Lessons from the shaming of chemically castrating doc who “endangers autistic children and exploits their parents”

May 4th, 2011 → 7:40 pm @

With the exception of Andrew Wakefield, there are no more infamous anti-vaccine “researchers” than Dr. Mark Geier and his son, David.

(photo by Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)

Last week, the Maryland State Board of Physicians suspended Mark Geier’s license to practice medicine. (As far as I can tell, this doesn’t affect Geier’s ability to practice in the other states in which he’s licensed, including California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington.) That this move comes years too late for scores of children does not mean it is not incredibly welcome.

Read more on The Panic Virus PLoS blog…

Post Categories: Autism & excerpt & Media & The Panic Virus & vaccines

From Baghdad to Bloomberg

November 5th, 2008 → 12:49 pm @

After a good stretch without any stories in VF, I have two in this month’s issue: a piece on the American public’s (and the American media’s) waning interest in Iraq and one on the fairly remarkable success of Bloomberg News. Capsule descriptions have never been my strong suit, so I’ll use the magazine’s sub-heads to do the job for me…

The New York Times’s Lonely War

With most of the U.S. media withdrawn from Iraq, only The New York Times seems determined to stay the course. From inside the paper’s fortified Baghdad bureau, Seth Mnookin reveals the psychological and physical dangers that have faced the likes of John F. Burns, Dexter Filkins, and Alissa J. Rubin as the dramatic headlines of 2003 turned into a complex, difficult story that no one wants to read.


Bloomberg Without Bloomberg

With its ruthless competitiveness, its singular business model, and its bizarre editorial culture, Bloomberg News has continued to expand even as the media business shrivels. Under the new stewardship of former Time Inc. chief Norman Pearlstine, reports Seth Mnookin, the brainchild of New York’s mayor is poised to become the most consulted news source in the world.

It’s still well worth it to spend the five bucks for a hard-copy of the issue itself–the photos on both pieces are stunning. Except, of course, for the left half of this one…

Post Categories: Bloomberg News & Iraq & Media & Media reporting & New York Times & Vanity Fair

“Thirty-eight people, including the author of this story, lost their jobs.”

November 3rd, 2008 → 3:11 pm @

It’s been a little more than seven years since Inside.com and Brill’s Content cratered — and there are still days when it feels as if the piece of journalism I’m best known for is the obit I posted on Inside a couple of hours after the news was announced. At the time, the scribbling class was worried about what the bursting of the dot com bubble would mean for our future job prospects. Who knew we should have been more concerned about collateralized debt obligations?

Indeed, what’s going on today feels much worse than the collective belt-tightening that went on in the months after 9/11. In June, The Palm Beach Post, the first daily newspaper I worked for, cut its newsroom staff in half. The New York Sun, the newspaper that hired me immediately after Brill’s/Inside folded, shut its doors a little more than a month ago. Newsweek, where I landed next, has gone from hiring freezes to buyouts to staff cuts. And last week, Men’s Vogue, Mrs. FTM’s employer, announced that it was folding. (I know: technically it’ll still be publishing twice a year. But in reality it’s finished: every single employee save for the editor-in-chief was laid off.) I’m not sure if I should be thankful or terrified about the fact that I’m functionally self-employed…

But I digress. I’ve gotten several requests for the aforementioned obit…so here it is, in all of its nostalgic glory.

Inside.com and Brill’s Content to Close — This Time We Really Mean It

Awkward marriage between polar opposites on the hipness spectrum ends, as relationship between Steven Brill and Primedia unravels. 38 lose their jobs.

by Seth Mnookin

Monday, October 15, 2001

Brill’s Content and Inside.com, the church lady and swinging single of the myopic media world who got hitched in April, have been closed, victims of terrible publishing and Web economies and a strained relationship between Steven Brill and his major backer, Primedia.

The moves come as part of an announcement that Brill Media Holdings and Primedia, which owns 49 percent of the former, were unwinding their complicated relationship. Brill’s Content will cease publication immediately. Inside.com, which Brill Media Holdings has sold to Primedia, will live on in name only, becoming a portal for the Media Central publications like Folio:, Cable World and Inside Book Publishing Report. And the management of those Media Central titles will revert to Primedia, which ran them before its deal last January with Brill.

Thirty-eight people, including the author of this story, lost their jobs. And Steven Brill, the CEO of both Media Central and chairman and CEO of Brill Media Holdings, will leave after a three-month transition.

