• September 2, 2016

    The New York Times books section and the paper’s Sunday Book Review will no longer be separate entities. On the Recode Media podcast, Assistant Masthead Editor Clifford Levy said, “We have to be willing to try new things, and if they fail, that’s fine.” The two teams will be merged under the guidance of Book Review editor Pamela Paul, who told Publishers Weekly that the move will reduce redundant reviews: “‘There will no longer be any instances of two freelancers reviewing the same books.” In today’s business section, the Times’s internal email system assists Daniel Victor as he advises readers on what to do about being added to an unwanted email chain.

    Yaa Gyasi. Photo: Michael Lionstar

    Yaa Gyasi. Photo: Michael Lionstar

    Finalists for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize have been announced. The short list includes Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, Emma Cline’s The Girls, and Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You.

    The verbal attacks by Roger Ailes’s lawyers on journalist Gabriel Sherman have taken on a more menacing tone “in our Age of Hogan,” writes James Warren. “Have no doubt that the courtroom victory of Hulk Hogan, which marked the financial ruin of Gawker Media, is part of the calculus in essentially warning Sherman and his employer that Team Ailes means business.”

    HuffPost Mexico launched yesterday, becoming the site’s sixteenth international edition. Global Editorial Director Howard Fineman noted the Trump campaign in his lengthy introduction to the Mexican edition earlier this summer: “Our two countries are increasingly intertwined, whatever Trump may wish to unravel.”

    After the FAA recently relaxed rules about who could legally pilot drones, any journalist with the ability to pass a multiple-choice test can take to the skies in search of stories. To avoid “a glut of inexperienced operators,” a University of Nebraska journalism professor and a BuzzFeed fellow have created an open-source manual for drone reportage.

    New Order and Joy Division drummer Stephen Morris has signed a deal to write a memoir with Little, Brown imprint Constable. “Part memoir, part visual scrapbook, part aural history,” the book will be published in 2018.

    At The Awl, Patrick Hoffman reviews James Patterson’s MasterClass on writing. “I started zoning out a little. My eyes drifted over toward my cat. Mr. Patterson pulled me right back in by saying, ‘Once you have the outline, start writing dude, you’re ready.’ It was that dude that woke me.”

    Jonathan Safran Foer spoke with The Bookseller about his new novel, Here I Am. “My feeling of the book is it is . . . about things like how dishes are washed, what kind of moisturiser one applies, why a certain kind of mattress is purchased instead of another, what it’s like to take a baby’s temperature.” Foer’s book was included in The Guardian’s round-up of this fall’s “best American writing,” along with Nicholson Baker’s Substitute, Nell Zink’s Nicotine, Ruth Franklin’s Shirley Jackson, and Rabih Alameddine’s The Angel of History.

  • September 1, 2016

    gabe-sherman-3-credit-nephi-nivensmall_vert-a56d3fe133c7691df29b10225082c0ba6b229967-s6-c30

    Gabriel Sherman. Photo: Nephi Niven

    An upcoming exposé by Gabriel Sherman in New York magazine has Roger Ailes’s lawyers denouncing the writer to the Daily Beast. “Gabe Sherman is a virus, and is too small to exist on his own, and has obviously attached himself to the Ailes family to try to suck the life out of them,” Marc Mukasey told the news site. “Roger is fine and doing well, and is not going to allow a virus like that to poison the atmosphere.” Susan Estrich, the feminist attorney who surprised everyone by taking the Ailes case, said that the forthcoming article “is Gabe Sherman’s last stand, and it falls flat.” At least this time around Ailes’s spokespeople aren’t hiding behind anonymity.

    Even after removing the biased parts of their trending section, i.e. human editors, Facebook can’t escape the critical eye of the Washington Post. The newspaper will be compiling trends from the social media site every hour and analyzing them in a daily email. “Are these trends an objective reflection of what’s happening in the world — or do they have their own algorithmic slants? Honestly, we don’t know … yet!”

    A Columbia Journalism Review report says that even though Vice relies on freelance writers, producers, and fixers all over the world to create content, they also have a habit of not paying them. Yardena Schwartz, a journalist based in Tel Aviv, began collecting stories of other freelance journalists burned by Vice after a story she had worked on for three days was cut due to an editor’s family emergency, and the company offered her only a fraction of their previously-settled pay rate. “Out of 25 people I spoke to, emailed with, or interacted with through Facebook, three said they had a positive experience freelancing for Vice.”

    Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, has been sued by Hachette for turning in a book that the publisher says is “not original to Smith, but instead is in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public-domain work.” The suit does not name the book that the new manuscript relies on, nor does it explain why appropriating public domain works other than Pride and Prejudice is unacceptable.

    Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson will release a book with HarperCollins imprint Broadside. Common Sense for the Common Good: Libertarianism as the End of Two-Party Tyranny will be published as an e-book at the end of September, with plans for a hardcover version in the spring.

    Looking for a beach read in time for the holiday weekend? Goldman Sachs has you covered.

    Sam Lipsyte introduces an excerpt of Annie DeWitt’s White Nights in Split Town City: “It’s almost a sacrilege to put words in front of her words. . . . This novel wants to hurt you in just the way you want art to hurt, and it also wants to slay you, the way art just wants to fucking slay you. And it will.”

  • August 31, 2016

    President Barack Obama will be the guest-editor of Wired’s November issue, on the subject of “Frontiers.” “When the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they were at the bleeding edge of Enlightenment philosophy and technology,” said Wired editor in chief Scott Dadich. “We want to wrestle with the idea of how today’s technology can influence political leadership. And who better to help us explore these ideas than President Obama?”

    Despite rampant speculation about Trump’s plans to launch a media project after losing the general election, Bloomberg says it might take more money than the candidate has. “It’d be an expensive move for a man who has famously run a low-budget presidential campaign.” The Washington Post has digitized a large amount of source material from its recent book, Trump Revealed, including financial documents, court filings, and interview transcripts.

    Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji, who was sentenced to two years in prison after a reader claimed that a sex scene in Naji’s The Use of Life “made his blood pressure drop and his heartbeat fluctuate,” has lost his motion for appeal of his sentence.

    Although Facebook just dismissed its entire New York-based editorial team, Poynter thinks that the website should hire some fact checkers to oversee its trending topics section. But fact checkers would be editorial employees, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this week that Facebook is “a tech company, not a media company.” A former Facebook editor spoke with Digiday about working on the platform’s trending section. The site claims that the human editors were teaching the algorithm how to perform, but the computer was a poor student: “If you’ve used the tool in the last few days, you’d realize that the algorithm didn’t learn shit.”

    John_Forbes_Nash,_Jr._by_Peter_Badge

    John F. Nash. Photo: Peter Badge

    The Nobel Prize medal of mathematician John F. Nash, the subject of Sylvia Nasar’s book A Beautiful Mind (later a film), will be auctioned this fall at Sotheby’s. The projected price of $2.5 to $4 million may prove the current command “of scientists over literary types in the rarefied market for some of the world’s most difficult-to-acquire gold jewelry.” By contrast, William Faulkner’s medal did not sell in 2013 after bidding reached only $425,000.

    Lena Dunham announced a new collection of short stories in her newsletter yesterday. Best and Always will be published by Random House next year. Read her newest story, “The Mechanic,” at Lenny Letter.

    “Book ninjas” in Melbourne, Australia, have been stealthily leaving books on trains and bus lines “in a subversive attempt to bring reading back to workers’ commutes.” Although one usually becomes a ninja by birth, anyone can become a book ninja by requesting stickers from co-founders Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus.

  • August 30, 2016

    Hasan Minhaj

    Hasan Minhaj

    Hasan Minhaj, a Daily Show senior correspondent, is collaborating with PEN America to launch “The M Word,” an event series that “will provide a platform for Muslim-American writers and cultural figures to address audiences on their own terms . . . to challenge the prevailing narrow representations of highly diverse Muslim communities comprised of more than three million Americans.” Minhaj will be part of a panel on Muslim comedians on September 21.

    The MTA is collaborating with Penguin Random House to launch “Subway Reads, a web platform that can be reached from a subway platform.” The program will offer free digital versions of short stories and book excerpts that can be downloaded using the Wi-Fi service offered in subway stations, with selections sorted by the length of a commuter’s ride. Subway Reads will be available for the next eight weeks.

    After firing most of its human editors, Facebook is struggling to convince users that the site’s trending algorithm is ready to fly solo. This weekend, however, the trending section picked up a fake article about Megyn Kelly endorsing Hillary Clinton, among other questionable stories, “including #McChicken, a hashtag that had gone viral after someone posted a video of a man masturbating with a McChicken sandwich.”

    After a third sexting scandal, Anthony Weiner has been put on leave from his job at NY1, and his columns will no longer be printed in the New York Daily News. Huma Abedin, Clinton aide and Weiner’s wife, announced that they had decided to separate.

    Fox News is currently the most-watched cable network for all time slots, but how long can the network hold on to the top spot? “Half of Fox News viewers are over the age of 68.”

