All posts filed under: Media

Our Oppressive Moment

As one of the signatories to the much-discussed “Open Letter” in Harper’s magazine, I’ve been bemused by the objection that we are merely whiners—people with impregnable career success, flustered that social media is forcing us to experience unprecedented criticism, particularly in the wake of the Floyd protests. This represents a stark misunderstanding of why I and many others signed it. I am certainly not complaining about being criticized. As someone frequently described as “contrarian” on the fraught topic of race, I have been roasted for my views for over 20 years—it’s just that, when I started out, I received invective scrawled on paper folded into envelopes instead of typed into tweets. The sheer volume of criticism is greater, of course, but the last thing I would do is sign a letter protesting it. For writers of commentary on controversial subjects, the barrage keeps us on our toes. Haters can be ignored, but informed excoriation can help sharpen our arguments and ensure we remain acquainted with the views of the other side. The Harper’s letter is …

In Canada’s Version of Portland, Cancel Culture Comes for ‘Steve-O-Reno’s’

Last year, writer Nancy Rommelmann wrote a widely shared Quillette article entitled “The Internet Locusts Descend on Ristretto Roasters,” in which she described the mob-fueled social panic that had enveloped her husband’s Portland, Oregon café. The mobbing had been set off by a single former employee who’d resigned after seeking to implement a “Reparations Happy Hour,” an event that “would involve stationing white people at the front door to buy patrons of color a coffee.” The resulting ordeal lasted for months, damaged the company’s brand, and ultimately contributed to Rommelmann’s decision to move to a less politically radicalized locale: New York City. It may seem odd to think that New York would offer the author a respite from progressive sentiment, as opposed to an overdose. But as Rommelmann told Quillette podcast listeners during our conversation, it actually makes sense: In many New York neighbourhoods, there is an organic, longstanding atmosphere of multiculturalism that allows for candor and viewpoint pluralism. In Portland, on the other hand, progressive political culture is dominated by small cliques of largely …

Jeffrey Epstein’s Money Tainted My Workplace. Then Ronan Farrow’s Botched Reporting Trashed My Reputation

“You really need to pull over. You can’t drive all the way to Illinois without some rest,” my spouse implored, as he tried to speak sense to me on the phone while looking online for hotels in Eastern Pennsylvania. I could stop in Bethlehem, he said without irony. He had found a Hampton Inn that looked nice. It was already one in the morning. But I didn’t stop. I didn’t want to. I wasn’t tired and I couldn’t bear the thought of it. I didn’t want to wake up in some chain hotel and see my picture on five different TVs in the breakfast room. I kept on driving. Earlier that evening, the night of Sunday, September 8th, 2019, I’d run into my apartment building near the Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island, and grabbed my clothes, a toothbrush, some deodorant, and my house plants—all the stuff I thought I’d want to have with me over the next few weeks. I jammed everything into my 2005 Corolla for the drive to Illinois. It was …

Are Gamer Stereotypes Accurate?

Back in 2014, the term “Gamergate” swarmed into public consciousness as major news outlets picked up the story of harassment of women—including developers, journalists, and fans—in the games industry. The Gamergate phenomenon began with concerns among some gamers that conflicts of interest between games journalism and the games industry were leading journalists to write unrealistically favorable reviews of products. These allegations were soon eclipsed, however, as several women involved in the games industry and related media alleged that they had become targets of abuse, threats of violence and rape, doxxing, and so on. In the public eye, this cemented the perception that Gamergate was associated with toxic misogyny, and that this kind of behavior was typical of gamers more generally. The result was that gamers, already commonly the source of stereotypes and various cultural prejudices, found themselves stigmatized as young, reactionary, mainly white, hetero male misogynists. For example, a widely circulated tumblr post portrayed gamer culture as awash with “toxicity,” “hysterical fits,” and “hatred of women.” “The gamer as an identity,” the author, Dan Golding …

Is the New York Times Bad For Democracy?

