11/27/2009 10:47:26 AM
The good people at Paste magazine have posted their 20 Best Magazines of the Decade list, and they were kind enough to include Utne Reader. It's a fun list, and we're thrilled to be on it. Here's what Paste's Josh Jackson had to say:
This was the first magazine subscription I bought with my own money back in high school, and its ability to cull the most unexpected, interesting and engaging takes on any topics it chooses hasn't waned since.
11/25/2009 2:32:36 PM
The photojournalist who blogs under the moniker Afghan Hound at the documentary photography website Foto8 has posted a photo he took of Oz, a soldier serving in Afghanistan who was killed on his last day of deployment. The photographer talks a little bit about Oz and a lot about life as a war photographer. It's a long post and an important read. But really, his opening paragraph says it all:
Another Op-Ed in The New York Times, another well balanced political essay in Foreign Affairs, another eulogy to a departed soldier, another boring politician, another retired military commander, another demand for more troops, another demand we pull out now, another request for more helicopters, another comparison to the Soviet invasion, another Vietnam, another rant, another point of view... I just see dead people.
11/25/2009 2:05:52 PM
Studs Terkel often lamented the fact that his social worker and activist wife Ida had a more robust FBI file than he did. Still, 269 pages is nothing to sneeze at. NYCity News Service has a nice piece on the fragmented narrative sketched out in the 147 pages of the report released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The FBI documents show agents tried to assemble documents from his birth until he was in his 70s. The effort included several New York FBI agents scouring the five boroughs – unsuccessfully – for Terkel’s birth records. Terkel, who has said he was born in the Bronx, earned a law degree at the University of Chicago and joined the Army in 1942. He was honorably discharged a year later because of his age.
Terkel’s attraction to the life of the American common man and woman was reflected in his politics, and he was frequently invited to speak at events suspected by the FBI of being infiltrated by Communists.
The FBI files record Terkel’s support for Wallace, a former vice president under President Franklin Roosevelt who ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948. Informants also told the FBI that Terkel spoke at events held in honor of Robeson, the actor and civil rights activist. The informants alleged that Terkel subscribed to the “Daily Worker,” a New York-based communist newspaper.
Even his nights out were monitored. In April 1950, a source told the FBI that Terkel gave a toast at a birthday party for Pearl M. Hart, a Chicago attorney who worked on behalf of immigrants.
Want more? Read Terkel's FBI file for yourself.
Source: NYCity News Service
11/24/2009 12:15:15 PM
Shows like Gossip Girl and Grey’s Anatomy may seem like mindless opiates for the masses, but they could be a potent tool in the fight against AIDS. “Unfortunately, references on TV to condoms and safe-sex messages seem to be going the way of analog broadcast,” according POZ, a magazine about HIV and AIDS. There are plenty of shows that strongly imply sex, but few include reference to sexual risks or responsibilities. When the shows do inform their viewers about safe sex, however, the effect is potent. In an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, where an HIV-positive pregnant woman “is informed that she has a 98 percent chance of giving birth to a healthy, HIV-negative baby, if she takes the proper medication,” POZ reports that 45 percent of the viewers retained the information. POZ hopes that more shows will follow suit and try to include safe-sex messages, and not just mindless entertainment.
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11/11/2009 10:58:18 AM
The latest episode of the Utnecast is live. It's my interview with science fiction writer, blogger, activist, and Utne visionary Cory Doctorow. Doctorow talks about his penchant for giving digital editions of his books away and his passionate critique
of any person or entity that attempts to quash creativity with
Listen to the interview at the Utnecast blog or subscribe to the Utnecast at iTunes. Enjoy!
Image by Paula Mariel Salischiker, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/9/2009 3:06:05 PM
In just four years, everyone on earth may be an author. When books were the dominant form of publishing, a small minority of the world’s population had their words published. Now, Twitter, Facebook, and social networking sites are making authors into the majority. From the year 1400 to 2000, according to in Seed, the number of published authors rose by tenfold every century. For the past decade, authorship has grown by tenfold every year. Eventually, the authors predict that everyone on earth will be published.
Near-universal authorship is changing society, Pelli and Bigelow write. People are “trading privacy for influence,” and businesses and governments are being forced to adapt to the power that individuals now wield. People who fret about illiteracy throughout the world may soon extend their concern to people who can’t publish.
That concern is misguided, Albert Jay Nock writes for the American Conservative. Universal literacy creates near-universal mediocrity in literature, according to Nock. Teaching the world to read creates a market for schlock that forces worthwhile literature out of the market. In the article, which is fittingly behind a paywall, Nock writies:
The average literate person being devoid of reflective power but capable of sensation, his literacy creates a demand for a large volume of printed matter addressed to sensation; and this form of literature, being the worst in circulation, fixes the value of all the rest and tends to drive it out.
Nock laments mass literacy for the bad writing it creates. He should prepare for mass authorship.
Source: Seed, American Conservative (subscription required)
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UPDATE: We tried to reach Albert Jay Nock for a comment, but found the conversation a trifle one-sided. Indeed, Nock has been dead for more than half a century. We regret the error.
11/5/2009 4:04:38 PM
Before the identity of the shooter at Fort Hood was revealed, press reports were already talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the stresses of an army fighting two wars.
What about the journalists who cover those wars? Over at In These Times, Kari Lyderson reports on a conference organized by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies:
CNN and former Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Moni Basu described the effects of a career including seven stints in Iraq and covering executions by electric chair in Florida.
“You’re watching a man take 18 minutes to die...and then you’re supposed to just go file your story and move on,” she said.
...CNN cameraman Mark Biello was suffering nightmares and other signs of PTSD, that boiled over in a road rage incident where he accosted a cab driver.
