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Connecting the dots on UK press skulduggery

by henrycopeland
July 18th, 2011

The circle of complicity in the UK phone hacking conspiracy is spiraling outward, with the arrest yesterday of Murdoch protégée Rebekah Brooks and the resignation of Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson.

As the New York Times noted yesterday, Scotland Yard has been willfully negligent, if not actively collusive, in its investigation of the hacking into the phones of UK celebrities and crime victims by journalists at News of the World.

But isn’t it obvious by now that the conspiracy to cover up the phone hacking probably goes far wider, likely implicating many members of the UK press itself?

The most aggressive reporting on the UK phone hacking has been consistently led by US journalists, for example in the September 2010 investigative blast in the New York Times magazine?

As the Times reported then, “interviews with more than a dozen former reporters and editors at News of the World … described a frantic, sometimes degrading atmosphere in which some reporters openly pursued hacking or other improper tactics to satisfy demanding editors.”

So let’s assume that, at best, hacking was only perpetrated by NOTW journalists. That premise would still leave hundreds of members of the UK press complicit in the hacking, since they would either have once worked at NOTW and known about the hacking or had friends who worked there.

In an interview (below) before Brooks resigned, a TV journalist asks a spokesman for Newscorp, NOTW’s owner, whether Rebekah Brooks could honestly lead an investigation into actions that had occurred under her own watch as editor of NOTW. The spokesman shivers and jibes, trying to avoid saying the obvious: you can’t investigate yourself. The same logic must be true for many members (and former members) of the UK press itself.

For example…

Tina Brown, editor in chief at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, quipped after the NYT’s expose last September that “I’m shocked, shocked to learn … that the voice mail messages of celebrities have been bugged for tidbits of gossip—can you believe it?—by the Murdoch press in London.” At the time, I’d assumed that Brown’s use of Captain Renault’siconic “I’m shocked” line from Casablanca was just an playful way of saying she’d suspected this might be the case.

In fact, it now seems likely that Brown, a former editor of UK magazine Tatler, was giving a double wink. That, like Renault, her knowledge wasn’t theoretical or speculative. As a former member of the UK press herself, Brown could have intimate knowledge of the hacking. But being friends with some of the miscreants, or friends of friends, Brown would be loath to throw stones herself.

Again, the best case scenario is that no former NOTW staffers took their phone hacking skills to other UK publications when they changed jobs. At worse, obviously, journalists at multiple publications were engaged in the hacking, and the UK presses’ persistent investigative lethargy is not just an act of professional courtesy to fellow club members, but an active desire to not wield a tar brush that might be turned on itself.

For now, the UK press is focused on chasing the scandal ever higher inside Newscorp. It’s obviously exciting to ask whether billionaire James Murdoch will be arrested.

Keeping the spotlight headed upwards helps the UK press from asking hard questions of itself.

So it is up to the US press (or UK bloggers?) to ask: was anyone at The Financial Times involved in hacking? The Independent? The Daily Mail? The Guardian? The Telegraph?

Connecting the dots shouldn’t be too hard. As social network expert Valdis Krebs notes, network analysis might be one good tool for journalists to use in understanding the story. In theory, by tracking which NOTW reporters moved on to which other UK publications, you might find patterns that would reveal the infectious spread of hacking practices. Tools like Influence Networks might help.

Links for a hot June day

by henrycopeland
June 13th, 2011

“How come Wikipedia hasn’t turned into a giant glob of graffiti?” Some answers.

Online vendettas, Yelp style. And mob think gets personal.

Virtual currencies congealing?

The history of the corporation.

How good are you at rumor centrality?

“Skill must be culled from a string of mistakes. Lots of them.”

Kilgard speculates that the expanding cortical map is like a search committee. It’s generating a huge range of candidate solutions to a problem the brain has been tasked with, but doesn’t yet know how to solve. (How do I discriminate these tones? How do I get the ball in the basket? How do I solve that tricky calculus problem?) Once a good solution is found, the search committee is disbanded. Efficient changes that impart skill are retained, and the non-meaningful changes are winnowed away as the map shrinks.

Featured Blogger: Juliette Rossant of SUPER CHEF

by Paige Wilcox
June 7th, 2011

According to Juliette Rossant, “a super chef is an empire-building celebrity chef.” Her blog, SUPER CHEF, highlights the branding and business trends that take an ordinary chef’s career to “super chef” territory. In addition to keeping up-to-date with Rossant’s site, readers can follow her on Twitter @forbie1.

