September 26, 2017

Writing Rupert, Playing Murdoch, Making ‘Ink’

JAMES GRAHAM I began writing it at the beginning of 2016, but even before Brexit and Trump’s election, I was interested in the way our news discourse was changing online and through social media. The more aggressive populist language of journalism there made me think about the aggressive populist tone that started with The Sun.

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Before “Ink,” James Graham found success with plays including “This House” and “Privacy.” Credit Curtis Brown

I was fascinated by these two characters: Rupert Murdoch, who feels very present in our cultural life, and Larry Lamb, expunged from history despite his influence in changing the voice of popular discourse. But I also had a wider desire to understand the tabloid appeal, and its wider effect on our political life. And then, it’s just a damn good story!

What you can’t deny is what was in the air: The national mood, the temperature of the country, and particularly the language — the tone of conversation in the media, social media, at the pub.

The presentation of the young Murdoch is very evenhanded. Did you discover aspects of his character that went against expectations?

BERTIE CARVEL I don’t know what I had in mind before I came to the table. It was important to me not to decide who this guy was before it began. One of the things that emerged is that Murdoch was a visionary, a story perhaps suppressed by those who think he was an uncouth outsider who just wanted to wreck the shop.

GRAHAM The narrative that has been perpetuated is that we are somewhat sympathetic to Murdoch. I don’t think it’s that. It’s about understanding human motivation. I don’t think people wake up and think, “How can we make the world worse?”

What does it mean for this play to be staged in London now, after the phone hacking scandals and the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, often blamed on tabloid hunger for stories?

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CARVEL I think the play shows a bunch of themes and arguments that have huge resonance, and not just in Britain. Murdoch talks about giving people more choice, more freedom, and that sounds good, specially in opposition to a patrician we-know-what’s-good-for-you. But when you track it through, you see where it may be problematic. Which is where we are now.

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“It was important to me not to decide who this guy was” before rehearsals began, said Bertie Carvel, left, of his portrayal of Mr. Murdoch. Credit Marc Brenner

GRAHAM I would love to think this could be played in 50 years’ time and have different resonances. It’s the universals of the human experiences that make it last; that’s the stuff I had to go away and work harder on when I was writing.

To what extent do we live in Rupert Murdoch’s world now? Do you think he knew where media culture was headed?

CARVEL The question is: Was it ever thus? Did tabloids shift people’s political allegiances or did they follow them? The idea that Rupert Murdoch can decide who your Prime Minister is — well, I think that even the people who wrote the famous 1992 headline, “It’s The Sun Wot Won It,” didn’t think that was true. But you can’t deny the impact of that journalism and those characters in terms of how we talk about ourselves and view ourselves today.

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During the rehearsal period we had the general election, which no one had expected, and then a result that no one had expected. Afterward, we had to ask, has the influence of the tabloids diminished because they tried hard, but didn’t succeed, in crushing Jeremy Corbyn? I think that by isolating a moment in history when the power of the tabloids was so great, and their influence so huge, audiences may have that conversation about whether that power is still the same.

There are often parallels drawn between Murdoch and Trump, who are famously friendly. James, did you think about that while writing?

GRAHAM I thought about Trump a lot during the latter stages of rehearsal. And also about British figures like Nigel Farage and Arron Banks. I am fascinated by populism and the contradiction, possibly even the hypocrisy, of the fact that it’s often men of great privilege and wealth who are the epitome of the establishment, who present themselves as anti-establishment and representative of working-class anger.

But I do think that what drove Rupert Murdoch was more than commercial interests. Like Trump, even though he was an insider, he felt like an outsider, that people humiliated him, mocked him. The anger that boiled within fueled the desire for revenge. But the Murdoch in my play is also driven by the desire to provide a voice to others who feel outside the system, because he had an understanding of what that feels like. I’m not sure that’s true for Trump.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/theater/rupert-murdoch-play-london.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Leading the Legal War Against Fox

“If Doug thinks he’s at war,” the statement said, “why does he contact us every two weeks asking for millions (40 percent for him) in exchange for peace?”

Television viewers have long been familiar with Fox’s public product, but for more than a decade, there have also been persistent glimpses of its private culture as numerous women have come forward accusing men like Mr. Ailes — or the host Eric Bolling, who was ousted this month after sending lewd text messages to female colleagues — of predatory sexual misconduct. As Mr. Ailes did before he died in May, Mr. Bolling has denied the allegations.

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The accusations by Mr. Wigdor’s clients — former news anchors, former news analysts, former accounting department employees — have only deepened the portrait of a toxic culture. One of the people he represents, a regular guest political commentator, says the network retaliated against her after she lodged a rape claim against a Fox Business host. Another, a Bangladeshi payroll worker, says a colleague once referred to him as a “terrorist.” In lawsuits that run to nearly 300 pages, there are charges that the network fired a freelance reporter at Fox 5 News, its New York affiliate, after she became pregnant; that Fox’s former comptroller repeatedly ridiculed black and Hispanic colleagues; and that some Fox journalists conspired with the White House to produce fake news.

The network has denied these charges and in each of the cases has promised to “vigorously defend” itself. On Monday night, it filed a motion to dismiss the fake news suit, calling it “without merit and legally insufficient.” Two days later, one of the defendants in the suit asked a court to professionally sanction Mr. Wigdor for having whipped up a media frenzy over what he claimed was a “false narrative.” Using the media is one of his favorite tactics, and he has on occasion included details in his complaints — about his defendants’ sex lives, for example — that are sensational and embarrassing but not necessarily legally relevant.

