TIME Media

In Cable Ebola Coverage, It’s the Story Versus the Facts

As the disease comes to New York City, 24-hour news wavers between science and sensationalism. But what does Gene Simmons think?

The guest on Friday’s Fox News’s panel show Outnumbered gave a damning assessment of the government’s response to Ebola, after a Manhattan doctor who had recently returned from West Africa was diagnosed with Ebola Thursday night. “In point of fact, we are completely unprepared for things like this,” the guest said. “We can’t even take the simple precaution of not letting anybody from a certain part of Africa come into America before you pass a health test. The fact that this doctor and this nurse [in Dallas] were just allowed to run around… is lunacy.”

The guest was Gene Simmons. As in Gene Simmons from the face-painted ’70s rock band KISS.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that Simmons lacks the medical authority to talk about Ebola policy. He did, after all, write “Calling Dr. Love.” He’s practically a diagnostic professional! But that comment summed up where a story like Ebola is eventually bound to go once cable news has had enough time with it.

In any breaking news incident, you have the facts and than you have the story. The facts are what happened. The story is why you care–the details, quotes, opinions and fears that make the facts juicy. In cable news, the story generally wins.

So Thursday night, the facts were: Someone in New York City had Ebola. Dr. Craig Spencer, who had been volunteering with Doctors Without Borders treating patients in Guinea, had come back to Manhattan. He’d followed the accepted guidelines for self-monitoring, checking his temperature twice daily, and watching, per the medical organization’s guidelines, for “relevant symptoms including fever.” When he detected a fever that morning–before which, he would not have been infectious–he went to the hospital.

But then there’s the story! The story was that the day before Spencer went to the hospital, he went bowling! He rode in an Uber vehicle! He went jogging and ate at a restaurant and walked in a park. He rode the subway–the crowded subway! None of this, according to medical science on Ebola, presented a danger from a nonsymptomatic person. But it felt wrong in people’s guts. And that makes a better story.

Thursday and Friday’s cable coverage showed plainly this struggle between story and facts. At times, the dichotomy was present in the words and images of the same report. Friday morning on CNN, the top-of-the-hour news noted that Spencer was not contagious, according to authorities, when he went out Wednesday–but only after it ran down the subway-taxi-bowling story and said the city was “on edge.” Anchor John Berman interviewed experts including Daniel Bausch of the Department of US Medical Naval Research, who said “it looks like everything was done right” in the Spencer case. The on-screen graphic: “EBOLA IN NEW YORK: REASON TO WORRY?”

The coverage, like so many stories, has also become an extension of partisan politics. There are midterms coming up: Republicans are invested in a crisis-of-confidence narrative while the Democrats must convey an everything’s-under-control narrative. So on Fox, Sean Hannity was hammering the government for being unprepared, and seemingly every host was hitting the refrain that Spencer was “fatigued” when he went out Wednesday. MSNBC, on the other hand, emphasized the low risk this case posed to New Yorkers along with the generally positive response to New York’s public-health response to date.

As for CNN under Jeff Zucker, it is biased as always toward the juicier story. In a noontime report, correspondent Jean Casarez noted that an NYPD team had photographed some trash outside Spencer’s apartment, and then left. “So it’s still sitting out there right now?” Banfield asked, adding that she’d seen police throwing latex gloves into street trash. Had the gloves been anywhere near any dangerous fluids? Is any of that trash an actual risk? Who knows? There was no further information. But the detail sounded spooky, so the report just left it sitting there, like the recycling bags on the curb.

By midday Friday, the general tone of coverage shifted to one that was less anxious, partly because better news had broken: Dallas nurse Nina Pham was declared Ebola-free in her recovery, and Spencer, it turned out, had not had the 103 degree fever first reported Thursday night, but a much lower 100.3-degree fever–undercutting the insinuations that he might have been sicker on Wednesday. Then too, there seemed to be a growing awareness that Spencer had, after all, contracted the disease by risking his life to help others, and it was maybe unseemly to present him as some kind of arrogant bowling menace.

