paper trail

What are reporters learning in Ferguson?

Justin Torres

Journalists in Ferguson are “learning as they go,” writes Paul Farhi for the Washington Post: “It’s not just the rioters you have to worry about, say reporters; the authorities can be difficult—and dangerous—too.” You don’t say! Something Farhi might consider learning himself is not to use the term “rioters” to describe impassioned protesters facing a hostile police force. As one of Farhi's own sources, Wesley Lowery, points out, during “ninety percent” of the time he has spent in Ferguson, the threat has been not from protesters but from the police.

Facebook has been fairly useless for following Ferguson news, in spite of having five times as many users as Twitter. This is partly because Facebook is bad for getting news, period. Does it face a “moral imperative” to change that? At Poynter, Sam Kirkland describes the possible “Facebookification” of Twitter and the possible “Twitterfication” of Facebook.

Speaking of Twitter: Paper Trail has been following Sheila Heti’s Twitter series at the Believer Logger since it began. In the final installment, Heti interviews Kenneth Goldsmith, founder of UbuWeb. “Twitter is not art,” Goldsmith says. “But it inspires me in the way that art used to inspire me. Art used to make me see the world differently, think about things in a new way—it rarely does that for me anymore, but technology does that for me on a daily basis.”

NPR’s Lynn Neary talks to Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers Workshop, about the challenges faced by students of color in MFA programs. Chang, herself a graduate of Iowa, has worked to attract a diverse student body. Among the students she has brought is Justin Torres, whose novel We the Animals came out in 2011 (reviewing it for Bookforum, Andrew Martin called the book “carefully carved”). Torres persuaded a friend to accompany him to Iowa when he moved. “Sometimes it's just exhausting if you're going to go into a class of middle-class, straight, white people,” he told Neary. “You're just automatically that 'other.' "

The entire Loeb Classical Library—those books with the unchanging attractive green or red spines—will be available online come fall. The print books will remain. (Harvard University Press wants to avoid making anyone feel that the hardcover books are “obsolete”: they’re going to revise both print and online works “in tandem,” the series’ editor said.)

In the Times’s “Bookends” feature, Zoe Heller and Rivka Galchen answer the question of whether they think writing can be taught. The obvious answer, for both, is yes. We don’t consider science impossible to teach, Galchen says, yet great scientists were no more taught their genius than great writers. But this doesn’t mean instruction isn’t necessary. “In most every intellectual endeavor, the extremes of its work come from an unteachable dark. A discipline like mathematics, known especially for its young prodigies who have less to offer as they get older, seems more dominated by the dark than writing does, yet there’s still a substantial teachable remainder.”