• 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.

  • August 19, 2016

    Wired has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. “If it’s true, as the writer William Gibson once had it, that the future is already here, just unevenly distributed, then our task has been to locate the places where various futures break through to our present and identify which one we hope for,” writes editor Scott Dadich. “Trump’s campaign started out like something from The Onion. Now it has moved into George Orwell–as–interpreted–by–Paul Verhoeven territory.”

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    “She just seems to me really intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable,” Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie told HuffPo, of Ivanka Trump. “I just imagine that she doesn’t really believe her father is the right choice for the U.S. It’s entirely possible . . . to love a member of your family, completely, and feel loyal to them while at the same time recognizing that they’re not particularly good at something.”

    Thomas Mann’s old house in Pacific Palisades is up for sale. In the New Yorker, Alex Ross describes a “tour of émigré haunts” that led him to visit 1550 San Remo Drive, where Mann wrote Doctor Faustus. “I like to imagine that, in some alternate universe, tour buses are trundling around Los Angeles, showing gawkers the homes of a different class of celebrity—not the stars of the silver screen but the stars of music, literature, and philosophy, members of that extraordinary constellation of European émigrés who took refuge in Southern California during the Nazi period.”

    “You all are screwing up your amateur book reviews,” writes librarian Peter Derk. He assails the crowd-sourced star system used by sites like Amazon and Goodreads to rate books, complaining that, among other things, readers can’t be trusted not to judge a book by its cover. “I read a review of Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall, a book which has fossils on the cover. The reviewer was mad because the book had nothing to do with fossils.” Guess what? “Catcher In The Rye is not about the science of rainbows. The Godfather is not a treatise in marionette operation. The Hunger Games is not a book about a golden bird that carries an arrow around.”

    Emoji to the rescue? The Christian Science Monitor likes the idea of #emojireads, a Twitter movement that would replace blurbs full of “cliched adjectives” with “adorable digital icons and images, to describe book titles, summaries, and even entire stories.” A frowny purple demon and a stiletto heel, for instance, denotes The Devil Wears Prada. “The beauty of literature as emoji is that it refreshes literature in a way that everyone can enjoy—a puzzle of sorts that can be applied to all genres, and that nearly anyone can create or decipher. Think of it as a literary game that you don’t even need to have read the book to play.”

    Since art books are apparently propping up the rest of the dying print industry, why not pay a visit to the David Zwirner pop-up book shop? You can find all kinds of coffee table tomes at 525 West 20th Street (through August 30).

  • August 18, 2016

    Amazon will produce a film titled Ida Tarbell about the journalist of the same name whose nineteen-article series, “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” was serialized in McClure’s Magazine at the turn of the twentieth century. Tarbell shed light on the dirty doings of John D. Rockefeller and was one of the first so-called muckrakers, a label she rejected: “I was convinced that in the long run the public they were trying to stir would weary of vituperation, that if you were to secure permanent results the mind must be convinced.”

    Pamela Paul

    Pamela Paul

    “To a remarkable degree our daily book critics help set the literary agenda for the country,” writes Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, in a memo to staff announcing that Pamela Paul, the editor of the Sunday Book Review, will take charge of the entirety of the paper’s books coverage. Paul will probably erase the line between Sunday and daily reviews—“a line established when the paper was divided according to print constructs.”

    The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore will air its final episode tonight. Comedy Central President Kent Alterman said “the show ‘hasn’t resonated.’” The Times writes, “Though the late-show genre remains heavy on easygoing laughter, any one episode of ‘The Nightly Show’ could occasionally go for prolonged stretches without a single joke, something that intrigued some critics but failed to attract a broader audience.”

    Would you like to receive a stipend of $12,000 to be a BuzzFeed Fellow? BuzzFeed seeks to diversify the media landscape “by investing in the next generation of necessary voices.” Apply by October 1.

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, Yaa Gyasi will read from her novelHomegoing.

  • August 17, 2016

    Univision was the top bidder in yesterday’s Gawker auction, landing the site for $135 million. The Wall Street Journal reports that founder Nick Denton will no longer be involved with Gawker after the sale goes through.  

    Pagan Kennedy—the author of Inventology: How We Dream Up Things that Change the World and the novel The Exes, among other books—has signed a contract to become a regular contributing writer for the New York Times’s Opinion section.

    Chuck Palahniuk

    Chuck Palahniuk

    For the twentieth anniversary of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, the author explained that the book “was originally written as a kind of reinvention of The Great Gatsby.” According to Palahniuk, “In the American novel, you typically have three characters. One of the characters demonstrates passivity by committing suicide, one character demonstrates the perils of being too rebellious and must be killed, and then one is the witnessing character.” Instead of trying to cram all three into one book, “the three characters would be two characters, one of which has a split personality.”

    After the New York Times ran a cover story last weekend about “the failing mission to tame Donald Trump’s tongue” that relied heavily on anonymous sources, the Republican candidate and his senior communications adviser Jason Miller both said the story was false. But the Times deputy executive editor Matthew Purdy said that the paper has “not heard from the campaign beyond their public statements.” “Make an angry and flamboyant display publicly, while failing to mount a case directly to the offending news outlet,” the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple writes. “We’ve seen this before.”