    Ursula K. Le Guin talks to the New York Times about her forthcoming Library of America collection, The Complete Orsinia. Although Le Guin is known for science fiction books like The Left Hand of Darkness, she convinced the publisher to compile her more realist early works. “Someone who pigeonholed me firmly will say, ‘What the hell?’ But that’s their problem.”

  • August 29, 2016

    Google has finally revealed why it shut down novelist Dennis Cooper’s blog and canceled his email account earlier this summer. On his Facebook page, Cooper writes that “some unknown person’s flagging of one image on a ten year-old group-curated page that wasn’t even technically on my blog is the reason they disabled my blog and email account.” Late last week, Cooper announced that Google has agreed to release the decade’s worth of data and archives from his blog. Cooper’s blog—“in a new, non-Google spot”—relaunches today.

    Director Harmony Korine is working on an adaptation of Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa, about a middle-school teacher who seduces one of her students.

    Ian McEwan. Photo: Thesupermat

    Ian McEwan. Photo: Thesupermat

    Ian McEwan, whose upcoming book Nutshell centers on the experience of a fetus as its mother conspires with its uncle to kill its father, worries that he may get shot at a book signing. “Someone’s going to come up, especially in the States, shooting at my chest, you know. It would be quite easy,” McEwan told The Guardian. He has other concerns, such as repeating himself and possibly boring his interviewer, but he is sanguine about the difficulties of writing from the point of view of an unborn person: “[McEwan] solved the problem of how a foetus could know enough about the outside world to make sense of what he overheard by making Trudy an avid listener to Radio 4 and podcasts.”

    Far-right news site Breitbart hopes to capitalize on the growing nationalist sentiments worldwide by opening a European branch. “Germany and Brussels are also being considered but France is a particularly attractive option for expansion, [editor in chief Alexander] Marlow said, given the prominence of far-right politicians, concerns about terrorism and the impact of Islam on society.” Glenn Beck spoke with BuzzFeed about what steps Trump might take if, after losing in November, he starts his own television channel. “Make sure that it is clearly understood my disdain for this entire vision,” Beck said.

    The New York Times is searching for dedicated editors to cover education, climate change, and gender issues. The new positions will be exclusively focused on digital journalism and “independent of the department structure.”

    The Village Voice has tapped Rolling Stone contributing editor (and former Voice music-section editor) Joe Levy to be its interim editor in chief.

    Alan Moore spoke to Publisher’s Weekly about the origins of his new novel, Jerusalem. The 600,000 word book came out of Moore’s meditations on the hereafter. “He found various conceptions of the afterlife lacking. The conventional Christian idea ‘didn’t sound like it was quite the kind of lifestyle that I’d like to pursue for the rest of eternity,’ he says. ‘All of that golden marble, it sounded like a 1980s plasterers bathroom.’” After realizing that his life now was the ideal eternity, “he wrote an immense novel that encompasses all of his feelings for home and family. And along the way, he says, he unknowingly re-created Albert Einstein’s thinking about time and space.”

    Poet Max Ritvo, known for his work in the New Yorker and elsewhere, has died at 25. Four Reincarnations, his first collection of poetry, will be published in the fall.

  • August 26, 2016

    Marilynne Robinson

    Marilynne Robinson

    Marilynne Robinson has won the Richard C. Holbrooke award for her writing, which Dayton Literary Peace Prize founder Sharon Rab praised for being “concerned with the issues that define the . . . prize: forgiveness, the sacredness of the human creature and delight in being alive and experiencing the natural world.” PEN Center USA announced the 2016 Literary Award winners, including a prize for journalists T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong for their investigation, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” for ProPublica and the Marshall Project.

    Translator Deborah Smith, who along with author Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian this year, has started her own publishing house in London. Tilted Axis Press will focus on translated works from Asian languages that Smith feels are underrepresented in commercial publishing, “in a way that makes it clear that this is art, not anthropology.”

    “With the surge in cell phone usage and the increasing obsolescence of landlines in recent years,” the days of telephone polling might be numbered, and the New York Times–CBS News poll is rumored to be the first to go.

    The deadline for an essay contest to find a new publisher and editor for Vermont’s Hardwick Gazette, a weekly newspaper, has been extended to September 20 due to a low number of entries.

    R.C. Baker remembers the Village Voice’s Richard Kopperdahl, who died earlier this week. Kopperdahl was known for his first-person writing about his time spent in Bellevue Hospital’s Psychiatric Ward.

