icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

Memoirs, Personal Histories, and Life Story Writing: A few blog posts


(selected blog posts by Pat McNees)

Arlene Friedman Shepherd: The Life She Loved (In memoriam, 2012)
Ben Patton on interviewing military veterans (video, interviewed by RJ McHatton)
Collaborating on memoirs (J.R. Moehringer and Andre Agassi)
Coming-of-age memoirs make great gifts
Helen Jean Medakovich Sarchielli (in memoriam)
How reliable are our memories? How close to the truth?
How-To Resources: Memoir, biography, and personal histories
Is it still a great time to become a personal historian?
Mark Twain on writing autobiography
Memoirs of coping with chronic, rare, or invisible diseases, including mental health problems
Memoirs of war and conflict: A reading list
A memoir writer's dream come true
Personal historians love their work
Personal history videos (video by Peter Savigny of his mother, Remembering Renee)
Photos and memoir writing
A short history of the Association for Personal Historians
Whose Truth? The ethics of memoir writing
Why I love teaching Guided Autobiography (by Lisa Smith-Youngs)
Writing workshops as group therapy
Soundtrack of your life (engaging students with music, to write about a pivotal moment in their life)

[Back to Top]


"Writing about [events in my life] has been a way of processing them. Not only tragedies like the deaths of my sons, but other things like learning of my adoption as an adult and my search for my birthmother. These are life-altering experiences and writing about something is a good way to figure out what to make of it.

     "Patients, of course, are an endless source of inspiration and stories. Psychiatry is a performance art. We talk with people; they tell us their secrets and their pain. They benefit from the conversations or not. But it’s all words in the air; our case notes are sealed and unless we write something down, the experiences are lost except to our memories. But we’re changed by these stories just as our patients are and the truths they lead us to are worth preserving. Writing down what we have learned also constitutes a kind of “ethical will,” something to convey to succeeding generations in the same way that we distribute our property. I think that we have some obligation before we die to enunciate whatever we think we’ve learned about life. So that was also a motivation to write these books, because I thought that whether anybody buys them or not, my children and their children will have this gift from me."
                              ~ Gordon Livingston, MD, author of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now and And Never Stop  Dancing, interviewed by Bruce Hershfield for Maryland Psychiatrist

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Free press? Why a raid on a rural Kansas weekly caused such a ruckus

In mid-August 2023, law enforcement officers in a rural Kansas county raided the offices and homes of the editors of a local newspaper, seizing electronic newsgathering equipment and reporting materials and resulting in a nationwide uproar over the threats to our First Amendment principles of a free press. ~ Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press


To catch you up on the story, here are links to (and highlights from) various press reports:

---How a small-town feud in Kansas sent a shock through American journalism (Jonathan O'Connell, Paul Farhi and Sofia Andrade, Washington Post, 8-26-23. Illustrated.) 'A police raid without precedent on a weekly newspaper alarmed First Amendment advocates. The real story of how it happened, though, is rooted in the roiling tensions and complex history of a few key community members.

     'The emotional response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor's 98-year-old mother, who had railed furiously at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later. The Record blamed her death on her agitation over the raid.

     "Get out of my house!" Joan Meyer had shouted at Cody from behind her walker before calling him an expletive, home surveillance video revealed.       "Don't you touch any of that stuff!"
     'Yet parsing the events that led to the search — and understanding its larger implications for a free press in the United States — comes down to untangling the complex interrelationships and tortured history of a small group of people coexisting in a single small town.
     'At the center of everything were a business owner, a police chief and a newspaper.

---A conversation with the newspaper owner raided by cops (Marisa Kabas, The Handbasket, 8-12-23) Eric Meyer says his paper had been investigating the police chief prior to the raids on his office and home. [This is the piece that took the story viral.]

---The Marion raid and the Privacy Protection Act (Gabe Rottman, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 8-21-23) How does the “subpoena-first” rule in the Privacy Protection Act actually work?

     "The raid unfolded in Marion, a town about 60 miles north of Wichita, and appears to have stemmed from a dispute between a local restaurant owner and her estranged husband in a divorce proceeding."
   "During the raid, the police carted off computers, cell phones, and documents. The computers, and possibly the phones, will contain not only raw reporting material — information and documents gathered, maybe photographs, etc. — but also things like unpublished stories and other actual “news” that reflects the editorial work of the reporters at the Record (all that stuff on all the computers seized). There is no "subpoena-first" rule for the latter, but it receives higher protections than the raw “documentary material” that is obtainable with a subpoena.

   RCFP addresses the question How does the "subpoena-first" rule in the Privacy Protection Act — the federal law limiting law enforcement's ability to conduct newsroom searches — actually work?  In so doing the authors unpack and clarify several terms — "work product" and "documentary materials" and "unlawful acts" — as well as several exceptions: the "suspect" exception and threats to life or limb, and “reason to believe” and the “subpoena-first” exception. And they conclude:

     "In short, it is true that the "subpoena-first" exception reflects the law's intention that police always use the least intrusive means possible when inquiring into the business of the newsroom, and, in practice, gives affected journalists and news organizations the ability to negotiate or challenge a legal demand. But it's important to remember that there is no such rule for a reporter's actual work, in recognition of the heightened sensitivity there. And that's potentially relevant in the Marion case in that the police department may have seized work product related to the newspaper's investigation into the police chief himself."

---After a police raid on a Kansas newspaper, questions mount (Sofia Andrade and Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 8-13-23) Law enforcement seized computers and other records from the Marion County Record on Friday, raising concerns about press freedom. 

     'Police raids on news organizations are almost unknown in the United States and are illegal under most circumstances under state and federal law. "This shouldn't happen in America," said Emily Bradbury, the executive director of the Kansas Press Association...

     Restaurant owner Kari Newell "claimed that the newspaper, the Marion County Record, had illegally obtained damaging information about a 2008 conviction for drunken driving and was preparing to publish it, leading a local judge to issue a warrant authorizing police to seize the newspaper’s files.
     'The Record, a family-owned weekly serving the small town of about 1,900, didn’t publish the information about Newell’s conviction for drunken driving and has denied that it came by it illegally.
      'Police raids on news organizations are almost unknown in the United States and are illegal under most circumstances under state and federal law.        “This shouldn’t happen in America,” said Emily Bradbury, the executive director of the Kansas Press Association, in an interview Sunday. She added: “Freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy. … We’re not going to let this stand on our watch.”
     'Bradbury said the newspaper’s records could have been obtained via a subpoena, a court-ordered command for specific material that is subject to legal objections, not “an unannounced search.”

---Warrant for Kansas newspaper raid withdrawn by prosecutor for ‘insufficient evidence’ (Luke Nozicka, Jonathan Shorman, and Katie Moore, Kansas City Star, 8-30-23) On Wednesday, August 16, the county prosecutor withdrew the search warrant and directed law enforcement to return the seized material. 


This ruckus is and should be a big deal in a country that values a free press. 

Be the first to comment

Covering Suicide

If you are having thoughts of suicide, in the United States

call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or

go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources or 

contact 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.


For resources outside the United States, go here: International Suicide Prevention Helplines

Apply a public health frame to report responsibly and effectively on firearm suicide (Kaitlin Washburn, Covering Health, AHCJ, 7-13-23) Firearm suicides represent more than half of overall gun deaths every year in the U.S. And that ratio can be worse in certain areas — states with higher rates of firearm ownership in the home have higher rates of suicide overall compared to states with lower firearm ownership rates, according to the nonprofit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. An effective suicide prevention method is the safe storage of firearms, which means storing guns unloaded, locked up and separate from ammunition. Best practices and guide for reporters. See especially:
---The Suicide Reporting Toolkit For Journalists and Journalism Educators
---Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
---CDC page on suicide prevention
---Best Practices For Covering Suicide (988Lifeline.org)
---Media as Partners in Suicide Prevention (The American Association of Suicidology)
How Should the Media Cover Suicides? Some Answers (Jamie Ducharme, Time, 7-30-18) In June 2018, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain died by suicide just days apart. The same week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report about rising suicide rates across the country. More recently were stories about a study linking climate change and rising temperatures to a potential increase in deaths by suicide.
      "Researchers report that stories about celebrity suicides, headlines that included information about how a suicide was completed and statements that made suicide seem inevitable were all correlated with suicide contagion. (Other research backs this up: In the four months after Robin Williams’ highly publicized 2014 death by suicide, one study found a 10% increase in suicides across the U.S.) Meanwhile, negative descriptions of suicide and messages of hope were associated with a protective effect, though neither reached statistical significance, perhaps because they appeared in articles so infrequently."
      The framing of a story is important, too, says Dr. Mark Sinyor, a new study’s lead investigator and a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, in an email to TIME. “Ideally, journalists would not treat suicide as an entertainment story but as what it truly is: a health story,” Sinyor says.

