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Thread: Bad Reporting

  1. #1
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    Bad Reporting

    We constantly harp on bad journalism/bad reporting here. Thought it was about time to start it's own thread. It's just a pet peeve of mine. Here's the article that "broke the camel's back" so to speak:

    FBI Agent Killed in Bank robbery Shootout

    READINGTON, New Jersey (AP) -- An FBI agent was killed in a shootout with three bank robbery suspects Thursday in north central New Jersey, a law enforcement official said.
    ...
    Two suspects were captured and one was being sought in nearby woods, officials said. State and local authorities are searching for the suspects with helicopters and dogs.
    Okay so he's a writer not a mathematician, but last I checked 3-2=1. I'll concede that they could mean police are looking for the one that escaped and any possible cohorts that they're not aware of. But that's not the case.

    Yeah it's a simple slip up, but what happened to they days when writers had editors?

    Anyway...feel free to help me fight the news media machine and post your examples of bad journalism. Bah!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    Two suspects were captured and one was being sought in nearby woods, officials said. State and local authorities are searching for the suspects with helicopters and dogs.
    Okay so he's a writer not a mathematician, but last I checked 3-2=1. I'll concede that they could mean police are looking for the one that escaped and any possible cohorts that they're not aware of. But that's not the case.
    Could be just a typo --- even Gillianren doesn't (always) correct every 1-letter typo .

    I also wonder if the story evolved. I've noticed a lot of errors in web articles when the story has obviously been updated, making a later sentence untrue. For instance, perhaps originally, all three were being searched for. When two were caught, they updated the first sentance, but missed the required edit in the second sentance.

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    Fox News [the "crawl" along the bottom of TV screen] just reported it was a stake-out that initially netted one suspect and that two suspects fled...
    yet their online story contradicts that:
    ...Two suspects were captured and one was being sought in nearby woods...
    Last edited by sarongsong; 2007-Apr-05 at 10:46 PM.

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    The latest BA blog links to a CBS story which refers to squid as "ink-spewing fish." Ugh.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    I'd like to add this Rockfish
    Ok; Ugly fish, and it is in the offbeat section but...

    Why is this a story? it's not the biggest, they don't say that it is the oldest. Now; it sounds to me as a rare findl, but they don't say that.

    How unusual or rare is this thing?

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    pgh: yeah, it could be a typo. but that's part of my point. these guys write for a living. yes they're only human, but the few mistakes they should make should be caught by the editor.

    I'll admit that this is not even close to as bad as some of the stories I read. But like I said it was just the one that I was reading when the totallity of bad writing annoyed me to the point of making this thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    pgh: yeah, it could be a typo. but that's part of my point. these guys write for a living. ...snip...
    Rarely is it the "writer" who typesets the online content.

    But I don't disagree with the assertion that Bad Reporting has run amok in this country.
    No media is free from it.
    Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater view?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    I'll admit that this is not even close to as bad as some of the stories I read...
    And in Ohio, that's pretty common. We have 2 things going on, and I'm not sure if they are related.
    1) ONN (Ohio News Network). I'm not sure exactly what this is, but I'm getting very tired of local (Cleveland/Akron) news spouting trivial little stories from Columbus and Cincinnati. Are you noticing this?
    2) Clear channel. (from what I remember in a conversation some time ago with a radio person) They are flooding the market with low paid "reporters" who are not journalists, and they have a large enough market that people are tuning in to them anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    And in Ohio, that's pretty common. We have 2 things going on, and I'm not sure if they are related.
    1) ONN (Ohio News Network). I'm not sure exactly what this is, but I'm getting very tired of local (Cleveland/Akron) news spouting trivial little stories from Columbus and Cincinnati. Are you noticing this?
    2) Clear channel. (from what I remember in a conversation some time ago with a radio person) They are flooding the market with low paid "reporters" who are not journalists, and they have a large enough market that people are tuning in to them anyway.
    Can't comment. I refuse to watch ONN, and I detest any clearchannel news station (only time I hear these are the blurbs they do during commercial breaks from talk radio). It just dimays me that accuracy and truth have been shoved aside for sensationalism and ratings. Of course, I'm young and never paid attention to the news until the mid-to-late 90's...so perhaps theynever cared about accuracy or truth. :-P

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    Of course, I'm young and never paid attention to the news until the mid-to-late 90's...so perhaps they never cared about accuracy or truth.
    "This... is London."

