What We’re Devouring: 08.04.16


[New York Magazine]

If you only read one thing this week, let it be this. “The Media” as an institution has been under tremendous scrutiny this year, which is only fair — Trump, anyone? — so New York Magazine turned its gaze on itself and its peers in an exhaustive indictment of the structural weaknesses of news media. They interviewed 40 journalists and surveyed 113 more, including editors and contributors to American Conservative, Buzzfeed, Slate, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times. Presented as a brutally minimalist list of deficiencies (1. “News is an entertainment business, even if it pretends otherwise”) and consisting almost entirely of direct quotes, “The Case Against the Media” feels like urgent, essential reading. Especially for people who pride themselves on keeping their fingers on the pulse of American news.


[These Football Times]

Sport-as-winning and sport-as-art are two of the dialogues at the base of sports journalism, and they are as often in conflict as they are in harmony. Pep Guardiola, outgoing head coach of Bayern Munich’s dominant, record-breaking team and incoming boss at Manchester City, embodies that conflict. He seems in many ways — some frustrating to his fans — more an artist than a coach. A win is ruined for Pep if the defense looked shambly in the first half. “Titles are numbers,” he’s famously said, “and numbers are boring.” He never stays long at one club because he believes in chasing the most perfect, beautiful version of his game. And he’s also, perhaps because of his particular vision, a winner. These Football Times uses this opportunity to appreciate Pep as the artistic contemporary of poets, philosophers, and sculptors, like he’d probably want.



Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” tour has done incredible things for the singer’s brand: once mocked for being the cherubic obsession of the “fan-girl,” then for being a vulgar has-been, Justin Bieber is now a stylish, mature, sleek man-brand. Oh, he’s still got fan-girls. But he’s also got Gabe, Will, and Sam, the 20-something protagonists of this piece. They’re not “fans,” as they are quick to point out, but instead appreciators who respect Beiber’s work. They’re “low-key” captivated by the dual hard-and-soft aesthetics of Bieber, his earrings and bleached hair paired with expansive tattoos and a rap sheet, and the way Bieber presents a kind of a manhood that is interested in challenging gender norms but, in the end, is still comfortingly tied to them.


[Wall Street Journal]

At the other end of media self-scrutiny, the co-founder of The Verge and former digital editor of Bloomberg Joshua Topolsky has received funding for his new online periodical, The Outline. Topolsky has presented The Outline as a brand that’s flipping the script of social-media dependent, mass-consumption news sites. Promising a steady stream of commentary on the topics of power, culture, and “the future,” Topolsky says he wants The Outline to function like a tech company, to change, and to seek an audience of quality-driven influencers rather than an audience of everybody. He acknowledges that advertisers, and thus media sites, usually want to reach the widest audience, but he believes that a unique and loyal audience will be just as valuable. It’ll be worth watching to see if he, and the sites that will come after him, can pull it off.



Scientists can now map what part of our brains light up when we look at ‘cool’ stuff, which is, you know, cool. It’s apparently the same part of our brains that activates when we feel proud or embarrassed, which makes sense — a cool thing is either a thing you lack, in which case, embarrassing, or a thing you have which makes you proud. But in order to discover what fires in our brains, ‘cool’ had to be defined. Quartz tracks the tastemakers of cool from the wealthy elite, to the subcultural and rebellious, to the instagram influencers, trying to pin down a word and a value that, by its very nature, should be hard to articulate. The ‘coolest’ among us, it’s suggested, are the “social adaptors,” willing and able to embrace the new and the reworked at whim.


[The New York Times]

Millennials never wanted to live in their parent’s houses, okay? That was never the goal. But moving out can be hard; real estate prices in America’s most iconic cities, and especially in New York, are insane, and homeownership can feel impossible. So millennials are, as Millennials are wont to do, innovating. Buying a house with your buddies might not be the most radical thing to do, but it’s a shift in values away from the closed nuclear family. This may have started because of economic pressures — splitting mortgages, childcare costs — but it has produced, or been produced by, a generational willingness to share experiences, spaces, and business ventures with their peers, and to redefine personal success away from the single-family home.


[Real Life Magazine]

We don’t often think about the ways that our tech is speaking to us, unless we’re arguing with Siri about directions. But all of our tech is talking, from Seamless, to Uber, to Yelp. And you may have noticed (or been annoyed by) their use of what’s identified here as “caretaker language.” In this rant against both marketing and product design that treats its users like children, Barron imagines that his many apps are Skylar, an annoyingly chill babysitter that was dreamed up in Silicon Valley to make the encroaching presence of technology in our lives a little bit easier to swallow. It’s not the mainstream perspective, and it’s definitely more bitter than most tech-talk we’re used to reading, but it’s good to reflect on the less dignified side of our tech consumption, and wonder when we’re going to want Skylar to leave us alone.


[The Cut]

A retired gymnast and accomplished author, O’Rourke takes a deliberate stroll through the dark side of gymnastics and its dangerous demands on young girls’ minds and bodies. She lands on the following thought: “It is too easy to focus only on female wounds.” In a sport that falls in a unique place of embracing sparkles, bows, and mind-boggling displays of raw human power, it would be both simplistic and unfair to focus solely on female gymnasts as victims. It’s possible, she argues, to both advocate for the care of athletes and to appreciate their dedication to sport. “In gymnastics,” she says, “we are rooting not for the derailment of something powerful and fast but, instead, for the strong, stuck landings.” Check out the photos, too, which are incredible.

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