• December 27, 2016

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

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

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

    Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson

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

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

  • December 22, 2016

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

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

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

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

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

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

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

  • December 21, 2016

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

    Lila Azam Zanganeh. Photo: Martin Godwin

    Lila Azam Zanganeh. Photo: Martin Godwin

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

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

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

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

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

  • December 20, 2016

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

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

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

    Laura Albert

    Laura Albert

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

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

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

  • December 19, 2016

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

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

    Maria Semple

    Maria Semple

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

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

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

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

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

  • December 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

    Shirley Jackson

    Shirley Jackson

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

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

  • December 15, 2016

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

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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

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

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

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

  • December 14, 2016

    Novelist Shirley Hazzard has died

    Shirley Hazzard

    Shirley Hazzard

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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.”

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