May 11

Demystifying the Fox News bogeyman

Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that it celebrates not only counter-suggestive thinking but also counter-herd reporting. Here’s an example from the splendid Jack Shafer of Slate.

You may have been seeing a small shower of tweets and soundbites from large pieces of reportage about Fox News and its much-loathed mastermind, Roger Ailes. Two huge takeouts have just appeared: one in Rolling Stone and the other in New York magazine. This piece by Shafer links to both, recommends one over the other and pours a little light scepticism over the idea that everybody needs to be terrified by the political power of Fox News. A weekend shakeup for one’s prejudices.

Update 6/6/11: Michael Wolff, knowledgeable provocateur on News Corp topics, disagrees.


Jun 10

In praise of length and depth (especially when writing about tribes)

I saw a blogpost or tweet just now which said: “who says print is dead when a Rolling Stone story can topple McChrystal?” The question misses the point. That story would have sent General McChrystal into retirement whether in print or online.

What’s significant is that the printed publication that carried the story wasn’t a daily paper but a magazine. That’s the crux: what scores is length and depth. The allocation of time and money to dig a little deeper.

Maybe Rolling Stone’s writer Michael Hastings got lucky when McChrystal’s team got stuck under the volcano ash and went out and got drunk in Paris, unleashing a string of revelatory quotations which gave the piece its kick. But I’d guess it was something more.

Hastings was quoted as saying that he was suspicious of the very good press McChrystal had been given by the newspaper reporters who had been given extensive access to him. He thought that they were perhaps going easy because they wanted stories and background in the future (useful commentary here from a correspondent who used to cover the Pentagon). Hastings, as a magazine writer, didn’t need any future with the General.

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Jun 10

Read and enjoyed: Naughton, Moore and two rig-disaster reconstructions

A miscellany of links. This is a clear and knowledgeable piece of sense about the internet and the future by John Naughton, which gives wider currency to his celebrated image of the imaginary opinion pollster in Mainz 18 years after the invention of printing. And he extends the image underlining how uncertain the future is to St Petersburg in 1917. Literate futurology with a hinterland.

Martin Moore  has been at a Knight Foundation conference in the US and summarises what he learnt about the latest local news initiatives there.

The first long-form investigative reconstructions of the rig disaster are starting to appear. Two of the best have been in magazines and not newspapers. This is from GQ and this from Rolling Stone. The latter (“The Spill, the Scandal and the President”) is notably more critical of Obama than most other media, blaming him for the failure to clean up the oil regulators.