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Weekend Reading: The Facebook Papers, The French Dispatch, The Best of the Believer, and More
The best reporting and writing from the past week, and context to understand it.
There’s a lot of great journalism out there. Every week, in a format short enough that it won’t be clipped by your inbox, we aim to share some of the best, with additional context for understanding the biggest news of the day. This is a weekly digest of stories you can savor and reporting you can rely on.
Mark Zuckerberg on Why Facebook Is Rebranding to Meta — Alex Heath, The Verge
Meta. It feels like it should roll off the tongue easier. But when associated with Mark Zuckerberg, it’s just hard for that to sound natural. Zuckerberg is synonymous with the brand that built his billions, Facebook (if The Social Network is to be believed, thanks to Sean Parker’s advice to “Drop the ‘The.’ Just Facebook. It’s cleaner.”) Not unlike the 2015 name change of Google’s parent company to Alphabet, the product that built his empire will remain; You won’t hear people say, “Just Meta me”; grandparents won’t post pictures of grandkids to Meta. The Verge was the first to report on the possibility of the change, and now Zuckerberg is sharing his reasons, which, according to him, have absolutely nothing to do with the avalanche of bad news that’s come out recently about Facebook.
📖 Top Outlets (Sort of) Team Up to Make Facebook’s Awful Month Worse — Jon Allsop, Columbia Journalism Review: When I said avalanche of bad news, I did mean avalanche. On Monday, at least 30 different publications were hitting “Publish” on stories stemming from leaked internal Facebook documents. CJR was one of many outlets publishing an aggregation of some of those stories. Now, Weekend Reading, The Postscript’s aggregator, is aggregating the aggregations, which is oh-so-deliciously meta. (You see what I did there.)
📖 In the Ocean’s Worth of New Facebook Revelations Out Today, Here Are Some of the Most Important Drops — Joshua Benton, Nieman Lab: Published on the same day as the CJR piece, Joshua Benton’s collection said the count was even higher.
At this typing, their list is up to 40 consortium pieces, including work from AP, Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, NBC News, Politico, Reuters, The Atlantic, the FT, The New York Times, The Verge, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Wired. (For those keeping score at home, Politico leads with six stories, followed by Bloomberg with five and AP and CNN with four each.)
✉️ The Facebook Papers: The Consortium Is Growing — Brian Stelter, Reliable Sources/CNN: What’s that you say? You want more aggregation of Facebook stories? You got it. Brian Stelter also references a handy-dandy Google doc being compiled of all the stories that are coming out. That’s three-levels of aggregation for you. So meta.
📖 Inside the Big Facebook Leak — Ben Smith, The New York Times: I’ve mentioned a few times now the “consortium” of news outlets reporting on the Facebook Papers, and the never-to-be-missed media column by Ben Smith takes readers behind the collaborative effort.
‘The French Dispatch’ Review: Remember Magazines? — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Enough about shake-ups in new media. It’s time to pay tribute to mainstays of old media. A.O. Scott’s review of the new Wes Anderson film, The French Dispatch, clearly stakes out the film as more than just a journalism movie. It’s a very specific kind of journalism movie: a paean to a literary magazine, structured just like the fictional stand-in of The New Yorker, of which Anderson is a longtime reader and collector. That same kind of fanaticism over print magazines is the backbone of The Postscript, and despite the fact that, from my perch in Wyoming, it will likely be mid-2022 before I ever get to see the film, I’m living vicariously through much of the writing surrounding the film’s recent release.
📖 The New Yorker Writers and Editors Who Inspired ‘The French Dispatch’ — Erin Overbey, The New Yorker: It’s only fitting that The New Yorker should capitalize on a love letter to it in the form of a movie from one of the most distinctive American directors working. Erin Overbey, The New Yorker’s archive editor (which, side note, sounds like the greatest job ever), pulled together some collected writings of the real-life New Yorker writers, from the likes of Joseph Mitchell to Lillian Ross to James Baldwin, who were blended together to form new composite characters in Wes Anderson’s new film.
📖 The Real Star of Wes Anderson’s Films? The Model Maker Who Meticulously Crafts the Signs and Buildings. — Nate Berg, Fast Company: For Wes Anderson, a director with a distinctive visual style, it’s become apparent that he couldn’t achieve that style without a team of miniature-builders.
📖 In the Company of Wes Anderson — Melena Ryzik, The New York Times: Come for the Wes Anderson-like opening illustration, which has an added level of functionality to it, and stay for the behind-the-scenes look at why Anderson’s casts seem to love working with him.
