I’m on my band-wagon again. Well, one of them. My ‘sheez the media is crap, especially considering they are (supposed to be) professionals at it.’ band-wagon, to be precise.
Anyway, in the last week I have seen so many cases of either sloppy reporting, or misleading headlines/sub-headings that I decided to post about it. Two examples here are from today, but the best example I can cite is actually from a week or so ago (more on that later).
Today’s example 1: Wrong facts
This one states ‘CEO Mark Ford …“. The problem here is Mark Ford isn’t the CEO, he’s the chairman. A very important distinction, especially considering the current criticism for the ex-CEO. OK, a simple error perhaps, but it should have never got past the proof reader. And if it did, it shows that either the proof reader didn’t do their job, or doesn’t know their content. Mark Ford is a professional DIRECTOR, he’s not a CE of anything that I know of at the moment. I know this, why doesn’t the person writing and proofing this?
This sub-heading reads ‘Cantabrians who have made Earthquake Commission claims will be investigated‘. Now there are 200,000 or so claims in Canterbury (from memory), so that means 200,000 people might be quite interested in this story. Except one important word has been missed out.
When one clicks on the headline, the full story reads quite differently it starts ‘Cantabrians who have made false claims…‘. There is the key word FALSE. So what the actually story is saying is that false claims will be investigated, not ALL claims. That word should have never been left out of the sub-heading.
The story has it in the first line (as shown below), why not the sub-heading? Because sensationalist headlines are in, that’s why!
But the best (or is that worst?) example was a few weeks ago when the NZ Herald lead on their web site with the headline “Gay marriage bill approval“. The article also initially stated “The Select committee approved gay marriage…”, when BOTH statements are totally incorrect. The select committee RECOMMENDED that the bill be approved. HUGE difference. It’s politics 101, how our parliamentary systems works. Once again, why doesn’t a journalist know this? Why wasn’t this very basic, yet fundamental error picked up? And just to be clear, this approval means the bill (ie not yet law) goes back to the house and parliament votes on it again (called the 2nd reading), and only once it is passed and approved the THIRD time by parliament is it law. THEN and ONLY THEN is it approved by anyone! A full summary of this process is here.
Over the course of several hours I noticed the headline and story edited several times, but the most fundamental error (the ‘approval’ vs recommended) error wasn’t picked up until the end of the day, and even then the headline was still factually misleading (it still said ‘approval’).
Black and White Version: Headlines are important. Facts are important. Media screw up both too often.
Today the Christchurch Press reported, that ‘Sex stereotype proven‘, and the byline ‘University students have long been stereotyped as promiscuous – and new research shows it is true.’
Unfortunately, when one reads the article, NOTHING in it supports this claim. The research makes a whole bunch of findings, such as:
- 20 per cent of respondents reported at least three partners in the last 12 months.
- Ten per cent reported having sex with between 10 and 20 people
- 3 per cent reported more than 20 sexual partners.
- Out of those surveyed 32 per cent had been drinking when they last had sex.
- Almost half of the respondents reported at least three sexual partners in their lives.
- 57 per cent of people reported only one sexual partner in the last 12 months.
All good so far, so now for the comparison with some agreed norm, or with some other group, right? I mean the headline read promiscuity is proven right?
Either we need to see a comparison with other persons of a similar demographic (age, gender etc, perhaps say compared to Polytechnic students, or even just people of a similar age not in higher education) or they need to make an absolute reference to some agreed norm on what is promiscuous. Is having two partners a year promiscuous, or three, or ten? We don’t see ANY comparisons, just a bunch of findings. So what we have is just a whole bunch of percentages measuring how much uni students have sex, and that often alcohol is involved (although note this doesn’t mean it’s caused it, they just imply that, they could also have found that 50% of people ate a meal before having sex, would they then imply food causes promiscuity?). Ummm, so what?
Anyway, my point is, this is a good example of research that says nothing but a bunch of random facts, and provides little in real information. There is no comparison to any control group for the purposes of comparison, there is no comparison with any agreed norm about what promiscuous is, and no comparison with say, ten years ago, to show any change over time.
