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First POST: Omens

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, December 5 2014


  • Another digital mogul with aspirations to remake journalism, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, is dealing with turmoil at The New Republic, the magazine he bought two years ago. His latest moves to turn it from a magazine into a "digital media company" by reducing the number of print editions and moving its staff to New York have triggered an apparent staff rebellion, led by the resignations of its editor Franklin Foer and longtime book editor Leon Weiseltier. As Dylan Byers reports for Politico, several more staff members "are now planning to show up at the magazine's offices on Friday and resign."

  • According to Jonathan Chait, one of the many writers nurtured into prominence by TNR, is that Hughes and his handpicked CEO Guy Vidra, "are afflicted with the belief that they can copy the formula that transformed the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed into economic successes, which is probably wrong, and that this formula can be applied to The New Republic, which is certainly wrong." Vidra's use of cliches like "we're a tech company now" and "let's break shit" also turned staff against him, Chait says.

  • Chris Hughes told the New York Times' Ravi Somaiya the magazine had a choice: "to embrace the future or slide toward irrelevance, which is something I refuse to allow…we need to continue to be experimental just as the founders of this institution said a hundred years ago."

  • While many prominent writers expressed dismay at the changes at the hundred-year-old magazine, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic tweeted, "Sorry whenever journos lose jobs, but of us colored folk will always remember @tnr with mixed feelings."

  • For different reasons, having more to do with his embrace of all things digital, top wonk blogger Ezra Klein also begs to differ.

  • In the wake of the non-indictment of the police officers who killed Eric Garner, a debate has broken out over the efficacy of the police wearing body cameras. In New York magazine, Jesse Singal argues that when officers know they are being watched all the time, their behavior will improve.

  • In Medium, An Xioa Mina of Civic Beat (and PDM friend) writes eloquently about why people bring hashtagged signs to street protests, and how this collapses the supposed divide between online and offline activism. The photos she shares are half the story.

  • Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is introducing a bill to ban any government mandated backdoors into Americans' cellphones and computers.

  • In the New York Times, Julian Assange pens an oped arguing that while we live in an age of mass surveillance, "The same developments that make our civilization easier to surveil make it harder to predict. They have made it easier for the larger part of humanity to educate itself, to race to consensus, and to compete with entrenched power groups." He says for this potential to be nurtured, the usage of strong cryptography has to become commonplace.

  • Related: In the New Yorker, Vauhini Vara sums up the latest annual Internet Freedom report from Freedom House, and the trend lines are ominous.

  • Slight more than half of all Americans believe that company privacy policies ensure "that the company keeps confidential all the information it collects on users," Pew Internet's Aaron Smith reports. In fact, he notes, "a privacy policy is simply a legal document that discloses how customer data is managed and used." As I have been saying, it is time to stop letting companies use the phrase "privacy policy" when they collect any information from their users, and press for a change to "data usage policy" to describe what is actually going on.

  • Accela says the civic tech market--which it defines as "citizen-facing software and services that connect citizens, tourists and business with government services and workers"--is a $6.4 billion market and growing.