Hurtful language hurts politicians

United States Senator Bill Hagerty on Tuesday joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and nine other colleagues to introduce the Public Servant Protection Act, which protects public officials and employees and their families from having their home addresses displayed publicly online. Text of the bill may be found here. …

United States Senator Bill Hagerty on Tuesday joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and nine other colleagues to introduce the Public Servant Protection Act, which protects public officials and employees and their families from having their home addresses displayed publicly online. Text of the bill may be found here.

(Via Chattanoogan.com)

That’s not how free speech works.

Should public servants and their families be protected by law enforcement? Yes. We all should, and those serving in office should get protection specific to their role as the vitriol is particularly incendiary and the service they provide is important.

Should government officials be sheltered from voters who disagree with them, those who say things they don’t like, in a peaceful manner? No. If the voices are dangerous? Yes.

Should journalists and news outlets couch political grandstanding as “protection” from “threats”? No.

Should public employee addresses be public record? That’s not clear cut. I think elected officials should have their addresses on record since their residence is part of the requirement to hold office. If public service employees, like fire and police, are required to live in their community, then that should be public record as well.

Of course, this is largely moot. Most everyone volunteers their location on social media. It would not take much work to figure out where a public servant lives based on posts by themselves, their significant others, or their offspring.

Lawn care specialists, house cleaning professionals, au pairs, and the like could also post location information.

Maybe neighbors post their own information and it becomes easy to triangulate a voted-on public servant’s house?

Journalism 101, or why Adam Schefter was and is wrong

It is probably worth explaining here not only that it is bad to send a story to a source for pre-publication review, but why it is bad. While I assure you this is not normal practice, and is indeed right up there as one of the basic tenets of journalism along with “spell people’s names correctly” and “don’t make shit up,” and that all reporters know not to do it (both innately and from having it drilled into their heads by competent and ethical instructors, colleagues, and bosses), there is no reason a normal person would ever spend a minute thinking about it. But it’s not some arcane, ivory-tower, j-school ethical holdover; it’s common sense. Every source for every story is by definition an interested party, and their interest is in the story being reported in a certain way. That’s not necessarily intentional or nefarious, but it’s without exception—why else would they talk to a reporter? They want something out there, and they want it to be their version. That’s a conflict of interest that’s unavoidably inherent in the very idea of sourcing. This doesn’t mean that sources shouldn’t be trusted, but it does mean that they should not be the final arbiter of the story’s content—especially when, as was the case here, the story was one about a conflict between two sides, and only one side was handed the rubber stamp.

(via the Defector)

Unless other egregious examples of journalistic ethical lapses come to light I do not thing Schefter should get the shaft. J-school students should take this as an example of what not to do.

The dearth of print

The Chattanooga Times & Free Press publisher Walter Hussman, Jr. today announced in a letter to subscribers that the paper his family owned for 110 years is going digital-only 6 days a week. Subscribers will get an iPad and will read the Monday through Saturday news through an app. The transition is expected to finish in June, 2022.

This disappoints me.

I’m no Luddite, but I enjoy an analog newspaper reading experience. My morning routine is built around:

  • Starting coffee
  • Getting the paper, even in the rain and snow and dark of night
  • Finishing the coffee
  • Stationing myself in my recliner with blue lights, some focus sounds, and my coffee at hand.
  • Cracking open the paper

When I read the paper, I disassemble it. Interior pages are pulled, sections are folded and remolded depending on where the story continues, and one specific comic is pressed up against the most microscopic lens bit of my bifocals to be able to read the tiny text.

Reading the paper sometimes takes 20 minutes. Sometimes it takes 2 hours.

The remains pile up to the right of my recliner. Sometimes it is a few days before they are interned for recycling. Sometimes they become kindling. Sometimes they are bits I will save. Sometimes they’re packing material, wrapping paper, filler, saved for a friend to use in her yard, a hat, or a broach, or a pterodactyl. The OSS taught agents in the field that one can fold a newspaper in such a way that it can become a dangerous weapon.

Take that, iPad!

I’m disappointed with the publisher’s letter. He states,

Readers told us at first they were dubious and reluctant, but after reading the newspaper on the iPad, a large majority liked it better than the print edition

Reading the news on a tablet, or a phone, or a laptop is a series of compromises (I am a paid digital subscriber to all of the below except for Google News):

  • Apple News is inundated with advertising, is hard to train (I want news, not long form character studies or opinion pieces or the history of the paving tile, on a weekday morning), and makes sharing difficult; lots of low quality sources
  • Google News is full of click bait and advertising; lots of low quality sources
  • The New York Times makes you move back to the main page to move to the next article, and depending on how long that takes you the main page could be refreshed; they also are way too into their multimedia articles which I usually find to be more flash than substance; reading the NYT in the web browser is a better experience, and it shouldn’t be
  • The Washington Post resurfaces the same articles over and over, even if you’ve actually read it; their headline banner photos are huge; the news stream never ends
  • The Wall Street Journal … oddly, might have the best news reading interface I’ve seen in a while: swipe left similar to book reading to page through an article, it moves on to the next one, and when you’re done with a section, then you move back to the main page; it updates the main content once per day

The best app I used was the New York Times Windows 8 app on my old Surface Pro 3 & 4 PCs. It had the navigation the Wall Street Journal has, was easy to use, and the reading experience was the richest I’ve experienced digitally. It was killed of in the mid 2010’s.

The Chattanooga Times & Free Press app is some amalgam of the paper’s digital proof with transcribed copy. One can flip through by article but the reader ends up with a lot of pages that are only captions for pictures or graphs. Bylines are deemphasized. Navigation is overall clunky. Sharing requires an extra blocking interface to let you know things like “the URL has been copied to your clipboard”.

Take today’s paper for example. In case you live under a rock, it has been 20 years since terrorists hijacked planes and killed thousands of Americans. While I will never forget that day and what transpired in its aftermath, I also do not want to relive it through my memories or other’s. This new format does not make it easy to skip what I uncharitably call “misery porn”.

It also makes it hard to skip award show coverage, or the Olympics, or other zeitgeist moments that can quickly overwhelm news. Skimming my eyes over the printed page makes for a better filter than paging through what is essentially a giant PDF.

The other benefits listed are standard tablet features, not something specific to this transition. Again, I’m disappointed with the publisher’s letter. It was disingenuous at best.

I understand the financial realities the paper faces. Chattanooga is fortunate to have a daily paper. I am sad to see the daily print operation go. If this change keeps the paper running for 10, or 20, or 50 years without becoming the click-bait AI generated pseudo news other cities get, I will be happy.

I challenge the Chattanooga Times & Free Press to do better with their “digital paper” in its new form. I will be here to give them guidance. And do keep the Sunday print run for as long as you can.

Long live the news! Long live the Chattanooga Times & Free Press!

Removing the digital record for fun, profit

Is this corporate embraced digital news rot?

Axios Capital Newsletter:

Also dead: All of the blog posts ever published at Reuters were vaporized this week, including thousands of my own. “As we moved to a new Reuters.com site last month, some blog pages were removed because the legacy infrastructure is no longer supported,” says a spokesperson.

Reuters has retained the (unsearchable) blog archives, and says they “will be migrated to the new website in the coming months” — where, presumably, they will live on behind the forthcoming $35/month paywall.

I’m curious what about text posts – remember, Reuters is a news agency that largely deals in text — couldn’t move from one platform to another. I’m also curious about the apparent shoulder shrug by Reuters. Reuters, along with the AP, The NY Times, and a lot of other news agencies in the US are also agencies of record.

It’s not a good look to blame IT that content can’t be maintained. But apparently it will be available to paying clients?

Which reminds me, is microfiche still a thing?

p.s. this was a subitem in the newsletter. That depresses me.