When ‘resolution’ is both a beginning and an end

timessquare

(image: TimesSquareNYC.org)

Amid heightened security in Times Square an estimated one million people armed with selfie sticks stood in freezing temperatures and avoided going to the bathroom for hours to watch a ball drop. Today was the 110th anniversary of the first formal New Year’s Eve celebration in the square. 1904 was also the same year the city renamed the location Times Square. The New York Times moved into its eponymous headquarters building the following year.

Elsewhere, other things were dropped on the stroke of midnight, from a giant crab to a live possum.

For many, tonight was the party of the year around the world. In London, watching the fireworks by the banks of the Thames was by ticket only for the first time, with Mayor Boris Johnson’s office tweeting: “If you don’t have a ticket, the best place to watch the #londonnye fireworks will be live on the BBC.”

Sadly, a stampede during a new year’s eve celebration in Shanghai killed at least 35 people and injured many more.

As for what we can expect from the next twelve months, The Telegraph thinks 2015 will be the year of the apology, Bloomberg the year of the Putin dictatorship, and for Forbes it’s the year of the enterprise selfie.

The winner, though, is The Guardian’s Random Prediction Bot.

Venture Capitalists tell TechCrunch what’s in store for the new year, Forbes predicts the economy, Goldman Sachs predicts the economy,  MarketWatch predicts the economy, Businessweek predicts the economy, while the Huffington Post predicts that most predictions will suck.

Business Insider looks at some big geopolitical events on the radar, while in looking forward, The Atlantic looks back at what US intelligence thought 2015 would be like in 2000.

There’s a raft of new year’s honorees, including a knighthood for the scientist who developed Viagra, presumably so the Queen can say “Arise, Sir Simon.”

The new year seems to bring a threefer in Chinese New Years, being one or all of the Sheep (green/wooden or otherwise), Goat or Ram. They all arrive on February 19.

The new Star Wars is the most anticipated movie of 2015, which of course was the setting for Back To The Future II, an auspicious omen for fans of hoverboards and the Chicago Cubs, who coincidentally recently appointed Emmett “Doc” Brown as their new manager.

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(image: Fox Chicago)

* WORLD * Perhaps encouraged by a heightened global profile thanks to The Interview, Kim Jong Un may be open to a summit with the South, the North Korean leader said in his New Year address. Seoul had proposed re-starting a dialogue earlier this week.

* BUSINESS * Talking of The Interview and the unprecedented weirdness surrounding the recent Sony hack, latest speculation is it may be the work of a former employee, while others are less convinced.

* MEDIA * Here’s the most popular British newspaper front pages of 2014, via BuzzFeed. Hopefully the Beeb’s Nick Sutton and Neil Henderson – on whose #tomorrowspaperstoday tweets the list is based – will continue their outstanding work in the coming year.

* SPORTS * Well, there’s a surprise. Looks like Frank Lampard won’t be starting New York City FC’s inaugural season stateside after all, after Manchester City extended his contract with the Premier League champions until the end of the English season. NY fans, predictably, aren’t happy.

Wherever you are, have a safe, peaceful and joyous 2015.

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A ‘year of the unthinkable’

Tomorrow is the last day of 2014. The year was, by turn, “turbulent”, a year of “tragedy, crises and hope”, a “year of mysteries” the “year of the unthinkable”, and of course, a “delectably good year for sleaze“.

You can have your year in search,  in headlines (in video), in tech, in pictures, in fast facts, in seven addresses or even in wrestling.

Some hugely talented people left us: musicians, actors and notable entertainers, as well as other icons, legends and stars.

But after all the reviews, analyses, photo-galleries, critiques, and head-scratching about the past year, lets just leave it to John Oliver to sum up.

 

Finally, it would, of course, fall to the very end of the year to offer a story so heartbreaking it almost defies the telling. But perhaps the saddest thing of all is that it will, without a shadow of a doubt, be far from the last story of its type.

 

 

‘My heart is filled with sadness..’

As the search for the missing Air Asia airliner entered a third day, there are reports of multiple items of debris spotted in the Java Sea which officials say they are “95% sure” came from the plane.

“My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501,” AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted.

Speculation continues over what happened to the Airbus 320 and the role of adverse weather conditions at the time.

Meanwhile, another air drama unfolded on Monday as a Virgin Atlantic 747, VS43 to Las Vegas, was forced to turn back to London Gatwick following a landing gear issue, thankfully touching down safely.

