Zoe Schlanger

Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at zoe@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Zoe

Thursday, the Boston Phoenix announced that the alternative-newsweekly would stop publishing after 47 years. I learned this by phone, from someone who'd been a colleague of mine there, while the paper was experimenting with editors, before its final stretch of apparent stability.

I called Carly Carioli, the paper's last editor ever and someone I'd worked with closely. He'd been at the Phoenix for 20 years, quitting college to take a job there and working his way up. When I reached him, he and some of the staffers had been drinking whiskey in the office's online-radio studio and blasting Lana Del Rey's Born To Die. "I feel like someone just killed my best friend," he said.

The Phoenix was historically important, as everyone is saying today: a breaker of stories, a model for a certain kind of loose-jointed newspaper journalism, an incubator of talent. Charles Pierce of Esquire and Grantland, who is one of the standard entries--Susan Orlean, Charlie Pierce, David Denby--on the list of distinguished graduates of the Phoenix, wrote that it was "where the soul of newspapering came to reside," which was largely as true in fact as it was false in sentiment.

That is, the Phoenix was a business operation, whose owner, Stephen Mindich, showed few signs to most observers that he gave a fuck about its soul. There was an endless cycle of alienating people and selling out--and being denounced for selling out--once Mindich wrested the Phoenix name away from an idealistic countercultural collective and crushed the Real Paper, the idealists' subsequent bid to compete against it. Sex ads paid a lot of the freight. The publication produced such an impressive roster of ex-employees mostly by buying them cheap and working them till they jumped up the professional ladder to get away. But while they were there, grumbling at the business side, they were writing, in ways and at lengths that better-funded journalists couldn't touch. There was a paper to fill.

Not everyone left for bigger or ostensibly nicer things. A core of misfits saw what the deal was--that it was, in fact, a more blunt version of the deal on offer everywhere--and built their lives around it. The Phoenix was not a post-collegiate journalism boot camp, for them, or an object of distant and fond (but distant) nostalgia. It was their newspaper.

There was the rail-thin cop reporter who cursed like a sailor and left work daily with the janitor, a cartoon of a Boston sports fan who sold pot while he emptied trash cans. The prototypical vampiric music editor who was immeasurably aloof and, pretty much, proudly, a giant know-it-all raving asshole. The bitterly meticulous arts editor, a man who, it was widely reported by the males on staff, would mutter "motherfucker" violently to himself at the urinal, a man who once broke down into a high-pitched screeching fit because someone had absconded his veggie-burger sandwich from the communal fridge.

And there was Clif Garboden. Until 2009, Clif was the Phoenix's senior managing editor, and he had been on staff for more than 30 years. He sat in a corner of the Phoenix newsroom, hunched at his computer with the posture of a question mark. His face had no angles. He wore sweaters over collared shirts and khaki pants. He enjoyed smoking and grumbling. His 1989 Buick Park Avenue, which he bought for $6000 with 43,186 miles on the odometer, was named Jerome. (I know this because he devoted an entire essay to the car.) He once received a death threat from a mime.

From 1973 until 2009, Clif wrote something called Hot Dots, a weekly column buried in the back of the arts section that ostensibly annotated television listings, but evolved into a far more extraordinary collection of one-liners, political and social commentary, and running jokes. Many weeks, the best writing in the paper was buried in tiny type. A few selected listings:

4:00 (56) Harvey (movie). Nobody ever said anything small in a bar.
8:00 (2) Nova: Why Planes Crash. Because nobody bothers to catch them.
11:00 (38) The House That Screamed (movie). Stayed on the market for three years.

Clif didn't see the alternative press as a professional gateway. It was his destination. Where he sat, the paper's supposed purpose and ideology were real things. As a student of Boston University, he'd protested Kent State. He'd seen Coltrane live in 1966, and as office lore repeated, he'd even once smoked a joint with the Rolling Stones. He came from the days when being a part of alternative media Meant Something: being able to ridicule mediocrity, challenge convention, and say "Fuck you" without asterisks. This wasn't an affectation, or a style, or a posture--as it is with Vice or with roughly 90 percent of the voices on the internet--it was to him the way a smart person with a sense of justice and a moral conscience could sleep at night.

To Clif, the collection of people around him, for all their faults and foibles, was something very special. They could see the hypocrisies in the world and felt an existential obligation to do something about them--and more than that, to nurture and to recruit people who could do the same, his kind of people.

