December 8, 2019

A Big Screen to Sift Through Recruits

The biggest evolution is how stories move through the reporting and editing process. That cycle used to be: Reporter reports and writes. Editors edit. And voilà! It’s published in print and online.

But now baked into that process is a layer of sophisticated digital thinking: What story form should we use? What headline might best capture the essence of my piece? Is my topic searchable? Do we even need to do a written story? Let’s do a podcast instead.

There is now so much information in the world that all media companies, even the biggest ones, are re-evaluating what they bring to the table. It’s about asking ourselves what our value proposition is. And for The Times, our value comes from doing unique, high-impact journalism that is told in ways that sync up with how people are actually consuming content.

You’re a bit of a gear head. What are your favorite gadgets, and what do you do with them?

Oh, gosh. Where do I start?

I definitely fall into the category of “early adopter.” Our house is an Apple Store in miniature. At home, we shuffle between two MacBooks and an iPad Pro. I’m on my second Apple Watch, fifth iPad, seventh iPhone and, I think, 10th Mac. Every drawer in our house has some kind of Apple dongle in it. With all the money we’ve given to Apple, I’m pretty sure we’ve paid for at least part of Tim Cook’s private jet. Surely one of the winglets.

Beyond the Apple stuff, the gadget I use most often is the new Kindle Oasis, Amazon’s 10th-generation e-reader. For my money, it matches printed paper in clarity and experience. I think I’ve owned the last seven generations of Kindles. They are like a fine wine in reverse: The new ones just get better and better.

We also have a smattering of Google products around our home: a Nest thermostat and a Nest security system, a Google mesh Wi-Fi network and a Google Home speaker. Our daughter, 8, and son, 3, have grown quite adept at asking the Google Home funny questions. Our son is barely potty-trained but is already astute enough to declare with the proper volume and inflection, “Hey, Google, play ‘Kids Bop’!”

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The Worst Tech Gifts We Give (and How to Do Better)

Power chargers and battery packs make popular gifts because they are theoretically very useful. Just about everyone owns a mobile device and could use extra juice throughout the day.

But it’s too bad that not all power accessories are created equal.

Some charging cables from obscure brands fray easily or are slow at replenishing your phone. In rare cases, poorly made battery packs have the potential to explode. More often, battery packs are just frustrating to use: Over the years, I’ve tested many battery packs from unknown brands that were bulky and couldn’t recharge my phone even once.

Of the power accessories we have tested, these will make better gifts: For iPhones, Anker’s $10 PowerLine Lightning cables are durable and fast. For Android devices, Anker offers superb PowerLine II USB-C cables for $20.

As for battery packs, we recommend the $36 Jackery Bolt, which has built-in charging wires for iPhones and Androids, and Anker’s $32 PowerCore Slim, which fits easily in a pocket. Both can replenish a phone twice.

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John Simon, Wide-Ranging Critic With a Cutting Pen, Dies at 94

He denied being any of those things, and argued that no person or group was above criticism, especially those who, in his view, lacked talent and covered themselves in mantles of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity and used them to claim preferential treatment in the marketplaces of culture.

“I do not like uniforms,” Mr. Simon told the author Bert Cardullo in 2008. “I do not like people who are a professional this, that or the other. Professional writers, actors and singers are O.K., but I don’t like professional Jews, professional homosexuals, professional blacks, professional feminists, professional patriots. I don’t like people abdicating their identity to become part of some group, and then becoming obsessed with this and making capital of it.”

Mr. Simon liked the plays of August Wilson, John Patrick Shanley and Beth Henley. “From time to time a play comes along that restores one’s faith in our theater,” he wrote of Ms. Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart,” which won a 1981 Pulitzer Prize. He said Mr. Shanley’s “Doubt” (2004), about Catholic school scandals, “would be sinful to miss.”

