Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What Passes for Journalism these Days...

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From a commenter at www.sfgate.com, on the Kahn rape case:


10:22 AM on July 5, 2011

Notice that the writer leaves this at He-said/She-said, and makes no effort whatsoever to evaluate the claims of either side of the story, as if they both have equal weight, and there's nothing else that's knowable.

At most, they will ask one side what the other side thinks and call it debate.

This is what the media calls balance, and it's used to prolong the product shelf-life of a story that could be ended by actual investigative reporting.

By not settling the argument, the so-called controversy survives another day to generate future ad revenue, instead of being settled.

From bogus WMD to the false red-blue dichotomy, the media is selling fake controversy and lazy sensationalism instead of objective reporting and rational analysis, because getting to the bottom of the story ends the story, and readers, viewers, listeners turn to other things.
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Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/07/05/national/a094547D49.DTL#ixzz1RFwduYx4


Anna Haynes said...

My 25 cents -

There _is_ some value in getting someone's assertions on the record (if they're not already there), even if you don't devote the time or have a way (at that point) to assess their accuracy; but it's best to label this product in a way that distinguishes it from fact-checked info.
(and yes, I say this having done plenty of the former, often without labeling it as such...mea culpa.)

The larger-context Q to keep in mind is, given the writer's one-man-band limited resources, what application of those resources will give the public most value?
(e.g. how should you - or should you at all - report a talk that's a Gish Gallop of falsehoods & framing - is there a way to avoid having your focus get sidetracked into a tarpit of refutations? (tediously gathered, since the topic is new to you, & unproductive, as they'll be viewed mainly by people whose minds aren't amenable to change.) Case in point: what I saw of Tom McClintock's Laffer-flavored town hall meeting last Thursday.)

So there's an opportunity cost.

And there's uncertainty: when you're also devoting time to high-risk-high-reward projects that likely won't pan out, the "what gives the reader most value" Q is difficult to answer until afterward, when the info comes too late to guide you.

A conflict of maxims: "persist, persist, persist", vs "insanity is doing the same thing over & over expecting different results".

The "insanity" maxim is vulnerable to a sentient subject - if you let it guide you, you can be shunted aside with movable cardboard obstacles thinking they're bombproof concrete.

On the other hand, "persist, persist, persist" without results can be kind of hard on the ole mental health.

Thanks Keachie for letting me opine on this - it's been on my mind recently.

Anna Haynes said...

A clarification re my "On the other hand" caveat above, for readers not familiar with hyperbole:
for "mental health", read "emotional state".

I hope that clears up any confusion.

Anna Haynes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Haynes said...

(fixed typo)
I should also say, upon reflection, that with some sources & in some contexts you really shouldn't take *anything* at face value, and you really do need to check every little thing; but if we lived our whole lives like that, we wouldn't get far (or blog much).

SkiTheStars said...

I'm not really sure where you are going. The take-a-way here for me was the notion of extending the life of stories, mainly for the benefit of the newspaper's/media's bottom line.

The best example is the madening habit of a short teasers about "hot hot it will be tomorrow. In the time it takes to say that, "we'll let you know all about it later on in the broadcast," the simple statement, "It will be 5, 10, 15, 30 percent warmer or cooler tomorrow, with more/less/zero percipitation, likewise clouds/fog.