‘I Call Bullshit On This’

The response of a reporter following up on a tip that his editor spent too much time in traffic? No, this reply came from David Wildstein, the Chris Christie Port Authority appointee who took the fifth when called before a committee investigating the politics behind the September closure of the George Washington Bridge. That same New Jersey Assembly committee released a cache of documents on the case Friday afternoon, including gems like this from Wildstein’s correspondence:

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By the way, Mann and his editors say they don’t know where that claim about his request being based on editors stuck in traffic came from:

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Update: The exhibits, which include numerous press requests and stonewalling of same, should be required reading in J school. The local press responded quickly with The Record’s Road Warrior columnist, John Chichowski, reaching out to the Port Authority on Sept. 12.

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His piece the next morning led to the quick reversal of the ‘test’ causing the delays. Mann and others followed up, persisting for months, with FOIA requests that were ignored or pushed off, repeated queries from a variety of angles, and efforts to go directly to sources when the official spokesman blew them off.

The documents are worth reading for another reason: as a primer in bureaucracy and government.

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Thank You, Jimmy Fallon, For A Moment Of Chris Christie

Last November, I laughed with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as he joined in the joke during a Jimmy Fallon thank-you note for his reelection. The images of Christie making fun of himself there and, earlier that year, with David Letterman drowned out less pleasant memories.

Then it showed up on the Best of Jimmy Fallon special after weeks of reports about Christie’s bullying. Instead of laughing at what initially looked like an amusing nod to a personality quirk, I cringed as Christie shoved Fallon out of the way. Until then, Christie’s bullying was all about scathing comments.

When the correspondence was published this week linking Christie’s staff and appointees to the chaos-causing shutdown of the Fort Lee lanes to the George Washington Bridge, I didn’t see Christie in his Sandy blue fleece, tearing up at idol Bruce Springsteen or laughing at fat jokes. I saw this.

Thank You, Jimmy Fallon, For A Moment Of Chris Christie

Plunging Through The Twitter Groundrail

… there will always be a learning curve, and there will always be those of us who take the curve too fast and go plunging through the guardrail. The faster technology evolves, the more of us will end up taking the plunge. It’s comforting to think it will only happen to those who deserve it, but it’s far from the case.

– Jeff Bercovici in Justine Sacco And The Self-Inflicted Perils Of Twitter

 

Nieman Predictions For Journalism 2014: ‘Connecting The Dots’

Thanks, Joshua Benton, for including me in what has become an annual tradition at Nieman Journalism Lab.

One of the most popular new games of 2013 was an addictive mobile app called Dots: A Game About Connecting from Betaworks. It’s deceptively simple: a white board full of evenly spaced colored dots worth points when connected in a short amount of time. You can play instantly without reading the rules, or you can get immersive and obsessively strategic. You can play against yourself or against an expanding universe. You can play for free or you can buy ways to improve your game — but the choice is up to each player: earn your way to advancement or pay for it.

The game launched on iOS in May and had a million users within days. Now also on Android, it passed 15 million installs in November. By early fall, it had been played a billion times.

For the media in 2014, connecting the dots has to be more than a game. We have to connect the fragments of information that flood the zone daily. We have to connect with our communities. We have to connect with each other.

Please continue reading at the Lab, where you can find an abundance of thought about the year ahead from many people smarter than me.

“If I Could Have One Wish …”

Each time I started my Nieman Lab 2014 look ahead, Steve Martin paid a call. Clad in his elegant suit, seated on the stage at Studio 8H, he solemnly proclaimed his one wish for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in harmony, then quickly segued to increasingly selfish and grandiose desires.

A diversionary tactic, true, but also a reminder of how easy it is to slip into pretension. Also of how easily we can scratch a retro video itch …

Why This George Tames Picture Of JFK Is My Favorite

Why This George Tames Picture Of JFK Is My Favorite

New York Times photographer George Tames captured this image of John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office on Feb. 10, 1961, only weeks after he was sworn in as president. Captioned ‘The Loneliest Job,’ Kennedy looks as though he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders in utter solitude. In one image you can see everything you need to know about the isolation and responsibility of the presidency.

In reality, it’s an object lesson, a reminder that the 1,000 words a picture speaks can be our projection. Kennedy broke his back in World War II and despite the glorious football photos that showed an agile, athletic young president, he was in constant pain. He stood at the table behind his Oval Office desk to read the papers — leaning down with his weight supported by his hands to get a closer look.

Knowing that doesn’t change the power of the image, which presages some of the days Kennedy would have in that office during the Cuban Missile Crisis and other moments of personal or public crisis.  When I think of JFK, this is the last picture in my personal slideshow.

It’s also a reminder that what we see isn’t always what it is.