Monthly Archives: July 2015

Gawker Editors Fail to See the True Big Picture

The top editors of Gawker resigned earlier this week after management removed a story about how a senior executive at magazine publisher Condé Nast had attempted to arrange a tryst with a gay prostitute. The story when immediately published elicited almost universal outrage on social media over the outing of someone who was essentially a private citizen. Well over 99% of Gawker’s readers likely had never heard of this person before the story was published.

Nick Denton, the website’s founder, stated that he was ashamed to be associated with a story on the private life of a closeted gay man, which was why they took the previously unprecedented step of overruling the editorial department and removing the story. The editors resigned, not so much in defense of the story, though they stood by it while acknowledging it had some faults, but on the principle of the business side of the operation breaching the firewall that was supposed to separate it from the editorial side.

The editors, in my interpretation, viewed that outing of the previously anonymous executive as a specific detail, while editorial independence was the big picture. I feel they are wrong. The outing of a closeted gay man is the big picture.

Gawker and its affiliated websites in many ways embody the modern Internet and social media culture. While I have no statistics to back this up, I would be that Gawker affiliated website articles are retweeted more than any other media article on earth. I am a fan of Gawker and Twitter, but there is a dark side to both, one that was perfectly illustrated with the since-removed post outing the Condé Nast executive. The current online culture has a tendency to dehumanize people. Attacking people online has begun to resemble attacking enemies with a drone strike. You don’t look them in the eye and you don’t have to stand next to the ugly aftermath of the attack.

It says something about the modern media, and perhaps about modern society as a whole, that after having time to reflect and absorb the criticism over their story, the issue that resonated most powerfully with the editors was editorial independence, not the destruction that they had done to someone’s personal and professional life. People say things online all the time that they would never be willing or able to say to someone’s face. The editors stand by their story, but I somehow suspect that they wouldn’t ever stand up on a chair and say “Hey everybody. Listen up. You see John here next to me who is married with three kids and has a great job? I wanted you all to know he’s having sex with gay prostitutes.”

This isn’t just an issue with celebrities and media outlets. The kind of viciousness exhibited by Gawker occurs thousands of times a day among ordinary people on social media. How many teenagers have had their lives turned upside down by social media gossip and bullying? Had the editors realized that the most important issue in this whole story was not one of editorial independence but rather how seemingly good, intelligent people can casually destroy someone’s life, this might have become a catalyst for positive change, however modest. I fear this case may actually motivate people to publish more of these type of destructive articles.

As a side note, there is a seemingly obvious question that to my knowledge has not been addressed. Why did Gawker single out this person? There are thousands of married men across the country who are secretly sleeping with men, many of which are more high profile than the Condé Nast executive. One would think that a media organization that has access to as much gossip as Gawker would have been able to be able to out dozens of high profile, secretly gay men, but they chose this guy. Why? It is worth pointing out that a senior executive at a publishing company would be completely unknown to the general public, but he would likely be very well known among writers.

When Deadspin, a Gawker affiliated website, targeted ESPN writer Jason Whitlock in a series of stories, it was made clear that the Deadspin writer had interacted with Mr. Whitlock and had discussed potentially working with him. Given the circumstances, it would be useful if Gawker were to disclose what, if any, its writers, management, or editorial staff may have had with the Condé Nast executive in the past.

 

 

I Think We Should Cut Rod Stewart a Little Slack

So Rod Stewart is the latest in a long line of celebrities to stir up seal related outrage in NL. Apparently after the picture of him in a seal skin coat went viral and he found himself being spewed with animal rights venom he had an assistant take to Facebook to tell the world that he does not support the seal hunt and now we are all as mad with him today as Paul Watson was with him yesterday. I get as mad as anyone when celebrities like Pamela Anderson talk about how we are all terrible people for killing poor defenseless seals, but in this case I think we should all put down our torches and pitchforks and lay off poor Rod.

Celebrities in the past have called us things like barbarians, jerks, and cruel. Rod Stewart’s comments were innocuous by comparison. He didn’t launch into any attacks on us or the seal industry, he was freaking out a little that he woke up Sunday morning and found himself the new poster boy for the Canadian sealing industry and had Paul Watson threatening to have him and his jacket dragged off his plane in Heathrow airport. I actually respect that he pointed out that he didn’t know much about the seal industry. Most celebrity critics who live in London or Los Angeles pass themselves off as experts.

Rod Stewart is not Bono; he generally avoids politics and controversy. He didn’t come here to make a statement for or against the seal industry. He came to sing a bunch of songs, kick a few soccer balls into the crowd, take a bag of money and go home. It is fine to be ticked off with him, but it would be unfair to lump him in with other celebrities who are actively working to destroy what’s left of our seal industry.

