picayune gazette bee plain dealer

7/26/04

My buddy Salem asked an interesting question about Kerry and the recent poll showing that only 30% of Americans “felt like they knew who John Kerry was.” He was flabbergasted that anyone with a modicum of clue would have at least a small understanding of who he is (Vietnam vet, war hero, Senator, etc.) but to me, it’s a little more depressing.

First off, the poll itself is its own leading question. If you ask if you “know” somebody, it forces you to contemplate all things you don’t know about them. Further, in this case, the race for the presidency has been mostly about Bush, since he’s such a wildly incompetent dumbass. We “know” who he is, that’s for goddamn sure.

But such a question, put forth by the media, is simply the evidence of hunger for stories and manufactured spectacle. Like I’ve already moaned before, the genesis of a 24-hour news cycle would have been considered TOTALLY FREAKIN’ INSANE in the 70s when I was a kid. Not enough happened! Not enough happens now, so they have to create it.

This unquenched thirst for “news” has made everyone egregiously sloppy; I’m surprised it took so long for the Jayson Blairs and Stephen Glasses of the world to be outed. How about a few examples of Terrible Journalism just in the last week?

Okay – this article from USAToday has the headline “Some Hybrids Not As Reliable As Gas Models.” It says that “The discrepancies can be dramatic… Toyota and Honda hybrids reported twice as many engine problems as owners of gas-engine Toyotas and Hondas… reliability doubts could make Americans reluctant to buy vehicles that could cut fuel bills and U.S. dependence on imported oil. Reliability problems also can make vehicles worth less as used cars.”

Which should scare all of you away from buying a hybrid car

0 thoughts on “picayune gazette bee plain dealer

  1. oliver

    Sorry, I just don’t see anything obviously wrong with that hybrid article. I think it would have been worthy to mention, as you did, that there’s reason to expect the 2004 models will be more reliable than the ones of the news story, but really I think that’s a point for a manufacturer’s spokesperson or some expert source to have made, and not the reporter. If some source did make that assertion and if the reporter left it out, no biggie, I say. Also, car-of-the-yearness is independent of “reliability”–of which the benchmark standard measurement takes 3 years to make. It’s news when evidence emerges that a beloved new technology, which has been celebrated by experts, is less trustworthy than the plain old stuff. It’s weak evidence, and it might very well be misleading, but it’s the standard sort of evidence brought to bear in evaluating cars, so it’s interesting. You wanna censor science? Maybe USA Today’s hyrbid coverage on the whole has been too narrow or has lacked balance (I don’t know–it’s certainly plausible) and perhaps hybrids do deserve more rah-rah reporting (to my mind they do). But the only agenda I want my paper to have (barring instructions on how to build a dirty bomb, which my next door neighbor’s teenager might read) is to keep me abreast of the news. That means the bad news as well as the good.

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  2. oliver

    Of course, I agree that the people who write the headlines (i.e. the copyeditors, not the reporters) should all be lined up and shot.

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