leah letter

The worst things that happened in the media this year

Very bad things
leah letter

The worst things that happened in the media this year

Very bad things

Time. Time has passed again. What happens with the passage of time? Time makes you bolder, even children get older, and journalists remind themselves that they are amazing by publishing top 10 lists of shit they did.

Leah Letter, a media watchdog, is not here for any praise jamboree. Here at LL HQ we have spent this year assiduously compiling journalistic offenses in a highly secure draft email in Gmail. We are pleased to present them to you here: The Worst Media Things of 2016.

The New York Times’ stab at “virtual reality”
Last year The New York Times decided to enter the virtual reality sphere, an area favored by men for whom 2-D porn is not exciting enough. This year it started a daily VR report, promising to take readers to “the center” of its stories with a device made of cardboard. Hm. I’m not sure if transportational journalism is the right use for VR, but I think the accoutrement could help the Times in other ways. Perhaps NYT leaders could peek through VR headsets to see what a diverse newsroom looks like. Political reporters could use them to talk to Trump voters in virtual reality, so they wouldn’t actually have to share their air. Or maybe, the Times could make a special, four-year-long VR story about what the world would be like if Hillary had won and then instruct liberal readers to wear the goggles and never take them off. That last thing they could even charge for! Take that, Trump!

Washington Post headlines
I’m really happy The Washington Post is making money, because I love money and believe everyone should have it (do NOT confuse me with Bernie Sanders, we are nothing alike). However, I have a very hard time reading The Washington Post because No. 1, I don’t have a subscription, and No. 2, all of their headlines are like this: “This is a headline. Here is another sentence that will entice you to click on the headline (and also click here to renew your purchase of body wash from Amazon Prime.)” Not much has been done on the phenomenon of two-sentence clickbait headlines, but maybe now that Donald Trump is president I can get some anti-media government money to study why, exactly, they are so bad. For example, would you click on this real Washington Post article? “I could have paid down my student debt. I indulged in French cooking lessons instead.” Personally I would rather be maced than click on that article. Here’s another one: “In Pakistan, five girls were killed for having fun. Then the story took an even darker twist.” You know, I probably wouldn’t have read the story if I wasn’t alerted to its darker twist. A story about five girls dying is really not enough for me — but the darker twist was the enticement I needed. Thank you, Washington Post.

Facebook Live
In which news organizations desperately put unwilling, inexperienced, and/or charisma-less writers on a live video feed to talk about their work, only to learn that the metrics by which Facebook measured this product’s success were wildly overblown.


Live, for the moment

The pressure is on for extreme athletes to be constantly producing content, and it's getting some of them killed.
Read More

Fake news
All news is fake news, and there is no objective reality.

Politics Twitter (AKA Twitter)
Sometimes, when my female brain is feeling strong enough to form an opinion, I think about tweeting it. Wouldn’t it be nice to share my thoughts with the friendly folk of Twitter.com? But then I remember that Twitter is mainly for men whose main occupation is weightlifting and they tweet between sets as an extra way to express testosterone. Even though I do lift at least twice a month, I’ve found that tweeting does not help define my muscles anymore than reading Wikipedia or playing The Sims. Anyway, never tweet and never search “Bernie Sanders would have won” on Twitter.

The podcast boom
At the Annual Meeting of Content Makers and Aggregators at the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Ramada Inn this February, it was decided since people don’t like to engage with text anymore all content should be podcasted. Thus “how the fuck am I gonna make a podcast” became the new “what the fuck is Snapchat” muttered in newsrooms nationwide. I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with listening to news — the radio is an enduring innovation. But many podcasts are not as… thought-out as others. It’s one thing to script your podcast and attempt to present a cohesive something-or-other for the aurally inclined; it’s another to use the device as a platform for your weekly phone call to Mother. I don’t doubt those who go on podcasts to chat loosely about current events in which they have no expertise or stake have rich inner lives, it’s just confusing to me why these exhibitions are presented as interesting to a general audience. Regardless please listen to Out West on iTunes.

The Upshot’s quivering dials on election night
For at least half of America and parts of Guam, election night was a truly horrific time, made worse by the slick-haired boners on CNN pretending that they knew Hillary was going to lose, even though they said the exact opposite one day before. But truly the worst part of Donald Trump ascending to our nation’s throne (a Kohler toilet with an eagle painted on it) were the “quivering dials” on The New York Times’ Upshot blog. At first, the dials were just tuned to the Times’ completely wrong and, it turned out, baseless predictions, and everything was fine. But once returns starting coming in, the dials started moving back and forth as if some nerd had flipped a switch somewhere and put them on hyperdrive, determined to fuck with the American public and their liberal hopes and dreams. This experience of watching the frenetic dials surely traumatized a generation of voters, just as live footage of the Challenger explosion made many ’80s children never want to go to space. According to some guy on Twitter, the dials were shaking “to represent the uncertainty of the model,” much like my trust in the foundations of journalism itself.

Gay Talese
Many journalists are bad, and also many are men, and simply due to rules of math 80 percent of journalists are bad men. One such man is Gay Talese. Talese had a really remarkable year. First, he said he didn’t know or like any women journalists. Then he published in The New Yorker a story, 30 years in the making, about a motel owner who spied on his guests fucking, and how Talese also watched them fuck, but it was for journalism so it wasn’t illegal. THEN, he disavowed the story? Because some of it was wrong? I kind of got lost. Also, in this time period, he gave an interview to The New York Times in which he referred to a female journalist as “duplicitous” for asking for a selfie with him while also being critical of the fact that he said he didn’t like women. In a small triumph of justice, the planned major motion picture of Talese’s perverted motel owner story was dropped but only because there’s already a documentary being made of it. Despite this, Talese’s fucked up and wrong story was still ranked “one of the best” of the year by Longform.org (in the "most-clicked" category). Which, I guess, sets that particular bar very low for future journalism, so have fun next year, everyone.

People who start new websites
I have no idea why the fuck anyone would start a new website right now. The internet is hell.

Until next year!

Get Leah Letter in your inbox.

The Leah Letters

Being normal

“Be yourself” is terrible advice

Can you be a good person if you don’t read the news?

Bring back irony

I would follow Martha Stewart to hell

The Bari Weiss problem

Honestly, fuck Harper’s

You don’t have to talk

When men
fear women

No justice for bad men

Opinion: Trolling is not opinion

The internet is making me sick

Just say no to media coverage of drugs

Living with ennui in Trump’s America

Alex Jones is a piece of shit, and interviewing him is idiotic

The NYT crossword is old and kind of racist

Access journalism is not for you or me

Mark Zuckerberg will be our downfall

‘New Yorker’ covers? Watercolor me unimpressed

The insidious rise of the microcelebrity

Who goes Nazi? Media edition

Political diversity is a cop-out for overpaid media men

The New York Times’ public editor is bad at her job

Eat, pray, hate

Music criticism, take a look at yourself

With a soul this ugly, who cares about her looks?

Silicon Valley’s future looks exactly like the past

Nevertheless, she bought a shirt

Live, from New York, it’s futile satire!

Lady Gaga’s political message: drink Pepsi Zero Sugar

What is going on?