We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: Bringing down the biggest match-fixing ring in tennis history

Settle down in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Rotten Tomatoes

The popular review-aggregation site for films and television has been found to be easily exploitable and reductive in how it rates movies. But why does it have so much influence over Hollywood studios?

(Variety, approx 14 mins reading time)

To filmmakers across the taste spectrum, Rotten Tomatoes is a scourge. Martin Scorsese says it reduces the director “to a content manufacturer and the viewer to an unadventurous consumer.” Brett Ratner has called it “the destruction of our business.” But insiders acknowledge that it has become a crucial arbiter. Publicists say their jobs revolve around the site. “In the last ten years,” says one, “it’s become much more important as so many of the most trusted critics have retired without replacements.” Studios are so scared of what the Tomatometer might say that some work with a company called Screen Engine/ASI, which attempts to forecast scores. (“According to the studios, the predictions are very close,” says another publicist. I’ll refer to these informers, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly, as Publicists Nos. 1 and 2.) An indie-distribution executive says, “I put in our original business plan that we should not do films that score less than 80. Rotten Tomatoes is the only public stamp of approval that says, ‘This is of immense quality, and all critics agree.’”

But despite Rotten Tomatoes’ reputed importance, it’s worth a reminder: Its math stinks. Scores are calculated by classifying each review as either positive or negative and then dividing the number of positives by the total. That’s the whole formula. Every review carries the same weight whether it runs in a major newspaper or a Substack with a dozen subscribers.

2. Game, Set, Fix

closeupofatennisplayerstandingreadyfora Shutterstock / Lucky Business Shutterstock / Lucky Business / Lucky Business

Did you know that tennis is the world’s most manipulated sport when it comes to gambling? This two-part feature by Kevin Sieff looks at Grigor Sargsyan, the man behind the biggest match-fixing scandal in the sport’s history, and how he was caught. Read part two here.

(The Washington Post, approx 55 mins reading time)

“Do you like gambling?” Sargsyan asked, and the player immediately seemed to know what he was talking about. They walked outside. Sargsyan made his offer. He would pay the player to lose the second set of the match 6-0. The man accepted instantly, Sargsyan recalls.

The odds on the match were 11 to 1. The player tanked, just as he said he would, missing even easy returns, double-faulting, performatively slapping balls into the net. Sargsyan walked away with nearly $4,000. He paid the player, whom he would not identify, about $600. “It was an incredible feeling,” he said.

If there was something about the rush of competition that had almost broken him in his chess career, filling him with an overwhelming sense of losing control, fixing tennis matches felt like a renewed source of power.

3. False advertising

A funny and fascinating profile of Spencer Sheehan, a Long Island lawyer who has filed more than five hundred consumer-protection class-action suits as part of his fight against the food industry’s false advertising. 

(The New Yorker, approx 24 mins reading time)

Sheehan has sued the makers of frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts (dearth of real strawberries), Hint of Lime Tostitos (absence of lime), Snapple “all natural” fruit drinks (absence of natural juice), Keebler’s fudge-mint cookies (lack of real fudge and mint), Cheesecake Factory brown bread (insufficient whole-grain flour), Trident original-flavor gum (lack of real mint, despite package’s illustration of a blue mint leaf), and many more, generally seeking millions in damages from each. He also pursues class actions unrelated to food, involving subtle fraud in products such as toothpaste (Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening, for containing no ingredient that fights plaque) and sunscreen (Coppertone Pure & Simple, for being neither). Sheehan emphasized this breadth of scope during our first phone conversation. “It took Matthew McConaughey years after that movie he did with Sarah Jessica Parker—‘Failure to Launch’?—to be taken seriously as an actor,” he told me. “No one likes to be typecast.”

4. Lettuce remember

photojeff-gilbert-25th-october-2022-downing-street-london-uk-liz-truss-makes-her-final-leaving-speech-with-her-family-watching-from-downing-street Liz Truss making her final speech before departing Downing Street. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A year since Liz Truss’ time as Britain’s prime minister came to an end after 44 days, Stefan Boscia speaks to those who say the damage done to the UK during her very short tenure can still be felt today. 