At 48, Mr. Wigdor has found himself as the courtroom general leading an army of Fox complainants largely because of his reputation as one of New York City’s most aggressive employment lawyers. During his career, he has filed gender discrimination suits against Deutsche Bank and Citigroup (both of which, like many of his lawsuits, were settled without a claim of liability), and an age and racial bias suit against The New York Times. In June, he sued Uber, alleging that officials at the company illegally sought the medical records of a woman who claimed she was raped by an Uber driver in India. (An Uber spokesman has apologized that the plaintiff had to “relive” the experience.) And in 2013, after he sued SoulCycle, charging that the indoor cycling studio had cheated an instructor out of his wages, the company banned him from all of its locations. So he sued over that, too, and lost.

But despite the fact that he has repeatedly taken on corporate giants, Fox may be his toughest target yet. In February, the network fired Judith Slater, the former comptroller, who is accused of racial animus by many of his clients. The network since maintained that Mr. Wigdor’s lawsuit naming Ms. Slater was “needless” and that his follow-up amended suits were “copycat complaints.” In April, days before one of those amended suits was filed, Mr. Wigdor said that Fox’s lawyers threatened to “seek sanctions” against him if his new plaintiffs went public with their claims. (A lawyer for Ms. Slater said that Mr. Wigdor’s claims against her “rely on false allegations” and were nothing more than a “money grab.”)

The threats have not just come from Fox itself. This spring, Mr. Wigdor held a televised news conference in which he announced additional plaintiffs in an expanding racial bias suit against Fox. Minutes after the event was aired, the police said a man called his office threatening to blow it up. When the man called back, Mr. Wigdor got on the phone with him. Mr. Wigdor said the man called him a “nigger lover,” adding he was going to kill him and his family. Mr. Wigdor called the police, who eventually identified the caller as Joseph Amico, a computer repairman from Las Vegas.

Within three weeks, two New York detectives had traveled to Las Vegas to arrest Mr. Amico, but a standoff ensued when he refused to leave his home. After several hours, a local SWAT team broke into the house and found Mr. Amico in the attic.

Mr. Amico’s lawyer, Todd Spodek, said his client would fight the charges. “In this political climate,” Mr. Spodek said, “people are so worked up about the issues that it’s very easy for words to be misunderstood and hysteria to take place.”

Slim and sinewy, with a disarmingly focused gaze, Mr. Wigdor says he has always had a passion for competition. He is a regular tennis player (and claims that while in law school he gave lessons to Alan Greenspan, a future chairman of the Federal Reserve). He bikes each day from his home in Forest Hills, Queens, to his law firm on lower Fifth Avenue. While working on a master’s degree at Oxford University, where he met his wife Catherine, he played starting point guard on its 1995 national champion basketball team.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/nyregion/douglas-wigdor-fox-news.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Megyn Kelly Is Ready for Her Morning Closeup

“I don’t feel this is a risky proposition, because I know myself and know what I can do,” she said. “And I know that I’m about to launch the show that I was born to do. This is what I was meant to do.”

Ms. Kelly, 46, did provide some details about the show. She said she did not plan to talk all that much about politics. Her show will have a mix of celebrity guests — Robert Redford, Jane Fonda and the casts of “This Is Us” and “Will Grace” will be on during her first week — along with segments dedicated to what she described as “regular people.” There will be a studio audience of about 150 people.

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Ms. Kelly said she opened a rehearsal show on Wednesday by touching on the earthquake in Mexico City and the hurricane in Puerto Rico before quickly moving on to discuss the open letter that Serena Williams wrote to her mother, which has gone viral.

In a recent promo for the show, Ms. Kelly said she hoped NBC’s new 9 a.m. hour would be “fun and uplifting and empowering — that makes people feel fists in the air at the end of it.”

Her show on Fox News often felt more like a fist to the face.

Ms. Kelly rose to fame — in conservative and liberal circles alike — for her withering cross-examinations of her guests. Her 9 p.m. show was No. 1 in the time slot.

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Ms. Kelly’s competitors at 9 a.m. will include Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, right, on their “Live” show in June with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Credit Aaron Lynett/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

But she suggested that the job, toward the end, wasn’t bringing her “joy” anymore. (Over the course of a 40-minute interview, she said “joy,” “joyful” or “joyous” nine times.) Still, Fox News was prepared to pay her more than $20 million a year for the job she wasn’t born to do. NBC also made an impressive offer, somewhere north of $15 million.

“If I had sat there saying, ‘I have job security here at Fox News, they’re not going to fire me, they’re going to pay me very well,’ that would have been a decision based on fear,” she said. “Fear of the unknown, fear of failure. And that’s an unhealthy place from which to make any decision.”

Though she had a Sunday newsmagazine show in the summer (and that will return next spring, she said), the centerpiece of her NBC deal is the morning show. Her pivot to the daytime format feels like a reboot after years in the political maelstrom, though she will not call it that.

“I think it’s the presentation of the whole me,” Ms. Kelly said. “It’s not like I am changing. I’m just sharing more of who I am. My friends and my family would say, ‘You’re going to see the Megyn we know.’ For me, it truly is all about pursuing more joy. That’s the reason we are here.”

