• January 19, 2017

    Helen Oyeyemi. Photo: Tom Pilston

    The finalists for the PEN America Literary Awards were announced yesterday. Nominees include Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Arthur Lubow’s Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.

    Textbook publisher Pearson announced plans yesterday to sell its 47 percent stake in Penguin Random House, which it owns in partnership with Bertelsmann. The move has staff and authors concerned about consolidation. One anonymous author told The Guardian that although the company seems to be doing fine financially, “you always worry that any added pressure to streamline the business will narrow its publishing focus further. . . . For any author, you are only as good as your last book, so it’s a worry you could be vulnerable when things like this happen.”

    The Washington Post announced plans for a news product for women yesterday. The Lily, named after the first newspaper run by and for women, will launch later this year as “an experimental, visually-driven product designed for millennial women that will boldly reimagine The Post’s award-winning journalism.”

    In his final press conference, President Obama emphasized the need for close contact between the White House and the media, a possible reference to the Trump administration’s plan of moving journalists to another building nearby. Obama also encouraged the press to maintain its adversarial stance toward the next administration. “You’re not supposed to be sycophants,” Obama said. “You’re supposed to be skeptics.”

    The Society of Professional Journalists has partnered with sixty other journalism organizations to request a meeting with president-elect Donald Trump to discuss media access to the administration. Similar to requests made by the SJP to the Obama administration, the group wants to discuss the media’s ability to speak with government employees directly rather than through Public Information Officers, access to the President, and ways to maintain the strength of the Freedom of Information Act. In their press release, the SJP writes of hope that “they and the Trump administration can improve the lines of communication between the White House and the press.”

    The Trump International Hotel in DC has banned media during the week leading up to inauguration. The building, which is owned by Trump and his children, is on a sixty-year lease from the US General Services Administration. Politico’s Daniel Lippman attempted to look into whether “the hotel’s decision to ban media from property owned by the federal government and from a hotel controlled by the president-elect” violated any aspects of the lease.


  • January 18, 2017

    The New York Times released their “2020 Report” yesterday, which outlines the publication’s strategies and goals. The authors of the report focused on increasing subscribers and embracing digital journalism. “Too often, digital progress has been accomplished through workarounds; now we must tear apart the barriers,” the introduction states. “We must differentiate between mission and tradition: what we do because it’s essential to our values and what we do because we’ve always done it.” In a memo to staff, executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn clarified which of the report’s directives would be implemented in the newsroom. Throughout their list of changes—including streamlining of the editing process, an improved focus on staff diversity, and a $5 million investment in reporting on the Trump administration—the threat staffing cuts loomed. “Let’s not be coy,” Baquet and Kahn write. “These changes will lead to fewer editors at The Times. One of our overarching goals is to keep as many reporters, photographers, graphics experts and videographers on the ground as possible.”

    The release date for Ivanka Trump’s upcoming book, Women Who Work, has been pushed back from March to May of this year. In a statement, her publisher, Portfolio, said that the postponement will allow Trump to “accommodate these momentous changes . . . and give her time to settle her children into their new home, schools and city.”

    BuzzFeed is partnering with ProPublica, the Times, WYNC, and other news and civil-rights organizations to track and investigate reports of hate crimes in the US through the Documenting Hate project. “By getting better information on hate crimes and bias incidents in the US, we aim to make it harder for the authorities to ignore the problem,” BuzzFeed news reporter Peter Aldhous writes.

    Poynter writes that Donald Trump has no libel case against BuzzFeed after the website published a dossier of unconfirmed intelligence findings on the president-elect. Due to his status as a public figure, as well as the news value of the article, a lawsuit against the site would most likely have no standing. But there’s another reason Trump may hold off on suing anyone: According to Frank LoMonte, the director of the Student Press Law Center, “In a legal sense it would only open the door to look further into Donald Trump’s’ private life.”

    Jon Meacham

    In “The Long View,” a new series of articles in the Times, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Jon Meacham looks at how three novels from the 1930s—Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Edward Dahlberg’s Those Who Perish, and Nathanael West’s A Cool Million—are still relevant today. Meacham compares the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt  to Donald Trump’s, writing that though “the 45th president of the United States comes to office at a calmer time than the 32nd . . . Donald Trump’s demagogic populism and his movement’s willingness to traffic in ethnic and racial stereotypes have put many Americans in the mind of the chaos of the 1930s. From Long to Charles Coughlin, we have been here before.”

