Free Markets, Free People

Layers and Layers of Editors

There are always criticisms of the media for bias. Most people have come to accept that the media will report from a reliably liberal point of view, though there are idiots on the left—but I repeat myself—who say the “corporate media” has a conservative bias. But there is a bigger problem with the media than political bias. It’s the issue of competence. Most of the time the press reports on things we don’t know much about, so what with all those layers of of professional producers and editors, we just have to assume they’re doing due diligence to get the story right. Then, you see a story that concerns something you know a bit about, and you realize…they don’t. The real problem with the media isn’t bias, it’s incompetence.

Sometimes it’s egregious. Last month, TV station KVTU in San Francisco reported the Flight crew of the crashed Asiana Arlines flight as Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow. This report went through four levels of producers, all of whome were fired, of course—except for the on-air reporter and managing editor who gave final approval to air the names. She wasn’t fired, apparently, because she is Asian—not that seems to have made her any more knowledgeable about Asian names than her Caucasian subordinates—and the station didn’t want to upset the local Asian community any further.

As an aside, I should think that would make for an interesting discrimination claim by the fired producers and editors. Who were, also, by the way, in a pretty bad position no matter what they did. After all, if they had raised a red flag about the names, and the names turned out to be correct, then they’re the insensitive racists who think Asian names sound funny.  What a wonderful work environment of no-win situations our political correctness is creating.

Anyway, that was a pretty egregious error that touched on a sensitive subject, and even the Asian editor flubbed it. If they can’t even get something like that right, imagine how bad it gets on everyday stories. Well, happily, we don’t have to imagine it, because CNN provided a great example today. In a motorsports story on how Formula 1 racing will bring back turbocharged engines to their cars next year, CNN felt it was necessary to explain how this whole turbocharging thing worked to their less technical readers:

While a standard engine is powered by a belt connected to the crankshaft, a turbo engine runs on its own exhaust steam, making it more energy efficient.

So, can anyone tell me how many factual errors and fundamental physics violations are contained in that sentence? But CNN went further, to ensure their readers fully understood the issue.

Turbo engines also tend to be slower taking off — not ideal for F1 racing. But once in full flight, they maintain speed well, and today you’ll often find turbo engines used in trains, trucks and construction equipment.

Sure. And in industrial vehicles like the BMW M3, M5, and M6, the Subaru WRX STI, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Nissan 370Z,  and Mercedes’ AMG models. All of them are so much “slower taking off” that they struggle to hit 60 MPH in less than 5 seconds. Though, of course, they all do so.

As Jalopnik put it earlier today:

Oh boy. Is it possible for one little sentence to get so much wrong, so efficiently? It’s impressive, in its way. And, sure, it’s CNN, not a dedicated automotive site, but in an article about F1 cars and racing tech, you’d think there’d be at least some attempt to get this right. It’d be like writing an article about an election that said "While a standard election is decided by court decisions from individual citizen legislatures, a runoff election leverages polling data from the most recent census." Sure, those are real words, but they make zero sense.

The thing is, nearly every time I see a story on a subject I know something about, something in the story is inevitably wrong. So I can only assume that, when it comes to stories I know nothing about, they are equally wrong. Which means, basically, that everything you see in the news is…wrong.

That’s not “news”. That’s fiction.

Dale Franks
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28 Responses to Layers and Layers of Editors

  • After the Southwest flight had a boo boo on landing, the Korean press made up their own American pilot names…Kent Landwright, etc. Basically these are puns and not really racist in any language.

  • Speaking of aviation accidents, I gave up counting the Cessna Cubs, Piper 172s crashing because of “air pockets”, years ago.
    Even folks who should know better don’t distinguish a flight “under instrument rules” from a flight “in instrument meteorological conditions”. (ALL flights over 18,000 feet are IFR, even in CAVU conditions).
    Etc. Etc. Etc.
    Don’t even get us started on news regarding guns as handled by those who don’t know which end the bullet comes out (BTW, even gun scribes talk about a gun holding 17 bullets: They’re ROUNDS, or cartridges; bullets are the things come out the barrel, one hasn’t carried BULLETS since the muzzle loading days.

    • Turbos are not more efficient.  They can be more efficient than a larger non-turbo engine of similar peak torque, if you never use anything but the low end of torque.
      The best description of a 4 cylinder turbo is the power of a 6 cylinder with the efficiency of a 4 cylinder, but not at the same time.  Basically if you use that higher end torque, you’re fuel economy goes in the toilet even worse than the 6 cylinder.  So if you a bit of a lead foot, you may be better off with that V6 for efficiency.