One of the passengers shot video of the landing, while the immediacy of the spread of news events like this – that in a pre-social media world we might barely hear of – was illustrated by how news organizations were able to build stories from passenger tweets, and also by this picture by Hugh Whitfield, which was subsequently picked up by the Metro.

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(image: Hugh Whitfield)

* POLITICS *  As the US Congress prepares to resume in the new year under Republican control, House speaker John Boehner is likely relieved that he won’t have to worry whether or not NY Rep Michael Grimm should serve following his guilty plea last week ago to tax evasion charges. The New York Daily News reported that the Staten Island congressman will announce his resignation tomorrow or Wednesday.

Now Boehner’s attention can turn to Louisiana Rep Steve Scalise, after it emerged at the weekend that Scalise had addressed a white supremacist group’s conference before being elected to congress.

On the Democratic side, former Sen Jim Webb of Virginia has been mentioned as a potential 2016 challenger to the seemingly unstoppable Hillary Clinton (who again topped Gallup’s list of most admired women) but a story tonight at Business Insider leaves Webb with some questions to answer about his use of PAC money.

One year into the De Blasio administration tensions between the New York Mayor and elements within the NYPD show little sign of easing. De Blasio’s address to a graduating class of recruits today drew some boos. He is set to meet with police unions tomorrow as the city prepares for the funeral of Officer Wenjian Liu on Sunday.

At the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos this past weekend, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton – described by the New York Times as “an exemplary public servant and stout De Blasio ally – said:

“The police, the people who are angry at the police, the people who support us but want us to be better, even a madman who assassinated two men because all he could see was two uniforms, even though they were so much more. We don’t see each other. If we can learn to see each other, to see that our cops are people like Officer Ramos and Officer Liu, to see that our communities are filled with people just like them, too. If we can learn to see each other, then when we see each other, we’ll heal. We’ll heal as a department. We’ll heal as a city. We’ll heal as a country.”

* WORLD * The health worker who was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Scotland from Sierra Leone is being transferred to a specialist unit in London.

After failing to agree on a continuation of economic austerity measures, Greece will hold a snap election next month which will have broad implications for the rest of the EuroZone. The election is set for January 25.

The Telegraph has a review of its world news stories of the year here.

* BUSINESS*  Shake Shack filed for an IPO which could value Restaurateur Danny Meyer’s burger chain at anything up to $1bn. Slate has some “tasty tidbits” from the filing, while Fortune serves up 7 things to know before biting.

The FT takes a look at some of the most significant disruptors over the past year. Also worth a read is the paper’s rundown of its top stories of 2014.

* SPORT * Black Monday marks the end of the NFL’s regular season with shake-ups in coaching and managerial positions across the league. One ongoing situation was resolved, however, the Detroit News reporting that Jim Harbaugh had signed a contract to take the reins at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, with the aim of reviving fortunes as its third head coach since 2008. The News reports that Harbaugh will be introduced at a press conference on Tuesday.

* MEDIA * Facebook apologized for what one user called the “algorithmic cruelty” in its year in review feature.

Tumblr CEO David Karp tells the BBC why it is the “most expressive social platform.”

Muckrack’s year-end social journalism report has some interesting numbers on Twitter engagement by news orgs and individuals.

Finally, today marked one year since Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste  and colleagues Mohamed Famy and Baher Mohamed were jailed in Egypt.

Journalists around the world, including CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter (below) showed solidarity using the hashtag #FreeAJStaff.

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ABC Australia reports that Greste’s hopes of release now rest on an appeal to be heard on New Year’s Day.

 

New York prepares for slain officer’s funeral

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(image: AP)

Thousands of mourners including police officers from across the country are expected to attend the funeral on Saturday of Rafael Ramos, one of the two NYPD officers shot and killed in Brooklyn on December 20. Ramos’ wake was held on Friday in Queens. Funeral arrangements for the other murdered officer, Wenjian Liu, will be finalized when his family members arrive from China. Both mens’ families have seen an outpouring of sympathy and support from New Yorkers, while the relationship between current and former police officers and Mayor Bill de Blasio has become increasingly strained in the wake of the shootings.

* WORLD * Further exchanges of prisoners between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels could happen in coming days after Friday saw the biggest swap of captives since the conflict began. Meanwhile, the Russian economy looks to be heading for a tough year ahead, hit by low oil prices. Vladimir Putin announced that government officials’ new year holiday had been cancelled.

Pakistan said its forces had killed the Taliban leader who allegedly masterminded the attack on a Peshawar school this month in which more than 130 children died.

North Korea blamed the US for widespread internet outages over the past week amid the fallout over the Sony hack and release of The Interview movie.

