Monday, October 27, 2008

Transformation at AP; Also, Jodi Kantor on Barack Obama

I’ve taken note of the BBC’s tendency to jazz up its headlines to attract hits on its website. AP is doing much, much more than that according to the Washington Post, which ran a report entitled The AP Is Breaking More Than News. Jay Newton-Small, the reporter, chronicles the shift to what the AP’s Washington bureau chief calls “accountability journalism”.

Speaking of WaPo, Jodi Kantor’s report on Barack Obama is the most persuasive one I’ve seen on the man. I’ve finally gotten around to reading his Dreams from My Father and, though the stories he tells about himself there are nothing short of enchanting, I’ve been somewhat disconcerted by their neatly scripted, tightly edited feel. Ms. Kantor’s report sheds light on this sensation in a way that nothing else I’ve see does. It made me go back and look at her other articles; I think there’s a Pulitzer or two waiting for her—not now, but somewhere down the line.

And as another piece of proof that I’m behind the curve, I’m also finally reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A Black Swan, according to Mr. Taleb, is an event with the following three attributes:
First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of normal expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.
No need to explain why I’m getting into it now. Funny thing is, the real black swan carries only the first attribute.

Incidentally, I bought the two books (and a few others) at the Shinjuku Junkudo bookstore, which is currently selling all its foreign language books at half-price. For those of you in the Tokyo area who weren’t aware of it, the 50%-off sale continues till the end of this month.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Enchanted" is a good word for what Bill Clinton called the biggest fairy tale he'd ever seen. The book you read has many of them.

His former co-workers weren't very enchanted. This was written in 2005.

"Don’t get me wrong - I’m a big fan of Barack Obama, the Illinois freshman senator and hot young Democratic Party star. But after reading his autobiography, I have to say that Barack engages in some serious exaggeration when he describes a job that he held in the mid-1980s. I know because I sat down the hall from him, in the same department, and worked closely with his boss."

If you like being enchanted by fairy tales, then don't read more details about the fiction in that book.

You also don't want to read this piece by a working journalist. He gives the background explaining why newspapers are abandoning the AP and why their reputation is now equal to that of the New York Times credit rating. Junk status.

And they all lived happily ever after.