  • January 17, 2017

    Yaa Gyasi. Photo: Michael Lionstar

    The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award were announced today. Margaret Atwood will receive a lifetime achievement award, Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming has won an award for debut fiction, and frequent New Republic and Guardian contributor Michelle Dean has won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Finalists for the book awards include Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, Ruth Franklin’s Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, John Edgar Wideman’s Writing to Save a Life, and Mark Greif’s Against Everything. Winners will be announced in March.

    The New York Times’s chief book critic Michiko Kakutani sat down with President Barack Obama to discuss how his love of reading and writing have guided his time in the White House. “Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped—in his life, convictions and outlook on the world—by reading and writing as Barack Obama,” Kakutani writes. Obama discussed how Liu Cixin’s sci-fi, Shakespeare’s tragedies, and Lincoln’s speeches gave him perspective on the challenges he faced as president. “At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” Obama said, “the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes—those two things have been invaluable to me.”

    After CNN found numerous incidents of plagiarism throughout Monica Crowley’s career, Crowley announced that she will not serve as Trump’s senior director of communications for the National Security Council.

    BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith continues to defend the website’s decision to publish a dossier full of unconfirmed intelligence findings on Trump. In a CNN interview last weekend, Smith said that it’s not a  journalist’s job “to decide what to suppress and keep from our audience.” At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple points out that journalists deal with suppression every day in the form of denied or ignored FOIA requests and public relations officers. “To claim that sitting on [this document] is an act of suppression is to suggest a mild conspiracy to protect Trump,” Wemple writes. “Pretty sure that doesn’t exist.”

    At Politico, Jack Shafer writes that Trump’s presidency could unintentionally Make Journalism Great Again. Shafer takes examples from Trump’s press conferences, Reince Priebus’s plan to evict journalists from the White House, and Sean Spicer’s control over news briefings to suggest that journalists will have plenty of chances to hone their skills over the next four years. “Instead of relying exclusively on the traditional skills of political reporting,” Shafer writes, “the carriers of press cards ought to start thinking of covering Trump’s Washington like a war zone, where conflict follows conflict, where the fog prevents the collection of reliable information directly from the combatants, where the assignment is a matter of life or death.”

  • January 16, 2017

    Svetlana Alexievich

    Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich has left Russian PEN. She is joining thirty other writers in protesting PEN’s decision to expel journalist Sergey Parkhomenko after he criticized the group for not supporting a jailed Ukranian filmmaker. In her letter, Alexievich writes that the group’s decision to disavow Parkhomenko is an echo of the Stalinist era. “Putin will go, whereas this shameful page from the history of PEN will stay,” Alexievich writes. “We now live through times when we cannot win over evil, we are powerless before the ‘red man’. But he cannot stop time. I believe in that.”

    Trump administration officials told Esquire that they are planning to evict the White House press corps from their White House location. Although incoming press secretary Sean Spicer said the move was being considered in order to create more space for the extra journalists assigned to cover the president, an unnamed senior official told the magazine another story: “They are the opposition party. I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”

    In an interview with the Sunday Times, Trump said that he will be keeping his personal Twitter account and will not use @POTUS. Trump explained that his decision was influenced by his large number of followers and his relationship with the press. “The tweeting, I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press—so dishonestly—that I can put out Twitter—and it’s not 140, it’s now 280—I can go bing bing bing . . . and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out,” Trump said.

    After Trump said that Representative John Lewis was “all talk,” the civil rights leader’s books have become best sellers, and his memoir Walking with the Wind has sold out on Amazon.

    In the New York Times, Adam Kirsch reflects on the changing relationship between truth and fiction and how it has changed in the post-fact era. Kirsch looks at readers’ increasing disinterest in fiction that presents itself as such, the increase in novels that draw directly from the life of the author, and how truth has become increasingly irrelevant. “The problem with our ‘post-truth’ politics,” Kirsh writes, “is that a large share of the population has moved beyond true and false. They thrill precisely to the falsehood of a statement, because it shows that the speaker has the power to reshape reality in line with their own fantasies of self-righteous beleaguerment. To call novelists liars is naïve, because it mistakes their intention; they never wanted to be believed in the first place. The same is true of demagogues.”

