• November 23, 2016

    Teju Cole, New York City, Shot by Tim Knox 347 683 4093. 1st May

    Teju Cole. Photo: Tim Knox

    Thirty-one writers, including Teju Cole, Maggie Nelson, and Luc Sante, have signed an open letter asking President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden. “By pardoning Snowden and permitting him to return free to the country he loves, your administration would be sending a message to the future,” they write: “that America remains committed to democratic accountability, and that tomorrow’s innovations will not be allowed to bend or bow the Constitution, but will, instead, be made to conform to it, and to reinforce the rights that it bestows.”

    It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel about facism in the US, has sold out on Amazon since the election.

    At the New York Times Magazine, Emily Bazelon reflects on Trump’s use of libel law as a tool for revenge, and what the media might be up against during his presidency. “Once installed in the White House, Trump will have a wider array of tools at his disposal, and his record suggests that, more than his predecessors, he will try to use the press — and also control and subdue it,” Bazelon writes.

    After cancelling in a series of tweets, Donald Trump eventually held meetings at the New York Times yesterday, first off the record with publisher Arthur Sulzberger, and later on the record with a group of reporters, editors, and columnists. Trump walked back on a few of his campaign promises, saying that he would not be prosecuting Hillary Clinton and would consider continuing to abide by the Paris climate accord, but did state that “he had no obligation to establish boundaries between his business empire and his White House.”

    Politico’s national editor Michael Hirsch resigned yesterday after he posted the address of Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, to Facebook and told readers to “exercise your rights as decent Americans.” Editor-in-chief John Harris and editor Carrie Budoff Brown said in a statement that his post was “clearly outside the bounds of acceptable discourse.”

  • November 22, 2016

    Claire Messud. Photo: Luigi Novi

    Claire Messud. Photo: Luigi Novi

    Novelist Claire Messud has signed a deal to write two books with W. W. Norton & Company. The Burning Girl will be published next fall, while the second book has not yet been announced. As part of the deal, Norton will republish When the World was Steady, Messud’s first novel.

    Deborah Needleman is stepping down from her position as editor in chief at T Magazine. A new editor in chief has not yet been named. As to Needleman’s future plans, in a memo to staff Dean Baquet wrote, “I’ll let her tell you what she will do next, but it mainly consists of taking a break and enjoying more of the world that T so vibrantly covers.”

    The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg and the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan both ask Mark Zuckerberg to fix Facebook’s fake news problem. John Herrman points out that dealing with fake news won’t restore readers’ trust in the work of reporters. “A number of narrow measures could stop a fake story about the pope, for example,” Herrman writes. “But where would that leave the rest of the media? Answered and rebutted, and barely better positioned against everything else that remained.”

    Donald Trump held an off-the-record meeting yesterday with executives and anchors from major television networks. Although journalists expected Trump to finally answer questions about access to the president-elect, according to the New York Post, Trump used the meeting to yell at members of the press, calling them “a room full of liars.” One source told the Post “it was like a f—ing firing squad.”

    Christina Xu writes about experiencing the 2016 election through Chinese-language news, offering a vision of “the post-truth future” that is already engulfing the US media. Through apps like Weibo and WeChat, fake news is able to spread unchecked to Chinese citizens worldwide, and a blanket distrust of state media leads to a distrust of fact checking as well. “In a system where no source is deemed fully trustworthy,” Xu writes, “research and citations are diminished to just another set of opinions.”

    Internet trolls are moving from politically-motivated one-star reviews of books to politically-motivated one-star reviews of publishing apps. Quartz, USA Today, and CNN are among the companies whose apps are receiving low ratings due to accusations of liberal bias. One reviewer described CNN’s app as being full of “absurdly left-leaning rhetoric. . . . I’m all for the first amendment but also representing the facts.”

  • November 21, 2016

    Turkey has now surpassed China in the number of jailed journalists, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since the failed coup last July, 120 journalists have been locked up in the country. Offenses include criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “subliminal messaging” in past articles, and failure “to mention how many people were killed in the attempted coup, in any article about it.”

