Wandering Eye: Sanders vows to be 'arts president,' American Apparel files for bankruptcy, and more

Last week, the Arts Action Fund released a video of a statement from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, asserting that he vows to be an "arts president." Recalling his role in the establishment of the Burlington Arts Council, one of his proudest achievements as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in the early '80s, Sanders says the goal was to "unleash the creativity of our residents and harness the untold benefits that investments in the arts bring to communities."

"I will continue to advocate strongly for robust funding of the arts in our cities, schools, and public spaces," he continues. "Art is speech. Art is what life is about." Now, we know better than to swoon at any politician who claims to support the arts, but Bernie's good arts track record continued through his time in Congress . . . and then there's this Vice article about how Sanders shaped the Northeast punk scene. (Maura Callahan)


Over at FIPP, the "Worldwide Magazine Media Association," Liquid Newsroom founder Steffen Konrath offers advice on how to incorporate robot writers into your publishing mix. Robo-writers, which automatically compile "news stories" from public data, are becoming very popular among publishers who, as Konrath helpfully points out, must "grow your digital audiences with less and less people in a business, where the amount of eyeballs still count." The Associated Press uses them to summarize quarterly business reports, for instance. "AP once produced 1,000 earnings reports per quarter but due to dramatic downsizing ended up to publish no more than 300 any more," Konrath, whose first language is German, writes. "How do you want to stay relevant for your audience, if you can't keep up with the information needs in the market, just because you face budget constrains, to that you lack the resources to do so?" What he never asks is why the audience deserves to get information for which it cannot or will not pay—or why it can't pay for the information. The service of summarizing a 10-Q report or the box scores of a high school baseball game is, presumably, a value-added service. This is why there are now several robo-writing companies vending automated, algorithmic journalism to the AP and others. The AP pays for this. But the AP relies upon so-called "legacy media" to pay it for these stories. And the legacy media is precisely where the money runs out. As the robo-cos like Automated Insights require an upfront payment in the five figures ("Most vendors expect a minimum of 10-20k articles and charge a minimum of 1€ per article," Konrath writes), it appears that, for now, only the big media companies can afford to go this way, reducing the number of actual journalists in order to reduce the journalistic corps even more. The future, Konrath writes, is in "predictive analytics"—which is all about ever-more sophisticated machines. Of course, actual journalists have been pretty good at "predictive analytics" for quite a while. Go read—or reread—Barlett and Steele's "America: What Went Wrong?" It used data to explain how the American middle class was being systematically dismantled. It was published in 1992. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Hipster clothier American Apparel has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to a story in The New York Times. No layoffs were announced yet and the company gets to keep its 130 stores and Los Angeles factory open, but American Apparel's stock, some of which was still held by founder and noted creep Dov Charney, is now worthless. "A $13.9 million interest payment due on Oct. 15 had loomed large on the horizon; as of mid-August, American Apparel had just over $11 million in cash on hand," reports The times. "The shortfall prompted the company itself to warn it may not have enough capital to cover its costs over the next year." Some bondholders are willing to sink $200 million into a reorganized American Apparel, however. Chief Executive Paula Schneider told the Times: "We will continue to manufacture in America. That's what the brand is. That's what it's about." (Brandon Weigel)

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