A science journalist has usually studied some natural science but has to cover all of them and has to simplify a lot, so a trained expert will find a lot of inaccuracies. This is not true for the journalist who reports international events and affairs - these are based on much simpler facts such as "which government decided what" and "which spokesperson of some organisation said what when". It's much easier to get worldly facts like this right, which mostly come from multiple news agencies anyway, than describing news about theoretical physics to laymen in terms that are 100% accurate to a physicist.
In a nutshell, I'm not so sure that the effect really exists in any significant way.
Another issue is, of course, from where else you would get accurate news if not from journalists and press agencies. I've never heard of any reasonable and viable alternative from critics of traditional news media. Cell phone videos by citizen reporters with hysterical voice over can hardly count as a good substitute. Neither are copy&paste news aggregators or bloggers.
At some point you've got to trust your newspaper (or read a better one!) unless there is explicit counter-evidence from elsewhere against the story. Most botched reports get corrected very fast anyway.
That's only true when the coverage consists of retelling such basic facts, but that's a small part of what journalists do.
Anyone with knowledge of international events and affairs can spot all kinds of errors, omissions, and plain falsehoods when articles cover such topics -- just as well as one does when it comes to say physics or computer science.
>Another issue is, of course, from where else you would get accurate news if not from journalists and press agencies.
Most journalists and press agencies cater to the lowest common denominator. There are press sources that go far deeper  but those are not what people usually read for their "news".
For science, for example, you can go directly to the journals and hardcode scientific outlets. For most regular news you can go directly to the wire services, read accounts from people on the ground, and read deeper outlets with more analysis than mass market newspapers like the NYT.
 Even if they introduce a certain delay on the news (which in most cases is irrelevant, it's not like anybody will need to act immediately upon some news regarding foreign affairs for example).
If you have the time, sure. Journalists do this work for you and are trained to do it, but of course there is nothing wrong with going closer to the source. Only few people can afford this luxury, though. I sometimes do this for topics I'm really interested in, but certainly not for every daily news. For the ones who don't have the time, resorting to reputable newspapers is by far the best choice.
Edit: In your reply you were shifting the goalpost. I was talking about news, not "what journalists do". Writing an editorial or opinion piece or broad analysis is not reporting news. Just wanted to make this clear.
There is no isolated part of the news about foreign affairs, say, that is commonly just a complete summary of discrete facts. Every choice about presenting it for consumption is part of an editorial and marketing process.
In this sense, I think the parent comment adequately captures a useful counterpoint to your original comment, and is not “shifting the goalposts” or anything by talking about one (journalists) of the many factors that make reporting even on fact summaries still often full of politically convenient ommissions or focused on politically convenient estimates rather than full disclosure of all estimates, etc. etc.
Maybe you and the OP have different conceptions of what news are, though, because I have definitely no problem discerning factual statements from opinions or framing and in my book only the former constitute news. That every news source is biased and in fact every person on earth is biased, that is journalism 101 and has been known and accepted since the first newspaper was published. Likewise, you can learn at every photography course that every picture also tells a story about what's not on it.
I really don't get why people make such a big fuzz about these truisms nowadays and suspect that many of the critics have a hidden political agenda themselves. (Not meant as a statements towards you specifically, just as a general remark, as the description of a tendency.)
The epistemological stance of this statement is troubled at best
What if the facts you are discerning have been somewhat modified, or some of the facts relevant to a specific story have been excluded from the article entirely?
I said that I see no viable alternative (unless you have unlimited spare time and unlimited travel funds to interview witnesses and take photos yourself), not that traditional newspapers are perfect.
Besides, the problem of most people nowadays is that they are overinformed, leading to an overly negative world view. That problem worries me personally much more.
If you happen to be an expert in a certain topic, you’ll reliably detect this for news items of that topic.
The OP is meant to talk about extending that experience into a general prior belief that such mistakes also occur in areas of the news about which you are not an expert.
Even if you only have one potential modality for consuming news information (i.e. consumer media), you still have the option to try to mentally model the uncertainty within that modality, and either adjust your general skepticism of all news upward, or adjust your consumption of news downward. Either of which could be policies that cause you to become more informed by consuming / believing the news less, depending on your personal parameters for the optimization policy.
Or in other words, the "I have no problem...." part is not quite accurate. Yes, I'm being rather pedantic, but I think it is perfectly fair to point out any flaws in any "no need to worry" explanations of the shortcomings of journalism.
