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Daily Archives: February 19, 2014

I’ve been getting emails this week about the Unification Church-owned UPI news service. Two of them:

“My friends there tell me they are ending any pretext of general news coverage, effective two weeks from today.upi All that will be left will be some blogs and a website to continue the name of a once-great service.”

“I just got an email from a long-time UPI employee who now is looking for work because UPI is shutting down the news operation for real this time.'”

I asked UPI and got this response from chief digital officer Seyla Seng:

In response to your email which you asked whether UPI’s news operation is closing on February 28, the answer is no. UPI is not discontinuing its news operation. It is restructuring its news service to compete with the rapidly increasing news cycles. The restructuring includes the elimination of seven positions.

I’ve asked Seng how many UPI positions remain. The Unification Church has owned the news service since 2000.

Please drop me a line if you know more about UPI’s restructuring and layoffs.

“Tasty or tasteless?” a Texas reader asked me in an email about a Houston Chronicle blog post headlined, “Oh, cum on.” (First sentence: “Jizz seems to be on everyone’s lips lately!”)

I posted the link and reader’s question in my Monday Morning Report, and the item was quickly pulled from chron.com.
solved
“Disgruntled employee?” blogger and consultant Steve Outing asked about the post. “They got hacked? I wouldn’t believe this except that Jim Romenesko documented that it actually was published.”

I asked Chronicle managing editor Vernon Loeb about “Cum On” and he sent this explanation:

The 2010 content you linked to on Monday originated on a website called 29-95.com that the Houston Chronicle created some years back to appeal to a younger audience attracted to alternative media.

After several years, it was disbanded. In 2013, the site’s archive was moved over as a blog onto the Chronicle’s free site, chron.com. At the time, no one realized the archive included offensive and inappropriate content, which was apparently written as part of a column on sex advice, and no one here realized it was still live on chron.com until you linked to it.

We immediately removed it, and had someone search the site and remove additional similar content. The author of this material was a freelancer and is no longer employed here. We apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this content, and we trust that all of it has been removed from our website.

By the way, both Loeb and Chronicle editor Nancy Barnes were at different papers when “Oh, cum on” was first posted.

* Oh, cum on (blog.chron.com/cached version)

On Monday, news outlets around the world reported that a Florida artist smashed a $1 million Ai Weiwei vase at Pérez Art Museum Miami.herald

$1 million!?

It turns out that the dollar amount was pulled out of thin air by the arresting officer.

The cop, says New York Times reporter Nick Madigan, “tried to get someone at the museum to tell him the vase’s worth so that he could write it in his report. But the people on duty at the museum that day had no idea, so the cop wrote ‘$1 million’ as a blind, completely uninformed guess.” (I called the Miami Police Department Public Information Office, and was told that they could only read statements they were given, and couldn’t commment on this.)

Madigan, who has been covering the vase story, tells Romenesko readers:

The museum director told me himself yesterday morning that the vase’s value had not yet been assessed for insurance purposes, and that since it had never been sold, there was no actual value placed on it or on the other 15 vases in the group.

The guy who did the damage, Maximo Caminero, whom I reached by phone after his release from custody, said he had heard the cop asking for the vase’s value, and when he didn’t get one, said, “Well, I’m just going to write a million to cover myself” — essentially confirming the museum director’s story.

While the Miami Herald put the $1 million figure in its Monday headline and third paragraph, Madigan’s story today points out that the million-dollar reports “are baseless … and probably stemmed from guesswork by the police.”


Exhibit A from today’s paper:

heart

“… and punctuation knowledge, too,” writes Randy Alfred, who sent this headline.

* Why hiring copy editors is a really good idea (copydesk.org)
* Survey finds Americans’ [sic] lack heart disease knowledge (sfgate.com)

Update: James Fallows also has an Atlantic post about the U.S. News archives.

I asked James Fallows, a former U.S. News & World Report editor, what he thought about the magazine deleting content that was published before 2007. His response:

I’m not looking for fights with the current US News management, but — since you ask — at face value this seems cheesy, surprising, and sad. In reverse order:

James Fallows

James Fallows

Sad, because the work of so many generations of reporters, editors, photographers, and illustrators is essentially vaporized. Saying that people can use (expensive) Nexis or the bound volumes is like saying they should go to the microfiche room.

Surprising, because so much of the journalistic world has been working in the opposite direction. The Atlantic is just one of the many publications that have kept laying out money to digitize their pre-Internet archives and bring them online.

Cheesy, well …

There’s a group that may be more concerned by this decision than people whose words, drawings, or photos ever appeared in the magazine. That would be anyone involved in higher ed, whose world has been so heavily affected, for better and worse, by the US News rankings juggernaut since the 1980s. In my view the rankings have done more harm than good, but either way they have been very important. And as far as I can tell with a quick search, the first few decades of these rankings, plus explanations of their changing methodology, have also now disappeared from the public web. I hope they still exist somewhere, but so far most of the links I’ve found have come up dead, for instance the previously valid ones on this page, or here or here. This U.S. News page has a list of all past-years’ rankings, but none of them appears to have a valid link. Normal web searches bring up very few pre-2007 US News results at all. Try it yourself: a web search for “US News Best Colleges 2002” etc.

A specific example: in 1999 the rankings went through a controversial change (in which I played an indirect part), resulting in Caltech temporarily shooting to the top above the normal Ivy Leaguers. You can read about that and related controversies in Slate, or the Washington Monthly (also here), or the National Opinion Research Center, but (it appears that) you can’t find the surveys themselves, and their presentation of data, on the public internet. Since the magazine’s identity and business model are so closely tied to rankings now, and since the rankings have been so consequential in higher ed’s evolution, I hope the magazine will at least keep this part of its heritage alive.

* U.S. News & World Report deletes content published before 2007 (jimromenesko.com)

* Why Vice should hire a copy editor. (copydesk.org) | Earlier: Vice is advised to go without a copy editor. (jimromenesko.com)
sorry* WFAA-TV’s Dale Hansen receives an apology from the California publisher who lifted his Michael Sam commentary. (imediaethics.org)
* Washington Post will stop reprinting health and science press releases. (ksj.mit.edu)
* “Twitter has been a fantastic source of information for me,” says Barton Gellman. “People get in touch with me.” (capitalnewyork.com)
* A Bay Area News Group photographer is robbed at gunpoint in Oakland. (insidebayarea.com)
* Ball State journalism internship coordinator: “The hot year was 2003, when we had 60% of our students paid [for intern work]. It’s dropped as low as 25%, and it was 26% in 2013.” (propublica.org)
* A PR firm tells journalists that their coverage of the Brit Awards for pop music has to mention MasterCard. (pressgazette.co.uk)
* Sportswriter Matthew Futterman apologizes to the Dutch for an Olympics column. (wsj.com)
* A little love for the semicolon. (observer.com)
* Rupert Murdoch‘s telling friends he expects to be around for another 15 years. (gq-magazine.co.uk)
* New Yorker’s Ved Mehta: “The more you write, the more you know the pitfalls as well as the high points.” (wwd.com)net
* Netflix’s consumer satisfaction rating is at a three-year high. (cnn.com)
* A TV journalist sues Hartford police after he’s stopped from using his drone at an accident scene. (courant.com)
* Emily Badger and Jason Millman join Washington Post’s Wonkblog. (washingtonpost.com)
* LinkedIn now lets users write longer posts. (nytimes.com) | (linkedin.com)