Juliette Rossant of SUPER CHEF

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: I started blogging soon after my book, Super Chef (Simon & Schuster 2004) was published.  I wanted to keep up with my subjects:  six of America’s top chefs.  I was also tracking other celebrity chefs.

Q: How do you think your blog stands out amongst blogs of the same genre?

A: SUPER CHEF evolved from blog to magazine in 2007-2008.  Contributors include chefs Norman Van Aken, Jody Adams, Kelley Liken and Nora Pouillon.  I have worked as a journalist for magazines like Forbes:  I strive to have SUPER CHEF reflect that professionalism.

Most food-related blogs cover just that:  food, recipes, restaurant reviews and gossip.  SUPER CHEF covers the businesses and brands of celebrity chefs.  SUPER CHEF analyzes their TV shows, their books and their activities outside the kitchen.  SUPER CHEF has expanded to include articles relevant to kids (alternate Thursdays) and videos we call “Food Flicks” (Fridays).  As editor, I look for broadly food-related news, like Hurricane Katrina (in which emergency food helped victims).  When First Lady Laura Bush started looking for a new executive chef at the White House, SUPER CHEF ran a nationwide poll that helped identify candidates—and predicted Mrs. Bush’s choice. Read the rest of this entry »

Blogads review – new features in the first half of 2011

by Nick Faber
June 6th, 2011

It’s hard to believe that 2011 is almost halfway over. Blogads’ designers and developers have been super-busy, rolling out new features to help advertisers connect with influential blog readers. Here are some highlights from the last six months.

Tweetable Ads

We added tweetability to our ads in January. With the click of a button, advertisers can add a “tweet this” button that automatically suggests a twitter update, complete with URL and hashtag. This feature is already one of our most popular, and you can see how successful it’s been for two of our advertisers: PETA and Simon & Schuster. Even President Obama used it to kick off his 2012 campaign!

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogads Local: Our favorite places to get a beer with dinner (or lunch)

by Nick Faber
June 3rd, 2011

Milltown Glass by Flickr user abbyladybug

For seventy years, North Carolina law capped ABV for beer sold in the state at 6%. In 2005, thanks to the efforts of the Pop the Cap initiative, that limit was raised to 15%. Today, North Carolina is home to the most microbreweries in the South, and at local restaurants and bars, you can usually find more craft beers on tap than watered-down domestics. Here are our favorite spots in Carrboro and Chapel Hill to grab a bite and a brew.


If you’ve ever been to Carrboro, you’ve likely been to Weaver Street Market. The local co-op grocery is the heart of Carrboro, geographically and figuratively. What you may not have realized is that Panzanella, the Italian restaurant around the corner, is also owned by the same community. Panzanella is committed to keeping it local, with a seasonal farm-to-table menu and a summer beer dinner series featuring all local breweries.

Blogads Recommends:

If you can make it, you must go to a beer dinner, where they pair up their farm-fresh cuisine with a variety of brews from each brewery. And the vegetarian options at these dinners are just as good as the non-veggie.


Read the rest of this entry »

Featured Blogger: Da Vinci of Your Life After 25

by Paige Wilcox
June 2nd, 2011

Your Life After 25 is a modern survival guide for women navigating through life after turning 25 years old. Blogger Da Vinci provides her readers with helpful and fun tips, including advice for how to dress for a job interview, how to get a guy to notice you and how to make a Chicago hot dog. You can keep up with her on Twitter by following @YourLifeAfter25 along with more than 11,000 others and “Like” her popular Facebook page!

Da Vinci, blogger for Your Life After 25

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: Unofficially, when I was 16 I started a site called Lady Epiphany, but I didn’t really understand the whole dynamic behind running a site. Officially, I started my original blog, Da Vinci’s Blog Log, which was later known as D.V.B.L in 2007.  I like to think of it as the blue print for what Your Life After 25 is, which launched earlier this year. D.V.B.L. was my baby that taught me a lot of lessons in the blogosphere. The blogging world has grown and changed so much for the better. I’m just happy to have a blog that people receive well, can relate to and learn from. I started blogging because I truly wanted to reach and help people.  Whether it’s through physical appearance or just inspiring others, I wanted to help and build a sense of community among women.

Q: How do you think your blog stands out amongst blogs of the same genre?

A: I like to think of Your Life After 25 as a lifestyle “blogozine”. It stands out because it’s about LIFE; we’re all living life and trying to figure it out, and as our motto states “believe it or not it does go on”. Our name really speaks for itself. So many women experience that pivotal moment in life where they wonder where their lives are going at age 25. For men, it usually happens at 35, lol. We try to address things in life from 25 and over. Our mission is to entertain, educate and inspire. Read the rest of this entry »

SUXORZ update: Smirnoff app lets you brand icing photos

by Nick Faber
June 1st, 2011

My dog just iced me, bro.