      “Suicide invariably arises from treatable mental disorders. Most people who experience suicidal crises find paths to resilience, and there is no reason anyone has to die by suicide.”

How The New York Times handled life-or-death ethical issues while reporting on a popular suicide website (Barbara Allen, Poynter, 12-16-21) The ethical issues running throughout The New York Times’ recent piece, “Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die,” were numerous and complicated. That’s why the team behind it never stopped talking about them.
     Megan Twohey and Gabriel J.X. Dance said they have both had experience and interest in reporting on online harm, especially where children and young people were concerned. “It wasn’t just that this was a site that was providing explicit instructions and methods on how to die by suicide,” Twohey said in a recent interview with Poynter. “It was an interactive forum.”
      Dance and Twohey both said the more they explored, the more they felt a journalistic and moral obligation to report on the site, which they said gets six million visitors a month from around the world — four times as many views as the leading national suicide prevention website, Twohey said. So when they found out about a popular suicide support website, they dove in.The team relied on advice and conversations with experts, veterans, editors and each other.
     Twohey said she was struck by the fact that despite the site’s popularity, many families, law enforcement, mental health professionals and even coroners had never heard of the site or the preservative....In the end, it was most important to Dance and Twohey that their reporting shone a light on a dark corner of the internet.
      Twohey said that as they got closer to publication, she and Dance met almost daily with suicide experts, who advised them to make sure they weren’t glamorizing anything, that stories included true messages of hope instead of only despair, and that people usually pull out of suicidal thoughts. “There were these broader questions that we were grappling with, honestly, every single day in the reporting of this."


Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die (Megan Twohey and Gabriel J.X. Dance, NY Times interactive, 12-9-21) Most suicide websites are about prevention. One started in March 2018 — by two shadowy figures calling themselves Marquis and Serge — provides explicit directions on how to die. It has the trappings of popular social media, a young audience and explicit content on suicide that other sites don’t allow. It is linked to a long line of lives cut short. Participants routinely nudge one another along as they share suicide plans, posting reassuring messages, thumbs-up and heart emojis, and praise for those who follow through: “brave,” “a legend,” “a hero.” More than 500 members — a rate of more than two a week — wrote “goodbye threads” announcing how and when they planned to end their lives, and then never posted again.
       "The suicide rate has risen over the past 20 years in the United States. About 45,000 people take their own lives each year — more than die from traffic accidents. (That figure does not count the hundreds of physician-assisted deaths in the nine states where they are legal and restricted to the terminally ill.)"
For many people, suicidal thoughts will eventually pass, experts say. Treatment and detailed plans to keep safe can help. But clinicians and researchers warn that people are much more likely to attempt suicide if they learn about methods and become convinced that it’s the right thing to do. The suicide site facilitates both. In the site’s written rules, assisting and encouraging suicide were prohibited, while providing “factual information” and “emotional support” was not. In practice, some members urged others on, whether with gentle reassurance or with more force.

Surviving Suicide (Anthony D. Smith, Psychology Today, 11-10-20) Suicide is often a surprise, leaving survivors wondering, "What did I miss?" and having to manage the insult of guilt while managing the injury of grieving. "The title of the book But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide (by Barbara Rubel) gets at another poignant difference. It's an unadvertised, abrupt ending, and you can feel like you were snubbed, creating more intense anger than usual grief. Lastly, some families, especially in cultures concerned with honor, may view a relative's suicide as shameful and stigmatizing and not discuss it, period. In return, they don't even get to experience simple catharsis and release some mental pressure, let alone process it to move on. The grief lingers and festers, evolving into a chronic issue that takes over their lives." The Centers for Disease Control (2020) reported that in 2018 there were in excess of 48,000 suicides in the United States. "That's a lot of people left hurting." 

Covering Suicide — Attempted, Completed and Otherwise (Al Tompkins, Poynter, 9-27-06) "Almost 4 times as many Americans died by suicide during the Vietnam War era as died in the course of military action.... Whites kill themselves at a much higher rate than blacks.... Hispanic youth are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and account for one fourth of all Hispanic suicide deaths.Hispanic males were almost six times as likely to die by suicide as Hispanic females, representing 85 percent of the 8,744 Hispanic suicides between 1997 and 2001.... Suicide is usually a complicated response to overwhelming problems as opposed to a simple, unplanned reaction to one life challenge. In others words, it is not as simple as saying “he was unhappy with last week’s game” or some such explanation."

Responsible Media Coverage Saves Lives (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE) 'Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. Some suicide deaths may be newsworthy; however, the way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking. Suicide Contagion or “Copycat Suicide” occurs when one or more suicides are reported in a way that contributes to another suicide.'
Suicide reporting guidelines 1. Exclude suicide as cause of death
2. Use appropriate language
3. Avoid blame
4. Include Education and Help
Why Suicide Reporting Guidelines Matter (NAMI) "The fact is: how we talk about, write about and report on suicide matters. For someone already considering suicide, it’s possible to change their thoughts into action by exposing them to detailed suicide-related content, including graphic depictions or explanations of the death or revealing the method used."

Reporting About Suicide The Trevor Project (CDC, National Prevention Information Network) Recommendations for reporting on suicide, 2017) Instead of X, do Y (an excellent chart). For example, instead of Big or sensationalistic headlines, or prominent placement--(e.g., “Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide”), inform the audience without sensationalizing the suicide and minimize prominence (e.g., “Kurt Cobain Dead at 27”)

Medical bills related to suicide aren’t covered by some insurers, despite rules (Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News and PBS NewsHour, 2-18-14) Dealing with the aftermath of a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. But some health plans make a harrowing experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide—even though experts say that in many cases such exclusions aren’t permitted under federal law. Yet patients or their loved ones often don’t realize that.
      "Under the 2006 federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, employment-based health plans can’t discriminate against an individual member by denying eligibility for benefits or charging more because they have a particular medical condition such as diabetes or depression. Insurers, however, are allowed to deny coverage for all members for injuries caused by a specific activity or for those that arise from a particular cause spelled out in the policy. These are called “source-of-injury” exclusions."
Suicide Contagion and the Reporting of Suicide: Recommendations from a National Workshop (CDC) Detailed recommendations for the press.

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Tributes to Robert Gottlieb, legendary editor

What made him such a great editor?  Obits and other tributes provide some insights.