He invited readers to see the world through the literary works of Heinrich Böll, Jane Bowles, Alfred Chester, Stig Dagerman, Bruce Jay Friedman, J.M.G. Le Clézio, Bernard Malamud, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, Ferenc Santa and B. Traven, and through the films of Antonioni, Bergman, Fellini or Kurosawa — but only “at their best.”

In The Times, he hailed the 1971 film “Hoa Binh,” a story of two Vietnamese children by the French cinematographer Raoul Coutard. “‘Hoa Binh’ should be seen by everyone, but especially by those who don’t want to see it,” he wrote. “They should come and be surprised, for they will leave, I promise them, filled with gratitude.”

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Dorothy Seiberling, Influential Arts Editor, Dies at 97

With her first husband, Leo Steinberg, regarded as one of the most important art critics of the 20th century, Ms. Seiberling amassed countless art prints, a handful of which the couple donated to the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Decades later, Ms. Seiberling gave dozens of pieces from her personal collection — including works by Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Christo and Claes Oldenburg — to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College. Papers from her editorship at Life are in the archives of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Dorothy Seiberling was born on March 7, 1922, in Akron, Ohio. Her mother, Henrietta Buckler Seiberling, helped found Alcoholics Anonymous; the first meeting reportedly took place when she invited two men into her home to talk. Her father, J. Frederick Seiberling, was the son of Frank Seiberling, a founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and the Seiberling Rubber Company, for which he worked.

Dorothy was the youngest of three children. Her brother, John F. Seiberling, was a congressman from Ohio who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment hearings in 1974; her sister, Mary, was a social justice activist. They grew up at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, their grandfather’s 70-acre estate in Akron.

Ms. Seiberling attended Vassar, where her mother and sister also studied, and graduated in 1943 as an English major. In the 1960s, when the presidents of Yale and Vassar were considering a merger of the two schools, Ms. Seiberling joined a resistance movement to keep the institutions separate; she published an essay in Life urging their autonomy.

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In Blockbuster Era, No Room at the Box Office for the Middlebrow

If you walked into ArcLight Cinemas in Sherman Oaks, Calif., on Friday looking for a movie to watch, you would have been greeted by a digital sign listing these offerings:

“Frozen II”

“Frozen II”

“Frozen II”

“Frozen II”

“Frozen II”

The 16-screen multiplex, located in suburban Los Angeles, offered 26 screenings of the Disney sequel on Friday, or about one every 30 minutes starting at 10 a.m. The ArcLight had other movies on offer, of course, including “21 Bridges,” a decently reviewed new crime drama starring Chadwick Boseman. But they were pushed to the edges. “21 Bridges” got five time slots.

Frozen II” was expected to take in more than $100 million over the weekend in North America and will easily sell $1 billion in tickets worldwide by the end of its run, according to David A. Gross, who runs FranchiseRe, a movie consultancy. Disney also stands to make a killing on thousands of licensed products: Elsa satin nightgowns ($30), “super sparkly” lip gloss sets ($9), Olaf diamond pendants ($2,550).

In contrast, “21 Bridges,” released by STX Entertainment and independently financed for an estimated $33 million, was expected to collect about $12 million over its first three days in domestic theaters, a result that Mr. Gross said he would describe as “solid.” Total ticket sales in North America might reach $40 million. There is no related merch.

Now imagine that you are a studio chief trying to keep your job, and the only sure way to do that is to find the most profitable movies possible. Do you bet on a franchise film like “Frozen II” or go with an original drama like “21 Bridges”?

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Byron Allen Spares No One in Accusing Comcast of Racial Bias

Ms. Madison, who is black, has personal experience with the challenge of getting Comcast to distribute a black-owned network. Her family owns the Africa Channel, which Comcast has carried for more than a decade. The channel has lost subscribers in recent years, she said, despite Comcast’s assurances to help it grow.

Ms. Madison said she felt that Comcast had a duty to try to help the new black-owned networks succeed, because they were integral to the company’s gaining federal approval to acquire NBCUniversal. But at a time when streaming becomes dominant and cable operators are looking to shed channels, Ms. Madison said she believed Comcast executives would not blink if the black-owned networks went away.