    Yes, once there was accuracy and truth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    Can't comment. I refuse to watch ONN...
    But around these parts, a lot gets pulled off of ONN as if it got pulled of of the AP. So even though it's not an ONN affiliate or CC affiliate, the way that they do thier News has a large affect on everyone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    "This... is London."

    Yes, once there was accuracy and truth.
    Ah, well good. And what a novel idea, no? Just make'n sure it wasn't just the "Leave it to Beaver" effect; where we remember the past as better than it actually was.

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    One peeve of mine (more of a wild peeve than a pet one) is when a single witness is reported to be helping the police come up with a composite sketch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swansont View Post
    One peeve of mine (more of a wild peeve than a pet one) is when a single witness is reported to be helping the police come up with a composite sketch.
    Composite of reality and stereotype? Maybe they mean they're taking the suspect and putting him in stripes and a black stocking cap, with the large dollar-sign emblazened sack slung over his shoulder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    Composite of reality and stereotype? Maybe they mean they're taking the suspect and putting him in stripes and a black stocking cap, with the large dollar-sign emblazened sack slung over his shoulder.
    More likely they mean a composite of standard noses, lips, eyes, hairlines, moustaches, etc. from a police artist's kit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pghnative View Post
    Could be just a typo --- even Gillianren doesn't (always) correct every 1-letter typo .
    No, though I do almost inevitably cringe. (Like when Fazor used the wrong "its" in the OP.) However, I did correct every single typo in my copy editor days; the paper didn't go to bed until either my cohort Mosang or I had gone over every single character in the paper except the ads, which weren't our problem. (Besides, our managing editor had started her work on the paper as a copy editor herself; she knew when the ads were wrong. She was also the one I had edit my column, because I trusted her more than I trusted Mosang.)

    The problem is, the publishing industry no longer considers a proofreader to be a vital expense. That's what spell- and grammar-check are for.
    Last edited by Gillianren; 2007-Apr-08 at 08:04 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    No, though I do almost inevitably cringe. (Like when Fazor used the wrong "its" in the OP.) However, I did correct every single typo in my copy editor days; the paper didn't go to be until either my cohort Mosang or I had gone over every single character in the paper except the ads, which weren't our problem. (Besides, our managing editor had started her work on the paper as a copy editor herself; she knew when the ads were wrong. She was also the one I had edit my column, because I trusted her more than I trusted Mosang.)

    The problem is, the publishing industry no longer considers a proofreader to be a vital expense. That's what spell- and grammar-check are for.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    I think that you didn't go to be until either
    See, that's why I had someone else proof my column--I didn't know what you were talking about until about the third time I read that, because I saw the "d" that I had intended to type. (I hate my keyboard; the space bar sticks, so I end up backspacing a lot to insert spaces, and it screws up the ending of words if I backspace too far.)
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    To me, typos aren't the stuff of bad reporting. Rather, gross misstatements of fact, of being so unschooled on a particular subject that the reporter reports something as fact when it's clearly just more fodder for some organization with an agenda - now that's bad reporting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    To me, typos aren't the stuff of bad reporting. Rather, gross misstatements of fact, of being so unschooled on a particular subject that the reporter reports something as fact when it's clearly just more fodder for some organization with an agenda - now that's bad reporting.
    I agree, but the OP typo was more than that; it made the content of the story unclear. Was there one armed bankrobber on the loose or two? Kinda an important detail if you live in that area. And it seemed the media was confused on this fact initially as well, as some places reported one others reported two (or the linked story which report both one and two, perhaps just hedging thier bets?). Again, I agree that this isn't the worst offence i've seen. Just the current offence when I started the thread. I haven't had a chance to hit up CNN today but there's generally at least one new bad story a day.

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    Fazor wrote:

    Ah, well good. And what a novel idea, no? Just make'n sure it wasn't just the "Leave it to Beaver" effect; where we remember the past as better than it actually was.
    Regarding my mention of Ed Murrow and CBS radio broadcasts in the runup to WWII.

