At its best, the Twitter community is smart, funny and quick to share and celebrate quality. At its worst, Twitter morphs into an angry mob that jumps on a person’s 140-character, misguided—or, in some cases, deeply offensive—tweet and uses it to stir up fury and exact revenge. In a fascinating piece that explores public shaming punishments from 19th century mobs to today’s lightning-quick tech-brand on social media, Jon Ronson describes how a dumb tweet cost Justine Sacco, the former director of corporate communications at IAC, everything.
I often read stories in a printer-friendly format without photos, but I still felt like I had been to Waterloo, Ontario, and had seen firsthand how the area has rebounded from the fall of BlackBerry after reading Kevin Roose's account. That's awesome storytelling.
I enjoyed this sensitive look into how Sharpton is trying to succeed in the shadow of former civil rights leaders, and only afterwards noticed it was an Eli Saslow story. I wasn't surprised. He's one of the best there is.
Joel Achenbach, a science writer at The Washington Post, wrote a book entitled “Why Things Are.” This intelligent piece, for National Geographic, is a fine companion to Joel’s earlier work. Why do so many reasonable people doubt the things that are proven by science?
I’m amazed at the dramatic improvement of The New York Times Magazine under the leadership of new editor Jake Silverstein. Emily Bazelon tells the disturbing story about the complex, ultimately toxic relationship between a Stanford student and her mentor, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
On my friend Dan Le Batard’s radio show this past week, Charles Barkley admitted he still had not read Jesse Washington’s 9,000 word profile of him. And, it almost sounded as if Sir Charles might not be bothered to read it. But you should. In the inaugural piece for Jason Whitlock’s upcoming ESPN site, The Undefeated, Washington describes who and where helped make the one and only Charles Barkley so irresistible.
I remember where I was when “Iron” Mike Tyson was knocked out—the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., where I watched the fight, beamed live from Tokyo, with a pack of fellow dog-racing degenerates. I can still see those older, bitter men leaping to their feet and plunging their fists downward with gleeful fury as James “Buster” Douglas unleashed the final flurry of punches that put Tyson down for good. Brin-Jonathan Butler’s lovely piece brought me back to that unfathomable moment 25 years ago, and told me much about the bout, and Tyson, that I didn’t know.
I have written three non-fiction books: no film options. I’ve written thousands of news articles, features and investigative pieces and feel truly lucky to have optioned just one story (though I had countless others “considered.”). Michael J. Agovino perfectly captures the great promise (and anguish) of the dangled hope of optioning a book to Hollywood. For nearly all of us hacks, if you get two Belgian waffles out of that promise, you’re ahead of the game.
It's been a trying week for Chapel Hill, N.C., which lost famous basketball coach Dean Smith and three young students. Ogle brings the two events together, reporting from the scene of grief and recovery.
In 1894—after his first ocean voyage but before he had dedicated himself to writing—the 18-year-old Jack London joined the "Kelly's Army" protesters who tramped from the West to file their grievances against mass unemployment in Washington, D.C. A decade and a half later, well established as a best-selling author, London mined his hoboing days for a memoir titled The Road. In its "Pinched" and "The Pen" chapters, he writes about the 30-day jail sentence (after a 15 second "trial") he served in Erie County, N.Y., for vagrancy. London make allies with a dozen inmates to dominate the pen's other 500. "It was impossible, considering the nature of the beasts, for us to rule by kindness. We ruled by fear. Of course, behind us, backing us up, were the guards," he writes. "We could not permit the slightest infraction of rules, the slightest insolence. If we did, we were lost. Our own rule was to hit a man as soon as he opened his mouth—hit him hard, hit him with anything. A broom-handle, end-on, in the face, had a very sobering effect." Like all London, it swoops from brilliance to hackery—sometimes in mid-sentence, but the ride is enough to make you want to hop a rail yourself.
QUOTATION OF THE WEEK:
“Science will find the truth. It may get it wrong the first time and maybe the second time, but ultimately it will find the truth.”
DAVID CARR: Me and My Girls I will always remember the beautiful way David Carr expressed both humility and pride about his craft—and himself. His love of journalism seemed genuine and so his critiques of those who pursued it seemed fair. I only hope that some day I can see journalism—its faults. its promise, its future—as clearly as Carr seemed to. You should read Jelani Cobb, Hamilton Nolan, Paul Farsi and A.O. Scott on Carr, and then listen to his own words, presented in a 2014 commencement address that I watched late into the night earlier this week.
BOB SIMON: Curve Ball At the end of a high school summer journalism program, I was voted most likely to become a foreign correspondent. I thought that was really cool, because it meant I could be like Bob Simon one day. Simon was a tough guy—willing to stand on a roof under attack—and a compassionate one—diving headfirst into stories about humanity's triumph through adversity. Since, I've realized I will never wield Simon's punch as an interviewer or a writer (and I'm not the only one). Simon's final report, on Ebola drugs, will air tonight, and I expect it to be as powerful as any, because he always knew how to nail a close. Here is Simon discussing his career. And in 2011, he sat down with a young journalist to talk about the industry. Both conversations are inspiring.