• 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.”

  • December 13, 2016

    After facing sharp criticism for their role in spreading fake news during the 2016 presidential election, Facebook is looking to hire a head of news partnerships. The listing seeks applicants with over twenty years of experience in news, which “means those applying must have started their news career before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had celebrated his 13th birthday.”

    Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s charitable foundation is giving Poynter a gift of $1 million to fund a journalism ethics faculty chair. In explaining the gift, Newmark said, “I want to stand up for trustworthy journalism, and I want to stand against deceptive and fake news.”

    Glenn Thrush

    Glenn Thrush

    Glenn Thrush talks to the Washington Post about leaving Politico for the Trump White House team at the New York Times. Thrush says he’s looking forward to reporting on the aggressively antimedia administration. “If you do this kind of work, you want a challenge and the Trump people posed a variety of challenges on a number of levels,” Thrush said. “I think they’re also a fascinating group of people to get to know.”

    The Times is also bringing Jerusalem bureau chief Peter Baker back to the states to join the White House team. At Fox News, John Roberts will be the network’s chief White House correspondent.

    The Atlantic has hired former New Republic editor Franklin Foer. Editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg  told the Huffington Post that the election results “lit a fire under” him to acquire the talent needed to cover politics. “Explaining what just happened, and what is happening, is a core mission for The Atlantic,” Goldberg said.

    At Jezebel, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd explains why no one should be surprised at Teen Vogue’s political pieces. After the magazine published Lauren Duca’s op-ed, “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” readers outside the usual audience for Teen Vogue were surprised that such sharp criticism came from a fashion magazine for teen girls. Escobedo Shepherd writes that anyone who had been paying attention to the magazine shouldn’t be shocked: “Since Teen Vogue’s inception in 2004, it has been a fascinating experiment to watch, with its staffers and writers consistently slipping feminist ideologies among its backpage pieces on teen socialites and innovative fashion spreads.”

  • December 12, 2016

    Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood are among the dozens of writers who’ve signed an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The PEN International letter implores the Chinese government “to release the writers, journalists, and activists who are languishing in jail or kept under house arrest for the crime of speaking freely and expressing their opinions.”

    PEN America has announced the longlist for their 2017 Translation Prize. Finalists include Philip Boehm for Herta Muller’s The Fox Was Ever the Hunter, Carlos Rojas for Yan Lianke’s The Explosion Chronicles, and Deborah Smith for Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. The winner will be announced in February.

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski

    At The Guardian, Ian Patterson remembers his late wife, writer Jenny Diski. Reflecting on the seventeen years the couple spent together, Patterson writes that Diski “had a brilliant eye for a good sentence, and not much patience with bad writing. Good writing was truthfulness, and truthfulness (sometimes frighteningly) was her central value.”

    Melville House talks to BookCourt’s Zack Zook, the son of the Brooklyn bookstore’s owners Mary Gannett and Henry Zook. After announcing that they would retire at the end of the year, the couple reportedly made a deal to sell the bookstore’s building for $13.6 million. Their son explains the decision by pointing out that the neighborhood now has one of the most attractive real estate markets in the country. “My family got in early and invested wisely,” Zook says. “They are grateful for having been able to contribute to the neighborhood for so long, though now that part of Brooklyn is barely recognizable.”

    The New York Times posts the transcript of Bob Dylan’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, which was sent as a letter and read by Azita Raji, the American ambassador to Sweden. In his remarks, Dylan notes that in 1941 (the year he was born) and for a couple years afterwards, “there wasn’t anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.” Dylan concluded by thanking the prize committee for their choice. “Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’” Dylan writes. “So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.”

    Sarah Lyall reports on the public relations disaster that Bob Dylan’s non-participation has created for the Academy. Noting that Dylan has always been reclusive, Lyall writes that the choice to stay away from the ceremony “has also saddled the highly secretive academy, which is nearly as inscrutable as Mr. Dylan, with the difficult task of explaining to the world why it does not feel insulted.” According to the Times, the Academy is still holding out hope that Dylan will deliver his Nobel lecture sometime next spring. In the meantime, they’re enjoying one bit of good publicity: Patti Smith accepted the prize for Dylan and delivered a memorable performance of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich called the rendition “a fierce and instantaneous corrective to ‘times like these’—a reiteration of the deep, overwhelming, and practical utility of art to combat pain. In that moment, the mission of the Nobel transcended any of its individual recipients.”

