Friday, January 14, 2011

The Most Awesome NY Post Cover...Lately, Re: #Jets

I am so putting some money on the Jets this weekend. Anyone want to make any friendly wagers?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

LVW Col: Three Vegas Books

I took on three new Vegas books this week. So far, one author is ecstatic and one "author" is stomping his feet like a little girl. (See her precious rant in the comments.) That's how it goes when you call a hack a hack. Enjoy. -sf

The good, the bad and the meh:
The read on three new Vegas books


I hate reading books by local authors I know. If I dislike them, I want to say so and that gets awkward. So I try not to.

Recently, though, two writers insisted: former CityLife scribe Matthew O’Brien and Weekly staffer Rick Lax. And just as I dug into their latests, Stephens Media sent a copy of prolific Vegas biographer Jack Sheehan’s newest. Three is a nice round number to journalists, so I spent the first week of 2011 plowing through them.

Of them, I most dreaded O’Brien’s My Week At the Blue Angel.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

$85 Outrage: The Media Exploits Itself, Too

I usually don't discuss my business here except to point to various pieces I've done. But the email I received this morning steamed me up so much, I just need to tip myself over and pour it out.

It came from Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler, an editor for something called SheKnows.Com, which was, according to Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler's email signature, "voted the No. 1 Women's Website In the World." Now we know this is either a fictional or manipulated poll because SheKnows.Com and VegasHappensHere.Com have about the same significance to Google:

Knowing the data for my site and seeing this from Google Page Rank, I'm thinking this boast on SheKnows.Com's site...

...might be a little dishonest. Y'know?

So, anyhow, Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler sends this note:

Hi Steve,

I recently contacted the City of Las Vegas looking for a freelance writer to work with me on the new SheKnows CityGuide. [PUBLICIST NAME REDACTED, BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY SOMEONE FROM THE LVCVA, NOT THE CITY] forwarded me your information so I wanted to touch base with you and see if you would be interested in working with me.

The CityGuide is a themed guide of the Top 10 “places” in each city. For a CityGuide assignment, you would include 10 places in your area, addresses and descriptions of each place. Each description should be around 100-125 word. A photos is also required. You would also need to include a brief introduction of your city. The rate is $85 per guide. We will be doing a lot of guides in the next few months so there is an opportunity for this to be an ongoing project.

Here is an example of a great description:


Let me know if this is something you would be interested in doing. I look forward to working with you! Have a great day!

Now, I don't know how many of you have seen this YouTube video, but it's not just hilarious but the role of the robot editor for this performance will be played by Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler:

I re-read Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler's note several times to make sure I got it. She wants at least 1,000 words, plus 10 photos, plus an introduction all for the bargain basement price of... 8,500 pennies! And, psst, there's more where that came from!

I wrote Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler back:

While I appreciate that [VERY NICE PUBLICIST NAME REDACTED AGAIN] thought of me, pay of $85 for 1,000 words is offensive. Please contact an amateur. I'm sure there's some incompetent, desperate fool out there who would do it, but damned if I'm going to help someone so exploitative find him/her.

The trouble is, there actually are writers -- and not terrible ones, either -- so desperate that they'll do this. And I probably should've bit my tongue. But I just found it so outrageous I wanted to make sure everyone in Vegas and the rest of the freelance journalism world knew about Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler and this ridiculous racket of a website that believes journalists and their experience are worth significantly less than minimum wage. If you actually have ever heard of that site and/or read it, this is your warning that the information is probably going to be worth about as much as they paid for it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

CNN Exec Explains Photo Snafu, But Questions Remain

CNN senior editorial director Richard Griffiths called about the prior blog post, but not before I got a somewhat tearful call from a friend of the kid who CNN misidentified repeatedly yesterday as Jared Lee Loughner, alleged gunman in yesterday's Arizona shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

To recap, Don Lemon of CNN apologized at about 8:59 p.m. PT on Saturday for showing the wrong picture and then, about two minutes later, CNN showed the wrong picture again. I posted the video on YouTube:

So today I got some calls. The friend of the misidentified guy explained to me that CNN's use of the photo has caused major trauma and heartache. I'm going to call the misidentified guy "Dave," a Missouri kid who says he doesn't know Loughner in any way.

The friend begged me to remove the YouTube video and a side-by-side image of Loughner and Dave that appeared on the prior blog post. I felt bad for their crisis, but the video and images are part of a broader story about the very faulty way the U.S. media handled this news event. I couldn't commit to it.

Then I saw an email from Griffiths, left, asking me to call him about "our screw-up." I anticipated he would ask me to remove the video, but instead he just asked if I'd blur out the picture of Dave. That seemed like a reasonable compromise, so I have done that. (I also removed the side-by-side comparison photo because using a blurred image defeats the purpose.)

Having Griffiths on the record acknowledging the mistake makes it a little bit more palatable to doctor the video. But how the hell does a mistake like this even happen?

Well, there's some fuzziness in there, too.

Griffiths' version of events is that a law enforcement source told CNN the name of the suspect and pointed their reporters to Loughner's Facebook site. The front photo there, Griffiths claims, was the one of Dave, and he now believes Loughner just misappropriated it for whatever reason. Griffiths said that they looked at side-by-side comparisons between the image of Dave and other images they had of Loughner and decided that it was, in fact, a match.It was my screw-up. We looked at it, it was my screw-up.

I won't re-victimize Dave by posting my own side-by-side again, but anyone who looked at it while it was up on the blog knows the two images weren't really that similar. Any which way, Griffiths falls on the sword on this one, saying he called the shot so "it's my screw-up."

But why did CNN re-air the wrong image immediately after Lemon's apology? Griffiths said that it was in a segment of the show they were re-broadcasting from earlier in the night and nobody manually fixed it. After the snafu I saw, he said, it was fixed and Lemon's apology aired several times through the night.

Griffiths said CNN is on "good terms" with Dave's family and that "they know that our error was not something we’re proud of."

Fine. But then there's this other thing: Dave's friend insisted that the Loughner Facebook site where Dave's picture came from was not actually Loughner's but was a phony site posted after the suspect was initially put in custody. I asked how he knew this, and he said they have some time-stamp data to back it up.

If so, that leaves great doubts about Griffiths' version. They're saying law enforcement pointed them to the Facebook site, but the cops wouldn't do that if it was a fake. The more likely scenario is that some whiz at CNN found it and told his/her bosses this was it and they believed it. There's no reason for Dave's family and friends to contradict CNN's version but there's all the face-saving reason in the world for CNN to put forth this explanation.

I asked Griffiths if this incident and other problems from yesterday taught CNN anything about relying on social media for facts and images. His response: "Skepticism is a great, great virtue. Social media is a great tool for getting tipped off to stories, but as news organization, we have to check and recheck and check again."

Clearly that didn't happen this time.

By the way, I asked Griffiths if CNN also had Giffords as dead. He said yes, that they picked it up from NPR "and two other sources of our own."

Oh, and the network has "done an analysis of how many minutes we were wrong." That's interesting, but also a little weird. I mean, does it even matter if it was 5 minutes or 43 minutes? Is that really the analysis they ought to be doing?