new media

Thinking inside the box

by David Alm November 20, 2012

One irony of modern life is that as technology makes more and more things possible, we often find ourselves working in tighter and tighter confines. This is especially true for writers. Where 10 years ago, a professional writer might have been working on a 2,000-word feature for one magazine, a 1,500-word review for another, and […]






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Writing and risk

by David Alm November 9, 2012

Writing ranks pretty low on the list of guaranteed paths to success — down there with sculpting and growing exotic plants. No one goes into it because it’s a sure thing. And I’m not just talking about being a novelist or writing for the New Yorker. Writing, like acting, can take many forms: you can […]






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Criticism for sale, critical thought be damned

by David Alm August 31, 2012

Not long ago, a middle-aged man made a great deal of money by selling book reviews directly to authors and publishers. He realized that — surprise! — people like it when you say nice things about them, and in many cases, are willing to pay for it. So he started a business writing positive book […]






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David Carr on Atavist, good as gold

by David Alm May 22, 2012

Leave it to David Carr to let us know what’s what. Yesterday’s New York Times featured a classic Carr piece (no pun intended, honestly) about Atavist, a new Web-publishing platform that allows publishers to “seamlessly weave together their text, video, audio, photos, maps, interactive graphics, and timelines” in a multimedia “environment.” Atavist also produces its […]






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A final tribute, in my words, to Hillman Curtis

by David Alm April 25, 2012

Here is a truth about ghostwriting that I never knew until now: You can write about practically anything in the first-person — except death. One week ago today, an old friend died after fighting cancer for three and a half years. He was just 51 and had a wife, two young children, and countless friends […]






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A new year for Contrary

by David Alm January 3, 2012

Last winter, when the founding editor of Contrary magazine, Jeff McMahon, asked me to anchor the site’s blog, I was flattered, of course, but also a bit intimidated. The magazine had already established itself as a literary gem in a field that can seem either overcrowded or woefully empty depending on how you look at […]






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The paradox of global education

by David Alm October 3, 2011

When I started college, in 1993, there was a notion going around that education was subversive. It allowed those of us lucky enough to be studying the liberal arts to engage with serio us texts, ask serious questions, and develop critical perspectives on the world. It allowed us to exist, mentally at least, outside the […]






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Journalism, exquisite torment

by Jeff McMahon March 25, 2011
Publicity still from the movie

I left the daily life of journalism at the turn of the Century, just before the daily life of journalism collapsed. That left me feeling a bit like Charlie Chaplin, who sold all his stocks in 1928. Since then I’ve maintained journalism as a practice more cyclically, and less cynically, focusing more on reporting and […]






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James Fallows: Old dog learns new media

by Jeff McMahon March 14, 2011

The genius of James Fallows’ new piece in The Atlantic is that he takes some of the best values of traditional journalism—skepticism, research, fairness, eagerness to question authority and topple conventional wisdom—and he applies them to traditional journalism. He disputes the tediously common view that old journalism is better than new.






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Sullivan to join the Daily Beast

by David Alm March 1, 2011

Andrew Sullivan, one of the more sought-out bloggers in the great big blogosphere, is leaving his prestigious post at the Atlantic online to write for the Daily Beast. Launched by Tina Brown in 2008 as an alternative to the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast has since become not just a juggernaut of the Web, but an […]






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Artists of facebook: Mateo Galvano

by Jeff McMahon February 13, 2011
Mateo Galvano (photo by Tracie Van Auken)

Facebook has become a social net-cessity, like the telephone, like politeness, like brushing the crumbs from your beard, but it has not yet become an invisible necessity. We’re conscious of it: we’re not sure whether we’re using it correctly, whether it’s a benefit or a cost, whether it’s a fad, like the CB radio was […]






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Does the ‘library of the future’ need books?

by Jeff McMahon February 9, 2011
University of Chicago Mansueto Library artist

Every day I cross Ellis Avenue to avoid the construction zone of the University of Chicago’s emerging Mansueto Library, whose elliptical crystal dome caps four underground floors where 3.5 million books will be kept in compact storage. When library users at ground level request books (via the library website) they will be retrieved from the […]






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