Category: Media

Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. …

His colleagues admired him as a workhorse. Ebert reviewed as many as 285 movies a year, after he grew ill scheduling his cancer surgeries around the release of important pictures. He eagerly contributed to other sections of the papers — interviews with and obituaries of movie stars, even political columns on issues he cared strongly about on the editorial pages.

The Chicago Sun-Times announced Thursday afternoon that Roger Ebert, the paper’s legendary film critic, had died.

You should without a doubt read “A Leave of Presence,” his final blog post, published less than two days before he died. I will excerpt only the final line, which I admit is completely cheap (and you should still read the entire thing), because it is one hell of a final line:

So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.

Longform has put together a few key Ebert stories, and additional collections, reflections and reminiscences are sure to come. [UPDATE: Here’s the Longreads page with additional stories.]

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Ebert truly was one of the all-time greats. He remains an inspiration for countless people, myself included, who cannot begin to express how much we learned from him and enjoyed what he did and how he did it. Many of us who never met him, and who only knew him through his words, cannot help but feel like we lost someone we knew.

Buzz Bissinger Is Literally Mr. Fancy Pants

Buzz Bissinger, noted journalist and the Salieri of Spittle, has a new story in GQ. Perhaps the best thing you can say about it is that it’s certainly a new story written by Buzz Bissinger that appears in GQ.

The story is basically about how Harry Gerard Bissinger III, otherwise known as Buzz, the guy who wrote “Friday Night Lights” and the “Shattered Glass” article and who won a Pulitzer Prize, is obsessed with buying fancy, expensive Gucci clothes.

Earlier this year, Hamilton Nolan wrote this thing for Gawker about how personal essays exposing painful or embarrassing secrets can be good but that these stories often “offer run of the mill voyeurism tinged with the desperation of attention addiction.” Nolan also wrote about how most people’s lives are inherently uninteresting because there are only so many compelling personal stories to tell, and I mention this by way of saying that while Buzz Bissinger may lead an interesting, rich and varied life, I cannot for the life of me figure out why he thought the world needed thousands and thousands of words about his self-described addiction to buying Gucci clothes.

But nonetheless, this story exists, and so you can read about Bissinger’s $13,900 “Gucci ostrich skin” jacket and his trips to sex clubs in Hong Kong and Macao and his other intensely relatable experiences. Or you can read or watch “American Psycho” and come away with the same basic feeling.

Also, The Flu

Flu season continues, with intense flu activity reported throughout the U.S. There are indications the season has peaked, which is of course not the same thing as saying that it has ended.

If you have any questions about the flu, these posts at Kicker and Mother Jones are two good places to begin. (They are particularly helpful if you aren’t sure about how to differentiate between a regular old cold and the flu.)

In case you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, remember that the season will continue and that just because it’s January doesn’t mean you should just shrug it off. “The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it’s what we have,” Michael Specter writes for the New Yorker in a post urging people to get vaccinated. Even if you don’t think you need it, getting the shot could help others around you, including the elderly or the young, he writes. This map should also help show you just how prevalent the flu is this year.

Breaking Away

Andrew Sullivan, the blogging pioneer who has most recently worked for the Daily Beast, is setting up his own standalone shingle. His blog (which he writes with several other people, but which is still largely his voice) is going to be an independent site, with no Time, Atlantic or Daily Beast behind it. And he’s going to be blogging for a price: Beginning on Feb. 1, it will cost $19.99 a year to visit the site. (He stresses in his announcement post that this isn’t a paywall, but rather “a freemium-based meter,” but it still boils down to a paywall. Readers can read a limited number of longer posts before having to pay or hitting the wall.)

It’s going to be fascinating to see how this works. Sullivan’s name alone is a big enough brand to draw in audiences, so he’s clearly going to get a decent number of subscribers willing to pay $20 bucks a year for his mix of commentary, links and photos taken from people’s windows. But will he get enough to support himself and a staff? Will he change, enhance or expand his blogging style to warrant the price tab? And in two years, will he still be doing this solo, or will he have set up shop at BuzzFeed or joined the Awl network or somesuch? I don’t know, because no one really knows, but it will be an interesting experiment.

News Corp. shuts down The Daily

News Corp. is shuttering The Daily, the iPad-based publication/app that launched in February 2011. The news, which comes as News Corp. is busy turning its publishing assets into a separate company, is far from surprising. The publication was hemorrhaging money and cutting staff, so it was a matter of when, not if, it would close up shop. Felix Salmon and Will Oremus have some thoughts about tablet-centric journalism (and about the extreme shortsightedness of creating a publication solely focused on a single product, particularly at a time when creating content that can be viewed across many/all platforms is sort of the only sensible way to go).Still, as always, it’s never fun to see journalists and other workers lose their jobs.

Failing Upward, Ever Upward

There are no second acts in American life, unless you are Jeff Zucker, in which case your catastrophic firebombing of a major television network can be followed up with a job running a beleaguered news operation.

Jeff Zucker, the man who brought you “The Jay Leno Show,” the man who took NBC from the No. 1 network on television to the No. 4 broadcast network (there are only four), the man who infamously bungled handing over “The Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien (and then bungled it again, and then bungled it yet again for good measure), the man who pinned his success on to “To Catch A Predator” and “The Apprentice” and “Joey,” is going to take over CNN. For a news network in search of an identity and a direction, this…is not very good news.

How Cities Go Bankrupt

Wondering how a thriving city can go bankrupt? Reuters has a report on San Bernardino’s “decades-long journey from prosperous, middle-class community to bankrupt, crime-ridden, foreclosure-blighted basket case.” Read it and learn all about the incremental steps that inexorably pulled San Bernardino into the financial and experiential depths.

The Information Disadvantage

Before rank-and-file conservatives ask, “What went wrong?”, they should ask themselves a question every bit as important: “Why were we the last to realize that things were going wrong for us?”

If you’re interested in reading any day-after stories examining at how so many people were caught so off-guard by electoral results that were pretty clearly forecast to anyone paying attention (also), Conor Friedersdorf’s smart take is a pretty good place to start.