This wouldn’t bother me if journalists were experts on their domains, but there is plenty of reason to think that’s not the case.
There was once a time I considered becoming a journalist. I bought a copy of the then-latest AP Style Guide, which had a chapter on how to handle unfulfilling assignments such as business news. The fact that a media company covers news for a particular topic doesn’t mean they actually have any experts on that topic.
I remember a computer journalist who bought a Linux CD, couldn’t get it to install on PowerPC, and claimed that was proof Linux wasn’t actually portable, and didn’t understand why people asked what architecture the CD was for. I remember when a buffer overflow was reported for Apache, and before Apache had a fix, somebody released a build that doubled the size of that buffer. Several media outlets thought this was an impressive fix for the original problem, and failed to ask what would happen if an attacker doubled the size of the input.
With that kind of track record, I’m very cautious about where I get my computer news, and I fact check every story I can. But what about topics I’m not an expert in? I’ve seen incredibly dumb legal stories even though it would be easy for a news station to find a competent lawyer to review things before they’re published. When I read anything about the military or foreign affairs, I assume that the assigned journalists aren’t any better at their jobs than the people covering technology, lawsuits, local politics, etc.
Journalists are trained in journalism, not particular problem domains. Someone writing an article on an event in the middle east may have no education in Middle Eastern history. Without domain specific knowledge, it's impossible to write a coherent article on complex topics like these.
The very premise of general-purpose journalism is obsolete for numerous subjects. For foreign affairs, for example, the underlying facts all come from the same AP wires or press briefings. There is no value-add to having a non-expert massage those into an article. Likewise for politics. Most technology news comes from press releases, etc.
(And, obviously: what are the wire service reporters if not themselves journalists?)
You'd think, on HN, that Carreyrou would just be the immediate nut-hand game-ending argument about the "Gell-Mann (Crichton) amnesia effect", but, no, we all seem to have forgotten about Theranos and the WSJ.
Increasingly less (regional offices close all the time), and where they still do, increasingly more cheaply (in both personnel costs and quality).
The Washington Post has 16 foreign “bureaus,” and 12 of them consist of just a single reporter, according to the newspaper’s website. The four remaining bureaus all consist of two journalists. Is the Post using the word bureau a bit loosely? One Post reporter, Sudarsan Raghavan in Nairobi, is listed as the paper’s “bureau chief in Africa.” Raghavan is the chief of a bureau of one in Kenya. For the continent of Africa.
There is an unfortunate trend arising from the coincidence of two motivations: 1) Increasing click-bait factor of news in response to economic pressures and 2) The pushing of group agendas by a 4th estate communicating ever more intensely via social media and electronic means.
I wonder if "deeper" isn't the critical dimension for the facepalms of the Gell-Mann amnesia effect. Perhaps instead it's "cluefullness"? Channeling consensus expertise from a robust professional community. Much long-form journalism is just as cluelessly facepalm-intensive as TV news. Random-person-in-the-field handwaving (Foreign Affairs, or Atlantic), or "cocktail-party consensus" (Economist, or often NYT), seem no less G-M-ish. And in contrast, a brief and "shallow" one-liner might still reflect the correctness and insight of deep and robust community expertise.
You can experience G-M facepalms without your own expertise, by finding forums where some professional community hangs out. So when US Navy ships are colliding, you contrast press coverage with discussion on a professional maritime forum. When a SpaceX-launched satellite fails, you contrast press coverage with a private spaceflight forum, or even /r/spacex. The magnitude of the facepalm signal is very not small.
Some of the more clueful journalists, are embedded in such professional communities. Which suggests a metaphor. As the old press shut down its foreign desks, something was lost. Coverage became less insightful, less nuanced. A reality-check was removed, so facepalms increased. For myself, most journalism, about most topics, about science and technology, economics, governance, and much else... feels like the foreign desk has been closed.
There's still "in-country" trade press, and newsletters. So perhaps there's a market opportunity here? Channeling expertise to a broader audience, without the focus on transient "news" and investigative journalism. Instead of hanging small bits of broken insight upon the "hook" of current events, perhaps make insight the focus?
More generally who the hell has time to go directly to the wire and read all the raw sources and figure out which are accurate, which are relevant, and which you should care about? Journalists, do.
That's the thing you want to avoid if you want to form your own opinion on something. You shouldn't let anyone else do that for you.