By that, he meant a few things: Smart People Who Gave a Fuck, People With a Work Ethic, People With Talent, but also, in some cases, People From Blue-Collar/Low Income Families. People like Clif himself, a kid from the bad neighborhood in Pittsburgh, who once likened his socio-economic escape to sneaking across the tracks and under barbed wire. People like Chris, a brilliantly witty British writer who'd spent years working as a mover and started his entry-level writing job answering phones as an editorial assistant at the age of 32. People who otherwise would've ended up restaurant staff or retail employees or other assorted cogs because they didn't have parents who could help with the rent while they struggled to become writers. People like me.

Growing up, I was not raised to "follow my dreams." I was told, in very clear terms, to limit my expectations because of money. Only one of my eight older siblings graduated from college. I was specifically instructed not to apply to my top choice of college because we couldn't afford it--the rationale being that if I did get in, I would just be disappointed, so I shouldn't even bother. When I finally did go, I was told every semester was my last. We just didn't have money and that was it.

So it never occurred to me that a regular person like me could be a writer or a journalist or anything otherwise creative. There was no familiar precedent. Clif, in some ways, became my precedent, after day at an internship fair, I approached the Boston Phoenix table on a whim and just said: Hey, I have no experience, but I love this newspaper and would like to intern for you. It was a longshot, like asking out someone you've crushed on for years. But the Phoenix had a soft spot for free labor, and I was offered an internship under his wing.

This did not immediately unlock a supply of warmth. When Clif acknowledged someone's existence at all, he was bluntly honest. Once, when I was still an intern, trying so desperately to impress that I devoted my senior-year winter break to badgering operational hours out of hostesses for a hopelessly outdated Dining Guide, I came into the office after a visit to Supercuts. "You cut your hair," Clif said. He shrugged. "We like longer hair, but that's OK." He walked away.

Newspapering Is a Business: The Death of the Legendary Boston Phoenix

So if you didn't understand Clif's affectionately gruff sensibility, you probably wouldn't last, and if you somehow did last, he ignored you. But if he thought you were "smart"--in his mind, intelligence was next to Godliness--he would do everything within his power to praise you and to support you and to emphasize your strengths publicly and anecdotally, though also noting matter-of-factly to you, your colleagues, and anyone else within earshot that you would never get what you deserved. Because, well, that's why we were all here: The world was fucked and the good guys never got what they deserved.

For whatever reason, Clif protected me. He kept making excuses to keep me in the building and giving me projects until the powers that be could finally offer me a full-time job, which led to me getting to write. He sensed that my life would turn out very differently if they let me fend for myself.

One time, I went to a writer's conference in Chicago, where a prominent journalist Clif knew was the speaker. He handed me a white envelope. "Make sure he gets this," he said. On the first night, after ingesting gallons of alcohol, I worked up the courage to deliver it and walked away. He called me back: Did I know what was in there? I did not. He showed me a note that said: "The person who gave you this is smart and very talented. Treat her well."

In the end, the cold business caught up to Clif too. In 2009, the Phoenix laid him off, after his three decades of service, in the first of a series of cost-cutting measures that would point to the end. Less than two years later, Clif died of complications from cancer, at the age of 62. The good guys never got what they deserved.

Susan Orlean told the Boston Globe about the Phoenix's closure: "It's like finding out your college has gone bankrupt and is gone. I am a child of the alt-weekly world, and I feel like it has played such an important role in journalism as we know it today."

Enough people had believed in this mentorship and nurturing and idealism that the paper lasted 47 years. Carly, who admired Clif's mission deeply, believed in it so much that he stuck with it longer than nearly anyone else. He was the family member who stayed back home to nurse a dying relative while the rest of us selfish pricks took off and left him saddled with the bills.

In his sendoff, Carly wrote:

When I took over as editor in chief, a job I'd dreamed about for nearly 20 years, I made a solemn oath uttered only to myself that I would not be the last editor of the Phoenix. To my colleagues, past and present: I'm sorry I wasn't able to see it through. I first set foot here in 1993, still in college, and I've spent half my life in the service of this particular way of making journalism; it's been a blessing to spend that long among the most talented, creative, and passionate people I've ever met. I can't begin to describe how much it hurts to lose this.

So yes, yesterday, we lost the paper whose name appeared on so many imposing resumes. We lost the paper that bred Pulitzer Prize winners, that was responsible for breaking the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal. But we also lost a place where kids who were never supposed to be writers and reporters and photographers and illustrators and storytellers could start out by refusing to leave the building, people whose parents didn't have the money to help with rent while they struggled to make their long-term pathways better, and try, however minutely, to change things.

What we lost Thursday was Clif Garboden's dream. The world is a far worse place without it. Fuck.

