• December 29, 2017

    Jamil Smith

    The full manuscript of Milo Yiannopoulos’s cancelled autobiography, including editor comments, has been made available in court filings by Simon & Schuster. Editorial comments range from questions about sources to requests to “DELETE UGH.” Though some have praised the editor for calling out Yiannopoulos’s bigotry, Jamil Smith pointed out that editor and publisher were not necessarily motivated by any moral concerns. “The editor’s brutal comments are somewhat entertaining,” he writes, “but none of this should distract from the fact that they sought to make his bigotry both digestible and marketable.”

    BuzzFeed examines the top fifty fake news stories from Facebook in 2017, which were shared two million times more than similar stories from last year.

    HuffPost editorial director Howard Fineman is moving to NBC. He’ll be working on stories about national politics.

    At the New York Times, Jim Rutenberg reviews Steven Spielberg’s The Post, and details the ways in which the movie fails to give the Times enough credit for their own articles on the Pentagon Papers.

    Margaret Sullivan reflects on her summer spent talking to residents of Angola, New York about their attitude toward the media. Rather than finding outright distrust of journalists, Sullivan said that she found more evidence that, more disturbingly, people are increasingly “indifferent” to current events. “Take the nail technician in her 20s who told me that she follows current events only glancingly,  mostly on Facebook. National news, she said, doesn’t seem relevant to her life,” Sullivan recalled. “Like so many others I interviewed — about half — she didn’t vote in the presidential election. I left the salon with a great manicure and a heavy heart.”

  • December 28, 2017

    Paul Yoon

    Literary Hub contributors detail the books published over the past year that they wished had gotten more attention. Claire Messud recommends Paul Yoon’s The Mountain, while Tracy K. Smith recommends Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s Waiting for the Light.

    BuzzFeed White House reporter Adrian Carrasquillo has been fired after an investigation into inappropriate messages he sent to a coworker.

    Crooked Media talks to NBC correspondent and New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow about his reporting on Harvey Weinstein and the movement against sexual harassment and assault that followed the story’s publication. “It’s understandable and I think mostly a good thing that we’re having hard conversations about those issues now, but I do think in the end we’re going to need to separate out the different types of behavior we’re talking about,” he said. “As we cope with this initial and completely appropriate moment of anguish about these issues, start to then find equilibrium in how we respond to each of the different variants we’re talking about.”

    The Wall Street Journal talks to Facebook contractors about their work monitoring the site for violent, sexual, or otherwise banned content.

    Over the past year, Fox News has increased the staff of its website to more than one hundred employees in an effort to compete with conservative news sites like Breitbart and the Daily Caller. As a result, the tone of its reporting has changed: Politico’s Jason Schwartz writes that “a website that has been more closely identified with Shepard Smith’s brand of reporting has now moved closer to the mold of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.”

    Longtime celebrity reporter George Wayne reflects on Donald Trump’s changes over the past three decades. “It’s like watching an ogre metastasize. I’m just thinking a lot of us knew the man who was so fun and so charming, he always had his quirks,” he remembered. “Who knew that he would become this Islamaphobic, homophobic racist?”

  • December 27, 2017

    In the wake of the New York Times story on Vice’s “degrading and uncomfortable” workplace culture, in which more than two dozen women reported that they had been subjected to, or witnessed, sexual misconduct at the office, Vice founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi apoligzed: “Listening to our employees over the past year, the truth is inescapable: from the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive. Cultural elements from our past, dysfunction and mismanagement were allowed to flourish unchecked. . . . It happened on our watch, and ultimately we let far too many people down. We are truly sorry for this.”

    The Library of Congress has given up on their quixotic plan to archive all tweets. Beginning next year, the LOC will save tweets on “a very selective basis.”  

    A. G. Sulzberger

    On the New Yorker’s Radio Hour podcast, David Remnick talks to A. G. Sulzberger, the Times’s new publisher. The job won’t be an easy one, as Sulzberger admits: “It’s definitely an honor and a privilege—and a daunting one. Maybe the best note I got from a colleague was, “Congratulations/Sorry!” Which I think is probably a statement of the pretty profound challenges facing journalism in this moment.”