All you really need is (1) healthy skepticism that is prepared to tentatively accept facts and narratives as presented, and (2) sufficient interest to remember the highlights and contours of previous reporting. Bad journalism invariably becomes inconsistent and contradictory journalism.
You don't need to be an expert in the Ukrainian armed conflict to have realized that popular Russian news outlets propound falsehoods; over the years they've published contradictory facts while reporting by other outlets has remained steadily consistent. The consistency of lies and misleading narratives is drastically more difficult to maintain than of objective statements of substantive facts and narratives rooted in those facts.
Knowing the truth and identifying falsehoods are two different but related processes. As you filter out the lies and biases the truth comes into focus, albeit an incomplete truth. But in most cases that's more than enough to stay usefully informed on matters of general import.
TL;DR: News literacy simply requires tentative acceptance of substantive facts and narratives firmly supported by substantive facts while keeping a long-term memory of the highlights of previous reporting. The latter has been made infinitely easier with the advent of the internet because locating previous news stories has become trivial; questions about consistency can in most cases be quickly resolved with brief Google sleuthing.
 Of course, as the Iraq War proved it's not impossible, at least not over the course of a year or less, but even then the narrative was transparently based on a single fact--the curveball informant--that was sufficient alone to cast the narrative into doubt. The American public (including myself) was overly credulous of the narrative because we shared the same biases as the reporters. But as practical matter this case is the exception, not the rule, unless you want to get really philosophical about things.
 In general that's another indicator of good reporting: not claiming more than the facts support. Suffice it to say that this is different than FUD, but I'd rather not get into it. My point is simply that there are tools (heuristics or algorithms, if you like) that promote literacy of major issues without requiring one to become a subject-matter expert.
The virtue of good reporting is that they can cultivate expert sources and analysis that you don't have access to.
Well, that's not quite true: there are organisations which need to act immediately upon news of foreign affairs. Those organisations are nation-states, and they tend to have well-funded and -staffed intelligence operations for precisely that reason.
Quite a lot of news reporting does this, but it's extremely hard not to accidentally let "a spokesperson said X" implant the belief "X is true" in your mind unless you're very vigilant. So reporting these kind of official statements without fact-checking the underlying statement can be surprisingly misleading.
But then there's also the ability of media to just make or dig up a scandal out of whole cloth by finding people willing to make the statements they want. Today's fiasco is the Times trying to resurrect the idea that Michael Foot was a Soviet agent, a claim which they lost a libel lawsuit over decades ago. https://inews.co.uk/news/ex-sunday-times-ed-andrew-neil-lead...
This is true, but why does this mean we should assign trust to newspapers? I think the reality is that a reliable source of information is not possible due to the Principal-Agent problem : any information-providing body is going to have incentives to distort the information provided. Misleading headlines or "clickbait" to draw in more readers are one such incentive, and the inherent difficulty of verifying one's facts is another. The notion that there has to be something we can trust is a foolish one, and we should be skeptical of everything we read.
I disagree very strongly with this statement. The "facts" may be simpler in that it doesn't take research to uncover them, but the "reporting" is far more complex because there are so many and contradicting facts. Take any international conflict and you have multiple truths about which gov't decided what. Additionally the actors are motivated to create confusion.
People often divide news content into two spheres: Facts and opinion (e.g. editorial). News articles are believed to be facts, and then they separately have opinions and editorials. The common advice is to be wary of the latter.
In my experience, though, the news is really divided into three spheres: Facts, opinions, and context. You'll find that almost every news article contains both facts and context. The context portion of the article is there to tell you why all this matters. Contextual statements are also facts, but they do not involve the immediate events. It is in the choice of which contextual facts are included in the article that bias creeps in.
As a simple exam, in 2003 Michael Jackson was charged with child molesting. I recall almost all the articles I read mentioned in the end that he had been similarly accused in 1991. Yet none of those articles mentioned the details and outcome of that investigation.
With international affairs, once you've studied a topic for long enough, you'll quickly become aware of the contextual biases, and you'll want to scream at the authors for omitting what you think are very relevant contextual facts.
Are you an expert of international events and affairs? Have you spoken to one about whether this is true? I'm not and haven't, but I would bet they have plenty of examples of terrible coverage.
(I imagine many examples would be of the form "they focused on irrelevant detail X when what matters is Y" or "they said X implies Y but it's actually unknown what the consequences of X will be" or "they only quoted people with opinion X" or "they oversimplified X to the point of caricature" or of course "that's just factually wrong, I was there and X never happened".)
