• December 29, 2016

    Gwen Ihnat examines the truth behind the stories of the late Carrie Fisher’s novels, many of which have become bestsellers in the days since her death.

    At the Los Angeles Times, Carolyn Kellogg writes that 2017 needs to make up for 2016’s lack of a blockbuster book, “the book you see people reading on subways and on planes, that you hear about on the radio and on TV talk shows, that seems to be everywhere at once.” 

    Claire Louise-Bennett. Photo: Conor Horgan

    Claire Louise-Bennett. Photo: Conor Horgan

    LitHub highlights the most overlooked books of 2016. Selections include Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador, William Giraldi’s The Hero’s Body, and Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond.

    Columbia Journalism Review rounds up the best journalism of the year. Articles that make the cut include John Carreyrou’s expose on Theranos for the Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed’s reporting scoops throughout the presidential campaign, and Nikole Hannah-Jones’s first person piece about New York City public schools for the New York Times.

    The Daily Beast reports that Russian-backed media outlets, as well as far-right US websites like InfoWars, are dismissing the Russian-led bombing of Aleppo as “fake news.” In a video for In The Now, a sister-site of RT, newscaster Eva Bartlett said, “They want you to think there’s one side to this story—one truth. That Assad is going from city to city killing his own people, for some crazy reason, with the help of Russia. The question is, do you buy it?”

    One year after the disappearance of several Hong Kong booksellers, The Guardian looks at the effects of China’s crackdown on publishing in the territory. Banned political books had once been a must-have for tourists from the mainland, but both supply and demand has lessened in the wake of last year’s events. ”Bookshops have closed. Publishers have left. Authors have stopped writing. Books have been pulped. Printers are refusing political works. Translators have grown weary of being associated with certain topics. Readers have stopped buying,” writes Ilaria Maria Sala. “And the whole industry is wondering if hard-hitting books on Chinese politics still have a future in the former British colony.”

  • December 28, 2016

    Carrie Fisher. Photo: Riccardo Ghilardi

    Carrie Fisher. Photo: Riccardo Ghilardi

    Writers reflect on the legacy of actress Carrie Fisher, who died yesterday at age sixty after suffering a heart attack last weekend. At the Huffington Post, Claire Fallon writes that Fisher “could easily have gone the way of many one-time it girls . . . only remembered as a young Princess Leia. Instead, she carved out a unique path for herself, including a successful and acclaimed career as a novelist and memoirist.” At the New York Times, A. O. Scott highlights the “12 dimensions of meta” present in Fisher’s one-time role on 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s career idol. BuzzFeed looks to Fisher’s 2008 memoir, Wishful Drinking, for the author’s idea of what she wanted her obituary to look like. After an on-set conversation with director George Lucas on the mechanics of undergarments in space, Fisher wrote, “No matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

    At the New Yorker, Megan Mayhew Bergman explores actress Marlene Dietrich’s expansive library, much of which was donated to the American Library in Paris after her death in 1992. Throughout her collection—which includes numerous books of poetry, the works of Goethe, and her own biographies—Bergman observes many pages still marked “with small ‘X’s and with sheets torn from a notepad with a stamped red directive: Don’t Forget.”

    Watership Down author Richard Adams died last weekend at the age of ninety-six.

    The Washington Post has committed to hiring “dozens of journalists” in the next year. According to Politico, CEO and publisher Fred Ryan said that the company “looked at what succeeded . . . in 2016 and made investments there.” An exact number of hires has yet to be released.

    Former New Republic editor Jason Zengerle will join the New York Times Magazine as a contributing writer. Zengerle will also continue in his role as GQ’s politics correspondent.

    Investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Ph.D. candidate Ryan Shapiro are suing the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for ignoring their Freedom of Information Act request. The pair is attempting to locate any records related to possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

  • December 27, 2016

    Jason Miller, communications director for the Trump transition team, has turned down an offer to serve as White House communications director. His duties will be taken over by former RNC spokesperson Sean Spicer, who was recently named White House press secretary. Former campaign manager and recently-appointed White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told ABC News that, contrary to his current attitude toward the media, the Trump administration will offer “a great deal of press availability on a daily basis.”

