Brill's Brilliant [Was: Gear Was: Re: recommended read]

Tue, 01 Sep 1998 11:57:30 -0400 (EDT)

Rohit beat me to the punch on making a recommendation for Brill's Content,
which is something that I have been meaning to FoRK for over a week. I
had started to type up my comments on Brill's Content last Monday, but
never got around to finishing or FoRKing them ... well, they are more or
less finished now, so I will include them below.

>{brill's content wins hands-down for '98. The second issue's cover on the
>BillG spin machine -- including how ABQ cops tipped them off when Content
>demanded the mug shot under sunshine laws and the flacks "defused" it by
>releasing it themselves... RK}

The article on BillG was definitely a great read, but I personally liked
the story on Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle, the reporters from the
Boston Globe who simply fabricated stories and quotes to make their
columns more interesting. I had heard of the Boston Globe scandal before,
but this article was so well done that I read every word of it. Actually,
this is one of the few magazines that I have read cover to cover in a
long, long time.

Here are the other comments that I had typed up prior to today:

*************************** Attachment *******************************

A few comments on "Brill's Content"

"Content" began publishing a few months ago and by all accounts they have
created quite an impact after having put forth only two issues. Not that all
the reviews have been positive, but still they seem to have found a niche
to fill in the magazine industry. Although I have yet to see the premier
issue, I had the good fortune of being able to get a copy of Vol. One,
Issue Two and the articles in this issue were engaging, interesting and
informative. "Content" is claiming to be "The Independent Voice of the
Information Age" and in my estimation they are living up to this claim
(at lease so far).

Steve Brill is the man behind the magazine -- he raised the cash
to get it going and is the editor as well. Brill is also the founder
of "American Lawyer" magazine, Court TV cable station, and several
other lesser known/smaller publications.

My only concern is whether the magazine can continue in the long term
to live up to the rather lofty goals it has set for itself.

In brief and very paraphrased format, Brill's is taking a stand for
the following:

1. Accuracy -- everything they print will be true

2. Labeling and Sourcing -- all sources of information will be
labeled and if the source is not labelled then the bias and/or
limitation of this source shall be noted

3. Conflicts of Interest -- the content of the magazine will be free
of any motives and will not be influenced by wanting to gain favors
politically, etc.

4. Accountability -- the journalists who write for the magazine will
take accountability for what they say and accept criticism.

I won't go in to any more detail, as you can go and look at the
website or buy a copy of the magazine for yourself... But, I will point
out two other interesting reads associated with the publication of
"Brill's Content":

The first is the transcript of an interview with Steve Brill done by Lou
Dobbs (of the CNN Financial Network) just before "Content" published its
premier issue and it can be found at :

The second recommended read is from William Safire's regular column called
"On Language", which is carried in "The New York Times Magazine. Safire's
column of August 9th, 1998 -- appropriately entitled "The Summer of This
Content" -- explored the evolution of the word *Content* and the new meaning
that it has taken on recently. Safire makes the point that content is
"more than data, more than information, more than entertainment, it's
living synergy". A few more quotes from Safire's column will give you
the flavour of this piece :

"I no longer file copy, or even transmit data; ever at the cutting edge
of the pointiest cusp, I *provide content*"

"If any word in the English language is hot, buzzworthy and finger-
snappingly with-it, surpassing, even millenium in both general discourse
and insiderese, that word is content."

"As used narrowly in the computer world, content means "the information
on a web site"; more broadly, it means "software rather than hardware"
or "data or other material to be provided by on-line services." The
phrase online service provider (OSP) -- used to desribe such firms as
America Online, Fujitsu Nifty-serve or Compuserve -- led to the term
*content provider* (which is not shorthanded as CP, because some of us
remember the Communist Party). 'A service provider - Earthlink, Prodigy,
AT&T - gives you access like a pipeline to a destination" says Paul Lewis,
an on-line advertising pioneer. 'A *content provider* is the outfit that
offers the stuff you want at the destination".

"Maureen Dowd, the trend-sensitive Times Op-ED columnist, asked: 'And
what in heaven's name is *content*? Isn't it just a pretentious word
for substance, which was, anyway, a pretentious word for ideas? Can
content by synergized the way milk is homogenized?".

And just to end on an entirely different (but still loosely related)
note, if you are looking for a little bit of satirical humour to brighten
your day, I suggest looking at a page called "William Safire's Rules
for Writers" located at:

"Come, and take choice of all my library,
and so beguile thy sorrow."
-- Titus Andronicus [IV.i.34]