Robert Gottlieb, editor of literary heavyweights, dies at 92 (Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, 6-14-23) He had an unassuming approach to his work but was considered a virtuoso in the field. Toni Morrison, Joseph Heller and Robert Caro were among Mr. Gottlieb’s many writers in a career spanning nearly 70 years. He edited with a pencil and unparalleled devotion.
---Robert Gottlieb, Eminent Editor From le Carré to Clinton, Dies at 92 (Robert D. McFadden, NY Times, 6-14-23) Avid reader, reluctant writer. At Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, he polished the work of a who’s who of mid-to-late 20th century writers. “I have never encountered a publisher or editor with a greater understanding of what a writer was trying to do — and how to help him do it,” Mr. Caro said in a statement on Mr. Gottlieb’s death.“The editor’s relationship to a book should be an invisible one,” Mr. Gottlieb told The Paris Review in 1994. “The last thing anyone reading ‘Jane Eyre’ would want to know, for example, is that I had convinced Charlotte Brontë that the first Mrs. Rochester should go up in flames.”
---Robert Gottlieb, celebrated editor of Toni Morrison and Robert Caro, has died at 92 (Associated Press, NPR, 6-14-23) Tall and assured, with wavy dark hair and dark-rimmed glasses, Gottlieb had one of the greatest runs of any editor after World War II and helped shape the modern publishing canon. Gottlieb's reputation was made during his time as editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster and later Alfred A. Knopf, where in recent years he worked as an editor-at-large. But he also edited The New Yorker for five years before departing over "conceptual differences" with publisher S.I. Newhouse and was himself an accomplished prose stylist.
---Remembering Robert Gottlieb, Editor Extraordinaire (David Remnick, New Yorker, 6-26-23) At Knopf and The New Yorker, Gottlieb was an editor of unexampled accomplishment—someone who seemed to have read everything worth reading and to have published a fair amount of it, too.
---Robert Gottlieb, legendary editor who championed Joseph Heller, Robert Caro and Chaim Potok, dies at 92 (Andrew Silow-Carroll, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 6-15-23) Robert Gottlieb, the legendary literary editor who shepherded into print and best-sellerdom such 20th-century classics as Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” and Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen,” died Wednesday at age 92. Photo caption: The editor Robert Gottlieb (right) and author Robert Caro appear in the 2022 documentary, "Turn Every Page."

---Remembering Robert Gottlieb: Biographer and Friend (Sydney Stern, BIO International,
---Robert Gottlieb, The Art of Editing No. 1 (Interviewed by Larissa MacFarquhar, Paris Review, Fall 1994)
---Remembering Robert Gottlieb: The Virtuoso Editor and Publisher (Will Swift, BIO International) 'Using a pencil to markup manuscripts for nearly 70 years, he served as the editor-in-chief at Simon and Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker. Arguably the best-read man of the 20th and 21st century, he read up to 16 hours a day and edited, by his own estimation, approximately 700 books. What was his secret formula? “I don’t have lunches, dinners, go to plays or movies,” he explained to The Washington Post, “I don’t mediate, escalate, deviate or have affairs.” '

Be the first to comment

Fake news and media literacy

gathered by Pat McNees, originally published December 2016


Youth Voice, Authorship, & Democracy: Unpacking Media Literacy with Dr. Renee Hobbs (Sara Falluji, Beyond the Classroom, KSTV, The New Edu, 7-19-23) The "fake news crisis and the rise of disinformation have fueled a lot of interest in media literacy, because we've got misinformation being shared on social media and political campaigns. We've got misinformation about vaccines. We've got misinformation about climate change; about the economy. We've got misinformation intentionally spread for political purposes in ways that are harmful to people's understanding of reality.
      "In the context of school and schooling, media literacy comes in through the changing nature of literacy– literacy is not just reading and writing. It's speaking and listening and creating media and analyzing media. More and more English teachers are recognizing that it's as important to critically analyze a film as it is to critically analyze a work of literature. It's as important to critically analyze an article in The New York Times as it is to critically analyze a work of photojournalism."

How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump (Zeynep Tufekci, MIT Technology Review, 8-14-18) To understand how digital technologies went from instruments for spreading democracy to weapons for attacking it, you have to look beyond the technologies themselves. “The problem is that when we encounter opposing views in the age and context. It’s like hearing them from the opposing team while sitting with our fellow fans in a football stadium. Online, we’re connected with our communities, and we seek approval from our like-minded peers. We bond with our team by yelling at the fans of the other one.” In his analysis, Tufekci explains five factors. [I urge you to read the full article, and risk exceeding "fair use" here because this long article spells out so clearly weaknesses in our digital world that can and have been exploited.] 

     1. The euphoria of discovery: social media as "breaking down what social scientists call 'pluralistic ignorance'—the belief that one is alone in one's views when in reality everyone has been collectively silenced. That, I said, was why social media had fomented so much rebellion: people who were previously isolated in their dissent found and drew strength from one another."

     2. The audacity of hope: "Barack Obama's election in 2008 as the first African-American president of the United States had prefigured the Arab Spring's narrative of technology empowering the underdog....There were laudatory articles about Barack Obama's use of voter profiling and microtargeting....[but] microtargeting, especially on Facebook, could be used to wreak havoc with the public sphere.... It was true that social media let dissidents know they were not alone, but online microtargeting could also create a world in which you wouldn't know what messages your neighbors were getting or how the ones aimed at you were being tailored to your desires and vulnerabilities."

     3. The illusion of immunity: "There doesn't seem to have been a major realization within the US's institutions—its intelligence agencies, its bureaucracy, its electoral machinery—that true digital security required both better technical infrastructure and better public awareness about the risks of hacking, meddling, misinformation, and more. The US's corporate dominance and its technical wizardry in some areas seemed to have blinded the country to the brewing weaknesses in other, more consequential ones."

     4. The power of the platforms: "In that context, the handful of giant US social-media platforms seem to have been left to deal as they saw fit with what problems might emerge. Unsurprisingly, they prioritized their stock prices and profitability. Throughout the years of the Obama administration, these platforms grew boisterously and were essentially unregulated. They spent their time solidifying their technical chops for deeply surveilling their users, so as to make advertising on the platforms ever more efficacious. In less than a decade, Google and Facebook became a virtual duopoly in the digital ad market." Discussion of how digital tools have figured significantly in political upheavals around the world in the past few years, and how a reality TV star came along and took advantage of Twitter.

     5. The lessons of the era

     "First, the weakening of old-style information gatekeepers (such as media, NGOs, and government and academic institutions), while empowering the underdogs, has also, in another way, deeply disempowered underdogs. Dissidents can more easily circumvent censorship, but the public sphere they can now reach is often too noisy and confusing for them to have an impact...The old gatekeepers blocked some truth and dissent, but they blocked many forms of misinformation too

      "Second, the new, algorithmic gatekeepers...make their money by keeping people on their sites and apps...succeed by fueling mistrust and doubt, as long as the clicks keep coming.

      "Third, the loss of gatekeepers has been especially severe in local journalism....The Russian operatives who created fake local media brands across the US either understood the hunger for local news or just lucked into this strategy. Without local checks and balances, local corruption grows and trickles up to feed a global corruption wave playing a major part in many of the current political crises.

       "Fourth, "While algorithms will often feed people some of what they already want to hear, research shows that we probably encounter a wider variety of opinions online than we do offline, or than we did before the advent of digital tools....Online, we're connected with our communities, and we seek approval from our like-minded peers....In sociology terms, we strengthen our feeling of "in-group" belonging by increasing our distance from and tension with the "out-group"—us versus them. Our cognitive universe isn't an echo chamber, but our social one is....This is also how Russian operatives fueled polarization in the United States..."

       Fifth, "Russia exploited the US's weak digital security—its "nobody but us" mind-set—to subvert the public debate around the 2016 election. The hacking and release of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta amounted to a censorship campaign, flooding conventional media channels with mostly irrelevant content."  

‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation (Max Fisher, The Interpreter, NY Times, 5-7-21) Social and psychological forces are combining to make the sharing and believing of misinformation an endemic problem with no easy solution. Have you heard that President Biden plans to force Americans to eat less meat; that Virginia is eliminating advanced math in schools to advance racial equality; and that border officials are mass-purchasing copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’s book to hand out to refugee children? Some believe the drivers of misinformation today are social and psychological forces that make people prone to sharing and believing misinformation in the first place.
      "People become more prone to misinformation when three things happen.

