Aaron Schwartz provides an excellent description of the recent lack of objectivity in the media regarding the recent news that the data released in the U.S. Government's terror report was deeply flawed. Apparently, the report was sent to the printers in November, but was intended to cover all of 2003 -- but virtually no media outlets covered this part oft he story - and none pushed Colin Powell on the issue in interviews!!
Many details and example can be found in Aaron's comprehensive post on the isse. It is a must read.
Who can you trust when government tries to pass off 10.5 months of data as the entire year, and then the media fails to report that fact? These are scary times indeed.posted at 9:25 AM EDT
In "Broadband by 2007? Don't hold your breath', MSNBC Technology Correspondent Bob Sullivan has gotten it right in the headline of the article, but he fails to address important issues in the body of the article. The focus of the article is almost entirely of the difficulty, effort, and cost require to wire the country for DSL or cable broadband access. The point is well-taken that there is no business case for such an infrastructure build, why spend so much time discussing the obvious. Sullivan misses two key points:
Even with a $20 Billion grant from the government, such a massive infrastructure could never be completed by 2007, just three years away. It's not just a cost issue. Providing "wired" universal broadband in this time frame is impossible.
-Wireless in the only way to achieve universal access. Sullivan dedicates two sentences to wireless in this article, as an afterthought: "The only widely available wireless solution, satellite broadband, is nearly triple the price of DSL or cable. Other wireless technologies are in development, but none is widely deployed." True as this may, wireless is the only way to provide universal broadband in a way that is even remotely viable for service providers. It also the quickest to deploy, as less cable needs to be laid. As a "Technology Correspondent", I think Sullivan would know this. So why treat wireless as an afterthought in this article?posted at 1:09 PM EDT
In a another example of poor journalism, Wired writer Chris Ulbrich tells less than half the story. In Spammers Clog Up the Blogs, Ulbrich addresses the problem of blog spam - the increasing trend of spammers to spam blog comments with links. Ulbrich talks about how easy it is for spammers to target Movable Type weblogs, due to the open nature of the comments system.
But Ulbrich did not mention a single tool for fighting the problem - except Movable Type's IP banning tool, which Ulbrich is quick to describe as "a restriction spammers can easily avoid". What makes this even worse is that Jay Allen, the creator of MT-Blacklist, a new tool for combatting blog spam, is quoted in the article. So Ulbrich knew of this great tool, but didn't even reference it. The closest he comes is in quoting Allen "I realized that day that we were facing a new predator in the jungle, and if we didn't adapt -- and quickly -- it would be having us for dinner" - which is not very close, as you can see.
It gets even worse. It turns out that Ulbrich told Allen that he would link to the MT-Blacklist home page in the article. Not only did Ulbrich not link to the page, he didn't mention MT-Blacklist at all. He didn't even mention that Allen was working on a solution to the problem! Ulrich's interview with Allen, however, centered around MT-Blacklist - you can read the whole interview here.
Setting Ulbrich's dishonesty aside for a moment, his intentional omission of any tool that could help bloggers combat the problem is tantamount to helping and encouraging the spread of blog spam. He made sure to describe how easy it is for spammers to target MT blogs - I wonder how many more spammers will enter the arena after reading Ulbrich's article?
Chris Ulbrich should be ashamed of himself.
Update: Jay Allen makes a good point that that Wired editors may be to blame for the omissions in this article. I should have been more clear about that above. That said, it is the author's name that is attributed to the article - and authors do need to take responsibility for their published works.posted at 2:34 PM EDT
I have decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from my blogs and web sites to charity. I have sponsered Hama, a 9 year-old boy from Niger, Africa. My monthly sponsorship donation contributes to the building of wells, medical clinics, schools, and more.
I think that everyone who earns a little money from their blogs and web sites should donate a portion of that money to charity. Bloggers and webmasters can make a difference. I encourage other to do the same - and to spread the word to others. Bloggers have a loud collective voice. Together we can use that voice to make a difference in the world. Technorati now tracks 1,000,000 blogs. If only 10% of those blogs donate $1 a day, collectively we could donate over $35 million to worthwhile causes each year.
You can sponsor a child like Hama for about $1 a day. Can you afford $1 a day? Click here to visit Plan International and choose your country of origin in the yellow box on the right side of the page. If you are in the United States, click here. Please sponsor a child like Hama and then be sure to blog about it. Also, place a small photo of your sponsored child in the sidebar of your blog, along with information to encourage others to donate. Bloggers can make a difference in many ways - I think that this is one of the most important ways of all.posted at 8:52 AM EDT
In this article from the Guardian, a UK news organization, US Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz is quoted as saying "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." As you can see, this admission is HUGE news. So the first thing I did was to check to see how the major news organization were covering the story. First I checked MSNBC - nothing -- an hour later, still nothing. Then I checked CNN - nothing -- an hour later, still nothing. The USA Today - guess what? Nothing there either. I know that the story fairly fresh, only a few hours old is my guess. But this is major news, why haven't these news organizations jumped on this? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? Is this problem with lack of objectivity is the media even worse than I feared? Google News listed only the Guardian article and some smaller news sources, many, if not all, are not U.S. sources. Technorati shows that - at this moment - 48 bloggers are talking about the Guardian article, making it the number one "breaking news" source on the site. I just checked again, because I just can't believe it - still no sign of this story on major U.S. news sources. We are not talking about China here - where the government sensors and controls the media - we are talking about the United States of America, a country where there is [supposed to be] freedom of speech and expression!! I repeat, WHAT IS GOING ON?!?posted at 10:52 AM EDT
As a follow up to a recent post about the search for weapons in Iraq, I found this quote from the Washington Post:
Behind that story was an interesting arrangement. Under the terms of her accreditation, Miller wrote, "this reporter was not permitted to interview the scientist or visit his home. Nor was she permitted to write about the discovery of the scientist for three days, and the copy was then submitted for a check by military officials. Those officials asked that details of what chemicals were uncovered be deleted."
