'The trick? Making sure his media diet included a healthy dose of praise.'

Tara Palmeri, writing for Politico:

Staff members had one advantage as they aimed to manage candidate Trump’s media diet: He rarely reads anything online, instead preferring print newspapers — especially his go-to, The New York Times — and reading material his staff brought to his desk. Indeed, his media consumption habits were on full display during his roller-coaster news conference this past Thursday, when he continually remarked on what the media would write “tomorrow,” even as print outlets’ websites already had posted stories about his remarks.

The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

It can be (and in my opinion is) true that both:

1. All of the presidents before Trump were fed/insisted on/leaned towards favorable/unbalanced news coverage. The idea that any of them ate a diet of 100% balanced coverage is silly. I’m not even sure that such a thing exists and;

2. The level to which Trump has sunk is a new low re: a disconnect from “normal” people.

Coverage that acknowledges both 1 and 2 is the only way we’ll all make it through with our sanity and integrity intact.


The Media vs. Donald Trump

Ezra Klein, writing for Vox:

There is a case to be made that the media created Donald Trump. It was, reportedly, his anger at being dismissed by political pundits that led him to run for president in the first place. And it was, arguably, the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of his every utterance that powered his victory in the Republican primary.

But slowly, surely, the media has turned on Trump. He still gets wall-to-wall coverage, but that coverage is overwhelmingly negative. Increasingly, the press doesn’t even pretend to treat Trump like a normal candidate: CNN’s chyrons fact-check him in real time; the Washington Post reacted to being banned from Trump with a shrug; BuzzFeed News published a memo telling reporters it was fine to call Trump "a mendacious racist" on social media; the New York Times published a viral video in which it simply quoted the most vile statements it heard from Trump’s supporters.

This is not normal.

This piece is a bit meandering, a little at war with itself, but I think it reflects overall what I’ve been saying from the start—the Left thinks the media is biased and the Right thinks the media is biased. You know what that means? The media is doing something right.


Dominick Dunne’s Complete O.J. Simpson Trial Coverage

Dominick Dunne, writing for Vanity Fair:

At nine o’clock we walk into the courtroom and take our places in our assigned seats, and then the door to the holding room opens and in comes O. J. Simpson himself, usually surrounded by Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, and Carl Douglas. We all stare at O.J. to see what kind of mood he’s in or to which lawyer he’s talking, and we watch him say good morning to members of his family. When Judge Lance Ito comes in, we do not rise, but we do rise on the bailiff’s order to do so as the jury enters. Then the trial begins again, and all day long we watch it, except for our lunch break, when we talk about it, saying things such as “Did you notice if O.J. looked when they showed the picture of Nicole lying in the blood?” The other night, after watching a segment of Hard Copy devoted to O.J. and a drug dealer, I went to a friend’s house for dinner. I had hardly gotten inside the front door when I was confronted by people who wanted to know what had happened in court that day. I had hoped for a little respite from the topic. I wanted to talk about something else for a change, and volunteered that Ethan Hawke was in the room across the hall from me at the Chateau Marmont, and that Keanu Reeves was in the room next to me, and that I had just seen Johnny Depp being interviewed in the lobby. But nobody cared. Polite nods were the most my movie-star name-dropping got. They all wanted to talk about nothing but O. J. Simpson.

If, like me (and many others), you've fallen hard for FX's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, you've got some reading you'll want to do. As the show has portrayed, Dominick Dunne covered the trial in-person for Vanity Fair, and the VF archives has all 9 pieces linked up and ready to go. The writing is exquisite, Bret Easton Ellis meets Ernest Hemingway. Dunne is somber, charismatic, funny, and inquisitive. It doesn't get any better than this. The excerpt above is from Part 2, 'All O.J., All the Time.'


Microsoft Created a Twitter Bot to Learn From Users. It Quickly Became a Racist Jerk.

Daniel Victor, writing for The New York Times:

Microsoft set out to learn about “conversational understanding” by creating a bot designed to have automated discussions with Twitter users, mimicking the language they use.

What could go wrong?

How does that saying go? Every nation gets the Twitter bot it deserves?


Still Rendering

Erin Lee Carr, writing on Medium:

Six months ago, I had a big meeting. The kind of meeting that wrenches you awake at 6am in a cold sweat, with the feeling that you hadn’t ever really fallen asleep. I arrived an hour early, naturally, so I went to a nearby cafe. I was prepared, I had my hard drives, and they had great stuff on them, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had forgotten something. As I sat there and stress ate a piece of chocolate fudge cake, I realized I felt off because I hadn’t talked to my dad, a tradition I observed before every big meeting. I wasn’t able have the prep phone-call the night before to go over the words that could win me anything. I just had my own thoughts rattling around in my head. I felt like I had lost my ace in the deck and if you knew my dad, I promise you’d agree.

For some reason, it makes me really happy to know that David Carr was such a good Dad.


