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Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Irony

In Media, Politics, Technology, Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

Where would we be without Mondays?

Today’s life lesson in irony comes from The New York Times and The Washington Post. Actually it’s from Politico but it’s thanks to a New York Times story.

(maybe you should buckle up)

The New York Times had a story yesterday, In a World of Online News, Burnout Starts Younger.

The focus is websites like the hyperactive political website Politico and gossip site Gawker and the conclusion:

“Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.”

There’s talk of high turnover rates and frantic obsession with page views and that we live “in a media environment crowded with virtual content farms where no detail is too small to report as long as it was reported there first.”

What isn’t there is a lot of talk of long-term projects and in-depth reporting. Not to say that there isn’t in-depth online reporting, it’s just that the emphasis is fast fast fast. It’s as if suddenly everybody’s a wire service reporter.

Except Dana Priest of The Washington Post.

Bless her and her ability to report the hell out of a story.

In the past five years, Priest has won two Pulitzers — for her exposure of the CIA’s secret prisons and for her series on the lousy treatment Americans veterans were receiving at Walter Reed.

Now she’s back with a hell of a story running in installments in her paper.

Top Secret America is the result of more than two years of reporting, breathtaking in its scope and an amazing example of not only why newspapers are important but how effective they can be when embracing changes in technology.

At its heart, the series explores how “the government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping its citizens safe.”

Priest, her colleague William Arkin and nearly a dozen other Post staffers have put together what appears to be an astoundingly well-reported, well-written series. And not only have they written some great articles (part two is live today), they’ve created an interactive website with a searchable database, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. There’s going to be a special on Frontline (won’t be airing until the fall, watch the seven-minute teaser video here).

So, on a day that The New York Times reports on how the world of online journalism is leading to burnout, The Washington Post comes out with a great series that reminds people of why newspapers are important — essential — and shows the potential of in-depth reporting on the web.

Brilliant.

My Conflicted Feelings about Bree Tanner

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 at 9:47 am
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 24:  Author Stephenie M...

Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

Here’s the thing. I don’t think Stephenie Meyer is a very good writer.

I know I’m not her target audience but, in my own defense, I am a voracious reader as happy with a fun, well-written young adult book as I am with an engrossing Russian novel; as happy with JRR Tolkien as I am with Lorrie Moore.  I love reading.

So, when Twilight first came out and shot up the best seller lists, I was curious. And I really wasn’t all that impressed. But, I figured maybe it was just me, maybe it was my mood at the time. And as the subsequent books came out, I gave them a chance.

And each time, I found them — eh.

Now she’s out with a new novella in the same series, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and I also found it, eh.

And I’m not the only one.  The Guardian said the book is “woefully, leaden-footedly pedestrian throughout.”

Indications are that even Meyer may be close to having had her fill of vampires.

It’s really all besides the point, though.

As The Washington Post pointed out: “The satisfaction of “Twilight” novels cannot be measured by such terms as “good” and “bad.” This goes double for “Bree,” which was not originally intended as a stand-alone novel and which all fans will read and all haters will skip regardless of the reviews.”

And the numbers back that up.

“Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight Saga, has yet another smash hit on her hands,” the Associated Press wrote earlier this week, reporting that Bree Tanner had sold more than one million copies since being published June 5.

And really, that’s the important thing. Meyer has written a series of books bought by millions, which means that millions have been reading. And I think that’s great. Maybe she’s not the world best writer. Big deal. She’s got people reading and, as far I’m concerned, for that she deserves a medal.

Because maybe those people reading her books will then move on to other (and hopefully better) stuff.

After all, it’s the reading that’s fundamental.

Who Wants to Buy a Magazine?

In Entertainment, Technology on May 6, 2010 at 9:37 am
WASHINGTON - MAY 05:  In this photo illustrati...

Image by Getty Images North America via Daylife

So, Newsweek is for sale.

“We have reported losses in the tens of millions for the last two years,” Donald Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company, which has owned the magazine since 1961 said on Wednesday. “Outstanding work by NEWSWEEK’s people has significantly narrowed the losses in the last year and particularly in the last few months. But we do not see a path to continuing profitability under our management.”

And while Graham made it clear the magazine is up for sale, it has not been closed, and editor Jon Meacham has been giving interviews — going on The Daily Show last night — and talked about maybe trying to buy the magazine himself, it’s not looking good.