In a recent column entitled “Why the Success of the New York Times May Be Bad News for Journalism,” media columnist Ben Smith outlines a number of anti-competitive practices by his parent company. His conclusion is that the Times may be well on its way to becoming a monopoly. But why does this matter to readers? I’d like to tally some of the problems that might arise from a lack of viable competition in the journalism industry. To summarize, the New York Times is now a behemoth in the digital news industry, massively outperforming its competitors when it comes to digital subscribers. It poaches the best editors and reporters from other news organizations, swallows their distinctive qualities whole, and now plans to move into the audio industry, with a potential purchase of Serial Productions (a prominent podcast studio that is currently valued at $75 million). Having talked to many aspiring journalists myself, I know that few would dare to refuse an offer at the Times. The Times’s success would be welcome were it not at …

How Anonymous, Unproven Accusations Turned Mike Tunison’s Career Into MeToo Road Kill

Mike Tunison has become the latest writer to go public with details of life among The Canceled. In a newly published essay, the Washington-Post-journalist-turned-restaurant-janitor explains what it’s like to go through the #MeToo false-accusation meat grinder and come out the other side with your career reduced to tiny shards. His friends and colleagues abandoned him, and he was unable to earn an income in his field—all thanks to writer Moira Donegan’s “Shitty Men in Media” list, a crowdsourced database that became a forum for anonymous, unproven allegations in 2017: Almost immediately after its release, a close friend of 10 years cut me off and hasn’t spoken to me since, even after I reached out to him. Day after day, I’m tortured by the thought that even more people will learn of the allegations or that I’ll be unexpectedly attacked for them online. Too often, I’ve found myself hanging out with friends as the discussion turned to celebrities being MeToo’d, and been incapable of revealing what happened to me. Sooner or later, I’ve feared, they’ll know, …

As Newspapers Fade, Journalists Are Finding New Ways to Cover Local News

Until January 2019, reporter Tim Swarens had devoted his entire 35-year career to journalism—the last 15 years spent as a reporter and editor at the Indianapolis Star. The end came as a shock. “I did not expect to end my career by being walked out the door by security,” he told me over coffee. His work had earned him awards from numerous prestigious bodies, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing. He loved his job, and assumed that his reputation would allow him to do it until retirement: “For me, there was never any alternative to being a journalist.”  According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the number of newsroom employees at U.S. newspapers declined by nearly half between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 to 38,000. In some cases, contractions or shutdowns at major-market outlets (such as the Chicago Tribune) receive coverage in other publications. But the situation is even more troubling in smaller …

Reasons to be Hopeful

If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be — what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you’d be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you’d be born into—you wouldn’t choose 100 years ago.  You wouldn’t choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies. You’d choose right now. ~Former President Barack Obama, 2016 We are living through the healthiest, wealthiest, best-educated, and most abundant time in the history of human civilisation. No age has seen more humans experience a higher standard of material, physical, and mental well-being than the one in which we are now living. If that statement strikes you as counterintuitive, uncomfortable, or even offensive, then you are not alone. Many people dispute or outright reject the positive indicators of global progress, expressing a vivid scepticism or wholesale rejection and even hostility to this news. A great many others see the human progress around them and feel ashamed or embarrassed to …

Journalists Need to Do a Better Job Matching ‘Experts’ to Their Actual Expertise

These are busy times for U.S. law professors. I study the constitutional law of the presidency—impeachment, pardons, the 25th Amendment, and the like. Reporters call and email frequently, asking for information or a quote about the latest Trump-related hullabaloo. For a republic to thrive, its populace needs a solid grasp of civics. Ideally, journalists and experts will combine to spread knowledge and squash misinformation. By and large they do. But sometimes I worry about how well the “media-academic complex” performs these functions when highly technical issues are in the news. My worries spiked on December 3, when Republican Representative Matt Gaetz suggested that lawmakers impeach Barack Obama rather than Donald Trump. In response to the public’s startled reaction, Gaetz doubled down, tweeting that yes, ex-presidents really can be impeached. As luck would have it, I published a lengthy law review article in 2001 on the impeachability of former officials. More recently, I devoted a chapter to the question in my 2012 book, Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies. Nobody else has …

Denial and Defamation: The ITN-LM Libel Trial Revisited (II)

PART TWO: THE TRIAL VI. The Standards of Western Journalism The trial eventually began at the High Courts of Justice in London on 28 February 2000. The defendants—recorded as Michael Hume, InformInc (LM) Ltd., and Helene Guldberg—arrived at court on the heels of a disappointing pre-trial hearing. The presiding judge, Mr. Justice Morland, had ruled the testimony of a number of key defence witnesses, including the BBC’s John Simpson, inadmissible. He was not interested in rehearsing the debates about the journalism of attachment or press freedom that had convulsed the chatterati for three years. The claimants—recorded as Independent Television News Ltd., Penny Marshall, and Ian Williams—held that Deichmann’s article, Hume’s accompanying editorial, and the first LM press release were all false and defamatory. Under Britain’s controversial libel law, the defendants were required to show that their contested claims about ITN’s reporting were true. Morland simply wanted to establish if that was the case. The defence’s priority was to establish the location of the barbed wire fence at Trnopolje. This their lawyer Gavin Millar successfully accomplished …