One or two paragraphs of most stories are enough.
Even teenagers practice better tradecraft than this when deceiving parents.
Lin Zhao was an ardent Communist in her early years, but she was labeled a “rightist” while studying at the Peking University during Mao’s 1956 “Anti-Rightist Movement.” This movement followed the “Hundred Flowers Campaign,” during which the intelligentsia were invited to criticize the Communist Party and then persecuted for doing so. As Lin became more and more outspoken in her criticism of the regime, she was expelled from school and founded an underground publication, which earned her a prison sentence of 20 years. She served only eight years of that sentence before being secretly executed in 1968 at the age of 35.
Lin’s story is moving, not least of all because of the fine prose through which Lin spread her ideas. Her inability to stay silent was such that when deprived of a pen and paper in prison, she used her own blood to write on walls, clothes and white sheets, compiling a total of 200,000 words.
There’s a new biography of the economist and writer Albert O. Hirschman and Cass. R. Sunstein reviewed it for The New York Review of Books:
… Hirschman sought, in his early twenties and long before becoming a writer, to “prove Hamlet wrong.” In Shakespeare’s account, Hamlet is immobilized and defeated by doubt. Hirschman was a great believer in doubt—he never doubted it—and he certainly doubted his own convictions. At a conference designed to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of his first book, who else would take the opportunity to show that one of his own central arguments was wrong? Who else would publish an essay in The American Economic Review exploring the “overproduction of opinionated opinion,” questioning the value of having strong opinions, and emphasizing the importance of doubting one’s opinions and even one’s tastes? Hirschman thought that strong opinions, as such, “might be dangerous to the health of our democracy,” because they are an obstacle to mutual understanding and constructive problem-solving. Writing in 1989, he was not speaking of the current political culture, but he might as well have been.
In seeking to prove Hamlet wrong, Hirschman was suggesting that doubt could be a source not of paralysis and death but of creativity and self-renewal.
(Pictured: Albert Otto Hirschman translates for accused German war criminal Anton Dostler during Dostler’s trial in Italy 1945. Dostler was convicted and executed by firing squad. Hirschman, Dostler’s interpreter, reportedly turned pale when he had to utter the death sentence. Wikipedia and NYRB)
Howard Kurtz invited Politico’s Dylan Byers and NPR’s David Folkenflik to his CNN show, Reliable Sources, Sunday to question him about mistakes he made reporting on basketball player Jason Collins. Kurtz had claimed that when Collins wrote about his homosexuality in Sports Illustrated he didn’t disclose that he once had a girlfriend and had been engaged. In fact, Collins had disclosed that.
BYERS: Now, everybody in our business makes mistakes, obviously. You have made a number of mistakes, I would say, in the last three years. This is only the most recent. You claimed to have interviewed Congressman Darrell Issa, and later admitted you’d actually interviewed one of his aides. You attributed a quote to Nancy Pelosi that it turns out she did not say. In addition to this, you also said that FOX News host Greta Van Susteren was casting doubts on Hillary Clinton’s illness. In fact, she had been a defender against people who had cast such doubts. Why so many mistakes?
KURTZ: Well, the last two of those were editing mistakes but they are mistakes nonetheless. In my career, I have written, spoken, blogged millions of words. The vast majority of those have been as accurate as humanly possible. In fact, I pride myself on double and triple checking the facts. But there are times, being a human being, when I have slipped up. I have asked people to look at the totality of my record but it’s certainly fair to point out where I have fallen short and in those instances I have fallen short.
Folkenflik tells Kurtz that “others have been forced out at places, including CNN … for lesser transgressions.”
FOLKENFLIK: Why should we put stock in you as a media critic? Why should the audience of this show put its trust in you when so much of your recent work has been shown, at times, to be sloppy and even reckless?
KURTZ: Well, I would say we’re talking here about a small minority of cases, but, again, you can make your own judgment, people at home can make their own judgment. I have — I put in an enormous amount of work into this program to make it fair, accurate, balanced. I labor over the scripts, even the little banners that appear at the bottom of the screen. I do research for every guest, every interview, every segment. I’d like to think that over time, people have seen that. … I have worked very hard over the course of three decades to establish credibility and people are going to have to make their own judgment about weighing the occasional mistakes versus what I have done.
iMediaEthics says Politico doesn’t appear to follow the ethical standards for anonymous sources followed by other prominent news organizations:
Politico, the Washington, D.C.-based political journalism organization, is notorious for using anonymous sources in its reporting and it has taken heat for it before. As Slate‘s David Weigel put it in his recent article Opening Act: Someone Save Politico From Itself, “The people who hate Politico do so because they think it allows anonymous sources to stir sh*t.”
Politico made some waves just last week when it published what has been described by many as a hit piece against New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson based on the complaints of more than a dozen anonymous sources who were purportedly current and former employees.
According to NPR’s ethics handbook, anonymous sources should be used rarely and only as a last resort. Anonymous sources should be described “as clearly as you can without identifying them” and they “cannot make pejorative comments about the character, reputation, or personal qualities of another individual, or derogatory statements about an institution.” NPR’s guidelines dictate:
“We use information from anonymous sources to tell important stories that otherwise would go unreported. This is not a solo decision – the editors and producers of these stories must be satisfied that the source is credible and reliable, and that there is a substantial journalistic justification for using the source’s information without attribution.”
These guidelines are generally accepted and fairly standard across the industry, but Politico seems to hold to none of them.
You can find examples of how Politico uses anonymous sources with the anonymous source tracker but be warned it undercounts them. That’s because Politico often doesn’t use standardized language to describe anonymous sources. The tracker works by looking for phrases like “requested anonymity” or “would not speak for attribution.” But if a writer only describes sources with words like “a staffer said” or “a Democratic party official said,” the tracker’s not going to include them because it’s difficult to be certain sources described that way aren’t named elsewhere in the story. Other news organizations write this way too, of course, but my unverified impression from reading Politico is that it cites sources this way more often than other big, establishment media outlets.
Mr. Kurtz did not respond to a request for comment.
He didn’t respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Kurtz did not respond to several calls and emails seeking comment to clarify his connection to Daily Download and whether he has any ownership interest.
Shouldn’t a prominent media critic return a reporter’s calls when he’s the news?
All the news organizations I know are usually using the wrong metrics to make the decisions that are needed to survive.
People come to him in stages of typed-out paralysis, stalled, uncertain whether they have written too much or too little. He tries to help them organize their thoughts by condensing, reducing — learning what not to include.
“By talking to them, by finding out who they are, I bring out their own personality,” he says. “And ease their mind, for God’s sake.”
I’m not convinced this is valid, but it’s a clever way to find data to attack a problem, in this case, whether we’re growing fatter because portion sizes are growing larger:
Cookbooks also appear to be playing a role in portion mania. Researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab reviewed the serving sizes and calorie content from recipes in seven editions of the “The Joy of Cooking,” the editions from 1936, 1946, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1997 and 2006.
The findings: Your dish likely has far more calories than the recipe your grandma made from an earlier edition of the cookbook.
Researchers found 18 recipes present in all seven editions, and the average calories per serving increased in 17 of them. Among the dishes: brownies, sugar cookies, apple pie, macaroni and cheese, beef stroganoff, Spanish rice and goulash.
Using standard nutritional analysis techniques, serving size and calorie levels for those recipes, the researchers found that the average number of calories per recipe in 1936 was 2,124, with about 268 calories per serving. In 2006, those numbers had risen to 3,052 calories total in each dish, with 436 calories a serving.