    Ramparts magazine editor Warren Hinckle died yesterday. Under Hinckle’s leadership, the magazine went from a publication for left-leaning Catholics “to a slickly produced, crusading political magazine that galvanized the American left.” Ramparts published the diaries of Che Guevara, Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, and photo essays detailing the violence experienced by Vietnamese civilians during the war.

  • August 25, 2016

    Bob Odenkirk will write “a comic ‘bildungsroman’ . . . except this will be more memoir and the main character, Bob Odenkirk (actor, writer, comedian, gadabout), doesn’t grow morally or psychologically.” Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation is still fixated on his former character, Ron Swanson, and has written a new book about his East LA woodshop, to be released in October. Pretty Little Liars’s Ian Harding, who plays writer and former English teacher Ezra Fitz, will release Odd Bird, a book of essays on life and bird watching, next spring.

    Robert Seethaler, a character actor who had a role in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, is a writer as well. His novel A Whole Life, which comes out in the US this September, was a best-seller in Germany. He talks to the New York Times about the origin of his book, why he prefers writing to acting, and his next literary project—a novel about a small-town graveyard: “After this I’ll probably need to rest for a few years and laugh as much as possible.”

    Truman Capote

    Truman Capote

    Truman Capote’s ashes will be auctioned next month in Los Angeles at a starting price of $2,000. After the author died at Johnny Carson’s home in 1984, his ashes remained there until Joanne Carson’s death last year. Although the Carson estate was unsure about their plan to sell off the “carved Japanese box” containing the late writer, Julien’s Auctions owner Darren Julien can think of no better honor for Capote. “It really embodies what Truman Capote was and what he loved to do. Truman told Joanne that he didn’t want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honouring his request.” Julien hopes that whoever decides to buy the ashes will be a New York resident “or someone that travels a lot and can take him with them.”

    The Daily Beast reports that “Donald Trump used his campaign funds to buy thousands of copies of his own book at retail cost” in a possibly illegal move that turns political donations into royalties paid into Trump’s personal accounts.

    A new program in London will offer books to everyone in police custody in the city. “Books for Nicks” came to life after Constable Steve Whitmore arrested a young man, who then asked him for a book to read while he was being held. Whitmore offered him Catcher in the Rye. “The look on his face was amazing, his attitude and hostility towards me completely changed and it created common ground for us to talk about.” Library Journal has an in-depth look at the holdings of Rikers Island’s branch of the New York Public Library that opened last month. “Very little content is prohibited by DOC other than ‘the obvious stuff,’” said librarian Sarah Ball. “‘We are asked by the department not to bring in books about how to make weapons, or fighting techniques.’”

    A panel on David Bowie and Prince, a conversation with Margaret Atwood, and readings by several New York poet laureates are just a few of the events at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival.

  • August 24, 2016

    National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo: Rex Hammock

    National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo: Rex Hammock

    Vinson Cunningham writes on the soon-to-open National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and the century-long “bureaucratic slog” required to make it happen. Founding director Lonnie Bunch has been at work on the project since 2005. His unconventional techniques included Antiques Roadshow–style acquisitions, but his vision for the building might be the most striking: “I didn’t want the white marble building that traditionally was the Mall. What I wanted to say was, there’s always been a dark presence in America that people undervalue, neglect, overlook. I wanted this building to say that.”

    Curtis Sittenfeld, author most recently of the Pride and Prejudice-inspired Eligible, talks to the Times about the oversized authority of book reviews. “It’s not really, say, The New York Times that’s authoritatively weighing in on the quality of a book. . . . It’s actually one reviewer weighing in, . . . and all of us as individuals have quirky, subjective taste.” Sittenfeld also outlines which reviews she’ll read: “I’ll read the ones that are smart and positive, smart and negative, or dumb and positive (hey, all our egos need a little sustenance!). But there’s no point in reading a dumb, negative review.”

    Unlike her husband, who often accuses publications of inaccuracies on social media but rarely follows up with any substantive action, Melania Trump has notified the Daily Mail of her plans to take legal action over an article published last week containing allegations that she may have once worked as an escort. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is unintentionally promoting the Washington Post’s “hit job book,” Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, by tweeting about it.

    The Wall Street Journal reports on the origin of Vice’s TV channel, which came about thanks to an unlikely partnership with Disney. Disney hopes to reach “young, male audiences who are fleeing pay television for digital alternatives.” At a Vice Media board meeting in Las Vegas last year, CEO Shane Smith “had just won $1 million at blackjack” when he brokered the deal with Disney. “That evening, Mr. Smith was using his gambling winnings to host Disney strategy chief Kevin Mayer and a couple dozen other executives at a $300,000 dinner at the hotel’s Prime Steakhouse, complete with $40,000 bottles of French Burgundy.”

