Jeffrey H. Anderson: Once again, Paul Krugman appears to have buried his head, ostrich-like, in a pile of New York Times.
Suw Charman-Anderson, in Forbes, notes a watershed moment in the world of books and readers. For the first time, a book self-published by its author has broken through traditional barriers and gained the attention of important establishment book reviews.
[T]his week, the New York Times, one of the most important source of book reviews, published a long and enthusiastic review of a self-published book, Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised. Based on his TV criticism blog, What’s Alan Watching, Sepinwall’s book:
analyzes a dozen “great millennial dramas” that have forged a new golden age in TV: bold, innovative shows that have pushed the boundaries of storytelling, mixed high and low culture, and demonstrated that the small screen could be an ideal medium for writers and directors eager to create complex, challenging narratives with “moral shades of gray.”
But the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani wasn’t the only mainstream book critic to write about Sepinwall’s book. USA Today carried an interview with Sepinwell at the end of November, Time published a review of its own, The Huffington Post carried a review, so did the New Yorker.
Sepinwall got the kind of coverage that most traditionally published authors can only dream of. To some extent, this might just be reviewers reviewing another reviewer, a little bit of moral support from your friends, except Sepinwall’s friends have very big megaphones. But at the same time, it illustrates that the idea of a division between ‘traditionally published’ and ‘self-published’ is becoming a ridiculous construct with no meaning whatsoever. ...
The reasons that self-published books don’t get reviewed boil down, I think, to the lack of infrastructure. A traditional publishing company can get to know different reviewers and send them the books that they think will go down best with that person. And the reviewer works on the assumption that what he or she is sent by the publisher has to be at least half-decent and thus worth opening. This whole process works because it’s mediated and because of the assumption that a third party stamp of approval for a book guarantees minimum levels of quality. ...
[R]eviewers depend on publishers acting as winnowers, sorting out the wheat from the chaff, and at least attempting to make sure that they are sent books they are actually interested in. It’s this weeding out process that’s missing in self-publishing.
This is bound to be only the first instance of what will before very long become normal.
Technology has made self publication and book distribution easy, inexpensive, and available to anyone.
Even successful and well-established popular authors like Barry Eisler as far back as 2011 have found the economics and creative control offered by self publishing to be irresistible. (Eisler was interviewed here about his at-the-time astonishing decision to dump his relatively prestigious print publisher and move off into the new frontier of electronic self publication.)
When Times readers learned from Richard Perez-Pena that “a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault,” how many of them realized that Yale was actually using an “expansive definition” of this otherwise commonly-understood term? How many readers further realized that Yale had designed the procedure about which Perez-Pena wrote so as to give Witt’s accuser “control over the process,” including limited or no investigation? And how many readers could have dreamed that the procedures guiding the allegation against Witt have produced the extraordinary claim that sexual assault is far, far more common on this Ivy League campus than in the fourth most dangerous city in the country? And since the Times went to print without ever speaking to Witt or (it seems) anyone sympathetic to him in the Athletic Department, didn’t the paper at the very least have an obligation to provide the context that would explain the highly unusual procedures and definitions that Yale features?
Patrick Witt’s response to the Times’ story.
Kathleen Parker, in the Washington Post, put the New York Times’s reporting standards on trial.
A New York Times story on Friday… essentially indicted and convicted a 22-year-old star football player on an alleged sexual assault charge by an anonymous accuser. ...
[W]ith throat-clearing authority, the story begins with the young man’s name — Patrick J. Witt, Yale University’s former quarterback — and his announcement last fall that he was withdrawing his Rhodes scholarship application so that he could play against Harvard. The game was scheduled the same day as the scholarship interview.
Next we are told that he actually had withdrawn his application for the scholarship after the Rhodes Trust had learned “through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault.” And there goes the gavel. Case closed.
But in fact, no one seems to know much of anything, and no one in an official capacity is talking. The only people advancing this devastating and sordid tale are “a half-dozen [anonymous] people with knowledge of all or part of the story.” All or part? Which part? As in, “Heard any good gossip lately?”