    Thomas Mann

    Thomas Mann

    Thomas Mann’s Los Angeles home has been bought by the German government for $13 million. The home listing, which suggested remodeling or demolishing the home and made no mention of Mann’s decade of residence, caused outrage in Germany. The space will now become a cultural center and provide residencies to artists. “In stormy times like these we need more than ever cultural anchor points with our most important partner outside of Europe,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

    The New York Times profiles Van Jones, the CNN commentator who called Trump’s election a “whitelash” during returns coverage.

    City University of London students have voted to ban some newspapers, including The Sun, the Daily Mail, and Express, from campus. The motion stated that “freedom of speech should not be used as an excuse to attack the weakest and poorest members of society,” and cited negative articles about refugees, people of color, and muslims. A former head of the school’s journalism department, George Brock, called the vote “foolish, illiberal and meaningless,” and said “the answer to journalism that you may not like is to do the journalism better.”

    The Washington Post offers a list of books for understanding the Trump presidency, noting that “the raw populism, nativism and conspiracism of Trump’s campaign—and of key members of the team he is assembling—have deep roots, both in the United States and abroad.” Titles include D. J. Mulloy’s The World of the John Birch Society: Conspiracy, Conservatism, and the Cold War, and Steven Lee Myers’s The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin.

    Tonight at BKLYN Commons, Garnette Cadogan talks to Joshua Jelly-Schapiro about his new book, Island People.

  • November 18, 2016

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad has won the National Book Award for fiction. Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America won for nonfiction, and Representative John Lewis’s graphic memoir March: Book Three won for young people’s literature.

    Alex Jones, head of Infowars, told the New York Times that he received a thank-you call from Donald Trump soon after the election. Although Jones said he will be holding the president-elect accountable to his campaign promises, including a continued investigation of Hillary Clinton, it’s fine if Trump leaves some of them by the wayside: “If he gets 20 percent done, people will be happy.”

    Paul Horner, who earns money through viral news hoaxes, tells the Washington Post that he put Trump in the White House: “His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything.” A BuzzFeed analysis of election coverage shows that twenty of the highest performing fake articles earned more engagement than twenty pieces from major news organizations. At a press conference in Berlin, President Obama criticized the role of fake news in the 2016 election, noting that viral misinformation means that citizens “won’t know what we’re fighting for.”

    Sheila Heti talks to Elena Ferrante, through emails translated by Ann Goldstein, about what is lost and gained through a public persona, why trust should not be unconditional, and the remaining discomfort with intellectual woman characters in fiction. “We’re still incapable of a convincing portrayal of female intelligence,” Ferrante writes. “Though we have now acquired the sense of our inner richness and our intellectual autonomy, we portray them in a minor key, as if our capacity to produce ideas and culture were a presumptuous exaggeration, as if, even having something extra, we ourselves didn’t really believe in it.”

    The Los Angeles Times talks to the many publishers and magazines still reeling from Clinton’s defeat. Knopf Doubleday public relations director Paul Bogaards wrote in a memo to his staff that, similar to the media, publishing “exists in a bubble. . . . We are, for the most part, a bastion of the liberal elite.”

    To the Democratic Party, author Viet Thanh Nguyen asks, “Now that playing it safe as a strategic and moral principle has failed, can we try something different?”

    Zadie Smith talks to the Times about the books on her to-read list, what she assigns to her students, and the insularity of novel-writing. “Writing novels can make you very stupid,” she says, “just writing about something that doesn’t exist for three or four years.”

    Tonight at the New York Public Library, James McBride discusses his book Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul.

  • November 17, 2016

    Amid talk of echo chambers and fake news, Wired exposes the real reason Facebook played such an important part in Trump’s win: “It helped generate the bulk of the campaign’s $250 million in online fundraising.”

    Sarah Posner and David Neiwert have been awarded this month’s Sidney Award for their Mother Jones article about “how Donald Trump’s presidential campaign brought hate groups into the mainstream of national politics.”

    After being left behind while Trump enjoyed a steak dinner with members of his transition team, the National Press Club and sixteen other journalism associations have signed an open letter requesting that Trump respect the tradition of the presidential press pool. “A great America depends on having sunlight on its leaders,” they write. Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News, explains exactly why the protective press pool needs access to the president, even for casual dinners. “It chronicles the unfolding events, large and small, of a presidency,” writes Knox, “with the belief that writing history shouldn’t be left only to loyal staffers and government officials.”

    Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak responded to a question from NPR’s Steve Inskeep about the new site’s embrace of the alt-right by accusing the radio network of being racist. After defending an article that referred to the Confederacy as “a patriotic and idealisitc cause” unrelated to slavery, Pollak said, “NPR is taxpayer-funded and has an entire section of its programming, a regular feature called CodeSwitch, which from my perspective is a racist program. I’m looking here at the latest article [which called] the election results ‘nostalgia for a whiter America.’”

    Tom Verducci. Photo: William Hauser

    Tom Verducci. Photo: William Hauser

    Sports writer Tom Verducci has signed with Crown Archetype to write a book about the Cubs’ World Series win. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse will be available next March.

    Univision has announced planned layoffs of at least two hundred people, with the recently-unionized Fusion being the most affected. Employees of The Root and Fusion who are not fired will join Gizmodo Media Group, whose employees are exempt from this round of layoffs. “I’m not touching them,” said Isaac Lee, the digital, entertainment, and news chief at Univision. “It’s been a short time, and they do a great job.”

    Bob Dylan has informed the Swedish Academy that he will not be able to receive his Nobel Prize in person. In a statement the Academy noted that recipients are not required to attend the award ceremony: “In the recent past, several laureates have, for various reasons, been unable to come to Stockholm to receive the prize, among them Doris Lessing, Harold Pinter and Elfriede Jelinek. The prize still belongs to them, just as it belongs to Bob Dylan.”

  • November 16, 2016

    Jelani Cobb remembers Gwen Ifill, the PBS host, journalist, and author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, who died on Monday at the age of sixty-one. Cobb writes, “It is a particular cruelty that Ifill, who was a standard-bearer for journalism, a mentor of young reporters, and a profoundly decent colleague, should depart now, when the country has never been more in need of those qualities.”

    Philip Hoffman will take over as the chairman of Penguin Random House in January, 2017, replacing the retiring John Makinson.   

    John Keene has won the 2016 Lannan Literary Award for Counternarratives, his collection of novellas and short stories.

    John Keene

    John Keene

    At The Guardian, Jacqueline Rose—author of Women in Dark Timesargues that the election of Donald Trump has tapped into frightening forces on both the left and the right: “Trump has licensed the obscenity of the unconscious. He has set the worst human impulses marching. But there are no clean slates in the unconscious. Not for any of us. At the very moment we galvanise politically, we must remain as vigilant of ourselves as of everyone else.”

    Oxford Dictionaries has fittingly named post-truth as 2016’s word of the year. Post-truth—which has a more serious connotation than truthiness—was first used in The Nation in 1992, and narrowly beat out alt-right as the word that best captures “the ethos, mood or preoccupations” of the day. To give a sense of just how bad this year has been, the Times points out that 2015’s word of the year was the laughing-with-joy emoji.

    Zeynep Tufekci, a professor of information and library science, criticizes Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to acknowledge the role that Facebook’s algorithms played in the spreading of fake stories and creation of echo chambers during the presidential campaign. Tufekci also points out that real studies of the algorithm’s effects and influences are impossible, since Facebook doesn’t allow anyone else to access its data. “It’s as if tobacco companies controlled access to all medical and hospital records,” she writes. According to BuzzFeed, Facebook employees are secretly creating a task force to examine these practices and evaluate how they can be improved.

    Breitbart News is planning a lawsuit against a “major media company” after being criticized as a racist, white nationalist website. In a statement to The Hill, Breitbart News said that it “cannot allow such vicious racial lies to go unchallenged, especially by cynical, politically-motivated competitors seeking to diminish its 42 million monthly readers and its number one in the world political Facebook page.”

    In the aftermath of the 2016 election, news organizations are seeing extreme increases of subscriptions and donations. ProPublica reported receiving three donations per minute on Monday, up from its usual ten per day. Newspapers like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal have also benefited from a newfound desire for facts. Since the election, the Times has been gaining subscribers at four times its usual rate.