For now, the news fever seemed under control. But it was a reminder all the same. Ebola may only be spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. Fear and anxiety are much more easily transmitted, through the air.

TIME movies

Laura Poitras on Her Edward Snowden Documentary: “I Was a Participant As Much As a Documentarian”

Laura Poitras, Johanna Hamilton
This April 16, 2014 photo shows Pulitzer Prize and Polk Award winner Laura Poitras in New York to promote her documentary film "1971," premiering Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP) Charles Sykes—Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

The Citizenfour documentarian on Edward Snowden and making a film amid breaking news

The revelation of the National Security Administration’s surveillance of U.S. citizens’ phone records was among the biggest news stories of 2013, and won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the journalists at the Washington Post and The Guardian who covered it.

One of those journalists, Laura Poitras, has just released her documentary about the events surrounding the NSA revelations — and the contractor who leaked them to her. Citizenfour takes its title from the handle Edward Snowden used to communicate online with Poitras, communications Poitras reads aloud. The film leads to Hong Kong, where Poitras and two other journalists powwow with a vaguely shocked yet clear-headed Snowden, who’s decided to walk away from his life entirely; the degree of risk he’s undertaken is underlined more strongly by Citizenfour than in any other reporting to date.

Poitras has had a long career of documenting national security initiatives and their implications in documentary form; her last film, The Oath, dealt in part with a Yemeni man held in Guantánamo Bay. But Citizenfour is a uniquely gripping work for how it gets inside one of the biggest news stories of our time. Laura Poitras spoke to TIME this week.

TIME: Was it difficult to make a film that objectively depicted the events surrounding Snowden’s disclosures, given how enmeshed you were in the process? How did your roles as filmmaker and as journalist run up against one another?

Laura Poitras: I mean, in the process of working on this film, when I was in Hong Kong, I was wearing my documentary filmmaker hat — saying, ‘I am going to document what’s happening.’ This moment in journalism when I’m meeting a source for the first time, understanding who this person is — it’s a moment you usually never get to see. Usually a source doesn’t want to be identified or will come forward four decades later, like with Deep Throat. I knew this’d be something different. As we were sitting up and working on stories, I was the documentary fillmmmaker.

When I returned to Berlin, I realized it was important I report it out. I think a lot of people, there are a lot of really talented national security reporters who can do great work on documents in the public interest. Doing this was what I wanted to do — making a longform film that looked at the story from many angles — asking what it says about journalism, whistleblowers, and the government coming down on both in the context of post-9/11 America. I’m more interested in those broader issues than I am in breaking news.

It strikes me as difficult to release a documentary after the fact about a major news event that’s been widely covered, including by Glenn Greenwald, who’s a character in the film.

In the editing room, we realized a couple of things quickly. One was that I was a part of the story and it needed to be told from a subjective point of view. I was the narrator. I was a participant as much as a documentarian. Then we tell the story close to the protagonists. Snowden, Glenn, and [U.S. intelligence official-turned-whistleblower] William Binney. It’s through them we get a picture of the wider importance. We had more footage, more archival stuff. Then it becomes a chronicle of the leaks, which is interesting when it’s happening but not interesting in retrospect. There was a film about the Obama campaign – that was interesting when it was happening, but in retrospect…

We tried to make sure it was not caught up in breaking news but to say something that would still resonate in five and ten years. It’s a broader human story. Yes, it’s about the NSA, but it’s also about what would cause a person to risk everything.

What’s the process of coordinating coverage between multiple journalists? The film depicts Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, both at that time of The Guardian, working together on the story, and they seemed to have different areas of interest. And you were working independently.

Glenn and Euan were both working for The Guardian. Glenn did the first story about Verizon and they worked together on the other stories. I came at it not attached to print journalism as much as I am to visual journalism. I didn’t have any need to break any particular stories but in documenting what I thought was an important journalistic encounter. For instance, if The Guardian had sent over another video camera I would have kicked them out and said “This is a source I’ve been working on.” In terms of working on the documents, it clearly required many people. It required a journalistic and editorial process. No one journalist was going to be able to report on this alone.