A statement Friday afternoon on Witt’s behalf denied any connection between his withdrawal from the Rhodes application process and the alleged assault. Moreover, when Witt requested a formal inquiry into the allegations, he says, the university declined. “No formal complaint was filed, no written statement was taken from anyone involved, and his request . . . for a formal inquiry was denied because, he was told, there was nothing to defend against,” according to the statement.
The Times apparently didn’t know these facts, but shouldn’t it have known them before publishing the story? It’s not until the 11th paragraph that readers even learn about the half-dozen anonymous sources. Not until the 14th paragraph does the Times tell us that “many aspects of the situation remain unknown, including some details of the allegation against Witt; how he responded; how it was resolved; and whether Yale officials who handle Rhodes applications — including Richard C. Levin, the university’s president, who signed Witt’s endorsement letter — knew of the complaint.”
Translation: We don’t know anything, but we’re smearing this guy anyway. ...
By anyone’s understanding of fairness, Witt has been unjustly condemned by nameless accusers and a complicit press.
Reuters pointed out that the Times’ own commenters overwhelmingly condemned the newspaper’s decision to print that story.
The Times has already published a follow-up story that noted “diverging stories,” but only after comments and writers began questioning the Times’ editors and the paper’s editorial process.
The simplest summation of that criticism came from a commenter named ‘mystery shopper’ who posted that running the story was “a horrible editorial decision. Ethics classes in schools of journalism around the country will use this story as an example of an ill-advised story.”
Instapundit readers also reacted:
Reader John Lucas writes: “A red light violator facing a $50 fine gets more due process than a student at Yale (or most other universities) now.”
Reader Dave Ivers writes: “I’ve wondered what would happen if every male athlete at Yale looked around a classroom and noticed a young woman looking at them and than filed an ‘informal’ complaint. Under the Yale rules that ‘looking’ at well-built athletes could be a sexual crime. Since the athletes don’t know for sure, shouldn’t they file to protect themselves and then get victim status?”
The original story seemed straight out of Owen Johnson or Burt L. Standish’s school stories: Yale’s record-breaking quarterback forced to choose between the interview that could win him a Rhodes Scholarship and playing for Yale against Harvard in The Game, turns his back on dreams of Oxford and dons his uniform to take the field for dear old Yale.
The New York Slimes, last week, published a story based on information from anonymous sources (apparently from within the administration of Yale itself), flagrantly violating that institution’s confidentiality policies, alleging that Witt’s Rhodes application had been compromised by an “informal” sexual assault charge made against Witt in September by another student. The article went on to detail a couple of minor brushes with the law on the Yale senior’s record, hinting darkly at a pattern of criminality on the part of the Yale senior.
The New York Times’ decision to destroy a college senior’s personal reputation by elevating an anonymous allegation, unsupported by any evidence and purveyed by a secondary layer of anonymous sources, to national news provoked both astonishment from ESPN and well-deserved indignation from the Wall Street Journal.
What the Times’ smear article really represents is a shocking case of toxic spillover from the radical left-wing head of the Obama Administration’s Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Russlyn Ali’s personal campaign to reinvigorate Title IX Anti-Discrimination enforcement on American campuses.
Her approach amounted to nothing less than arm-twisting university administrations to participate in a federally-required witch hunt against “sexual harassment,” with sexual harassment defined in the broadest possible terms to include “verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct” in any fashion connected with sex which is “unwelcome” to someone or anyone, and asserting that harassing conduct in general may create “a hostile environment” anytime the conduct is deemed “sufficiently serious” as to interfere with some student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program.
Russlyn Ali’s notorious “Dear Colleague” letter of 4 April 2011 essentially mandates new grievance procedures, processes, and tribunals, specifically reduces standards of proof, and threatens “appropriate remedies” for noncompliance including both withdrawal of all forms of federal funding and assistance and lawsuits by the Justice Department.