(Politico, approx 6 mins reading time)

 The U.K.’s stuttering economic growth since the pandemic always was going to put a dent into Britain’s prospects for international investment. Experts give a myriad of reasons for Britain’s decreasing international competitiveness. But a director at one U.S. investment bank said: “The No. 1 issue I hear from clients is that the U.K. is still un-investable because of what happened last year in Westminster, particularly with what happened during Liz Truss’ time in office.”

A managing director at another investment bank agreed. “This stuff matters for clients who are looking at the U.K., seeing three different prime ministers and four different chancellors in a matter of a few months, and saying ‘why on earth would we choose that place to build our new factory?’ The results of that will still be felt today.” Such views are confirmed in a recent survey by transatlantic lobby group BritishAmericanBusiness and management consulting firm Bain and Co. The survey found U.S. business confidence in Britain has sunk for the third straight year, with political instability cited as a key factor.

5. Living with an intellectual disability

Noel Baker examines how people with intellectual disabilities are living longer, but the State has no long-term plan to address their needs in the future.  

(The Irish Examiner, approx 13 mins reading time)

He commutes to work, has an active social life, and is evidently enjoying himself. There is a sense of making up for lost time, what with the numerous trips overseas, writing a book, appearing at conferences. It is life as it should be lived. Which, unfortunately, is not always the case for everyone with a disability. Recent newspaper stories have highlighted the increasing difficulties faced by ageing parents and carers who are worried about what comes later for their loved one. Carers continue to look after their loved ones with inadequate respite and other services. The issues over availability of suitable spaces and delivering meaningful supports come alongside growing life expectancy and longstanding pledges to remove people from congregated settings and to instead have people living engaged, active lives in their communities.

6. Fake Karens

Videos of outraged middle-aged women having “meltdowns” in public are all over social media gaining millions of views. But many of them are staged. Why is there such an appetite for these clips?

(Rolling Stone, approx 5 mins reading time)

Welcome to the world of Fake Karens, an emerging subgenre of content that is taking the internet by storm. The Karen is a reliable stock character in viral videos, whose smugness, entitlement, and outrage-inducing behavior is likely to garner hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views. Large accounts like KarenClips, which has more than 393,000 followers on X (formerly Twitter), and Super Krazy Karens on TikTok, take a curatorial approach to such content, posting videos with captions such as “Karen at Starbucks Strikes Again!” and “Karen taking Ls!” In so doing, they capitalize on the current cultural appetite both for righteous outrage and, in some cases, for retribution, with many commenters working diligently to try to identify the Karens in the videos for public shaming purposes. (The fact that they’re big meme accounts that do not credit the source material also accomplishes the goal of obfuscating their origins.) One would assume that, in the real world, there is no shortage of entitled white women with bad haircuts behaving badly in public. Yet seemingly, within the viral ecosystem, the demand for genuine Karen videos outweighs the supply, as there’s increasingly been a number of viral Karen videos that were clearly produced under professional (or, at least, semi-professional) circumstances.


ukoctober302019closeupofthegosquare Shutterstock / Vicky collins Shutterstock / Vicky collins / Vicky collins

A longread from 2014 about how Monopoly was used to sneak escape tools into POW camps across Europe during the Second World War.

(Eurogamer, approx 42 mins reading time)

Houdini received this sort of letter every day, but Clayton Hutton’s was different. Clayton Hutton was different. By accepting his challenge – by promising Clayton Hutton the considerable sum of £100 if the packing case in question defeated him – Houdini set in motion a strange chain of events that would, in a wonderfully mad and circuitous manner, impact the course of a vast global conflict that was at the time still 26 years away. He was right to: the following morning revealed that Houdini, with one eye on the till, had come back at night to paste a showbill advertising the big event on a wall outside the factory. This was the beginning rather than the end of his wiliness, however. He had also bribed Clayton Hutton’s carpenter £3 to fit the crate’s nails in such a way that a crucial panel could be popped out from the inside with little in the way of a struggle.

Note: The Journal generally selects stories that are not paywalled, but some might not be accessible if you have exceeded your free article limit on the site in question.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel