darts and laurels

Darts & Laurels

Bad bikes, coaches' cash, etc.
July 1, 2013

DART to The Wall Street Journal for its video segment (“Death by Bicycle”) in which editorial-board member Dorothy Rabinowitz railed against New York City’s “dreadful” new bike-share program, the “shocking” result of an “all-powerful” “bike lobby.” Among her bizarre claims: the bikes would “begrime” neighborhoods, and “the most important danger in the city is not the yellow cabs. It is the bicyclists.” This was right after the segment’s host noted that in the past four years in New York City, 597 pedestrians have been killed by motor vehicles. According to a 2011 Hunter College study, meanwhile, just three pedestrians had been killed statewide by collisions with cyclists in the four years prior to the study.

LAUREL to Deadspin, for its infographic showing that college coaches are the highest-paid public employees in most states. Twenty-seven football coaches, 13 basketball coaches, and one hockey coach. Will the Tea Partiers now add this to their anti-big-government rant?

DART to Skillshare for its “how to pitch a journalist” class led by Matthew Keys, which promised students they would learn how to “build a real relationship with a journalist in a world of emails, tweets, animated gifs and Out Of Office messages.” This could be a useful class, and versions that featured other journalists had gotten mostly great reviews. But it might not be worth that $20 fee when the guy giving the expert advice was just fired from Reuters for social-media indiscretions, and is also under federal indictment. But forget those trifling concerns and listen to some of Keys’s tips: Offer journalists free food and pitch between 1pm and 3pm on Thursdays (Tuesdays are okay, too).

LAUREL to the members of the Chicago Sun-Times photography staff, who deserved better than the unceremonious mass layoff they received on May 30. They were essentially replaced by reporters with iPhones. (For more on the situation, see this issue’s Opening Shot.)

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DART to Sinclair Broadcast Group, LIN Television, Nexstar Broadcasting, and the other major television broadcasters that used the windfall from last year’s campaign-ad binge to go on a binge of their own: buying local stations in deals that are expected to reach a total value of between $3.5 billion and more than $6 billion over the next two years, according to a report released in May by Moody’s Investor Service. Consolidation in the local TV news game is hardly new, but the driver of this latest wave–the estimated $3 billion in political advertising that went to local broadcasters last year–is being described as the new normal, given the reality of super PACs and looser spending restrictions. Experts and broadcast executives alike say we are headed toward a local TV-news industry dominated by a handful of “super groups.” Media consolidation has rarely brought the journalistic benefits its proponents suggest, and there is little reason to believe it will in the case of local news. These are the same broadcasters, after all, who cried poverty when the fcc told them they had to post their data about those campaign-ad buys online, where the public could see the full story.

LAUREL to The Wall Street Journal for keeping reporter Kate O’Keeffe on the Sheldon Adelson beat, even though the Vegas magnate is suing O’Keeffe for libel. The suit, over a piece published last December in which Adelson was described as “a scrappy, foul-mouthed billionaire from working-class Dorchester, Mass.,” is frivolous. Given that the Journal and O’Keeffe have had some good scoops on the serious federal corruption investigations into Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, the paper is signaling that it won’t be bullied into pulling punches on its coverage.

DART to Politico for Dylan Byers’s piece (“Turbulence at the Times”) about New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson and her alleged unpopularity in the newsroom. Whatever truth the story may contain was overshadowed by the rote sexism that ran throughout. The first female executive editor in the paper’s history was accused of being “impossible,” “unreasonable,” “stubborn,” “condescending,” “brusque,” and “not approachable.” Her male managing editor, by contrast, was “recalled fondly” for punching a hole in a wall. (He also was quoted as saying that the criticism of Abramson unfairly characterizes her as a stereotypical “bitchy woman.”) The story came out less than two weeks after the Times, under Abramson’s “unreasonable” leadership, won four Pulitzers. Byers didn’t produce much to indicate she was doing anything wrong beyond not being the mother figure his anonymous sources want, or need.

DART to Gawker, which broke the story that the mayor of Toronto allegedly has a crack problem, but then sullied that good work by offering to pay a drug dealer $200,000 for access to a video that purports to show the mayor smoking crack; then asking readers to help pay the drug dealer via a “Crackstarter” campaign; then, after collecting the money, informing everyone that the drug dealer was refusing to sell the video. Sure, Gawker told readers along the way it was having doubts that it would be able to get the video even if the money was raised; and yes, Gawker has promised to donate the money to a substance-abuse charity. Call us old-fashioned, but it’s hard to see how that end justifies those means.

LAUREL to The Guardian‘s US edition, which landed a doozy of a first scoop with Glenn Greenwald’s report that the National Security Agency has been collecting telephone records from millions of Verizon customers without cause or consent. (Which suggests a DART for the Obama administration for its perverse version of transparency and press freedom.)

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.