    The idea of a tame Trump took another blow this morning, as two right-wing media heavyweights have joined the campaign: Stephen Bannon, a cofounder of Breitbart News, has been named as the Republican nominee’s chief campaign executive, and Roger Ailes, the ex-Fox News CEO, is said to be coaching Trump ahead of the fall presidential debates.

    Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett is starting a team book club. The first selection? Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. “It’s going to be pretty cool,” Bennett said.

    Bruce Springsteen has posted the foreword to his upcoming autobiography, Born to Run, on Facebook. “I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud,” writes the Boss. “So am I.” The book hits shelves September 27.

    Lady Gaga and her father Joe Germanotta are releasing a cookbook of recipes from Germonatta’s Upper West Side restaurant, Joanne Trattoria. Gaga will write the introduction to Joanne Trattoria Cookbook: Classic Recipes and Scenes from an Italian American Restaurant, out this November.

  • August 16, 2016

    Nick Denton. Photo: Grace Villamil

    Nick Denton. Photo: Grace Villamil

    Gawker goes on the auction block today, and will sell for at least $90 million (less than half of what owner Nick Denton thinks it’s worth). Possible buyers include Univision, New York magazine, and Vox. Peter Thiel thinks that Gawker is not the last battle in the fight to keep the media out of people’s sex lives. In a New York Times op-ed, he writes about the now-retracted Daily Beast article that outed athletes in Rio, praises Republicans at the RNC for accepting him as a gay man, and promotes the so-called “Gawker Bill,” which would punish third parties for profiting from a sex tape. “As for Gawker, whatever good work it did will continue in the future, and suggesting otherwise would be an insult to its writers and to readers. It is ridiculous to claim that journalism requires indiscriminate access to private people’s sex lives.”

    The Times profiles Michael W. Ferro Jr., the elusive chairman of “the company formerly called Tribune Publishing.” Although Ferro was not interviewed, the article goes in-depth into the Tronc chairman’s life: “Once a teenager who outsourced his house-painting jobs to others, Mr. Ferro, 50, has never been afraid to push boundaries.”

    Colson Whitehead talks to Vulture about his new book, The Underground Railroad. Whitehead found that writing a novel set in the 1850s simplified his writing style: “You know, a sentence that comes easily to me is, ‘The street was busier than a 7-Eleven parking lot on free meth day.’ I could make a weird modern joke, and that’s a long sentence. But when you try to make a simile or a metaphor out of the nouns of 1850s, simplicity and clarity make more sense.”

    J. K. Rowling has taken to Twitter to defend her fans after a UK wand shop refused them service for not being “real wizards.”

    Anita Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson’s widow, has returned a mounted elk skull with antlers to the Ernest Hemingway estate, which Thompson stole in 1964. Hemingway had died three years prior, but Thompson himself began to feel guilt about his pilfered treasure. In an Instagram post, Anita told the Aspen Times, “Hunter and I planned to take a road trip back to Ketchum and quietly return them. But we never did.”

  • August 15, 2016

    Tsehai Publishers is launching an imprint in honor of Harriet Tubman, publishing fiction, nonfiction, and academic works focused on African American issues in the US. The imprint, a joint effort with Loyola Marymount University, will publish its first book, Voices From Leimert Park, this fall.

    Shannon Paulus writes about the lack of independent fact checking in book publishing, after an excerpt of Luke Dittrich’s Patient H.M. in the New York Times called the accuracy of Dittrich’s book into question: “I’ve long wished that fact-checked material would carry some kind of stamp on it noting if it had been independently and thoroughly fact-checked. (Internet articles included—this one wasn’t.)”

    William Gibson. Photo: Fred Armitage

    William Gibson. Photo: Fred Armitage

    Science fiction writer William Gibson—known for creating the term cyberspace, as well as for his books Neuromancer, The Peripheral, among others—talks to Matt Rosoff about Twitter, Armageddon, and the sci-fi author as prophet. When it comes to writers predicting the future, Gibson says he’s “always been intensely uncomfortable with the idea.”

    Elizabeth D. Samet reviews Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman’s novel about living through World War II in Russia. “What Grossman observes in “Life and Fate” about the psychological state of the individual in war might also be said of nations—perhaps of the United States, enmeshed in resurgent violence in the Middle East and lingering still in Afghanistan after 15 years of conflict.”

    Carey Purcell writes about her time at Trump magazine, where she worked as the receptionist for publisher Michael Jacobson. During her six months at the job, Donald Trump did not come to the office once.

    A Daily Beast article about sex at the Olympics in Rio has been removed from the website after being called out by gay athletes and LGBTQ-rights organizations. The article focused on mobile dating apps, particularly Grindr, and although it did not name names, many readers objected to the fact that there was enough detail to identify the athletes, some of whom were representing countries that outlaw homosexuality.

