Tag Archives: news

When You’re Broken by Breaking News

I managed to avoid most news about the mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas this week, but it has been at the front of my mind. There were breaking news updates almost every hour, every day, but I didn’t click. I don’t know and still don’t want to know the gunman’s name. (I won’t use it here unless my editor tells me I have to.)

I was frustrated by the the breaking news updates, which was strange because I used to love being a breaking news reporter. I know the rush of unearthing a piece of information no one else has, of typing as fast as you can to get it out — the pride of being first. But something about this news cycle has changed that for me. I don’t care that the shooter was a gambler, or a loner, that he was cruel to his girlfriend in his local Starbucks, or otherwise unremarkable as he purchased multiple firearms. I don’t see what value that information has for the public.

Even as I type this, I know I’m wrong. Horrible, shocking events like mass shootings scare us, and information soothes us. On Monday, I asked an editor at a national news site, “Why did he do it?” He responded, “We’ll never know.” There was enough known about the shooter on day one to know he was as incomprehensible as the violence he perpetrated. That’s when I stopped paying attention. I know these little details, these constant updates, are attempts to create order out of chaos. I also know that effort is futile, and that futility frustrates me. The barrage of updates serves only to keep the horror in the national discourse. Read more…

Tech Companies Are (Maybe) Ready to Punch Nazis Now

In the week since white supremacists descended on Charlottesville with tiki torches blazing, tech companies have begun to eliminate website hosting or accounts run by neo-Nazis. The decision to kick people off the internet—a world many of us occupy in equal measure, if not more than we do the physical one around us—is not one taken lightly, and these companies have remained cautious until proven complicit.

The CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, explained in a public blog post why he chose to drop the Daily Stormer, a hate-mongering website that published openly racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist screeds, including a post about Heather Heyer. “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion,” writes Prince. “The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.” (ProPublica skewered Cloudfare earlier this year for providing the Daily Stormer with information about people who criticized or complained about the website’s explicitly offensive content.)

Cloudflare is not alone in abandoning Nazi clients. As Adrienne Jeffries reported at The Outline, in the last few days Squarespace has dropped an array of so-called “alt-right” sites, including the think tank of neo-Nazi poster boy Richard Spencer. On Tuesday, Sean Captain at Fast Company noticed that publishing platform WordPress.com (the parent company of Longreads) is no longer hosting the website for the ultra-nationalist organization Vanguard America. (The man who drove the car that killed Heyer and injured 19 other people was allegedly a Vanguard America member, though the organization has tried to disown him.) Read more…

Are Regular Russians Ready to Take On Vladimir Putin?

The Russian presidential election is a year away, but protests have already begun. Last week, images of Russians being carried and even dragged from Moscow’s Red Square spread throughout the Western media. Then came the crackdown—blocked access to web pages and social media showing the photos, and a criminal case against the protesters. Earlier this week, the square was nearly empty despite another planned action.

The protests demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and objected to widespread corruption, but they also served as a rare moment of rebellion in a country that rarely dares defy its leader, President Vladimir Putin.

Read more…

The Moment Firestone Teamed Up with a Warlord

Below is an excerpt from ProPublica and Frontline’s investigation into how the U.S. tire and rubber company Firestone ended up partnering with warlord Charles Taylor, who was taking over Liberia during the civil war in the early 1990s. In 1992 the company agreed to pay taxes to Taylor’s rebel government, and “over the next year, the company doled out more than $2.3 million in cash, checks and food to Taylor”: Read more…

Freelancing in War Zones: Serious Journalists Left with Little Protection

Syria is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. In the last three years at least 60 of them have been killed while covering the conflict there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Missing from the statistics is anything about the kind of journalist who goes to Syria and why. After the death of Marie Colvin, in a blizzard of Syrian Army shells in Homs in February 2012, much of the Western media drew back from covering the country. Meanwhile, a lightly resourced, laughably paid, almost wholly uninsured cadre of freelancers, often armed with little more than a notebook and a mobile phone, infiltrated Syria anyway. A few were crazy narcissists or war-zone tourists, but most were serious reporters. Four-fifths of all journalists working in Syria, according to one estimate, are freelance and answering to no one but themselves.

-James Harkin, in May’s Vanity Fair, on the disappearance of journalists Austin Tice and Jim Foley, and the dangers that freelance reporters face. A video surfaced Tuesday in which Foley allegedly was killed by members of the militant group ISIS.

Read the story

Photo: Nicole Tung, freejamesfoley.org

Today, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the police can collect a DNA swab from people who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime. The justices were unusually divided—conservative Justice Antonin Scalia joined liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the dissenting opinion.

