June 6, 2020

People Are Marching Against Racism. They’re Also Reading About It.

“These numbers are extraordinary for any children’s book, and in particular one that is in the board book format aimed at readers 0-3,” Elyse Marshall, executive director of publicity at Penguin Young Readers, said in an email. “It’s rare to see a board book hit and stay on a best-seller list weeks before it goes on sale, and the sustained presence reflects the moment that we are in.”

The demand for some titles has been so high that stores are having trouble keeping them in stock. Miriam Chotiner-Gardner, a buyer for Three Lives Company bookshop in Manhattan, said she’s seen increased demand every which way. Some people are ordering just these books, while others are buying them along with unrelated novels or essay collections. There are customers purchasing just one title, and others stocking up on whole reading lists of five to seven books. Publishers, she added, are working to help the store restock quickly.

“Books that are out today will come back next week,” she said. “Usually it takes weeks to get a reprint.”

Ms. Estep of Carmichael’s said Thursday that she didn’t have any copies left of her biggest sellers on the subject, including “White Fragility,” “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

“We did get a couple copies of ‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ today,” she said, shortly before 5 p.m. “But I haven’t been at the store since about 3 p.m., and I would be surprised if they were still there.”

These titles are dominating audiobook sales as well. Libro.fm is a company that partners with 1,200 bookstores in the United States and Canada to sell audiobooks, and on Friday, every one of its Top 10 best sellers was about race. The company said its Top 10 list on the first day of June, again consisting entirely of books about race, had sold 500 percent more than the Top 10 list did on the first day of May.

But buying books and reading books, Mr. Reynolds said, is not enough.

“If you read this book and you feel like you’re ready to do some good work, and you happen to be a white person, it is imperative to know you do not deserve cookies for being a good human being,” he said. “This is an opportunity to be good for good’s sake. Imagine that.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/books/antiracism-books-race-racism.html

The Complex Debate Over Silicon Valley’s Embrace of Content Moderation

Ellen Pao, once the head of Reddit, the freewheeling message board, publicly rebuked her former company. She said it was hypocritical for the Reddit leader Steve Huffman to signal support for the Black Lives Matter movement as he recently did in a memo, since he had left up the main Trump fan page, The_Donald, where inflammatory memes often circulate.

“You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence,” Ms. Pao wrote on Twitter. “So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.”

A hands-off approach by the companies has allowed harassment and abuse to proliferate online, Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University and a First Amendment scholar, said last week. So now the companies, he said, have to grapple with how to moderate content and take more responsibility, without losing their legal protections.

“These platforms have achieved incredible power and influence,” Mr. Bollinger said, adding that moderation was a necessary response. “There’s a greater risk to American democracy in allowing unbridled speech on these private platforms.”

Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, shields tech platforms from being held liable for the third-party content that circulates on them. But taking a firmer hand to what appears on their platforms could endanger that protection, most of all, for political reasons.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/technology/twitter-trump-facebook-moderation.html

Appeals Court Blocks White House From Suspending Reporter’s Press Pass

The remark angered Mr. Gorka, who began yelling at Mr. Karem. He shouted back, “Hey, come on over here and talk to me, brother, or we can go outside and have a long conversation.” Mr. Gorka then advanced on Mr. Karem and accused him of threatening him. Mr. Karem lowered his voice and said, “I said I’d be happy to talk to you,” but Mr. Gorka continued to yell, responding, “You are a punk! You’re not a journalist! You’re a punk!”

As he walked away, Mr. Karem shouted at Mr. Gorka to “go home” and “get a job.” Several minutes later, in the Palm Room of the White House, Mr. Karem tried to shake Mr. Gorka’s hand, but Mr. Gorka refused and repeatedly told him, “You’re done.”

Three weeks later, Mr. Trump’s press secretary at the time, Stephanie Grisham, informed Mr. Karem that the White House was suspending his press credential — which lets reporters who regularly cover the White House to quickly get on the grounds of the compound — because he had caused a disruption and violated basic standards of professional behavior.

Mr. Karem sued, defending his comments as jocular and within normal parameters of a freewheeling press environment and also making several legal claims, including that he had no notice of the severity of the penalty that might be imposed for such conduct. That argument alone was sufficient for him to win, the appeals court said.

Judge Tatel also derided as “raising the specter of the absurd” an argument the Trump administration had put forward: If the court ruled for Mr. Karem, the White House would be powerless even “were a reporter to ‘moon’ the president, shout racial epithets at a foreign dignitary or sexually harass another member of the press corps.”

The judge said Mr. Karem’s behavior fell short of such acts, adding, “In any event, the White House can rest assured that principles of due process do not limit its authority to maintain order and decorum at White House events by, for example, ordering the immediate removal of rogue, mooning journalists.”