The Obama Administration’s Education Department mandates on-campus inquisitions into a supposititious pattern of nation-wide victimization of female students by sexual harassment and assault. Patrick Witt, a white male member of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, ideally fits the favored profile stereotype of male harassers and assaulters. These days, a politically incorrect smart remark or an unwelcome date request can be construed as a punishable offense. Who knows who accused Witt of exactly what or why? We can, I think, tell that the charge did not rise to what we usually think of as a crime since no police complaint was made. He hasn’t been arrested or charged with any crime. The assault the Times reported was clearly one of the notional assaults prosecutable only in the kind of jurisdictions, like our university campuses, successfully annexed by the radical left, where justice consists of whatever Russlyn Ali says it is.
David Ross takes the occasion of the documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times” (2011) to deliver a devastating critique of “the newspaper of record”’s honesty, accuracy, prose style, quality of contributors, and exact place in the chain of biological phyla.
[T]he mainstream media, and the Times in particular, has done everything conceivable to hasten its own demise. The postmodern Times is a cavalcade of inaccuracy, omission, myopia, flagrant political bias, outrageously lousy writing, latent snobbery, and superficial urban sophistication. All the shallowness of the modern elite university has come home to roost at the Times. The worst offenders are surely the editorial sections (prose sinkhole) and the culture sections (lapdog of everything transgressive), but I reserve special ire for fellow Yalie Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer-winning book reviewer who’s done much to instantiate a self-important middle-browism as the default mode of the literary culture. The novelist Jonathan Franzen, for one, calls her “the “stupidest person in New York” and an “international embarrassment.” He continues, “Everyone in Europe says to me, “How can The New York Times let a person who is so patently tone deaf, who is so screechy rhetorically, so clearly unequipped to appreciate interesting books or even to enjoy them — how can that person be the lead reviewer?’”
Ross draws even more blood, as he continues:
Gail Collins, Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman, Bob Herbert (recently departed), Nicholas Kristof, and Paul Krugman are the Bad News Bears of prose. Metal garbage cans tumbling down tenement stairwells are about as mellifluous. The newspaper industry has forgotten something it once knew: good journalism is a literary exercise.
It is always tempting to fall into the mode of laudator temporis acti, but this is the same New York Temporis that published Walter Duranty’s denials of the existence of the Ukraine famine in the 1930s; the same newspaper which so thoroughly functioned as Fidel Castro’s publicist that wags responded to a Time’s employment advertising promotion of the 1960s by inserting pictures of Castro in the then-ubiquitous “I Got My Job Through the New York Times” posters; the same paper whose Sunday Magazine commemorated the sacrifice of 58,000 American lives the week of the final US withdrawal by publishing a picture of a contented North Vietnamese soldier, relaxing in a lawn chair (Kalashnikov across his lap, titled “The Blessed Peace;” and the same paper, which when news of the massacres of millions in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge broke in the early 1980s, studiously ignored the story.
The Times has always been a lying, propagandistic organ of leftism, and its cultural side has always been an intellectually dubious olla podrida of slavish trend worship, middlebrow establishmentarian cant, and cynical log-rolling. What Michiko Kakutani is to today, Bosley Crowther used to be a generation ago.
I think David Ross is right: the Times has gone downhill in factual accuracy, editing, and prose, but in those respects I think the Times is simply mirroring the larger culture and reflecting a collapse of standards of education in secondary schools and prestige universities.
What is different, though, today, I think, is the reckless and hysterical level of political partisanship. The Times used to be partisan, but it put the knife into its adversaries with discretion and a grave and carefully-maintained gentility. In those days, the Times and the liberal elite for whom it speaks, were unquestionably and unchallengeably on top and in American society’s driver’s seat. We live today in a post-Reagan revolutionary era, in which the status, authority, and even the economic position of the Times is seriously in doubt, so I suppose the Times’ increasingly thuggish behavior must be seen as a form of lashing out in frustration from the Fuerherbunker as it becomes increasingly evident that they are not winning in the end.
Walter Russell Mead catches the New York Times moaning and groaning about the untidiness and imperfection, the awful messiness of productivity, wealth production, and new sources of prosperity.
