Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category

Thu 9 Apr 2009 7:22 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media

Pirates are hilarious!

This is the front page of today’s Post, our city’s beloved Murdoch tabloid. The Post is sometimes way ahead of the curve; it was losing money years before losing money was cool. But it’s a little late to the pirate craze.

Mon 6 Apr 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, In the news

Cliché alert: The “not normal times” lead

In normal times, a company with its name on a baseball stadium would be flattered to have the chief executive take part in the opening-day festivities. But these are not normal times.”

— Ken Belson and Eric Dash, The New York Times, April 4, 2009.

“The century-old Russell Senate Office Building… is not ordinarily a spot for political rallies. But these are not ordinary times.”

— Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, April 2, 2009.

If these were normal times, it would be ludicrous to issue a report card on the Obama administration’s economic policies. … But these aren’t normal times.”

— Paul Krugman, Rolling Stone, March 3, 2009.

By any normal political standards, this week’s Congressional agreement on an economic stimulus package was a great victory for President Obama. … Break out the Champagne! Or maybe not. These aren’t normal times, so normal political standards don’t apply.”

— Paul Krugman, The New York Times, February 12, 2009.

“Has Barack Obama’s presidency already failed? In normal times, this would be a ludicrous question. But these are not normal times.”

— Martin Wolf, Financial Times, February 10, 2009.

“The economic case against protectionism is that it distorts incentives: each country produces goods in which it has a comparative disadvantage, and consumes too little of imported goods. And under normal conditions that’s the end of the story. But these are not normal conditions.”

— Paul Krugman, The New York Times, February 1, 2009.

(P.S.: Snap out of it, Krugman, you’re better than this!)

Mon 30 Mar 2009 8:11 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media

Investigative journalizzzzzzm

People are bemoaning the loss of investigative journalism. Really?

Do you really miss those seven-part series that ran on newspaper front pages during slow news weeks in August? Did you really enjoy reading 50,000 words on defense spending, or an unsolved crime from 30 years ago, or sewage easements?

Truth is, maybe 1 newspaper investigation in 10 was worth reading. The rest were dry thesis papers aimed at contest judges and ignored by everyone else. You never read them, I never read them. (I even wrote a few nobody read.)

Some time (I think in the 1990s) the word “investigation” became code for “Pulitzer,” and ambitious metro papers set up long-term project desks where they relegated two or three of their top (and slowest) writers. No longer can newspapers afford to waste such resources. And honestly, the concept of a separate investigative desk was a poor idea. A good beat journalist is always in investigative mode. The reporter keeps notes and reports and contacts that may come in useful in future stories, and is ready to deploy them to devastating effect when necessary. A newsroom should be one big investigative engine, a huge, fast intelligence network assembling years of collective memory and experience. Anyone who can write a deadline story can write an investigation.

Here’s what I’ll really miss about newspapers: The next-day, on-deadline package bringing sense and order to something confusing that happened mere hours ago. The A1 sports photo of an amazing game the night before. The columnist who builds on years of history to call B.S. on some policy fad. The culture writer who deftly throws two extra background sentences into the middle of a review to teach the reader about art. And mostly, that feeling that you were reading a product prepared by smart experts who were more interested in sorting out facts than in reinforcing an agenda or protecting sacred cows.

It used to be that the definitive first accounts always came from local newspapers, due to their authority and gravitas (and, when appropriate, swagger). The whole enterprise was supposed to be investigative. This is one of the nuances that’s getting lost as newspapers die and here-today, gone-tomorrow Web sites fill the gaps in our information diet.

Wed 11 Mar 2009 2:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, In the news, The suburbs

They’re calling it Xanadu? Seriously?

Everyone’s favorite feature story right now is Meadowlands Xanadu.

Here’s the outline: During the worst economic environment in half a century, a developer is about to open a $2.2 billion shopping mall in northern New Jersey. Insert quotes from area residents who think the building looks silly and retail economists who are sure it will be a business failure. For color, mention the chocolate waterfall, ferris wheel, indoor ski slope and proximity to the New Jersey Turnpike.