Gawker dishes the nation's most current and cutting gossip across media, entertainment, technology, and business. Founded in 2002 and namechecked frequently in mainstream publications, the site is essential reading for those who want big media hypocrisy debunked and faux-sincerity exposed, all with a healthy dose of snark.

Read More →

News that Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys had been indicted for allegedly conspiring with Anonymous shocked his colleagues in online media. Keys has always seemed like a normal guy who constantly tweets news links. But in the wake of his arrest, details about his online past have emerged that make his entanglement with Anonymous seem less out of character.

Read More →

Negotiations end with agreement on ending violence against women at the Commission on the Status of Women, but civil society groups express concerns

UN officials and activists expressed relief and delight over news that an agreement had been reached at this year's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Greeted with cheers, the agreed outcome document of the 57th CSW, which was announced on Friday evening, was hailed as an "important step" to end violence against women and girls.

After months of behind the scenes lobbying and two weeks of difficult negotiations in New York, the outcome document included strong agreements to promote gender equality, women's empowerment, and ensure women's reproductive rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services - an area of particular contention. It reaffirmed previous international agreements on women's rights, such as those made in Cairo in 1994.

But the agreement was hard fought and civil society groups expressed "deep concern" over attempts by some conservative member states and groups to derail the process and undermine previous agreements.

Disagreements over the language of the text continued throughout Friday.

NGO ActionAid welcomed news that the CSW had managed to reach an agreement, following the failure of members to do so last year. The commission took up the topic of ending violence against women in 2003.

"This reflects the increased efforts of a number of countries who were determined that the process should not fail again and is to their credit," ActionAid said.

"That said, the process has raised some clear red flags about the state of global thinking on women's rights. A small but significant number of countries, led by Iran, Russia, Syria and the Vatican, have pushed hard to roll back language on women's rights to where we were decades ago. In a world in which a third of women will experience violence in their lifetime, the backlash against women we have seen at this year's CSW should send a strong message to all governments that we must redouble our efforts and investment in these issues."

Vivian Thabet, women's rights programme director at CARE-Egypt, said: "It has been sad to see some governments at the CSW attempting to unravel longstanding international commitments to protecting women and girls. Women's rights have become a kind of bartering chip to be traded away for political agendas that have little or nothing to do with the interests and wellbeing of women and girls."

But Françoise Girard, president of the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC), added: "Once again, we women have shown we're an irresistible force. We will not be denied our rights. In the context of these difficult negotiations, we have made gains that we can use to protect women and girls from violence when we all go home."

The IWHC welcomed the explicit call in the agreed conclusions for accessible and affordable healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health services, such as emergency contraception and safe abortion for victims of violence - another highly contested issue over the past two weeks. For the first time, the CSW has urged governments to procure and supply female condoms.

The outcome document emphasised the need to end harmful traditional practices, including child marriage, and called on member states to ensure services were focused on marginalised groups, such as indigenous women, older women, female migrant workers, women with disabilities, women living with HIV, and women held in custody. Protection for sex workers was understood to have been dropped.

The links between HIV and violence against women were also noted. The agreement condemned and called for action to prevent violence against women in healthcare settings, including forced sterilisation.

UN Women said: "By adopting this document, governments have made clear that discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century. There is no turning back."

UN Women's executive director, Michelle Bachelet, said she was "particularly heartened" that an agreement was reached this year.

"We will keep moving forward to the day when women and girls can live free of fear, violence and discrimination. The 21st century is the century of inclusion and women's full and equal rights and participation," said Bachelet.

Following the conclusion of the CSW, Bachelet announced her resignation as head of UN Women. She plans to return to Chile, where it is rumoured she is considering running again for president.

The spokesman for the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, urged governments to act on the 17-page outcome document.

"The secretary general hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls," said the spokesman.

Justine Greening, Britain's international development secretary, said: "I'm delighted that the CSW has reached an agreement after last year's shocking result. It sends a clear and unified message to the world that there is no place in any society for acts of violence against girls and women. Britain has never stood on the sidelines when it comes to women's rights and we must now use this momentum to help push for international action on preventing and eliminating these appalling crimes."

The Guardian is an independent, global news organisation that invests in original journalism and in-depth analysis. For more from the Guardian, visit http://www.guardiannews.com. © 2011 Guardian News And Media Limited.

Read More →

Some activists opposed to the New York Police Department's reported program of monitoring Muslim businesses, schools and houses of worship have a message for imams and community leaders.

"Announce to your congregations or membership that informants are not tolerated in your communities," and make a "mosque or organization's leadership available to address members' concerns about informants and surveillance."

