Media Incompetence

In Forbes, Michael Fumento writes Why Didn’t the Media Do a Better Job regarding the coverage of the Toyota accelerations.  His secondary headline is In their Toyota coverage reporters aren’t letting facts get in the way of a good story.

Here’s the lead paragraph:

The jig seems to be up on the runaway-Toyota scare. Mounting evidence indicates that those Toyotas truly accelerating suddenly can probably be explained by sliding floor mats (since fixed) and drivers hitting the gas instead of the brake. That is, the media have been chasing a will-o’-the-wisp for the better part of a year, whipping car buyers and Congress into a frenzy.

Fumento then asks:

Shouldn’t the accounts of alleged unintended acceleration deaths have been subjected to a little checking?

More specifics:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses the term “allegedly” in listing the number of Continue reading

Diane Sawyer

On the evening news tonight, Diane Sawyer reported that home sales were up.  She credited the rebound to tax credits because some percent of the home purchases were made by first time home buyers.

She may be right about the impact of the tax credit.

Or wrong.

I can’t tell based on the information provided.

It would be more convincing had she provided the usual percent of home purchases made by first time home buyers as a comparison.  For example, if she said that 50% of purchases were made by first time home buyers when that figure is normally 10%, that would be more convincing, but still not necessarily correct.

But, she didn’t provide the comparison.

This is an example of an irritating phenomenon.  News organizations analyze and interpret rather than reporting the news.  In this case, Diane could have simply said, “Home sales are up.”   Next story.   That’s news reporting.

Telling us home sales are up because of the first time home buyers credit is analyzing, interpreting, editorial and narrative, which are all better left to other venues like talk shows or the opinion section of the newspaper.  In those venues, the viewer at least knows that the narrative has been added, can take it with a grain of salt and decide whether they agree or disagree.

When it’s reported as Diane reported on a news program, it seems much more like fact than opinion.  To the unsuspecting viewer, the way this is reported makes tax credits seem like a good thing — even if they’re not.

Another irritating phenomenon is that we rarely notice it.  We take it as fact and rarely entertain the idea that the news narratives might be wrong.  Though, I think subconsciously we do know.  That’s why newspapers and TV news are struggling.  They’ve lost credibility by lacing narratives with reporting.

In this case, Diane didn’t us enough information to draw our own conclusion.  That’s either sloppy narrative or because the facts don’t necessarily support the case.

Finally, even if Diane had provided a comparison that made a convincing case that tax credits were driving home sales, it would not necessarily be true that tax credits were the cause.    There might be other plausible explanations.  All I want to know from my news program is what: homes sales are up.

If they want to give me their opinion, fine.  Tell us that.  “Home sales are up.  In the opinion of the producers of this program, that’s because of the tax credits!”

Great Tea Party Podcasts

Catching up with my Dennis Miller podcasts from the past week, I came across three exceptional podcasts:

Go to iTunes.

Search for The Dennis Miller Show.

Download and listen to these three podcasts:

Andrew Breitbart Interview – April 13, 2010

John Stossel Interview – April 15, 2010

Greg Gutfeld Interview – April 15, 2010

Greg Gutfeld and Miller were discussing comments made by Ted Koppel about media.  Koppel apparently longs for the days of three networks.  Apparently, he doesn’t like the competition from the cable and internet.  As Gutfeld puts it:

You know what he actually said.  He said the real problem here is competition.  He’s saying “in the good old days when the three networks didn’t have to try, when we could just do whatever we wanted because there was nothing else.  And now, all these cable stations came in and now we have to work for a living.

Continue reading