Thursday. 16/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Shock tactics

Here’s a case study for my fellow journalists. The scenario: US actor Vince Vaughn was spotted shaking Donald Trump’s hand at a college American football game on Monday (pictured). I offer you two ensuing headlines. From The Guardian: “Uproar after Vince Vaughn shakes Trump’s hand at football game.” And from Vox Media: “Fox News goes to desperate lengths to gin up outrage over clip of Vince Vaughn chatting with Trump.”

Now, it’s true that Fox News is in another league when it comes to “ginning up” outrage – of the Vaughn-Trump exchange, one of its commentators said, “Democrats seem to be more upset at this exchange than they do over Suleimani killing American citizens.” But I would like to focus on The Guardian and Vox. This is a perfect example of why you should be, well, outraged over the media’s coverage of outrage.

There are two problems here. First: many journalists are over-reliant on Twitter. Type in Vince Vaughn and Trump and you’re likely to find someone somewhere sharing their indignation over the encounter. Frankly, it’s lazy reporting. Second: some outlets have become obsessed with writing about “backlash”, “uproar” and “feuds” (though perhaps this is because readers seem to love this kind of thing). Another such Guardian headline from this week: “Stephen King faces backlash over comments on Oscars diversity.”

I don’t mean to suggest that we should never be outraged but, as journalists, we need higher standards. It’s easy to write a kneejerk reaction about “uproar”; it’s far harder to explain the reasons behind it. Take Stephen King. In response to this week’s Academy Award nominations, he wrote that he would “never consider diversity” when it comes to matters of art. He might be wrong but does his view not merit exploration? Personally, I’d rather read an article about why he’s wrong – or right – than the fact that his comment prompted a “backlash”. We deserve better.

Business / Davos

Reaching the summit

Five hundred helicopters? That’s the number set to hover above Davos as 2,500 delegates flood into the Swiss skiing resort for the 50th-anniversary gathering of the World Economic Forum next week. In our fourth, and final, edition of this season’s Winter Weekly – on sale today – we look at the logistical complexities of hosting such a massive event in the mountains and interview past participants for advice on how to blend into the crowd (one recurring suggestion: wear warm and non-slippery shoes). We’ve also provided a rundown of the week’s best events and collected 50 bold ideas for Davos bigwigs to consider, including former Australian PM Kevin Rudd’s suggestion of a climate fund as ambitious as the moon landing. Order a copy today – and be inspired to think like a powerbroker.

Society / Japan

Daddy’s home (briefly)

Japanese workers are entitled to take up to one year of paternity leave but few do. Yesterday the country’s 38-year-old environment minister, Shinjirō Koizumi, set an example: he announced that he will be taking two weeks off to help look after his first child, whose birth is expected later this month. For Koizumi (pictured), who was appointed to his post last September and is often talked about as a future prime minister, it’s a bold political gesture – and a much-needed boost to government efforts to encourage the younger generation to find a balance between time spent at work and home.

According to government statistics released last year, a mere 6 per cent of new fathers take paternity leave (civil servants are slightly more likely than private-sector workers to do so). Koizumi isn’t planning to stay away from the office for a straight two weeks: he will spread out the leave over three months, working part of the time from home. Such a move might seem a small step for the west but it’s a giant leap in Japan.

Transport / USA

Buses on demand

Sacramento is now home to the largest on-demand public transit system in the US. Dubbed Smart Ride, the shuttle-bus programme takes notes from both ride-hailing apps and public transit: passengers use their smartphones to hail a bus to a nearby pick-up location before being dropped off in the general vicinity of their destination. It’s hoped that Smart Ride’s 42 buses will achieve the convenience of a taxi, while efficiently packing multiple people into a single vehicle free from the rigidity of fixed routes or schedules. Smart Ride was launched in 2018 by Sacramento Regional Transit but has recently partnered with transport firm Via to expand the system from three to nine service areas within the Californian city. With ride-hailing apps such as Lyft and Uber clogging cities by putting more cars on the road, we’ll be watching to see whether a micro-transit system like Smart Ride offers a way forward.

Culture / Brazil

Keep the ball rolling

Rio de Janeiro’s famed carnival celebrations begin this week and will last for longer than usual this year after city hall decided to extend the event to 50 days; more than double that of last year. Though described by some as a cynical marketing ploy to attract tourists, the decision is motivated by a desire for Rio to keep its groove following the resurgence of carnival “block” parties in other Brazilian cities. The Rio extravaganza is expected to bring in 20 per cent more tourists this year and other cities are hoping for good numbers at their own carnivals as well. São Paulo, for example, will host a record 865 street parties this year, while the number of pre-carnival parties is also booming. It seems that even with a weakening national economy, Brazil’s carnival credentials are as strong as ever.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

What is Russia really doing in Libya?

Vladimir Putin might be better known for starting disputes than trying to solve them. But he has displayed an uncharacteristic interest in bringing the civil war plaguing Libya to an end. Why?

Film / Finland

Icebreakers: life on board

Many seamen see icebreaking as a career pinnacle. We peek into the snug cabins, well-kitted kitchen and memorabilia-filled gym to see what serving on icebreaker ‘Kontio’ is really like.

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