The article’s text even admits there is no comparison:
Canterbury District Health Board clinical director of sexual health Ed Coughlan said it was “really difficult” to say how the sexual behaviour of Canterbury students compared with the rest of the country.
The only thing remotely worth of the team ‘research’ is a passing comment at the end of the article:
The study also found students who reported being attracted to both men and women were “significantly more likely” to lose their virginity before the age of 16.
That finding is worth further investigation, as it indicated a certain group is more likely to pre-16 sex (which is both illegal, and also has been associated with higher risks of pregnancy and/or STI transmissions). Perhaps this group could be targeted for education and/or condoms and/or something else. But no, they prefer just to post random figures about who does who and how often and call it research. Research should provide meaning information to help inform decisions – and the one bit that did that was glossed over!
I think I’ll do my own research, and here is a finding: 90% of research is twisted and misreported by the media.. (I made that up, but you couldn’t tell right?)
Research needs to be meaningful. For this, any claims made needs to be factual, or at the very least, strongly indicated by the research. ‘Proven‘ and ‘show it to be true‘ are strong claims, and in this case there is nothing to support the headline.
Black and White Version: Some research is crap, some media misreport things. It looks like this is both.
Today the NZ Herald had a headline Quake demolitions anger ex-owners.
In it they quote various sources including John Key, the some ex-quake destroyed house owners, and Labour’s spokesperson for earthquake response, Lianne Dalziel.
The central issue reported is:
The first of the red-zoned homes will begin being destroyed today, with a trial demolition of 11 government-bought properties taking place on Seabreeze Close, Waireka Lane and Kokopu Lane in Bexley .
The properties will be cleared over a four-week period.
And some people aren’t happy with this. The EX-owners wanted to be told about this (consulted even?, I can’t tell from the story). Umm, over what? And why?
You got offered compensation, you agreed to it, you got paid it, and then moved out. Move on, let go.
Sure you can always have an interest in a former home, just like I always check out the house where I was bought up as a kid if I drive past it (it has a new owner now), but I dont expect anyone to CONSULT me over it.
Something we all (well I hope all!) have learnt from the Christchurch quakes is that it’s just STUFF. What matters is people, and lives. Sure having ones home destroyed is never nice, but it’s a FORMER home. Which an EX-Owner has issues with. This is not the story they make it out to be.
Once again Key shows that he gets the issue, and how most former home owners would react, and was quoted as saying:
…for the most part, I suspect there’ll be many who will have said “it’s been a terrible situation but I’m building myself a new home or I’ve bought a new home, and that’s the Government’s problem not mine’.”
Black and White Version: Media are making a story out of nothing (again). And Labour are just stirring the hornets nest to try to get a response. -ve -ve -ve. Fail for both of you.
Hat Tip: Mr Payne – thanks Mike!
Today the NZ Herald reports that Pisa expert says Big Ben leaning. Using the text Monitoring instruments suggest the tower’s tilt has increased by about a centimetre a year since 2003 below a picture of the tower.
I am gonna call them on that one and say I can guarantee it’s not. How do I know this? Coz as anyone who’s done a tour of London knows Big Ben is NOT the clock tower, it’s the big bell inside it. So the headline should read Tower hosting Big Ben is on a lean says Pisa expert. (or something like it).
Sure, it doesn’t REALLY matter to 99% of people, and lots of people do call the tower Big Ben, BUT journalists do this for a job – this isn’t a twitter post, or a FaceBook status update. They need to do their homework.
End of rant.
Black and White Version: Sometimes Journalists are lazy. Sometimes that annoys me. Sometimes I blog about it.
For some reason some people on the inter-web, especially Facebook, are saying today (August 11) is Hug A Gay day.
Now I am all for hugging gays. But, no, today isn’t the special day for it.
As I blogged about back in Feb, it’s 2nd Feb, and has been for years.