Do you feel Citizenfour presents an “unbiased” view of Snowden? Was that even your aim?

I guess I would say it’s told from a subjective point of view, which also doesn’t mean it’s not still journalism. There’s a lot of reporting where you read the word “I.” I don’t think because it’s a subjective telling of events, it ceases to be journalism. It is still journalism. But it’s clear that the person who’s narrating through the story is a participant. Have you read All the President’s Men recently? They use “Carl” and “Bob,” and they say “I.” This is not the first time a piece of nonfiction has been told from the point-of-view of the author.

Do you think getting access to potential sources, for you, has gotten easier since the events surrounding Snowden? The whole ordeal certainly raised your profile.

I think one of the messages of the film is that this is one of the most difficult times to do journalism. The government is coming down on whistleblowers and journalists. William Binney is in the film for that reason — he goes through the system and does it right, and the FBI raids his house because they think he’s the source for a New York Times story about wireless wiretapping. Journalism is under duress because of how the government can investigate who we’re talking to by our phone records.

It’s too soon to say, I used to be much more under the radar. My last film [The Oath] was filmed in Yemen, and I didn’t register as a journalist. I didn’t need a minder. Those days are behind me. But it’s too soon to say what the impact will be. No one from the U.S. government has contacted me, but I have heard things. In Germany, I’ve heard things. People are monitoring what I’m doing, and I guess that’s to be expected. I’m not sure what it means in terms of future reporting – this was a departure for me! I usually do longform visual journalism. I’ll keep making movies.

Was it difficult for you to shoot and then to assemble the film, given the degree to which the situation was constantly changing?

When I was working on the film I made about the Iraq occupation [My Country, My Country], the story was still changing constantly. The ethnic violence began while I was in the cutting room. A film changes with contemporary events. You have to pay attention to things but also block them out. A longform documentary has to withstand time, it can’t be too reactive to current events. I certainly felt I wasn’t going to rush the film for anyone — once it was done, it was clear I wanted to get it released. I didn’t want it to premiere and not have a distributor. We didn’t want a lag time, because I do feel the issues are important.

You’re in the U.S. at the moment, though you made Citizenfour in Germany to ensure a lack of government interference.

I edited the film in Berlin, and I went there before being contacted by Edward Snowden. I set up shop there because I was concerned about the film being taken at the border. Now that the film is done, I feel I have options. I feel I have incredible connections to Berlin. The woman who edited Citizenfour, I’d love to work with her again. But I still consider myself a New Yorker and I still have friends I’d like to see here. It’s all very new; we were editing until recently. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable editing this film in the U.S. The raw footage of the subpoenas felt real. It still feels real.

TIME Music

Nicki Minaj Rules the World in Promo for MTV European Music Awards

All hail the queen (from Queens)

In a GQ profile this week, Nicki Minaj deftly skirts her interviewer’s questions about everything derriere-related. But as much as she says she’s ready to change the topic, it’s hard to get away from what is — at the very least — the heavily implied subject of her latest single, “Anaconda.”

In a promo for MTV’s European Music Awards, references to the backside abound: in a jiggling Jell-o mold, side-by-side hamburger buns, and an emoji — renamed, in her honor, an E-Minaji — inspired by the song’s salacious album art. The brief video imagines that after hosting the award ceremony, Minaj’s star is elevated from queen of rap to queen of the world, complete with gilded throne.

But the booty allusions, thankfully, steal less screen-time than images of the rapper asserting her influence in other ways. She’s depicted inspiring hair trends, bridging the rap-opera divide with an operatic adaptation of “Anaconda,” hosting her own late-night show, and ruling a commercial empire. It’s not far from the truth, either. While her face may never grace U.S. currency as it does in the video, she boasts a long and growing list of product endorsements and was the first woman to appear on Forbes’ Hip Hop Cash Kings List. (They’d better find a more gender-neutral name.)

The European Music Awards will be filmed live in Glasgow on Nov. 9. In addition to Minaj’s first major turn as a host, the show will feature performances by Charli XCX, Calvin Harris, and Ed Sheeran.