The New York Times editorial page is doing its level best to kill any chance of American recovery and prosperity by crusading against anything anywhere that might help our energy woes, but sometimes its news pages inadvertently remind us that prosperity and energy development are closely connected.
This story on the “woes” of the midwestern oil boom shows how towns are throwing up housing for an influx of workers drawn by the breakneck development of new energy resources. In places the story exemplifies the whiny perfectionism so characteristic of millennial liberalism: everything has its down side and if we look hard enough we are sure to find it. (A Times story on Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana would not be complete without a reference to the economic plight of unemployed winemakers.) So a part of the country that hasn’t seen opportunity in decades is suddenly bursting with growth and new jobs, and the Times frets that conditions in the temporary housing are poor. Mourns the Times:
But now, even as the housing shortage worsens, towns like this one are denying new applications for the camps. In many places they have come to embody the danger of growing too big too fast, cluttering formerly idyllic vistas, straining utilities, overburdening emergency services and aggravating relatively novel problems like traffic jams, long lines and higher crime.
Via Meadia advice: get over it. This is what economic growth looks like. It is sudden, disruptive, often inconvenient. It messes with the status quo. New stuff gets built and not all of it looks like the Cloisters. All kinds of rough and hungry men flock to it; they sometimes misbehave. They spit on the ground, say unpleasant things about women, and generally fail to meet the behavioral standards of the Upper West Side.
Decline is so much more decorous.
Ann Coulter proposes a different headline for today’s Breivik-guilt-by-association story: New York Times Reader Kills Dozens in Norway
Associated Press, CBS, Fox Network, Media Bias, New York Times, The Mainstream Media, Washington Post
My liberal friends are always complaining bitterly about the terrible power of Rupert Murdoch to bend public opinion to his will.
Cornell Law Prof Bill Jacobson recently responded with a simple offer.
How about this. Conservatives take control of CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, WaPo, NYT, AP, Reuters, and so on, and liberals get the Murdoch empire? I’d take that trade in a heartbeat.
It is a bit ironical, but there can be no doubt that the Obama Administration has been taking a much tougher line with leakers of National Security information than the Bush Administration ever did.
A former CIA officer involved in spying efforts against Iran was arrested Thursday on charges of leaking classified information to a reporter, continuing the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on the flow of government secrets to the media.
Jeffrey A. Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., was charged with 10 felony counts, including obstruction of justice and unauthorized disclosure of national defense information. A federal indictment made public Thursday in the Eastern District of Virginia accuses Sterling of leaking secrets after he was fired from the CIA and the agency refused to settle a racial discrimination claim he made.
The intensified campaign against leaks comes as the U.S. government is confronting a potent new threat to its ability to keep secrets from public view. Over the past year, the WikiLeaks Web site has posted and shared with multiple media organizations thousands of classified U.S. military records and State Department cables.
The indictment, returned under seal last month, does not identify the alleged recipient of the classified information. But former U.S. intelligence officials and lawyers familiar with the case said that the journalist is New York Times reporter James Risen.
The officials said Sterling has long been suspected within the agency of providing Risen with extensive information about CIA efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, material that is believed to have formed the basis for a prominent chapter in Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War.” ...
Other cases brought during the Obama administration include the indictment in April last year of Thomas A. Drake, a former executive at the National Security Agency accused of leaking information to the Baltimore Sun; as well as a State Department contractor indicted last August on charges of leaking information to Fox News.
The latest indictment includes details about dozens of phone calls and e-mails exchanged between Sterling and a journalist identified in the document only as Author A, beginning in 2002.
Sterling was the subject of a lengthy New York Times article by Risen in March of that year that reported Sterling’s assertion that his career had been repeatedly derailed by racial discrimination within the CIA.
Sterling was described in the piece as the “sole black officer” assigned to the Iran Task Force in January 1995. He handled Iranian sources, was subsequently trained in Farsi and was sent to a station in Germany to recruit Iranian spies.
Sterling asserts in the article that he was undermined in that job and that he was passed over for others by senior CIA officials who considered him a liability because of his skin color. At one point, he said, a supervisor told him that he couldn’t function as a spy because “you kind of stick out as a big black guy.”
