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Monday, February 06, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"On Saturday Russia and China put their cards on the table. They vetoed the Arab League’s plan for resolving the Syrian crisis, a plan that asks president Bashar al-Assad to step down in favour of his vice-president, the formation of a unity government and free elections. They are putting their money on Mr Assad, betting that he can crush the political opposition movement and growing rebel forces spreading across his country if he is just willing to be brutal enough. In 2005 both nations approved the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, which allows the international community to intervene peacefully or militarily in cases in which a government commits genocide, crimes against humanity, grave and systematic war crimes, or ethnic cleansing against its own people. A year later they voted for a Security Council resolution that affirmed the doctrine. But when it comes to the Syrian government’s murder of thousands of its own people, sovereignty trumps humanity. So what now?" (FT)


"When a Web site called BuzzFeed broke the news on the night of the Iowa caucuses that John McCain was endorsing Mitt Romney, more than a few readers scratched their heads and said, 'What is a BuzzFeed?' They’re about to find out. BuzzFeed is the creation of Jonah Peretti, a graduate of the MIT Media Lab with an expertise in content that is likely to be 'liked.' He took those skills to The Huffington Post, where he was the wizard in back of the curtain, brewing a bubbling cauldron of tatty celebrity news and goofy cat shots behind a front page of serious news and commentary. Using search optimization, he knew what people wanted almost before they did. Mr. Peretti started BuzzFeed as a laboratory at first, making it less about what people were searching for and more about what they might share. He developed technologies that allowed BuzzFeed to determine very quickly what media content was being posted and shared — items that were contagious, the kind of thing that ends up on one person’s Facebook page and then suddenly, many other people’s. When The Huffington Post was sold to AOL last year, Mr. Peretti left and began working on BuzzFeed full-time. With its mix of oddities, listicles and Web memes, BuzzFeed was at first something like The Huffington Post without the pretension of producing news and commentary." (NYTimes)


"I’m still reading Sally Bedell Smith’s biography of Elizabeth The Queen. I put it aside to read two other books including Full Service, the Scotty Bowers memoir which I wrote about last week. Smith’s book is my first biography of the Queen so I am learning most things for the first time. She is a remarkable woman. Something she shared with Reagan, or he with her, is the ability to play the role. Both individuals have and had the brilliance to stick to the image whence all comes. The Queen presented by Smith is a very impressive character living in an odd place among us, but completely human. Like all people who live in privilege and with its natural powers, her knowledge is skewed. Queen Elizabeth II, however, unlike most people who live in privilege, etc., is always learning. It is evident that she sees this as part of her job – and it is a job. It is said that she knows more people in England than any other individual. She’s made it her business to. The monarchy itself is an antiquated tradition. Yet the Queen conducts it in such a way as to give stability to the political system of her country ... When I was lunching with Sally Smith and talking about Her Majesty, good old Lillibet to her husband Philip, sister PM, mother, Mum, etc., Sally recounted a conversation Princess Michael of Kent was said to have once had with her son who asked her 'What is the difference between the Queen and Mrs. Thatcher?' Thatcher then being the Prime Minister. 'The Queen is your Mother,' Princess Michael explained to her son, adding: 'Mrs. Thatcher is your school mistress.'" (NYSocialDiary)

"She’s firmly ensconced at the helm of the New York Observer, a year after being given the job; I said she wouldn’t be. I didn’t think that she was going to prove herself good at running a newspaper, and — more to the point — I didn’t think that her boss, Jared Kushner, would stick by her ...
And (Elizabeth) Spiers — to her credit — has absolutely executed on that strategy. The Observer is now, first and foremost, Observer.com. (It’s a hugely valuable domain name, which, by some freakish accident of history, wound up getting snaffled by a dilettantish New York weekly before it could be claimed by the venerable newspaper in England.) There’s a slew of verticals, running the gamut of New York interests — Wall Street, media, art, real estate — as well as a bold attempt to break into the tech blogosphere with BetaBeat. Page design is sophisticated and effective, with all sites linking generously to all other sites, with the emphasis on dynamic headlines rather than bland navbars.The Observer’s inimitable voice is gone, replaced by a barrage of bloggish posts by a group of writers so young that many of them can’t even remember a time before Gawker. (Which was birthed, by Spiers, in 2003.)" (Felix Salmon)

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