could do digging like this,” he said. “From now on, you do investigative work.”

I responded with my usual savoir faire: “But I don’t know anything about investigative reporting.”

Alan looked at me for what I remember as a very long time. “Just remember,” he said. “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page.” He turned to some other papers on his desk, and after a while I got up and left.

“Turn every goddam page.” Caro is a living national treasure and that’s as close to a superhero origin story as you’re going to get in journalism. Over and over, he applied that strategy to his later writing, first in the masterful The Power Broker and then in the pursuit of the truth about LBJ among the boxes and boxes and boxes of papers at the Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas.

I had decided that among the boxes in which I would at least glance at every piece of paper would be the ones in Johnson’s general “House Papers” that contained the files from his first years in Congress, since I wanted to be able to paint a picture of what he had been like as a young legislator. And as I was doing this — reading or at least glancing at every letter and memo, turning every page — I began to get a feeling: something in those early years had changed.

For some time after Johnson’s arrival in Congress, in May, 1937, his letters to committee chairmen and other senior congressmen had been in a tone befitting a new congressman with no power — the tone of a junior beseeching a favor from a senior, or asking, perhaps, for a few minutes of his time. But there were also letters and memos in the same boxes from senior congressmen in which they were doing the beseeching, asking for a few minutes of his time. What was the reason for the change? Was there a particular time at which it had occurred?

Caro’s recounting of this tedious research is somehow thrilling, like a slow motion All the President’s Men, Spotlight, or The Post. Set aside some time to read the whole thing…it will be time well spent. I can’t wait for Caro’s Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing to come out in April.

Unlocking the Commons and Collective Micropatronage

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2019

For NiemanLab’s annual Predictions for Journalism package, Tim Carmody revisited his take on how kottke.org’s membership program works and what that could mean for independent media.

The most economically powerful thing you can do is to buy something for your own enjoyment that also improves the world. This has always been the value proposition of journalism and art. It’s a nonexclusive good that’s best enjoyed nonexclusively.

Anyways. This is a prediction for 2019 and beyond: The most powerful and interesting media model will remain raising money from members who don’t just permit but insist that the product be given away for free. The value comes not just what they’re buying, but who they’re buying it from and who gets to enjoy it.

If you’d like to help support independent media and keep access to kottke.org open and free, you can join the membership program.

And as always, a huge thank you to all of you who have already contributed. As I wrote in an update back in November 2017, I’m not sure the site would even be here without your support:

While I didn’t know it at the time, your support saved kottke.org. This is not even hyperbole. As I hinted at in the announcement post, the industry-wide drop in revenue from display advertising was beginning to affect kottke.org and just a few months later, the site’s largest source of revenue (ads via The Deck) went from “hey, I can make a living at this!” to zero. … But over the course of the past year, hundreds and then thousands of you became members, exceeding even my loftiest expectations. Membership is now the primary source of revenue for kottke.org.

Which Countries Have Been Top of Mind in the US Over the Past Century?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2019

The Pudding analyzed over 740,000 headlines from the NY Times since 1900 to determine which country the US was most interested in for each month and turned the analysis into a handy visualization.

Us Headline Preoccupation

As you can see, Britain was mostly the center of attention before WWII, Russia during the Cold War, and China since the mid-2000s. But other countries are liberally sprinkled in and wars are quite visible — WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Iraq are all represented by solid blocks of interest in our “enemies”.

Blame Fox News for Fake News, Not Facebook

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2018

In the Washington Post, Henry Farrell interviews Yochai Benkler, whose recent book with co-authors Rob Faris and Hal Robert, Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, presents evidence that right-wing media functions in a completely different way than the rest of the media does.

On the right, audiences concentrate attention on purely right wing outlets. On the left and center audiences spread their attention broadly and focus on mainstream organizations. This asymmetric pattern holds for the linking practices of media producers. Both supply and demand on the right are insular and self-focused. On the left and center they are spread broadly and anchored by professional press.

These differences create a different dynamic for media, audiences, and politicians on the left and right.

We all like to hear news that confirms our beliefs and identity. On the left, outlets and politicians try to attract readers by telling such stories but are constrained because their readers are exposed to a range of outlets, many of which operate with strong fact-checking norms.

On the right, because audiences do not trust or pay attention to outlets outside their own ecosystem, there is no reality check to constrain competition. Outlets compete on political purity and stoking identity-confirming narratives. Outlets and politicians who resist the flow by focusing on facts are abandoned or vilified by audiences and competing outlets. This forces media and political elites to validate and legitimate the falsehoods, at least through silence, creating a propaganda feedback loop.

The authors also argue that Fox News is doing much more harm to our democracy in spreading false information than Facebook or Twitter.

The highly asymmetric pattern of media ecosystems we observe on the right and the left, despite the fact that Facebook and Twitter usage is roughly similar on both sides, requires that we look elsewhere for what is causing the difference.

Surveys make it clear that Fox News is by far the most influential outlet on the American right — more than five times as many Trump supporters reported using Fox News as their primary news outlet than those who named Facebook. And Trump support was highest among demographics whose social media use was lowest.

Our data repeatedly show Fox as the transmission vector of widespread conspiracy theories.

I’ve been beating this drum for awhile and still don’t know why this 2017 study that showed compelling evidence that Fox News moved the 2008 presidential election Republican vote share by 6.3% to the right all by itself isn’t a much bigger deal.

In other results, we estimate that removing Fox News from cable television during the 2000 election cycle would have reduced the overall Republican presidential vote share by 0.46 percentage points. The predicted effect increases in 2004 and 2008 to 3.59 and 6.34 percentage points, respectively. This increase is driven by increasing viewership on Fox News as well as an increasingly conservative slant.

