Category Archives: journalism

Old White Man Apologizes

I had just finished Jann Wenner’s memoir when the news of his interview with The New York Times broke. I was six when Rolling Stone was first published and had a print subscription for a long time. I decided to read the book less because I interested in Wenner himself as I was in the time period and culture in which he created the magazine: the music, the people, the events. There were lots of good stories that fostered my own memories.

The memoir was long and seemed to drag at points. Wenner was clearly a proud man who likes being rich and well-known and dropping lots of names. It was very different from Elton John’s funny, often self-deprecating story of his own life that I read last year.

And then, just after I finished the book, the interview dropped where Wenner pushed back when asked why all the “masters” featured in his new book were white men. Women and people of color were not articulate enough; they weren’t the philosophers of rock and roll, according to Wenner. Seriously? The interviewer was shocked and mentioned a long list of musicians like Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder, all of whom Wenner brushed aside as not meeting the lofty criteria for his book.

And then came the real ugliness, the view into Wenner’s soul: he guessed he should have picked a woman and a black man so he could have avoided these kinds of questions even though they would not have measured up to all these amazing white men. Oh, FFS.

The rest of the interview isn’t much better: Wenner should be proud of his work, but his pride spills over into arrogance. He seems incapable of self-reflection.

The repercussions were swift. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that he co-founded kicked him off the board immediately, and a literary festival appearance was cancelled. After a day, the inevitable apology was offered. He spoke badly chosen words, he said, and accepted the consequences.

Craig Seymour, writing in The Guardian after the interview and the apology, reviewed the sexist, racist history of Rolling Stone and rock journalism in general, the not-so-secret history that Wenner “let slip” in the interview.

For me, it’s the apology that continues to wrankle. He is sorry he said what he said. Why? He made it clear in the interview that he knew exactly what he was saying. Even doubled down on it when the interviewer pressed him. So, why apologize? Why not be honest about how you feel, that you wrote the book so you got to choose, and you stand by your statements as horrible as they are. Because, I’ll be honest: I don’t think he is sorry.

Local News

One of my graduate students was a sport writer focusing specifically on high school sports in a small town. So, I had to share the news about Gannett Newspapers pulling back from their use of AI to write their news stories. Gannett, of course, is not loved by small newspapers and local journalists as they take over and big layoff usually follow. What suffers when that happens is the local news, and it is local news that led to the pull back.

The Columbus Dispatch‘s story about a local soccer match opened with this grabber of a lede:

The Worthington Christian [[WINNING_TEAM_MASCOT]] defeated the Westerville North [[LOSING_TEAM_MASCOT]] 2-1 in an Ohio boys soccer game on Saturday.

Opinion: High schoolers can do what ai can’t, Scott simon, npr

It was, not surprisingly, written by AI.

Scott Simon, who penned the NPR editorial, suggests that the news organization could hire high school students to cover what is, and my grad student backed him up on this, a crucial part of small town life. As I wrote recently, local communities are an essential part in many people’s lives and AI has not yet, at least, found it niche.

On a side note, I introduced my students to the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine last week. The offending news story from The Columbus Dispatch had been taken down but CNN was able to link to the archived version. At least, Gannett had given credit to LedeAI, the bot that wrote what is on its way to being a classic of sports writing.

It’s Complicated

I tweeted about this Smithsonian Magazine article about Buffalo Bill this week:

The headline for the article is pretty sensational: Murder, Marriage and the Pony Express: Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Buffalo Bill. But the subtitle undercuts that sensationalism: His adventures were sensationalized in print and the Wild West show, but reality was more complicated—and compelling.

Isn’t reality always more complicated than can be presented in even an extensive report? We mostly get short sound bites that provide little historical or social context. I thought about it when I listened to the Code Switch podcast talking about the Obama administration’s education legacy. The commentators mention Urban Prep, a charter school in Chicago often held up as an exemplar with 100% graduation rate. But that rate doesn’t take into account attrition. At about 7:46 in the podcast, they say, “It’s complicated.” Later in the program, one of the guests discusses the complicated web of home, school and poverty that makes educational problems so difficult to solve.

Real problems do not yield to easy solutions.

Paying for News

I woke up this morning thinking about yesterday’s post. I know I sounded whiney about Education Week’s paywall and that, as an education professional, I should probably be paying for a subscription, something I did for years when it was a print publication. Not sure why I stopped when life went online other than perhaps I felt like the proliferation of information meant I didn’t need to pay for my education news. Plus, in the early days, you couldn’t get a digital only subscription and I just didn’t want those weekly newspapers. Yet, I still include Education Week in feedly and can pretty quickly eat through my three free articles. And, digital only editions are now available.

My main complaint is that, when I want to link to an article, I run the risk of readers not being able to access the article if they also don’t have a subscription or have used up their free access.

And, I wonder when I, along with lots of others, decided that news should be free? Education Week is a professional publication that hires journalists to report on ongoing news as well as to produce reports on the general state of education. Supporting them with my subscription dollars may help ensure access to quality reporting and commentary.

It’s a conundrum but for now, I’m coming down on the side of paying. What side have others chosen?


I am fascinated by the story about the demise of The New Republic because I think it prompts so many different threads of thought about how technology is impacting our lives. It is a larger than life demonstration of the clash of old and new, past and future, that is playing out throughout our culture, including our classrooms. There are lessons here for educators, both the innovators and the traditionalists, about how to make change in a way that preserves the best of the past and takes advantage of the best of the future.

For now, I just have a few random thoughts after reading the lengthy article in the The New Yorker and the shorter piece in The Washington Post.

1. I had trouble getting through The New Yorker article. It was well written, engaging and informative, but my attention span seems to have shortened for long form essays. Have I been impacted by the 140-character trend? Or is there just too much distraction from email and social media?

2. I wasn’t prepared for how young Chris Hughes looks. He is over 30 years old but that still seems too youthful to take over the helm of TNR, which just celebrated its 100th birthday. He does sport a history and literature degree from Harvard. Startled by his photo, I suddenly realized that I am the older generation with more respect for experience and longevity than youthful enthusiasm. But, I was wrong, since Franklin Foer is only 37 and was 31 when he first became editor. The battle of past and future isn’t always defined age any more than the clash of digital natives and immigrants depicted in education.

3. At its core, however, this is a story about botched leadership. Leaders are expected not just to have vision but be able to communicate that vision to others and be open to their ideas and input, showing respect for that experience and longevity I mentioned earlier. The two leaders overseeing the debacle remain mostly unrepentant, a further demonstration of their lack of leadership. Hughes has lashed out at the writers and editors who left while Guy Vidra, brought in as the new chief executive, was a little more conciliatory but still defiant. Despite his protestations otherwise, this seems very much a clash of cultures and the inability of a successful businessman to admit that just being able to buy the magazine doesn’t mean you know best how to run it. Vidra’s comment that Gabriel Snyder better shares their vision and ideas is a sure sign that they think they know best. Only time will tell.