This is an example of how social media can create enormous controversies out of what would have gone virtually unnoticed the last time Rod Stewart played here. Then, a picture would have been posted in the Telegram, nobody outside of the province would ever see it, and we’d all love the guy. Because of social media, the picture goes viral and is shared among people all over the world. Animal rights activists freaked out. Mr. Stewart probably woke up Sunday morning nursing jet lag and a hangover and freaked out when he learned he was being attacked all over the world for promoting the seal hunt. Then everyone in NL freaked out when his assistant wrote that he didn’t support the seal hunt after all. Maybe we should all just take a moment to relax a little. After all, it was a great show and we will always have that picture.

Newfoundland Has the Worst Weather in the World

Many years ago I heard Bill Rowe on VOCM Open Line complain about how many people from the Mainland believed that Newfoundland had awful weather. I remember at the time asking myself if Bill Rowe was really from Newfoundland, as this island truly does have awful weather. I couldn’t help but remember Mr. Rowe’s long ago comment this past week as I was watching the steam my breath made during my family vacation in Terra Nova. On Monday the high was 11 degrees. Back on the Avalon is was apparently several degrees colder than that. On Wednesday it got up to 21 and we went to Splash and Putt, and the wind was blowing the chairs into the pool.

Newfoundlanders who bravely attempt to defend our weather point out that we don’t have tornados, we don’t have to plug our cars in overnight during the winter, and though we do get the occasional weakened hurricane, we don’t get the truly devastating ones like Hugo, Andrew, or Katrina. All that is true, but it doesn’t change the fact that Newfoundland has the worst weather on earth.

What makes our weather so painfully unbearable is its unpredictability. People often talk about Winnipeg having bad weather, but if you live there you at least know exactly what you are going to get. Winters will be frigidly cold and summers will be extremely hot. You know that you will be able to go snowmobiling all winter and head to the beach every day in the summer. In Newfoundland, particularly on the Eastern half, you can have 12 degree days in February and 9 degree days in July. We have had entire years where you cannot skate, ski, or swim. There isn’t another place on the planet that can make that claim.

If you live near the ocean in the southern United States you can build a house on concrete stilts. If you live in Winnipeg or Edmonton you can build a house with lots of insulation and an air conditioning system. How the hell do you adapt to a place that has 12 degree days in February and 9 degree days in July? There is no escape from Newfoundland weather. Newfoundland is the only place on earth that has terrible weather for both golfers and snowmobilers. If you want a reliable outdoor activity in this place you should buy a hot tub or take up scuba diving.

Federal Conservatives Blatantly Trolling NL Voters

Ches Crosbie, prominent lawyer and son of the most famous federal conservative politician this province has ever produced, appeared to have just recently been acclaimed as the Conservative candidate from the riding of Avalon. All that remained was for his candidacy was the formality of having his candidacy ratified by the party. Then yesterday, on Canada Day, news broke that Mr. Crosbie had been rejected as a candidate.

The Conservatives have not exactly been known for having the most rigorous vetting process for candidates. After all, various Senate appointees have found themselves facing criminal charges and the Party failed to pick up on the fact that a candidate who recently won a nomination in Quebec was only running as part of his art project. Yet here we have the bizarre situation of the party brass rejecting the highest profile Conservative candidate they could hope to attract in Newfoundland and Labrador, a province they have been shut out of for the past several elections. If the Conservatives have any hope regaining an N.L. seat this election, it will be in the riding of Avalon, where the Liberals are still recovering from a sexual harassment scandal that saw the sitting MP thrown out of the Liberal caucus.

If you are not from this province it is difficult to grasp just how bizarre a story this is. The Crosbie name is as recognizable as any in this province, with people from multiple generations having a prominent role in law, business, and politics over the course of the past century. Ches Crosbie, was not some spoiled rich kid; he is a successful and prominent lawyer in his own right. To think that someone of his pedigree and stature would be casually rejected without a word of explanation from the Party is downright insulting and demeaning to Mr. Crosbie, his family, and indirectly, the entire province. Imagine if Paul Martin had a son who had been a prominent lawyer for 30 years and ran unopposed for the nomination in a Quebec riding only to see his candidacy blocked.

This move simply has to be motivated by something other than a desire to win seats in this province. It truly does seem like an insult, as if the Conservative party brass has long since given up on winning a seat here while Stephen Harper is still Prime Minister, and they would just as soon extend their middle finger to the province than be perceived as trying and failing to win back a seat, particularly if that seat is won by a wealthy and unpredictable candidate who would be unlikely to tow the party line. By blocking Mr. Crosbie’s candidacy, the federal Conservatives seem to be more interested in trolling NL voters than they are in winning their votes.