This is a visualization of the process behind @nyt_first_said.
Each day, a script scrapes new articles from nytimes.com. That text is tokenized, or split into words based on whitespace and punctuation.
Each word then must pass several criteria. Containing a number or special character is criteria for disqualification. To avoid proper nouns, all capitalized words are filtered.
The most important check is against the New York Time's archive search service. The archive goes back to 1851 and contains more than 13 million articles.
The paper publishes many thousands of words each day, but only a very few are firsts.
I used to think that maybe I’d let my anger serve as an engine. But I’ve since discovered that my anger over each new racist incident is now rivaled and augmented by the anger I feel when asked to explain, once more, why black people shouldn’t be brutalized, insulted, and killed. If you’re a person of color, the racism beat is also a professional commitment to defending your right and the right of people like you to be treated with consideration to an audience filled with readers champing at the bit to call you nothing but a nigger playing the race card.
The hostility directed at writers who cover minority beats in America is solid proof that those people are doing important work. But that work can be exhausting. It’s exhausting to always be writing and thinking about a new person being racist or sexist or otherwise awful. It’s exhausting to feel compelled on a consistent basis to defend your claim to dignity. It’s exhausting to then watch those defenses drift beyond the reaches of the internet’s short memory, or to coffee tables in dentists’ offices, to be forgotten about until you link to them the next time you need to say essentially the same thing.
After a while you may want to respond to every request for a take on the day’s newest racist incident with nothing but a list of corresponding, pre-drafted truths, like a call-center script for talking to bigots. Having written thousands of words about white people who have slurred the president over the past six years, you begin to feel as if the only appropriate way to respond to new cases—the only way you can do it without losing your mind—is with a single line of text reading, “Black people are normal people deserving of the same respect afforded to anyone else, but they often aren’t given that respect due to the machinations of white supremacy.”
I’m ready for people in positions of power at magazines and newspapers and movie studios to recalibrate their understanding of what it means to talk about race in the first place. If America would like to express that it truly values and appreciates the voices of its minorities, it will listen to all their stories, not just the ones reacting to its shortcomings and brutality.
If this doesn’t eventually happen, I wonder how many more writers of color will come to the conclusion, as my colleague did, that this life we’ve made for ourselves is unsustainable. How many essays can go up before fatigue becomes anger becomes insanity? How many op-ed columns before you can feel the gruesomeness of trying to defend another dead black kid slowly hollowing you out? How many different ways can you find to say that you’re a human being?
Sean Illing: "Flood the zone with shit": How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy (Vox)
The impeachment trial didn’t change any minds. Here’s why.
The press ideally should sift fact from fiction and give the public the information it needs to make enlightened political choices. If you short-circuit that process by saturating the ecosystem with misinformation and overwhelm the media’s ability to mediate, then you can disrupt the democratic process.
What we’re facing is a new form of propaganda that wasn’t really possible until the digital age. And it works not by creating a consensus around any particular narrative but by muddying the waters so that consensus isn’t achievable.
Trump can dictate an entire news cycle with a few unhinged tweets or an absurd press conference. The media cycle is easily commandeered by misinformation, innuendo, and outrageous content. These are problems because of the norms that govern journalism and because the political economy of media makes it very hard to ignore or dispel bullshit stories. This is at the root of our nihilism problem, and a solution is nowhere in sight.
Adi Robertson: How to fight lies, tricks, and chaos online (The Verge)
In advance of the 2020 election, a guide to fighting viral fake news, disinformation, and simple misunderstandings across Twitter, Facebook, and the web.
There’s a term called “context collapse” that’s very useful when discussing internet news. Popularized by scholar danah boyd, it describes how the internet “flattens multiple audiences into one” — if you’re browsing Twitter, for example, an offhand comment from your friend sits right alongside a statement from the president of the United States. Internet news suffers from its own variation of context collapse: no matter how far away or long ago a story happened, it can sound like it’s happening right now, in your neighborhood.
Will Meyer: Naomi Klein on Climate Chaos: “I Don’t Think Baby Boomers Did This. I Think Capitalism Did.” (In These Times)
I don’t think Baby Boomers did this. I think capitalism did, and there’s something both depoliticizing and isolating about the generational frame. There are people in every generation who tried so hard to stop this from happening, who raised the alarm, and people who died in the struggle. I think movements that are just of young people tend to be short lived. On the other hand, indigenous movements, and many other movements that have been fighting for hundreds of years, have a role for every generation to play, and that’s part of how we protect these young people with so much courage.
Clio Chang: How to Save Journalism (The New Republic)
The shift to an organized industry also has political implications—and not just because journalists are becoming more active through their union work. In the larger scheme of things, unionized media workers are starting to see the world and themselves in a new light. Journalism, like other creative-but-poor industries, is predicated on the idea that its practitioners are just lucky to be doing what they love; they’ve long been conditioned to believe that there’s something inherently prestigious, even noble, about this type of white-collar work. But as media jobs become more precarious, undermined by the same monopoly forces affecting workers in other parts of the economy, media workers are increasingly seeing themselves as workers first.
This is what Marxist-minded leftists have long termed class consciousness, and that consciousness is spreading, within legacy and digital media brands alike.
To reclaim the foundations of a free press in America, media workers need to get serious about dismantling tech monopolies and implementing policies that would reverse our new Gilded Age. It seems to be no coincidence that countries that operate the freest press regimes, such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland, also have comparatively low income-inequality. The Jonah Perettis of the world think that they can solve the media crisis in isolation, without acknowledging that they are integral to and have benefited from the system that gave rise to this crisis in the first place.
What’s more, union activism can help bridge the yawning power dynamic that now separates tech monopolies from the flailing media sector. Tech companies will have to feel threatened if they’re going to implement reforms and meet media companies more than halfway—and the companies themselves clearly pose no threat at all. The way the media business works now is that Facebook and Google and Apple News reap the bulk of the profits produced by the labor of journalists—either by leapfrogging the ownership structure entirely or enlisting short-sighted owners, who mostly compete with one another, to give away their content for a pittance.
Maria Bustillos: Erasing History (Columbia Journalism Review)
Absent that microfilmed archive, maybe Donald Trump could have kept insinuating that Barack Obama had in fact been born in Kenya, and granting sufficient political corruption, that lie might at some later date have become official history. Because history is a fight we’re having every day. We’re battling to make the truth first by living it, and then by recording and sharing it, and finally, crucially, by preserving it. Without an archive, there is no history.
Most of what you’ll hear about is paid for by someone; benefits someone. If there is information that might hurt the reputation of anyone in power—their exercise of that power, or their ability to make money—massive resources will be spent to conceal it from you, divert your attention, change the subject.
The Resistance and the Democratic Party say “Vote,” but the voter purges have already been done, the polling places restricted, the prohibitive I.D. laws put in place. The national press is writing about it after the fact and before the election, when they can seem to take it seriously without changing anything.
For the press do anything more would mean moving beyond its crabbed sense of “politics,” to engage with the reality of the situation. The legacy media have been browbeaten into a perpetual terror of being seen as serving as partisans for the Democratic Party, until those are the only terms on which they understand the world and the work they’re doing.
Kevin Alexander: I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It. (Thrillist)
If there was one main negative takeaway from the raging fires of food tourist culture and the lists fanning the flames, it was that the people crowding the restaurant were one time customers. They were there to check off a thing on a list, and put it on Instagram. They weren’t invested in the restaurant’s success, but instead in having a public facing opinion of a well known place. In other words, they had nothing to lose except money and the restaurant had nothing to gain except money, and that made the entire situation feel both precarious and a little gross.
Taylor Link: Andrew Sullivan plays himself, proves “racist” tweets by New York Times hire were innocent (Salon)
In a column Sullivan cited a tweet by Sarah Jeong as an example of racism, failing to realize she was parodying him
When it comes to racism targeted at people of color, Sullivan insists both sides need to be heard. When it comes to "racism" targeted at white people, you better damn expect a 1,200 word screed attacking the speaker.
Thread by @nomadj1s: "RE Sarah Jeong: I am not a white person & I don’t know how it feels to you when people of color (POC) generalize about white people But…"
Equating generalizations made by POC about white people & those made by white people about POC strike me as disingenuous at best. they’re informed by very different lived experiences (see above) & have very different material implications (see above)
Doreen St. Félix: How Alexandra Bell Is Disrupting Racism in Journalism (The New Yorker)
The series had its clandestine début, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Bell critiqued the Times’s coverage of the death of Mike Brown, in 2014, in which the paper ran side-by-side profiles of the victim and his killer, Darren Wilson, under the joint headline “Two Lives at a Crossroads in Ferguson.” Bell and many other readers felt that the framing of equivalence, and of tragic coincidence, diminished what had happened that August afternoon. Bell erected a diptych of her own, with Wilson’s profile whittled down to read, simply, “Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.” The second panel bore the new headline “A Teenager with Promise,” I noted last year, when I interviewed Bell.
