It's Spreading

The anatomy of a 1930 epidemic that wasn’t:

Was parrot fever really something to worry about? Reading the newspaper, it was hard to say. “not contagious in man,” the Times announced. “Highly contagious,” the Washington Post said. Who knew? Nobody had ever heard of it before. It lurked in American homes. It came from afar. It was invisible. It might kill you. It made a very good story. In the late hours of January 8th, editors at the Los Angeles Times decided to put it on the front page: “two women and man in Annapolis believed to have 'parrot fever.'"

A Fearless Media Critic

"Here is what Jack Shafer is," says Erik Wemple, who blogs about the media for washingtonpost.com. "Obviously, very talented, tremendously original and highly informed. But more important, he is utterly uncorrupted by friendship, money, power, anything. He is ruthless with people he doesn't know, but what is impressive is how ruthless he can be with the people he knows. He's impervious to outside influence, and it's a glorious thing to watch."

Interview: Gloria Steinem

SHRIVER: Regarding your Playboy exposé, I know you've discussed this a great deal, but I'd like to ask you this: You've said that you were glad you did it. What role do you think that exposé played in your early career and the notoriety you've achieved? Is there a similar exposé that someone could do today--something that would be as shocking? STEINEM: It took me a very long time to be glad. At first, it was such a gigantic mistake from a career point of view that I really regretted it. I'd just begun to be taken seriously as a freelance writer, but after the Playboy article, I mostly got requests to go underground in some other semi-sexual way. It was so bad that I returned an advance to turn the Playboy article into a paperback, even though I had to borrow the money. Even now, people ask why I was a Bunny, Right-Wingers still describe me only as a former Bunny, and you're still asking me about it-almost a half-century later. But feminism did make me realize that I was glad I did it--because I identified with all the women who ended up an underpaid waitress in too-high heels and  a costume that was too tight to breathe in. Most were just trying to make a living and had no other way of doing it. I'd made up a background as a secretary, and the woman who interviewed me asked, "Honey, if you can type, why would you want to work here?" In the sense that we're all identified too much by our outsides instead of our insides and are mostly in underpaid service jobs, I realized we're all Bunnies--so yes, I'm glad I did it. If a writer wants to do a similar exposé now, there's no shortage of stories that need telling. For instance, go as a pregnant woman into so-called crisis pregnancy centers and record what you're told to scare or force you not to choose an abortion-including harassing you, calling your family or employer. Or pretend to be a woman with a criminal record and see how difficult it is to get a job. Or use a homeless center as an address and see what happens in your life. Or work at an ordinary service job in the pink-collar ghetto, as Barbara Ehrenreich did in Nickel and Dimed. But be warned that if you're a woman journalist and you choose an underground job that's related to sex or looks, you may find it hard to shake the very thing you were exposing.

Inside Match.com

A look at the dating site's new algorithm.
Codenamed “Synapse”, the Match algorithm uses a variety of factors to suggest possible mates. While taking into account a user’s stated ­preferences, such as desired age range, hair colour and body type, it also learns from their actions on the site. So, if a woman says she doesn’t want to date anyone older than 26, but often looks at ­profiles of thirty-somethings, Match will know she is in fact open to meeting older men. Synapse also uses “triangulation”. That is, the algorithm looks at the behaviour of similar users and factors in that ­information, too.

Birth of an MTV Nation

An oral history.

Tom Freston: We knew we needed a real signature piece that would look different from everything else on TV. We also knew that we had no money. So we went to NASA and got the man-on-the-moon footage, which is public domain. We put our logo on the flag and some music under it. We thought that was sort of a rock ’n’ roll attitude: “Let’s take man’s greatest moment technologically, and rip it off.”

The Pirate

A profile of Rupert Murdoch from 1995, as he fought monopoly charges in the U.S. and U.K. and prepared to expand his empire into China.

Murdoch is a pirate; he will cunningly circumvent rules, and sometimes principles, to get his way, as his recent adventures in China demonstrate.

Magicland

On the oeuvre of Glenn Beck:

"The undisputed high point of Beck’s tenure in Baltimore was an elaborate prank built around a nonexistent theme park. The idea was to run a promotional campaign for the fictional grand opening of the world’s first air-conditioned underground amusement park, called Magicland. According to Beck and Gray, it was being completed just outside Baltimore. During the build-up, the two created an intricate and convincing radio world of theme-park jingles and promotions, which were rolled out in a slow buildup to the nonexistent park’s grand opening… On the day Magicland was supposed to throw open its air-conditioned doors, Beck and Gray took calls from enraged listeners who tried to find the park and failed. Among the disappointed and enraged was a woman who had canceled a no-refund cruise to attend the event." — from Alexander Zaitchik’s Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance

The Birth of 'The New Journalism'; Eyewitness Report by Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe on the development of ”New Journalism,” an unconventional reporting style which he helped to pioneer.

I had the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that I was doing things no one had ever done before in journalism. I used to try to imagine the feeling readers must have had upon finding all this carrying on and cutting up in a Sunday supplement. I liked that idea. I had no sense of being a part of any normal journalistic or literary environment.

On John Ross

John Ross, rebel reporter, became the sort of devoted gringo scribe who would give up drugs and drinking in order to better write about the native revolutionaries; the sort of man who used dolls to preach armed revolution to high schoolers in the weeks after September 11th.