TIME Television

TLC Cancels Honey Boo Boo Amid Allegations of Co-Star’s Relationship

Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, June Shannon
In this Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, file photo, beauty pageant regular and reality show star Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson speaks during an interview as her mother, June Shannon, looks on in her home in McIntyre, Ga. On Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, the TLC network canceled the “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” series, following published reports that Shannon was in a relationship with a man who had a criminal past. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) John Bazemore—AP

The Toddlers and Tiaras spinoff got the axe after allegations emerged that Mama June is dating a child molester

The TV network TLC has canceled the reality series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo over allegations that co-star “Mama June” Shannon resumed a romantic relationship with a convicted child molester.

“TLC has canceled the series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and ended all activities around the series, effective immediately,” TLC said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. “Supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority. TLC is faithfully committed to the children’s ongoing comfort and well-being.”

Reports emerged earlier this week that Mama June Shannon had reignited a relationship with Mark McDaniel, recently released from prison after serving time for aggravated child molestation of an 8-year-old. Shannon’s family denied the report.

The two-year old Toddlers & Tiaras spinoff reached more than three million viewers at its height.

[EW]

TIME Music

Watch One Direction’s Music Video for ‘Steal My Girl’

Starring Danny DeVito...?

Just in time to interrupt the Taylor Swift media blitz, One Direction has released a new music video for their song “Steal My Girl.”

In the (sort of bizarre) video, Danny DeVito plays a director who tags each of the One Direction boys with a symbol — Power, Mystery, etc. Hilariously (considering, again, that T-Swift has been spending the last couple of weeks dropping songs about him) her ex Harry Styles is dubbed “Love.”

It gets stranger: there are sumo wrestlers, leopard jackets, a monkey and tribesmen with balloons. Just go with it.

TIME movies

Watch a Supercut of Every Onscreen Death in the Star Wars Trilogy

Lasers and lightsabers galore!

A lot of people die in the original Star Wars trilogy — and not just people, but also droids, tauntauns, twi’leks, and hutts. This supercut from Digg of every onscreen death in A New Hope, The Emperor Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi estimates the toll at just over 2 billion.

That said, slayings are refreshingly free of gore; rather than oozing blood, sparks fly and clouds of white smoke billow. Lightsabers swoop and planets explode. Backed by Girl Talk, the bursts of fire and neon light make for a borderline psychedelic viewing experience.

We’ve still got more than a year to wait for Star Wars: Episode VII, for which filming is currently underway. But hopefully this will tide fans over — for three minutes, at least.

TIME Mocies

Review: Toys Scare Us in the Halloween Horror Film Ouija

Ouija
Shelley Hennig stars as Debbie in Ouija. Universal

You'll shiver through this old-fashioned thriller that may be (faint praise) the best movie ever based on a popular board game

This article contains spoilers. Click here to reveal them.

“Hi friend.” The message spelled out on the letters of a Ouija board sends a chill of hope through five teenagers seated at the dining room table. They have sought some sign from their late friend, who recently hanged herself in this very house. It must be Debbie! But over the next few days, the same phrase materializes menacingly as a computer message, or scrawled on a tunnel wall, or carved into a desk, or finger-painted on a misty car window. So the players return to the house and to the Ouija board. The overhead lights are suddenly doused; an empty chair at the table moves out to make room for some invisible force. “Are you Debbie?” they ask, and the planchette moves to “No.” “Who are you?” You don’t want to know. Let’s just say, Not a friend.

“It’s only a game,” says one skeptic at the table, and she’s right. The Ouija board, once and still used as a seance tool for communicating with the beyond, is marketed by Hasbro for plucky or morbid kids. Even nonbelievers can enjoy frightening themselves and others as they spell out words by moving the planchette from one letter to another. As the little girl in Emily Flake’s famed New Yorker cartoon explains, “It’s like texting, but for dead people.”

Hollywood hopes that Ouija, directed by Stiles White and written by White and Juliet Snowden, will get its message across to audiences: that it’s again O.K. to see a horror movie the week before Halloween. Last year was the first October in a decade that a film chiller — that is, a picture with Saw or Paranormal Activity in its title — did not earn at least $30 million its opening weekend. And in the first nine months of this year, no flat-out horror film came within a scare’s breadth of being a hit.