For examples, see Time, Business Week, The New York Times, etc.

I agree with the conventional wisdom on this: Wrong idea, wrong location, wrong year. Even if they finish the rail link connecting Xanadu to Manhattan, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which New Yorkers would flock to a shopping mall. That leaves people from Jersey, who already have more malls than they need, or tourists, who will gaze down on Xanadu as their planes land at Newark Airport, and then go somewhere cooler.

This place does hold promise for one group of people, however: Urban explorers, who some day in the future may delight in traipsing across the ruins of this abandoned complex.

Thu 5 Mar 2009 7:23 am   //   Posted in: In the news


A year ago, we were obsessed with politics. Remember that? Each day all of us news geeks would check the poll numbers and try to figure out who was going to win which primaries. That storyline is over, and something else had to fill the void

Luckly, just in time, something did: The stock market.

We know there are plenty of investment professionals who reading the stock market for a living. They develop sophisticated algorithms about how markets perform and bet on their computer models, hoping to yield a high return. We also know that these people have no idea what they’re doing. If they did, couldn’t at least one of them have predicted the market would fall 45% in a year?

For us amateurs, following the market* is a lot like politics, with each company being a character with a different storyline. For example, I love checking the chart for AutoZone – up 34% over the last year! Google is fascinating: Will its next earnings report be a total flop? How about banks? Wow! And there’s so much information available about all of these companies. I can imagine how fidgety I’d be if I had a TV at my desk where I could watch CNBC. It’s probably best that I don’t.

* – Note that following the market is not the same as investing. This is edutainment. I never actually buy or sell individual stocks.

Fri 27 Feb 2009 8:07 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, In the news, Music

The last CD store

Virgin Megastore is closing its locations in Times Square, Union Square and San Francisco.

I have spent many hours in the Virgin Megastore, because it’s near my office and it’s a reliable place near a big subway stop to meet up with friends. With all those movies and CDs and listening stations, it’s a fabulous store for wasting time. However, I can’t remember the last time I actually bought something there. So now we know you can’t run a store on the free-content model, either.

Thu 5 Feb 2009 9:50 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Stray data

Mayor: Maple syrup mystery solved!

Easily the best press release I have ever seen put out by the city government: MAYOR BLOOMBERG REVEALS SOURCES OF MYSTERIOUS BUT HARMLESS MAPLE SYRUP ODORS.

You may remember (or if you live here, you may have smelled) the delicious syrup smell that wafted over the city a few years ago, and a few times since. The city used weather data and the location of 311 calls reporting the smell to figure out where it came from. Answer? Jersey.

“City officials have identified a facility in Hudson County that has processed foenugreek seeds to produce flavors and fragrances that resulted in esters being formed in the air on dates when 311 has received a high number of sweet-smelling odor complaints in the City… ‘Given the evidence, I think it’s safe to say that the Great Maple Syrup Mystery has finally been solved,’ said Mayor Bloomberg.”

Gothamist has the map!

Sun 25 Jan 2009 5:17 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Photos

More inauguration photos

Washington, D.C., January 20, 2009:


Fri 28 Nov 2008 6:33 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Labeling

Best use of the word “Hobbesian” in a news story

“A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after he was trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a Hobbesian frenzy.” — “Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death,” The New York Times.


“Whensoever a man transferreth his right, or renounceth it, it is either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself, or for some other good he hopeth for thereby. For it is a voluntary act: and of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself.” — Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

Fri 7 Nov 2008 12:34 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media

Historic newspapers, good and bad

Obama New York Times Front Page

I got a Wednesday Times and you can’t have it! People are bidding $50 for them on eBay.

Thinking about the fact that a black guy just won the presidency, nerds are back in charge of the executive branch, and newspapers are suddenly cool again, it seemed a good time to leaf through my box of important front pages. See below… (more…)