On a recent appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” she got a crash course on what her new life will look like: dancing in the stands, donning a sumo wrestler fat suit, cooking.

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Ms. Kelly on the set of her new show. “If a news show and a talk show had a baby, that’s us,” she said. Credit Chad Batka for The New York Times

Ms. DeGeneres is good at producing laughs from her audience. “Megyn Kelly Today” has pledged to do the same.

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“Our viewers at 9 want to be informed, they want to be inspired, they want to laugh,” said Jackie Levin, the executive producer of the show and a “Today” veteran. “I think most importantly people want to laugh a little bit more. That’s what we hope to do.”

The competition will be stiff. In the most recent weekly ratings, “Live With Kelly and Ryan” averaged three million viewers, its best viewership in months. And that celebrity-driven morning show has no shortage of stars in the coming weeks, including Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Kate Winslet.

Ms. Kelly acknowledged that ratings were significant (“I understand that this is still a business and the show doesn’t get to stay on the air if it doesn’t rate”) but said she wouldn’t be paying attention to them the way she did with her top-rated Fox News show.

After all, she has her dream job now. And why exactly is this her dream job?

“It’s because I am a person who is searching,” she said. “And always has been. I am searching for my joy and more love and more wellness. Always have been. Finally my job is going to align with my soul, with my heart, with my reason for being. It’s not going to just be a paycheck because it happens to be something I do well.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/business/media/megyn-kelly-today.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Katherine M. Bonniwell, Life Magazine Publisher, Dies at 70

Mr. Leibovitz recalled that once, seeing that Time Inc.’s Money magazine was performing poorly, Ms. Bonniwell proposed a new content strategy. Instead of publishing a mix of miscellaneous articles, she suggested that each issue of the magazine focus on a different theme. Her suggestion was adopted, and readership soared.

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Ms. Bonniwell’s efforts to put Life back on a weekly publication schedule for the first time in a decade were driven by “amazing intellectual and political brilliance on her part,” said Jim Gaines, who was managing editor of the magazine at the time and later succeeded Ms. Bonniwell as publisher.

She made a compelling business case for producing more issues and very likely would have succeeded, Mr. Gaines said, if not for external market pressures and concerns that a weekly Life could cannibalize readership from other Time publications.

Katherine Marbury Bonniwell was born in Manhattan on May 29, 1947, to Lucy and John Bonniwell. Her family was descended from British colonists who arrived in North America in 1670. Her middle name was a tribute to her ancestor William Marbury, of the landmark Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court decision, which helped establish the doctrine of judicial review.

Ms. Bonniwell earned a bachelor’s degree in 1969 from Vassar College, where she studied art. She briefly worked at the Sotheby’s auction house before returning to school for a master’s from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1976.

Besides her husband, she is survived by her son, Alexander; a sister, Anne Gale; a brother, Charles Bonniwell; and a stepdaughter, Lynn Leibovitz.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/business/media/katherine-m-bonniwell-life-magazine-publisher-dies-at-70.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Preet Bharara, Ousted Federal Prosecutor, Will Join CNN

Mr. Bharara is no stranger to television, and his appearances in recent months seemed intended to showcase his versatility on the air. In June, he sat with George Stephanopoulos to offer a sober assessment of the Trump administration for ABC’s Sunday morning show “This Week.” Later in the month, he appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” for an extended segment with the show’s wisecracking correspondent Hasan Minhaj.

His new role at CNN adds to Mr. Bharara’s growing and diverse portfolio of postprosecutorial responsibilities. He is a distinguished scholar in residence at the New York University School of Law and an executive vice president at Some Spider Studios, a media company run by his brother that publishes Cafe, a news and entertainment website.

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His podcast, “Stay Tuned,” debuted on Wednesday afternoon, and its first episode had Mr. Bharara detailing his firing by Mr. Trump. Mr. Bharara said he had been unnerved by Mr. Trump’s request, during their initial meeting in December, that he write down his telephone numbers, given that, “as a general matter, presidents don’t speak to U.S. attorneys.”

Mr. Trump did indeed call Mr. Bharara on multiple occasions — the last time leaving a voice mail message that was never returned because of Mr. Bharara’s concerns about the appearance of impropriety. He was fired shortly thereafter, one of dozens of United States attorneys let go by the Trump administration.

On the podcast, Mr. Bharara said that given what he now knew about Mr. Trump, he would not have been long for his job even if he had not been fired.

“It’s my strong belief that at some point, given the history, the president of the United States would have asked me to do something inappropriate,” Mr. Bharara said. “And I would have resigned then.”

Mr. Bharara appeared excited about his new pursuits. On Wednesday night, he wrote on Twitter that he was “glad for the thoughtful roomy platform of a podcast.”

“Can’t live by 140-character quips alone,” he added.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/20/business/media/preet-bharara-cnn.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The New Yorker Said No, but These Cartoons Just May Make Your Day

Julia Suits, who is based in Austin, Tex., has had about 40 cartoons published since 2005. And she said the rejection is not necessarily final, noting that illustrators are often encouraged to refine their work. Her three cartoons in the exhibition are at different stages of development, including one in which a mother’s summer camp send-off to her child does not feel like it’s “naturally falling out of someone’s mouth,” she said. She’s surprised the magazine has not taken one that stems from a word play on Möbius strip and Moby-Dick.