As the content industry consolidates in weird and unsettling ways over the next few months, understand the stakes: venture-funded publications, aware of how quickly their borrowed social audiences appeared and therefore understanding how quickly they could go somewhere else, will rightly crave security in the form of an exit. The best might go public, and find new ways to justify their independent existence, creating something like full-service content agencies, producing news and entertainment and ads as their ever-shifting context permits. Others will simply attempt to pitch their value to Facebook (or whatever) as something valuable to companies other than Facebook (or whatever). Those purely dependent publications that fail–maybe those middling, boldly cynical latecomer social mills about nothing??—will take stock of their remaining parts, and realize that they assemble into nothing. They will only be able to lurch forward until the money runs out.
If you want to call yourself a data journalist, there is one shortcut you can never take: you must validate your data. Even the cleanest looking data might contain flaws and omissions stemming from its methodology. It’s not enough to run checks on the data itself. You must also lift your nose out of the database, ask the serious questions about how the data was collected and even use the well-honed tools of a traditional reporter to call experts when—never an if—you find questions about the data.
Cord Jefferson: When People Write for Free, Who Pays? (Gawker)
All in all, the creative landscape is starting to look more toxic than it's been in our lifetimes: Artists with million-dollar checks in their pockets are telling other artists that they shouldn't expect to get paid; publications are telling writers that they shouldn't expect to get paid, either; and meanwhile everyone wonders why we can't get more diversity in the creative ranks. One obvious way to reverse media's glut of wealthy white people would be to stop making it so few others but wealthy white people can afford to get into media. But in the age of dramatic newsroom layoffs and folding publications, nobody wants to hear that. So we trudge on, forgetting what a luxury it is to do what you want to do for a living rather than what you have to do to survive.
Maura Johnston: What Happened to Music Writing This Year? (NPR)
In 2012, attempts to stay ahead of readers' innate desires resulted in a collective throwing up of hands. Think pieces and reviews still existed, but they were accompanied by other attempts to lure readers: Trifles like album titles and track listings treated as news items worthy of their own "stories" (to maximize the possibility of people tripping over their fingers and into a unique view); artists out of the public spotlight for more than six months unearthed as if they were creatures from another dimension; Tweets and other public statements by artists taken out of context and drained of their tone so as to stoke "WTF" headlines; superlative-laden lists not even aimed at expressing an opinion in count-downable form; posts with factual errors seen as hits to institutional credibility and opportunities to wring double the traffic out of one story.
Freddie deBoer: I'll take honest depravity over depravity masked as righteousness (L'Hôte)
ViolentAcrez is a deplorable guy. But he is honest in his ugly behavior. Nick Denton, in contrast, is a deeply unprincipled person who has meticulously crafted a veneer of respectability and outlaw journalism. I am, frankly, terrified of Reddit and the whole dark side of Internet practice that exists on forums and message boards. But it is a culture of open depravity. Gawker, and the larger scene of elite New York media it exemplifies, are something more devious, something more dangerous.
Willy Staley: Only the Internet Could Compel Me to Feel Sorta Bad for Racist Teens
This is no small issue, is what I’m saying. Whether we encounter language we find objectionable (or whatever) passively or actively is central to how we ought to consider it. Making monsters out of Racist Teens just to vanquish them seems lazy at best and ugly at worst.
David Carr: The Puppetry of Quotation Approval (NYTimes.com)
Journalism in its purest form is a transaction. But inch by inch, story by story, deal by deal, we are giving away our right to ask a simple question and expect a simple answer, one that can’t be taken back. It may seem obvious, but it is still worth stating: The first draft of history should not be rewritten by the people who make it.
Mack Hagood: (misread) study of the day (mactrasound)
Yesterday at Atlantic.com, Hans Villarica posted “Study of the Day: Why Crowded Coffee Shops Fire Up Your Creativity,” a rundown of a research study that alleges moderate noise is beneficial to creativity. While I’m intrigued by the question of noise and individual cognition in public(ish) spaces, the Atlantic post exemplifies the way that research loses its contextual trappings as soon as it enters “the cultural conversation” to become the kind of free-floating “news you can use” that inevitably gets “contradicted” in subsequent studies, undermining people’s faith in the academy.
…even the most cursory skim of the actual journal article provides contextual information that undermines Villarica’s pithy, straightforward advice.