Wandering Eye: Men are idiots, forfeiture gets the acknowledgment it deserves, and more

The Darwin Awards, doled out by an internet community that finds stories of lethal stupidity that theoretically aids the evolution of the human race, have been going on for 20 years now. This holiday season, the medical journal BMJ published a peer-reviewed statistical study called "The Darwin Awards: sex difference in idiotic behavior," by 15-year-old student Ben Alexander Daniel Lendrem and his statistician dad, Dennis William Lendrem. They found that 88.7 percent of Darwin Awards were given to males, and concluded that "this finding is entirely consistent with male idiot theory (MIT) and supports the hypothesis that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things." The study credits cartoonist John McPherson, in his 2010 book, “Women Are from Venus, Men Are Idiots,” for first positing MIT. (Van Smith)

 

Isaiah Thompson’s work on civil forfeiture in Philadelphia is more than two years old. He's left the paper he published it in—City Paper—and the place he landed after that folded. But the stories seem to have legs, as Columbia Journalism Review noticed. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian outfit, has sued the city over its "forfeiture machine," which takes cash and even houses from suspects without charging them with any crime. And now other media outfits are catching on to what a big deal this is—even though forfeiture has been federal policy for more than 25 years. Thompson took a year assembling court and other records to piece together his story. It was an amazing amount of work, particularly in this era of "blog more with less."  Now that the New York Times, Washington Post, the New Yorker and others have shined a spotlight on the practice, it will be interesting to see if real reform can follow. Thompson, meanwhile, freelances. "I’ve basically always been a local reporter," he tells CJR. "I've felt a huge privilege working for alt-weeklies, where I got to really write about the city I lived in and write for people who live around me." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Since we have a pretty vested interest in the future of journalism, we've been pretty closely following the unraveling of the relationship between erstwhile Rolling Stone maverick Matt Taibbi's now-dead site The Racket and its parent company, First Look Media, owned by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. A new piece by Mat Honan, in Wired, gives a fascinating look at what The Racket was trying to do. "The plan," Honan writes, "was to make an Internet magazine that mixed hard-hitting reporting and in-depth features with wicked, Spy magazine-style satire." As it turns out, that looks a lot like what alt-weeklies have been doing all along (Taibbi was the keynote speaker at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies conference in 2013). But since it's updated for the internet age, Taibbi's site offers up some interesting strategies, such as hijacking Buzzfeed's community content for a week or doing journalism in another site's comment section. We're sad it didn't get off the ground—but if you want that combination of voice and hard-hitting reporting, you still have your alts. (Baynard Woods)

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