    The Times reports on unionization efforts at digital media companies. Vox Media employees announced that they were planning to form a union last month, following successful labor-organizing campaigns at companies such as Vice Media, ThinkProgress, and HuffPost. The article quotes Kim Kelly, a reporter for a Vice music site, Noisey, about the decision to unionize: “People were fed up and broke and anxious about the future, and the union gave them a way to take control and force things to change.”

    Literary Hub recaps the best reviewed fiction and nonfiction of the year.

  • December 22, 2017

    In Bill de Blasio’s first formal interview with journalists from the now-shuttered local news sites Gothamist and DNAinfo, the New York mayor said that he would be open to using public funds to support independent media. “What’s happening now in New York, if it were to continue, will undermine democracy,” he said. “I’d be open to actually seeing the city invest in [local journalism]. . . . The BBC model, not always a perfect example, but in the best sense — there’s definitely a place for that.”

    Jacqueline Rose

    Journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas is working on a memoir about his life as an undocumented immigrant. Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen will be published by Dey Street.

    Jacqueline Rose, Val McDermid, Leo Robson, and Leanne Shapton will join Kwame Anthony Appiah as judges for the 2018 Man Booker prize.

    The PEN America Foundation has released their 2018 Literary Awards longlist. Nominees include Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart, Wendy Lesser’s You Say to Brick, and Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse. Finalists will be announced in January.

    Photojournalist Alexei Wood was one of six defendants found not guilty yesterday in a trial stemming from their arrest during protests of Donald Trump’s inauguration. HuffPost reports that the case “was seen as a bellwether that could determine whether the government will proceed with the prosecutions of many of the nearly 200 other defendants who have trials scheduled throughout the next year.”

    Politico’s Jack Shafer mourns the slow death of the alt-weekly. Quoting a nineteenth century Chicago journalist—”It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell”—Shafer writes that “at their best, alt-weeklies subscribed to this quotation like a mission statement. With their passing our cities become duller, hell-less places.”

  • December 21, 2017

    Jann Wenner. Photo: Albert Chau

    Variety owner Penske Media Company has bought a controlling stake in Rolling Stone parent company Wenner Media for $100 million. Jann Wenner will stay on as editorial director and his company will maintain “majority control and editorial oversight” of the magazine. In an earlier article about the company’s possible buyers, Joe Pompeo noted that Penske was one of the prospective buyers that current employees were “cautiously optimistic” about. “They are a company that understands how to straddle the print and digital landscape and has had some success in breathing new life into legacy brands,” one unnamed journalist explained.

    “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian has landed a seven-figure, two-book deal with Scout Press in the US. The first book, a collection of short stories titled You Know You Want This, is planned for release in 2019.

    Ruth Franklin, Sigrid Nunez, and other Paris Review contributors list their favorite books of 2017.

    The New York Times has finished its investigation of reporter Glenn Thrush, who was accused of sexual misconduct. Thrush will remain on suspension until January, when he will return to the paper but be taken off the White House reporting team. “We understand that our colleagues and the public at large are grappling with what constitutes sexually offensive behavior in the workplace and what consequences are appropriate,” editor in chief Dean Baquet said, in explaining why Thrush would return to work. “Each case has to be evaluated based on individual circumstances. We believe this is an appropriate response to Glenn’s situation.”

    BuzzFeed has obtained internal emails from Twitter that show even the company’s leadership struggled to understand the platform’s rules on abuse and trolling. After the company removed Milo Yiannopoulos’s verification checkmark in 2016, the former Breitbart editor requested that it be reinstated. In an email discussion, employees attempted to define the function of the blue checkmark and understand whether or not Yiannopoulos was qualified to have one. “I want to make sure we are doing the right thing here and not responding to external pressure or attacks from him,” one staffer wrote. “We’ve already taken the PR hit, so let’s make sure we are focused on getting this right!”