In keeping with Benkler et al’s findings regarding media asymmetry, the study did not identify a similar swing to the left for MSNBC or CNN viewers.

The question is, what the heck do we do about Fox News? Shun Rupert Murdoch? Sleeping Giants and other groups have been effective in hamstringing other right-wing media sources like Breitbart (as well as some Fox News shows), but Fox News has worked hard to position itself as mainstream, so pressuring advertisers would be tough to muster support for. What about a boycott of other Fox properties? If the Disney sale goes through, those properties would include the Fox channel (home of The Simpsons, NFL games, college football, etc., The World Series), Fox Business News, and a number of sports channels (Fox Sports 1 & 2 and Fox Soccer Plus). Are people going to be willing to give up watching The World Series and The Super Bowl to put financial pressure on Fox? And my pals who do startups…are they going to refuse to go on Fox Business News promote their businesses? I have my doubts about that.

Network Propaganda is available on Amazon and also as a free PDF download here.

The Future of News on Smart Speakers

posted by Tim Carmody   Nov 16, 2018

Radio News.jpeg

At Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen checks in on whether and how people are consuming news on smart speakers and smart displays. It turns out, they aren’t, really:

Smart speaker news briefings didn’t get much love from users in this research. Here are some of the complaints Newman heard:

— Overlong updates — the typical duration is around five minutes, but many wanted something much shorter.

— They are not updated often enough. News and sports bulletins are sometimes hours or days out of date.

— Some bulletins still use synthesized voices (text to speech), which many find hard to listen to.

— Some updates have low production values or poor audio quality.

— Where bulletins from different providers run together, there is often duplication of stories.

— Some updates have intrusive jingles or adverts.

— There is no opportunity to skip or select stories.

Based on my experience with these devices and general trends in news and media consumption, I have a few predictions as to how this will change in the near future:

Republican Extremism and the Myth of “Both Sides” in American Politics

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2018

In this video, Carlos Maza talks about how the Republican Party has become more extremist than the Democrats, which has caused our government to cease working in the way that it should. It’s worth watching in full.

Over the past few decades, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have moved away from the center. But the Republican Party has moved towards the extreme much more quickly — a trend that political scientists’ call “asymmetrical polarization.”

That asymmetry poses a major obstacle in American politics. As Republicans have become more ideological, they’ve also become less willing to work with Democrats: filibustering Democratic legislation, refusing to consider Democratic appointees, and even shutting down the government in order to force Democrats to give in to their demands.

Democrats have responded in turn, becoming more obstructionist as Republican demands become more extreme.

Maza references the work of Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, who have written several books on Congress, most relevantly 2012’s It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. The pair have been saying for some time that the present dysfunction in American politics is the fault of the Republican Party, as in a 2012 Washington Post piece titled Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. and a 2017 piece in the NY Times.

What is astounding, and still largely unappreciated, is the unexpected and rapid nature of the decline in American national politics, and how one-sided its cause. If in 2006 one could cast aspersions on both parties, over the past decade it has become clear that it is the Republican Party — as an institution, as a movement, as a collection of politicians — that has done unique, extensive and possibly irreparable damage to the American political system.

In the video, Maza and Ornstein rightfully criticize the “knee-jerk neutrality” on the part of the news media, the inclination to blame “both sides” for failing to work together on specific issues and for the general dysfunction, and in the process refusing to acknowledge that Republican extremist views and tactics are to blame much of the time. They’re not talking about propaganda outlets like Fox News or Breitbart here, by the way — they’re referring to the NY Times, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and the like. They argue that this impulse results in Americans not getting a clear picture of how our government is failing. Adam Davidson recently made much the same point on Twitter.

Both-sidism operates at every level. From the highest and most noble aspirations and core identity of journalists to the most cowardly, trying to solve a quick problem on deadline level. It is shoved into the brains of newbies and a source of enormous pride for veterans.

Both-sidism determines who gets hired, who gets promoted or fired, how editorial and business decisions are made.

It is so fundamental that there is no mechanism, no language to truly critique it from within. And little ability to adjust when it makes no sense.

You can see “both sides” at work in stories about climate change (making it seem like the science isn’t settled), vaccines (ditto), and even mass murders (“Billy was a quiet boy who loved his momma until he killed 12 children with an assault rifle”). These kinds of stories do their readers the injustice of not telling them the truth. Journalists need to stop doing this and as readers, we need to push them on it.

But what about the voters? Leading up to next week’s midterm elections, much of the focus of progressive anger has been on Donald Trump. But he seems to me to be a symptom and not the disease. The Republican Party is the disease. Take Trump away and, while that might mean fewer accidental nuclear wars, the biggest problems still remain. As long as Republicans persist in operating as a bloc with obstructionist tactics and producing legislation without meaningful debate against the desires of the people, there are no good Republicans. Vote them out, all of them.

Quick podcast recommendations

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Oct 26, 2018

Here’s a quick roundup of podcasts I’ve been into lately:

30 for 30: Bikram
Beware how you talk about this show if you have any friends who are Bikram practitioners…

Uncover: Escaping NXIVM
The journalist got incredible access because he was a childhood friend of the source. The whole story is bonkers.

The Gateway
This series about controversial social media spiritual guru Teal Swan is highly disturbing and utterly fascinating. The host and producer did an AMA.

The Indicator
Short and smart stories from the Planet Money team.

Slow Burn
Great reporting and pacing in the second season here, on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

(Thanks Marisa, Emily, and Audrey)