Tag: Journalism

Facts Are Stubborn Things . . . As Thomas Piketty Is Beginning to Find Out

 

I have bought Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and while I have posted many an item that takes issue with the books claims and conclusions concerning wealth inequality, I do plan on reading Piketty; his book has made quite the intellectual and cultural impact, and although I know what his basic arguments are, I want to be sure that I read the whole of the book to be fully aware of his claims.

But even before reading the book, one can conclude certain things about Piketty, as my previous blog posts indicate. And today, we learn that we may well be able to conclude one more thing still about Piketty, his research, and his arguments: They may be completely wrong. And yes, those words were worth emphasizing.

Racket Journalism

 

mugofcoffeedThis morning while looking for something to read with coffee round #1, I happened to click on an Andrew Klavan tweet (hey, Ricochet, that Twitter sidebar is becoming embarrassingly addictive), and Klavan pointed to this article on Yahoo. It’s by Rebecca Dana, and it was a pleasant enough diversion until I read the quoted paragraph below.

Is there something about the traditional game-show format—its reinforcement of old-fashioned family values, its populist sensibility, its neat 22-minute crystallization of the American dream—that draws a more conservative type to host? Is it that the show’s core audience, residing in the flyover states, generally prefers a certain red-blooded sort of man in charge? Is it all just a silly coincidence?

At which point I spewed said coffee. No. There may be a curious correlation between conservatism and game shows, but no, there’s no cause.

As We Await the End Times

 

harun-yahyaThe art of writing a first paragraph is said to lie in the ability to draw the reader in.

I would say that Lily Lynch’s remarkable new piece in The Balkanist passes that test very well indeed:

Harun Yahya is said to be the messianic leader of an apocalyptic Islamic sex cult. He’s also the owner of a Turkish television station called A9, and the host of his own religious talk show, which just might make your eyeballs pop out of your skull. The entire set and everyone on it glow like irradiated ultraviolet rays. Five amazing looking women usually co-host the show, wearing things like false rainbow eyelashes, wigs, and diamond-studded Versace bondage gear. The backdrop is a blinding fake lavender cityscape. Conversations often focus on how materialism and Darwinism are dead, how to recognize the face of a real Muslim, and how Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — with whom the host is rumored to enjoy friendly relations — is “one of the important figures for the End Times”.

An Outrageous Gesture from the Pulitzer Prize Committee — John Yoo

 

I’m not surprised that the Pulitzer Prize committee gave the Washington Post and The Guardian US a prize for pursuing the sensationalistic story of Edward Snowden —even though the story is a disaster for the country. Unlike some on both the right and the left, I do not see Snowden as any kind of hero. He should be returned to the United States for prosecution. It is another sign of this Administration’s weakness in foreign affairs that it cannot persuade other countries to turn him over.

I don’t, however, think we need to automatically read the prize as a vindication of Snowden’s crimes. Awarding a prize to a newspaper that covered a hurricane or runs a photo of a grisly crime does not somehow justify the underlying tragedy. Yes, there is a difference here, in that the harm comes from the public release of the material. I’m not sure, however, that the distinction between the event itself and publicity is key.

Robert Thomson Offers a Glimpse of Things to Come

 

Interviewing him for Uncommon Knowledge, I served up several questions in a row that all but begged Robert Thomson, chief executive officer of News Corp —which owns the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, and more than 150 other newspapers — to weep and moan about the way technology has squeezed the profits out of journalism.

Thomson wouldn’t bite.

Robert Thomson, a Journalist’s Journalist, Explains Why a Lot of Journalists Ought to be Spanked

 

Since becoming a copyboy back home in Australia at 18, journalism is the only life Robert Thomson has ever known—and he has made a brilliant career of it as a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times, editor of the Financial Times, editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, and now chief executive officer of News Corp, the newspaper company, built by Rupert Murdoch, that owns more than 150 titles.

When I interviewed him for Uncommon Knowledge, I tried to get Robert going on journalism-as-a-noble profession.

A Debate on Free Speech

 

I recently accepted an invitation from Jeffrey Rosen at the National Constitution Center to talk with my University of Chicago colleague Geoffrey Stone about the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, establishing the standards by which reporting about public officials can be considered to be defamation or libel.

In this conversation, we discuss whether this was a positive step forward for the free press or whether it needs to be revisited. Hear the debate below:

How to Write a Lead

 

shutterstock_13795741Yesterday morning, the lead article in The Wall Street Journal started with the following paragraph:

More than 95% of Crimeans voted to break way from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, according to preliminary results, in a referendum that raises the stakes in the most acute East-West confrontations since the Cold War.

The headline read, “Crimea Votes to Secede, Join Russia.” Underneath the sub-headline read, “Overwhelming Support to Separate From Ukraine Raises East-West Tensions; U.S. Prepares Sanctions.” Think about that for a second. Then, ask yourself what is wrong with that lead and with those headlines. Suppose for the moment that The Wall Street Journal is a newspaper. Suppose that its aim is to inform its readers about what is going on. Then, rewrite the lead and the headlines so that the story actually does what it is supposed to do. This is, I think, a useful exercise — for it raises a question of some importance. Are there any editors at The Wall Street Journal worthy of the name? For those of you who have no experience in writing for a daily newspaper, let me add something. The newspaper is written under the presumption that readers are in a hurry, that very few readers will get past the first few paragraphs of an article, and that one should never, never, never bury the lead by putting the most important information in the body of the article. So think about this article in this fashion. What is wrong with the lead?