  • December 9, 2016

    Melville House has announced an essay collection featuring work by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as other progressive intellectuals. What We Do Now: Standing Up For Your Values in Trump’s America will be available in January.

    The Guardian is forming a partnership with Vice Media. Journalists from the newspaper will work at Vice’s London offices and offer their reporting experience in exchange for Vice’s video know-how and younger audience. In an interview with Politico, Vice founder Shane Smith said post-election dysfunction could be useful to the company. “This turmoil and the generational conflict are helping us grow as a brand,” said Smith. “So we’re going to try to make the most of it.”

    Flatiron Books has bought the rights to Reed King’s FKA USA. The book will be published in early 2018 and “is set in a United States whose final, disastrous president—a despotic billionaire whose self-interested rule provokes a massive civil war and the splintering of the states into individual countries—ushers in the end of the union.”

    Due to an increase in racist vandalism in library books across the country since the election, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom will now keep track of such incidents in their own database.

    "Time" magazine's Person of the Year issue, 2016

    “Time” magazine’s Person of the Year issue, 2016

    At BuzzFeed, Anne Helen Petersen reflects on Time’s choice of Donald Trump as “Person of the Year” for 2016, noting that even though the article about the president-elect “draws attention to the grim underside of his campaign,” most readers—along with Trump himself—won’t see past the cover image. In the Internet age, Petersen writes, “the nuance and history of ‘Person of the Year’ disappears. In its place rises Trump’s own notion that being on the cover of a magazine is tantamount to praise—as he said, ‘It’s a great honor’—or that ‘influential’ is strictly a positive term.”

    At The Baffler, Chris Lehmann writes about New York Times public editor Liz Spayd’s recent comments criticizing the paper’s staff for opinionated tweets that offended Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. On Carlson’s show, Spayd told the host, “I don’t know that any of these people should be fired, but I do think that when people go over the line like that . . . there ought to be some kind of a consequence.” Lehmann notes that the public editor’s “tone-deaf chiding” points to a larger issue at the publication: “The real problem here is that these people are journalists second, and corporate managers first. . . . As shops like the Times continue to hemorrhage readers and ad revenues at an historic clip, their managers will rally by instinct to the ritual protection of the injured sensibilities of any and every reader demographic.”

  • December 8, 2016

    Kia Corthron

    Kia Corthron

    Kia Corthron’s novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, has been awarded the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

    Martin Amis has announced two new projects. A book of essays and reporting, The Rub of Time, will be published next October. Amis’s other project is a still-untitled autobiographical novel focused on death, which will feature Philip Larkin, Saul Bellow, and Christopher Hitchens, all of whom died after Amis had started working on the project.

    An updated edition of Rebecca Solnit’s 2004 book, Hope in the Dark, has sold out since the presidential election.

    Donald Trump was named Time’s Person of the Year for 2016. Managing editor Nancy Gibbs writes that the magazine chose the president-elect “for reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s.” The Times notes that the decision comes “to no one’s surprise.” The Hollywood Reporter collects the tweets of many readers who thought Time intentionally put horns on Trump through their cover design. In response, Time reminds us that many cover stars have had the same problem, including both Clintons and multiple popes.

    Jack Dorsey spoke about Donald Trump’s Twitter use at a California conference. Although Dorsey concedes that the president-elect’s Twitter use played a large role in his campaign, Dorsey says that ultimately “America is responsible for Trump being president.”

    After Tucker Carlson asked the New York Times’s public editor Liz Spayd why reporters have not been punished over political tweets, Erik Wemple notes that Carlson’s record on journalistic ethics isn’t that great.

    Current and former staff of CNN and TBS have filed a discrimination lawsuit against parent company Turner. The filing cites internal statistics that show black employees regularly received lower scores on employee evaluations and were promoted less than white employees. “There is no objective factor other than race that can explain this disparity, since performance is not linked to job title or education,” the filing concludes.