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Her white whale, however, may be her cartoon about a family of balloons contemplating a circumcision. “It started out with two parent balloons, the baby balloon and a human surgeon,” Ms. Suits recalled. The original caption was, “Don’t worry, I’ve done hundreds of these.” Then the adjustments began. The current iteration has the balloon parents looking over their son and the caption, “I’m nervous about the circumcision, Gary.”

“The most overthought cartoons are the least successful,” Ms. Suits said. “The ones that pop out of nowhere are the ones that seem to work.”

Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell sold a cartoon in May, but it has not been published yet. “I’ve asked other cartoonists,” she said. “It normally takes months. I’m trying to be patient.”

Ms. Campbell said her cartoons tend to address anxiety and relationships. They also have a dollop of absurdity. One of her works in the show depicts a kayaker heading into a cavern, above which is a traffic sign with the bubbles that show up on iPhones (and can cause much anxiety) when someone is writing a response to your text message. Could it be a tunnel of love or doom? Ms. Campbell calls it “the tunnel of you-do-not-know-what’s-coming.”

One of her other cartoons is inspired, in part, from her experience as a nanny, working with young children whose worlds are being informed by mobile devices. The image shows a nanny and a young girl, who has been rendered speechless after her ice cream cone has fallen. The caption: “Use your emojis.”

Not OK — Great Cartoons That Weren’t Good Enough

Through Dec. 15 at Kave Espresso Bar in Brooklyn; kavebrooklyn.com.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/arts/design/new-yorker-rejected-cartoons.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

On ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ a Franchise Boldly Goes Into the Serial TV Era

“The world got pretty horrible in the last couple of years,” Alex Kurtzman, the other co-creator, said. “More than ever, as the world as gotten darker, people need ‘Star Trek.’”

As he and his colleagues have worked on “Discovery,” Mr. Kurtzman said they have asked themselves: “How do you honor the optimism and hope of ‘Star Trek,’ while also reflecting a brutal time? That is a reason to make a television show.”

Mr. Kurtzman, a writer and producer of the 2009 “Star Trek” film reboot and its 2013 sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness,” was first approached by CBS a few years ago about creating a new “Star Trek” TV series.

Mr. Kurtzman, whose other TV credits include “Fringe,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Hawaii Five-0,” was initially hesitant. To him and to millions of fans, “Star Trek” is a sacred institution, whose patient storytelling and progressive outlook have endured for more than 50 years while spawning numerous imitators.

“The only reason to do a new ‘Trek’ television show is if you have something really new to say,” Mr. Kurtzman said.

But Mr. Kurtzman became more intrigued by the idea of a series that could say and do more than even the big-budget movies — that could, as he put it, “live in the nuance and moral quandary that you don’t have time for in the films.”

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A scene from “Star Trek: Discovery.” Credit Jan Thijs/CBS

About two and a half years ago, he began to work out the premise of a new show with Mr. Fuller, who developed TV’s “Hannibal” and is a showrunner of “American Gods,” and who previously wrote for the “Star Trek” series “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager.”

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Mr. Kurtzman and Mr. Fuller set their story in an era when the United Federation of Planets has achieved a seeming utopia but remains fearful of the mysterious and belligerent Klingon race. The creators made their protagonist a Starfleet first officer — a more vulnerable, less certain character — rather than a captain, as past “Trek”s have done.

This character is highly regarded on her starship and throughout the Federation, but, in the earliest episodes of “Discovery,” she makes some fateful choices that fundamentally change how she is perceived, and that land her on a new vessel, surrounded by unfamiliar crewmates on an enigmatic mission. (To say much more would violate the prime directive of serial TV: no spoilers.)

As Mr. Kurtzman explained, “I tend to gravitate towards stories that surprise me, that set you up in a comfort zone and then pull the rug out, and now you’ve got a season’s worth of television to rectify that.”

CBS announced “Star Trek: Discovery” in November 2015, with Mr. Kurtzman as its executive producer. Mr. Fuller was named its showrunner in February 2016, and the debut of the series was planned for January 2017.

A larger producing team was assembled, including trusted franchise participants like Eugene (Rod) Roddenberry, the son of the “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, and Nicholas Meyer, the director of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and the writer-director of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

This group also included the writing partners Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, who had previously worked with Mr. Fuller on shows like “Wonderfalls” and “Pushing Daisies.” Though they were not hard-core “Star Trek” fans, they saw “Discovery” as a fascinating character drama, and looked to Mr. Fuller to bring them up to speed on the deeper “Trek” lore.

“We were like, ‘Listen, we’re going to be listening to every word that comes out of your mouth,’” Ms. Berg recalled. “We knew it was going to be a crash course.”

In September 2016, CBS pushed the “Discovery” premiere date to May 2017, to give the show some breathing room. The first cast members were hired, including Michelle Yeoh as Captain Georgiou, Anthony Rapp as the dyspeptic science officer Lt. Stamets, and Doug Jones as the Kelpien alien crew member Lt. Saru.

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After a far-reaching audition process, Mr. Fuller wanted Sonequa Martin-Green, a star of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” to play the central character, First Officer Michael Burnham.

But a problem arose: Ms. Martin-Green was not available for the start of production on “Discovery” because she still had a few remaining weeks on “The Walking Dead,” where her character was slated to be killed off.

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A scene from the original “Star Trek” with, from left: DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, William Shatner, George Takei and James Doohan. Credit Paramount Pictures

The “Star Trek” role, Ms. Martin-Green said, “moved on from me, as it needed to.” When that decision was made, she said, “I was in such a place of peace.”