For some deeper context, read Harry Jaffe’s story, “Truth and Consequences,” in the Washingtonian, which was featured on Longreads last month.

“The Hell of American Day Care.” Johnathan Cohn, The New Republic.

Longreads Is Joining Forces with The Atlantic

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We have some big news to share today: Longreads is teaming up with The Atlantic, in a partnership that will allow us to expand our site and membership model—and continue to serve this community of readers, writers and publishers. 

When I first started the #longreads hashtag four years ago, The Atlantic was one of the earliest publishers to embrace it, and they understood what makes it special—the diversity of readers’ tastes, sharing the stories they love, from a mix of well-known and undiscovered publishers and writers, across both nonfiction and fiction.

We’re excited about the opportunity to work together with The Atlantic, and to continue expanding this site and community.

If you’re curious about the business side of things, here are some specifics about how the partnership is set up:

Longreads remains an independent company and editorial team, just as we always have been. We’re six people who have invested our time and resources into building Longreads—and we will continue to do what we do best, which is spotlight the best work from magazines, newspapers, books, and across the web.

Our site will be featured alongside the rest of The Atlantic’s growing network of sites, and their team will be helping us with business and operations.

By now, you’ve already seen the two big pieces of the Longreads business model, and in the spirit of transparency, I’m outlining it here:

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Our goal has been to create a business that supports readers, writers and publishers in different ways, through a mix of paid memberships and advertising.

With paid memberships, we’re creating a system where you, our subscribers, are helping to pay writers and publishers for rights to stories and book chapters that are featured as “Longreads Member Picks.” (Here’s this week’s Member Pick, a short story from Amelia Gray and Tin House.)

Through our membership, we want to keep building a secondary market for publishers and writers to make money off licensing, and we’re doing so with your financial support. (You can join for $3 a month or $30 a year.)

On the advertising front, we teamed up with Virgin Atlantic last year on Travelreads, and we’d like to continue pursuing these types of creative initiatives. Advertising, done thoughtfully, will help support new channels like Travelreads, as well our daily editor picks across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and the weekly Top 5 Longreads email.

We’re excited for what’s next, and we’re so thankful for this community’s continued support. We can’t do this without you, and we’ll share more details as things come together.

Mark and rest of the Longreads team (Mike, Kjell, Hakan, Jodi and Joyce)

“The Weeklies.” —Monica Potts, American Prospect

From our Top 5 Longreads of the Week.

Longreads Member Pick: Baghdad Follies, by Janet Reitman

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This week, we’re excited to feature Janet Reitman, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and the author of Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion. “Baghdad Follies” is Reitman’s 2004 story on what it was like to be a war correspondent in Iraq. As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the war, Reitman reflects on her early fears about traveling to Baghdad:

People talk a lot about what it’s like to cover a war; no one talks about what you have tell yourself in order to actually get on the plane so you can go and cover the war. ‘Baghdad Follies’ is a story about what reporters go through in covering war, and it began, in a sense, with my growing sense of panic over having signed up to cover the war. It was about an hour before I was scheduled to leave for the airport. I’d finished packing, and began to think—which right there is a killer. My thoughts went like this: I was insane. I’d covered other conflicts, but like, little ones. Africa. Haiti. This was Iraq. I’d been dying to go to Iraq. Now, I really didn’t want to go to Iraq—let alone go to Iraq to write a story about how dangerous the war had become for U.S. reporters. Which was what this story was about. 

So I called a friend who’d covered the Iraq invasion. ‘First of all,’ he said, ‘you don’t have to go.’

Huh?

‘I mean, no one will blame you if you back out,’ he said. ‘It’s perfectly fine if you stay home. It’s just a story.’

This of course made me feel that now I really had to go because there were also a lot of other reporters, most of who would kill for this assignment, and what was I thinking? …  ’I think I might die,’ I told him.

‘You might,’ he said. 

We debated the likelihood of getting killed or kidnapped for a bit. We decided it was 50-50 I got kidnapped, but probably only for a short while. Ultimately, we decided the best course of action was to get on the plane, fly to London, my first layover, decide if I felt good enough to keep going to Jordan, my next layover, and then, depending on how much I was freaking out, either keep on going to Baghdad, or turn back. ‘Look at it as a process,’ he said.

Two days and an untold number of tiny airplane vodka bottles later, I arrived in Baghdad and stayed a month, during which time two other colleagues, both of who had confided their own fears about doing this job, were kidnapped, and released. I told their stories in full. Then, I went home, regrouped, and returned to Iraq. Twice.

Read an excerpt here.

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Photo: Thomas Hartwell, via Wikimedia Commons