    Tony Tulathimutte reflects on why there isn’t yet a generational novel for millennials. In explaining why there has yet to be a literary “voice of a generation” for the twenty-first century, the Private Citizens author argues “that the “voice of a generation” novel never existed to begin with. . . . Why did we ever pretend novels by straight white guys about straight white guys spoke for entire generations?”

  • December 7, 2016

    PEN America has released its Open Book Award longlist. Finalists for the $5,000 prize include Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, and Jade Sharma’s Problems.

    After thirty-five years of business, Brooklyn’s BookCourt is closing on December 31. At the New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich writes, “I could go on about the hundreds of books I bought and discovered there . . . about the world-class events it hosted and the beautiful, hilarious, brilliant people it employed. I will instead say—with the deepest sincerity I am capable of—thank you. We will miss you so much.”

    The Village Voice has named Stephen Mooallem as its new editor in chief. Mooallem was previously the editor in chief of Interview magazine, and most recently the executive editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Mooallem told the New York Times that his goal as editor in chief is to “improve the paper’s digital side, re-establish its cultural coverage and investigative reporting, and embrace the paper’s inherent ‘New Yorkiness.’”

    After nearly fifteen years at the New York Times, Lydia Polgreen is moving to the Huffington Post to take over as editor in chief. Polgreen has served as bureau chief at various international offices of the Times, as well as editorial director of NYT Global.

    The Associated Press says that a reporter working in South Sudan was expelled by the country’s government yesterday. Justin Lynch, an American journalist who had been reporting on human rights violations, was taken by South Sudan’s National Security Service and put on a flight to Uganda. The South Sudan government yet to explain Lynch’s deportation to the AP.

    Jason Rezaian

    Jason Rezaian

    Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who was detained in an Iranian prison for a year and a half, will write a memoir about the experience for Ecco. Hostage: 544 Days, 400 Million Dollars, the Nuclear Deal & Me will be published in 2018.

    Politico’s Tony Romm writes that Donald Trump isn’t the only person in his administration with severe conflicts of interest. Peter Thiel, Gawker-bankrupter and Trump transition team member, has a “vast corporate web” that could be greatly impacted by his involvement with the incoming government. One of these conflicts involves Palantir, which was co-founded by Thiel and makes up half his net worth. “The big-data giant was valued at more than $20 billion as of October and its customers include the Pentagon, CIA and other national security agencies,” Romm writes. “The privately held company has aggressively bid for new business in Washington, even suing the Army in a case over a $200 million contract that it won in October.”

    Angelo Carusone, the incoming president of Media Matters, says that the watchdog group will start paying less attention to cable news and more to the fake news and misinformation found on the Internet. “It used to be simple, Fox News was the gate keeper… But now there are so many potential bad actors,” Carusone said. “Now there are places like Facebook who aren’t bad actors but can be enablers of misinformation.”

    At GQ, Morgan Childs reports from Liberland, a bitcoin-driven “Libertarian utopia” for white men on the border of Serbia and Croatia. Childs writes that although the country and its infrastructure have yet to take shape, the organization is having no trouble finding donations or prospective citizens: “For an organization driven by xenophobic, Eurosceptic, tax-avoidant white men, the timing couldn’t be better.”

    Tonight at BookCourt, Siri Hustvedt on her new book, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women.

  • December 6, 2016

    The Outline, a new website from The Verge founder Joshua Topolsky, launched yesterday. The site aims to be “a next-generation version of The New Yorker,” with cultural criticism and longform reporting optimized for mobile reading. The Wall Street Journal explains that the site is more focused on revolutionizing web advertising than web content. Amanda Hale, the site’s chief revenue officer, told the paper, “There is this huge unexplored space between the banner and thousand word pieces produced by the Times T Studio. . . . We want all of our ads to look art directed.” NiemanLab notes that the site’s swipe-driven, Snapchat-imitating color scheme “burns the eyes.”

