Jamie Kelly

Much like life in the state of nature I am nasty, brutish, and short.

Read this first

If Peter Thiel’s example is followed, free speech won’t be cheap

For a person so commonly described as a utopian, Peter Thiel’s decision to back lawsuits against Gawker Media seems more likely to bring about a dystopian society where only the wealthiest have real freedom of speech.

Let’s start out by agreeing that Thiel has long-standing reasons to dislike Gawker. He was a target of their continually baffling campaign to out public—as well as not-so public—figures and then dismiss the resulting outrage as homophobia, as if there aren’t still valid reasons for people to keep their sexualities private. And there isn’t any current reason to doubt that Thiel is targeting any organizations other than Gawker, nor that he’s being anything other than honest when he says he’s supportive of journalism generally, but believes Gawker’s actions put it beyond the pale.

It is easy enough to read his confirmation of the fact that he’s funding Hulk Hogan/Terry...

Continue reading →

What would the ideal news organization look like?

It was a week with more sad news for journalism, with Digital First Media announcing the end of Project Thunderdome. It’s sad for me because I know two journalists, one of whom I consider a mentor, who are losing their jobs because of this. But it’s sad for the industry in general, because it’s another example of a great experiment in journalism ending before its time.

This got me thinking—again—about what the ideal structure for a news organization might look like, as it’s become increasingly obvious that the model of corporate-owned journalism no longer works, as the goal of the owners is short-term profitability rather than sustainable journalism.

Before I make any suggestions, I want to lay out some assumptions:

  1. Any entity concerned primarily with short-term profitability is ill-suited to modern journalism.
  2. Even well-meaning chains and family-owned news enterprises are saddled...

Continue reading →

Learn ethics before you publish

Maybe you heard this from your mother when you were growing up—I know I did—“Sorry doesn’t cut it.”

That’s one of the reason’s the apology from Bill Simmons today on Grantland rings hollow. Simmons apologized for the story that posthumously outed a trans woman, among many other offenses. I won’t list those offenses in full here, but Christina Kahrl has a really good rundown. Some of the basics, in addition to outing the subject, including using the wrong pronouns, disclosing the fact she’s trans to an investor, and conflating her decision not to tell the reporter that she was trans with various lies she told about her background. The apology from Simmons explains that reporting on LGBT issues is outside of his experience, and the experience of everyone else who had their hands on the story, the problems that were so obvious to many readers just never occurred to the Grantland staff...

Continue reading →

Don’t drone

As I mentioned today on Twitter, if Amazon’s Prime Air scheme seems like science fiction that’s because it is.

The video/commercial shown on 60 Minutes? Made up. Drones have not—cannot—make deliveries yet. Some people smarter than myself have pointed out the myriad logistical problems that are facing Prime Air, not least of which is the fact that the earliest the FAA will allow autonomous flight would be 2015. Amazon’s plan, as great as it might seem, is illegal for now. Jeff Bezos says he wants to be ready, and honestly, I don’t know if there’s a ton of money to be made betting against Bezos.

The biggest practical problem is that where Amazon is suggesting drone delivery would work best—densely-populated urban areas—don’t really need it. The places in the U.S. that could use fast, inexpensive delivery the most are rural and exurban areas, and drones aren’t well-suited for the long...

Continue reading →

The worst media bias is toward access

I hope this piece serves as a fitting tribute to Michael Hastings, the journalist who died last week in a car crash. His most notable work, that of bringing about the downfall of Gen. Stanley McCrystal, came about because he refused to trade his duty to inform the public for continued access to power. He was 33, my age, and he accomplished much more than I ever have.

Members of the media are motivated by crusading zeal for justice, a drive to uncover the truth, a desire for a steady paycheck, and all of the rest of the things that drive people in various professions. But there is real bias in the media, and it isn’t toward one political party or another. The bias that drives the media is access.