Read More →

DANA RUBINSTEIN | Capital New York

"The mass incarceration of African American men may have made us safer, but it leaves us with generation after generation of broken families that are uneducated that have multiple barriers to employment," said Doe Fund founder and Republican mayoral candidate George McDonald this morning at a Crain's forum.

McDonald made those remarks during a forum featuring the Republican candidates for mayor this morning, in response to a question about income inequality in New York City, and what, if anything, he thought the city should do about it.

Glenn Martin, a vice president at the Fortune Society, which works on criminal reentry and alternatives to incarceration, said in response to McDonald's comment that he "gets it totally wrong when he suggests that 'The mass incarceration of African American men may have made us safer...'"

"In fact, the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color has been destructive and counterproductive, with little connection to crime rates," he wrote, in an email. "The major cause of prison growth in New York State is our failed war on drugs, and it has disproportionately impacted young men of color, although drug use and drug selling rates are similar across racial lines. In addition, recent research supports the fact that when you over incarcerate from specific communities, the law of diminishing returns applies and you ultimately experience little to no increase in public safety."

Here is McDonald's full answer, which was intended as an argument against current criminal-justice and economic policies.

"If the minimum wage were $50 an hour, it wouldn't make a bit of difference to a man or woman who didn't have a job. What we need in this city are jobs. I've spent 25 years creating jobs for people at the bottom of our society. I know about inequity. Nobody needs to tell me about inequity. I've been helping the men and women who have come out of our penal institutions. The mass incarceration of African American men may have made us safer, but it leaves us with generation after generation of broken families that are uneducated, that have multiple barriers to employment, and yet we overcome that. At the Doe Fund, we've always paid above the minimum wage, and our graduates get jobs that are over $11 an hour. Now why do we need government to create an artificial wage, control the wage, when the people are actually getting jobs above what they say the minimum wage is. We don't need government control."

Here's the video, from Azi:

Capital New York is a website about how New York City works, featuring news, analysis and investigations on politics, media, culture and sports. For more, visit http://www.capitalnewyork.com/. (c) 2012 Capital New York.

Read More →

Corrected: August 17, 2011, 9:03PM

The United States filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Louisiana ship building company they say lied to them to gain a major contract with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The company, Bollinger Shipyards Inc., won a contract to extend the hulls of eight Coast Guard ships after making "misrepresentations about the hull strength of the converted vessels," according to the DOJ statement. The first converted ship suffered hull failure immediately after the conversion, and efforts to repair the fleet failed. All eight were rendered unseaworthy, and now the government wants Bollinger to pay for the lost ships.

"Companies which make false statements to win Coast Guard contracts do a disservice to the men and women securing our borders," Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement. "We will take action against those who undermine the integrity of the public contracting process by providing substandard equipment to our armed services personnel."

Read More →

More than two months since the first leak was discovered, U.S. oil giant ConocoPhillips announced Tuesday it was resuming its efforts to clean up the series of oil slicks spilled into China's Bohai Sea.

The spill, which contaminated about 460 square miles, came from two leaks on a well field run by Conoco in partnership with a state-run corporation. The problem was detected on June 4 but went officially unreported for a month, after a blog leaked the news on June 21, according to the Guardian. The Chinese government initially downplayed the extent of the accident, but confirmed the spill on July 6, announcing that the water quality in the affected area had fallen to the lowest of its four categories.

Read More →

Government lawyers asked a federal judge to sentence Raj Rajaratnam to up to 24-1/2 years in prison, the maximum allowable time, for his leading role in the vast insider trading probe that led to his being found guilty of 13 counts of insider trading in May, Reuters reports.

The memo filed Tuesday night calls Rajaratnam "the worst insider trading offender (who has been caught to date) in history." The former head of Galleon Group, one of the world's largest hedge funds which managed $7 billion at its peak, was found guilty of reaping $63.8 million in illicit profit from 2003 to 2009.

Rajaratnam, prosecutors attest, was a "billion-dollar force of deception and corruption on Wall Street," who was "motivated by greed and the desire to conquer others." Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence for what they called his "brazen, arrogant, harmful and pervasive" criminal conduct.

Read More →

An appeals court has struck down as unconstitutional California's requirement that DNA collection be part of post-arrest routine in the state, reports Wired.

The DNA Act (Proposition 69), which passed voter approval and has been in use in the state since 2009, requires any adult arrested for a felony to submit to a DNA sample. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that this was a violation of the Fourth Amendment as a "warrantless and suspicionless search of individuals" before they have been convicted of a crime, for evidence of a crime "unrelated to that for which they have been arrested."

Read More →