“It’s laissez-faire,” Ms. Madison said of Comcast’s treatment of the channels. “It’s, ‘They want channels, we’ll give them channels.’”

Ms. Fitzmaurice, the spokeswoman, said that Comcast alone cannot be responsible for the ultimate success of the channels, which needed the buy-in of other cable providers. She also defended Comcast’s handling of the channels, saying, “We have fulfilled to the letter and beyond what we’ve promised to do.”

Comcast’s distribution of the black-owned networks varied widely. The company made Mr. Johnson’s Aspire network available to about three-quarters, or 15.5 million, of its subscribers in the second quarter of this year, according to estimates provided by Kagan, a media market research group within SP Global Market Intelligence. Mr. Combs’s Revolt was in about 45 percent, or 9.3 million, of Comcast households.

In his statement, Mr. Combs said that Comcast had not provided Revolt with the necessary support. The network is not included in Comcast’s most affordable packages or in the markets that would help it to reach its target audience, he added.

Marc H. Morial, the president of the National Urban League and a negotiator of the 2010 agreement, defended Comcast. The deal created opportunities for minorities at the company, Mr. Morial said, including three people of color joining its board and the company tripling its contracts with minority businesses.

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U.S. Judge Orders Iran to Pay $180 Million to Washington Post Reporter and Family

His wife was not among those awarded damages because the particular law through which the claims were made extended to family members who were United States citizens and she was not a citizen at the time the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Rezaian’s lawyer, David W. Bowker, said.

Mr. Rezaian’s brother Ali spearheaded a campaign to get Mr. Rezaian released that consumed his life and cost him about $300,000 in flights, legal expenses and other related costs. Their mother, Mary, had her life uprooted and suffered emotional distress over her son’s treatment, the judge wrote.

Mr. Bowker said that Mr. Rezaian’s detention and abuse were “a totally traumatic thing that will be with him for the rest of his life.”

“Given what he has been through, he and the family are doing remarkably well and are determined to move ahead with their lives,” he said.

The judge’s order was a default judgment that came after the plaintiffs submitted expert evidence and testified in a full trial. The Iranian government put on no defense, Mr. Bowker said. A spokesman for the Iranian government did not return a phone message and email requesting comment on Friday night.

While it is highly unlikely that Iran would pay any damages, they could be paid from a fund established by Congress in 2015 to pay victims of terrorism, Mr. Bowker said. The fund, which has paid out more than $2 billion, was initially created with a federal appropriation and has since been augmented with money collected in sanctions, he said.

Mr. Rezaian is back working full time at The Post, where he is a global opinions writer.

“Our only focus at The Post has been on what was taken away from Jason, which was 544 days of his freedom,” The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, said in a statement on Friday night. “His imprisonment and that of his wife Yeganeh were wholly unjustified, and his treatment in one of Iran’s worst prisons was horrifying.”

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‘Tuesday Afternoon Impeachment’ Is as Big as ‘Monday Night Football’

If any group appears to have suffered from the fatigue brought on by the all-day political coverage, it is the cadre of Democrats running for president. A prime-time debate in Atlanta on Wednesday, the fifth of the year, drew the smallest live viewership of the Democratic primary campaign so far, with 6.6 million tuning in to MSNBC.

That debate followed roughly 11 hours of live testimony, a test for even the most dedicated TV political junkie. And it featured 10 candidates who have grown familiar to viewers, whereas the impeachment hearings, like the Watergate sessions of the 1970s, are minting a fresh group of small-screen stars.

Previously obscure civil servants, like Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia expert, and Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, are suddenly household names. On his CBS late-night show on Tuesday, Stephen Colbert delivered a riff on the decorated résumé of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, joking, “The only way Vindman could be more all-American is if he appeared in a Ken Burns documentary about the Statue of Liberty — which he did as a child.”