    Although Bob Dylan won’t be attending his Nobel Prize ceremony, he will offer a speech to be read on his behalf. Patti Smith will make an appearance to perform a version of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”

    Ahmed Naji

    Ahmed Naji

    Jailed Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji’s attempt to appeal his two-year prison sentence has been delayed. Naji was imprisoned in 2014 after a reader complained that an excerpt of Naji’s book had caused “heart palpitations and an extreme feeling of sickness.” This is Naji’s third attempt to appeal his sentence. At the New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith reviews Naji’s book, Using Life. Smith writes that even though organizations like PEN America are supporting the author, due to scenes of sex and drug use, others don’t consider the novel to be worth fighting for. “Using Life is certainly comic, sexual, wild—the work of an outrageous young man,” Smith writes. “We should defend his freedom to be so.”

    As Turkey’s crackdown on intellectuals and journalists since a failed coup last summer continues, the New York Times wonders why more authors and novelists haven’t been jailed. Although many books have been pulled from shelves in bookstores and university libraries, the paper notes that only three authors have been imprisoned so far. “Compared with people in other intellectual fields, writers have gotten off easy.”

    In an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, New York Times public editor Liz Spayd said that “there ought to be some kind of consequence” for political tweets posted by Times staffers during the presidential campaign. After reading a selection of tweets, Carlson said that the posts suggest that the writers “don’t understand the mission of a newspaper, which is to bring you the news, not to affect the outcome of a political race.” Later, Spayd walked back her comments, saying that she “should have held back more . . . but I stand by my view that journalists should be careful, sometimes more careful than they are, with what they say on social media.”

    Politico explores the unprecedented surge in subscribers at the New York Times. In the weeks since the election, the paper has seen ten thousand new subscribers on several days.

    BuzzFeed has created a timeline explaining how an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about an underground child sex abuse ring connected to the Democratic Party spread through fake news and eventually drove a man to bring a gun to a DC pizza restaurant. “Thanks to just a few tweets, a couple of message board posts, and the help of some pro-Trump sites eager for traffic, this conspiracy theory generated hundreds of thousands of engagements on Facebook, reaching potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of people,” Craig Silverman writes.

  • December 5, 2016

    In a memo to staff, the New York Times’s standards editor Phil Corbett asks writers to not use alt-right as a stand-alone term. Corbett reminds Times employees that “any description can touch on some key elements, based on our own reporting. . . . It’s a racist, far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism and is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist. It is highly decentralized but has a wide online presence. Followers rail against multiculturalism and what they see as ‘political correctness.’”

    At the New Yorker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds readers to stay vigilant after Trump’s election. Adichie calls out journalists who give Trump’s unsubstantiated claims more credit than they deserve. “Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not ‘balanced’ journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one,” Adichie writes.

    Susan Glasser, POLITICO Magazine staff Nov. 7, 2013. (John Shinkle/POLITICO)

    Susan Glasser, Photo: John Shinkle/POLITICO

    Politico editor Susan B. Glasser reflects on the real reason that 2016 election coverage failed. “The media scandal of 2016 isn’t so much about what reporters failed to tell the American public; it’s about what they did report on, and the fact that it didn’t seem to matter,” Glasser writes. “The bully pulpits, those of the press and the pols, have proliferated, and it’s hard not to feel as though we’re witnessing a sort of revolutionary chaos: the old centers of power have been torn down, but the new ones have neither the authority nor the legitimacy of those they’ve superseded.”

    Nitasha Tiku explains why Snapchat doesn’t struggle to control the spread of fake news. Unlike Facebook, Snapchat editors vet the news sites before they are allowed to publish stories and “the content is curated by Snapchat and goes through a human editor first.” Tiku’s analysis comes amid rumors that Facebook will be releasing a new feature called Collections, aimed at combating fake news.

    BuzzFeed analyzed Trump’s tweets to find out exactly where the president-elect gets his news. After collecting posts from the time that Trump announced his presidential campaign to a week after the election, BuzzFeed found that “the stories shared by Trump’s account throughout his campaign suggest the president-elect has constructed a powerful online filter bubble that largely flatters and confirms that which he claims to be true.”

    F*CK YOU, 2016, Michael Joseph’s book that looks back at “the year that David Bowie died, Brexit shocked us, ‘Hiddleswift’ was a thing and Trump trumped” comes out tomorrow.

    Tonight in Manhattan, Tim Wu stops by Book Culture to talk about The Attention Merchants.

