A New York Times Whodunit

Who slew Times CEO Janet Robinson? Was it Arthur Sulzberger’s new lady friend? The advertising market? The frustrated web guru? Or the ambitious Sulzberger cousin?

Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?

Had Narrative Science — a company that trains computers to write news stories—created this piece, it probably would not mention that the company’s Chicago headquarters lie only a long baseball toss from the Tribune newspaper building. Nor would it dwell on the fact that this potentially job-killing technology was incubated in part at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Those ironies are obvious to a human. But not to a computer. At least not yet.

See also: A Robot Stole My Pulitzer!

The Woman Who Edited Nuts Magazine

As the sound of jazz filled the air in the office that night I diligently got on with the task at hand. It was slow. It was laborious. It was tedious. It was decapitating topless women. I was associate editor on the best-selling men’s weekly magazine Nuts and tomorrow was the launch of Assess My Breasts – an online brand extension inviting women to upload pictures of themselves (or rather, their breasts) to be rated out of 10. But first, before we went live, I had to populate it; ensuring it launched with a 100-boob bang rather than a no-boob whimper. Faces were a no-no – part of the “appeal” was anonymity so the girls would feel comfortable with being publicly graded. And so, there I was at 9pm, attempting a mass head-chopping on pictures we kept on file and had sought permission to upload.

Six Degrees of Aggregation

Of the many and conflicting stories about how Huffington Post came to be—how it boasts 68 sections, three international editions (with more to come), 1.2 billion monthly page views and 54 million comments in the past year alone, how it came to surpass the traffic of virtually all the nation’s established news organizations and amass content so voluminous that a visit to the website feels like a trip to a mall where the exits are impossible to locate—the earliest and arguably most telling begins with a lunch in March 2003 at which the idea of an online newspaper filled with celebrity bloggers and virally disseminated aggregated content did not come up.

Why Americans Hate the Media

A generation ago political talk programs were sleepy Sunday-morning affairs. The Secretary of State or the Senate majority leader would show up to answer questions from Lawrence Spivak or Bob Clark, and after thirty minutes another stately episode of Meet the Press or Issues and Answers would be history. Everything in public life is “brighter” and more “interesting” now. Constant competition from the weekday trash-talk shows has forced anything involving political life to liven up. Under pressure from the Saturday political-talk shows—The McLaughlin Group and its many disorderly descendants—even the Sunday-morning shows have put on rouge and push-up bras.

(via Nicholas Thompson)

My Kasual Kountry Weekend With the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan

Is the biggest brand in hate in danger of catching an inferiority complex? In a quest to find out, I signed up to attend the 2012 Faith and Freedom Conference (“Open to ALL Concerned White Patriots— A Great FAMILY Event!”), held last weekend at the Arkansas headquarters of The Knights Party, the most prominent branch of the KKK. After some mutual feeling-out over email, the organizers agreed to let me in, along with a photographer. The Knights, originally founded by David Duke as a way to morph the KKK into a political powerhouse, have a reputation for being media-friendly.

Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy

On January 25th, Andrew Lohse took a major detour from the winning streak he’d been on for most of his life when, breaking with the Dartmouth code of omertà, he detailed some of the choicest bits of his college experience in an op-ed for the student paper The Dartmouth. “I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar, which in one case caused a pledge to vomit blood; drink beer poured down fellow pledges’ ass cracks… among other abuses,” he wrote.

National Public Rodeo

When most people hear “NPR,” they think Cokie Roberts, Nina Totenberg, Robert Siegel, and for some on the far right, all that is wrong with the mainstream liberal media. But beneath the veneer of the “Minnesota nice,” a simmering battle has been waged, and in the balance hangs NPR’s future and perhaps even its soul—as either a nonpartisan defender of in-depth journalism or a target of the partisan sniping of the sound-bite era. David Margolick explores how NPR’s management managed to squander the advantages of the national dole, deep-pocketed donors, a roster of top-notch reporters, and the loyalty of legions of devoted Click and Clack fans—and whether it can recover from the annus horribilis of 2011.

The Mystery Woman Behind the Murdoch Mess

Rebekah Brooks was running the News of the World at 31, and Rupert Murdoch’s entire British newspaper empire at 41. A virtual member of the Murdoch family, close to Prime Ministers Blair, Brown, and Cameron, she relished her power—until the phone-hacking scandal took her down.

See also: Give Me Something To Read’s phone-hacking scandal reading list.

Insider Baseball

When we talk about the process, then, we are talking, increasingly, not about “the democratic process,” or the general mechanism affording the citizens of a state a voice in its affairs, but the reverse: a mechanism seen as so specialized that access to it is correctly limited to its own professionals, to those who manage policy and those who report on it, to those who run the polls and those who quote them, to those who ask and those who answer the questions on the Sunday shows, to the media consultants, to the columnists, to the issues advisers, to those who give the off-the-record breakfasts and to those who attend them; to that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life. “I didn’t realize you were a political junkie,” Marty Kaplan, the former Washington Post reporter and Mondale speechwriter who is now married to Susan Estrich, the manager of the Dukakis campaign, said when I mentioned that I planned to write about the campaign; the assumption here, that the narrative should be not just written only by its own specialists but also legible only to its own specialists, is why, finally, an American presidential campaign raises questions that go so vertiginously to the heart of the structure.

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