Members of the media are beholden to sources in high positions for access. This biases them—consciously or otherwise—toward keeping that access. It doesn’t matter who is in power, and those...

Continue reading →

More rape culture and media: James Taranto claims efforts to curb sexual assault is a war on men

Apparently I, along with the other members of my gender, am under attack, a fact I was unaware of until the Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto was kind enough to enlighten me.

He claims that efforts by Sen. Claire McCaskill to block the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms over the details of a sexual assault court martial amount to an effort to criminalize male sexuality. Capt. Matthew Herrera, the officer in question—who was convicted in a court martial, but granted clemency by Helms—was accused of sexually assaulting a lieutenant, and in another case—in this one he was acquitted—of sexually assaulting a non-commissioned officer.

The facts of the case really aren’t the issue here, though. What matters is that Taranto said that the women in both cases acted recklessly, and that to hold the man responsible while calling the woman a victim “makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are...

Continue reading →

Rep. Peter King is an enemy of the American people

U.S. Rep Peter King (R-NY) has a long and troubled history with the Constitution, and his statements in the wake of the articles written by Glenn Greenwald about the National Security Agency’s massive data collection efforts prove that not only is his grasp of the foundational document of the country he serves poor, he is an outright enemy to the principles upon which the United States was founded.

King, in a CNN interview, called for the arrest not of Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old NSA consultant who leaked the information about PRISM, but of Greenwald himself for writing about the program. This is an obvious attack on Greenwald’s First Amendment rights, and such an outrageous, morally repugnant suggestion should be met at least with censure by the U.S. House of Representatives, if not outright expulsion from the body. Such action is exceedingly rare and would normally follow only a...

Continue reading →

Solving the (ethically) right problem

There’s been a lot of ink spilled over Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, a non-profit with the goal of making plans for 3D printed guns and gun parts available for free on the Internet. Most of the reason for everyone’s interest is that it involves a new technology—3D printing—because people have been making firearms at home for a very long time, and it’s generally legal, as long as you don’t sell the weapon or give it to someone else1.

Wilson, a law student, is articulate about his anarchist leanings, which makes the right-wing support of his effort seem a little strange, but politics will do that. He argues that liberty is a positive right and therefore can only be restricted with cause. In a documentary and an interview Wilson raises some interesting and potentially important points about personal freedom and the ability of the Internet to empower people. And I find...

Continue reading →

Know the difference between distracted and engaged

I just wrote way too much about how breaking news can actually be a good thing, even as it threatens to be overwhelming, but I think the larger idea about what is good for us versus what’s noise comes down to a simple idea: Sometimes we want to be distracted, and sometimes we want to be engaged. And that isn’t a bad thing, as long as we understand why we want what we want.

I’m thinking about this primarily in terms of a Big News Story (e.g. the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt), but I think it might work in a larger context, as well. But for simplicity we’ll focus here on breaking news.

First to define our terms. By distracted I mean that we are thinking only about the newest information coming in, not thinking about putting events in a larger context, and not thinking about the implication of the information we’re receiving. By engaged I mean nearly the opposite: That...

Continue reading →

Breaking news isn’t broken

Despite the numerous tweets and stories since Monday, when the Boston Marathon bombing saga began, breaking news isn’t broken—or at least, it’s no more broken than it’s ever been.

That’s not to say the coverage of the bombing, manhunt and arrests weren’t in some cases terrible. CNN did a particularly excreable job. But why does that surprise us? CNN does a terrible job covering a lot of breaking news, even when it’s low-impact stuff like a disabled cruise ship1. Remember how badly they bungled the 2000 election calls, moving Florida from one column to the other instead of just admitting that they didn’t know? Let’s take it as read that filling a 24-hour network with news is extremely difficult and a job I’d be unwilling to take, even if I were qualified to do so. And let’s also take as read the fact that covering breaking news is really hard in a lot of ways.

The problems that CNN and...

Continue reading →