Behind the scenes, however, “Discovery” was falling behind schedule. Sets, costumes and special effects needed to be designed; budgets were growing to more than $6 million an episode; and Mr. Fuller disagreed with the TV veteran David Semel (“Madam Secretary”), who had been hired to direct its pilot episode.

Last October, CBS announced that Mr. Fuller would step away from “Star Trek: Discovery” to focus on “American Gods” and other projects. He declined to comment for this story.

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Mr. Harberts and Ms. Berg were named the new showrunners, a decision they said was necessary to preserve Mr. Fuller’s fundamental vision of the show.

“We may not know what every single iteration of ‘Trek’ is, but we know what this iteration was supposed to be and what we all set out to do,” Mr. Harberts said. “Truthfully, that hasn’t changed a lot.”

Ms. Berg added, “We didn’t think it would survive if anybody new took over. Chances are, anybody new coming in would wipe the slate clean.”

The premiere of “Discovery” was pushed back to September, and this latest postponement allowed Ms. Martin-Green to come on board after all.

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Recalling an update she received from the “Star Trek” staff, Ms. Martin-Green said, “They told me, ‘It’s you. We can’t find anybody else. We’ll make it work.’ That last delay made me available.”

With only days to go before “Discovery” finally makes its maiden voyage, no one is quite sure how it will be received by the “Trek” faithful or by a broader audience.

Akiva Goldsman, an executive producer of “Discovery” and a “Star Trek” fan since the 1970s, said the new series did not disguise the lessons and influences it took from contemporary shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead,” where actions have lasting consequences and characters’ lives are always at risk.

Mr. Goldsman, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “A Beautiful Mind,” said that the “Star Trek” TV franchise had gradually evolved toward long-form storytelling.

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Chris Pine, left, and Zachary Quinto in the 2009 film “Star Trek,” directed by J.J. Abrams. Credit Industrial Light Magic/Paramount Pictures

On a vintage “Star Trek” episode like “The City on the Edge of Forever,” in which Kirk must allow a character played by Joan Collins to die, Mr. Goldsman said, “He’s shattered. But he’s not allowed to carry those feelings to the next episode.”

Later “Star Trek” shows like “Deep Space Nine” and “Enterprise” have moved further away from stand-alone episodes and on “Discovery,” Mr. Goldsman said, “We don’t reset every week. Because serialization replicates life.”

There is no way to be sure, either, how many viewers will follow “Discovery” from their TV sets to a paid online service. (CBS, which hopes the show will drive more subscribers to CBS All Access, used a similar strategy to introduce “The Good Fight,” its spinoff of “The Good Wife.”)

Mr. Kurtzman said the decision to release “Discovery” this way was “far above my pay grade — it’s not for me to make and I don’t have any influence over how they choose to roll it out.”

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He added, “What I do have control over is the quality of the show.” Once that decision was made, he said, “It put extra emphasis on my argument that we had to make it worth people’s money.”

As Mr. Kurtzman saw it, that called for better special effects and better production design, and even traveling to Jordan to shoot the opening scene of the pilot episode in order to keep pace with the shows that “Discovery” wants to be measured against.

“People have to pay for ‘Game of Thrones,’ too,” he said. “Nobody’s complaining about that. That becomes our standard now.”

What will ultimately make “Discovery” worthwhile, the people behind it say, are not the inspirations it draws from elsewhere, but the historical “Star Trek” values it carries forward and battle-tests in settings that a modern audience will recognize.

Mr. Jones, who has frequently appeared in fantasies like “Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” said “Star Trek” was unique because “it takes place in a future that is idealistic and hopeful.”

“There is conflict, but we have ways of working it out that don’t involve archaic blood baths, hopefully,” Mr. Jones said. “Our adversaries may not, but we find a way, with intellect and reason and the human spirit, that will always win.

As Mr. Goldsman asked: “All those associations with ‘to boldly go’ — how do we maintain those under the greatest kinds of duress? They have to be put under pressure and they have to be earned.”

Looking ahead at the show he has helped to create, and back at the process it took to make it, Mr. Goldsman added, “Boy, that’s relevant today.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/arts/television/star-trek-discovery.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Facebook, After ‘Fail’ Over Ads Targeting Racists, Makes Changes

Ms. Sandberg said the company “never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us.”

Facebook has grown into one of the world’s most valuable companies by offering advertisers the ability to quickly and easily target its users based on a vast array of information, from the type of home they live in to their favorite television shows. But the company is facing a new wave of scrutiny over how those tools can be misused, particularly after it disclosed this month that fake accounts based in Russia had purchased more than $100,000 worth of ads on divisive issues in the run-up to the presidential election.

The site has also been criticized for not anticipating that its technology could be put to nefarious use.

“The appearance of these offensive terms was embarrassing for Facebook and reflects the tendency of Silicon Valley companies to overly trust algorithms and automated systems to manage advertising,” said Ari Paparo, chief executive of Beeswax, an advertising technology start-up in New York. “The media business is all about people and influence, so there’s a necessary role for human moderation and control.”

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This is not the first time that Facebook has faced issues stemming from a lack of human oversight. Earlier this year, after a series of violent acts appeared on Facebook Live broadcasts, the company said it would add 3,000 people to the 4,500-member team of employees that reviews and removes content that violates its community guidelines.