Both Brill and Primedia chairman Tom Rogers said in statements that the performance of the publications was not the cause of the closure. Neither man would comment to Inside.com on their relationship, but reportedly tensions between Brill and Primedia had grown; press reports in recent weeks have speculated that the once-close relationship between Brill and Rogers had soured to the point where it made working together impossible.

“To say you’re surprised at any media business finding it hard to remain in existence at this point would be silly,” says Inside co-founder Kurt Andersen, who along with Michael Hirschorn and Deanna Brown formed the media and entertainment news company in 1999 and sold it to Brill in April 2001. “If sheer quality were a guarantor of survivorship, there would be a lot of publications and Web sites around that are not.”

The announcement, which had been rumored and speculated about in print for weeks, finally came at 10:48 a.m. Monday in the form of an e-mail announcement from Brill. “I would like to meet with people who work primarily on Brill’s Content and Inside at 11 in the big conference room,” Brill wrote, in a message that everyone knew meant the end. An attached memo explained the minutiae of the divorce of what was already an almost comically complicated arrangement.

Andersen, who in a much-ridiculed statement bragged during the go-go year of the New Economy (June 1999 to May 2000, for those keeping score at home) that raising money was as easy as “getting laid in 1969,” said he didn’t know of anything that could have done differently. “There wasn’t some big mistake that Brill made or that we made,” he said.

While Inside will likely be remembered as a white-hot outfit, that, for a brief, shining moment early last year, seemed to be the center of an over-oxygenated media world, Brill’s Content will go down as an occasionally preachy, often confusing, but sometimes fascinating publication that never quite found its niche. It aimed to be a consumer title about the press in the same way that Sports Illustrated aimed to be a consumer title about sports, an ambitious plan done in, perhaps, by the fact that people don’t tend to gather at stadiums to root on their favorite media outlet.

The magazine came onto the scene with Steve Brill’s voluminous and damning portrayal of independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s manipulation of the press through well-timed leaks. But the magazine went through editors and writers faster than a sugar-starved 10-year old goes through candy bars. Michael Kramer and Eric Effron both served as top editors under Brill; when David Kuhn took over as editor in chief in February 2000, Effron stayed on as his No. 2.

Kuhn, who had spent most of his career working with Tina Brown at Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Talk, immediately juiced up the book. Under his watch, Abigail Pogrebin’s piece on Richard Blow’s confidentiality agreement with JFK, Jr. was largely responsible for squelching Blow’s book deal — which was recently resurrected, however. Pieces on writers Lynn Hirschberg and Alex Kuczynski were hipper and more knowing than the magazine had been known for, and the book’s political coverage was bulked up.

But the publication floundered this spring. At first, Inside’s print magazine and Brill’s Content were going to be joined to create Inside Content; that plan was scrapped several months later, and Brill’s Content was relaunched as a quarterly. While the fall issue of Brill’s was, by many accounts, the strongest issue produced, the notion of an academic-looking quarterly about the media world proved a hard sell.

As Michael Gartner, the magazine’s ombudsman, wrote in a column that will now never run: “Perhaps there’s something more irrelevant, somewhere, than an ombudsman’s column in a publication that just went quarterly in a world that just went hourly. Perhaps there is something more meaningless than worrying about the suddenly silly stories in a publication that zigged and zagged in the direction of Vanity Fair at precisely the time the world careered and careened in the direction of Jane’s Defense Weekly. … Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps. But I doubt it.”

Inside had a more consistent, and more consistently lauded, history. Andersen and Hirschorn, by dint of their reputations, personalities, and a now comical belief in the transformative powers of the Internet, attracted a top-notch staff, many of whom were hired as much for their rock-solid connections as for their journalistic bona fides. For example, David Carr, the disheveled, gruff and immensely popular media reporter, came up from Washington, D.C., where he had been editing City Paper to cover magazines and newspapers, while Kyle Pope was drawn from The Wall Street Journal to be the TV editor. (Both left soon after the merger with Brill.)

And Inside broke news. P.J. Mark’s piece on a book about a mysterious invention that was supposed to revolutionize travel and more, took on a life of its own. Other scoops included: Stephen Battaglio’s piece about Jeff Zucker getting the presidency of NBC Entertainment and Carr and Lorne Manly’s story on the closing of George magazine.

But the hoped-for mix of ad and circulation revenue never materialized. The Internet market collapsed, and people’s aversion to paying for content on the Web was hard to overcome.

“Of course it was fun,” Andersen said. “It’s always fun to create something that not only hasn’t existed before, but to create something that by almost every account was good from the get-go. I think we raised the bar, both in terms of speed, and knowingness and intelligence.”