      • Sorry meant that as a reply to DocD’s wiki link.

      • Well, it sorta depends on WHICH efficiency we are talking about, dunnit…???
        A well-designed turbo-charged engine (not a “turbo”, btw) exhibits greater volumetric efficiency.

        • Diesels are natural partners to a turbocharger – as far as I know <I>nobody</i> even sells a naturally aspirated diesel in a car these days, and as far as I know they’re surpassing rare in the non-automotive world, as well.
          This has nothing to do with Formula racing, of course, but turbochargers can be very “efficient” – quite correctly, one must define what “efficiency” is measuring first.

          • Right.  As prime-mover power, any turboed engine has some additional “efficiencies”.  Where, for instance, a vehicle or piece of equipment will be expected to operate at peak fuel efficiency at varying altitudes, turbochargers are just wonderful.  As the air thins, they tend to simply spin faster while achieving the boost they provide.  In denser air, they hit their boost, and are limited mechanically so they don’t “over-boost”.  Natural partners with engine control computers, too.  Every modern big-truck engine is turbo-charged AND computer-controlled.

  • It looks like they skimmed the intro paragraph on the wikipedia article about turbochargers ( and then proceeded to get everything completely wrong. But it is similar to most climate news or political science quantum physics, i.e. spectacularly and embarrassingly wrong on every level, so what more can you expect?

  • And Dale, you know how it goes….(acquires best young new school teacher voice)
    “It doesn’t really matter if you get the story right dear, you TRIED, and what really matter is how you FEEL about yourself.  No doubt you meant well.   Don’t worry; everyone get’s an A on this test!   Perhaps some dreary old boring sciency fact was a little bit wrong, it’s not important really.  Your future jobs won’t involve sciency things and the nice engineers from those foreign countries have it all figured out anyway.  Now let’s all have hugs, and a non-fat gluten free glass of something that looks almost exactly like, but isn’t, milk…”

  • Here’s a tip…assume anyone writing anything technical in the popular press is an idiot with no education in anything approaching science.
    You will seldom go wrong.

    • I just work on the theory that anyone writing in the popular press is an idiot who knows basically nothing about anything.  Erb, in other words.

      • A good working theory.  Especially as to the last…

      • Erb. The guy sure puts the “idiot” in “useful idiot”.

        • But is he really ever “useful”…  Serious question…

          • Is he useful? To the left, oh yeah. His main job is indoctrinating freshmen in leftist ideology. Calling it political “science” is just a cover.

            I doubt that he’s nearly as good at it as he thinks, and some of those young fools are going to eventually hit Hard America for counter-programming. But he’s another brick in the wall.

  • In the old days every large news outlet had Technical writers, science writers, economics writers and other specialties.  But somewhere along the way they decided that the only thing important was being a good little lefty and knowing how to tickle people’s ears.  Now they have nothing, less than nothing. I really can find no good news outlets anymore. some of course are worse than others.  

    • Watching the decline of the Economist was downright painful for me. They once had what I regarded as the premier journalist staff in the world. No Economist writer in the late 1980s would have made howlers remotely like the ones cited in this post.

      Their science column is still OK. A bit dumbed down, and briefer than it used to be, but usually worth reading. The rest of the mag has been taken over by the usual lefty suspects, who don’t know the difference between facts and their own opinions.

      • Back in the 70s I LOVED Popular Science.  But I watched in amazement as it became just another knee-jerk “green” advocacy rag.  Same with National Geographic.  Examples of “that which is not conservative will be co-opted by the Collective” (paraphrasing).

        • As our education system ‘improved’ that’s what they were sure the people wanted.

  • I stopped watching any kind of news because of the inaccuracies and over simplifications. I am a biologist, so virtually every time I would see a news story I had to brace myself for the incompetence. Just this mornichirng (on CNN) I heard them refer to a “brain eating virus” even as the

    • …even as the chiron accurately reported that it was a “brain destroying AMOEBA”. CNN sucks.

      • Virus, amoeba, bacteria….pshaw on you science man peoples and your tiny creature craziness.   Bad air!  Bad Spirits!.   The Houngan tells me all the things you say are lies,  Bad spirits come to bad people, that is the way of things!
        That child needs a Bokor, not sticking with needles.

  • Huh. I can’t believe that nobody mentioned the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.  This is a perfect, cautionary example of why the credibility of mass media should always be suspect.

  • Every single news story I have personally been involved with had basic errors.
    Every news story in a field in which I am an expert shows ignorance even in specialty press. (I think EE Times is great, and I think it does about as best as can be done, but there are still errors)