* POLITICS * Martin O’Malley is taking a “wait-and-see” approach to a possible presidential bid, the Washington Post reports, as the Maryland Governor plans for life after leaving office next month. The paper also offers a primer to the next few potentially crucial months on the road to the White House.

The Huffington Post offers 10 of the Best political Quotes of the Year while NOLA.com looks at the biggest campaign donors of the year, locally and nationally.

Former President George H. W. Bush remains hospitalized in Texas for a fourth night.

* MEDIA * Egypt joined Morocco in banning the Ridley Scott movie Exodus: Gods and Kings over what officials called “historical inaccuracies.”

Here’s the Columbia Journalism Review’s most-read stories of 2014, while the Online Journalism Blog looks back at this year and ahead to next. Poynter.org lists the digital tools journalists should have been using in 2014.

Hardworking BBC staff celebrated the Christmas season on-air and in a Vine by journalist Mike Hills that quickly went viral.

* BUSINESS * 2014 was a bumper year for IPOs, with a total of 1,205 raising $258bn globally, according to the FT. Reuters asked some investment strategists what to watch for  next year.

* SPORTS * San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is reportedly to meet this weekend with officials from his alma mater at the University of Michigan as speculation continues that he may return to Ann Arbor as coach.

95 years ago today, the New York Yankees purchased the contract of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox and a “curse” was born.

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The previous year, Ruth had signed a new contract with the Red Sox, and his personal copy of that agreement was sold at auction earlier this year for more than a million dollars, making it the most expensive item of sports memorabilia sold in 2014.

* CULTURE * In what resembles a tale from a convoluted libretto, the New York City Opera, which filed for bankruptcy and staged its last production in 2013, looks set to be at the center of a legal battle in coming weeks over its name and other assets.

You can stream WNYC’s Soundcheck’s 120 favorite songs of 2014 here.

Finally, check out these curious predictions for the future from 1930, via BBC Magazine.

‘Truly, there are so many tears this Christmas’

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(image: National News Bureau of Thailand)

Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 225,000 people and left millions homeless across 14 countries. Memorials are planned throughout the region. The Bangkok Post has a live round-up of events here. The AP gathers some reminiscences by its journalists who covered the story, while the  BBC has images of how the areas devastated in the wake of the 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tidal wave have regenerated over the past decade.

* WORLD * In Malaysia, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated amid the country’s worst storms and monsoon flooding for decades. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Razak has come in for criticism for playing golf with President Barack Obama in Hawaii as the weather crisis unfolded.

Britain is bracing for another “weather bomb” – or rapid cyclogenesis – in coming days, apparently starting tomorrow, with warnings of heavy storms and snow.

Both the Queen and the Pope’s christmas messages today emphasized peace and reconciliation; with the Pontiff denouncing persecution in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and praying for children affected by violence, as well as thanking those helping alleviate the suffering associated with Ebola.

Police in Sweden said an arsonist set fire to a mosque in the town of Ekilstuna, injuring five people.

Activists in Saudi Arabia say two women who were detained earlier this month for defying the country’s driving ban will be tried by a court specializing in “terrorism” cases.

* POLITICS * How do politicians wish their constituents a merry christmas? As The Guardian says, with puppies, festive sweaters and babies galore.

George H.W. Bush remains hospitalized in Houston, but the 90-year-old former US President is described as “doing well.”

* MEDIA * Hackers claimed responsibility after both the Microsoft XBox and Sony PlayStation game platforms were hit by connection problems, which may have been exacerbated partly by consumers setting up new consoles, or even by online access to streams of The Interview. The movie also played to sold-out houses in some 300 theaters nationwide.

* BUSINESS * Google and Microsoft are among companies opposing hotel chain Marriott’s move to block guests from using their own wi-fi hotspots.

Parcel company City Link couldn’t deliver despite its ownership change last year, going into administration and threatening nearly 3,000 jobs, which unions described as an “absolute disgrace”.

* SPORTS * LeBron James returned to Miami but his Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Heat 101-91. Meanwhile, Nike will tomorrow release its latest shoe designs featuring James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

* CULTURE * Finally, there will have been plenty of christmas songs played today, but few are as interesting or memorable as The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York from 1987.

Enjoy.

And, sure enough, it is…

theinterview

So, after all the shenanigans over the Sony hack and various threats and recriminations surrounding The Interview, the only thing the North Koreans, or whoever else was responsible, achieved was to allow people to see the movie a day early with its release on various online platforms before a limited theater schedule tomorrow.

