In case you missed it: In a Slate piece late last week, Jacob Weisberg hammered Ron Suskind’s new book, “Confidence Men.” But the headlining contention in the piece had nothing to do with the book. It had to do with a quote in a now-famous Suskind piece for the New York Times Magazine in 2004:
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,’’ which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’’ he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’’
Weisberg says that Suskind has never given us “any reason” to believe the quote was uttered. Take note: The quote is anonymous, like some huge percentage of quotes in long feature stories about politics. Is Weisberg asking Suskind to out his source here?
*The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi extracts a good nugget from the latest Pew poll on American attitudes toward the media. In a sign that humans may be retreating to their evolutionary origins, “word of mouth” has become the “second most widely followed” source of local news. Farhi points out that the reliability of this particular news source can be a bit shaky, citing “Saturday Night Live’s” “Second-Hand News.”
*We’ve long known that journo-standards and boundaries in the magazine world were a bit more flexible than those in the newspaper world. So why even pretend they exist at this point? According to the New York Times (thanks, Mediagazer), glossies such as GQ and Esquire are starting to sell the fashions that they review critically in their pages.
While the glossies have long had a reputation for accommodating the designers they cover, sometimes guaranteeing coverage to those who advertise in their pages, a wave of new ventures and partnerships suggests they are willing to go even further by selling the designers’ clothes.
It is a move that is raising some eyebrows in the industry, as magazines like Vogue, GQ and Esquire, struggling to survive in an online world, could potentially become competitors to stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York.
“There are no boundaries anymore,” said Howard Socol, the former chief executive of Barneys and now a consultant. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores that once looked at magazines as a way to sell to affluent customers could now look at them as threats.
Now, where’s the justification response from the magazine editor? Here’s Esquire’s David Granger:
“What magazines have always done is to create desire in consumers,” said Mr. Granger of Esquire. “The next logical step is to fulfill that desire by selling the product. If we don’t do it, somebody else is going to.”
Mr. Granger said that many magazines were making similar moves because retailers were starting to move in on their turf. The new Barneys catalogs, photographed by big names like Juergen Teller, look more like an issue of W, with clothes shown on New York celebrities, and shopping online at Net-a-Porter looks more like flipping through the pages of Harper’s Bazaar.
“The biggest reason is that magazines don’t want to get left behind,” he said.
*New York Times Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane wrote a long column about some possible conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest relating to the New York Times’ coverage of Israel. At the end of it all, I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t more public editor-worthy grist at the New York Times.
*The Washington Post’s Patrick Pexton clearly had the better public editor/ombo outing of the weekend. He killed it with a piece exploring why the WaPo Web site loads so slowly. Let me pull up the link to that Pexton piece. Hold on, getting it. Hold on some more, just trying to . . . get . . . the . . . page . . . to . . . load, well, maybe I’ll go get a drink of water. . . . Aah, rehydrated now. Oh, and finally, here’s the link. After quoting all the people who are trying to fashion a remedy for the site’s slacker ways, Pexton writes this:
But from my chair, The Post must make this issue a higher priority, and devote time and resources to improve its page downloading times, or risk undermining its growing online audience.
Who knows how many people blow off the Post site altogether because of the problem; Pexton cites one compelling case. Yet the cost of a slow site doesn’t show up just in deserters. There’s also a hit in terms of Google search ranking. In April 2010, Google’s official blog noted that site speed would be included as a “new signal” in search-ranking algorithms:
Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.
*Over at Mediaite, find a meditation on the dropping of the “g”s in the AP reportin’ on Obama’s speech to the Congressional Black Caucus. Skinny: The president got folksy in this address, per AP:
But Obama said blacks know all too well from the civil rights struggle that the fight for what is right is never easy.
“Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”
Check out the MSNBC segment below that post, wherein the AP approach takes a heap of abuse for being racist.
Dropping “g”s from quotes is the sort of thing that riles editors and reporters all the time. When reporters encounter subjects who do this as a matter of course, they often want to doctor the language in the quote to reflect the dialect. Stylebook-loyal copy editors go berserk, rightly pointing out that there’s no way to accommodate all dialects in the quotes.
The president’s willful folksiness, however, moves the discussion away from its usual reference points: If he’s deliberately dropping “g”s, let the record reflect as much — I and many others need to know when he pulls this lame stunt.