Seizing the moment, late-night comedy shows are scrambling to book political figures and pundits. In the last couple of weeks, Mr. Colbert welcomed the MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace and Senator Kamala Harris of California. On NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” the host, who rarely wades into politics, made an exception last week when he chatted about impeachment with Ms. Maddow.

The impeachment-focused fare seems to be working: Mr. Colbert is soundly beating his rivals Mr. Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel of ABC in the ratings.

Not to be outshone on his favorite medium, President Trump took to the airwaves himself on Friday morning, calling into “Fox Friends” for a 53-minute-long defense of his actions, in which he asserted a number of falsehoods about Ukraine.

Over all, Fox News is the most popular venue for daytime viewers to watch the congressional hearings. The network averaged about 2.5 million people over five days of coverage, according to Nielsen.

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Shepard Smith, Former Fox News Anchor, Puts $500,000 Behind Free Press

Speaking broadly, Mr. Smith called for unity in the news business to ward off government encroachment on free expression.

“We know that journalists are sometimes wary of being perceived as activists for some cause,” he said. “But press freedom is not the preserve of one political group or one political party. It’s a value embedded in our very foundational documents. Journalists need to join hands to defend it.”

At Fox News, Mr. Smith’s criticism of Mr. Trump stood out, and he was even mocked on-air by a colleague, the commentator Tucker Carlson. Mr. Smith, 55, had joined Fox News as part of its founding staff in 1996. But he became increasingly disillusioned in recent months about the gap between the network’s prime-time commentary and the reporting produced by its newsroom.

His exit shocked colleagues, with some visibly agape on-air after Mr. Smith informed viewers that Fox News had agreed to let him out of his contract early. The decision most likely cost Mr. Smith millions of dollars in lost salary.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, founded in 1981, works to advance press freedoms, particularly in dictatorial and autocratic countries. In recent years, speakers at its gala have increasingly referred to Mr. Trump’s attacks on the press and the hostile atmosphere faced by American journalists.

On Thursday, the group presented its Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award to Zaffar Abbas, the editor of a daily Pakistani newspaper, Dawn. The other honorees were Patrícia Campos Mello, a journalist at a Brazilian publication, Folha de S. Paulo; Neha Dixit, a freelance investigative journalist in India; two Nicaraguan broadcast journalists, Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora, who were imprisoned for 172 days on false charges; and Maxence Melo Mubyazi, a journalist in Tanzania.

The chairs of the dinner were Laurene Powell Jobs, whose Emerson Collective controls the magazine The Atlantic and has made major investments in media companies, and one of her top executives, Peter Lattman, a former journalist at The New York Times.

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Why Everyone Is Angry at Facebook Over Its Political Ads Policy

Facebook has been contacting ad buyers and advocacy groups for feedback on what changes to political ads, if any, they could stomach. In one recent call with political advertising groups, Facebook said it was considering some tweaks, such as the possibility of raising the minimum number of people who could be targeted to 1,000 from 100, according to two people familiar with the discussion. The potential change was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Facebook also is updating and refining its advertising library, a collection of current and past ads that were paid for by political candidates, in an effort to increase transparency, the people said.

On Thursday at Facebook’s Washington event with digital strategists and campaign officials, executives ticked through their current ad policies for 90 minutes, before breaking for a question-and-answer period that lasted roughly 15 minutes.

Despite Facebook’s pledge that it would not announce any new ad policies, those in attendance tried to pry out some information, said two people who were there. One member of the Trump campaign asked if Facebook was considering eliminating certain data and the ability to reach specific audiences. Facebook said it welcomed all feedback and was considering all the issues.

Another questioner professed hope that Facebook would not follow in Google’s footsteps, said the attendees. Facebook officials reiterated that they would not be making any news.

When asked if the social network would treat Democrats and Republicans equally in the 2020 elections, though, Facebook officials were quick to respond.

Their answer: Yes, everyone will be treated the same, the attendees said.

Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting from New York.

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