The continuing decline of Barnes & Noble prompts Alex Shephard to discuss what's at risk if the big chain shrinks further or closes and publishers lose one of their biggest revenue streams: "The most literary of novels will be shunted to smaller publishers. Some will probably never be published at all. And rigorous nonfiction books, which often require extensive research and travel, will have a tough time finding a publisher with the capital to fund such efforts."
Andrew Seifter reviews a Shawn Otto book, The War on Science, quoting Otto on how journalism distorts governance: "'Journalists look for conflict to find an angle,' he writes, 'so there are always two sides to every story.' A scientist, by contrast, would say that 'one of these claims can be shown to be objectively false and it’s poor reporting to paint this as a controversy.' As a result, the journalistic approach 'tends to skew public policy in counterfactual directions.'"
Economist Julia Cagé proposes a solution to the news media's financial crisis — a new form of organization modeled after major universities that combine commercial and nonprofit activities: "The question is not whether the media should be subsidized. It is rather whether they should be granted a favorable legal and tax status in recognition of their contribution to democracy — a status comparable to that long enjoyed by many other participants in the knowledge economy."
Sarah O'Connor tested her writing skill against a machine named Emma to see who could do a better job on a business story. The answer? It's not clear: "In truth, most people who work on artificial intelligence admit it is not going to make humans obsolete any time soon. It is simply not intelligent enough yet. What is beginning to happen, though, is more subtle but no less important. The lines are beginning to blur between work done by humans and that done by machines."
Jon Brooks talks to one of the consultants on that John Oliver segment on science reporting, Health News Review publisher Gary Schwitzer, and asks about the journalism that gave rise to the jokes: "We treat anything published in a journal as if it’s from Moses coming down the mountaintop with a set of stone tablets. Journals were never meant to be sources for the 24-hour news cycle — they are meant to be a forum for discussion among scientists."
ProPublica won praise in 2013 when it posted a database on doctors' prescribing habits, pinpointing likely cases of abuse. But now, Stephen Engelberg writes, the independent journalism organization has discovered that some people are using the database for purposes that aren't praiseworthy: "We picked up clear signs that some readers are using the data for another purpose: To search for doctors likely to prescribe them some widely abused drugs, many of them opioids."
Mike Rosenberg noticed something that disturbed him during his most recent journalism job hunt: "For every one job result for a reporter, photojournalist or TV producer, you’ll get 10 results for jobs available to people with journalism backgrounds or degrees to switch careers toward marketing, advertising and — most of all — public relations." He researched further and learned that there are now 4.8 PR people per journalist, more than twice the ratio of 15 years ago.