📖 Wes Anderson’s Whimsy Goes Too Far — David Sims, The Atlantic: Lest you think that all magazine journalists are too in the bag for Wes Anderson because of his subject matter, David Sims’ review throws some cold water on the praise and reminds us that Anderson’s films aren’t for everyone and don’t always work.
The filmmaker has called this movie a “love letter to journalists,” though I couldn’t help but also think of it as the wish list of a present-day blogger dreaming of the industry’s opulence of yore.
The Believer Was a Victim of Mismanagement and Neglect — Nicholas Russell, Gawker
Remember magazines? That was the catchy headline of A.O. Scott’s review of The French Dispatch, and I used it as a jumping off point to highlight a common thread between Wes Anderson and The Postscript. Anderson’s fictional send-up of The New Yorker venerates a magazine in little need of veneration; it’s a longstanding standard bearer of journalistic excellence and riding a streak of strong subscriber buy-in. In the tenuous world of magazine publishing, it’s not going anywhere. But that’s not the case for all magazines. Indeed, The Postscript is the P.S. to Pacific Standard, which, despite producing world-class journalism, did not survive in the modern media landscape. This week announced the death of another top-notch magazine, The Believer. And like so many of these tragic stories of magazines that have gone under, it didn’t have to be the case.
📖 In Aftermath of Zoom Dick Fiasco, Believer Staffers Say, Bosses Used Public Records Law Against Them — Anna Merlan & Tim Marchman, Motherboard/Vice: This scandal wasn’t the sole reason The Believer was shuttered, but many believe it shows a carelessness from management that doomed the magazine. It boggles the mind that I can place The New Yorker and The Believer in the same sentence as magazines at which prominent personalities couldn’t keep from exposing themselves on a Zoom call, but here we are.
📖 The Believer’s Best of the Decade: Part I — The Believer: I felt like I landed on something when I decided to aggregate the aggregators above in all the Facebook news, so when trying to figure out how best to eulogize The Believer, it seemed only fitting to let it speak for itself.
📖 If He Hollers Let Him Go — Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, The Believer: Not to put my thumb on the scale too much, but I wanted to recommend one of the pieces from the Best of the Decade list that I read last week purely because it was relevant to the past two editions of Weekend Reading. It’s a piece about searching for Dave Chappelle 10 years after he left his own show, but almost a full decade before the current Chappelle controversy. It’s worth your time, so don’t wait. Who knows how long The Believer’s archives stay in place.
📖 Believer’s Best of the Decade: Part II — The Believer: Unlike the recent worry over the new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which surprised some when they saw the screen say “Dune: Part I” without any promise or guarantee from Warner Bros. at the time as to whether there would be a Part II, I wouldn’t do that to you. I gave you Part I, so it’s only right to give you Part II. (For the record, WB also greenlit Dune: Part II this week.)
📖 The Empathy Exams — Leslie Jamison, The Believer: It was actually a tweet from Leslie Jamison that alerted me to the news that The Believer was shutting down. I can’t remember now what my first piece of Jamison’s writing was, but The Believer is a place that saw her early promise. She is a writer I’m compelled to read because her words and sentences are just that good. Even when I can’t possibly relate to her often-autobiographical writing, hers is a voice I want to see on the page. This is one of her best.
More of Our Favorites From the Past Week
Baseball, Popular but No Longer Dominant, Seeks to Reclaim Its Cool — David Waldstein, The New York Times
Shea Serrano Talks About His Hip-Hop Book, Upcoming TV Series and Twitter Army of Kindness — Tommy Tomlinson, SouthBound
What Happens When Your Favorite Thing Goes Viral? — Rebecca Jennings, Vox
The Alec Baldwin Shooting Has Some People Calling for Only Computer-Generated Gunshots. It’s Not as Easy as It Sounds. — Steven Zeitchik, The Washington Post
The news doesn’t stop. If you checked out last week’s edition and found the topics interesting, here’s a collection of stories published since.
The Life and Death of Colin Powell
📖 ‘Don’t Feel Sorry for Me,’ Powell Said as the End Approached — Bob Woodward, The Washington Post
📖 A Rare Win in the Cat-and-Mouse Game of Ransomware — Nicole Periroth, The New York Times
School Board Unrest
📖 A Look at the Groups Supporting School Board Protesters Nationwide — Anya Kamenetz, NPR
This week, elsewhere on The Postscript.
Daniari’s work at Condé Nast’s Them is centered around her community, and proving that reporting on what you know firsthand is an undeniable strength.
The energy revolution has a dark side in Africa, which Tesla, Apple, and other harbingers of the plugged-in future must contend with. Nicolas Niarchos shines a light on some dark supply chains.