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.
In this podcast, Bruce and Dale discuss the dissatisfaction about President Obama’s competence, the oil spill, and the American stranded in Egypt.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
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