Oh, while I am on the whole Gay Theme, here’s a very cool page listing the best Effective Signs for gay marriage. Click on the image below for more
Black and White Version: You can hug gay folk whenever you want. But today isn’t the official day for it. You’ll have to wait about 6 months for that.
As I have already blogged that the Ab Circle Pro is a scam.
It was reviewed by clinical exercise physiologist, Dr William Sukala (a VERY knowledgeable guy!) who hammered the claims in detail in his post here.
He went on to review the new ad Ab Circle Pro 2.0 ad here, and says:
The only things left after a nuclear blast? Cockroaches and the Ab Circle Pro V 2.0
I had hoped the Ab Circle Pro would die a quick death after my exhaustive product review from June of last year (Ab Circle Pro Review: Fat Marketing Claims Thin on Truth). The article went viral across the global fitness industry and I received a tremendous number of supportive emails and not a single negative one (a sign that legitimate exercise professionals are fed up with the product). But much to my chagrin, Jennifer Nicole Lee is back with a rehashed version of the product not so creatively dubbed the Ab Circle Pro version 2.0. As far as I can tell, V 2.0 appears to be virtually the same as the 1.0 model without any noticeable structural changes. The only appreciable difference I noticed had nothing to do with the product, but more to do with their questionable marketing and barely legal claims.
In summary he states:
Ab Circle Pro V 2.0: New and Improved Garbage
Bottom line: I advise consumers NOT to purchase the Ab Circle Pro 2.0
I could not agree more. DO NOT BUY ONE!
This product does NOT do what it claims, and is pandering to the inherent laziness in us all (hey who doesn’t want the magic bullet – perfect body for no work? But sorry, it just doesn’t work that way).
But don’t believe me, have a look at any of these:
- read Dr Sukala’s own research here, or
- click on the image at the top right of this post to see the Close Up show about the Ab Circle Pro, or
- read the dozens of negative comments people made about the AbCirclePro in response to my original blog post – not a happy read!
Black and White Version: The Ab Circle Pro is a scam, and does NOT do what it claims. Don’t buy one (can I be any more black and white here?)
It looks like firstIn.co.nz are at it again with misleading retail prices.
Today I see they have an 2nd hand (they say refurbished – but by who?) MacBook Pro for $1599 that they say saves $300. (In case the page disappears I have pasted a screen shot below).
Well I did a comparison with the only site I know always sells refurbished Apple gear – Apple NZ. And I find their STANDARD price on this unit is $1527 (again image shown in case this link dies). Now I will explain that the Apple product is a 2.4GHz processor, where as the FirstIn is 2.53, but Apple also have the 2.66GHz model, with a larger (320GB) hard drive for only $1699. So that’s $200 LESS than the supposed standard price FirstIn claim, for a BETTER unit. Take a look for yourself – Apple sell heaps of refurbished stuff all the time. So where is the $300 saving? What’s this based on? In fact it’s $72 MORE than Apple, plus Apple do free shipping, so that’s (up to) another $10 saved, depending on where in NZ you are.
It took me 30 seconds to find this price, so FirstIn cant claim they didn’t know. This what they do for a living (sell stuff online), and they REPEATEDLY inflate their so called RRP to show larger discounts than are really there. In this case they are actually charging MORE than a comparable unit. I would MUCH prefer to by direct from Apple – I trust them when they say its refurbished, and I also trust Apple’s pricing (coz they don’t mess with it, and they rarely discount). It goes without saying I don’t trust FirstIn.
Black and White Version: FirstIn.co.nz continue to be misleading on their pricing/discounts. I don’t trust them.
PS: Click on either image below for a larger view. Both images copied from their respective web sites at 1.15pm on 12 July 2011.
This post has been a long time coming, and I will cut to the chase.
The way many mainstream media report the Christchurch earthquakes in the hours and days after it is nothing short of sensationalist gutter journalism. IMO, it’s the lowest form of journalism, it’s lazy, manipulative, but above all, extremely damaging to many people at a time where they are already emotionally fragile.
Case and point. A headline in the Christchurch Press the day after the June 13 6.3/5.5 combo shakes.
