Regarding Donald Trump’s comments on libel law →

Hadas Gold at Politico, quoting Donald Trump:

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”

While shield laws are designed to give reporters the right to refuse to give up their sources, journalists aren’t immune to being charged with libel.

Trump says that big newspapers are allowed to do what they want because they are “completely protected,” but that’s just not true. Proving libel, however, is difficult. According to the Associated Press Stylebook, a plaintiff must be able to prove these five things:

  • A defamatory statement was made.
  • The defamatory statement is a matter of fact, not opinion.
  • The defamatory statement is false.
  • The defamatory statement is about (“of and concerning”) the plaintiff.
  • The defamatory statement was published with the requisite degree of “fault.”

The “actual malice” clause is often cited in libel cases, but the term is a little tricky. The thought is that if a reporter or organization published something with the knowledge that it was indeed false, it was done so with “actual malice.”

Trump claims that these newspapers are publishing “false articles,” but if the articles are factual, and merely contain content that he finds displeasing, it’s not libel.

Reporters are allowed to comment with opinion. Again, from the AP Stylebook:

The right of fair comment has been summarized as follows: “Everyone has a right to comment on matters of public interest and concern, provided they do so fairly and with an honest purpose. Such comments or criticism are not libelous, however severe in their terms, unless they are written maliciously. Thus it has been held that books, prints, pictures and statuary publicly exhibited, and the architecture of public buildings, and actors and exhibitors are all the legitimate subjects of newspapers’ criticism, and such criticism fairly and honestly made is not libelous, however strong the terms of censure may be.” (Hoeppner v. Dunkirk Pr. Co., 1930.)

Accurate reporting, no matter how distasteful it may feel to certain people, is a critical part of our democracy. The fact that a leading Presidential candidate wants to upset the balance is worrisome.

However, as with a lot of his comment, Trump is speaking to something that a President can’t actually control. Not only is Congress the branch of government in charge of laws, there are no federal libel laws. Libel is defined differently, state-to-state.

Loosening these laws is a troubling thought. Donald Trump can surely outgun just about any media organization on the planet when it comes to funding legal fights. The implication that he’d try to bend legislation for personal gain shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it is terrifying.

Tribune publisher: the kids will come around to newspapers →

Lynne Marek, writing about an interview with Chicago Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Griffin:

Holding the paper up, he said: “I could be wrong, but I don’t think that this entirely goes away. I think there’s enough about it—the experience that’s sufficiently different with both the advertising and the editorial. I mean, how do you do that online?” He answers his own question later: “That’s really hard to do online or on a phone.”


He said he expects young people, like his 20-something sons, will continue to gravitate to newspapers, even print editions. As they move into adulthood and begin to care more about settling into a community, they’ll turn to a newspaper, as generations of Americans before them have, he predicts.

As Re/code points out, The Chicago Tribune’s stock has lost half of its value in the last six months, and is about to enter a round of layoffs.

But yeah, print media is totally fine. Nothing to worry about here.

On ad blocking →

The results of The Verge’s reader poll on ad blockers is rather amusing.

Also, I tried reading this but then my head exploded.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ad blockers, and while my feelings are conflicted, I will say this: I’m glad that my sidebar ad is such a small percentage of my income — compared to the native advertising on this site and in my podcasts — that if you block it, it won’t make a big difference in my checkbook each month. I wouldn’t want to be a tech publication built on display ads with a poll running like The Verge’s.

Viticci’s iOS 9 review →

Federico Viticci:

In many cultures, the number “10” evokes a sense of growth and accomplishment, a complete circle that starts anew, both similar and different from what came before. In Apple’s case, the company has a sweet spot for the 10 numerology: Mac OS was reborn under the X banner, and it gained a second life once another 10 was in sight.

What happens before a dramatic change is particularly interesting to observe. With the major milestone of iOS 10 on track for next year, what does iOS 9 say about Apple’s relationship with its mobile OS today?

After two years of visual and functional changes, is iOS 9 a calm moment of introspection or a hazardous leap toward new technologies?

Can it be both?

I’m going to pay Ticci the highest nerd-journalism compliment I can: this iOS review is Siracusian not only in length, but in detail, care and humor. Go read this.

Club MacStories →

My good friend Federico Viticci has just announced something pretty great:

Since 2009, MacStories has delivered quality articles for the Apple community with a focus on depth, accuracy, and personal stories. We’ve written thousands of detailed app reviews. We’ve covered news with facts and opinions. We’ve shared stories on how technology is changing our lives.

Now, we’re ready for the next step. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce Club MacStories.

Club MacStories isn’t a paywall; it is a way to support Ticci and his team and gain access to extra content. I know they’ve been working on this for a long time, and I think they’ve nailed what a membership model should look like. I signed up instantly.