  • December 2, 2016

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s library has been acquired by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection includes numerous signed books, from authors like Toni Morrison and Mario Vargas Llosa, as well as gifts from world leaders like Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro.

    Nation Books has bought the rights to The New York Kidnapping Club. Written by historian and professor Jonathan Daniel Wells, the book tells the story of “the frighteningly effective network of corrupt judges, lawyers, police officers, and bankers who kept the illegal slave trade alive and well in antebellum New York City.”

    Merriam-Webster is urging users of its online dictionary to look up the definition for any word other than fascism, which is dictionary’s most-searched word of 2016 and therefore the top contender for “Word of the Year.”

    A recent report by the Index on Censorship found that 2016 was “one of the most dangerous times to be a journalist,” with 406 reports of violence, threats, or other violations throughout Europe. Poynter details the many ways that the reporters who investigated the Panama Paper leaks earlier this year are being threatened, fired, and sued for their work.

    At the New Yorker, Adrian Chen questions the motives behind PropOrNot, the anonymous website that claimed to have identified websites that actively spread Russian propaganda. After the Washington Post used PropOrNot to support an article about Russian influence on the election, Chen and other journalists noticed that some of websites on the list were recognized American news sites, including Truthdig and Drudge Report, and that sites could be put on the list for minor offenses, like criticizing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Chen writes that although Russian influence on American elections is concerning, “the prospect of legitimate dissenting voices being labelled fake news or Russian propaganda by mysterious groups of ex-government employees, with the help of a national newspaper, is even scarier.”

  • December 1, 2016

    Eduardo Mendoza

    Eduardo Mendoza

    Novelist Eduardo Mendoza has won the 2016 Cervantes Prize. The award comes with $132,000 and will be given to Mendoza in April.

    Ed Ou, a Canadian photojournalist on his way to report on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, was detained and denied entry into the US. While in detention, Ou’s cellphone was confiscated after he refused to unlock it for border patrol officials. Once the phone was returned, Ou found evidence that it had been tampered with. Ou’s editor Mark Harrison told the Washington Post that the incident “goes against the very principles of a free and independent media.”

    At Politico, journalist Gregory Ferenstein explains why he’s chosen to contribute a regular column to Breitbart News. Now that the Internet has taken away the press’s ability to weaken bad candidates or offensive ideas simply through a lack of coverage, Ferenstein feels that the only way to reach readers with different views is to meet them where they are. “I might vehemently disagree with some of the anti-immigration and militaristic beliefs that Trump used to excite his supporters. But if I want to persuade those supporters—and I do—I have to reach them on the platform where they are getting their ideas,” Ferenstein writes. “In the meantime, I just might be persuaded a bit myself.”

    Historian Bruce Mazlish, the author of In Search of Nixon: A Psychohistorical Inquiry and other psychoanalytic biographies of world leaders, has died at 93.

    Politico founder Jim VandeHei released more details about his new media project yesterday. Axios, Greek for “worthy,” will focus on business, technology, media, and politics. At Vanity Fair, Sarah Ellison notes that the company’s mission statement, ”Media is broken—and too often a scam,” sounds a little familiar. “If you added an emphatic ‘Sad!’ at the end of that sentence it might credibly pass as the latest tweet from President-Elect Donald Trump.”

    The debate continues as to whether news outlets should cover each and every tweet sent by Donald Trump. Slate’s Will Oremus asks Twitter and Facebook staff if they would ever ban the president-elect. Facebook feels that “political discourse” is more valuable than protecting users from offensive content, while Twitter notes that anyone in violation of its rules against hate speech can be banned, “including verified accounts.” However, Oremus points out that a social media ban is unlikely: “That he has avoided its censure so far suggests it would take something outlandish even by Trump’s standards for Twitter to take action.”

    At the New York Times, Amanda Hess reports on Gab, the new social media site that acts “as a digital safe space for the far right.” While the site is still invitation-only, many well known alt-right stars who have been banned from other social media, including Milo Yiannopoulos, Tila Tequila, and Richard Spencer, have joined the site and brought publicity in recent months. “Think of Gab as the Make America Great Again of social sites,” Hess explains. “It’s a throwback to the freewheeling norms of the old internet, before Twitter started cracking down on harassment and Reddit cleaned out its darkest corners.”