      "First, and perhaps most important, is when conditions in society make people feel a greater need for what social scientists call ingrouping — a belief that their social identity is a source of strength and superiority, and that other groups can be blamed for their problems....In times of perceived conflict or social change, we seek security in groups. And that makes us eager to consume information, true or not, that lets us see the world as a conflict putting our righteous ingroup against a nefarious outgroup."
      The second factor: "the emergence of high-profile political figures who encourage their followers to indulge their desire for identity-affirming misinformation. After all, an atmosphere of all-out political conflict often benefits those leaders, at least in the short term, by rallying people behind them."
      The "third factor — a shift to social media, which is a powerful outlet for composers of disinformation, a pervasive vector for misinformation itself and a multiplier of the other risk factors.... “When you post things, you’re highly aware of the feedback that you get, the social feedback in terms of likes and shares,” Dr. William J. Brady said. Research demonstrates that people who get positive feedback for posting inflammatory or false statements become much more likely to do so again in the future. “You are affected by that."

­Most Americans favor restrictions on false information, violent content online (Christopher St. Aubin and Jacob Liedke, Pew Research, 7-20-23) Most Americans say the U.S. government and technology companies should each take steps to restrict false information and extremely violent content online. But there is more support for tech companies moderating these types of content than for the federal government doing so, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. This increase in support comes amid public debates about online content regulation and court cases that look at how tech companies moderate content on their platforms. And yet:

Big Tech rolls back misinformation measures ahead of 2024 (Sara Fischer, Axios,6-6-23) Ahead of the 2024 election cycle, the world's largest tech companies are walking back policies meant to curb misinformation around COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

    YouTube last week confirmed that it will reverse its election integrity policy to leave up content that says fraud, errors or glitches occurred in the 2020 presidential election.

    Meta reinstated the Instagram account of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was removed from the platform in 2021 for posting misinformation about COVID.

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and founder of Factcheck.org, argued that with a few exceptions — including health threats and real-time incitement of violence — fact-checking is a stronger antidote to misinformation than blocking speech. The best solution, she argues, is to "flood the zone with the best available information, make sure that when the misinformation gets up there, you've got corrective context with good information up next to it."

[Back to Top]

****Catalogue of all projects working to solve Misinformation and Disinformation (Shane Greenup, MisinfoCon, 6-9-18)

Starts with The Disinformation Index (rating the probability of a source carrying disinformation).
MisinfoCon ( a community of people focused on the challenge of #misinformation & what can be done to address it. Events so far at MIT, London and Kyiv--DC in August)
rbutr (tells you when the webpage you are viewing has been disputed, rebutted or contradicted elsewhere on the internet).Get the plugin.
Credibility Coalition An interdisciplinary community committed to improving our information ecosystems and media literacy through transparent and collaborative exploration. Tackling the misinformation problem successfully will require a holistic approach, with reputation systems, fact-checking, media literacy, revenue models, and public feedback all helping to address the health of the information ecosystem."
Teaching in the Age of Trump (Andrea Rinard, Medium, 7-13-18) Five tenets for navigating alternative facts and ad hominem attacks in the classroom:

1. Kids need to learn how to be more responsible and canny media consumers.

2. We must create safe spaces and insist on civility. And so on, with stories from the classroom.
How and why to spot and identify fake news (Pat McNees, Writers and Editors)
Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth (PDF, PEN America report, 10-12-17) Invaluable.
How to squash fake news without trampling free speech (Callum Borchers, WashPost, 10-12-17) About the PEN report and its findings and recommendations.
Ten Questions for Fake News Detection (The News Literacy Project, or NLP)
The Best Tools To Help Develop Global Media Literacy (Larry Ferlazzo, 3-12-09)
Blue Feed, Red Feed Liberal and conservative views on the same topic, side by side. Try "Trump," for example.
The Learning Network (New York Times web-based lessons in media literacy)
6 types of misinformation circulated this election season (Claire Wardle, Columbia Journalism Review, 11-18-16) She discusses and gives examples of
     1. Authentic material used in the wrong context.
     2. Imposter news sites designed to look like brands we already know.
     3. Fake news sites.
     4. Fake information.
     5. Manipulated content.
     6. Parody content.

[Back to Top]

To Fix Fake News, Look To Yellow Journalism (Alexandra Samuel, JStor Daily, 11-29-16) How The Internet Ruined Everything (Or Did It? Social media critics have been quick to blame Facebook and the spread of "fake news" for the election upset. But poorly researched and downright dishonest reporting has been undermining the first amendment since the early days of journalism. Click journalism has plenty of precedents in the history of mass media, and particularly, in the history of American journalism. A good starting point on this topic.

Skewed: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Media Bias by Larry Atkins, as reviewed on Philly.com: 'Skewed': How to be your own filter in the Web universe . "Atkins, a longtime adjunct professor of journalism at Temple University, Arcadia University, and Montgomery County Community College, lays out the difference between "clear and balanced" news and advocacy journalism. He highlights the urgency for media consumers to recognize this difference." Not that all advocacy journalism is bad -- it can also involve solid investigative journalism but then come down on a side: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is an example of advocating to advocate to expose corruption or harm. Here are Atkins' main points (HuffPost, 12-6-16)

After Comet Ping Pong and Pizzagate, teachers tackle fake news (Moriah Balingit, WaPo, 12-11-16) For conspiracy theorists, "pizzagate" didn't end when a man brought a gun to Comet Ping Pong in Washington in a misguided attempt to rescue child sex slaves. Instead, the shooting fired up further belief in the baseless claims.
A century ago, progressives were the ones shouting ‘fake news’ (Matthew Jordan, The Conversation, 2-1-18) As a rhetorical strategy for eroding trust in the media, the term dates back to the end of the 19th century. Righteous "muckrakers were usually the ones deploying the term. They sought to challenge the growing numbers of powerful newspapers that were concocting fake stories to either sell papers or advance the interests of their corporate benefactors."

[Back to Top]


House ethics committee warns lawmakers against posting deepfakes (Emily Birnbaum, The Hill, 1-29-20) The House Ethics Committee issued a memo warning lawmakers that they may violate Congress’s Code of Official Conduct if they post “deep fakes,” or distorted videos that operate as a technologically sophisticated form of disinformation. The warning comes soon after Rep. Paul Gosar, of Arizona, re-tweeted an edited photo falsely depicting President Obama meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Journalists can change the way they build stories to create organic news fluency (Tom Rosenstiel and Jane Elizabeth, White Paper for American Press Institute, 5-9-18)  "We propose a new way of creating journalism that helps audiences become more fluent and more skilled consumers of news the more they consume it....imagine a format or presentation that, alongside the story, poses some key questions a discriminating or "fluent" news consumer might ask to decide what to make of the story." They might ask: What is new here? What evidence is there? What sources did you talk to and when? What facts don't we know yet? What, if anything, is still in dispute? ...Imagine if more journalists were to raise and answer these questions in an element placed at the top of the narrative."

    Is teaching news literacy a journalist's job? Yes. Here's a way to build stories that can show people the difference between good and bad journalism and outright fakery. The first step is thinking about — and asking — what questions audiences may have about a story and then providing those answers explicitly. That step guides the journalist into a new and important mindset of putting themselves in the audience’s shoes.

      The authors of this white paper present templates for building news fluency for nine news categories — standard news stories, non-investigative projects, investigations, Read More 

Post a comment

The End of Affirmative Action?

With updates.


The Decision That Upends the Equal-Protection Clause (Adam Harris, The Atlantic, 6-29-23) 'Legally, the decision is a landmark, taking a tool—the Fourteenth Amendment—meant to prevent discrimination against Black Americans in a post–Civil War landscape and turning it on its head, into a guarantor of a “race neutral” approach.'...In this case, the Court took Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, that “our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,” to upend that historical purpose, a result that Justice Thurgood Marshall had in some ways predicted four decades ago. “It would be the cruelest irony for this Court to adopt the dissent in Plessy now and hold that the University must use color-blind admissions,” Marshall wrote.'

     "The term affirmative action first came into the federal lexicon in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, aimed at banning discrimination in the federal government and diversifying its workforce. In short order, colleges—which had become subject to enhanced federal antidiscrimination laws after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965—began to implement affirmative-action programs to build up their enrollment of students from historically marginalized communities."