As our SUXORZ panel noted at SMNYC, Smirnoff shut down the popular site brosicingbros.com, rather than embracing it, because they didn’t want to associate themselves with such irresponsible behavior. But you can still use Smirnoff’s own Facebook app to brand a photo of yourself being iced and share it with all of your friends. Is this what Zuckerberg meant when he said Facebook is in the business of advertising?

Blogads Gives Back: Ronald McDonald House [Slideshow]

by Nick Faber
May 27th, 2011

As part of our Blogads Gives Back initiative, we volunteered some time at the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill. The RMH-CH provides a clean, safe, and healthy place to stay for over 1800 families a year while their children undergo treatment at area hospitals.

Many thinks to Cathy and all of the great staff and volunteers of Ronald McDonald House for helping us contribute to the great and important work they do.

Is Facebook killing online advertising?

by Nick Faber
May 26th, 2011

Oil Painting by A. Fudyma-Powers

The Facebook “Like” is having a great year. After pushing the “share” function into oblivion, the ubiquitous verb-turned-noun-turned-baby name has become a coveted honor badge for brands. Why? Quick and easy word of mouth. “Like” a post using Facebook’s social plug-in, your friends see it in their news feed, and more free traffic heads to the post. Same with pages, which also give brands easy access to your own stream. Facebook’s Page Discovery browser let’s you see which pages are most liked by your friends, and which brand wouldn’t want to show up there?

So is all of this “Liking” more valuable than advertising? In AdWeek’s coverage of the eG8, Michael Wolff quoted an exchange between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Publicis head Maurice Levy:

“If you think about advertising, what’s going to be more effective than any advertising you show is something your friend says they like,” says Zuckerberg.

To which Levy, in the business of showing, rushes to say, “I agree that recommendation and endorsement from a friend is sometimes more powerful than the greatest ad.”

Was Levi conceding the point? Probably not. As commenter Mark Rukman points out, word-of-mouth and advertising are old friends:

advertising/marketing/organizations create brands. brands create a short cut for meaning or perception. we hope for meaning, we usually only attain perception. perception in turn influences word of mouth. i don’t see that as long as most rationale c-level decision makers believe in game theory, advertising is going anywhere anytime soon. digital is what the world is becoming, but advertising with every successive new medium, has adapted and grown.

We can’t discount the impact Mark Z’s company has had on the life of brands, but in this case, we tend to agree with Mark R.

Blogads Local: Our Favorite Restaurants

by Nick Faber
May 25th, 2011

The part of North Carolina we work in is a bit of a foodie utopia. Here in Carrboro, our downtown streets are lined with restaurants serving up everything from French cuisine, to New York-style pastrami, to traditional comfort food. Chapel Hill, a two-minute walk from our office, has many culinary delights of its own, including two 2011 James Beard winners.

In the first of our Blogads Local series, we’ve pick our favorite two restaurants in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

Our Absolute Favorites

It’s only a small coincidence that our favorite restaurants were also honored by the James Beard Foundation earlier this year.


As Food & Wine magazine put it, “everyone who comes to Chapel Hill loves Lantern.” Listed by Gourmet as one of the top 50 restaurants in America, this farm-to-table pan-asian restaurant is a Blogads favorite for dinner. Chef Andrea Reusing was recently crowned the Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. So yeah, it’s really good.

Blogads Recommends:

Dinner: White meat or the other white meat. Check out the Tea-smoked chicken or the pork shank. You can’t go wrong either way.

Dessert: When it’s in season, you must try the basil mint sorbet, served with a home made fortune cookie.

Crook’s Corner

Chef Bill Smith is no stranger to the James Beard Foundation either. In 2009 and 2010, he was a finalist for the Best Chef of the Southeast Award. This year, the Beard Foundation gave the well-loved Crook’s Corner the America’s Classic award for its “timeless appeal” and “quality food that reflects the character of their community.” The seasonal menu boldly explores Southern cuisine, with incredible specialties for every course of your meal.

Blogads Recommends:

Hey, there’s a big pink pig on their sign for a reason. Try the Carolina sampler: pit cooked pulled pork served with hoppin’ John, collard greens and black pepper cornbread.

If it’s still on the menu, check out the honeysuckle sorbet, made from locally harvested honeysuckle plants. Obviously, supplies are limited.
In coming weeks we’ll tell you our favorite spots for vegetarians, great places to have a beer with your meal, and where to eat when you’re in a hurry.

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