Friday, November 28, 2008

Dishonesty in news reporting

On WPR this morning an announcer began his story by saying that Sen Feingold had successfully gotten a resolution passed calling for a cease-fire in the Congo. The next sentence warned that continued fighting was impacting the wildlife refuge in Eastern Congo, and the rest of the story was about the gorilla rescue project. Since the reporter brought Feingold into the story, the logical implication would be that Feingold had brought the matter up, right? I hold no brief for Feingold, but I didn't think he was such a fool as that--and he wasn't. There was no connection between the gorillas and Feingold's resolution; just a reporter trying to namedrop to make the story sound important.

The BBC site reported that Nigerian children's teething syrup has been "tainted" with ethylene glycol. Tainted suggests a little spillage or some other small adulteration. Clearly somebody replaced the sweetener with glycol; which is a big deal and not a little slip-up. BBC's word choice is often very strange, to the point of being misleading. Once you figure out the pattern of word choices you can correct the story mentally to get closer to the facts. Sometimes you need a little prior knowledge, such as the toxicity of the glycol.

The Australian described the attacks on Mumbai as carried out by "teenage gunmen."

Kissinger said that "90% of the politicians give the other 10% a bad name." Something similar seems to apply to reporters.

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