paper trail

Robot writers at the AP; Ireland's first fiction laureate

John Leggett, who directed the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for sixteen years (1971 to 1987), has died at the age of ninety-seven. Among the students he admitted during his long tenure at the program were T. C. Boyle, Michael Cunningham, Denis Johnson, and Jane Smiley.

The director of news at Al Jazeera English, Salah Negm, says he welcomes the recent leaks about the organization’s coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attack. “I would like to state that our style guide and our editorial discussion is no secret,” he wrote in an email to the staff. “These so called ‘leaks’ don’t in my opinion prove anything sinister within the newsrooms of Al Jazeera Media Network.”

The cover story of the New Republic’s first issue post-staff-exodus is about the magazine’s history in terms of race. “How can this magazine,” Jeet Heer asks, “come to terms with a blighted legacy on race and transcend it?” He answers with a survey of the magazine’s achievements and missteps, explaining that “any reformation program should start by honestly acknowledging the past.” The overview, predictably, is heavily apologetic about the magazine's distant wrongs and rather less self-critical about its more recent doings.

We noted a while back that plans were in the work for the Associated Press to begin publishing articles written by robots. That dystopic eventuality has arrived. In place of a byline, a line at the bottom of the articles reads “This story was generated by Automated Insights." The AP assures everyone that the system is logging fewer errors than the humans who used to do the job, and says that no one has been fired to make place for a robot. Instead, writers will be more free to do the interesting rather than the tedious stuff: "That's the goal,” says the assistant business editor who was in charge of putting the system in place, “to write smarter pieces."

Eugene O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh is soon the cometh to BAM. According to the Wall Street Journal, Nathan gives “a performance that will stay with you for as long as you live.” Read: The play is almost five hours long. In the LRB, read John Lahr on the “melancholy core” in O'Neill's work.

Anne Enright is Ireland's first fiction laureate, a position that comes with a €150,000 award. Colm Tóibín, due to his previous involvement with the Art Council of Ireland, chose to withdraw himself from the running.