I notice the effect all the time reading any coverage of legal or regulatory issues in mainstream newspapers. I pretty much just flip past any such article these days--it's too painful. As to the alternatives, they're domain specific. For legal stuff, there are specialized legal journals. Blogs are top notch too--anything you read on PopeHat is 10x better than the NYT.
I don’t disagree with this simple statement per se but I disagree with its implications.
You can still paint a false picture by choosing which facts to report and which to ignore. I see it every day in the gym with one television that plays CNN next to one that plays Fox News. Watching the TV on the left gives me the impression Trump is a hooligan constantly on the verge of being impeached. The TV on the right tells me the economy is roaring and everything is great.
Even a cursory skimming of Manufacturing Consent by Chomsky will dispel you forever of such a notion. The motivations for inaccuracies of political journalist are different from that of a science journalist but the result is the same.
In the case of "worldly facts" news, the really significant part is often the emotional impression of the text. The way this plays out in physics/science, world news, and politics are all going to be somewhat different. It results in factual errors more often in science news, which often amounts to making people feel like they're informed, but the emotional games played in more political news are different. (The exceptions are climate science and evolution, where the topics are more politicized and the emotional games are more political.)
You can round up 100 protestors anywhere, for any issue. Why does the media cover some protests but not others? Why does the media never report on public suicides and bank robberies (to avoid encouraging copycats) but they report every mass shooting, complete with a gory scoreboard? Why was the bloodiest war since World War II virtually unreported on in the US? Why were Donald Trump’s bizarre antics more comprehensively reported than the policy proposals of any of the Presidential candidates?
The roots are to be found in recent political events and the apparent susceptibility to "active measures" by state actors and private entities alike.
This strongly suggests the vast majority of people spends near zero energy in trying to separate bullshit from thoughtful content. It's all about how loud and how often you blurt a story out there and how brazen you are in spreading it (troll farms, bots).
We are currently experiencing a true crisis of Western democracy that results from evolutionary advantages of bullshit information in a global information ecosystem. These affects seem to emerge when blending global connectivity with human psychology...
This could be a form of confirmation bias - like how it seems to rain when you havent got your umbrella, because confirmation bias makes you remember the times you got caught in the rain more strongly then the times you actually had your umbrella and stayed dry.
Similarly if someone is of the opinion that everything in the media is made-up, confirmation bias will mean they really notice articles that are wrong on areas that they know about. Whereas articles that are broadly correct in areas they know about will just pass by unremarkably.
Then then on top of that, you've got the premature extrapolation that because you've spotted one incorrect article by one journalist, all the other articles by all the other journalists must also be the same.
Not that I think the media are always right by any means.
Obviously the media I consume are carefully picked so that I know I'm getting a reasonable sketch of reality, whereas the stuff everyone else is consuming is clearly made up dangerous nonsense*
* probably biased.
One thing I've increasingly noticed over the past couple of years (and I think it's personal development, not any particular combination of news of the day) is the way the way we trust the mass media can make stories just disappear by simply not covering them. I'm not even merely talking about political stories disappearing or the media exerting bias; I mean even bigger than that. How many times have you read something interesting and would be interesting in reading about a followup story in a month or two? How often do you see that followup story? For instance, in the domain of science articles, how many times do you read about some preliminary result vs. an article discussing the field's reaction to some preliminary result?
People simply and almost blindly take their cues about what's important from what the mass media is talking about, but if you examine even just what the mass media is putting out on its own terms it's hard to conclude that it's the truly most important stuff.
Note my point here is about people moreso than the media. The media is forced to be biased by limited bandwidth. If you want to argue that they're biased beyond what that justifies, I will be right there with you, but that's not what my point here is about. My point here is that regardless of exactly how the bias manifests, how casually we tend to accept the mass media's output as the definition of what is important today, what the agenda is, what we all have to talk about, what we're going to screech at about each other on social media, etc.
If major newspapers wrote in the language like of Foreign Policy - people wouldn’t read it. So what is authoritative? Authoritative for the ingelligencia, or authoritative for the masses?
what is the pre-existing belief? did you mean to say sampling bias?
A few personal experiences:
I took the stand as a witness in a murder case. The shit the papers printed had nothing to do with reality.
I ran a nonprofit after we lost our child to cancer. We got a lot of press, a lot of incorrect press.