    I've been reading Berlin Diary, William Shirer's diary of the period he spent in Europe 1934-41, covering the rise of Fascism. What impresses me is how deeply these guys could see into the situation; they saw the whole thing coming. Shirer sat through Hitler's speeches, and saw him, Mussolini, Franco for just what they were: madmen and thugs.

    No, these guys weren't angels, but their heads were screwed on tight.

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    I really get annoyed with the TV/Radio "reporters" who read whatever's put in front of them without thinking.

    In a story about a trial for murder by child abuse, on my way home from work yesterday:
    "(Child's name) spent half his life in foster care after his death sparked major changes in the state's foster care system."
    This was on a major news station, which spends at least half its broadcast time on self-promotion.
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    This isn't quite reporting, but it's bad, and essentially an anti-science ad-lib, so I'll put it here.

    I caught the last part of a story about changing the poses of dinosaur skeletons in museums on ABC news around a hour ago (~3 am EDT). They mentioned that we've learned that, for instance, Tyrannosaurs didn't stand upright and drag their tails on the ground. (I wasn't paying enough attention to catch if this was supposed new or not, but I really doubt that is in itself.) After the segment, one of the anchors made the comment that he always liked it when science was wrong because he was terrible in the subject and it's like a victory. "I didn't have to learn it because it was wrong anyway," is a direct quote from that ad-lib. (I hope it was ad-libbed.) I changed the channel in disgust. He obviously doesn't get it. I have a nice little ad-hom in response to his lack of understanding of science, but I won't say it here.

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    I saw that story about changing dinosaur poses, although it must have been from a different source since I didn't hear the anti-science remark. They did present the "not tail draggers" thing as big news, which it was. Twenty or twenty-five years ago.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Last year my mother was in an incident in which a pair of rottweilers attacked her while she was out walking with her (then) 6-month-old grandson (luckily no major harm came to them, or I'd be posting this from prison for animal cruelty). The various papers and TV newsclowns reported with such varying degrees of accuracy that some of the stories were almost unrecognizable. One reporter, interviewing my mom, actually got angry at her because she refused to say that the law should be stricter for specific breeds (he tried three times using different wording to get her to "agree" to this). Naturally, that part of the interview never aired.

    My dad used to work for a company which insured nuclear power plants; during the Three Mile Island deal, he saw Walter Cronkite ask to have a street near the plant cleared of people so he could do a report from the scene; he then intoned solemnly that "As you can see behind me, the streets of this small town are practically deserted..."

    It's all show biz, bread and circuses.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2007-Apr-11 at 11:10 PM. Reason: .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    Again, I agree that this isn't the worst offence i've seen. Just the current offence when I started the thread. I haven't had a chance to hit up CNN today but there's generally at least one new bad story a day.
    Ain't that the truth? You'd think the "leader" in world news would have better quality control. I've noticed some rather horrendous mistakes on CNN over the years, even entire articles that were way off target with respect to reality and easily verifiable facts and figures.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    You'd think the "leader" in world news would have better quality control.
    You're supposing they're "the leader" for a reason other than "they say they are."

    I'll take BBC World over CNN for news any time, even though I've seen severe distortions in both.
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    I think they need a New "ProofReader" for their stories.



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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    You're supposing they're "the leader" for a reason other than "they say they are."

    I'll take BBC World over CNN for news any time, even though I've seen severe distortions in both.
    You hit the nail on the head, Henrik - it's a self-imposed leadership.

    The only way to discover more accurate reporting is by perusing those journals which stand a lot more to lose by reporting statistical nonsense than CNN.

    In other threads I've mentioned The Economist and The Wall Street Journal, although I'm sure either, if not both, would raise some heckels, here.

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    A report this morning on TV reported on a highway closing due to a helium spill.

    The way it was presented was... helium is a hazardous substance, it can cause burns and breathing problems, and is difficult to clean up.

    Um; anything that cold can cause burns. And any gas in a quantity to reduce the amount of oxygen will cause breathing problems.

    And cleanup? Why?

    My guess is they closed the road until the rescue personel's voices came back down to the proper octaves.

    Story on a different station

    Although the story I wanted to reference isn't on the web (in other words they didn't put it in writing )

    Edit: Now they have it... but have toned it down considerably.
    Last edited by NEOWatcher; 2007-Apr-17 at 04:30 PM. Reason: New information

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