  • January 13, 2017

    Ani DiFranco

    Ani DiFranco has announced plans for her first book, to be published by Viking. The singer will write a memoir about her early years in New York and her political activism. A release date and title have yet to be set.

    BuzzFeed sold more than $25,000 worth of t-shirts, garbage cans, and bumper stickers on Wednesday after Donald Trump called the website as a “failing pile of garbage.” All proceeds from the sale are being donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    The BBC is creating its own fact-checking team to fight the spread of fake news. The Reality Check team will investigate stories that circulate on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. “The BBC can’t edit the internet, but we won’t stand aside either,” said news director James Harding.

    Twitter is partnering with PBS NewsHour to livestream Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

    Too Dumb to Fail author Matt Lewis talks to the Washington Post about his decision to leave the Daily Caller for the Daily Beast. Lewis said that he has two goals for himself in his new job as a political columnist for the news site: “One, to present conservative ideas to a mainstream audience that is compelling and explanatory and the other is to hold Donald Trump accountable.”

    John Carney, the Wall Street Journal reporter who is leaving the newspaper to head Breitbart’s business coverage, talks to the Columbia Journalism Review about his career move, a decision he says his colleagues at the Journal have supported. Carney said he was attracted to the company by its “entrepreneurial, startup energy” and denied that Breitbart caters to people with racist and xenophobic views. “I don’t think that that reputation is justified,” Carney said. “I think it is a site that cares about a very broad swath of Americans.”

  • January 12, 2017

    After publishing a dossier of unverified intelligence findings on president-elect Donald Trump, BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith defended the decision in a memo to staff. “Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers,” Smith wrote. “In this case, the document was in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media.” Other news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others, have stated that they did have the report, but chose not to publish it after they were unable to confirm many of the claims. At the Post, Margaret Sullivan calls the choice to publish the document, which consists of “rumor and innuendo,” unacceptable. “None of the circumstances surrounding this episode—not CNN’s story, not Trump’s dubious history with Russia, not the fact that the intelligence community made a report on it—should change that ethical rule,” Sullivan writes. At The Atlantic, David Graham looks at the likely effects of publishing an unverified dossier of this nature. “When serious and conscientious outlets publish information for whose veracity they cannot vouch,” Graham writes, “they make it easy for critics of the press to brand all reporting with which they disagree as simply ‘fake news.’”

    At his first press conference in over five months, Trump refuted all accusations found in the BuzzFeed document, referring to the website as “a failing pile of garbage,” and praised outlets that chose not to publish it as “so professional.” Erik Wemple notes the dilemma found in of Trump’s supposed admiration for news outlets that did not publish the document, writing, “There you have it, media: If you want the praise of Donald Trump, sit on negative information about him.” Wemple also has a transcript of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s attempts to question the president-elect. Acosta later reported that Spicer threatened to throw him out of future press conferences if he ever insisted on asking a question after being told no.

    After being sued last week for $15 million dollars by Shiva Ayyadurai, who also sued Gawker, Techdirt writes about the website’s “first amendment fight for its life.” Editor Mike Masnick notes that the legal battle could force the company to close, and that the case is about more than who truly invented email. “This is a fight,” Masnick writes, “about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like.”

    Facebook has launched its “Journalism Project,” which aims to combat the spread of fake news by working more closely with local news outlets, promoting news literacy among users, and “continuing to listen.”

    Zadie Smith

    After a reading of her new novel Swing Time, Zadie Smith talked to David Ulin about the book, writing as voyeurism, and cultural appropriation. “The construction of the idea that a culture is delicate and needs utter protection, I find actually quite malignant,” Smith said. She reflected on the first time she read Madame Bovary. “I cannot say it occurred to me to be offended that it had been written by a man,” Smith said. “I felt it was a fantastic act of drag.”