I was in Iraq as a soldier in ‘04 - ‘05. We had satellite news and everyone back in the US was learning about a conflict on Mars as far as I’m concerned. The entire discussion had almost nothing in common with the facts on the ground.
In Iraq I even had cameras show up to something I was directly involved in after we already cleaned it up and left. They were egregiously wrong about that particular situation.
I’m friends with a TV news reporter in a major market. She’s on every night. The things she’s told me about how the news desk operates...
Market and sports analysis written by bots, virtue signaling “intellectuals”, beat reporters who are lazy/tired/hurried/being told what to write, humans having bias.
Honestly it’s all garbage. I just try to read primary sources when I can and when I have time. People think being well read in the media talk of the day is some sort of badge of intellectual self reliance. Nothing is further from the truth.
The financial crisis made me realize that this is pretty much true for most areas except, I hope, for bridge-builders and rocket scientists.
My favorite "WTF" experiment was a calculation that adding mercury to rocket fuel would result in better thrust. This went all the way to a full rocket test, proving that the calculation was absolutely correct. Then the line of research finally got abandoned because spewing horrible poisons into the air is not something that we want to do...
In fact, the whole book had a tendency to first severely stretch the brain. When understanding finally happens, you go OMG WTF what did I just read?
Oh. Yes. Indeed there is.
He also has a marvelously understated style. Read between the lines of the following, I was against describing the nature of the inhibitor in the openly published specifications, since the inhibition was such an unlikely— though simple — trick that it might well have been kept secret for some time. I had friends in the intelligence community, and asked them to try to learn, discreetly, whether or not the trick was known on the other side of the iron curtain. The answer came back, with remarkable speed, that it was not, and that, in fact, the Soviet HF manufacture was in trouble, and that the director of the same was vacationing in Siberia. So I protested violently and at length, but the Air Force was running the show and I was overruled. And when the specs were published, the gaff was blown for good.
The inhibitor in question was needed to keep nitric acid in storage and one can only imagine how unpleasant Siberia was as a vacation spot...
Mercury by contrast is bad, stays bad once it reacts with something, and once it gets in the environment quickly concentrates up the food chain to give you maximum odds of experiencing just how bad it is. Usual lethal doses are 1-4 grams, and occasionally less. See https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents... for more on that.
Mercury compounds generally don't get better than that, but they do get worse. For example 0.3 grams of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethylmercury causes a bad death, and famously goes through things like latex gloves.
Filling a rocket with 30% mercury by volume may make the rocket go faster, but spewing metric tonnes of mercury all over your environment at each launch is..not recommended.
Not necessarily of course: eg Dutch news broadcaster NOS got significantly better tech reporting after hiring a particularly good journalist (Joost Schellevis), but their other reporting didn't suddenly get less biased by him joining.
It does seem strange to continue reading a source that gets things wrong all the time. A friend's commentary on those: "Just consider them entertainment. Some readers want to be entertained in ways reality can't offer them."
Gell-Mann of course had a fundamental understandingf of modern physics including many counterintuitive effects. A journalist would not have that knownledge, and given the task to (in fairly short time) write an article for an audience that in general neither has that fundamental understanding. So, of course the journalist will make mistakes, misunderstand aspects of the field when writing an article. Physics is hard.
But, politics, road safety, sports are interests that one quite probably can claim are less hard to grasp. And areas a newspaper journalist quite probably also have more knowledge about. So, the amount of errors and mistakes when writing an article abpit something in these fields should be fewer. And Gell-Mann would probably be able to spot them.
See Richard Feynman, "Hell, if I could explain it to the average person, it wouldn't have been worth the Nobel prize."
I'd have gotten a hundred down votes if I explained the issue that way here. But the person I was talking to was satisfied with a shallow explanation and at least understood the problem at a high level.
I don't like to, but I have to add a bit "citation needed" at this point.
whereby immediately after reading about the Gell-Mann amnesia effect, the reader forgets about the Gell-Mann amnesia effect. This effect and it's related origin's anti-memetic properties lead to the constant rediscovery and dissemination of materials related to said effects.
In my statistics undergrad, we were told to find a science article, find the study the article was about, and reinterpret the results to see how well the article did. The article always overgeneralized study conclusions. Every time.
I have no great hatred for the press, and I don’t call anything I dislike Fake News, but I do wish I felt like I could trust reporting more than I do.
