Wandering Eye: Remembering the early days of Pitchfork, a boom in email newsletters, and more

Email newsletters sound like an incredibly old-fashioned mode of communication, but they've become something of a trend in media circles over the past few years. They're mostly sent via the newsletter service TinyLetter, and while some are available as pages online, some are available solely as emails sent to your inbox. We're subscribed to a few, including Caitlin Dewey's Links I Would Gchat You if We Were Friends, Today in Tabs, and the Ann Friedman Weekly, but the one we've been enjoying the most recently (sorry, Caitlin/Rusty/Ann) is Not Doomed Yet, compiled by Robinson Meyer for the Atlantic. It's a weekly, detailed summary of news about climate change from around the world, including regular updates on the amount of greenhouse gases measured in the atmosphere the past week, the plunging costs of renewable energy, and the United Nations' upcoming climate negotiations in Paris. So far, it's been a consistently thoughtful and comprehensive reminder of just how serious the consequences of climate change are and will be—and that, you know, we're not entirely doomed yet. If you seriously hate getting email, you can read it on the Atlantic's site instead. (Anna Walsh)

 

Top U.S. Justice Department officials have for more than a decade proclaimed that they are cracking down on corporate criminals. There was the "Corporate Crime Task Force" empaneled by President George W. Bush in 2002, followed by President Obama's "Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force" of 2009, and then Cyrus Vance's White Collar Crime Task Force in 2012. And now the newly announced focus on Wall Street executives. So how we doin’? Between 2004 and 2014, criminal prosecution of corporate violators by the U.S. Department of Justice declined by 29 percent, according to DOJ stats analyzed by the Transactional Records Clearing House, a Syracuse-based nonprofit. Referrals for criminal prosecution from other federal agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, have increased slightly, the records show. "Moreover, the overall number of corporations in the country that could be investigated for criminal wrongdoing has grown by about 24 percent," TRAC says. (Which is interesting in itself, given that the U.S.'s human population over that time increased by less than 9 percent.) The data are choppy. Under Obama, criminal cases actually increased from 239 in 2010 to 298 in 2013—before falling to 237 last year. But these figures are all lower than those in the latter Bush years, when the number of cases dropped from 335 in 2004 to 299 in 2008. The overall case trend is down—as is the trend in convictions, which fell from 252 in 2002 to 162 in 2014. Corporate prosecutions make up less than two-tenths of 1 percent of all federal cases. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Music journalists and music nerds collectively had a "holy shit!" moment yesterday when it was announced Pitchfork, a site that for years had the ability to make or break independent artists, had been purchased by media giant Condé Nast. The sale got online heat pretty quickly after an executive from the media company singled out the Pitchfork's audience of "milennial males" as a motivator for the deal (even if data basically shows he's not wrong). It's still not clear how this will affect Pitchfork's coverage, if at all, but this moment definitely feels like the end of something. Oregonian critic David Greenwald wrote a nice paean to the days in the early 2000s when the site seemed indispensible. Fans of indie rock had few places to go, because "Rolling Stone didn't cover it. SPIN, still stuck on radio-driven alternative rock, didn't take it seriously. Blogs didn't really exist yet, at least not ones we knew about. Pitchfork, founded by Ryan Schreiber, a new music obsessive who never looked back, was the answer." He goes on to say: "They showed me that artful music could, and did, exist outside of major labels, Clear Channel radio and corporate gatekeepers, and that people cared enough to share them." Greenwald points out that the site has widened its scope in recent years and become more inclusive, neither of which is bad. "Pitchfork has warped and pivoted and shed skins, sometimes leading its audience, sometimes letting the crowd carry it. Whatever comes next, I'm grateful for what the site was for me once: a resource bordering on biblical, the road map that no one else could offer." (Brandon Weigel)

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