But this was the first time that Ms. Sandberg, who is responsible for Facebook’s entire advertising organization, has directly addressed the company’s high-profile ad issues in public. Ms. Sandberg, a veteran of the digital advertising industry, grew to acclaim in Silicon Valley by developing Google’s sales organization in the search giant’s early days. She joined Facebook in 2008, and was asked to do the same for the social network.

Facebook has faced thorny questions about race and its ad-targeting tools before. Last fall, ProPublica reported that advertisers could use those tools to exclude certain races — or what the social network called “ethnic affinities” — from housing and employment ads, a potential violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Facebook, which assigns the updated term “multicultural affinity” to certain users based on their interests and activities on the site, no longer allows that classification to be used in ads for housing, employment or credit.

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Facebook users can see the many ways that advertisers may target them on the site.

“A whole bunch of problems have come up for Facebook over the past year that are going to have consequences,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group who closely follows Facebook. “It’s something between sloppiness, an absence of consideration on a range of issues, and the simple challenges of managing a massive company growing at an unparalleled pace.”

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Facebook’s annual revenue, nearly all of which comes from online ads, has more than tripled in the past four years to $27.6 billion in 2016, when it posted a net profit of $10.2 billion. Separately, the company has also been working to repair its relationship with major advertisers after it disclosed about a year ago that some of its measurement tools were not delivering accurate results.

Facebook, which restricted how advertisers could target users after the publication of last week’s report by ProPublica, reinstated 5,000 of its most commonly used targeting terms, like “nurse” and “teacher,” after manually reviewing the options, Ms. Sandberg said in her post.

Ms. Sandberg also said that the company was working on a program to encourage Facebook users to report abuses of its ad system.

“The move to add more human reviews is a good one and hopefully they can get ahead of the next issue that might arise in their powerful system,” Mr. Paparo said.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/20/business/media/facebook-racist-ads.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Lillian Ross, Acclaimed Reporter for The New Yorker, Dies at 99

She soon began writing her own Talk of the Town pieces for the magazine and went on to become a staff writer. Her profile of Hemingway on a stopover in New York — it appeared in May 1950 — elevated her into the ranks of the magazine’s most admired stylists, among them Joseph Mitchell and John Hersey.

In a later, much longer article, published in installments, she described John Huston’s anguished effort to make a great film of “The Red Badge of Courage,” Stephen Crane’s classic novel of the Civil War. When that article was ultimately reprinted as a book entitled “Picture” (1952), Newsweek called it “the best book on Hollywood ever published.”

On assignment Ms. Ross asked very few questions and never used tape recorders but filled many notebooks.

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Ms. Ross described her 50-year love affair with New Yorker editor William Shawn in this 1998 memoir.

“You try not to get in the way of the person you’re trying to show,” she wrote of her technique. “You are trying to follow along the person you’re interviewing, to respond to him instead of coming along with a lot of prepared questions, you just get him going. Just don’t bother him. And listen. It’s just a question of listening.”

Here, for example, is how she depicted Louis B. Mayer, the Hollywood mogul, who opposed Huston’s idea of turning “The Red Badge of Courage” into a film (though she violated one of her cardinal rules by inserting herself into the passage):

“He pounded a commanding fist on his desk and looked at me. ‘Let me tell you something!’ he said. ‘Prizes! Awards! Ribbons! We had two pictures here. An Andy Hardy picture, with little Mickey Rooney, and “Ninotchka,” with Greta Garbo. “Ninotchka” got the prizes. Blue ribbons! Purple ribbons! Nine bells and seven stars! Which picture made the money? “Andy Hardy” made the money. Why? Because it won praise from the heart. No ribbons!’ ”

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Ms. Ross’s work was often cited as a precursor of the New Journalism of the 1960s, in which nonfictional material was presented in forms drawn from imaginative literature.

Her 1960 article “The Yellow Bus,” for example, had the feel of a New Yorker short story. Exquisitely detailed and warmly sympathetic, it told of a senior-class trip — of “eight hundred and forty miles in thirty-nine and a half hours” — to New York by 18 wide-eyed students from rural Bean Blossom Township High School in the village of Stinesville, Ind.

“No one in the senior class had ever talked to a Jew,” Ms. Ross wrote, “or to more than one Catholic, or — with the exception of Mary Jane Carter, daughter of the Nazarene minister in Stinesville — had ever heard of an Episcopalian.”

Writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1966, the novelist Irving Wallace called Ms. Ross “the mistress of selective listening and viewing, of capturing the one moment that entirely illumines the scene, of fastening on the one quote that Tells All.”

Her memoir, of course, relied on more than a quote to tell all. The book, which appeared six years after Mr. Shawn died at 85, unavoidably called attention to an author who had remained mostly out of view in her journalism.

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A collection of Ms. Ross’s journalism was published in 2015. Credit Scribner

She wrote about Mr. Shawn’s daily visits to the Manhattan apartment they had chosen together, where, after reading bedtime stories to Erik, the son Ms. Ross had adopted in Norway, he would leave to spend the night with his wife and his own children 11 blocks uptown.

This time her subject was not a figure she could follow around to regard and depict with clinical detachment. She was focusing on a man she had loved, a man whose widow and children were still alive. Writing as one apex of a triangle, she was uncharacteristically partisan, as she insisted that Mr. Shawn had been more contentedly and authentically himself in her company than anywhere else.