In 2018, the Trump administration had tried to revoke the press credentials of Jim Acosta, a CNN reporter who covers the White House, because he refused to relinquish a microphone during a news conference when Mr. Trump tried to move on to another reporter.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/us/politics/brian-karem-press-pass-white-house.html

Jimmy Kimmel Does What He Can to Help Disney Attract Advertisers

In a presentation shown to reporters, Jeff Meacham, an actor from ABC’s “black-ish,” had a conversation with a Barbie doll. Ryan Seacrest, who hosts “American Idol,” called Disney a “reach machine” for its popularity with multiple generations. Kerry Washington, who stars in “Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu, talked up product placement opportunities.

The topic of production delays laid bare the effect of the pandemic. The new season of the National Geographic show “Genius,” featuring Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin, halted filming with two episodes left. “Supermarket Sweep,” an ABC game show hosted by Leslie Jones, was stalled just before filming was set to start. After the death of George Floyd, Disney added a note to the presentations expressing support for the black community, saying that the company was “struggling to make sense of all recent tragedies” and that it was “outraged by the killing of George Floyd among so many others.”

TV viewership has surged during the pandemic, but companies have slashed budgets for commercials by more than 40 percent, according to the research firm Kantar. Ad spots, which had grown steadily more expensive in recent years, have sold for 20 percent or more below their usual rates, media buyers said.

Disney’s ad revenue is expected to slump $1.4 billion this year and will not fully recover for another two years, according to a forecast from the research firm MoffettNathanson.

“Many advertisers are unable to commit to budgets, and many TV networks don’t have finished product to sell,” said Tim Nollen, an analyst with Macquarie Capital, in a note to investors last month.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 5, 2020

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Companies canceled between 15 and 20 percent of third quarter spending commitments with ABC, up from 5 to 10 percent normally, said Rita Ferro, Disney’s ad sales chief, in an interview.

Networks hope that sales recover as golf and other sports return. To lure advertising dollars, networks are dangling flexible payment terms.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/business/media/disney-advertising-television-coronavirus.html

New York Times Says Senator’s Op-Ed Did Not Meet Standards

During the editing process, Mr. Rubenstein asked a photo editor, Jeffrey Henson Scales, for photographs of state and federal forces who were sent to the University of Mississippi in 1962 to quell segregationists protesting the enrollment of the first African-American student at the school. Mr. Cotton had cited the military’s role in desegregation to make the case for sending troops into the streets.

Mr. Scales raised an objection. “A false equivalence, but historical images are there now,” he wrote to Mr. Rubenstein on Slack, the internal messaging software used by Times employees.

“Yeah, there are a few in there,” Mr. Rubenstein responded, adding an emoji of a frowning face.

Mr. Scales objected again in the Opinion section’s Slack channel shortly after it was published online, calling the Op-Ed “highly inappropriate.” At the time he was unaware that the essay had already appeared online, he said in an interview.

Mr. Rubenstein referred a request for comment to a Times spokeswoman, who did not reply to inquiries.

In a video meeting of the opinion department on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Bennet and James Dao, the deputy editorial page editor, acknowledged that there had been a breakdown in the process of preparing the essay for publication, according to four people who attended it. The editors said that the article had been fact-checked, but added that they would fact-check it again. Mr. Dao did not reply to a request for comment.

Mr. Baquet, the executive editor, who oversees the news division, which is run separately from the opinion department, said he heard from a number of reporters and editors who believed that the Op-Ed did not meet the standards of The Times.

“When my newsroom is agitated, I respond to that,” he said.

He acknowledged that some readers might not be aware of the wall separating the news and opinion departments. He said he first saw the Op-Ed when it was posted online.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/business/new-york-times-op-ed-cotton.html

Snapchat Stopped Promoting Trump Account

White House representatives did not respond to requests for comment. Brad Parscale, the manager of Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign, accused Mr. Spiegel of liberal bias and said, “Snapchat is trying to rig the 2020 election.”

Mr. Trump has been embroiled in a confrontation with social media companies since Twitter began labeling some of his tweets last week. He immediately accused Twitter, his preferred social media platform, where he has more than 81 million followers, of stifling his speech and meddling in the November presidential election.

In an apparent act of retaliation last Thursday, Mr. Trump signed an executive order intended to chip away at legal protections that internet companies rely on so that they are not liable for the content posted on their sites.

Twitter and others have denounced the executive order. Twitter has since pressed ahead in labeling more tweets by public officials, while Facebook has faced criticism for doing nothing about Mr. Trump’s posts. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, grappled with a virtual walkout on Monday by hundreds of his employees over the issue, but has continued defending his decision to leave Mr. Trump’s messages untouched.

