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Proof that #Proof of Heaven may in fact be the work of a deluded genius with a history of manipulating facts

It’s strange that this week, I’ve heard more about a #Sharknado (whatever the hell that is — I honestly still don’t know) than about the story of Dr. Eben Alexander, the author of #Proof of Heaven. With a neurosugeon’s precision and care, Luke Dittrich has done a phenomenal job of debunking Alexander’s story for #Esquire. Here’s what Editor-in-Chief David Granger had to say about it. You can click his quote to read the story.

Dr. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife has sold nearly two million copies and remained on best-seller lists for over 35 weeks. But a months-long investigation of Dr. Alexander’s past and some of the book’s claims reveals a series of factual omissions and inconsistencies that call significant parts of Dr. Alexander’s story into question. Before he was a celebrated “man of science” who visited the afterlife, Dr. Alexander was something else: a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention.

This is the first time we’ve asked online readers to pay for a story, but for good reason: Because stories like Dittrich’s matter and they don’t come along often. Because great journalism—and the months that go into creating it—isn’t free. So, besides providing the story to readers of our print and digital-tablet versions of the August issue, we are offering it to online readers as a stand-alone purchase. Thank you. —DG

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The Daily: A dumb model

THE DAILY, the glossy high-tech iPad-only newspaper launched last year by Rupert Murdoch has announced lay offs. Of course, i didnt read about this in The Daily, I found out in The New York Times.

If The Daily is meant to represent the future of news, then the future looks bland and impotent. Don’t get me wrong, at first glance TD is impressive and attractive. Like a vapid fashion model, she draws you in, but fails to keep your attention for a prolonged period of time.* Its design, functionality and interactivity should be studied by anyone looking at how best to design iPad apps for publications. The problem with TD is fundamental: nobody cares about its content.

Name one story TD broke in its first year. Name one insight a columnist there shared that made you perk up. You can’t. has created no buzz. If it has done anything significant, I haven’t heard. It has broken no new ground except to be able to say that it was the first iPad-only paper out of the gate. Apparently, it is one of the top paid apps at Apple’s iTunes store. And yet, cares about it.

NYT, Esquire, The Week hell, even Rolling Stone all have iPad app versions with varying degrees of gloss and interactivity. But more importantly, they have writers who draw you in and they have stories that beg to be read. (no, these aren’t all news publications but even the entertainment mags feature groundbreaking reporting and distinct voices.) When I decided where to spend my allocation of iPad dollars, that’s where they went.

Florida Weekly, where I work, is (dare I say it) a sexy beast of a publication. While it’s a sleek model, it has brains to match its looks and it delivers that which keeps readers coming back: killer content. Our iPad edition, while lacking some of the high-end functionality that the big-budget publishers can afford, still manages to give readers what they want — high quality stories and columns written with an intelligence and flair they can only find in our paper.

Good looks can only get one so far. Content is king.

* (Full Disclosure: The “dumb model” metaphor is just that, and does not represent any actual experience with models. I was a pretty shallow fellow during my dating years, and I can only conjecture that I would have spent countless months and perhaps years in the glow of a beautiful, vacuous woman having been given the chance.)

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Sun-Times Media photographer fired for fabricating photo essays | Poynter.

Sun-Times Media photographer fired for fabricating photo essays | Poynter..

More lying liars. Are journalists fabricating more than they used to or is the Internet just making it easier to expose them?

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Are we in too much of a hurry to bother with the truth?

You’re being lied to. Sometimes, you’re repeating the lies, making you look as ignorant as the original liar. Often, even after you find out your lie is a lie, you cling to it anyway.

James Holmes, the gunman at the Colorado theater, is a member of the Tea Party.

No, sorry, that’s a lie. Turns out, he’s a registered Democrat.

Oops, that’s a lie too. Pick the lie that fits best into your narrative and run with it though. That seems to be what’s happening to modern American discourse.

As Poynter.org pointed out here, both ABC News and Breitbart respectively reported the two lies above then took a while before coming out with half-hearted corrections. That’s a few weeks after reporters from CNN and FOX lied to us about the Supreme Court verdict.

“‘Lies,’ that’s a bit harsh, Osvaldo,” say you. And you might be right, I’ve made a bunch of mistakes in my career, and so have the folks I edit. They’re not lies as much as they are errors. However, it’s true that today, factual errors just don’t carry the stigma they once did for reporters. We’ve all collectively shrugged our shoulders and said, “Eh, what’cha gonna do? Staffs are minimal, workloads are onerous and mistakes, they just happen.” The press has been getting it so wrong lately, and failed to do enough to correct the problem, that journalism’s ineptitude is becoming epidemic. At some point, we have to stop giving those charged with getting us information free passes when that information is wrong and news outlets’ attempts to correct themselves are insufficient or nonexistent. Particularly with outlets that handle breaking news, there are checks and balances that can and should be implemented to avoid major errors. If there are ways of circumventing errors and journalists don’t implement those methods (regardless of whether its due to miserliness, the ambition to be first or laziness) then those mistakes begin to take some of the pernicious attributes of lies.

Maybe by calling these errors lies, perhaps we’ll be more careful not to make them. It’s a tricky proposition, because held to this standard, I’ll inevitably be a liar myself somewhere down the road.

But then, sometimes, the public wants to be lied to. Take for example, the biggest lie of last week. It’s a lie that’s so big that it became The Daily Beast’s Meme of the Week. I heard it first from a colleague, a smart and savvy business man, who said in response to President Obama’s visit to Southwest Florida that he was pretty mad at the president for saying that he hadn’t built his business. “I don’t know, I worked real hard to build this business and create more than 50 jobs,” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist. A few hours later, another guy — an avowed but convivial Obama hater — popped his head in my office, “Hey, just remember, small business didn’t build itself. The govenment built it. Ha!” Mitt Romney has been repeating the lie too, telling a crowd last week in Massachusetts that the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark “…wasn’t a gaffe. It was his ideology.”

Well, Romney was only half right. The line wasn’t a gaffe. In the context of what the president was saying, it made perfect sense. And it’s hard to construe what was said as You didn’t build your business the government did it for you. But that’s what a lot of liars would have you believe. Here’s what the president said:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Perhaps the president’s line was placed awkwardly, but it’s clear that the president was referring to roads and the Internet when he was telling small business owners that they didn’t build that. He didn’t mean that they had not built their businesses. I encourage you to read the entire speech and some analysis by Jake Tapper here.

Mitt Romney and his advisors know the president didn’t mean that business owners don’t build their own businesses. The other guys — the brilliant colleague and the convivial hater and the guys from Crowther Roofing (see below) — maybe they’re just not paying attention. Maybe they just picked their narrative and are sticking with it. Perhaps they don’t have time for the truth. Regardless, they’re spreading a lie, which is, well, kind of like lying. And it’s time we stopped giving that kind of thing a free pass and started asking for accountability, from our journalists, our politicians and everybody else.

Always good for anti-Obama rhetoric, the Crowther Roofing sign on Metro Parkway in Fort Myers jumps on the “you didn’t build that” bandwagon.

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