Monthly Archive: January 2019

The Daily News and algorithm hell

Daily News, L.P., 4 New York Plaza, New York, NY 10004
Tribune Publishing Co. / Tronc, 435 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Sir or Madam,

For me, this letter is important. You, whoever may read it, can simply blow it off. That’s a power imbalance. There isn’t that much I can do if you blow me off. As was said of Abraham Lincoln, “Most people can bear adversity; but if you wish to know what a man really is give him power. This is the supreme test.” You have the power to stop reading now. To do so would be unjust.

The New York Daily News has long claimed the title of “New York’s Hometown Newspaper” with traditional support for local stories #SupportLocalJournalism. When Tribune Publishing acquired the Daily News in July 2018 the press release at the time stated that the News would be devoted to “crime, civil justice, and public responsibility.”

Does this kind of language make sense when your whole organization is the slave to artificial intelligence? All of this high-minded language, before and after the purchase, is undermined by the thoughtless harm you are inflicting on people who have through sheer random dumb luck been the victims of some of your worst reporting. The bad reporting itself is not a horrible thing: how can you publish stories every day without some of them being bad? The harm you do to me every day comes from the fact that computers, not human beings, are setting the policy on a day to day basis at The New York Daily News.

Your deference to a computer algorithm is hurting me every day. You are stabbing me with a knife every day by machine and you don’t even know. The machine says to hurt me, and you do, without ever even thinking about it.

Human beings may still play some role in writing your stories but the effect and presence of the article after the composition seems entirely depended on a machine after the initial human input. Where are the humans? Humans don’t act as thoughtlessly and cruelly as the Daily News has done in my case. I don’t blame whoever is reading this. You are likely to be a human and you can understand what being human is like. You’re policy to be the slave of a computer, however, is inhuman.

I am writing to ask you to reconsider the damage your paper is doing to all of these values by practicing the policy of publishing stories that remain on the internet forever. In 2013, The Daily News published an embarrassingly bad article about me, which, due to the Google algorithm, remains a top hit when you search my business name or my personal name.

The practice of leaving stores up forever may not be a policy but simply a practice. Nothing on The Daily News or Tribune Publishing websites suggests that the company has given the practice much thought or that this pattern is a firmly established policy. Clearly, the paper could decide to take a story down after a period of time, either as a matter of course or by default, or in individual cases. If the paper were to say, “Well, our policy is our policy and we can’t take a story down or put it in an archive outside of the normal Google search area” my response would be, “What policy? You don’t make it available to the public.” Then I would ask, “What is the point of the policy? Why do you think the policy is good? And, can’t you make an exception with like a human or is the computer in charge over there?”

The News may be leaving stories up simply because it’s easier or for some tiny ranking benefits to your site from the algorithm itself. Whatever tiny benefit the paper may receive from this cruel behavior is vastly outweighed by the damage you are doing to people in the community.

The story appeared in March 15, 2013, about six years ago, titled “Upstate Glencadia Dog Camp more like Hound Hell, say three distraught dog owners.” If you read the story, you will see that a dog was in a dog fight in my property. The owner was a publicist who attended the Grammies. You will also learn that an owner of a dog sued the dog boarding business where her dog was boarded. You will also learn that a dog died at the kennel and that the kennel has some bad reviews on Yelp.

What percent of dog businesses are sued by customers? How can you have an average of 30 dogs per day at your facility and not have anyone ever complain? If dogs live an average of 12 years, how often would a dog die in your care?

Do you call this news? The article fails to mention that the woman who got this into your paper, Melissa Cusick sent her dog here 18 times and signed a release stating that dogs might fight with social boarding. On the 18th stay, there was a dog fight. The fight was as much the fault of Matilda as the other dog in the fight. Matilda lost. Her ear was hurt. Now she’s fine.

Six years later I have to deal with this? Here’s what happened: Matilda and another dog were in a room together at night. I like to leave nice dogs together. They are happy like that and pretty much never fight. So, you say, why did they fight this time? Because there was a bad dog on the other side of the door snarling and growling and in the dark, or because of the negative energy emanating through the door, the two good dogs in the other room fought. I learned that aggression can sneak through a door, even if the dog stays put.

Look at my site. Read my Google reviews. Look at my Instagram feed. You might not want to send your dog, or maybe you do, but to call my facility “hell” is absurd. It’s not close to hell.

If there is a fly in the soup of a publicist, does the restaurant have to deal with a single bad review six years later? When a deer jumps in front of a car and people go to the hospital, it’s terrible, but is it really news that should define the individuals in the incident forever? Why?

Dogs fight. I haven’t had a fight in more than six years, knock wood, but they could fight tomorrow. I tell people that when they make a reservation. I told Melissa Cusick in writing 18 times (actually 36 times with the email confirmation). Everyone who works with dogs gets sued. Everyone who has a large number of dogs at their place will find a dead dog for one reason or another in the course of many years of practice.

Think a little. It’s such a non-story hit piece against a small family business. Hell? Come on. “We didn’t say it was hell, they did!” Yeah right. I don’t even think anyone of them used the term “hell” — that was the headline writer trying to juice the story up. Journalism? Come on. Shame on you all.

Well, I’m writing like I’m talking to a human being who might look at the images on my site — my staff and their families, plus mine — and think, these people aren’t evil. Whatever you think about my Yelp reviews (really? in a news article?) to call me evil every day for six years, shame on you. You. The Daily News. Every day you tell 100 people that we are evil. Hell.

You have a computer tell the world we’re evil based on selectively picking the worst things you could find about us one day back in March 2013. Sounds like hell is an algorithm and promotes innuendo and nonsense with superhuman power. The hell is what you do: let the computer do whatever it wants.

When the robots take over and make us all slaves, that will happen like this. A little by little. Be human. Get rid of this garbage story you wrote on the back of an envelope in 2013. It’s not your best work. I don’t know who will read this, but you have to laugh at how bad that article is, unless you have to deal with it FOREVER. You should take it down because it’s so stupid, as well as evil, wrong, manipulative and unfair. Or you can be robotic and ignore me. Maybe this letter could be a news article in a venue devoted to media criticism with The New York Daily News as the poster child for bad journalism. Dog guy, blow him off? I guess you can. Sucks for you… and back to business?

Sincerely, Will Pflaum, Glencadia Dog Camp

Here is the link to the damn article: