President Nixon announces he will resign: Aug. 8, 1974

I was 19 and had just returned to where I was staying after coming from a movie double feature: “The Devil in Miss Jones” and “Deep Throat.”

Which made this a surreal yet appropriate combination, especially since everybody pretty much considered Richard Nixon the Devil, and Deep Throat was the person who led the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to the truth of Watergate.

Man on the moon: July 20, 1969

And here’s a Nova episode on the lunar mission:

I’ve probably said this before, but this was the greatest human achievement in history. So it’s frustrating to think that what I consider the most outstanding event of my lifetime happened 45 years ago.

C’mon, people. We’re now in the 21st century. We can do better. We already did.

Happy birthday Jean-Paul Sartre … or nothingness

Jean-Paul Sartre was born 109 years ago today.


If you studied French or philosophy in college, chances are you got hit with the rot of moral decay in “Les Mouches/The Flies” or the “Hell is other people” in “Huis Clos/No Exit.” Sartre was one of the major voices of existentialism, which in historical context could have been just a passing moral philosophy. But then the Nazis came along and concepts of morality, religion and life’s meaning were shattered by the physical and mental destruction they unleashed on humanity. And people wondered: Where do you find meaning in a meaningless world?

Sartre said:

I must be without remorse or regrets as I am without excuse; for from the instant of my upsurge into being, I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.

He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1964. According to the prize committee:

[T]he existentialism Sartre formulated and popularized is profoundly original. Its popularity and that of its author reached a climax in the forties, and Sartre’s theoretical writings as well as his novels and plays constitute one of the main inspirational sources of modern literature. In his philosophical view atheism is taken for granted; the “loss of God” is not mourned. Man is condemned to freedom, a freedom from all authority, which he may seek to evade, distort, and deny but which he will have to face if he is to become a moral being. The meaning of man’s life is not established before his existence. Once the terrible freedom is acknowledged, man has to make this meaning himself, has to commit himself to a role in this world, has to commit his freedom. And this attempt to make oneself is futile without the “solidarity” of others.

But we’re in another age now. How would Sartre be received in a world of social media and Internet access? Bulletin Board - 1936
Sartre died in 1980. Now, you have to carry the weight of the world by yourself alone without help.

I’m busy.

The ESPN test

I have a relative who used to work for ESPN in a pretty high profile position. Let’s just say there were times I’d be away from home and I’d glance up at a television screen and, “Wow. My relative is on ‘Sportscenter.'”

In all our conversations about getting a job and working at ESPN, the subject of an entry test never came up.

But today, I see on Deadspin that ESPN tests its new employees. If you’re thinking about working there some day, here’s what you have to answer in 45 minutes. Think fast!

Upheaval in New York and Paris newsrooms

Some interesting developments in the journalism world today.

First, in New York:

In an abrupt change of leadership, The New York Times on Wednesday dismissed Jill Abramson as executive editor and replaced her with Dean Baquet, the managing editor.

Speaking to a stunned newsroom that had been quickly assembled to hear the news, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the paper and the chairman of The New York Times Company, said that he had made the decision because of “an issue with management in the newsroom.”

Ms. Abramson, 60, had been in the job only since September 2011. But people in the company briefed on the situation described serious tensions in her relationship with Mr. Sulzberger, many of them over his concerns about her management. Her style has been described as mercurial and brusque. They had disagreements even before she was appointed executive editor, and she had also had clashes with Mr. Baquet

That’s a huge deal and I’m sure leaves most people in the profession stunned. After all, people usually know when something like this is going to happen. The powers that be in the profession (the publishers, not the editors) usually leave breadcrumbs with other media outlets when they’re about to lower the boom on their newsroom leaders. There are three major newspapers in the U.S., and in the past shake-ups of the two that weren’t the New York Times, you suspected some kind of overthrow was in the works. But this situation at the Times, despite last month’s anti-Jill piece in Politico, caught everyone by surprise.

But that’s not all that happened today. Something just as big happened in Paris:

Faced with a newsroom revolt, the editor in chief of Le Monde, France’s most prominent newspaper, stepped down on Wednesday after a 14-month tenure marked by staff resistance to her efforts to push the paper faster and more fully into the digital era.

The editor, Natalie Nougayrède, had been criticized by her staff for a top-down management style and an inability to build consensus. The discontent was focused largely on a plan to redesign the newspaper and its electronic applications and transfer more than 50 staff members from the print newspaper to the digital operation.

Two of her deputies announced their resignations last week, and seven other editors resigned weeks earlier in opposition to the way Ms. Nougayrède, 47, and the paper’s owners were going about changing Le Monde.

This, unlike in New York, seemed to be inevitable. But still, it’s odd that two of the  most powerful women in global journalism were sacked on the same day. And it’s troubling that in both cases, the underlying reason for their dismissals is that “they were bossy.” Because it reminds me of this:

In both cases, there’s also word that the two editors were moving toward a digital strategy that faced resistance in their newsrooms. If newspaper publishers at The Times and Le Monde are hoping to preserve a print product and getting rid of people who are trying to speed up the transition to a digital format, they won’t have much time to deal with criticism that their actions in these two firings were sexist. They’re going to collapse anyway because print is dying.