Turning the page of a newspaper is often a big deal:
* if you turn from the front page to any other page, the sensationalism of the headlines decreases while the overall quality of the coverage increases. Save for the rare case of actual investigative journalism that starts on the front page.
* if you turn from the op-ed page to a news-bearing page, you're changing from reading bold-faced, unapologetic propaganda to reading news stories.
I think Chomsky either wrote or said that the most effective way to get news from a newspaper is to start from the back and reading to the front.
Anyhow, the Gell-Mann amnesia effect seems not to take any of these truisms into account. (Nor the fact that people who read newspapers and periodicals also have a genre literacy, including foreknowledge of the most reputable reporters, reporters backgrounds, conflicts of interest, etc.)
"In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the low quality of a poem, and then turn the page to 20th century poets, and read as if T.S. Eliot's work was somehow more serious than the baloney you just read."
There’s also one specific to the tech industry:
Gell-Mann has fascinated me for years (even before I knew it by name). It stemmed from reading news articles about technology in the newspaper (even pre-internet) and other conventional news sources. They never seemed to get it right, and it was frustrating. Particularly galling was the use mis-use of "hacker".
As I got older, and eventually had a cadre of friends and acquaintances in various professions - nurse, doctor, lawyer, CEO (food), COO (software development), environmental scientist, hydrologist, industrial engineer, insurance salesman, high level manager, and most notably, a journalist.
Querying them specifically on Gell-Mann, the results were pretty much unanimous. They all felt like the conventional media mis-reported their fields of expertise. Being introduced to the Gell-Mann concept was an eye-opener for some of them, while others had intuitively understood it, as I had.
Consequently, I follow no out of domain news sources. If I want to know something, I read something in depth from within the industry it is covering. I choose carefully, and try discredit what I've read.
I have to say, it was particular satisfying not paying attention to the last election. One of my friends, a self-avowed news-monger, remarked to me casually a few days before election day, "Hillary cancelled her post-election party." I said, "She knows she's going to lose." He said, "You're crazy, everyone has her in a landslide." I said, "You might be misinformed."
I wonder if this has the opposite risk of creating a kind of "journalistic capture" where the reporting of the journalists who are experts on the topic can be too highly influenced by the industry they're covering.
>"Hillary cancelled her post-election party."
A quick search suggests to me that it's well documented that she canceled some kind of party at the Javits Center on election day rather than days in advance. Do you have anything offhand that speaks to this? Am I perhaps searching for a different party than the one you're describing?
Yes, I worry about that, too. I try to balance it out best I can.
"A quick search suggests to me that it's well documented that she canceled some kind of party at the Javits Center on election day rather than days in advance."
Nope, I suspect that's the one. Sorry about the time-frame lapse. Should have Googled it myself.
I just got hit on the head with the irony on that. Thanks
chasingthewind I got a good laugh.
Sorry, I missed that. I'm most certainly not political or a side of an aisle. I generally abhor politics and drink very little Kool-Aid.
In movies, if you are in a field portrayed in the movie, you see how much was wrong regarding that field or subject in the popular or surface level understanding of a subject. But then go on to believe the suspended or simulated reality the movie portrays on other fields or subjects that may also be off base but in the general direction.
Communication sometimes has to be a simplification or a surface level knowledge set that is understandable or consumable by all people or the target market, especially people that might not know about a particular subject. So you might read an article or see a part of a movie that is wrong, but the general gist is correct or the view represented might be people's first take on a subject, but the more detail one knows it might skew farther from that initial idea.
Similar to the way hackers are portrayed in movies, hackers do things with machines and software that are amazing in real life, but it is a cartoon version in the movies. Space travel movies are also usually guilty of this. The Martian was lauded for the more scientific and reality based takes on aspects of the movie, but also it was still packaged for consumption to get a point across.
When it comes to news and facts, incorrect details are bad when articles are wrong or get detailed parts incorrect, but many times first impressions are wrong or first takes on subjects are off base slightly, ultimately the truth comes out or is refined to closer to correct. Journalists might not fully understand a subject enough or may be missing parts to fully get all the details correct, eventually through more work though these ideas are corrected. The journey to truth and fact is iterative.
People simplify to get to a point where they can understand something to then find out the truth through more discovery, it is a work in progress, kinda like finding out about our place in the universe, initially people thought Earth was the center of all that is. The pursuit of knowledge and fact is getting a foothold to climb closer to the truth bit by bit, unless the bias is intentionally to mislead or spread disinformation.