  • January 11, 2017

    Marlon James. Photo: Jeffrey Skemp

    Marlon James has announced plans for a series of fantasy books. James told Entertainment Weekly that the idea for the book came from an argument about the film version of The Hobbit. “I remember saying, ‘You know, if an Asian or a black hobbit came out of the Shire, nobody would have cared. We would have just moved on,’” James said. “And my friend said, ‘Well, Lord of the Rings is all this British and Celtic mythology.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know… Lord of the Rings isn’t real.’ . . . I think the argument ended with me saying, ‘You know what? Keep your d— Hobbit.’” The Dark Star Trilogy will be published by Riverhead in 2018.

    Clare Hollingworth, the journalist who first reported the news that World War II had started, died yesterday at age 105. The New York Times writes that Hollingworth, who continued to report well into old age, “was never so happy . . . as when she was roaming the world equipped with little more than a toothbrush, a typewriter and, if need be, a revolver.”

    After a CNN investigation uncovered over fifty plagiarized sections in Monica Crowley’s 2012 book What the (Bleep) Just Happened, HarperCollins has decided to stop selling the book. Politico reports that Crowley, who was chosen by President-elect Donald Trump for a senior communications position at the National Security Council, also plagiarized many sections of her Ph.D. dissertation.

    Breitbart News has hired Wall Street Journal financial reporter John Carney to head a finance and economics section, a move Media Matters calls “a transparent play to give the website a veneer of credibility.”

    English PEN is defending Dangerous author Milo Yiannopoulos’s right to free speech, and dismissed calls for Simon & Schuster to terminate the deal as “censorship.”

    The New York Times looks at the “lucrative but often overlooked niche” of conservative publishing. Although the bestselling books at right-leaning imprints usually involve criticisms of President Obama or the Clintons, a Trump win—which brings with it a more philosophically diverse readership—has put conservative publishers on edge. According to Regnery president and publisher Marji Ross, the outlook for their market “is far, far different with Trump as president than it would have been with Hillary Clinton as president. It’s hopeful, but cautious.”

  • January 10, 2017

    A new Gallup poll shows that the rate of reading in America has held steady for the past fifteen years, with half of young adults reading between one and ten books per year. The data “suggests that book reading is a classic tradition that has remained a constant in a faster-paced world, especially in comparison to the slump of other printed media.”

    The New York Times announced yesterday that Ian Fisher will take over as Jerusalem bureau chief. Fisher was most recently the Rome bureau chief, and will be replacing Peter Baker, who has been tapped to lead the Trump administration coverage team.

    After praising Breitbart News’s coverage in an interview with the site last weekend, Politico co-founder Mike Allen tried to clarify his statements yesterday at the Washington Post. Allen told Erik Wemple that the interview—in which Allen said he admired “so much about what’s been built at Breitbart” and marvelled at “what an amazing road the country” is on—was “in no way an endorsement of anything that they do” and that any backlash was simply “Twitter twisting.” When Wemple asked how fellow journalists should heed Allen’s advice to enjoy this “once-in-a-century moment in journalism and in our country’s history,” particularly the Jewish reporters who have, as Wemple writes, “received anti-Semitic threats and abuse for doing their jobs,” Allen defended his comment. “I think that this is a great time to be a journalist,” Allen said, “and I’m surprised you would question that.”

    After a US intelligence report accused Russian news network RT of “undermining US viewers’ trust in US democratic procedures,” editor in chief Margarita Simonyan talked to The Guardian about the findings. Simonyan said that the critiques of RT were based solely on their critical coverage of Clinton: “What a resounding endorsement of journalism and freedom of speech.”

    The Onion has signed a deal with Lionsgate to develop three films through 2018. Details about the films are not yet available. In a statement, Vice President of Onion Studios Kyle Ryan said, “With the help of Serious Business and Lionsgate, we’ll make room on our award shelf for some Oscars. To the basement you go, Pulitzers.”

    Haruki Murakami

    At The Guardian, Danuta Kean compares the choices of book thieves in the UK and Canada, and concludes that “they have a better class of book thief in Toronto.” In Canada, Haruki Murakami tops the list of most-stolen books, while mass-market series like “Harry Potter” are the favorite target for UK thieves. “Am I alone in feeling a bit embarrassed that our thieves can’t raise the bar a bit?” Kean asks. “Must they make us look so dumb compared with our Canadian cousins?”