Affirmative action in the United States (Wikipedia) An overview of the history (legal and otherwise) of this issue in the United States, arguments for and against it, its implementation, complaints and lawsuits, and public opinion on the issue. 'In general, "affirmative action" is supported by the general public, but "considerations based on race" are opposed.'

A New Legal Blitz on Affirmative Action (Liam Knox, Inside Higher Education, 9-20-23) Challenges to race-conscious policies are surging in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action, including a new lawsuit against West Point. Students for Fair Admissions, the group that spearheaded the Supreme Court cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, filed a lawsuit challenging the race-conscious admissions policies of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The organization is also revisiting lawsuits that were stayed pending the outcome of the Harvard and UNC cases (those against Yale, the University of Texas at Austin, and others).

Ketanji Brown Jackson Torches Clarence Thomas for Bulls--t Take on Affirmative Action (Bess Levin, Levin Report, Vanity Fair, 6-29-23) The Supreme Court’s conservative majority effectively ended affirmative action, and dissenting Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson chided her "conservative colleagues, one of whom has a well documented history of being anti-affirmative action—of straight up being racist." She accused them of "not having an earthly clue—or having one and just not giving a f--k—about the history and impact of racism in this country, which persists today, and which Thursday’s decision will only make worse."

The Court Unleashed (The Weekly Sift, 7-3-23) "Until this week, the final week of its annual term, the Supreme Court seemed to be backing away from the rogue behavior of last year, in which it had repeatedly ignored precedent, invented fanciful readings of history, and generally found excuses to go wherever its right-wing ideology might lead.
       "Recall that last year, the Court didn’t merely eliminate abortion rights, its logic in Dobbs rejected the doctrine of substantive due process, potentially setting up the elimination of all rights that rely on that doctrine: same-sex marriage, access to birth control, the right of consenting adults to choose their own expressions of sexuality, and many others. In Bruen, it not only threw out a century-old New York State gun control law, it cast doubt on all gun-control laws that are not “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” as Justice Thomas interprets that history.
     "Until this week, the final week of its annual term, the Supreme Court seemed to be backing away from the rogue behavior of last year, in which it had repeatedly ignored precedent, invented fanciful readings of history, and generally found excuses to go wherever its right-wing ideology might lead.
       "In the term’s final week, the Court burned its centrist credibility. It ended affirmative action in college admissions (and blew away the justification for any form of affirmative action), shot down the Biden administration’s student-loan forgiveness program, and inserted an enormous loophole into all anti-discrimination laws. This Court is increasingly untethering itself from all traditional restraints on judicial power."

On Race and Academia (John McWhorter newsletter, for NY Times subscribers, 7-4-23) "As an academic who is also Black, I have seen up close, over decades, what it means to take race into account....I will never shake the sentiment I felt on those committees, an unintended byproduct of what we could call academia’s racial preference culture: that it is somehow ungracious to expect as much of Black students — and future teachers — as we do of others. That kind of assumption has been institutionalized within academic culture for a long time....the decision to stop taking race into account in admissions, assuming it is accompanied by other efforts to assist the truly disadvantaged, is, I believe, the right one to make."

‘There Was Definitely a Thumb on the Scale to Get Boys’ (Susan Dominus, NY Times Magazine, 9-8-23) Declining male enrollment has led many colleges to adopt an unofficial policy: affirmative action for men.

Is College Worth It? (The Daily podcast , 9-20-23) Podcast and transcript. The new economics of higher education makes going to college a risky bet.
        See also Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? (Paul Tough, NY Times, 9-5-23) Outside the United States, meanwhile, higher education is more popular than ever. What changed in the last decade to make a college education — and higher education as an institution — so unappealing to so many Americans? The college wage premium: How much you owe for going to college. How much net wealth does a typical college graduate accumulate over their life span, compared with that of a typical high school graduate? Millennials with college degrees are earning a good bit more than those without, but they aren’t accumulating any more wealth. The likely culprit: cost--the rising expense of college and the student debt that often goes along with it. Since 1992, the sticker price has almost doubled for four-year private colleges and more than doubled for four-year public colleges, even after adjusting for inflation. And In a 2017 Gallup poll, the No. 1 reason Republicans gave for their declining faith in higher ed was that colleges had become “too liberal/political.”

Supreme Court Rejects Affirmative Action Programs at Harvard and U.N.C. (Stephanie Saul, NY Times, 6-29-23) The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, declaring that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful and sharply curtailing a policy that had long been a pillar of higher education. In earlier decisions, the court had endorsed taking account of race as one factor among many to promote educational diversity. Justice Sonia Sotomayor summarized her dissent from the bench, a rare move that signals profound disagreement, and said that affirmative action was crucial to countering persistent and systematic racial discrimination.

Harvard’s Admissions Is Challenged for Favoring Children of Alumni (Stephanie Saul, NY Times, 7-3-23) After the Supreme Court banned race-conscious affirmative action, activists filed a complaint, saying legacy admissions helped students who are overwhelmingly rich and white. Harvard’s special admissions treatment for students whose parents are alumni, or whose relatives donated money, has been called affirmative action for the rich, and in a complaint filed on Monday, a legal activist group demanded that the federal government put an end to it, arguing that fairness was even more imperative after the Supreme Court last week severely limited race-conscious admissions.

Heather Cox Richaradson, 6-29-23)" If this fight sounds political, it should. It mirrors the current political climate in which right-wing activists reject the idea of systemic racism that the U.S. has acknowledged and addressed in the law since the 1950s. They do not believe that the Fourteenth Amendment supports the civil rights legislation that tries to guarantee equality for historically marginalized populations, and in today’s decision the current right-wing majority on the court demonstrated that it is willing to push that political agenda at the expense of settled law. As recently as 2016, the court reaffirmed that affirmative action, used since the 1960s, is constitutional. Today’s court just threw that out."

To be continued...

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Copyright

"Generative AI will change the nature of content creation, enabling many to do what, until now, only a few had the skills or advanced technology to accomplish at high speed." ~ article in Harvard Business Review


See also Artificial intelligence (AI): What problems does it bring? solve? What the heck is a bot?

What is fair use? US Supreme Court weighs in on AI’s copyright dilemma (Luke Huigsloot, Cointelegraph: The Future of Money, 5-30-23) Many firms with generative AI models are being sued for copyright infringement, and the Supreme Court may have just ruined their primary legal defense. On Feb. 3, "stock photo provider Getty Images sued artificial intelligence firm Stability AI, alleging that it copied over 12 million photos from its collections as part of an effort to build a competing business. It notes in the filing:
     “On the back of intellectual property owned by Getty Images and other copyright holders, Stability AI has created an image-generating model called Stable Diffusion that uses artificial intelligence to deliver computer-synthesized images in response to text prompts."

    "While the European Commission and other regions are scrambling to develop regulations to keep up with the rapid development of AI, the question of whether training AI models using copyrighted works classifies as an infringement may be decided in court cases such as this one."
     "On May 18, the Supreme Court of the United States, considering these factors, issued an opinion that may play a significant role in the future of generative AI. The ruling in Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith found that famous artist Andy Warhol’s 1984 work “Orange Prince” infringed on the rights of rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith, as the work was intended to be used commercially and, therefore, could not be covered by the fair use exemption.
      While the ruling doesn’t change copyright law, it does clarify how transformative use is defined.

Examples of artificial intelligence: Manufacturing robots. Facial detection and recognition. Self-driving cars. E-Payments. Smart assistants. Healthcare management. Search and Recommendation Algorithms. Automated financial investing. Virtual travel booking agent. Social media monitoring. Marketing chatbots.  Maps and navigation. Text editors or Autocorrect. Chatbots. Digital assistants.  Aspects of social media.