The key, I think, is — as the Associated Press reported — Graham wants to find a buyer with more resources.

The Washington Post is not a small company. Who exactly does he think is out there with more resources?

It’s a very tough time for magazines as this website shows.

Last year saw Gourmet and Domino among the big names closing.

Proving that irony is not dead, the Post’s decision to put Newsweek up for sale came around the same time, the paper’s online magazine, Slate, announced they had seen a 30 percent growth in ad revenues in the first quarter of this year.

While there has been discussion of whether devices such as the IPad will help “old media”, I think David Carr, in The New York Times, has it right: “Slate is what Newsweek used to be” and that while the newsweeklies were built on the big picture, much reporting today is of the moment.

Over at Newsonomics, Ken Doctor writes that Newsweek’s numbers “are depressing” and while there are potential buyers, “Look for it, unfortunately, to join the hallowed ranks of Colliers, Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post.”

And, if Newsweek folds, what is that going to mean for Time Magazine or any other magazine, for that matter.

Is this, as the Associated Press wonders: “The End of an Era?”

John Grisham Strikes Again

In Entertainment, Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 at 8:38 am

Grisham's New Book: Coming in May

Let’s talk for a moment about John Grisham.

He’s an astoundingly highly successful writer whose books have sold millions and millions of copies. The Firm, The Pelican Brief, A Time to Kill…. best sellers all. He’s written mysteries, thrillers, Christmas stories.

There was no doubt he could write a perfectly readable book that everyone from beach goers to airline passengers could pick-up, enjoy and toss. Then last year he showed he could do even more. He released his first collection of short stories — a collection that was very well reviewed. The Washington Post called them “terrifically charming” stories that “you absolutely can’t stop reading.”

Now, he’s got a new genre in his sights — young adult fiction.

Penguin — in May — is releasing Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer — and to give people a taste of what’s coming — they’ve set up a website where you can download  the first chapter.

Boone is the 13-year-old only child of two lawyers in a small, Southern town and — in the first chapter, at least — it’s hard not to see him as cut from the same cloth as Encyclopedia Brown, The Hardy Boys, even Nancy Drew.

Except, he comes across as real — a real kid with real problems. The writing in the first chapter may not be elegant but it’s interesting, it’s readable and leaves you wanting more, certainly at least the second chapter.

When he signed his deal with Penguin for two young adult books — a move that brought him to a new publisher (Doubleday is still releasing his adult thrillers), it was a move that received attention.

Grisham is hardly the first successful writer of adult books to attempt to crossover and write something for a younger audience. It’s something that almost seems required in recent years.

Carl Hiaasen, Ridley Pearson, James Patterson, Isabel Allende, Sherman Alexie.

Some have been good reads, some — not so much.

If Grisham’s first chapter is any indication, I’m sure the book will be just fine.

And, while some think that writers of adult fiction should stay away from younger crowds, the thing is, the important thing isn’t whether he’s writing another War and Peace — or even another Catcher in the Rye. It’s whether he’s written a book that people read. Because, after all, reading is fundamental.

Al Qaeda Crippled? Not So Fast

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

So, CIA Director Leon Panetta has told The Washington Post that Al Qaeda is crippled.

“Relentless attacks against al-Qaeda in the Pakistan tribal region appear to have driven Osama bin Laden and other top leaders deeper into hiding, leaving the organization rudderless and incapable of planning sophisticated operations,” the paper reports Panetta told them.

Panetta added that they recently intercepted a message from an Al Qaeda lieutenant to leader Osama bin Laden pleading with him to come out of hiding and provide some leadership.

Of course, it is worth remembering that it was just over two months ago, a Jordanian pretending to work with the CIA while really an Al Qaeda operative managed to get into a CIA base in Afghanistan and kill seven officers.

And around the same time that Panetta was talking with the Post, Clark Kent Ervin, who was the first inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, was up on Capitol Hill testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.

He said:

“The recent spate of aborted terror plots, especially the Christmas Day bombing attempt, all serve to underscore the fact that terrorists remain determined to strike the homeland again, and the odds of preventing them from ever succeeding are low.”

So, maybe Panetta’s right. Maybe I’m just going to take it with a grain of salt.

So much to read: Pen/Faulkner Nominees Announced

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Earlier this month, Mark Lawson writing in The Guardian, kind of made the argument that American fiction — if not quite dead — isn’t what it used to be.