  • January 9, 2017

    In her acceptance speech last night for the Cecile B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep criticized president-elect Donald Trump’s treatment of immigrants, people with disabilities, and the press. Streep asked her cohorts to join her in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists: “We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.”

    Facebook has hired former NBC and CNN newscaster Campbell Brown as the company’s head of news partnerships. Brown was most recently the cofounder of The 74, an education-news website funded by secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos. The Huffington Post digs into Brown’s Republican party connections, but Slate points out that Brown’s job won’t involve editorial control over the social media site. According to Will Oremus, Brown will act as “an envoy to the media” and not as an editor. “In other words,” Oremus writes, “it would be a mistake to read this as an acknowledgement on Facebook’s part that it bears editorial responsibility for the contents of its news feed.”

    The Atlantic will print 40,000 more copies of its January/February issue, featuring Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article on President Obama, due to popular demand.

    At the Los Angeles Times, Hugo award-winner John Scalzi notes that Donald Trump and his administration are not popular with artists and other creative types—”the difficulty Trump is having in finding performers for his inauguration is only the most obvious manifestation of this”—and many of his planned acts as president, like repealing the Affordable Care Act, will greatly affect them. To combat the “mental tailspin” caused by the election, Scalzi offers a “10-point plan” for artists trying to work during the Trump administration.

    Ayelet Waldman. Photo: Reenie Raschke

    Ayelet Waldman talks to The Guardian about the aftereffects of her thirty-day experiment with microdosing LSD, chronicled in her new book A Really Good Day. Waldman tells Rachel Cooke that although she’s no longer microdosing, she’s still feeling some of the benefits. “If someone sends her a mean tweet in the coming weeks,” Cooke writes, Waldman “is unlikely to respond as venomously as she might once have done, or even at all.” At the Times, Waldman says that her children were less concerned with the legality of her personal drug use than they were about how it would affect their reputations at school. Her youngest son worried that his middle-school classmates would tease him, “saying, ‘Your mom’s on acid,’” to which “his older sister, who’s two years older, said: ‘No, this is a good thing. It might not be so great in eighth grade, but when you get to ninth grade, you’re going to be so cool.’”

  • January 6, 2017

    Today, Donald Trump will meet with a group of Conde Nast editorial leaders, including Anna Wintour and Graydon Carter. Carter has been publicly poking fun at the real-estate mogul since at least 1988, when he called him a “short-fingered vulgarian” in SPY magazine, and Trump has retaliated on Twitter, calling Carter, among other things, a “dummy.” Neither Trump’s spokespeople or Conde Nast have commented on the purpose of the meeting.


    Novelist and memoirist Rachel Cusk talks about what she’s reading and how being a memoirist is like being a mother: “A parent can create a complex and instructive ‘self’ for the child, and it can be distressing when the ‘real,’ flawed self breaks through. The really good memoirist can incorporate these losses of control into the picture.” Asked what moves her in a work of literature, Cusk answers with a memorable phrase: “The tremendous effort of exactitude.

    Amazon has announced its plan to open a bookstore in Manhattan. The four-thousand-square-foot shop will be located at the Time Warner Center at the southern end of Central Park.  

    Elle has posted a list of this year’s twenty-five “most-anticipated books by women.” Entries include new works by Catherine Lacey, Jami Attenberg, Joyce Carol Oates, and Samantha Schweblin.

    Yesterday, the Washington Post magazine Express published a cover story about the upcoming women’s march in Washington DC, an inauguration weekend protest planned for January 21st. The cover image, shot from above, was supposed to show a group of people forming a powerful symbol of solidarity, but the result sent a confused message about gender relations: The crowd is aligning themselves into the male gender symbol rather than the female symbol. The magazine tweeted that they were “very embarrassed” and apologized for the mistake. At Jezebel, Aimée Lutkin writes, “One wonders if there are no women in the Express newsroom or, if there are, were they either unfamiliar with the gender symbols or simply curious to see how it would all play out?”