This October looks more dreadful, by which we mean rosier for the horror movie business. Annabelle, made for just $6.5 million, opened early this month to $37.1 million and in three weeks has taken in $75 million, plus another $90 million in foreign markets. Industry savants predict that Ouija will be No. 1 this weekend — a nice relaxing diversion for Americans ready to flee their TVs, having been terrified by much of the news and social media that Isis or Ebola will kill them. Ouija might simply give them a smart case of the shakes, with a seasonal afterchill.

When teenage Debbie (Shelley Hennig) hangs herself after consulting a Ouija board, her lifelong b.f. Laine (Olivia Cooke, who played the possessed girl in this April’s The Quiet Ones) thinks she can use the board to connect with the dead girl. Debbie’s family has conveniently vacated the premises, leaving Laine to keep an eye on things, from this world and the next. The “Hi friend” message seems to have been sent not by Debbie but by some other restless spirit — perhaps a child murdered by her mother in the same house. Anyway, someone, or some thing, is killing off Laine’s seance friends in generically gruesome fashion…

…and in one innovative way. Isabelle (Bianca Santos, the Angelina Jolie clone from ABC Family’s The Fosters) is in her bathroom, drawing the tub water and flossing her teeth. She turns to the mirror and is startled to see that her mouth has been sewn shut by the floss. As the tub water overflows, some power lifts her body a few feet in the air, then smashes her skull against the porcelain sink. (Moral for impressionable kids: Don’t floss.)

Like Annabelle, Ouija is an old-fashioned horror movie that dabbles in many familiar scare tactics: doors mysteriously creaking open or slamming shut, chandeliers swaying, stove burners spontaneously igniting, dolls that may have a malevolent life of their own, dark secrets lurking in a Psycho-inspired cellar. Ouija also honors the convention of characters whose IQs dip ominously as their peril increases. In a dark house, why don’t the kids think to turn on the lights, or to employ the buddy system when entering a room where evil lurks? Because they’re in a horror movie!

Laine at least has a reason for not throwing out the killer board: she’s ready to risk her life to help Debbie achieve a more restful afterlife. Ouija has a steady directorial hand, some attractive young actors who taking the silliness seriously and few admirable genre elements. It renounces the faux-found-footage ShakyCam style, instead employing a traditionally smooth visual style. It prizes suspense over shock, realizing that waiting for The Thing is harder on a moviegoer’s nerve than seeing The Thing. It’s not about a chainsaw-wielding sado-master; it’s a ghost story, a campfire tale for scaredy cats, a tale of the dead reaching out to touch the living.

And in the month of the Ebola scare, hypochondriacs needn’t worry that someone on the screen will sneeze and infect them. They can go home as healthy as when they arrived, and secure in the knowledge that Ouija, like its Hasbro source toy, is only a game.

TIME Music

Watch Taylor Swift Perform ‘Out of the Woods’ on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Swift says releasing the album is like sending it off to college

Taylor Swift visited Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night to promote her fifth album, 1989, which releases on Oct. 27. She shut down Hollywood Boulevard and took the stage to perform “Out of the Woods” (for the first time!) and “Shake It Off” in front of 15,000 screaming fans.

“I’m more confident about this album than I’ve been about any of the other ones, which is a really nice feeling,” Swift told Kimmel. “But it’s almost like you’re releasing this thing into the world that you spent two years with, and it’s just been mine for two years and now it’s everybody else’s. You know, sending it off to college.”

Swift has no need to worry: she’s gotten a pretty warm reception so far. Kimmel embarrassed the pop star by reading TIME’s review of the new album, as well as those from other publications, on air.