    Business Insider takes a look at Jared Kushner’s attempts to amass a media empire, a plan which sources say “often lacked vision, cohesion, and passion.” Revelations include a failed deal with Cablevision to purchase Newsday and Kushner’s fleeting interest in purchasing the New Republic.

    Recode editor-in-chief Kara Swisher spoke to Peter Kafka on the website’s podcast about the media’s added responsibility in the post-truth era. Responding to the idea that Trump voters don’t want to be confronted with opposing viewpoints on issues like racism and gay marriage, Swisher pointed out that “people said the exact same things about interracial marriages.” “They’re wrong. I don’t want to reach across the aisle on that issue. They’re 100 percent wrong, and history will bear this out.”

    Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson

    The Way of the Writer author Charles Johnson tells the New York Times’s “By the Book” that he’s not interested in anyone writing his life story. “I feel my life is boring, uneventful,” said Johnson. “All I do is work. . . . That wouldn’t make for a great biography, since I like to have drama in my stories but not in my personal life.”

    In the countdown to 2017, Gizmodo Media staff detail “The Least Important Writers of 2016.” Honorable mentions go to media figures like “Jann Wenner’s Kid” and David Brooks, but the website concludes that no one had a worse year than writers of the now-defunct Gawker.com, who were “smeared as pornographers, crushed in court, bankrupted, sold, and then closed down altogether.” Noting that Peter Thiel, the man who bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the website, now has a place in the Trump administration, they write, “It is hard to imagine anyone in the media could have a more demoralizing year of getting their ass kicked. But 2017 is just around the corner.”

  • December 22, 2016

    Women’s Wear Daily reports that Jared Kushner may be preparing to join his father-in-law in DC. The New York Observer owner and son-in-law of president-elect Donald Trump, is said to be looking for buyers for the paper.

    At the New York Times, Bookends writers share the best book they read in 2016. Siddhartha Deb calls Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian “unflinching in its portrayal of settler colonialism and so familiar in its violence, racism and twisted masculinity,” while Zoë Heller notes that Emma Cline’s The Girls, a “story about the charismatic power of an evil cult leader turned out to be a not altogether inappropriate fable for 2016.”

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Ezra Klein talks to Ta-Nehisi Coates about family, academia, and why journalists should take a break from Twitter. Coates points to writer Sarah Stillman as an example of why writers don’t need to be on social media. “She just won a MacArthur [fellowship], and I don’t think she got that on Twitter,” Coates said. “I think she got that by being a tremendous reporter.”

    The Associated Press has added reporters to its White House team. New team members include Julie Bykowicz, who will write on the president-elect’s “business conflicts and ethics,” and Jon Lemire, who will report on Trump “when he’s in New York.”

    The Verge looks at how Peter Thiel’s data-mining firm Palantir might use a program that “has provided largely secret assistance to the US Customs and Border Protection agency” to help the president-elect enact his plan to subject immigrants to “extreme vetting.” Analytical Framework for Intelligence was created in 2012 to help various law enforcement agencies gather data, “including biographical information, personal associations, travel itineraries, immigration records, and home and work addresses, as well as fingerprints, scars, tattoos, and other physical traits.” Using court documents, The Verge investigates the extent of Palantir’s participation in the program and how Thiel might benefit from it in the future.

    Business Insider profiles Donald Trump’s doctor, Harold Bornstein. Bornstein says he hasn’t spoken with the president-elect since the election and that he isn’t worried about Trump being the oldest president in history. “If something happens to him, then it happens to him,” Bornstein said. “It’s like all the rest of us, no? That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”

  • December 21, 2016

    Libby Chamberlain, founder of the Hillary Clinton-supporting Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, has signed a deal with Flatiron Books. The book will collect posts and images from the Facebook page and “amplify the collective voices of the women who shared their stories of overcoming or facing sexism, racism or xenophobia.”