Social media companies are entitled to enforce their own standards on speech, said First Amendment and social media speech scholars.

Snap’s decision “shows that companies increasingly understand that they do not need to be in the binary leave-up or take-down dynamic,” said David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. “They have multiple tools to deal with the dynamics of the spread of hateful content, disinformation, harassment and other kinds of content.”

But the impact of Snap’s action is likely to be modest, said Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at the law school at St. John’s University.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/technology/snapchat-trump.html

Early Facebook Employees Disavow Zuckerberg’s Stance on Trump Posts

Facebook’s leadership must reconsider their policies regarding political speech, beginning by fact-checking politicians and explicitly labeling harmful posts.

As early employees on teams across the company, we authored the original Community Standards, contributed code to products that gave voice to people and public figures, and helped to create a company culture around connection and freedom of expression.

We grew up at Facebook, but it is no longer ours.

The Facebook we joined designed products to empower people and policies to protect them. The goal was to allow as much expression as possible unless it would explicitly do harm. We disagreed often, but we all understood that keeping people safe was the right thing to do. Now, it seems, that commitment has changed.

We no longer work at Facebook, but we do not disclaim it. We also no longer recognize it. We remain proud of what we built, grateful for the opportunity, and hopeful for the positive force it can become. But none of that means we have to be quiet. In fact, we have a responsibility to speak up.

Today, Facebook’s leadership interprets freedom of expression to mean that they should do nothing — or very nearly nothing — to interfere in political discourse. They have decided that elected officials should be held to a lower standard than those they govern. One set of rules for you, and another for any politician, from your local mayor to the President of the United States. This exposes two fundamental problems:

First, Facebook’s behavior doesn’t match the stated goal of avoiding any political censorship. Facebook already is acting, as Mark Zuckerberg put it on Friday, as the “arbiter of truth.” It monitors speech all the time when it adds warnings to links, downranks content to reduce its spread, and fact checks political speech from non-politicians.

This is a betrayal of the ideals Facebook claims. The company we joined valued giving individuals a voice as loud as their government’s — protecting the powerless rather than the powerful.

Facebook now turns that goal on its head. It claims that providing warnings about a politician’s speech is inappropriate, but removing content from citizens is acceptable, even if both are saying the same thing. That is not a noble stand for freedom. It is incoherent, and worse, it is cowardly. Facebook should be holding politicians to a higher standard than their constituents.

Second, since Facebook’s inception, researchers have learned a lot more about group psychology and the dynamics of mass persuasion. Thanks to work done by the Dangerous Speech Project and many others, we understand the power words have to increase the likelihood of violence. We know the speech of the powerful matters most of all. It establishes norms, creates a permission structure, and implicitly authorizes violence, all of which is made worse by algorithmic amplification. Facebook’s leadership has spoken with these experts, with advocates, and with organizers, yet they still seem committed to granting the powerful free rein.

So what do we make of this? If all speech by politicians is newsworthy and all newsworthy speech is inviolable, then there is no line the most powerful people in the world cannot cross on the largest platform in the world — or at least none that the platform is willing to enforce.

President Trump’s post on Friday not only threatens violence by the state against its citizens, it also sends a signal to millions who take cues from the President. Facebook’s policy allows that post to stand alone. In an age of live-streamed shootings, Facebook should know the danger of this better than most. Trump’s rhetoric, steeped in the history of American racism, targeted people whom Facebook would not allow to repeat his words back to him.

It is our shared heartbreak that motivates this letter. We are devastated to see something we built and something we believed would make the world a better place lose its way so profoundly. We understand it is hard to answer these questions at scale, but it was also hard to build the platform that created these problems. There is a responsibility to solve them, and solving hard problems is what Facebook is good at.

To current employees who are speaking up: we see you, we support you, and we want to help. We hope you will continue to ask yourselves the question that hangs on posters in each of Facebook’s offices: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

To Mark: we know that you think deeply about these issues, but we also know that Facebook must work to regain the public’s trust. Facebook isn’t neutral, and it never has been. Making the world more open and connected, strengthening communities, giving everyone a voice — these are not neutral ideas. Fact-checking is not censorship. Labeling a call to violence is not authoritarianism. Please reconsider your position.

Proceed and be bold.

