I’m Slate’s news editor, a job that involves running the home page and planning other editorial stuff. My seven-year tenure at Slate is neither long nor short. Slate is my third job in journalism, and online publishing is my third medium; I started in newspapers and did a stint at a print magazine.
It was a good week for Slate but not a great week for Slate’s home page. If you usually visit the home page a few times a day (and you do, don’t you?), you might have noticed something strange on Tuesday. The articles prominently featured in the morning continued to reappear there throughout the day, long after we had published more exciting coverage about the Emmys, Ferguson, and airline legroom. This was the result of a publishing bug that frustrated us all day and into the next morning, when we finally were able to squash it and take back full control. It was a home page editor’s worst nightmare—if only because there was so much terrific new content that I could not showcase for our readers. Fortunately, today I get another opportunity to do so.
Slate this week featured a bunch of pieces that succeeded in what we do best: challenge conventional wisdom and change the way you think about some of the biggest topics in the news. First up was Felix Salmon, who on Monday pointed out why the Ice Bucket Challenge is such a misguided stunt. His argument is brave because it makes him seem like a heartless bastard. But give Salmon a chance, and you see where he’s coming from: Focusing too much on raising funds specifically for ALS research actually robs other, more effective charities of money that could be helping—and possibly saving—people’s lives right now.
Jamelle Bouie adroitly dominated our coverage of Ferguson the past two weeks, and yet he still had one more thought he had to get out of his system. In this piece he explored why President Obama has been mum on Michael Brown’s death, especially compared with his strong remarks on Trayvon Martin’s death. Read to the end to understand why this shouldn’t cause us to be disappointed in the president.
Another piece that made me stop and reconsider a stance I held: Fred Kaplan’s Wednesday column warned us that the U.S. should not attempt to confront ISIS by launching airstrikes in Syria, which I had assumed made a lot of strategic sense. Check out his smart insights into why this would be a huge mistake and why Syria’s neighbors prefer to let the country remain “a cauldron of chaos.”
Among the other news topics we covered, one was a surprise. When’s the last time you read anything about the years-long legal case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind who continues to rot away in Guantánamo without a trial in sight? The procedural crawl of the case doesn’t make for interesting news, but Slate stumbled onto a fascinating and underreported development: the story of an Army JAG, Maj. James Wright, who has worked on KSM’s defense team for nearly three years. The Army has abruptly pulled him from the case, ostensibly for an obscure, bureaucratic reason that makes no sense. Wright decided simply to quit the Army instead of following the order.
On the lighter side, this week brought a new installment in Slate’s cool series of state-pride maps: The United Sweets of America. My home state, Nebraska, got to claim the popcorn ball—a fair choice even if it wasn’t among the first desserts to come to mind. (Those would be the snickerdoodle or Jell-O salad.)
Although I’m not a big sports fan, I highly enjoyed Josh Keefe’s convincingly thorough, humble confession on why he believes he was the worst high school quarterback of all time.
I generally appreciate all the photo essays we run in Behold, but one stood out to me after Behold editor Miriam Krule wanted input on the headline, which she pronounced “too creepy.” It was “The Quiet Vulnerability of Children at the Bus Stop.” After spending a few minutes transfixed by these images, I snapped out of it to realize the headline was actually perfect as written. It describes the kind of incongruous, high-minded concept that photographers often aspire to but rarely achieve. Photographer Greg Miller, however, nailed this mysterious idea. I instantly connected with the subjects—not because I ever waited for a school bus as a child, but because I’m about to become a father, and I currently am attuned to children in a way I haven’t been since I was a child.
On a final note, I’m excited about my colleagues hitting the road for a couple of live Gabfest shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, including the Superfest West, which will pit the Culture Gabfest against the Political Gabfest. I predict the showdown will be so heated, none of the contestants will be left standing.
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Correction, Aug. 29, 2014: This article originally stated that the live Gabfest shows are in Los Angeles. One is in Los Angeles and one is in San Francisco.