Sterling, a lawyer who also sparred with senior CIA officials over his plans to publish a memoir, filed a complaint with the CIA’s antidiscrimination office in 2000 and subsequently sued the agency.
According to the indictment, about two weeks after the CIA rejected a third settlement offer from Sterling, he “placed an interstate telephone call” from his home in Herndon to the Maryland residence of Author A.
In subsequent calls and e-mails, the Justice Department alleges, Sterling shared details of sensitive CIA operations against Iran. Among them was a classified effort code-named Merlin that was designed to degrade Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program by sabotaging materials and blueprints being acquired by Iran.
The indictment indicates that Risen planned to write about the program, which Sterling portrayed as deeply flawed. The New York Times did not publish a story, but details about the Merlin operation appeared in Risen’s book.
One chapter describes a CIA plan to employ a Russian agent to offer Iran nuclear weapons blueprints that contained fatal flaws. But because the flaws were obvious and possible to overcome, the plan risked providing useful information that could “help Iran leapfrog one of the last remaining engineering hurdles blocking its path to a nuclear weapon,” according to the book.
The indictment says that a description of the plan also appeared in drafts of a memoir that Sterling submitted to CIA reviewers. CIA spokesman George Little declined to comment on the case, except to say that the agency “deplores the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”
Federal authorities pressured Risen at least twice to testify before a grand jury investigating the case. Kelley, Risen’s attorney, said that the reporter declined to comply and that he does not expect Risen to be called as a witness if there is a trial.
According to the indictment, Sterling was aware by 2003 that the FBI was investigating him for alleged illegal disclosure of classified information. In 2004, he filed for bankruptcy protection, listing debts of $150,000.
Sterling was arrested Thursday in St. Louis. U.S. officials said he will remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday. He faces six charges of unauthorized disclosure and retention of national defense information, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Potential penalties on the remaining four charges include a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.
EmptyWheel explains that Sterling has sued the CIA twice, and has a timeline.
[The first lawsuit was] an employment discrimination suit filed in NY on August 2, 2000. On April 18, 2002, the CIA first invoked state secrets in his case. On March 7, 2003, the judge in NY granted the CIA’s venue complaint and moved the case to Alexandria, VA–basically the CIA’s very own district court. On March 3, 2004, the case was dismissed. And on September 28, 2005, the Appeals Court rejected Sterling’s appeal.
Sterling’s second suit was filed on March 4, 2003 (that is, the day after his employment discrimination suit was dismissed in VA). It charges that Sterling submitted his memoirs for pre-publication review in 2002. His second submission was held up, not least to give CIA’s Office of General Counsel a review. Sterling claims that OGC got involved to give them an advantage in the NY employment discrimination suit. In December 2002, the CIA told him some of the information was classified (after having earlier said that similar information was not). Upon rejecting his submission on January 3, 2003, the CIA not only told him some of the information was classified, but they “informed Sterling that he should add information into the manuscript that was blatantly false.”
Rejoicing over his own business model, the New York Times manager of new media and strategic initiatives, Gerald Marzorati, inadvertently provided substantive evidence of the real acumen of a major segment of the liberal newspaper of record’s readership.
The New York Times cultivates an image as the preferred read of the intellectual elite, but at least one of the paper’s higher-ups seems to think its customers aren’t all that bright.
During a panel discussion at the Digital Hollywood New York conference, Gerald Marzorati, the Times’s assistant managing editor for new media and strategic initiatives, explained why the paper’s print business is still robust. “We have north of 800,000 subscribers paying north of $700 a year for home delivery,” Marzorati said. “Of course, they don’t seem to know that.”
As evidence that Times subscribers don’t realize how much a subscription costs, he pointed to what happened when the paper raised its home-delivery price by 5 percent during the recession: Only 0.01 percent of subscribers canceled. “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they’re literally not understanding what they’re paying,” he said. “That’s the beauty of the credit card.”
Maybe we need warning labels on the New York Times.
