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I reported the news in print and online. Here’s the difference.

Former NYTimes executive editor Jill Abramson dissects the big problem with internet news.

JILL ABRAMSON: The expectation of really all people now is that they're going to know what happened the instant it happens. And that's great when the information is accurate. I think the downside of just so many stories circulating at any given microsecond is that people feel somewhat overwhelmed by news and it's hard to focus your attention on what stories are most important when they're exploding at you.

Usually now reporters break their stories on Twitter before they've even written a finished story. First, that nuance and perspective and analysis can be completely lost in that first quick and dirty version. But worse, there can be big factual mistakes which has contributed to the very low trust numbers that all news media companies have right now, which is very distressing to me because it opens the door for President Trump to rant about fake news and call journalists the enemies of the people, when they're like the heroes of the people, because they risk their lives to dig out the information that is vital for people to know. When I started as a reporter, in the Stone Age of course, the newsroom was I always thought it would be like Jimmy Olsen and Superman, and that you'd hear typewriters clacking and people shouting. And I was surprised at how quiet at least the Wall Street Journal's newsroom in Washington was. And there was no internet at that point. And the rhythm of the day was usually in the morning and through the afternoon, you were out reporting. You were finding sources, going to hearings, meeting secretly with people who might give you documents. And really you only got around to writing your story at about 6:00 PM. And the deadline, you could set your watch by it every night, was around 9:00 because the rhythm of newspapering was completely governed by when the presses rolled. And they only rolled once a day unless the Earth blew up and then you stop the presses and replayed it. But it was a slow pace. And the Journal, when I joined up, didn't even have a weekend paper. So Friday, it was really an easy day because the next paper was Monday.

And that all changed in the late 1990s with the advent of the internet. And the Wall Street Journal was one of the first newspapers to create an online version of itself. And that meant that the printing presses didn't figure into when your story went up. Although in the early years, it was ridiculous, it was true at The Times, too – we maintained that same schedule of just doing one final story a day at night and then having it posted on the web, for years. But the advent of social media completely changed that. And what had become a much faster pace where at The Times we were posting early versions of any important story on NYTimes.com. And with social media it was the instantaneous report. Like, get something up on social media to begin attracting the eyeballs before you even have a story up on the website. That began to actually scare me when I became Washington bureau chief of The Times, and the Supreme Court had just – it was night time – decided Bush v Gore decided what would happen next, if anything, and who would be president. And the instant TV analysis on CNN and other cable outlets was wrong. And Linda Greenhouse, she was The Times' totally experienced, brilliant Supreme Court reporter, rushed back to the office. She had read the decision in a cab. And the first thing she said to us when she arrived was, turn off the TV. Because she knew they were blathering idiocy. And then she told us, it was over. Bush won.

And that night so stuck in my mind. And roll the cameras forward to the decision on Obamacare, when I was executive editor. I wasn't calling the Washington bureau to say: 'Have that story first. The second there is a decision, I want it up." I was worried about the opposite. I was worried about a repeat of that Bush v Gore night. And my instructions were: Until the Supreme Court reporter and the Washington bureau chief call me and say they're sure and it was, you remember, a close decision we are not putting anything up. And if quite a bit of time goes by, we'll clue in readers that we're reporting the story for them. But we're not going to do a quick draw McGraw.

  • Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, describes what life was like for a journalist in the 1980s – a "stone age" when news was governed by the printing press schedule.
  • Today, many journalists will break stories on Twitter before writing it, eliminating nuance and increasing the chance of error.
  • Social media in particular has added a fatal speed to journalism. Errors erode public trust in the media, and allow those in power to undermine the free press.


Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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How to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone

Unless you plan to try again in 6,800 years, this week is your shot.

Image source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Comet NEOWISE will be most visible in the U.S. during the evenings from July 14-19, 2020.
  • After July 23rd, NEOWISE will be visible only through good binoculars and telescopes.
  • Look in the northwestern sky below the Big Dipper after dusk while there's a chance.

UPDATE: NASA is broadcasting a NASA Science Live episode highlighting Comet NEOWISE. NASA experts will discuss and answer public questions beginning at 3PM EST on Wednesday, July 15. Tune in via the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, Twitch, or USTREAM.

Before last evening, July 14, 2020, the easiest way to see Comet NEOWISE — the brightest comet to zoom past Earth since 1977's Comet Hale-Bopp — from the United States was to catch it about an hour before sunrise. Now, however, you can see it in the evening, where it will remain for until the 19th. This is a definite don't-miss event — NEOWISE won't be coming back our way for another 6,800 years. It's the first major comet of the millennium, and by all accounts, it's unforgettable.

NEOWISE just got back from the Sun

Comet NEOWISE is named after the NASA infrared space telescope that first spotted it on March 27th. Its official moniker is C/2020 F3. It's estimated that the icy comet is about three miles across, not counting its tail.

NEOWISE is now heading away from our Sun, having made it closet approach, 27.4 million miles, to our star on July 3. The heat from that encounter is what's given NEOWISE its tail: It caused gas and dust to be released from the icy object, creating the tail of debris that looks so magical from here.

As NEOWISE moves closer to Earth, paradoxically, it will be less and less visible. By about July 23rd, you'll need binoculars or a telescope to see it at all. All of which makes this week prime time.

An evening delight

star constellation in sky

Image source: Allexxandar/Shutterstock/Big Think

First, find an unobstructed view of the northwest sky, free of streetlights, car headlights, apartment lights, and so on. And then, according to Sky & Telescope:

"Start looking about one hour after sunset, when you'll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness."

It should be easy to spot since it's near to one of the most recognizable constellations up there, the Big Dipper. "Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to the right." Et voilà: Comet NEOWISE.

Says Sky & Telescope's Diana Hannikainen, "Look for a faint, fuzzy little 'star' with a fainter, fuzzier little tail extending upward from it."

The comet should be visible with the naked eye, though binoculars and a simple telescope may reveal more detail.

You may also be able to snap a photo of this special visitor, though you'll need the right gear to do so. A dedicated camera is more likely to capture a good shot than a telephone, but in either case, you'll need a tripod or some other means of holding the camera dead still as it takes a timed exposure of several seconds (not all phones can do this).

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