  • December 20, 2017

    Zora Neale Hurston

    HarperCollins is publishing Zora Neale Hurston’s book about the last survivor of the slave trade. Barracoon is comprised of Hurston’s 1931 interviews with Cudjo Lewis, a former slave who was brought to the US in 1860 on one of the last recorded slave ships, and will be released next May.

    Literary Hub has released their list of their favorite books of the year.

    This weekend, Cornel West published an article renewing his critique of Ta-Nehisi Coates, calling Coates “the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle.” The article quickly spurred commentary and criticism on Twitter, with the New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb saying he was “frankly embarrassed by @CornelWest’s threadbare commentary,” and white supremacist Richard Spencer saying of West, “He’s not wrong.” When all was said and done, Coates decided to quit Twitter, leaving his one-million-plus followers with this message: “Peace, y’all. i didn’t get in it for this.”    

    Move over, People. AARP: The Magazine has become America’s most-read print magazine, with 38.3 million readers.

    Verso is giving away a free e-book of highlights from their 2017 catalog, including excerpts from China Miéville’s October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, Alex Vitale’s The End of Policing, and David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. 

    Edward St. Aubyn talks to The Guardian books podcast about his new novel, an update of King Lear that tells the story of a powerful patriarch at the head of a global media company.

  • December 19, 2017

    Kristen Roupenian. Photo: Elisa Roupenian Toha

    Kristen Roupenian, author of the viral New Yorker short story “Cat Person,” has sold her debut novel to a publisher in the UK, and a bidding war on the US rights for the book has reached over $1 million.

    Elif Shafak talks to the New York Times about her new novel, Three Daughters of Eve.

    Novelist Han Kang tells The Guardian that if it wasn’t for her migraines, she may not have become a writer at all. “My migraines are always reminding me that I am human,” she explained. “Because when a migraine comes, I have to stop my work, my reading, my routine, so it’s always making me humble, helping me realise I’m mortal and vulnerable.”

    At the Times, Rachel Abrams details her attempts to convince Google that she is still alive. Abrams found that searching for her name on the site brings up biographical details about “a better-known writer with the same name,” who died four years ago.

    The Verge reports that Twitter’s new rules about threatening and abusive content will apply to actions both on and off the platform, but that they do not apply to “military and government entities.”

    Washington City Paper employees will have their pay cut by 40 percent next year. Besides dropping editorial salaries to less than $30,000 per year, the move is “guaranteed to destroy morale even more inside the paper,” which has been up for sale for three months.

    The Atlantic is reintroducing a paywall to its website. Beginning in January, readers will be able to access ten articles per month before subscribing. The magazine said the change is not “a desperation move”—rather, they are responding to changing ideas about paying for digital content. “We’re looking around and seeing peers who we respect getting people to pay for their digital content,” president Bob Cohn said. “We live in a world of Netflix and Hulu and Spotify, where people are willing to pay for digital services.”

  • December 18, 2017

    A new report issued by Arts Council England reveals that sales of books considered to be “literary fiction” have dropped dramatically over the past five years, making it even harder to get by financially as a writer. The report attributes the drop in sales to the recession, smartphones, and the popularity of genre e-books. According to novelist Will Self, himself condiered a literary novelist (his latest book is Phone): “Literary fiction is already being subsidised—think of all of the writers who are continuing to make a living now by teaching creative writing. They represent a change taking place in literature … It’s now more like quilting.”  

    Rupi Kaur

    Rupi Kaur

    Carl Wilson (author of Let’s Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste) ponders the unlikely category of “best-selling poet” in an article about twenty-five-year-old Canadian author Rupi Kaur, whose first book of verse (Milk and Honey) has sold two and a half million copies, whose new book (The Sun and Her Flowers) is on the bestseller list, and who has 1.8 million Instagram followers. “Kaur’s work is often called ‘greeting-card verse,’ but it would be a mistake to reduce her . . . to that. Kaur writes movingly about immigration, domestic violence, sexual assault and other substantial subjects, though she follows quickly with self-empowerment affirmations to alleviate the sting.”