Ms. Ross openly assessed hers and Mr. Shawn’s lovemaking, reporting that over four decades it retained “the same passion, the same energies” and “the same tenderness” that it had in the beginning.

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“It never deteriorated, our later wrinkles, blotches, and scars of age notwithstanding,” she wrote. “We never changed.”

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The response was furious.

Charles McGrath, who had been Mr. Shawn’s deputy at The New Yorker, was among those outraged. Reviewing the book for The New York Times Book Review, where he was the editor at the time, he wrote that for Ms. Ross to publish the work while Mr. Shawn’s widow, Cecille, was “alive and vigorous” was “a cruel betrayal of the Shawns’ much-valued privacy — a tactless example of the current avidity for tell-all confessions.”

Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Jeremy Bernstein, a veteran of 31 years as a New Yorker writer, was equally scathing. Noting that the book was subtitled “A Love Story,” he commented, “It is something quite the opposite: a deeply hurtful, self-indulgent, tasteless book that never should have been written at all.”

Ms. Ross confronted the criticism over lunches with journalists.

“The controversy doesn’t make any sense to me,” she told the gossip columnist Liz Smith, who was then writing for Newsday. “Most reviewers describe Shawn as a myth in their own heads. They are bitter and full of recriminations. They want to make Bill into my victim, but he wasn’t that at all. They say I was disloyal. He wouldn’t think so; he liked being shown as he was — a tender, romantic, passionate lover, one who adored jazz and theater and fun, liked driving fast cars, was mad about good food.”

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Ms. Ross and Mr. Shawn in an undated photograph. Credit From “Here but Not Here,” by Lillian Ross (Random House)

Ms. Ross had come in for criticism before the memoir was published. There were those who felt that in her hands the selective quotation could be a dagger.

Irving Howe, writing in The New Republic about her 1950 profile of Hemingway, declared, “Nothing more cruel has happened to an American writer than the Lillian Ross interview, a scream of vanity and petulance that only a journalistic Delilah would have put into print.”

Ms. Ross responded with a long letter to the magazine calling Mr. Howe’s remarks “irresponsible, rather sordid and absolutely wrong.” She said that the sketch, in which Hemingway was shown constantly drinking and speaking in a sort of telegraphic pidgin English, was an attempt to record him “just as he talked, how he sounded and looked,” and that he had seen and approved it before it ran, suggesting only one deletion.

Ms. Ross remained on friendly terms with Hemingway after her profile appeared, and he provided a blurb for “Picture,” her Hollywood book, writing, “Much better than most novels.”

She was born Lillian Rosovsky on June 8, 1918, in Syracuse to Edna and Louis Rosovsky, immigrants from Russia. She grew up in Syracuse and in Brooklyn.

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She knew she wanted to be a writer early on. In the introduction of “Reporting Always,” a collection of her journalism published in 2015, she wrote that she had been thrilled to see her writing in print after a junior high school teacher assigned her an article for the school newspaper about a new school library. Her lead paragraph, she recalled, began, “Fat books, thin books, new books, old books.”

Ms. Ross received a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in New York and later did graduate work at Cornell University. Her reporting job at PM, from which she moved on to The New Yorker, was her first in journalism.

Her son, Erik, is her only immediate survivor. Ms. Ross lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Ms. Ross continued to write for The New Yorker well into the 21st century. (She left the magazine after Mr. Shawn was dismissed in 1987 but returned soon after.) Her last writing for the magazine appeared online in 2012 as a blog post about J. D. Salinger. Her last New Yorker article in print was a Talk of the Town piece in 2011 about the comedian and actor Robin Williams.

From young womanhood onward, Ms. Ross’s passion for journalism never wavered, and she was eager to impart to younger generations what she had learned on the job about writing. In her 2002 book “Reporting Back: Notes on Journalism,” she offered an assessment of what makes a good reporter:

“The act of a pro is to make it look easy. Fred Astaire doesn’t grunt when he dances to let you know how hard it is. If you’re good at it, you leave no fingerprints.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/20/business/media/lillian-ross-dead-new-yorker-reporter-who-wrote-memoir-of-love-affair.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

At Italian Vogue, a New Beginning

Little wonder certain questions have been accessorizing the story ever since: Who is this guy anyway? And what’s he going to do with that job?

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Italian Vogue, September issue. Credit via Vogue Italia

For a start, Mr. Farneti said: “I am not Franca.”

Well, duh — except he is referring not just to the blindingly obvious, but also the fact that he is about as different from Ms. Sozzani as possible: He is a different gender, from a different generation and a different professional background and has a different mien. His experience is journalistic and legal, as opposed to visual or fashionable. The woman he is succeeding, practically a brand in herself, was described as a cross between a figure from Botticelli and one from Stendhal by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Mr. Farneti is most often described by those who know him or work with him as low-key, and occasionally as bourgeois.

With his wings of brown hair and square jaw, his fondness for leather loafers without socks, Mr. Farneti looks like nothing so much as a G-rated Hollywood version of an Italian. He tends to blend into the woodwork. At the couture shows, he sat quietly in the front row. No one really came to pay homage, as they did with other Vogue editors such as Anna Wintour and Emmanuelle Alt. Paparazzi did not take his picture with celebrities. In his room at the Costes, he had one bouquet of somewhat sere-looking flowers from Dior.