Stunned by last week’s election results, liberal columnist Maureen Dowd turned today’s column over to her smarter brother Kevin:
As a semichastened Barack Obama appeared at the press conference following the election, he conjured up the image of the curtain opening in “The Wizard of Oz,” revealing a little old man working the controls, not the great and powerful Oz.
The president had to wonder how this could happen in two short years. He must long for the days when the media routinely referred to him as “cerebral and brainy” (savvy was never mentioned) and salivated over “Michelle’s amazing arms.”
The voters left no doubt about their feeling for his super-nanny state where the government controls all aspects of their lives and freedoms. Warning signs were up in the three elections held in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey and with the noisy birth of the Tea Party. But the president, swathed in the protective cocoon of adulation and affirmation from the media and his own sycophants, soldiered on in his determination to turn our country into just another member of the failed European union — France without the food.
No one should be surprised by this. The president is a devoted disciple of the teachings of Saul Alinsky and a true believer in a redistribution of wealth controlled by big government. We can see how well that is working in Greece, Portugal, Spain and France. Instead of focusing on jobs and turning the private sector loose to provide them, he insisted on giving the American people things they did not want: expensive health care, more regulation and higher taxes. He clumsily interjected himself on behalf of the mass-murdering Muslim Army major, the ground zero mosque, the civil trials of enemy combatants and the lawsuit against Arizona. His theme song could have been “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
On Nov. 2, voters across every spectrum loudly stated their preference for a return to American exceptionalism, self-reliance, limited government and personal freedoms. They delivered a message that they would demand that their representatives start reflecting their wishes. They showed their muscle to shocked elitists who had dismissed their dissent as ignorance, bigotry or racism.
Read the whole thing.
I think it would be nice if Maureen made a regular practice of giving her brother a turn at the podium.
Barack Obama, Burning the Koran, David Petraeus, Double Standards, Hypocrisy, Leaks, New York Times, Wikileaks
The American left is in the hypocritical position of applauding and giving journalism awards for publishing Intelligence leaks and out-of-context military reports inciting Islamic hostility toward the United States, while at the same time wringing its hands and piously denouncing burning a Koran or voicing opposition to locating Islamic victory-monuments-cum-recruiting-centers within the footprint of the 9/11 NYC attack.
Wikileaks is preparing another major dump of US classified documents, this time from Iraq.
A massive cache of previously unpublished classified U.S. military documents from the Iraq War is being readied for publication by WikiLeaks, a new report has confirmed.
The documents constitute the “biggest leak of military intelligence” that has ever occurred, according to Iain Overton, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit British organization that is working with WikiLeaks on the documents.
The documents are expected to be published in several weeks.
Will the New York Times editorialize against “endangering US troops” or will the Times again be one of Wikileaks’ collaborators and outlets?
Is President Obama going to plead publicly with the major news outlets and Julian Assange to stand down?
Will General Petraeus publish an editorial condemning the reckless action?
I doubt it. Endangering US troops is just ducky when the left is doing it to attack and undermine the US cause.
Wikileaks’ Julian Assange released the stolen Afghan documents to the Guardian, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel in a private arrangement, allowing those major news organizations to use their enormously greater staff and resources to research and develop the material in advance of an agreed upon simultaneous publication date.
The British Guardian put the leaked documents into a functional database. The German Spiegel fact-checked the logs against German Army reports. The New York Times got in touch with the Obama administration, then declined to link to the Wikileaks “a gesture to show [the Times was] not endorsing or encouraging the release of information that could cause harm.” Julian Assange described the Times as “pusillanimous.”
(Columbia Journalism Review link)
(Beltway Beast link)
The London Times (behind subscription firewall) reported yesterday that the Wikileaks leak of those 90,000 documents revealed the names and locations of hundreds of Afghan civilian informants exposing them to Taliban reprisals.
(CBS Worldwatch link)
Julian Assange boasted today that the Wikileaks organization doesn’t know who leaked the Afghan documents, hinting at his own firewall arrangements intended to deny information on his sources to government agencies and law enforcement.
(Google News link)