Facebook May Host News Sites’ Content, Fit of Shit Ensues

Ravi Somaiya, Mike Isaac And Vindu Goel, writing for The New York Times:

With 1.4 billion users, the social media site has become a vital source of traffic for publishers looking to reach an increasingly fragmented audience glued to smartphones. In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

I’m shocked/not shocked by the internet’s reaction to this news. On one hand, yes, it is a dumbing-down of sorts. And it will, by extension, put different hierarchies of news outlets all on the same level within the eyes of the FB masses. But at the end of the day, in 2015, you have to pick: do you want to be a fossil in a museum—or an attraction in a well-trafficked zoo?


Let Them Have Cheesecake

Rachel Syme, writing for Matter on Medium:

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West wanted to marry at Versailles. They made a request to the French government: Let us wed like royalty, in the palace of the Sun King, among the gaudy gardens where Marie Antoinette swished around in satin, where a grand hall of mirrors will reflect back our image, over and over, infinite selfies giving way to infinite likes, for as long as we both shall live. Their request was denied. The French still have their standards.

Terrific, thoughtful pop culture writing. I say it all the time—love them or hate them, the various arms of the Kardashian clan are the vestiges of what we all collectively refer to as The American Dream.


Reading David Carr

I wasn’t going to post anything on here about David Carr’s death on Thursday, mostly because every single blog out there already did. But when the Times posted this piece on Friday, a collection of his work hand-picked by his colleagues, the most fitting eulogy I could think of for a writer like Carr, I spent the time since reading/watching all of them and I couldn’t help but share it again. It is all worth your time, I promise, but I’ll highlight just one graf, from this 2009 piece, ‘The Rise and Fall of Media’:

Somewhere down in the Flatiron, out in Brooklyn, over in Queens or up in Harlem, cabals of bright young things are watching all the disruption with more than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the confidence that is a gift of their age as well.

For them, New York is not an island sinking, but one that is rising on a fresh, ferocious wave.

Rest in peace, Mr. Carr. You are already missed.


I Want to Tell You About My Podcast

So, for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been making references here and there to my latest project, a podcast. Last week, I made it clear that if you looked, most of the information about it was right out in the open.

Well, today I’m ready to officially announce it.

The show is called I Better Start Writing This Down. The subtitle is “I leave a lot out when I tell the truth.” It’s going to be a monthly show and the first episode will premiere in one week from today, on February 2nd. But, because attention spans are short, and if you’re on the East Coast, you’ll need something to help you ride out this snowstorm, there’s a trailer up on iTunes already, Ep. 0, called “An Introduction.”

What I need from you all is support. Listen to the trailer and, if you enjoy it, tell a friend. Like the Facebook page. Tweet about it; use the hashtag #IBetterStart. Most importantly, rate/review the show in iTunes. I cannot stress enough how important this is. There are something like 250,000 podcasts in the iTunes Store. The only way to rise slightly above the masses is with the help of others. I’m okay with that, though. It just means I have to make something for you all that is worthy of your time. I think I’ve done that. Also, my goal (dream) is to get the show into the “New & Noteworthy” section on iTunes before the first episode goes live in a week. This can only happen with your help.

So, how do you listen?

There are plenty of ways to find the show:

-Search for it in the iTunes Store; just search for my name. Or, even easier, here’s a direct link to it in the iTunes Store.

-If you’re someone who uses a 3rd Party podcast app, you can search within it, or you can copy this URL and paste it into the app. That’ll get you the show almost instantly when I post it.

-You can listen to the show on SoundCloud if that’s your thing.

-Hell, you can listen to it in just a regular old browser window by bookmarking the show’s page (which you should check out anyway). Scroll down to ‘Episodes.’

This is the most exciting project I’ve undertaken in a while. I’ve got some cool stuff coming in the future around it, a couple of interesting spins on how I’ll approach advertising within the show, maybe some guests, but most important is, as the show’s description reads, the stories and the sound design.

So thanks for reading this, thanks in advance for your support, and I hope you enjoy listening to I Better Start Writing This Down as much as I enjoy making it.

Ed. Note: I don’t know if I’ve ever explicitly stated this before, but any text on this site that is orange is a clickable link.


The King of Clickbait

Andrew Marantz:

Much of the company’s success online can be attributed to a proprietary algorithm that it has developed for “headline testing”—a practice that has become standard in the virality industry. When a Dose post is created, it initially appears under as many as two dozen different headlines, distributed at random. Whereas one person’s Facebook news feed shows a link to “You Won’t Believe What This Guy Did with an Abandoned Factory,” another person, two feet away, might see “At First It Looks Like an Old Empty Factory. But Go Inside and . . . WHOA.” Spartz’s algorithm measures which headline is attracting clicks most quickly, and after a few hours, when a statistically significant threshold is reached, the “winning” headline automatically supplants all others. “I’m really, really good at writing headlines,” he told me. “But any human’s intuition can only be so good. If you can build a machine that can solve the problem better than you can, then you really understand the problem.”

I hear a lot of people complain about the big names in the tech and social media worlds—Google, Amazon, Facebook, et al. But after reading this piece, I have to say, I think Emerson Spartz represents everything that is wrong with our media and social landscape.