  • November 15, 2016

    Gwen Ifill

    Gwen Ifill

    PBS NewsHour co-host Gwen Ifill has died at 61. After beginning her career as a newspaper reporter for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others, Ifill joined PBS’s Washington Week in Review as the show’s moderator in 1999. Yesterday, President Barack Obama called Ifill “an extraordinary journalist.” “I always appreciated Gwen’s reporting,” he said, “even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews.”

    Gizmodo reports that prior to the election Facebook had developed an update to its News Feed that would have removed fake news stories, but work on the tool was discontinued after it became apparent that it would affect mainly right wing-affiliated sites. “There was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” said an anonymous source, referring to the revelations last spring that an editorial team was suppressing content from right-leaning websites.

    Facebook isn’t the only company taking heat for its part in the election. The first result on Google for “final election count” is a WordPress site that claims “Trump won the popular vote by a margin of almost 700,000 votes.” (At last count, Clinton had a lead of nearly one million votes.) At Current Affairs, Emily Robinson calls out the “lazy political journalism” that fed off of Twitter.

    Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston is launching the Nevada Independent, a nonprofit news site focusing on politics, government, and business. “I am doing it because I have long believed room existed in this state for a new paradigm, maybe one that can be a model for elsewhere: A donor-supported community news outlet that is focused only on truth and transparency, with no agenda,” Ralston said. The site launches early next year.

    The Washington Post is offering free subscriptions to students, government employees, and members of the military. Rebecca Solnit and Haymarket books are giving away a free ebook edition of Solnit’s classic 2004 book on activism Hope in the Dark

    Historians are scrambling to rewrite books and papers on the legacy of President Barack Obama after the election results of 2016. At a conference planned more than a year ago, historians discussed how to update their works without forgetting how surprising the results were. “Trump’s election may end up being a turning point, and historians will want to tell the story as if it were destined to happen,” said Gary Gerstle, a University of Cambridge professor. “But we were not totally crazy to think it wouldn’t.”

    Fusion’s digital editorial staff has voted to unionize, with over 90 percent supporting the decision.

  • November 14, 2016

    At The Guardian, women authors including Siri Hustvedt and Joyce Carol Oates reflect on how much Hillary Clinton’s gender affected the outcome of the 2016 election.

    The New Yorker has collected essays from sixteen writers—including Toni Morrison, Atul Gawande, Mary Karr, and Larry Wilmore—on the reasons for and the effects of Trump’s win on the country.

    On a BBC panel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Americana, offered this response to R. Emmett Tyrrell, the editor-in-chief of American Spectator, after he stated that Trump was not racist throughout his campaign: “I am sorry, but if you are a white man, you don’t get to define what racism is.”

    Ishmael Reed. Photo: Lia Chang.

    Ishmael Reed. Photo: Lia Chang.

    Ishmael Reed—whose novels include Mumbo Jumbo and The Freelance Pallbearers—has written an incendiary response to the presidential election titled “White Nationalism’s Last Stand.” He begins by taking issue with the notion that many Trump supporters feel that they’ve been “forgotten” or “left behind.” “Left behind? They belong to unions that have excluded blacks for decades. His FBI, NYPD, Secret Service fans, and thousands of police whose unions endorsed Trump–left behind?”

    John Oliver returned to Last Week Tonight and dedicated the entire show to Trump’s election: “It is going to be easy for things to start feeling normal,” Oliver said, “so keep reminding yourself: This is not normal.”

    Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who bankrupted Gawker by supporting Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the company, will join Trump’s transition team. Thiel will assist in “vetting presidential appointments and selecting which of Trump’s campaign promises will become the policies of America’s 45th president.”

    The Trump transition team has been accused of plagiarism after using information and exact wording written by the Center for Presidential Transition on its own website without credit. James Grimmelmann, a Cornell University law professor, said that it was unlikely that the copy and pasting would lead to any legal challenges: “When someone is using something in service to the nation, we give them a bit more leeway.”

    When the news gets too grim, you can always turn to fiction podcasts. The Times recommends eleven standout shows, including The Truth, Limetown, and The Message.