Initial reviews run the gamut, with some saying the movie is, as Businessweek puts it, “much less compelling than the events it inspired.”  The San Francisco Chronicle says “scandal aside, it’s pretty good” but The Verge calls it “substandard Apatovian bro-fare to the point of self-parody“.

See it or not (and you can find out where to go online or in movie theaters here) the story of the past few weeks will likely end up as a case study in marketing and crisis management classes for years to come.

* WORLD *   Whether ISIS shot down a Jordanian F-16 fighter jet near Raqqa in Syria today or the plane somehow crashed independently, the pilot appears to be in the custody of the group – his ID card and pictures of his capture circulating on social media.

The Centers for Disease Control said one of its lab technicians may have been exposed to the Ebola virus after a mix-up in procedures for handling samples.  CDC officials said the potential exposure is limited to one employee, who is now being monitored for the required 21-day period.

Tensions remain high in the St Louis area in the wake of the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Antonio Martin, who officials say had pointed a gun at an officer. The mayor of Berkeley, the suburb where the shooting occurred, said the incident was “unlike Ferguson” referring to the nearby location where a young unarmed black man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed earlier this year.

* POLITICS *  As 90-year-old former President George H.W. Bush spends a second night in a Texas hospital, political reporters continue to pick through thousands of his son Jeb’s emails during his time as Florida Governor for clues to how any potential 2016 presidential run might unfold. The younger Bush was planning to release the emails next year, but the Washington Post obtained them through a public records request. ABC News offers five things we’ve learned so far.

* MEDIA * Forget today’s dueling Santa-trackers, a site called HelloSanta.com gives your offspring the opportunity of a video call with the man himself. Kris Kringle isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though, and the Washington Post has a history of people who have tried to put Santa Claus on trial, from 17th century England to a Miracle on 34th Street.

* BUSINESS * The Stock Trader’s Almanac has a rhyme: “If Santa Claus should fail to call, the Bears may come to Broad and Wall,” and today is technically the start of the “Santa Claus rally” that characterizes the end of the trading year. Wall Street ended the shortened pre-Christmas session amid fresh highs and optimism, despite continuing jitters over oil prices and geopolitical factors.

In the latest potential legal hurdle for ride-booking firm Uber, South Korea charged its CEO Travis Kalanick with violating local transport licensing laws. The company, which is also facing an unfair competition suit from taxi companies in Philadelphia, today announced a $2 surcharge for New York City customers who use its app to hail taxis. Meanwhile it said it was “truly sorry” for how its surge pricing algorithm had bumped fares in downtown Sydney during last week’s siege situation.

* SPORTS * Is there room at the Olympics for competitive video gaming? The creator of World of Warcraft thinks so and with some 40,000 people watching a recent League of Legends tournament live in South Korea, he might be on to something. If the idea gets that far, here’s four games that Time thinks might make the cut.

Finally, remembering the centenary of the Christmas Truce, in whatever form it may have actually occurred, the English FA offers a poetic tribute from today’s players to yesterday’s soldiers:

 

 

Welcome to The Overnight Note

The name comes from something I’ve spent pretty much my whole life in journalism doing – handing over from one newsdesk shift to another with a rundown of some of the day’s stories that the incoming team might find interesting, or open up a bit of discussion on what we know about a story and how it might be covered going forward.

Social media obviously makes it a lot easier to monitor what’s happening today than when I started on Fleet Street 25 years ago, when we’d watch the PA wire for our competitors’ scoops and then go through hard copies of the first editions to see if we’d missed anything (or whether we were over- or under-playing a story everyone else had).

Social media, though, also makes ever more demands on our time and for that reason this digest will be more skimmable than exhaustive; a selection of items that paints part of a picture of the day.

A few years ago, I helped the folks at Sawhorse Media start a morning tip sheet called The Muck Rack Daily – part ICYMI, part social media steer – which has really expanded and gone from strength to strength since then. I had a lot of fun doing it and hopefully this will be just as enjoyable.

Long form, or 140 characters? Video or text? The one constant, regardless, is that people love being shown a good story, or a clever take on a story they may have already heard.

I’ve always been fascinated by how storytellers gather and distribute information, and how audiences receive and make sense of it; so maybe as well as a look at some of the stories of the day, this blog will help me organize some thoughts on that ever-evolving process.

The plan was to start up on Jan 1st, but this way I get to incorporate some of the usual year-in-review stories for one of the most eventful years in the news business for a long while. 2015 will be nothing less.

Enjoy and thanks for reading.