Thousands of authors urge AI companies to stop using work without permission (Chloe Veltman, Morning Edition, NPR, 7-17-23) "Thousands of writers including Nora Roberts, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Michael Chabon and Margaret Atwood have signed a letter asking artificial intelligence companies like OpenAI and Meta to stop using their work without permission or compensation. It's the latest in a volley of counter-offensives the literary world has launched in recent weeks against AI. But protecting writers from the negative impacts of these technologies is not an easy proposition. Alexander Chee, the bestselling author of novels like Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, is among the nearly 8,000 authors who just signed a letter addressed to the leaders of six AI companies, including OpenAI, Alphabet and Meta.

• What are the Open AI companies? Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI.

Authors Guild Recommends Clause in Publishing and Distribution Agreements Prohibiting AI Training Uses (3-1-23)
Authors Sue OpenAI Claiming Mass Copyright Infringement of Hundreds of Thousands of Novels (Winston Cho, Hollywood Reporter, 6-29-23) Courts are wrestling with the legality of using copyrighted works to train AI systems. The proposed class action filed in San Francisco federal court on Wednesday alleges that OpenAI “relied on harvesting mass quantities” of copyright-protected works “without consent, without credit, and without compensation.”
---AI is the wild card in Hollywood's strikes. Here's an explanation of its unsettling role (Andrew Dalton, ABC News, 7-21-23) Getting control of the use of artificial intelligence is a central issue in the current strikes of Hollywood's actors and writers. As the technology to create without creators emerges, star actors fear they will lose control of their lucrative likenesses. Unknown actors fear they’ll be replaced altogether. Writers fear they’ll have to share credit or lose credit to machines.
     "It may be fitting that "voice" comes first on that list. While many viewers still cringe at the visual avatars of actors like Hamill and Jackson, the aural tech feels further along.
      "The voices of the late Anthony Bourdain and the late Andy Warhol have both been recreated for recent documentaries.
       "Union members who make a living doing voiceovers have taken note."
---A.I. Needs an International Watchdog, ChatGPT Creators Say (Gregory Schmidt, NY Times, 5-24-23)

"To regulate the risks of A.I. systems, there should be an international watchdog, similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the organization that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy, OpenAI's founders, Greg Brockman and Ilya Sutskever, and its chief executive, Sam Altman, wrote in a note posted Monday on the company's website."
---A.I. Poses ‘Risk of Extinction,’ Industry Leaders Warn (Kevin Roose, NY Times, 5-30-23) Leaders from OpenAI, Google DeepMind, Anthropic and other A.I. labs warn that future systems could be as deadly as pandemics and nuclear weapons.

---The future of intellectual property law in the era of artificial intelligence (Wisconsin Law Journal, 4-3-23) "Another challenge is how to protect intellectual property rights in the face of AI-enabled infringement. AI systems can be used to create counterfeit goods, to automate the process of copyright infringement, and to even generate fake news. This makes it more difficult for creators to protect their work and to enforce their intellectual property rights.The rise of AI also raises questions about the future of patent law."

Europe takes another big step toward agreeing an AI rulebook (Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch, 6-14-23) "Parliamentarians backed an amended version of the Commission proposal that expands the rulebook in a way they say is aimed at ensuring AI that’s developed and used in Europe is “fully in line with EU rights and values including human oversight, safety, privacy, transparency, non-discrimination and social and environmental wellbeing”.
    "Among the changes MEPs have backed is a total ban on remote biometric surveillance and on predictive policing. They have also added a ban on “untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases” — so basically a hard prohibition on Clearview AI and its ilk.    
     "The proposed ban on remote biometric surveillance would apply to both real-time or post (after the fact) applications of technologies like facial recognition, except, in the latter case, for law enforcement for the prosecution of serious crimes with judicial sign off.
     "MEPs also added a ban on the use of emotional recognition tech being used by law enforcement, border agencies, workplaces and educational institutions.
     "Parliamentarians also expanded the classification of high-risk AI systems to include those that pose significant harm to people’s health, safety, fundamental rights or the environment, as well as AI systems used to influence voters and the outcome of elections."

‘Life or Death:’ AI-Generated Mushroom Foraging Books Are All Over Amazon (Samantha Cole, 404 Media, 8-29-23) Experts are worried that books produced by ChatGPT for sale on Amazon, which target beginner foragers, could end up killing someone. A genre of AI-generated books on Amazon is scaring foragers and mycologists: cookbooks and identification guides for mushrooms aimed at beginners.

Speech in the Machine: Generative AI's Implications for Free Expression (Summer Lopez, Nadine Farid Johnson, and Nadine Farid Johnson, PEN America, 7-31-23) See also PEN's Twitter feed

"We cannot anticipate exactly how these technologies will be used or the magnitude of the risks."

      "In the hands of bad actors—whether public or private—generative AI tools can supercharge existing threats to free expression. If machines increasingly displace writers and creators, that poses a threat not only to those creative artists, but to the public as a whole. The scope of inspiration from which truly new creative works draw may be narrowed, undermining the power of literature, television, and film to catalyze innovative ways of thinking.
       "Generative AI tools have democratized and simplified the creation of all types of content, including false and misleading information; now they are poised to catapult disinformation to new levels, requiring new thinking about how to counter the negative effects without infringing on free expression. Without further attention to the ways in which generative AI could potentially escalate the threat of online abuse, those targeted may be more likely to leave online spaces, and those at risk of being targeted might be more likely to self–censor to avoid the threat.
      "The use of generative AI in targeted political ads and campaign materials could make those messages even more effective, further hardening existing divides and making constructive discourse across political lines even more challenging. Because generative AI tools are trained on bodies of content, they can easily reproduce patterns of either deliberate censorship or unconscious bias. The use of generative AI in creative fields could produce works that are less rich or reflective of the expansive nuances of human experience and expression. . . [These] tools could be wielded—or weaponized—to manipulate opinions and skew public discourse via subtle forms of influence on their users."


PEN's Recommendations for Government:
Pass long overdue, foundational legislation.
Establish and maintain multi-stakeholder policymaking processes
Ground regulatory frameworks in fundamental rights
Engage in policymaking that is measured and iterative
Build flexibility into regulatory schemes
Emphasize and operationalize transparency

PEN's Recommendations for Industry:
Promote fair and equitable use:
Facilitate secure and privacy–protecting use
Emphasize and operationalize transparency
Provide appeals and remedy options
Consider revenue models
Safeguard the ownership rights of writers, artists, and other content owners.
Marvel’s Secret Invasion AI Scandal Is Strangely Hopeful (Angela Watercutter, Wired, 6-23-23) News broke this week that the show’s opening credits were made using artificial intelligence. Fans immediately cried foul.
     "It’s only slightly coincidental that news of AI in Secret Invasion came a day after star Samuel L. Jackson told Rolling Stone that he’s long been cautious of studios wanting to use his likeness in perpetuity, saying when he encounters those clauses in contracts “I cross that shit out.” A few months ago, Keanu Reeves told me that he's long had a clause in his contracts saying that his performances can't be digitally altered without his approval. Actors, and their lawyers, have been wary of the implications of technology and AI for a while. So have writers. Now, as AI infiltrates everyone’s daily lives, fans are monitoring the invasion."
    More Wired stories on the topic:
---This Is the Worst Part of the AI Hype Cycle (Angela Watercutter) Feeling hype burnout? You're not alone.
---Workers Are Worried About Their Bosses Embracing AI

    And there are many more. Search for "Wired" and "AI" or artificial intelligence.


Generative AI Has an Intellectual Property Problem (Gil Appel, Juliana Neelbauer, and David A. Schweidel, Harvard Business Review, 4-7-23) "Generative AI, which uses data lakes and question snippets to recover patterns and relationships, is becoming more prevalent in creative industries. However, the legal implications of using generative AI are still unclear, particularly in relation to copyright infringement, ownership of AI-generated works, and unlicensed content in training data. Courts are currently trying to establish how intellectual property laws should be applied to generative AI, and several cases have already been filed. To protect themselves from these risks, companies that use generative AI need to ensure that they are in compliance with the law and take steps to mitigate potential risks, such as ensuring they use training data free from unlicensed content and developing ways to show provenance of generated content."


