In Internet terms, the Mike Daisey story is now so cold Netflix could set a delightful dramedy there. But this roundup is going to boldly assert that there’s still stuff worth reading on this matter:
• If journalists wrote better, says Michael Wolff, there would be no breach into which a fabulist like Mike Daisey could slip: “Journalism from the mid-60s to the late ’70s – and that includes virtually every practitioner we remember today – was a renaissance compared to the present age, a bureaucracy of fact and process and convention at the expense of language and expression.” (h/t Michael Calderone)
>>Daisey agrees with Wolff’s basic premise, that facts burden journalism at the cost of story. Speaking at Georgetown University last night, the monologuist said of his now-disgraced work that “The essential idea is true,” Erik Wemple reports. Afterward an attendee named Candice Davenport told Wemple, “He had me thinking about what’s more important — the facts or the truth.”
>>Rem Rieder takes up this idea of the “greater truth” and says Daisey is merely the “latest liar to rest upon this slender reed.” (Wolff has got to give him points for this phrase!) “But that’s what makes his fabrications all the more galling,” Rieder writes. “They were completely unnecessary. The material was there. He didn’t need to make up the maimed factory worker, purportedly injured while making iPhones, seeing one for the first time. Or pretend that he had interviewed workers poisoned on an iPhone assembly line when he hadn’t.”
>>Steve Myers and Craig Silverman list the questions “This American Life” still hasn’t answered. And in my continuing quest to aggregate without spoilers, I’ll just say you should read this one to the end. Roy Peter Clark theorizes that Ira Glass and the “This American Life” audience wanted the story “to be true primarily for good reasons, because its exposure might lead to reforms and saved lives… Apple’s piece of the pie can be seen anew, through Daisey’s story, as just another company, led by just another robber baron, building profit and corporate share on the bodies of the poor. This is the perpetual fantasy of the left. I always imagined that Ira Glass was too smart to become its victim.”
• Monday’s State of the News Media report occasioned a sharp take from Mathew Ingram on aggregation: Content providers, he writes, have two alternatives, either “shrink your audience down to those who will pay” or “be as open and distributed as possible, to try to take advantage of the democracy of distribution instead of fighting it, and then to find other ways to monetize that audience and their attention.” Either way, he says, your stuff will get aggregated.
>>Two Wall Street Journal programs add to this conversation: One is increased video on the site, which allows for higher CPM ads but can also mean watching “a six-minute clip of a fidgety print reporter who can’t make eye contact with the camera,” Jeff Roberts writes. Another is its longtime partnership with regional newspapers for their Sunday editions. “We ask the writers to take out a zero,” Sunday editor David Cook tells Roberts. “The readers may not have $50,000 but they do have $5,000.” The regionals would like to run the content digitally but there are no plans for that: “Tell them we would love to get the online version,” the Bangor Daily News’ Todd Benoit tells Roberts.
>>There is some fantastic reporting in this Joe Pompeo piece about the New York Times paywall, which is exceeding expectations.
>>Frédéric Filloux writes more about the Project for Excellence in Journalism study which interviewed news executives about the “toxic” cultural problems within news orgs. He says it’s time to cut managers some slack. Speaking of critics, he says “In a way, some of their ‘obvious’ prescriptions remind me of people who claim losing weight is easy: All you have to do is exercise more and eat less. Sure. But don’t tell me what, tell me how.” John Paton responds: “Change is hard and critics are tough. You abandon theory at your peril.”
• RIP John Cowles Jr., the former president and CEO of The Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co. And congratulations to my former officemate Keach Hagey, who will report on media for the Wall Street Journal.