    Kathy Lally, who twenty years ago was a Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, recalls the tabloid The eXile, an English-language tabloid published in Russia, which was run by the Americans Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi (author of Griftopia and, most recently, I Can’t Breathe). Taibbi has been criticized for his work at the paper, which Lally calls “juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys.” Lally is now telling her own story of her experiences with the publication after she criticized it online, and how Taibbi and Ames set out to ridicule and humiliate her in their memoir The eXile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia.

    Novelist Hilary Mantel talks about what she’s reading, what book had the greatest effect on her, and an author she doesn’t enjoy. That would be Dickens: “There are whole swaths of Charles Dickens that I barely attempt. It just seems such awful stuff—coarse, sentimental, conceited.”

    Susan Straight, the author of the novel Highwire Moon, read more than 500 novels this year, many of them about particular regions of the US, to create what she calls an “epic interactive map of our literary nation.” But, she writes, the best book she read this year was not a novel and not set in North America. It was the memoir The Book of Emma Reyes, set in Colombia.


  • December 15, 2017

    New York Times deputy publisher A.G. Sulzberger will take over as publisher of the paper starting next year. He succeeds his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., who will serve as chairman of the New York Times Company. The younger Sulzberger, who headed the team that created the paper’s “innovation report” three years ago, said that he doesn’t plan to make any drastic changes in the near future. “I am a unapologetic champion for this institution and its journalistic mission,” he said. “And I’ll continue to be that as publisher.”

    Clarice Lispector

    Gabrielle Bellot reflects on Clarice Lispector’s truth-bending newspaper columns. In the barely-edited crônicas, Bellot writes, Lispector “sought something deep, expansive, and, at times, unsettling, a tugging and ripping at the cartographic corners of truth, which sometimes resulted in a more beautiful fabric, if one that no longer depicted a true map of the world.”

    A Secret Sisterhood authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney explain how Jane Austen is a “role model for the #MeToo generation.”

    Actor and Otherworld co-author Jason Segel talks to the Times’s “By the Book” column about inspiration, classic books, and David Foster Wallace. Segel said that reading Infinite Jest as part of a book club “was truly one of the most gratifying experiences” of his life. “A group of four grown men sitting around talking about dissatisfaction and loneliness was far more comfortable than I would have imagined,” he remembered. “I highly recommend it, with or without a book.”

  • December 14, 2017

    On her last day at the paper, New York Times book critic Jennifer Senior reflects on endings and acknowledgement sections in books. Even though they can be “numbingly predictable,” Senior professes her love for these “little Levittowns of gratitude” that expose “how the truth about the wretchedness of book-writing finally comes tumbling out, and the combination of neuroticism and relief, pride and latent terror.”  

    Univision anchor Jorge Ramos is working on a book. Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era combines Ramos’s “own story of emigrating from Mexico with a critique of Trump’s policies” and will be published by Vintage next February.

    Mary Gaitskill

    Freelance writers for Nautilus allege that the magazine owes them $50,000 collectively for work they’ve done over the past year.

    Mary Gaitskill talks to Poets & Writers about teaching, unreliable narrators, and why novels are harder to write than short stories. Gaitskill’s first book contract included both a novel and a short story collection. She had already been working on the stories for Bad Behavior, but was overwhelmed by the idea of writing a longer book. “It’s like I was a cat that had been in a house all of its life, and all of a sudden a door was flung open. And I was flooded with sights and smells and was crazily running over in one direction wondering what was going on there and getting distracted,” Gaitskill said. “It was a total feeling of freedom. But I didn’t know what to do with it.”

    Kevin Roose delves into the alt-right’s version of the internet, and says that the poor quality of its websites undermine the group’s perceived political power. After social media sites like Facebook and Twitter began removing hate speech from their platforms, “hard-right activists vowed to create their own versions of these digital services, on which all views would be welcome, no matter how crude or incendiary,” he explains. But Roose writes that the resulting websites hardly compare to their mainstream counterparts. “If the alt-right’s ideology harks back to 1940s Germany, its web design might transport you to 1990s GeoCities.”