The shocking revelations that Mike Daisy fabricated large portions of his monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” parts of which were adopted by This American Life for an episode on working conditions at Apple, should not be so shocking.
In retrospect, the story was too good to be true. That one man, with no journalistic training or experience, would be able to uncover so much, in such dramatic fashion, during such a short trip to a country he knew little about, is more reminiscent of a bad made for TV movie than a series of actual events.
And throughout his intense pseudo-confession to Ira Glass which aired in This American LIfe’s “Retraction” episode, Daisey clings to the notion that he did more good than bad. And though he states that his biggest regret was that he allowed his piece to be interpreted as journalism instead of theatre, the exchanges between him and Glass actually reveal an inherit tension between two oft-stated goals of journalism: to tell the truth and to instigate change.
Unlike the most famous of the recent fabricators that he will inevitably be lumped into, Daisey appeared to have generally decent motives. He wasn’t glory-hungry like Stephen Glass or wracked by personal problems like Jayson Blair. Instead, he appears to sincerely believe that his truth is the truth, despite any pesky facts that may get in the way.
Unlike Glass or Blair or Janet Cooke, Daisey can’t blame a high-stress working environment that forces young writers to always have the next scoop.
He comes a little bit closer to Truman Capote, who fictionalized swaths of “In Cold Blood” for the sake of narrative. He made things neater.
Regardless of stated motive, Jack Shafer at Reuters has it write about motivations of all fabulists such as Daisey.
1) They lie because they don’t have the time or talent to tell the truth, 2) they lie because think they can get away with it, and 3) they lie because they have no respect for the audience they claim to want to enlighten.
What’s most interesting about fact checkers is the circumstances they work under and the traits they must possess to perform their job. Generally speaking, fact checking is a largely thankless job where the person is invisible if he does his job perfectly and is only noticed for his work when things go wrong. He must work confidently, meticulously, and take accuracy as its own reward. If he makes an error the stakes can be enormous—a loss of his job, a lawsuit, the damaged reputation of a writer, editors, and a publication. He will receive no byline. This requires essentially a reverse skill set, hell, a reverse attitude about life in a culture that seeks endless pats on the back, where everyone in Little League gets a trophy—even the backup right fielder on the last place team. Where we collectively are in a mad panic to have our thoughts and actions known via lengthy blog posts, and in nugget form on Facebook and Twitter, our every mediocre photo shared on Flickr. Where we are willing to debase ourselves to have our personal dramas on reality TV. Where ads are increasingly tailored to us specifically (thanks to all those aforementioned Facebook posts). The American ethos screams YOU, the individual, are important, you must be counted, you must make yourself noticed! What type of person, in a society with these values, goes the other way and chooses anonymity?
It turns out, the lonely, lowly fact checker, is in actuality not so lonely. There is a commonality of his circumstance and traits among a select group of other professionals, a collective I call The Invisibles, and we as a culture can learn from this unique group.
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock]
Artist: Brian Eno
Title: Third Uncle
Album: Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy
A Song You Don’t Meet Everyday - Brian Eno Edition
Third Uncle is a freight train. Loaded with dynamite. Hijacked by that guy from the “Speed” movies that rigs buses to explode. At any moment, the jittery guitars and propulsive drum beat sound like they’re going to run the track totally off the rails. It’s only Brian Eno’s deadpan that keeps the song from exploding entirely.
Artist: The Modern Lovers
Title: Government Center
Album: The Modern Lovers
A Song You Don’t Meet Everyday: The Take Down the Government Edition
I listen to “Government Center” by The Modern Lovers when I need to break up the tedium of a work day — which is every work day. Especially now that I’ve started commuting to a sterile office environment filled with repetitive tasks instead of the dingy student newsroom where any day someone could walk in with a tip that would start up an adventure.
“Government Center” is a song about the destruction of blandness with the power of rock and roll. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if long-haired rock bands dropped by the citadels of bureaucracy and made all the worker bees feel better while they’re sending out all that correspondence? If so, grab a guitar, and come by 920 Yonge St, Toronto, Ontario any weekday between 10am-6pm.
NYT on the “faster-than-light” neutrinos.
During a panel discussion recently at the American Museum of Natural History, Sheldon L. Glashow, a physics professor and Nobel laureate from Boston University, said the best theory he had heard was that the neutrinos had behaved lawfully in Switzerland and speeded up when they crossed the border into Italy.
Read the rest here.
A number of newspapers gave an unprecedented amount of information to the Pew Research Centre about how the digital revolution is affecting their bottom lines. The news is bad: on average for every digital dollar gained, newspapers lost seven. Here’s some of the highlights.
Cultural inertia is a major factor. Most papers are not putting significant effort into the new digital revenue categories that, while small now, are expected to provide most the growth in the future. To different degrees, executives predict newsrooms will continue to shrink, more papers will close and many surviving papers will deliver a print edition only a few days a week.
Beneath these broad numbers, however, are papers that buck the trend in significant ways and offer the idea that more can be achieved. One paper studied saw digital ad revenue grow 63% and print grow 8% in the last full year for which it had data. Another paper registered a gain of 50% in digital advertising.
Some of these outliers also were having more success growing new categories of digital revenue, not just selling the traditional categories more effectively.One of the papers generating the most digital revenue, for instance, was having significant success selling targeted digital advertising customized based on customer online behavior. This is projected to be the biggest growth area in local digital advertising. Most papers studied had very little of this kind of “smart” advertising.
The growth in digital revenue is generally slower at smaller papers than at larger ones, though so is the decline in print advertising. That suggests that while the small papers that make up the vast majority of U.S. dailies are not changing as quickly as larger ones, they may have more time to sort out their way.
Of the papers sharing private data, advertising on mobile devices accounted for only 1% of the digital revenue in 2011. Executives are generally excited by the prospects of mobile, but for now it accounts for a tiny amount of revenue. Executives also believe that due to its ubiquity in the market, the phone ultimately could be more important to mobile revenue than tablets, a sign perhaps of some growing uncertainty about the ability to charge for apps, though some executives are already skeptical about how much money newspapers can make with smartphones.
Newspaper executives described an industry still caught between the gravitational pull of the legacy tradition and the need to chart a faster digital course. A number of them worried that their companies simply had too many people-whether it be in the newsroom, the boardroom or on the sales staff-who were too attached to the old way of doing things.