Generative Artificial Intelligence and Copyright Law (Legal Sidebar, Congressional Research Service, 5-11-23) A long, important article. "Recent innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) are raising new questions about how copyright law principles such as authorship, infringement, and fair use will apply to content created or used by AI. Socalled “generative AI” computer programs—such as Open AI’s DALL-E 2 and ChatGPT programs, Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion program, and Midjourney’s self-titled program—are able to generate new images, texts, and other content (or “outputs”) in response to a user’s textual prompts (or “inputs”). These generative AI programs are trained to generate such outputs partly by exposing them to large quantities of existing works such as writings, photos, paintings, and other artworks. This Legal Sidebar explores questions that courts and the U.S. Copyright Office have begun to confront regarding whether the outputs of generative AI programs are entitled to copyright protection, as well as how training and using these programs might infringe copyrights in other works."

[Back to Top]

New US copyright rules protect only AI art with ‘human authorship’ (Daniel Grant, The Art Newspaper, 5-4-23) The US Copyright Office has eased its stance in new guidelines, and a decision on a comic book created using artificial intelligence. Shows "Detail from the cover for the comic book, Zarya of the Dawn (2023), whose author, Kris Kashtanova, used the AI-powered text-to-image generator Midjourney to create the illustrations. She was granted copyright in the book but not its AI-generated images.'


AI and art: how recent court cases are stretching copyright principles (Hetty Gleave and Eddie Powell, The Art Newspaper, 3-28-23) Two specialists from a leading London law firm analyse the issues raised in recent lawsuits relating to the use of artwork images by tech companies in order to “train” their artificial intelligence tools.


Artists and visual media company sue AI image generator for copyright breach (Daniel Grant, The Art Newspaper, 2-15-23) Lawsuits against firm behind Stable Diffusion image generator in recent attempt to define the legal status of such images.


How We Think About Copyright and AI Art (Kit Walsh, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 4-3-23) "This legal analysis is a companion piece to our post describing AI image-generating technology and how we see its potential risks and benefits." An interesting analysis. As with most creative tools, it is possible that a user could be the one who causes the system to output a new infringing work by giving it a series of prompts that steer it towards reproducing another work. In this instance, the user, not the tool’s maker or provider, would be liable for infringement.


Artificial Intelligence and Seinfeld (“Nothing Forever”) Aharon Schrieber, Seinfeld Law, 6-13-23) "If an AI generates a TV show apparently in the style of Seinfeld, but without using content from Seinfeld, is that a copyright violation?"


Nothing Giant. Nothing Forever (Aharon Schrieber, Seinfeld Law, The Browser, 6-17-23) The AI generated Seinfeld parody “Nothing, Forever,” ran '24 hours a day until February 6, 2023, but the show was completely procedurally generated via artificial intelligence. While the show was pretty well received, with even the official Seinfeld twitter account linking to the Twitch channel, “Nothing, Forever” opens up a series of new questions regarding the intersection of copyright law and artificial intelligence. Most importantly, does Seinfeld, Jerry, the actors, NBC, or any other person or entity with rights to Seinfeld the show have a copyright claim against “Nothing, Forever?”

I Would Rather See My Books Get Pirated Than This (Or: Why Goodreads and Amazon Are Becoming Dumpster Fires) (Jane Friedman, 8-7-23) "Garbage books getting uploaded to Amazon where my name is credited as the author. Whoever’s doing this is obviously preying on writers who trust my name and think I’ve actually written these books. I have not. Most likely they’ve been generated by AI."
"Hours after this post was published, my Goodreads profile was cleaned of the offending titles. However, the garbage books remain available for sale at Amazon with my name attached."

What is generative AI? Everything you need to know (George Lawton, Tech Target) Scroll down for interesting timeline of Generative AI's Evolution. Transformers, large language models (LLMs), innovations in multimodal AI, etc. "Recent progress in transformers such as Google's Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), OpenAI's GPT and Google AlphaFold have also resulted in neural networks that can not only encode language, images and proteins but also generate new content."

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Understanding the Student Debt Problem: How big is it and how should we address the problem?

(aka The Student Loan Program)

Student debt has more than doubled over the last two decades. As of September 2022, about forty-eight million U.S. borrowers collectively owed more than $1.6 trillion in federal student loans. Additional private loans bring that total to above $1.7 trillion, surpassing auto loans and credit card debt.

Why Aren’t Student Loans Simple? Because This Is America. (Ron Lieber,Student Loan Debt Relief, NY Times, 9-3-22) Instead of making higher education free, we subsidize it later through repayment plans and attempts at debt cancellation. The complexity is disrespectful. If we want higher education to cost less, we should make it cheaper when people enroll.
The Subprime Loans for College Hiding in Plain Sight (Ron Lieber, Student Loan Debt Relief, NY Times, 9-17-22) Many families can borrow most of the cost of college using a Parent PLUS loan. This will not end well.

       “The honest truth is that Congress created a subprime lending program unintentionally,” said Rachel Fishman of New America, the left-leaning think tank. Most parents don’t pay for college using this loan. But about 3.6 million of them — with about $107 billion in outstanding debt — have. Within that group are a number of low-income Black families at schools that may not have given their kids enough help in the way of scholarships. Many of those families are struggling to repay the money that the federal government so freely offered up.

         An Urban Institute report from 2019 summed up the sorry state of affairs in this way: Parent PLUS loans are “a no-strings attached revenue source for colleges and universities, with the risk shared only by parents and the government.” "Unlike student loans ... Parent PLUS loans are not going to help them earn more. Repayment can last up to 25 years, which can push the bills well into what are supposed to be the retirement years."
Is Rising Student Debt Harming the U.S. Economy? (Backgrounder, Council on Foreign Relations, 10-20-22) Covers the main issues and links to many other articles, from various angles, about the student debt problem.
Three Questions About Student Debt Forgiveness (Roger W. Ferguson Jr., Council on Foreign Relations, 9-6-22) What is the rationale behind President Biden's recent student debt relief announcement, who benefits and pays for it, and finally, what might be some unintended consequences from it? The Biden program might be overly generous, particularly given the strongest argument for such a program is to help the neediest. Most importantly, the fundamental weaknesses of the American higher education system—low completion rate, dependence on loans, and rapidly increasing college costs—still need to be addressed.
Defending Student Loan Cancellation (National Consumer Law Center, 2-28-23) Two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court challenge President Biden’s transformational plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for eligible borrowers. The outcome of these cases will affect millions of borrowers who are eligible for relief. National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) experts are providing analysis and resources about the cases: Biden v. Nebraska (22-506) and Department of Education v. Brown (22-535). Excellent links and references, especially for students seriously debating the issues.
Biden’s Student Loan Plan Squarely Targets the Middle Class (Jim Tankersley, NY Times, 8-25-22) The big winners from Mr. Biden’s student loan plan are not rich graduates of Harvard and Yale, as many critics claim. It's the middle class. Independent analysts suggest this would be his most targeted assistance yet to middle-class workers — while trying to repair what he casts as a broken bridge to the middle class.
Biden’s Student Debt Relief Program Is Excellent, but Student Loans Suck to Begin With (Timothy Noah, New Republic, 8-24-22) Bernie Sanders got this right: We’ll have to make college free, or close to it. Student loans were an invention of the conservative economist Milton Friedman and that they turned out to be a poor substitute for the direct investment in higher education that Friedman succeeded in averting—in large part because the loans never managed to impose the market efficiencies Friedman predicted. The student loan model is unsustainable and the time to shift toward debt-free access to higher education is now, before the whole thing collapses.
Beware of Scammers Trying to Capitalize on Student Loan Forgiveness (Ann Carrns, NY Times, 9-2-22) The recent action on student debt is fodder for spam callers, who often try to trick borrowers into paying for loan cancellation.
What About Tackling the Causes of Student Debt? (Kevin Carey, NY Times, 11-18-2020) Pros and cons of loan forgiveness aside, there’s a more fundamental problem.

