"Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories. Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who 'buy in' to [...]
"America's largest open-air mental hospital," that's how Oceanside police spokesman Bob George described this run-down coastal city between Camp Pendleton and the surfer towns of North San Diego County. I called it the Slum by the Sea. Despite the miles of beach and the beautiful old Spanish mission and the Southern California weather, Oceanside was a honky tonk Marine Corps town on the west side of Interstate 5 and a sprawling mess of trailer parks and starter-home suburbs to the east.
I spent a lot of time at Bob's desk in the back of the OPD headquarters. Sometimes it was as a police beat reporter, sometimes it was as the [...]
My office was the living room closet in a huge one-bedroom in a 1920s East Hollywood apartment court, across the street from the big blue Scientology headquarters in the old Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. There were built-in bookshelves and just enough space for a chair and a laptop and an ashtray. The neighbor lady's rescued pit bulls romped outside in the overgrown garden, and that electric L.A. sunlight came filtered through the grimy old French windows to the hardwood floors. It was a very pleasant place to work, my friends lived within walking distance in other cheap apartments in Los Feliz, and I had a bad case of being in [...]
A couple of years ago, I took the train out to Long Island to interview the last person pulled alive from the wreckage of the Twin Towers. Genelle Guzman-McMillan had been in her early 30s on September 11, 2001, and employed by the Port Authority, which had an office on the 64th story of the World Trade Center. She and her coworkers had managed to make it out into the stairwell and all the way down to the 13th floor before the second plane hit, after which the entire building collapsed and Guzman-McMillan was buried under several thousand tons of debris and dust. She lay there for 27 hours, a [...]
Last week, David Grann and I met in his office at The New Yorker, in midtown Manhattan. It is a glorious fire hazard because he doesn't throw anything away. Grann has been a staff writer at the magazine since 2003 and published two books, the enthralling The Lost City of Z, and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, a collection of his reportage. Stacks of papers related to finished stories ("That's Z, that's Cuba, that's Willingham…") line the walls, while the floor is devoted to a book-in-progress, as yet untitled, on the Osage Indian murders and the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
For fans, a new [...]
"Employment of full-time professional editorial staff peaked at 56,900 in 1989. By the end of 2011, the last year for which data are available, employment had fallen by 24%, according to the American Society of News Editors. When figures for 2012 are compiled, newsroom workforce will likely be below 40,000." —Of the many bits in this survey of the current American news business—the cable news audience is stalled forever at 1.9 million people! TIME's newsstand sales dropped 27% in a year!—the 24% drop in newspaper editorial employees is the most instructive for those of you young people thinking about a major. (Journalism is always a terrible major.)
Even speaking as someone with 126 emails—oh Lord, 128 since I started writing this—marked as "important and unread" that I really do intend to answer as soon as possible, which is proving to be something of a struggle, and also sort of humiliating given that some of them date back to, like, January, this claim that people are digitally wasting our time with politeness is, as the publisher of Little Brown put it this morning, pretty much the day civilization died.
But here's the deal. For each member of your family that your column cites, it becomes doubly as dubious. (This tactic is a hallmark of columns [...]
"[L]ow ratings lend credence to the claim that few people outside of the media world care about media reporting."
"Across America," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes in today's Washington Post, "creative, hardworking people in coffee shops, dorm rooms and garages are creating the next era of growth."
But they don't always have good programming degrees, especially if they're Americans, so Zuckerberg hopes to change the nation's immigration laws so that his company can more easily hire cheaper programmers from other countries. It's a win-win situation, for Zuckerburg and his billionaire pals in Silicon Valley.
Ha ha it is really more complicated than all of that, certainly! But this is the great political movement launched by the Web Billionaire generation: something that directly affects the hiring practices and profits [...]
Is Twitter your job? We have maintained in the past that it is not. A year later, we think that more and more media employees are engaged in the practice of using their Twitter accounts to promote not just their work, but their workplaces. That's true even with the transition of Jim Roberts from @NYTJim to @NYCJim, as he left the New York Times to become the executive editor of Reuters Digital. (His Twitter is still chock-full of Times links, though!)
How much Twitter work is working? We looked at a work-week's worth of tweets at three publications: BuzzFeed, Gawker and Business Insider. Just how often were [...]