    Twitter keeps getting compared to the worst parts of the web. Most recently, The Observer has likened the social media platform to Yahoo, citing Twitter’s continued identity crisis, the return of founder Jack Dorsey, and the site’s weak response to threats and harassment. “The clock is ticking on Twitter. . . . Dorsey or whoever buys it had better finally come up with some real answers to its myriad problems.”

    Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose health advice has been questioned by the New Yorker, the New York Times, Columbia University, and Senator Claire McCaskill among others, has signed a deal with Scribner to publish Food Can Fix It next spring.

  • August 23, 2016

    Gawker’s last day was Monday, and the tributes, remembrances, justifications, and arguments continue to pour in from its former writers and editors, while Josh Laurito, of the Gawker Data Team, crunches the numbers (in total, Gawker has received about 7 billion pageviews of 202,370 posts). Alex Balk writes about the website’s vaunted maxim, “honesty is our only virtue,” and considers the ways in which it did not always live up to that ideal: “Gawker’s biggest lies were the ones it told about itself. But these errors were small in scale when measured up against the pervasive duplicity offered by the other publications Gawker was established to counter.” Hamilton Nolan reflects on the freedom that Gawker offered its writers, noting that “this site contains the very best and worst things that many writers have written. This fact drives many people mad. But to the sort of person who was cut out to be a Gawker writer, it was just right.” Tom Scocca (author of one of Gawker’s all-time highlights, “On Smarm”) argues against the idea that Gawker burned out because it was too reckless and mean—a notion that has already become the conventional explanation. Referring to Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley tycoon who bankrolled the Gawker-killing Hulk Hogan lawsuit, Scocca says there is one larger truth that we should take from the saga: “You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection. If you want to write stories that might anger a billionaire, you need to work for another billionaire yourself, or for a billion-dollar corporation. The law will not protect you.” Four former editors, including founding editor Elizabeth Spiers, bid the site farewell.

    Daisuke Wakabayashi

    Daisuke Wakabayashi

    The New York Times has hired Daisuke Wakabayashi to write about technology with a very narrow focus: As he puts it on his Twitter bio, he’ll be reporting on “mainly Google.” Wakabayashi was formerly a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, where he covered the Apple beat.

    The Times has also selected three multimedia journalists to serve as “Embedded Mediamakers” on their Race/Related newsletter and reporting team. Bayeté Ross Smith, Logan Jaffe, and Saleem Reshamwala will be funded by the MacArthur Foundation and spend either ten or twenty weeks working on digital storytelling about race.

    “I still find ‘Negro’ a word of wonders, glorious and terrible,” writes Margo Jefferson. She’ll be at the Strand tonight discussing Negroland, for which she won a National Book Critics Circle Award, with the writer and critic Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah.

  • August 22, 2016

    Matt Bissonnette, the former Navy SEAL who wrote No Easy Day, an account of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, will forfeit $6.8 million in royalties for failing to get Pentagon clearance for the book. Bissonnette wrote the best-seller under the pen name Mark Owen.

    Ohio University has yet to decide on whether they will rename the Roger E. Ailes Newsroom, which was paid for with donations from the former Fox News president. The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan hopes that Carlson will resist the urge to settle her sexual harassment case: “Already, the righteous wound she has inflicted on a misogynistic culture has begun to scab over. There are signs that not much has changed or will change.”

    Matt Bissonnette

    Matt Bissonnette

    Although Max Read wrote about the variety of possible causes for Gawker’s death, former Jezebel editor Jia Tolentino thinks that the real cause was “simply the manner in which the site operated: the combativeness, the lack of respect, the speed of the writing and editing and publishing, the relative absence of organizational hierarchy instituted by Nick Denton and the editors who worked for him.” Stephen Marche, once included on a Gawker list of “worst 100 white men,” writes that the destruction of the website should worry anyone in the publishing profession. “A price has been set for an individual’s ability to avoid press scrutiny, and frankly, it’s not that expensive.” CNN Money has a list of which Gawker Media sites former writers and editors will move to.

    Former Politico CEO Jim VandeHei still hasn’t explained what his next project will be, but he has hired two executives away from the New York Times.

    A writer in Harlem has started an IndieGoGo campaign to save Langston Hughes’s East Harlem brownstone. The current owner has no immediate plans to sell and is awaiting the outcome of the fundraising. Hughes’s typewriter is still inside.

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