A year of Six Colors →

Jason Snell:

It’s a big week this week. In many ways, the biggest week on the Apple calendar, with the annual fall iPhone event scheduled for Wednesday.

For me it’s a milestone in a few other ways, too. This week marks a year since I left IDG, and it’s also week 52 of the existence of this site. Next week will be the first anniversary of Six Colors.

Jason is working on ways for “readers the ability to support the site,” which is great. I can’t wait to pitch in to help support one of my favorite sites.

Vox Media acquiring Re/code →

Sydney Ember at The New York Times, with some big news in the tech journalism world:

ReCode, the news website led by the veteran journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, is being acquired by Vox Media, a deal that reflects the turmoil among digital organizations focused on covering the tech industry.

The all-stock deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, would give ReCode access to a wider audience, something it has struggled to build since Mr. Mossberg and Ms. Swisher split off from The Wall Street Journal about a year and a half ago. Both plan to stay with ReCode after the merger.

Here’s a bit from the announcement post on Re/code:

We plan as well to collaborate where appropriate with Vox Media’s current and very successful tech news site, The Verge. While the two sites occasionally overlap, we have focused on the business of tech, while The Verge has focused on covering tech from a lifestyle perspective.

Makes sense to me.

On Verizon’s acquisition of AOL 

This morning, news broke that Verizon is purchasing AOL. Here’s Peter Kafka:

Earlier this year, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said there was no truth to reports that he was selling his company to Verizon. It’s a different story now: The telco is buying the Internet publisher and subscription service for $4.4 billion.

Verizon, which will pay $50 a share for AOL, says the deal will help its “wireless video and OTT (over-the-top video) strategy.” Verizon says the transaction should close this summer.

Armstrong, who left the top sales job at Google to run AOL in 2009, will stay on to run the business after the deal closes, Verizon says.

$4.4 billion for video advertising tech seems … bold. Clearly Verizon is trying to generate income in markets beyond the ones it exists in as an ISP.

Honestly, I don’t care to much about this. I’ve been a paying Verizon customer for years, and while all ISPs are creepy, I can deal with Verizon’s shenanigans.

However, what AOL is best know for, at least in our circles, are properties like Autoblog, TUAW, TechCrunch and Engadget. That’s where this purchase gets interesting, and possibly troubling.

I’ve gotten to know several people at these sites over the years, and they are all good people. My concerns aren’t with the people reporting, but with the business situation these properties have been thrusted into with this acquisition.

While it has since shuttered the site, Verizon made headlines last year trying to blur the lines between tech coverage and corporate messaging.

As I wrote then, there’s a clear difference between running ads to pay for content and having news be shaped by a parent organization.

Of course, having corporate ownership isn’t anything new. In his editorial about the purchase, Verge boss Nilay Patel writes:

Full disclosure: I used to work at Engadget, as did many of The Verge’s founders; we left AOL to start this site. I never felt any editorial pressure at AOL, but huge corporate news like this would frequently leave us spinning without real answers for months at a time. And Comcast Ventures is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company, but it should be abundantly clear that we have complete editorial independence from that relationship.

However, it’s possible that these blogs don’t end up as part of Verizon’s empire. Here’s Kafka again:

One scenario we’ve heard is that Verizon intends to spin out some or all of its content operations, like HuffPo, with a third partner, perhaps German publisher Axel Springer.

In an interview with Re/code, Armstrong didn’t address that scenario directly, though he seemed to leave the door open. “We’ve spoken to partners about content and scaling,” he said. “Obviously we’ve seen a lot of interest in the content brands we have. So over the course of the summer, stay tuned.”

Kara Swisher reports that the Huffington Post at least may be spun off as part of the deal.

Late today, Tim Armstrong spoke on this very topic:

TechCrunch is not getting sold off. There will be editorial independence. And from a distribution and resource standpoint, it’s probably the most exciting deal we could have done.

The interview this is pulled from is an interesting look at the acquisition, but I’m sure it won’t be the last word on the marriage of Verizon and AOL. This one will be interesting to watch for a while.

Apple updates its App Store Marketing Guidelines →

Apple has updated its guidelines for marketing App Store apps. There are some real gems concerning Apple Watch:

  • Always use the name Apple Watch in singular form. Do not use plural form. Do not make Apple Watch possessive. Never say Apple Watches or Apple Watch’s. Modifiers such as model, device, or collection can be plural or possessive.
  • Do not use the article the before Apple Watch.
  • When referring to Apple Watch collections, use the terms Apple Watch collection, Apple Watch Sport collection, and Apple Watch Edition collection. After the first mention of a collection in copy, subsequent references can say simply Sport collection or Edition collection.
  • Custom photography and video of Apple Watch are not permitted.

Apple Watch is awkward to talk about, much less write about. Apple’s removal of articles before their product names isn’t anything new, but the whole collection business is a new world of hurt.