Sincerely, some of your earliest employees:

Meredith Chin, Adam Conner, Natalie Ponte, Jon Warman, Dave Willner, on behalf of Ezra Callahan, Chris Putnam, Bob Trahan, Natalie Trahan, Ben Blumenrose, Jocelyn Blumenrose, Bobby Goodlatte, Simon Axten, Brandee Barker, Doug Fraser, Krista Kobeski, Warren Hanes, Caitlin O’Farrell Gallagher, Jake Brill, Carolyn Abram, Jamie Patterson, Abdus-Salam DeVaul, Scott Fortin, Bobby Kellogg, Tanja Balde, Alex Vichinsky, Matt Fernandez, Elizabeth Linder, Mike Ferrier, Jamie Patterson, Brian Sutorius, Amy Karasavas, Kathleen Estreich, Claudia Park

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/technology/facebook-trump-employees-letter.html

Musicians Push Industry to Support Justice With Money, Not Hashtags

Record labels and tech platforms had already made some commitments, however. This week Spotify and Sony Music said they would match employee donations. Apple said it would give unspecified sums to a number of groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative, and SiriusXM, which also owns Pandora, said on Wednesday that it would be making undisclosed contributions.

The Universal Music Group announced a task force to examine the company’s efforts in inclusion and social justice, but so far has not announced any specific plans for donations.

Still, advocates have been careful to note that their efforts would not be limited to a single day, and further donations may be coming soon. Late on Tuesday, the organizers of the Blackout campaign tweeted: “You just witnessed Act 1.”

On Wednesday, the Warner Music Group — home to stars like Cardi B and Ed Sheeran — upped the ante by announcing a $100 million fund from the company and a foundation affiliated with its majority owner, Len Blavatnik of Access Industries, “to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism.”

That statement came within minutes of another announcement from Warner about the pricing of shares in its much-anticipated initial public offering. The company will sell 77 million shares — seven million more than originally announced — at $25 each, raising $1.9 billion for Access, which issued the stock. Those seven million extra shares will bring in $175 million.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/arts/music/blackout-tuesday-donations.html

As Audiobook Market Grows, Narrators of Color Find Their Voice

As the market has grown, so have opportunities for actors who, like Hite, are passionate about books and have the stamina to enact them. Now the need to make the field more diverse for narrators of color has become a central issue for publishers.

But the particular demands of the job, compared with film and stage acting, make this tricky. What does representation mean when actors can only be heard and not seen? What constitutes a black, Latino or Asian voice? And to complicate matters, in most audiobooks a single narrator voices multiple characters, who may have a variety of ethnicities and accents.

“It’s our job as producers to be respectful and sensitive to those voices and characters,” said Dan Zitt, the senior vice president of content production at Penguin Random House Audio. His team of 15 producers is on track to release more than 1,700 audiobooks this year.

But finding the right voice talent isn’t always easy. To cast the two lead narrators of “When Stars Are Scattered,” a graphic memoir about Somali boys growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya, Zitt’s team members looked beyond Los Angeles and New York, where their recording studios are. They found Somali actors in Minnesota, who recorded there while being directed remotely via Skype.

Zitt also said he’s been challenging the way casting decisions are being made. That includes promoting colorblind casting, especially when a story doesn’t specify the main character’s race. “It’s not just: ‘An older white man wrote this book, an older white man has to read it,’” he said.

Take “The Last Human,” for instance, a space opera published in March about the galactic journey of an orphaned girl, described only as a human living among aliens. To narrate this debut novel by Zack Jordan, who is white, Zitt enlisted the actor and award-winning narrator Bahni Turpin, who is black.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/books/audiobook-narrators-diversity.html

Zuckerberg Defends Approach to Trump’s Facebook Posts

“I used that opportunity to make him know I felt this post was inflammatory and harmful, and let him know where we stood on it,” Mr. Zuckerberg told Facebook employees. But though he voiced displeasure to the president, he reiterated that Mr. Trump’s message did not break the social network’s guidelines.

The Facebook chief held firm even as the pressure on him to rein in Mr. Trump’s messages intensified. Civil rights groups said late Monday after meeting with Mr. Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, that it was “totally confounding” that the company was not taking a tougher stand on Mr. Trump’s posts, which are often aggressive and have heightened tensions over protests on police violence in recent days.

Several Facebook employees have resigned over the lack of action, with one publicly saying the company would end up “on the wrong side of history.” And protesters showed up late Monday to Mr. Zuckerberg’s residential neighborhood in Palo Alto, Calif., and also headed toward the social network’s headquarters in nearby Menlo Park.

The internal dissent began brewing last week after Facebook’s rival, Twitter, added labels to Mr. Trump’s tweets that indicated the president was glorifying violence and making inaccurate statements. The same messages that Mr. Trump posted to Twitter also appeared on Facebook. But unlike Twitter, Facebook did not touch the president’s posts, including one in which Mr. Trump said of the protests in Minneapolis: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

That decision led to internal criticism, with Facebook employees arguing it was untenable to leave up Mr. Trump’s messages that incited violence. They said Mr. Zuckerberg was kowtowing to Republicans out of fear of Facebook being regulated or broken up.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/technology/zuckerberg-defends-facebook-trump-posts.html