    Lila Azam Zanganeh. Photo: Martin Godwin

    Lila Azam Zanganeh. Photo: Martin Godwin

    The jury for the 2017 Man Booker Prize has been selected. Colin Thubron, Tom Phillips, Sarah Hall, Lila Azam Zanganeh, and Lola Young will announce the 2017 longlist in July.

    Bloomberg has named the members of its White House team. Alex Wayne will stay on as team leader, overseeing campaign reporters Jennifer Jacobs, Kevin Cirilli, and Jennifer Epstein. Mike Dorning will serve as deputy editor and Shannon Pettypiece, who most recently reported on Walmart, will also join the team. The New York Times is adding Thomas Kaplan and Matt Flegenheimer to its congressional reporting team.

    Blake Hounshell has been promoted to editor in chief of Politico magazine. Daily Mail US political editor David Martosko is no longer in the running for a communications position in the Trump White House.

    The New Republic rounds up “the words we couldn’t escape this year,” including alt-right, deplorables, and rigged.

    At Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton takes a look at the long search for taped outtakes from The Apprentice, why the footage never materialized, and why it probably wouldn’t have mattered if they did. By the time Mark Burnett refused to release the footage last summer, Bilton writes, Trump “had already proclaimed that he grabbed women’s genitals; he called Mexican undocumented immigrants rapists; he had refused to acknowledge that President Obama was born in the United States . . . Trump had a valid point when he said, ‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.’”

  • December 20, 2016

    Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji has been released from prison pending the appeal of his two-year sentence. Naji was originally convicted of “violating public modesty” after excerpts of his unpublished novel gave a reader “heart palpitations” and “a drop in blood pressure.” A hearing to decide whether Naji will face trial for a third time is scheduled for January 1.

    The New Yorker has been chosen as Ad Age’s Magazine of the Year. David Remnick and Lisa Hughes were chosen as Editor and Publisher of the Year.

    Columbia Journalism Review talks to Tina Nguyen, whose Vanity Fair review of Trump Grill drew the ire of the president-elect and resulted in a record number of subscriptions for the magazine. Nguyen says that Vanity Fair alerted her to Trump’s tweet about her piece kept an eye on possible threats. “I give Vanity Fair the credit for allowing me to write something like that, and supporting it even when a very scary man tweeted his displeasure toward it,” Nguyen said.

    Laura Albert

    Laura Albert

    The Rumpus talks to Laura Albert, better known as the author behind JT LeRoy. Albert reminisces about her difficult childhood and complicated relationship with her mother, who was also a writer. Although Albert says she admired her mother’s ethics when it came to her work, she didn’t admire her writing. “She got her tenses and her grammar right, but emotional depth wasn’t in it,” Albert said. “It took me a long time to realize that I’d surpassed her as a writer. I didn’t show her Sarah. I knew she’d try to edit it and I didn’t want her to. She didn’t get a vote.”

    After journalists from numerous outlets attended an off-the-record meeting with Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate, the Columbia Journalism Review called the gathering a throwback to 2015, “before Trump had demonized the media and worked to turn a good chunk of the country against it.” FishbowlDC writes that the meeting consisted of “journalists who can’t stop getting played,” and points out that Trump still has not rescheduled his cancelled press conference, which would have been his first in over four months. At Fortune, Mathew Ingram reiterates the need for journalists to stop accepting off-the-record meetings with the president-elect. “The media outlets that participated are being played by a man who instinctively understands the media and how to manipulate it more than probably any previous president—a man who got $2 billion or so worth of free press coverage,” Ingram writes.

    Merriam-Webster has chosen surreal as its Word of the Year. The Guardian is nominating unpresidented as its own Word of the Year after a tweet by Donald Trump misspelled unprecedented. Definitions of unpresidented include “an irrecoverable act of folly committed by a president”; “the state of an impeached president”; and the “feeling of loss when a president who has neither the temperament nor the knowledge to actually be president is elected.”

  • December 19, 2016

    Starting today, the Knight Foundation is matching donations made to non-profit news organizations through the end of Obama’s term in office. Qualifying organizations include The Marshall Project, ProPublica, PBS NewsHour, and more.