An old schoolhouse, two feed stores, an "84 Lumber" yard, the sheriff's substation and a western wear store were the notable tenants on the main street of Lakeside, California. It was just a half-hour's drive from the beaches of San Diego, but it had the dusty half-abandoned look of a Texas panhandle town. The "lake" was a pond in the small park at the end of the road. State Highway 67 ran parallel to the two-block-long downtown, and in a faded Old West-themed plywood strip mall, a lean middle-aged man in a brown corduroy sports coat was behind his desk with his typewriter and a coffee mug full of Bushmill's, [...]
Oh look, there's a new attraction in Manhattan for the downtown art crowd:
The husband-and-wife pair stepped out alongside Morgado on Tuesday night for the opening-night gala for "The Bible Experience," an exhibit in downtown Manhattan featuring photography from the mini-series as well as biblical artifacts by way of the Vatican and a giant, two-ton crown of thorns hanging from the ceiling. A spooky Old World ambiance was enhanced by dim lighting, a fog machine and Hans Zimmer's musical score in the background as guests wandered through a cavernous space built to seem centuries-old with earthy walls and barely any heat circulating. "This is a gift to [...]
From time to time, The Awl offers its space to everyday citizens with something to say.
I am a newspaperman. Before my freelancing days, my business card had the name of my paper, and under that it said my own name, and then: "Staff Writer." These days, I'm barely getting by as a freelancer, and my business card has a little graphic of a quill by my name.
I often think about how different the media landscape would be if newspapers had invested in killing off the "Web content" people once they became a clear danger to journalism.
Assassination is a nasty business, and I am against it. Still, you [...]
You know how something happens and you look at Twitter (or learn about it from Twitter) and people are going insane within seconds of finding out about this news that probably doesn't even have anything to do with their lives or industry? How do people get wildly upset about something they just heard about? Isn't that the job of bloggers?
This is now a proven aspect of Twitter. The Pew Research Center studied Twitter users and found "the reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys." And they're not just excitable and wrong, they're also [...]
This week, two—possibly three, or maybe more—not particularly bright asshole millennials discovered a terrible new way get attention. Then, for an encore, they figured out a way to shut down a mid-sized American city today.
After shooting some people and robbing a store last night, like total morons, one of the idiots actually managed to simply disappear, despite being in a shoot-out with police, in which the other main numbnuts was killed, and despite every law enforcement person in New England looking for him.
TV news spent most of the morning trying desperately to not be underfoot while people were actually trying to do their jobs to find the remaining [...]
What a long way we've come in the last ten years! "Anyone with a Tumblr, Twitter or YouTube account is practicing journalism in its most authentic form," Times deputy editorial page editor Terry Tang told some college students the other day. From sneering at blogs to embracing the pamphleteer model of social media, well, we've all come a long way, baby. The joke's on someone though. (Probably "all of us.")
The day was long coming, but it's still okay for bloggers to feel a little bit proud this morning: The "Top Stories" on Google News on this busy Monday morning lead with a blog recap of "The Walking Dead." Stick that in your nuclear missiles, North Korean guy!
If you needed some "hard news," the next top story of the moment is "On Easter Sunday, Google Honors Cesar Chavez, Not Jesus."
Since 2002, Jason Ross (@jasonjross on Twitter) has been a writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," where his team has won a half-dozen Emmy Awards for outstanding writing and produced the best-selling America: The Book and Earth: The Book.
Jason Ross: Here I am.
Ken Layne: Hello, sir! I'm in the middle of the greatest consumer survey in human history.
Jason: That is a fairly low bar to clear.
Ken: Disneyland is building Star Wars Land. This will make Disneyland much more tolerable for me:
Which of the following Star Wars locations would you be especially interested in visiting at the Disneyland Resort? [...]
On the night after the Heaven's Gate UFO cultists were discovered dead by mass suicide in a San Diego suburban McMansion, I was standing in a dark patch of the Presidio, watching the Hale-Bopp comet and its forked tail over the Marin Headlands. Someone passed around binoculars, somebody else passed a little pipe around, and after a half hour everyone was cold and bored and we drifted back to the battleship-gray Victorian on Haight Street that I shared with a rotating group of five or six pals.
My bedroom was just a large closet on the upper floor, with enough room for a narrow mattress and a chest [...]
Dublin was busy with construction and slick with rain. I tried to recognize landmarks through the taxi windows—mossy stone gate here, mossy stone church there—while the cab driver told me how the Irish were all getting rich and he had finally been able to move back home from the impossible hell of Scotland. It was the end of 1999, I had just flown from Washington to interview for a magazine called International Living, the new hotel-pub where I was staying was owned by someone from the band U2, in 24 hours I would be back at the airport, and life felt like a Thomas Friedman column.
The registration desk [...]