Post Categories: Brill's Content & Inside.com & Media & Media reporting & Men's Vogue & The Death of Print

The Michael Lewis/Oakland A’s love affair: it’s time to move on…

April 19th, 2007 → 9:44 am @

In the inaugural issue of the mildly confusing Portfolio, Conde Nast’s new business magazine, Michael Lewis has a story about a “Jock Exchange” that would function like much like the stock exchange. As is almost always the case when Lewis references baseball, the piece is heavy with references to the Oakland A’s. And as is increasingly the case, many of these references are out of date and are used to illustrate points that might have been true four or five years ago, but aren’t any longer.

To wit: the A’s are not “by far the most cost efficient team in baseball,” as Lewis says: since 2001, the Florida Marlins have paid approximately $488,000 per win, while the A’s have paid about $525,000 (and the Twins approximately $542,661). Lewis credits this incredible cost efficiency largely to the work of Paul DePodesta, who left the A’s “first to become the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the San Diego Padres’ special assistant for baseball operations.” Left unmentioned is the fact that DePodesta was fired after two years as the GM of the Dodgers…having spent more than twice as much as the Marlins, A’s, or Twins on each L.A. win.

Lewis is a great writer, and Moneyball is inarguably one of the best books ever written about baseball. He’d be doing himself a favor if he let it stand for itself and stopped writing pieces that use increasingly outdated research to do current articles.*

* Note: hopefully I will follow this advice.

Post Categories: Baseball & Boston & Literature & Media & Music & the Red Sox

Daisuke Matsuzaka: the drain on the pitching staff

April 15th, 2007 → 10:26 am @

Over the last four games, the Sox’s non-Japanese starters have posted a 3-0 record to go along with a .082 ERA. Dice-K? He’s 0-1 with a 3.86. How”d we end up this guy? Geesh.

Post Categories: Baseball & Boston & Literature & Media & Music & the Red Sox

Reflections from Fenway’s Home Opener, 2007 edition

April 11th, 2007 → 9:38 am @

As far as pomp and circumstance go…well, it was no 2005, when somehow I found myself on the field during the Red Sox ring ceremony. (At one point, Larry Lucchino glanced over at me and gave me a “what the hell are you doing out here?” look. I had no good answer.) In fact, I’m sympathetic to those fans who seemed to feel that the ’67 squad got short shrift during the pre-game, on-field ceremony. (And yeah, I thought Yaz, the Hawk, et al., could have gotten individual shout-outs as they ambled onto the field.) But really, how can anyone complain when Robert Goulet — I’m sorry, Lawrence’s own Robert Goulet — is on the field, warbling “The Impossible Dream”? (A quick aside: as inspiring as 1967 was, and I’m fully in the camp that believes that that squad is more responsible for the region’s enduring Red Sox mania than anything else, has any team had a lamer anthem then the a hit song from the Broadway smash “Man of La Mancha”? “Welcome to the Jungle” it’s not.) Goulet’s a professionally trained voice man, and I’d much rather see him out there than a dubious ruffian without the chops…because when a professional gets his mitts on a song, that’s when it really takes off.

The one thing I regretted was that we didn’t get to hear Goulet croon, “I like it when you call me Big Papi — throw your hands in the air when you think you’re a player…Papi.” For that, you’ll need to pick up your copy of “The Coconut Banger’s Ball.” It’s well worth it.

Post Categories: Baseball & Boston & Literature & Media & Music & the Red Sox

Deep in the heart of Texas: Anna Nicole, Houston Chronicle to compete in spelling be

March 29th, 2007 → 11:06 am @

On Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle ran the following caption on a picture illustrating a story about Anna Nicole Smith:

“..the model could barely right a sentence.”

On a different story, a critic for that same paper recently produced this gem, “She looks a bit uneasy when she bears her breasts to the camera.” (This was obviously not about ANS, who never looked uneasy when she was baring her breasts.) (Warning: that link is neither safe for work or family friendly.)*

It makes one think. Rarely is the question asked: is our newspapers learning?
(The original link — not the Anna Nicole Smith one — via Romenesko.)

* Neither “right” nor “bears” was misspelled; however, a Chronicle columnist recently spelled diminished “disminished,” prompting one of the paper’s readers to comment, “You’d think spell checker would catch that type of mistake.” You’d think, right? And I’ve thunk. But for some reason that I still don’t understand, newspapers are unable to use a feature that’s been built in to word processing programs for the last, say, 20 years.
You’d think spell checker would catch that type of mistake.

Post Categories: Anna Nicole Smith & Houston Chronicle & Media & Romenesko