TIME Music

Review: On Jessie Ware’s Tough Love, Sadness Sounds Sweeter

Interscope Records

The singer weaves lush melodies out of frustration and taps further still into her soulful side on an impressive follow-up

Jessie Ware can breathe easy: she crooned her way right past the dreaded sophomore slump. The soulful UK songstress quickly and quietly struck gold with her 2012 debut Devotion, a genre-blurring set of delicate electronica (“110%”), soul (“Wildest Moments”) and quiet storm (“Night Light”) best served in the evening hours with a bottle of red. The album landed near-universal critical acclaim, including a prestigious Mercury Award nomination, as well as frequent comparisons to everyone from Adele to Sade.

After two years of touring, collaborations and a marriage, the singer returns this month with her follow-up Tough Love, a collection that is, surprisingly, born largely from broken hearts and hurt feelings. “I’m in a really happy stage of my life, but it doesn’t mean I can’t write about things that affect me or that I relate to from the past,” she said of the unexpected juxtaposition in a profile for The Guardian.

It’s not a bad tack: time and time again, Ware turns sadness into healing sound, from the album’s lush title track “Tough Love” to the Dev Hynes-assisted “Want Your Feeling.” While the lyrics of the latter track might leave Jessie aching all alone, the disco-inflected chorus — which might as well come from the Earth, Wind & Fire catalogue — suggests otherwise.

Tough Love also comprises even more talented hands than her debut — familiar ones, at that: While Jessie’s first outing was produced entirely by Dave Okumu (The Invisible), Kid Harpoon and Julio Bashmore, Jessie’s second serving is helmed by BenZel, the partnership of one of the pop industry’s most reliable beat-crafters, Benny Blanco (Britney Spears, Ke$ha), and rising London producer Two Inch Punch (Sam Smith). As a result, the record finds its footing somewhere in between the left-leaning British electronica scene and a more polished Top 40 pop sound.

Of all the new songwriting collaborators, “Adorn” crooner Miguel is perhaps the most seamless fit; his own R&B fusion is a natural complement to Ware’s own. He assists on “Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe,” an electronic daydream that sways back and forth as Jessie grapples with the idea of getting back together with a former flame: “Do I want you at all? / OK, just a bit, I hate to admit,” she sings. She lays herself barer on “Say You Love Me,” a soulful, guitar-led slow jam written alongside Ed Sheeran. On “Pieces,” recorded alongside Lana Del Rey producer, Emile Haynie, the track plays like a thunderous Bond theme, high-drama and colored by swells of cinematic strings.

But the meatier production isn’t even the biggest change on the album: It’s the singer herself, whose increased confidence comes through in her more assured vocal delivery. There’s even a hint of a more mainstream pop superstar in waiting, as with the single-ready “You & I (Forever),” armed with a M83-like ’80’s electronic pulse that begs for radio. Strong, too, are the fluttery falsetto chorus of “Champagne Kisses” and “Cruel,” a slick, string-filled anthem equipped with one of her strongest hooks to date.

Tough Love is rich, romantic, and thoughtfully crafted, both more ambitious and more intimate than its predecessor. And, in a year of powerhouse pop divas loudly wailing, bang-banging and breaking free on top of the charts, the subdued LP is a much-needed reminder that a little restraint can sound just as sweet.

TIME Video Games

50 Things Nintendo Wants You to Know About Super Smash Bros. Wii U

Nintendo just rolled out a special Nintendo Direct that walks through 50 of the game's new features, including an eight-player offline Smash mode.

Some of us, myself included, were worried Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. for Wii U wouldn’t make 2014. But then Nintendo ska-kawed our disquiet at the not-quite eleventh hour, announcing a few weeks ago that, yes, the game would arrive this year: November 21, in case you missed it.

Now the company’s released a 35-minute primer on the game that’s basically a feature pitch video. It’s (almost) nothing Smash aficionados don’t already know, but everything that’s new gets nicely compiled into a single straight-through look.

It’s also a helpful thing to watch if (a) you haven’t yet bought the 3DS version and so have no idea what’s different from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, (b) you’re a fighting-game fan who’s never played a Super Smash Bros. game but you’re Smash-curious, or (c) you want to see what the corybantic madness of eight-player offline Smash – a series first — looks like.

And with that, I suppose I’d better finish watching it, since I’m going to be playing the Wii U game tonight at a Nintendo event in Detroit.

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