While he points to books like Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth and Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as indications “a new phase is beginning,” he doesn’t seem all that optimistic, spending a lot of time pointing to warning signs — the deaths of Salinger and Updike, the fact that while Updike used to be on the cover of Time Magazine, that’s now an honor that belongs to Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown — and writing:

“It’s clear than an era in American fiction is coming to a close.”

Yesterday, furthering the notion that there’s still a lot to be said on this side of the Atlantic, the five nominees for the Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction were announced:

Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, her first novel in 15 years, which got some great reviews including this one;

Lorraine Lopez’s Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, a collection of ten stories that “defies boundaries of skin color, ancestry and gender, elevating mundane events and predicaments to the scope of larger human dramas” according to the Nashville Scene;

Sherman Alexie’s War Dances, also a collection of stories, which appeared several places, including in The New Yorker;

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, her first novel in almost a decade, which The Washington Post called “the most mature and ambitious one she’s written;”

and

Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor, which led to Esquire calling Whitehead “the coolest writer in America.”

The award will be announced on March 23rd with the winner, who will receive $15,000 (runners-up get $5000 each), being honored in a ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC on May 8th.

So much to read, so little time.

I really wanted to believe he was Deep Throat

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2010 at 11:13 am
Alexander Haig, US Secretary of State, 1981.

Image via Wikipedia

Alexander Haig is dead.

According to The New York Times, the 85-year-old died this morning at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and while many will remember him for his spectacular power plays such as when Ronald Reagan was the subject of an assassination attempt, I will always remember for almost being Deep Throat.

Deep Throat, of course, was the name given to the super secret source of The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward as he and Carl Bernstein helped unravel the Watergate scandal.

Guessing who he was became the ultimate parlor game.

In 1982, former White House Counsel John Dean pegged Haig as the cuplrit.

And while it made sense on a certain level — even as late as 2004, the American Journalism Review pointed out that Haig did match some of Woodward’s descriptions of his source — it didn’t take Haig long to deny it, calling the claim “absurd.”

Of course, there’s also the fact, that Mark Felt, who was the FBI’s number two, was later revealed to be the source.

Still, it was a nice thought, that this former Chief of Staff under Nixon, former Secretary of State under Reagan, former Supreme Commander of NATO, could also be a great defender of democracy and the First Amendment.

Alas, it was not to be…. I guess we’ll go back to remembering as the man who said he was in charge, forgetting about the people above him.

Oh, well.

Politics Shouldn't Trump Security

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the double standard that seems to exist for Republicans when it comes to critiquing homeland security.

Now, more evidence that seems to be the case..

The New York Times — two weeks before it’s actually supposed to appear in print — has posted an article by Peter Baker on President Obama’s antiterrorism efforts that demonstrates the hypocrisy.

“A half-dozen former senior Bush officials involved in counterterrorism told me before the Christmas Day incident that for the most part, they were comfortable with Obama’s policies, although they were reluctant to say so on the record,” Baker writes. “Some worried they would draw the ire of Cheney’s circle if they did, while others calculated that calling attention to the similarities to Bush would only make it harder for Obama to stay the course. And they generally resent Obama’s anti-Bush rhetoric and are unwilling to give him political cover by defending him.”

This, despite the fact that Baker quotes President Bush’s last CIA Director, Michael Hayden, saying  “there is a continuum from the Bush administration, particularly as it changed in the second administration as circumstances changed, and the Obama administration” and a homeland security expert at the not exactly fans of Democrats Heritage Foundation, James Jay Carafano, as saying “I don’t think it’s even fair to call it Bush Lite. It’s Bush. It’s really, really hard to find a difference that’s meaningful and not atmospheric. You see a lot of straining on things trying to make things look repackaged, but they’re really not that different.”

It’s important to keep this in mind because the country still doesn’t have a permanent director of the much beleaguered Transportation Security Administration in no small part because of South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who has a hold on the nomination of Erroll Southers to fill the post.

Over the weekend, DeMint went as far as to say that President Obama “is not focused on building the security and intelligence apparatus of our county.”

In other words, DeMint won’t allow the President to fill a critical security position but wants to criticize him for not being focused on building the security apparatus?

Beautiful.

Meanwhile, the two top Senators on the Homeland Security Committe, reiterated their confidence in Southers to hold the job.

While the Washington Post reported last week that, Southers had not been fully forthcoming in Congressional testimony about an incident 20 years ago, when as an FBI agent, Southers improperly (read illegally) accessed information about his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, Collins, Republican of Maine, said the information wasn’t new and added Southers “is qualified to lead the TSA during this challenging time for the agency.”

US, Britain Shut Down Embassies in Yemen

In Politics, World on January 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

Citing “ongoing threats by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack American interests in Yemen,”  the State Department announced this morning they have shut the American Embassy there.

The British, citing similar threats, also closed their embassy.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, has an excellent piece tracking the history of troubles in Yemen, stating:

“Nearly a decade after the bombing of the USS Cole, a combination of US and Yemeni missteps, deep mistrust and a lack of political will have allowed Al Qaeda militants here to regroup and pose a major threat to the United States.”

The New York Times has a similarly themed piece, focusing on missteps and pointing out that Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, the militant cleric linked to the Fort Hood shooter and three of the September 11 bombers.

The paper highlights “one big moment” which “came in February 2006 when 23 imprisoned men suspected of being members of Al Qaeda escaped from a high-security prison reportedly with the aid of some Yemeni security forces.”

And while most were recaptured, one “became leader of the Qaeda cell in Yemen and moved to reorganize it, focusing it on attacks against nearby Western targets” and another “became the military commander.”

Sadly, awareness of the problems in Yemen is nothing new.

In April, the United States Department of State released their annual country reports on terrorism and concluded that Yemen’s “counterterrorism was mixed…. Yemen lacked a comprehensive counterterrorism law. Current law as applied to counterterrorism was weak. The Yemeni justice system was ineffective.

And in July. a report by the Congressional Research Service stated that “despite recent US-Yemeni security cooperation, many US officials view Yemen’s counterterrorism policies as inadequate” and quotes a former FBI agent and terrorism expert as saying about the Yemeni track record of freeing Al Qaeda prisoners: “If Yemen is truly an ally, it should act as an ally. It will be impossible to defeat Al Qaeda if our ‘allies’ are freeing the convicted murderers of US citizens and terrorist masterminds while receiving direct US financial aid.”

Nigeria Connection to Detroit Attack

In Crime, World on December 26, 2009 at 9:36 am

So, by now I think it’s safe to assume just about everyone has heard that a man tried to ignite an explosive device on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

And while there has been much talk about how this reminds everyone of Richard Reid, the man who brought us limitations on how much liquid you can bring on an airplane, it’s probably worth it to take a couple of minutes to look at where the would be attacker started his flight — Nigeria.

The would be attacker has been identified as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a Nigerian national.

It should be noted that while there clearly are concerns that he had Al Qaeda associations and may have been a member of Al Qaeda, there are also reports that, maybe he wasn’t. So, who knows…

If it does turn out that he is connected to Al Qaeda, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, given the history of interest the group has shown in Nigeria.

As Lawrence Wright pointed out in The New Yorker, “Shortly before the invasion, in March 2003, bin Laden issued his own list of targets (for recruitment), which included Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria…”

In 2006, the House Committee on International Relations held a hearing on terrorism where the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center testified “there is no question that” Nigeria “is a breeding ground.”

Just a couple of months ago, the BBC ran a story, “Is al-Qaeda working in Nigeria” that stated “for tears diplomats have feared a Nigerian al-Qaeda sleeper cell might launch attacks on the country’s oil infrastructure, which is increasingly important to the US.”

Around the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Nigeria, warning that Al Qaeda could seek a “foothold” there.

A couple of weeks later, Douglas Farah, a former long-time Washington Post reporter who has written extensively on Al Qaeda,went even further and warned in his blog that “there is a large and radicalized Muslim population in norther Nigeria, where 12 of the states (out of 36 in all) have imposed Sharia law.”

He added that while some have dismissed this movement, “given bin Laden’s express interest in Nigeria, the growth of Al Qaeda and the ethnic tensions that play into the tensions, it is unlikely that the Nigerian Taliban is finished.”

Another possible area of concern is that the Telegraph is reporting that Abdul Mutallab supposedly picked up his device in Yemen, which is facing a “growing Al Qaeda threat” and was the scene of an attack Thursday that killed approximately 30 Al Qaeda members including — possibly — an American citizen linked to the Fort Hood shooter and other terrorists.