[Back to Top]

How the Biden Administration Can Free Americans from Student Debt (Astra Taylor, New Yorker, 11-23-2020) The books and authors referred to: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber and Can't Pay, Won't Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition by Collective Debt
Who owes all that student debt? And who’d benefit if it were forgiven? (Adam Looney, David Wessel, and Kadija Yilla, Policy2020, Brookings,1-28-2020)
President-elect Joe Biden says student loan forgiveness does figure in his economic plan: "It should be done immediately." (Tweet, Good Morning America, 11-16-2020) Read the comments.

Dept. of Education Fail: Teachers Lose Grants, Forced to Repay Thousands in Loans (Cory Turner and Chris Arnold, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, 3-28-18) "Without any notice, [my grant] was suddenly a loan, and interest was already accruing on it," says Maggie Webb, who teaches eighth-grade math in Chelsea, Mass. "So, my $4,000 grant was now costing me $5,000."
     Since 2008, the Education Department has offered these so-called TEACH grants to people studying to get a college or master's degree. The deal is, they get to keep the grant money if they spend four years teaching a high-need subject like math or science in schools that serve low-income families.
If they don't keep their end of the bargain, the grants convert to loans that need to be paid back. But, the study finds, many teachers believe they kept their end of the bargain but are now being asked to repay that money anyway.
        Some early red flags were raised a few years ago by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO investigated the TEACH grant program and noted that teachers were improperly having their grants taken away. At least 2,252 grants were erroneously converted to loans by the servicer. Part of a special NPR series, The Trouble With TEACH Grants (click on that link to get to the full series).
Were Your TEACH Grants Converted To Loans While You Were Teaching at a Qualifying School? (Chris Arnold, NPR, 12-9-18)
Teachers, Lawyers and Others Worry About the Fate of Student Debt Forgiveness (Anya Kamenetz, NPR, 4-5-17)

[Back to Top]

Teachers With Student Debt: These Are Their Stories (Elissa Nadworny and Julie Depenbrock, Morning Edition, NPR, 7-26-17) Teachers have one of the lowest-paid professional jobs in the U.S. You need a bachelor's degree, which can be costly — an equation that often means a lot of student loans. Factors that make teaching vulnerable to a ton of debt include chronically low teacher pay, the increasing pressure to get a master's degree, and the many ways to repay loans or apply for loan forgiveness.
Student Loans: To Solve the Problem, Understand the History (Chad Chubb, Kiplinger, 6-10-19) If you plan on making $60,000 out of college, you should not take on more than $60,000 in loans. If you plan to make $60,000, but your education will cost $180,000, don’t do it!
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Debt to Me (MH Miller, The Baffler, also a Guardian Long Read: The Inescapable Weight of My $100,000 Student Debt, ) M.H. Miller (the arts editor for The New York Times Style Magazine) left university with with more than $100,000 of debt, for which her father was a cosigner. "In a matter of months, my father had lost everything he had worked most of his adult life to achieve—first his career, then his home, then his dignity....The delicate balancing act my family and I perform in order to make a payment each month has become the organizing principle of our lives...The foundational myth of an entire generation of Americans was the false promise that education was priceless—that its value was above or beyond its cost."

[Back to Top]

•  The Student Debt Problem Is Worse Than We Imagined (Ben Miller, NY Times, 8-25-18) New data reveals how colleges are benefiting from billions in financial aid while students are left with debt they cannot repay. The new data makes clear that the federal government overlooks early warning signs by focusing solely on default rates over the first three years of repayment. That's the time period Congress requires the Department of Education to use when calculating default rates. For-profit institutions have particularly awful results."The secret to avoiding accountability? Colleges are aggressively pushing borrowers to use repayment options known as deferments or forbearances that allow borrowers to stop their payments without going into delinquency or defaulting. Nearly 20 percent of borrowers at schools that had high default rates at year five but not at year three used one of these payment-pausing options."
Student Loan Debt Can Sink Your Retirement Plan (Harriet Edleson, AARP, 9-18-18) If you've defaulted on a federal student loan, beware: The federal government can take up to 15 percent of your Social Security benefit. ... Most of those whose Social Security money was seized were receiving disability benefits, rather than retirement or survivor benefits, the GAO report said.
An Administrative Path to Student Debt Cancellation (PDF, report by Luke Herrine, Greater Democracy Initiative, Dec. 2019)
Is Student Loan Forgiveness Worth It? – Pros & Cons (Sarah Graves, Money Crashers) Followed by links to additional stories.

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Who to use for audiobook distribution

I can produce an audiobook myself, but will any of the audiobook companies agree to distribute it, or must it be produced "in-house"?


Guest post by Maggie Lynch


If your audiobook is being produced by an audio publisher, they have their own distribution sources.


If you are doing the audiobook yourself or hiring a narrator and you will get the physical files to distribute, I would recommend Findaway Voices. They have the largest audio distribution market. The larger company, Findaway, merged with Spotify in 2022 so their distribution is even stronger and they are trying new marketing options to capitalize on that relationship.


Another good audio distribution service is Author's Republic. They have a great reputation for clear communication and monthly royalty payments and they distribute to about 50 places. Every author I know who uses them loves them.


Publish Drive, Lantern Audio (used to be Listen Up), and BookBaby also have good reputations, distribute books to the big guys, and then use Findaway to reach the rest of the places. My thought is, why not just go with Findaway to begin with.


You can load directly to the big places like Amazon (Audible),  Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, but I personally find that too time- consuming, and if you want to make changes in metadata—cover, pricing, description, etc.—it's a lot of places to go to. I'd rather have a book in one place with wide distribution so I can make changes at any time and know it will populate to all the distributors they cover.

You can learn more about Maggie Lynch here.

Be the first to comment

What are the differences between IngramSpark and Lightning Source for self-publishing authors?

Answer from David Kudler, publisher at Stillpoint Digital Press:

Lightning Source (LSI) and IngramSpark (IS) are both portals offered by Ingram Content Group (the world's largest book distributor) to access their print-on-demand (POD) and distribution services. They are very similar, but have a few minor differences.

LSI is older — it was a standalone company founded in 1996 and acquired by Ingram about fifteen years ago. It was intended to offer publishers of all sizes POD services — especially useful for low-selling backlist titles, but also for popular titles that outsold their print runs.      


Ingram started IS in 2013 specifically as a service to the burgeoning micro- and self-publishing community — allowing them access to the same POD and worldwide distribution as major publishers, and allowing them to release their books in print without the high-risk investment of printing thousands of copies of their books (and then having to store them and ship them).


They both use the same worldwide network of printing plants. They both offer the same access to Ingram's distribution network. The print quality is the same.

There are differences between the two portals, reflecting their different origins.
      LSI allows the publisher to offer discounts from the industry-standard 55% (which ends up being a 40% discount to retailers) down to 20% (8% retail discount). IS has a set 55% discount. (Some publishers like to be able to lower the discount in order to drop the price for certain books. It generally means you won't get the book into any brick-and-mortar stores or libraries, but they may not be your target anyway.)
     IS offers ebook distribution (they take a higher than standard 20% cut); LSI is print-only.
     LSI charges an annual $12 "catalog" fee for each edition, and has slightly higher fees for revising your books (I avoid the setup fees as a member of IBPA).
     LSI offers printing discounts on titles that sell well (BoLT).
     As of this month, ScribeCount (the online sales tracking service) imports sales from IS, but you have to hand-enter them for LSI. Other than that, they're essentially the same.
     I use LSI, but only because I started before IS existed. I have played with "short" discounts, but mostly stick to the standard 55%. The ScribeCount situation has me seriously considering switching, but… if it ain't broke, don't fix it.


     For what it's worth, I strongly recommend that my clients use IS rather than LSI to distribute to the book trade — it's easier to set up, has slightly lower costs, and most of the high-end features of LSI aren't going to come into play. Then we use Amazon's KDP Print to distribute to Jeff Bezos's domain.

    Ebooks, of course, are another issue altogether.


    Thanks for permission to reprint this useful post to David Kudler.

Post a comment