    Flatiron Books has announced a name for Oprah Winfrey’s imprint, as well as its first titles. An Oprah Book will first publish a cookbook written by Winfrey, Food, Health and Happiness, on January 3.

    Maria Semple

    Maria Semple

    Julia Roberts has been tapped to star in a TV adaptation of Maria Semple’s novel, Today Will Be Different. Semple, who has written for shows like Suddenly Susan and Arrested Development, will write the screen version. 

    Four more major tech companies have asserted that they will not assist in building a registry of Muslim citizens. BuzzFeed spoke to Google, Apple, Uber, and IBM, who said they would not participate in any such project. Amazon and Oracle did not respond to requests for comment.

    New York Times public editor Liz Spayd calls out the paper’s lack of diversity. Spayd points out that the entire White House press team is made up of white reporters, and that only two people of color covered the presidential campaign. Spayd notes that the most diverse segment of staff are the news assistants, who are also the least paid. “The Times can be relentless in questioning the diversity at other institutions,” she writes. “Fixing its own problems comes less easily.”

    The Washington Post has created a Chrome extension that fact checks Donald Trump’s many tweets. In addition to pointing out false claims made by the president-elect, the extension also offers more context to tweets that may simply need more explanation. Trump or Trump-related statements make up nearly half of the paper’s round up of “The Biggest Pinocchios of 2016.” The paper notes that they have previously tried to “assemble a relatively equal number of claims by Democrats and Republicans but find that this is impossible this year.”

    Charlie Sykes, a talk-radio host in Wisconsin who leaving his show at the end of the year, reflects on his experience as both a media figure and a conservative Trump critic during the election. Sykes writes that although conservative news sources helped discredit mainstream media among many voters, they also did nothing to stop the spread of conspiracy theories and fake news. “For years, we ignored the birthers, the racists, the truthers and other conspiracy theorists,” Sykes writes. “Rather than confront the purveyors of such disinformation, we changed the channel because, after all, they were our allies, whose quirks could be allowed or at least ignored. We destroyed our own immunity to fake news, while empowering the worst and most reckless voices on the right.”

  • December 16, 2016

    Facebook announced plans yesterday to fight the spread of fake news. The social media site is testing new tools that allow users to report misleading articles, as well as partnering with news organizations like the Associated Press, Snopes, and PolitiFact to fact-check reported news items. After the announcement, conservative media figures took to Twitter to express their dismay at the new tools, which they say are biased against them.

    Daily Mail US politics editor David Martosko has continued writing about Trump even after interviewing at Trump Tower for a position in the president-elect’s administration. Martosko, who is being considered for press secretary, spent much of the campaign season scolding other journalists for being too close to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

    The New York Public Library is collaborating with Macmillan to create an imprint that will publish books related to the library’s vast holdings. Planned titles range from an untitled book by Maira Kalman that will “rejoice in the role of libraries,” to a children’s coloring book called Coloring in the Lions.

    Sarah Smith, a former editor at the New York Times Book Review, has been named editorial director for print and e-books at Amazon.

    The New York Times has set up a system for readers to share story tips confidentially, and gives a few guidelines for would-be tipsters that seem to have come from hard-won experience: “Documentation or evidence is essential. Speculating or having a hunch does not rise to the level of a tip. . . . A news tip should be newsworthy. While we agree it is unfair that your neighbor is stealing cable, we would not write a story about it.”

    Shirley Jackson

    Shirley Jackson

    On Monday night, the 92Y is hosting a celebration of Shirley Jackson’s centennial, with appearances by novelist Joyce Carol Oates, critic Laura Miller, writer Miles Hyman (Jackson’s grandson, and the author of The Lottery: A Graphic Adaptation), and Ruth Franklin, whose new biography of Jackson was just published. In a review of Franklin’s book in our fall issue, Kate Bolick noted that “Jackson’s most genuinely uncanny talent was the way in which she channeled the nation’s postwar tensions and hypocrisies—particularly those around class, race, gender, and anti-Semitism—into fiction so unputdownable that most readers don’t even see the cultural critique just beneath their nose.”