  • August 12, 2016

    Arianna Huffington. Photo: David Shankbone

    Arianna Huffington. Photo: David Shankbone

    After Arianna Huffington’s announcement that she will be leaving her Post, the media is speculating on whether AOL-owner Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo contributed to her decision. Business Insider has a good run-down of what Thrive Global, Huffington’s new start up, will do: “Thrive wants to move Huffington’s wellness brand beyond books into other Thrive-related products—think pillows, candles, and food supplements.” Fortune says, “Despite the many slings and arrows the company has taken over the years—some of them justified, others not—there is little question that Arianna Huffington was and is a media pioneer.”

    BuzzFeed speaks to ten former Twitter employees, all of whom say that abuse on the social media site “is not just a bug, but . . . a fundamental feature.” One interviewee recounts a meeting about whether the site should allow ISIS beheading videos to stay posted: “‘You really think we should have videos of people being murdered?’ someone who attended the meeting recalls [former CEO Dick] Costolo arguing, while [former head of communications Gabriel] Stricker reportedly compared Costolo’s takedown of undesirable content to deleting the Zapruder film after objections from the Kennedy family.” Twitter said in a statement that “there are inaccuracies in the details and unfair portrayals but rather than go back and forth with BuzzFeed, we are going to continue our work on making Twitter a safer place.”

    After a British woman was stopped by airport police for reading Syria Speaks: Art and Culture From the Frontline, the publisher has ordered a reprint of the book due to rising sales.  

    PEN America is resurrecting the PEN/Nabokov Award, focusing on international writers. In their announcement, president Andrew Solomon called the award “a welcome counterbalance to rampant xenophobia and increasingly jingoistic provincialism,” and highlighted the Lolita author’s “cross-cultural legacy.”

    Muhammad Ali Unfiltered will be released in October by Derek Jeter’s publishing imprint. The book will include “both famous and obscure” photos of the boxer and text by Ali and his widow, Lonnie Ali. It is the second in Jeter’s Unfiltered series, following Jeter Unfiltered.

    Amy Schumer tells the Times, “I read everything by Elena Ferrante, whoever she is. But not right before bed, because I have furious nightmares.” She also admits her inability to get through Fifty Shades of Grey, “I only made it three pages in. That feels mean . . . but I truly felt so alone. Everyone loved that book, and I couldn’t wait to get on the ride with them, but it was unreadable to me. I loved the movie, though, and have watched it several times.”

    Former Gawker editor in chief A. J. Daulerio is the last defendant in the Hulk Hogan suit that has not filed for bankruptcy. Daulerio was in court yesterday, where Hogan’s lawyers asked to be allowed to search for more of Daulerio’s assets. “As of Monday, Daulerio had just $1,505.78 in his checking account, according to a screenshot of his bank statement submitted to the court.”

    On Usher’s “Snapchat, you might find him tearing a new Ducati through the night or enjoying a contemplative moment in the steam room, his abs on display, his junk tastefully concealed by an oversized emoji. But in private Usher is researching the Yoruba Diaspora. … And he reads: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) and Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost (1998), an excoriating history of Belgian colonialism in the Congo.”

  • August 11, 2016

    Village Voice editor in chief Will Bourne will be leaving the publication. A statement from the paper said that Bourne “stepped down,” but a tweet from the former editor suggested otherwise: “Actually I was fired. If we’re being honest with ourselves/your readers.”

    After eleven years, Huffington Post co-founder, president, and editor in chief Arianna Huffington is resigning from her namesake website. Huffington tweeted that though she “thought HuffPo would be [her] last act,” she’s leaving the site to focus on her new project, Thrive Global, “which will work with companies to improve the well-being of their employees.”

    Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jeff Gottlieb has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times, his former employer, accusing the newspaper of ageism and of withholding his prize money. Gottlieb won the Pulitzer in 2011 along with a handful of other LA Times reporters and editors for their investigation into widespread corruption in the city government of Bell, California.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Photo: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Photo: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in London last weekend for a celebration of Half of a Yellow Sun’s tenth anniversary. BuzzFeed has a transcript of quotes from the hour-and-a-half conversation, which covered topics such as female sexuality and writers as perpetual outsiders. Of one of her narrators, Adichie said, “Ugwu is me, in that Madame Bovary way. . . . Ugwu is the character in the novel who . . . sees feelingly, and I like to think that I do.”

    Annie DeWitt talks to The Rumpus about her new book, White Nights in Split Town City, and how she discovered the brutality of nature through the butchering of her family’s cow: “Beyond turning me onto vegetarianism at the age of six or seven, this highlighted an important lesson for me. Nature is both fragile and prophetic.”

    Researchers have found “‘an astonishing degree’ of variance” between the UK and US versions of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. In interviews with the author, researchers discovered that “they occurred because the manuscript of Cloud Atlas sat unedited for around three months in the US, after an editor there left Random House. Meanwhile in the UK, Mitchell and his editor and copy editor worked on the manuscript, but the changes were not passed on to the US.”