  • November 11, 2016

    John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

    John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

    At the Washington Post, Karen Heller speculates about who will write the inevitable 2016 election books. Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, authors of 2008’s Game Change and 2012’s Double Down, are expected to write a follow-up about this year’s contest, and there will be many more accounts of one of the most bizarre and consequential elections in US history. As Peter Osnos of PublicAffairs books notes: “There’s going to be a cascade. An awful lot of people want to weigh in.” Next week, Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution will be published, along with Megyn Kelly’s Settle For More (Kelly has already taken to Twitter to dispute an early New York Times review of the book). Beyond that, books from Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as from Trump insiders such as Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon, are likely to be published in the coming year.

    Candace Smith reflects on covering Trump’s campaign as a black journalist. “Conversations with over 100 Trump supporters, all white, revealed a darker truth,” Smith writes. “They may like me as a person, but were concerned more holistically what black and brown people were doing to this country and worried about a changing nation that no longer looked like them.”

    Hamilton Nolan writes that the only thing that will fix the media is diversity, and not just of race and gender. “The Times’s approach to diversity is to hire a black person who went to Columbia Journalism School and a woman who went to Princeton and someone who grew up in rural West Virginia who went to Harvard. This is not what diversity means.”

    Journalists worry that the traditional modes of press access to the president will be severely limited by Donald Trump. Spokesperson Hope Hicks released a statement saying the team “fully expect to operate a traditional pool,” but did not include any details of their plan. The press pool has already been barred from traveling with the president-elect and his staff has yet to respond to inquiries from the AP and elsewhere.

    The New York Daily News is offering buyouts to journalists, and will follow with layoffs if needed, as the paper looks to cut $6 millon from the budget.

    The 2016 Goldsmiths prize was awarded to Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, a 223-page novel comprised of a single sentence.  

    At The Intercept, Sam Biddle pleads with Facebook to stop misinformation from being so easily circulated on the site: “A less-toxic Facebook is doable. A less-toxic Facebook is crucial. A less-toxic Facebook is the absolute least you should demand from the people it’s made rich, because, with no great exaggeration, the ability to deliberately confuse tens of millions of American voters in exchange for banner ad revenues is a crisis.”

  • November 10, 2016

    Authors weigh in on Trump’s win: Philip Pullman asks, “Is there something wrong with democracy?” George R. R. Martin published a post entitled “President Pussygrabber,” concluding, “Winter is coming. I told you so.” At The Guardian, Marilynne Robinson reflects on what can be learned from this election. “From the very beginning, this election season has been a stress test. It has revealed weaknesses, actual and potential, in the American political system,” she writes. “Voters have now ensured these can no longer be ignored.” Margaret Atwood is bracing for a real-life Handmaid’s Tale.

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood

    Who is to blame for Trump’s election? As Alex Pareene writes, pretty much everyone. Glenn Greenwald points to “the institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population—all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction.” Max Read blames the social media echo chamber. Thomas Frank calls out the “chronic complacency that has been rotting American liberalism for years.” At The Stranger, Ijeoma Oluo writes that it wasn’t third party votes or Clinton’s unlikeability that caused her to lose: “We have elected violent white supremacist patriarchy into office because the vast majority of white American voters chose to elect violent white supremacist patriarchy into office.” Margaret Sullivan highlights the magical thinking that blinded the media to the possibility of electing Trump. “It would be too horrible. So, therefore,” Sullivan writes, “it couldn’t happen.”

    Mexico’s Vanguardia newspaper announced Trump’s win with one word: “Upsss!” (Oops!), while BuzzFeed’s Bim Adewunmi asks “What Is America So Afraid Of?” Her answer: “Every damn thing.” At Columbia Journalism Review, Kyle Pope writes that “a new era needs to begin, a period in which reporting takes precedent over opinion, when journalists are willing to seek out and understand people with whom they may have profound personal and philosophical differences.”

    The New York Times offers a list of books “for those trying to understand the political, economic, regional and social shifts that drove one of the most stunning political upsets in the nation’s history on Tuesday.” The list includes George Packer’s The Unwinding, Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, and Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal, among others. It’s a good time to revisit Public Book’s more extensive syllabus on understanding Trump’s rise.

    Madeleine Thien’s novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing has won the Giller Prize, Canada’s most renowned book award.

    A new book by Joan Didion will be published by Penguin Random House next March. South and West: From a Notebook will be comprised of Didion’s writings from a road trip across the country with her husband.