    Former presidential speechwriter Jonathan Reiber reflects on the end of Obama’s literary presidency. Reiber looks to works by James Baldwin and Tony Kushner, Supreme Court decisions, and various speeches from Obama’s political career to prepare readers for the next four years. “When the country suffers or stumbles, as it will,” Reiber writes, “we will have something far greater than our present world to hold onto: The truths of love, as found in words and in our historical experience and in each other.”

  • December 15, 2016

    At the Washington Post, Philip Bump explains why both supporters and detractors of the president-elect should be pushing him to give a press conference, writing that “the best way to get the most information is to empower the question-asker, not the person who’s giving the answers.” At the Huffington Post, Michael Calderone notes that Trump has waited longer than both Barack Obama and George W. Bush to hold a press conference after the election, instead distracting “the press by bringing stars through the Trump Tower lobby, holding meetings which on their face have nothing to do with how he’ll govern.”

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    The Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb has accused Chinese printers of censoring a reprint of his 2012 book Antifragile. A manuscript of the book was returned with a request for Taleb to change mentions of Taiwan to “China, Taiwan.” After tweeting a photo of the page in question, Taleb wrote, “Most authors, I was told, complied. I assume hundreds kept their mouth shut. Not me.” The Guardian reports that Random House, the publisher of the first edition of Antifragile, has since switched publishers in China.

    Tobias Carroll writes about adapting Alice Munro’s fiction to the screen. The most recent attempt, Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta, is based on three of Munro’s stories and will be released in the US this month.

    Patti Smith reflects on her performance of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the ceremony for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Smith writes that she had been asked to perform months before she knew the ceremony would honor Dylan, and that she fretted about how Dylan would feel about her participation. After a shaky performance, Smith was seated with the American ambassador, who had read the letter Dylan sent for the ceremony. “I could not help thinking that he had two strong women in his corner,” Smith writes. “One who faltered and one who did not, yet both had nothing in mind but to serve his work well.”

    Tonight at the Strand, Siri Hustvedt will be in conversation with Jason Yougaw about her new essay collection,  A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

  • December 14, 2016

    Novelist Shirley Hazzard has died

    Shirley Hazzard

    Shirley Hazzard

    In a new report, the Committee to Protect Journalists says the number of journalists jailed in 2016 is now at 259, an all-time high since the group began keeping track in 1990. Nearly one-third of the imprisoned journalists are in Turkey, where a failed coup last summer led to a crackdown on the press.

    Infowars’s Alex Jones has been removing content from his website that links him to Pizzagate. A criminal complaint against Edgar Maddison Welch, the man who fired a rifle inside Comet Ping Pong, shows that he had shared a video posted by Infowars about the conspiracy theory days before the incident.

    Dozens of tech workers have pledged to never work on building a Muslim registry. Signed by “engineers, designers, business executives,” and other employees involved in data collection, the letter states that they “refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs.” Ka-Ping Yee, a software engineer and a co-organizer of the letter, told BuzzFeed that “Ultimately, it’s individuals who make decisions and do the work . . . if enough individuals refuse to participate, unethical projects can’t proceed.”

    At Recode, executive editor Kara Swisher chides the many tech industry leaders who attended the Trump administration’s tech summit yesterday: “The leaders of tech should be ashamed of themselves for lining up like sheeple after all the numskull attacks Trump has made on what is pretty much the United States’ most important, innovative and future-forward business sector.”

    The New York Times and the Washington Post are each sending six reporters to cover the Trump White House next year. Both teams have increased from the four reporters they had during the Obama administration, and the Times’s team is the largest the paper has ever had covering presidential politics.

    The January 2017 issue of Wired will be dedicated entirely to science fiction. After the events of 2016, editor in chief Scott Dadich writes, “we decided to consider things a little more obliquely. Sometimes to get a clearer sense of reality, you have to take some time to dream.”

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