Wednesday, December 19th, 2018


Image is Everything

The Atlantic's Alan Taylor spends all year curating photography, and these are his picks for The Most 2018 Photos Ever. Yes, we're talking Kanye and Don, the ballistic missile that was(n't) headed for Oahu, the rocket launch of the dude who's sure the Earth is flat, and of course, a lot of scooters. What's amazing is that, with the pace of today's news cycle, many of these moments feel like they're from another decade. (The NextDraft photo year in review is just a selfie of me sitting in front a hundred and eight browser tabs with my jaw dropped.)


Assad State of Affairs

"The president, in a message on Twitter, said the United States had 'defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.'" WaPo: Trump administration plans to pull U.S. troops out of Syria immediately. (Among other things, this is a reminder that Assad got away with genocide.)


The Killing Field

The internet has presented a financial disaster for journalists. But it has also put them in greater physical danger. Historically, dictators and thugs have needed journalists to get their (often false) messages out. Social media provided a direct line for that messaging, so murdering journalists became an option. That's one factor that led to the increase in journalist deaths. TNR's Joel Simon provides another: "There is no single explanation for why journalists are being killed and imprisoned. But the disappointing response of the United States government to these crimes—its abrogation of its traditional role as model for a free press—helps explain why the perpetrators are acting with such impunity." That is exactly right. Why Were So Many Journalists Murdered in 2018?

+ "Their congressman is running ads against them. They're worried about the future of journalism and the future of their jobs. They've got a bunch of yellow safety vests hanging in the newsroom for covering wildfires. They're trying to write about water and food and transit and politics: all the things that will ultimately determine the fate of the state. How do they do it?" The big media players have weathered the anti-media storm pretty well (our obsession with Trump news has helped the bottom line). Local journalism, vitally important and already on the ropes, has a much tougher time. GQ: The Fresno Bee and the War on Local News.


Bagel Bytes

"If I'm toasting rye bread, a bagel company might be interested in knowing that, because they can re-target that household with bagel advertising because they already know it's a household that eats bread, toasts bread, is open to carbs. Maybe they would also be open to bagels. And then they can probably cross that with credit-card data and know that this is a household that hasn't bought bagels in the last year. I mean, it's going to be amazing, from a targeting perspective." The Atlantic: The Coming Commodification of Life at Home. (Full disclosure: I just bought a smart litter box.)

+ There's one thing we know about our privacy concerns: Tech companies will live up to them, and then some. NYT: As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants. "Facebook allowed Microsoft's Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users' friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users' private messages."


Don’t Do the Prime if You Can’t Do the Time

"Sellers are more worried about a case being opened on Amazon than in actual court ... Amazon's judgment is swifter and less predictable, and now that the company controls nearly half of the online retail market in the US, its rulings can instantly determine the success or failure of your business ... 'Amazon is the judge, the jury, and the executioner.'" The Verge with an interesting story that both illuminates the new reality for small retailers and the incredible power of Amazon. Prime and Punishment.


Tunnel Visionary

"In the end, the first public viewing of Musk's latest visionary project – an underground 'loop' track that promises to revolutionize transport in the 21st-century city – turned out to be a grand mixture of imaginative futurism and showbiz razzmatazz, not to mention a showcase for a novel tunnel-boring technology that may be the most significant development of all." Among other things, Elon Musk is one of the greatest marketers of his generation. Case in point: We're all talking about a tunnel.

+ The Verge: I Took a Ride Through Elon Musk's New Tunnel In California.


Peace Out

"She won a Nobel Peace Prize for her defiance of Myanmar's military junta. She emerged from years of house arrest in 2010 a near-mythical figure, admired for her strength and integrity. She was swept into power in a landslide 2015 election that many around the world hoped would bring greater freedom and stability to her country." Reuters: Aung San Suu Kyi was once a global hero. What happened?


Ghost in the Machine

"Sundered from all the now-obsolete protections and best practices of a free and independent press, journalists will do what displaced workers everywhere must: get on with the necessary business of making a living. And a select few will fall into what is perhaps the grimmest possible simulacrum of journalistic endeavor: they will join the now burgeoning market for luxury ghostwritten memoirs." Sean Patrick Cooper: American Ghostwriter. (This is one gig I could never do. I exclusively write for the credit.)


Friends with Benefits

"It's now been more than 14 years since the show's last air date, but the series is still raking in the dough." The Friends ensemble once negotiated TV's biggest acting payout. Then things got really lucrative. "Today, all six of them still receive 2 percent of syndication income, or $20 million each per year." (No one ever said it was a meritocracy, folks...)


Bottom of the News

"Does it ever seem like you're invited to an awful lot of summer birthday gatherings? For good reason. In the United States, most births occur between June and early November." In other words, 'Tis the Season.

+ One headline that perfectly defines being neighbors, especially during the holiday season: Her Neighbor Hated Her Dragon Nativity Scene. So She Got More Dragons.

+ Eater: The Best of 2018's Bad Restaurant Reviews.