Since then, no evidence has surfaced to support these claims and the Alpha team is preparing to leave Iraq without having found weapons of mass destruction.
Yes, this was the story that CNN reported as fact, with a headline of "Report: Iraq destroyed chemical weapons just before war".
In another example of poor judgement and lack of objectivity in deciding what stories to cover, most of the major news organizations decided to cover a 'story' about a lawyer who is suing to ban Oreo cookies. Why was this ridiculous lawsuit deemed newsworthy? I mean, ridiculous lawsuits are filed everyday. The funnier ones get covered (as punchlines) on radio morning shows and Saturday Night Live. Perhaps the news media deems Oreo cookies to be extremely important to general public, a story that deserves to be covered in headlines and on the front pages! I wonder if these news editor can keep a straight face when they give the directive, "go with the Oreo story"... Here are a few examples of what others are saying about this.posted at 10:44 AM EDT
In the Newsweek article, "You 'pinging' me?", Jennifer Tanaka discusses the use of instant messaging in the workplace. The article talks about the fact all most IM usage at work is done without the knowledge (or approval) of the IT department. Unfortunately, it appears that little research was done for the article. In one instance, Tanaka cites a consultant as an example of someone who has downloaded and uses all 4 of the major IM programs: "But because these networks donít talk to each other, he needs to maintain all four programs." While the first part of that sentence is correct, the latter part is incorrect. There are a number of IM programs available that can communicate with others on all 4 networks. An example is the Trillian IM client, which I begun using recently -- you still need accounts on all 4 IM networks, but you can use this single program to send and receive instant messages with people on all 4 networks. Another example of the lack or research is the fact that Jabber was not mentioned at all in the article. The article talks about about how AOL and MSN are launching products to address the enterprise IM market, but no mention of Jabber, one of the leading software makers in that space. Jabber is not a tiny startup that the author could have easily overlooked. Jabber's customers include large companies such as BellSouth, HP, and Walt Disney. Furthermore, when you do a Google search for "instant messaging", guess who is currently in the number 7 spot? Not only that, Trillian falls into the number 15 spot. The point is, it would have been really easy to do some proper research for this article. By the way, as an experiment, I have sent a shortened version of the above comments to Newsweek. I have never tried this before -- we'll see if I get a response...posted at 10:07 AM EDT
Recently, I have begun to pay closer attention to news articles from the Washington Post. In my opinion, it seems like the Washington Post is being more objective than other news organizations in its reporting of the war in Iraq. An example can be found in today's article entitled Hunt for Iraqi Arms Erodes Assumptions. The article discusses recent attempts at finding banned weapons in Iraq. The article quotes anonymous miltary sources that suggest that they are becoming more and more doubtful about the likelihood of finding anything. The articles describes a "five-tiered list" that the military is using in its search, and that all of the top tier sites searched so far have turned up negative. The article even quotes an unnamed military official as saying "the clues we have right now are not leading us anywhere". The article does a good job of bring the weapons search into context, reminding readers of how it began: "Bush launched and justified the war with a flat declaration of knowledge that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." You may be asking yourself, where is the lack of objectivity that I am supposed to be talking about? For the answer, visit CNN.com. Scan the headlines, go to the World News section -- even visit the Middle East News section. You won't find an article remotely similar. Not even one that mentions the "five-tier" approach that the military is using in its search efforts. No references to the same or similar quotes from the U.S. Military. Why isn't CNN covering this story? The only recent article that pertains to the results of the ongoing weapons search relates to the recent interview of an Iraqi scientist. The military says that the scientist claims that the Iraqis destroyed weapons on the eve of the U.S. invasion. However, the military did not allow a New York Times reporter to interview the scientist. Even so, CNN reports the claims as fact, using the headline "Report: Iraq destroyed chemical weapons just before war". Of course, the counter-argument here is that the use of the prefix "Report:" indicates that CNN is merely relating what someone else has said. Bullshit! If some guy walks up to me on the street and tells me that an asteroid is headed for earth, is it okay for me to publish a headline "Report: Asteroid Headed for Earth"? Of course not. The headline is clearly misleading, and many people will actually take it as fact. Perhaps that was the intent....posted at 12:15 PM EDT