What a load of CRAP. It’s NOTHING like being on death row. Being on death row means you are going to die, it’s just a matter of when. Living in Christchurch can sure be stressful, and some might even say dangerous, but it’s not, and never has been, death row (or anything even close to it).
Now the Press will defend themselves by saying We were only reporting what someone said. Well that, I fear, is bullshit. Just coz someone said it doesn’t mean you have to report it. Clearly it was an overreaction by a stressed out person (and I don’t blame them for saying it). But I do hold accountable the Christchurch Press for reporting it, and worse, making it the headline. The only reason they reported it is coz it’s sensationalist. In fact one of the Press Councils 11 Principles is that headlines must accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover. This doesn’t, since the story is nothing about death row, and it’s simply a lazy reporter finding the most extreme quote they could, and making a headline about it.
Can you tell I am pissed off? Coz I am! Why? Because right now there are many fragile people in Christchurch. Putting up with aftershock day after day, and major shocks every month or two that results in sewerage entering your house, and 2 weeks of cleaning up water from your carpet can be demoralising. Just when things seam to be on track to get some normality back, a quake sets things back six months. Not to mention picking up smashed glasses for the 4th time isn’t many people’s idea of fun. The media have an obligation to think of these people before reporting such drivel.
The same article goes on to report:
Dominion Post columnist Jane Bowron was at the airport when the first quake struck, and said there was mass panic as people ran for safety. “The whole place started rocking – it seemed to go on for a very long time.”
Let’s dissect that quote a little: People ran for safety and she calls that mass panic. Maybe it was because the reporter was from Wellington, and hadn’t been around many quakes, but I think running for safety is a GREAT idea during a major earthquake (as long as it means running away from things that might fall on you, for example). I’d like to see her calmly walk towards the exit next time one hits. Get real – people ran, so what? Get over it, and stop reporting SENSATIONALIST CRAP!
TV isn’t any better though. I was away the day of this series of quakes, and saw some late night news coverage. A reporter found a crying women and ask her how she was (kinda like a set up isn’t it?). The women replied she was worried about the children that were with her. The reporter must have though they had hit the jackpot – crying women over missing children – WOW have I got something to report now! So the reporter asks ‘Where are they’ to which the women replies ‘They are over there, they are fine, I just worry about them.’ Gee, now that’s good NON NEWS: Women found crying over children that are fine (print that headline!) Oh wait, there was a WOMEN CRYING, that’s the news story – let’s report that. Let’s show that soft emotional impact. CRAP CRAP CRAP I say. Lazy manipulative journalism.
So here’s my advice to the media: Next time (and I hope there isn’t one) there is a major quake in Christchurch how about doing something useful. Report on some stats, report on any USEFUL information that people in Christchurch could use (like the radio station Newstalk ZB did for ages after the September 201 quake) and avoid at all costs any manipulation of headlines or using crying people to manipulate stories so people read/watch them. Actually the media CAN do this, coz they do already – an example is here of what Stuff (the owners of the Press) did for post June 13. Editors need to start saying no to sensationalist manipulative crap.
Black and White Version: Finding sensationalist headlines during natural disasters is easy. Being a proper journalist is harder. Time the media tried more of the latter.
The New Zealand media really don’t get it about the drinking age in NZ – there isn’t one! There is only a purchase age.
The first paragraph says:
An overwhelming majority of people support raising the legal purchase age for alcohol to 20
It goes on to explain the question asked:
When asked by the pollsters to choose between three options for the minimum age to buy alcohol,…
The Herald even have a pool asking the wrong question Should the Drinking Age be raised (my answer would be: Shouldn’t we start by HAVING a drinking age, coz we dont have one!)
So it’s clear the person writing the story KNEW that it was a question about purchase age, but but just decided to make up a misleading headline about drinking age anyway (either that or he’s lazy, or stupid, or possibly all three).
Black and White Version: Headlines in newspapers are sensationalist WAY to often. Being factually wrong is the worst kind.