“Every time you see things your cup gets fuller, and there’s only so long before it overflows,” he said.
...Reporters say it is harder than ever to persuade employers to make resources or even time available to address job-related mental health. But the need is greater than ever, as staff-cutting and belt-tightening often means heavier workloads that only add to stress. The issue is even harder to address for freelancers, who often don’t have health insurance or one steady employer.
Source: In These Times
Image by Kyle May, licensed under Creative Commons .
11/4/2009 3:41:36 PM
For nearly a decade, writer and artist Ken Habarta has been scanning newspapers, FBI alerts, and
the internet for information on bank robberies. He's
especially drawn to robberies that involve a note. "The single most popular way
of robbing banks," he says, "is the quieter, gentler act of passing a note."
Gone are the days of pistols in the waist line.
Habarta posts the notes, security camera stills, and other
details of bank robberies to his blog, Bank Notes (he
released a book of the same name before taking the project online). And he knows
"There are notes that clearly convey experience. Most of these guys tend to be
repeat offenders," he explains. "A lot of first timers throw everything into the
note: I've got a bomb; I've got a gun; I know where you live. These people often
get caught shortly thereafter."
He revels in the absurdities. "The average take is between $2,000 and
$3,000, but what's bizarre is the amount of people who write in demands of how
much they want. There was one person who just wanted $100."
One absurdity is his own creation: a robbery note generator. Click "Go" and you
get as many notes as you can stomach:
Don't be stupid.
You have 15 seconds.
I have a gun.
100s, 50s, 20s. Thanks.
Put it in the bag.
You have three minutes.
I have a gun.
Most robbers hardly need a note. "I really think down the road they'll institute
a dress code for banks," Habarta says. "You walk into a bank and you've got
giant spectacles, a cowboy hat, and a huge beard... these are red flags."
A Dayton Daily News article, which Habarta linked to, addresses the bank dress code issue:
"If you see a guy (in a bank lobby) with a baseball cap, dark glasses and a
mustache (or) beard, it’s probably a bank robber, not a customer," said Lt.
Larry Faulkner of the Dayton Police Department. Faulker said the disguise is so
common, he advises tellers to call the police if they simply see a man dressed
in that manner waiting in line.
The FBI and police nationwide are advising banks to adopt a policy of "no hats,
no hoods, no sunglasses, no cell phones" to head off robberies. More banks are
doing so, but in some cases the idea is pitting police against bankers concerned
about alienating law-abiding customers.
Bank robberies have declined over the years, said Special Agent Harry Trombitas
of the FBI's Columbus office, but the numbers could be even lower if more banks
had the "no hats" policy.
It's all a little sad. But it's fascinating too. I can't stop scrolling through
Habarta's vignettes. And there's something else I can't stop: the echo of Greg
Beato's Mug Shot Nation piece we ran a couple of issues back. Beato wasn't
talking about bank robbery images, he was talking about our voyeuristic
obsession with the mug shots that splash across television screens, websites,
newspapers, and magazines. Unflattering photos of people who, in some cases,
have been convicted of no crime (and may in fact be innocent). The people that
appear on Bank Notes are guilty and they've got the big glasses and the
beards to prove it. Still, Beato's critique resonates:
If appearing in this context is a fate so unpleasant that it can persuade
other people to avoid engaging in illicit behavior, then surely it constitutes a
penalty. And it’s a penalty that’s being applied without the hassle of due
We tend to overlook this fact because, frankly, it spoils the mood. The
presumption of guilt makes it easier to justify laughing at 23-going-on-zombie
crack whores and bug-eyed misfits sporting felony-caliber mullets. They deserve
the derision they get—they’re criminals! But the joke is really on us. As law
enforcement agencies expand their powers of surveillance, as they encourage us
to think of punishment without due process as standard operating procedure, we
not only tolerate it, we click and click and ask for more. If America’s
citizenry were more uniformly presentable, and its mug shots correspondingly
less entertaining, we might protest these developments more strongly. Instead,
we simply laugh at the latest person guilty of wearing a cow costume while being
arrested, then pass along the link to our friends.
And after all of that I've still got Bank Notes open on my desktop. And I'm
still clicking on the note generator:
This is a robbery.
No dye packs.
11/4/2009 1:23:58 PM
Far from the cozy classrooms of American journalism schools, students are venturing to remote and often dangerous parts of the world to learn how to dig up a scoop. The Ryerson Review of Journalism reports on one program that embedded students with soldiers in Iraq. Another school sent students to electronic waste dumps in Ghana, India, and China, potentially exposing them to toxic chemicals and roving bandits.
One student have hailed her out-of-the-classroom experience as “probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in journalism.” The programs have horrified others, including Klaus Pohle of Carleton University, who called the Iraqi embed trip “terribly irresponsible.”
What do you think? Should journalism students visit dangerous parts around the world? Or should war zones be left to the professionals?
Source: Ryerson Review of Journalism
11/3/2009 4:12:56 PM
According to a post on the Guardian's digital technology blog, "news sites average around 450 links on their homes pages, whereas 10 years ago they averaged just 12 links per home page." And you're probably clicking on those links. What does it all mean? The New York Times interface specialist and lead researcher, Nick Bilton, spells it out:
If you pick up a US or UK newspaper you'll see four to six stories on the front page and maybe eight to 10 refers to other stories, that's an average total of 12 headlines on one page. In contrast, the average news website has 335 story or section links on their homepage. So we're showing people online 300 more options on one page than we show them in print. And we wonder why people have information overload of content.
…It is a fascinating fact is that if you go online and visit 200 web pages in one day—which is a simple task when you could email, blogs, Youtube, etc.—you'll see on average 490,000 words; War & Peace was only 460,000 words.
(Thanks, A Photo Editor.)
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