I will never forget the words of my journalism professor, the legendary Conrad Fink. In one of his college lectures, he said: “I do believe there's a higher obligation, and we as journalists need to fulfill it.”
Here’s an excerpt from his 2010 editorial writing class syllabus at the University of Georgia:
Wrap yourself around this reality: As an opinion writer in the media today you can do more good than a battalion of Red Cross volunteers. You also can do more harm than a bomb-throwing terrorist on a crowded street corner. Welcome to Editorial Writing and Issues.
I often wonder what Fink would say about the current state of media if he were around to see what’s going on today. So much harm has been done that it’s sometimes impossible to tell a news story from an editorial from complete clickbait masquerading as journalism.
I recently learned about a cool new thing The New York Times is working on called The News Provenance Project. Calling the current state of misinformation “a crisis,” the NYT aims to combat the spread of manipulated photos and false statements published as fact. News consumers who are deceived and confused, the website states, “eventually become fatigued and apathetic to news.”
My hope is that, in the future, we can go beyond just identifying manipulated photos and videos. Regardless of who it’s cool to blame about misinformation these days, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the news media. And journalists must fulfill their “higher obligation” to their readers. Whether it’s The News Provenance Project, Substack, or my friend Mariana Heredia’s Fenix, the entire model needs to be overhauled.
In the meantime, below are seven captivating, in-depth, well-reported stories. I hope you enjoy.
— The CEO who could make or break democracy [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The ‘cancelled’ pop star taking back control
— Hollywood’s forgotten actor
— The comeback queen
— The woman infiltrating online hate groups
— The church of chicken
— The new, inclusive Playboy
👉 If you enjoy reading profiles of the most successful people and companies, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The CEO who could make or break democracy: Jack Dorsey is one of the only two men in history to simultaneously run two multibillion-dollar companies (Twitter & Square) that he co-founded. The following profile tells the story of an enigmatic figure who's extremely weird, deeply private, and so slow and deliberate that one of his longtime friends compared him to Forrest Gump. The most urgent complaints about Dorsey’s pace of thinking come from people who fear that Twitter has become an imminent threat to democracy. Meanwhile, Dorsey is taking his time. (Yahoo Finance)
“Jack’s at a slower pace where he’s noticing things that the rest of us don’t notice. That’s extremely valuable to society.”
The ‘cancelled’ pop star taking back control: When you look at Taylor Swift’s career arc through a 2019 lens, the narrative changes. Would Swift’s songs about her exes be reviewed as sensationally today? Would a man dare grab the microphone out of a young woman’s hands at an awards show? Would Pitchfork refuse to review Taylor Swift’s 1989 album but choose instead to do a review on Ryan Adams’s cover album of her 1989? The answer to all of those questions is probably not. In this profile, Swift opens up about sexism, scrutiny, and standing up for herself. (Vogue)
“A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote canceled, is a very isolating experience.”
Hollywood’s forgotten actor: The divisive and mercurial actor Nicolas Cage rarely does the obvious thing. His creative unpredictability has led him to attain near-mythological status in certain corners of the internet. He acts in so many movies — 20 in the last two years — and yet so few of them make mainstream ripples. In this Q&A, he talks about nouveau shamanic acting, primal-scream therapy, and achieving a Stockhausen effect. It’s wild and fascinating. (The New York Times)
“I can’t pretend to know what people think or want to think about me.”
The comeback queen: Despite popular belief, it was Cherilyn Sarkisian — not Kim Kardashian — who invented the “I’m famous just because.” But in 1999, Cher took her career to heights that were virtually beyond belief. And she hasn’t budged since. Here’s how the iconic artist has defied the laws of celebrity and made her fame a fact of modern life for close to six decades. (The Ringer)
“I never think of the word comeback as a slap in the face. It’s a challenge.”
The woman infiltrating online hate groups: Is it possible to stop a mass shooting before it happens? You’ve never heard of her, but somewhere in America, a top-secret investigator known as the Savant is infiltrating online hate groups to take down the most violent men in the country. She has an uncanny ability to suss out when, exactly, hate speech will morph into violent action. Some words mean nothing; others mean people are about to die. Here’s how she figures that out. (Cosmopolitan)
“The ability to recruit hate is more widespread than ever before. It’s far easier and faster.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The church of chicken: Chick-fil-A is taking over fast food, leapfrogging rivals to become the third-largest chain in the United States. Only McDonald's and Starbucks brought in more money in the U.S. last year, and with vastly more restaurants. Chick-fil-A took the Christian principles of its founder Truett Cathy and used them to establish a fast-food chain that's more efficient, more polite, more beloved, and more controversial than any other. Take a look inside the story of how Chick-fil-A took over America. (Business Insider)
"To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."
The new, inclusive Playboy: After a series of failed revival attempts, Playboy quietly relaunched this year. The new, socially conscious version of Playboy has meant some changes to the vernacular that has long defined it. The bunnies — the restaurant servers who work in the Playboy Clubs — are now “brand ambassadors.” The staff uses terms like “intersectionality,” “sex positivity,” “privileging” and “lived experience” to describe their editorial vision. It’s all great except for the elephant in the room — which is that Playboy is still a magazine full of nude women. Which narrative do you believe? (The New York Times)
“We talk a lot about when something is objectification versus when it is consensual objectification versus when it is art.”