February 13, 2017 Last Updated 3:14 pm

The media looks at itself, glares at celebrities, while NorCal residents flee a failing dam; Verizon’s $80 unlimited plan

Morning Brief: Arizona really wants to kill its death row inmates, so a new plan would offer defense attorneys a chance to help them out, if they will only provide the drugs

While the media world was obsessed with yet another awards show, this time the Grammy’s, residents of Oroville, California, as well as surrounding communities such as Biggs and Gridley were forced to evacuate due to the pending collapse of the Oroville Dam spillway. As of this morning, 188,000 Northern California residents are under the mandatory evacuation order.

Yet, cable news in the US could not be bothered.

Meanwhile, supporters of Donald Trump jumped on Twitter and on local newspaper sites to blast “liberals” and others, and wishing catastrophe on thousands of Californians.

“I guess God has had enough of you fools. He parches you out, he rumbles your land, he’s fix’n on drowning you, and STILL YOU WON’T REPENT! You’re more worried about your Mexican slaves and blaming President Trump for you problems. Keep praying to your god of Global Warming,” wrote on commenter on The Sacramento Bee websites, where comments are apparently no moderated. “Where’s Microsoft and Apple now?” the same commenter added (though what this is supposed to mean escapes me).

“Yae (sic) drown liberal scum hope it rains forever,” wrote another in the comments thread dominated by readers wishing disaster on the region.

Despite comments claiming looting, the Sacramento Bee said that local law enforcement have reported no looting, or uptick in crime during the evacuation. By the late last night reports of the imminent collapse of the spillway had evolved into cautious optimism. The weather will be dry for the next few days, though more rain is expected later this week. The real problem, though, is that the Sierra has received abundant snow this season, with melt making its way down to the foothills.

Over 100 California Highway Patrol officers and 1,200 California National Guard members are on notice as needed, according to the Bee.

Condé Nast’s WIRED magazine is featuring a profile of Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the latest Sulzberger to be made an executive at The New York Times, having recently been promoted to deputy publisher. The feature tries to explain to readers what the paper is doing to survive.

The article was written by Gabriel Snyder, who was the editor of The New Republic for a short while, and before that with The Atlantic Wire.

I’m not sure it breaks any new ground, but for those who need some background on what the NYT is trying to do these days it is a good primer.

WIRED, Gabriel Snyder:

How The New York Times Is Clawing Its Way Into the Future

The main goal isn’t simply to maximize revenue from advertising—the strategy that keeps the lights on and the content free at upstarts like the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vox. It’s to transform the Times’ digital subscriptions into the main engine of a billion-dollar business, one that could pay to put reporters on the ground in 174 countries even if (OK, when) the printing presses stop forever. To hit that mark, the Times is embarking on an ambitious plan inspired by the strategies of Netflix, Spotify, and HBO: invest heavily in a core offering (which, for the Times, is journalism) while continuously adding new online services and features (from personalized fitness advice and interactive newsbots to virtual reality films) so that a subscription becomes indispensable to the lives of its existing subscribers and more attractive to future ones…

…He has no public presence on Facebook or Twitter, which Sulzberger can get a ­little defensive about—he was promoted to management in 2015 to help implement the recommendations of the Innovation Report, and he knows there’s an easy joke to be made about how the person charged with leading the Times into a digital future has never liked, tweeted, or snapped. When I ask him how he knows what he knows about these new platforms, he says, “I’m not active on social media; I am a student of it,” and waves an arm at a wall of his office covered in dozens of color printouts of pie charts, tables, line graphs full of digital metrics—proprietary information that he asked remain off the record. “I spend a lot of time thinking about the trends that are reshaping our industry. I spend a lot of time talking to people on the front line of those trends,” he tells me, “and a big part of my job is making sense of that.”

Meanwhile, the NYY itself today is looking at another media empire, that of Rupert Murdoch.

Written by the NYT’s new media columnist, Jim Rutenberg, the piece probably should have concentrated less on Murdoch and more on what is happening in the White House, with current press briefings dominated by Murdoch owned media outlets. Rutenberg lets the Murdoch press off the hook, saying the news pages have shown far more editorial independence that an actual examination of them would reveal.

The New York Times, Jim Rutenberg:

When a Pillar of the Fourth Estate Rests on a Trump-Murdoch Axis

From the White House, Mr. Trump regularly indicates that he believes no major news media properties have been more helpful, and less problematic, to his cause than Mr. Murdoch’s.

Exhibit A: the press briefing on Friday at which Mr. Trump granted his two allotted questions to The New York Post and Fox Business Network…

…Fox News and The Post are, in a sense, giving Mr. Trump nothing more than it gave his predecessors.

But The Journal’s news pages — the most authoritative of Mr. Murdoch’s American news outlets — are another matter. They have managed to maintain their independence over the years, something Mr. Murdoch promised to protect when he acquired it in 2007.

The charging for data, with overages and the like, have been a ripoff for years, and yet another reason consumers rate the carriers so poorly. It was only a matter of time that one of the smaller carriers put a dent in At&T and Verizon’s business by offering unlimited data plans. Now, it appears, Verizon is willing to go back to offering them, releasing a video promoting their new plan. At $80 a month, it is hardly cheap.

BusinessInsider, Jeff Dunn:

Verizon is launching an ‘unlimited’ data plan for the first time in more than 5 years

Verizon on Sunday said that it will launch an unlimited LTE data plan, titled Verizon Unlimited, on February 13. The plan will start at $80 per month for an individual line, or $45 per line for a group of four on smartphones or tablets. Both new and existing subscribers will be able to sign up.

The move marks the first time in more than five years that Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier in terms of total subscribers, will have an unlimited offering. The carrier had recently started forcing heavy users who’ve stayed on those old unlimited plans to move to new offerings…

…The new plan comes on the heels of other renewed and aggressive pushes into unlimited data from rival carriers, most notably T-Mobile, which in August replaced all of its existing mobile plans in favor of one unlimited offering, titled T-Mobile One.

T-Mobile’s plan has faced criticism, however, for downgrading all video streams to a less-than-HD resolution unless subscribers pay for a $15 add-on. It also does not allow subscribers to access LTE speeds when using their phones as a mobile internet hotspot by default.

If this column from EJ Montini had not appeared in the Gannett-owned Arizona Republic one might have thought it was an Onion piece.

Arizona Republic, EJ Montini:

Inmates offered ‘do-it-yourself’ execution

The Arizona Department of Corrections has had trouble killing people.

It hasn’t been able to get the drugs it wants, and the drugs that it has gotten have transformed the already gruesome act of executing a person into a ghoulish, unacceptable freak show.

But the department persists…

…In the meantime, the new execution protocol says that if defense attorneys choose to do so, they can pick up the drugs on their own and the department will use it to kill their clients.


“This is a bizarre notion that calls for actions that are both illegal and impossible,” said Dale Baich from the office of The Federal Public Defender in Arizona.

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