None of this bothers Mr. Farneti, who has two children ages 8 and 6; a wife who works for a digital marketing agency; an apartment near the Alberta Ferretti headquarters in Milan; and two getaways: a house in the Alps and one on the Italian coast near Portofino. Also, a 15-year-old black Suzuki he rides to work.

He does not mind being underestimated. That should not be confused with being insecure.

“I think there are lots of different ways to be an editor,” he said. “It can be useful to embody a magazine,” as Ms. Sozzani did, “but it’s not the only possible way.” Besides, it is his very un-Franca-ness that probably made him the best candidate for the job. As Jonathan Newhouse, the chief executive of Condé Nast International, said, “I don’t think it was possible to replace Franca with an exact duplicate, and we didn’t try to do so.”

Besides, it is clear that if there is one thing Mr. Farneti understands, it is engineering magazines. According to Mr. Newhouse, “He is a magazine ‘maker,’ which is someone who cannot only edit a publication but can conceive and create a title from scratch, which he has done in the past.”

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Mr. Farneti, left, with Bella Hadid and Jean-Christophe Babin, chief executive of Bulgari, at a party in June in Venice.

Though he comes from a long line of respected Italian jurists and investigative reporters, and studied law at Milan University, Mr. Farneti started his career in television. He quickly moved into print as part of the team that founded Italian GQ, and from there went into sports journalism, covering soccer (his favorite team is Juventus) before becoming editor of the local version of Men’s Health. That led to a job with Panorama magazine, where he was in charge of supplements, including Flair, a woman’s style magazine.

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In 2014 Condé Nast poached him to run the Italian edition of Architectural Digest, which he did for a year before returning to GQ, which he also did for a year. Vogue is the third magazine he has remade in as many years.

Still, when Condé Nast called on Jan. 2 to ask if he would be interested in the fashion publication, he said he never considered turning it down.

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“For me, not having grown up in the fashion system makes it interesting,” Mr. Farneti said. “I have to take advantage of the fact I am not 24/7 in the fashion conversation.” Besides, he knows fashion people; he is close to Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, has what he calls a “decent” relationship with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, and has known Diego Della Valle, chief executive of Tod’s, since interning for him in San Diego in 1995.

But reinventing Vogue is a difficult task, even without the former editor lingering in most people’s memories. Glossy publications are in free-fall. Over the summer Italian Condé Nast announced that by the end of the year it was closing all the peripheral Vogues that Ms. Sozzani had run: L’Uomo Vogue (men’s), Vogue Bambini (children’s), Vogue Sposa (bridal) and Vogue Gioiello (jewelry). It was spun as a decision to focus on the core property, but widely interpreted as a sign that the business needed meaningful belt-tightening in the age of digital.

Mr. Farneti, however, said, “I believe in print.” One of his first decisions was to adopt a larger format page. Otherwise, he has moved slowly.“You don’t have to delete everything that came before,” he said. “That’s super arrogant.”

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Mr. Farneti at the Ermenegildo Zegna spring 2018 show during the Milan men’s shows in June.

His relaunch cover for the July issue was a gesture of continuity: Shot by Steven Meisel, a photographer championed by Ms. Sozzani (he did all her covers until 2014), it had a vintage air.

When Ms. Sozzani took over Vogue in 1988, she inherited a decidedly parochial magazine with no real profile outside the country; her genius lay in understanding that to make Italian Vogue matter to anyone who was not Italian, she would have to communicate largely through photographs. She did so, and then added a dollop of activism on top, commissioning shoots that dealt with domestic abuse, plastic surgery and the BP Oil Spill. They were impossible to ignore, and her magazine soon became known as the most visually powerful of all Vogues. Though the magazine has a circulation of only 100,000, tiny compared to American Vogue’s approximately 1.2 million, Italian Vogue has an outsize influence: It is the kind of magazine that other magazine people buy.

Mr. Farneti understands this, but he has his own agenda. “The Apple people all say the worst thing they could have done over the last five years is try to think, ‘What would Steve have done?’ ” Mr. Farneti said, by way of explanation. His goal now is to make the magazine function as a platform to introduce Italian talent to the world.

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“I want to put more Italian soul into the magazine, have it define this attitude toward life and beauty,” he said (despite this, one of his early moves was to name Luke Leitch, who is English, as an editor at large; he is not oblivious to the power of the accessible word). “I understand how hard it is for young talent in Italy to have a global impact.” Hence the September issue, which comes with a sticker on the front announcing “It’s All About Italy.”

“It’s a good idea,” said Stefano Tonchi, the Italian who is editor of W. “At this moment of globalization, if you want to make a dent you have to something unique and in a way local to offer the larger world.”

So far only two senior staff members have left the magazine, though Mr. Farneti’s management style has been an adjustment. “People were used to having Franca pick up the phone and solve their problems for them,” he said. He’s more into direct accountability.

For now, however, he has other pressing questions on his mind. Like what to wear to his party. “It’s a political decision,” he acknowledged, given the whole fashion world will be there, watching.

The solution: “a Zegna tuxedo.” Chosen because Ermenegildo Zegna is purely a men’s wear brand, which makes it neutral territory in the women’s wear (or sometimes women’s-plus-men’s wear) season. Plus, it’s classic Italian, of course.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/fashion/emanuele-farneti-italian-vogue-milan-fashion-week.html?partner=rss&emc=rss