"Michael Crichton concluded in the same essay that there is absolutely no value in the media, as society continues to seek information from the same source that was entirely wrong on the topic in which one retains expertise"
So a publication totally butchering a subject is certainly cause to get a second opinion for other subjects, but not necessarily cause to discard the publication's take on those other subjects outright.
It's really easy to cite counterexamples to it. Even in our field, and in very mainstream press outlets.
I am not sure what you mean by counter-example to the effect - I do not think the idea is that it's always happens. It's just the name and description of the thing that sometimes happens.
Although perhaps there is actually the opposite effect. Now people read an article in their field, notice some flaws, and conclude all reporting is terribly flawed?
But really, one month you read a wired article about kaminsky and the keys to the internet, and then you read an article about hacking slot machines, and you think, oh yeah, I'm sure this accurate?
The article seems quite poor. Of two supporting references it uses, one seems to contradict the effect (C.S. Lewis became more sceptical) and the other suggests Hitchens referred to this effect in an interview that came years before the speech.
(1) newspapers and other media sources should not quote experts who predict that the 2002 United States steel tariffs will affect GDP or employment, because no one can predict the future, and you should ignore any predictions you read experts making which are quoted by newspapers. Note that in retrospect ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_United_States_steel_tarif... and links ) research has showed that the tariffs adversely affected GDP and employment, as some experts predicted.
(2) other predictions which people made are wrong and, with the benefit of hindsight, they should not make them. Note that Crichton cherry-picks only those predictions which turned out to be inaccurate.
In retrospect there is a bit of irony in his being forced to "predict" certain future predictions which would turn out to be wrong. The one specific future prediction he happened to choose happened to be somewhat accurate.
Yes, Crichton does use the latter half of the speech to argue that global climate change is not happening, or if it is happening it's good for humanity, and anyway it's considerably less important to humanity's fate than changes in the Earth's magnetic field strength.
What he does not say in his speech is "I have analyzed predictions made in news articles for the past X years, and judged the accuracy of N predictions -- Y% of them were accurate. Frustratingly none of them expressed any degree of confidence in their predictions so I treated all equally for this analysis. This percentage is [no worse than guessing | worse than guessing, so you should expect the opposite of what is predicted with weak/strong confidence | better than guessing, so you should expect what is predicted with weak/strong confidence]. Here are my data so you can see for yourself."
Did Crichton do his homework? Or did he just give up in dismay and cherry-pick some examples of failed predictions? His argument is rhetorically compelling but it's based on anecdotes rather than data and it's hard to trust.
A very quick Web search shows that with respect to opinion columnists (not the same as newswriters), this work has been done at an undergraduate level -- see https://www.hamilton.edu/news/story/pundits-as-accurate-as-c... , https://www.hamilton.edu/documents/an-analysis-of-the-accura... -- and has found that some specific opinion writers tend to make predictions which are accurate and some do not.
Journalists get things wrong. Doesn't mean I am going to completely ignore the nytimes from then on.
Or am I just a sucker now, according to Michael Chriton.
There are also subjects A, B and C. You know next to nothing about them. When you read something about them on that same source, you can't know if it is correct. So why would you even expect it not to be wrong too?
"One example is that of C. S. Lewis (who did not know of this phenomenon but nevertheless has a case of it). After reading biographical interpretations of his own works and realizing how incorrect they could be, he began to read other biographical interpretations with more caution, aware not to accept everything stated at face value."
A facile understanding might be perfectly acceptable — as long as you accept it for what it is, and allow for the idea that you might be wrong in your understanding.
General news media is largely useless to actively harmful. For topics you actually care about, you're better off learning about them from specialist sources. For general understanding of the world you're probably better off reading history, science or literature. For plenty of topics you're probably better off not knowing or caring. If you think you're getting value from these types of media, it's at least worth a skeptical re-evaluation of what value they are really providing.
Take a state propaganda outlet like RT.com. They have plenty of stories on topics I know about that are just fine.
But unless you plan on being an expert in every field or just distrusting about everything you read (safe option if you ask me), such a measuring stick is better than nothing.
For me this is the beauty of HN. I have a good familiarity with a lot of the topics discussed so I can generally tell who knows what they're talking about and who isn't. When the discussion veers into more general topics I can feel mostly confident (relatively speaking anyway) of the information I'm getting that's "on the level".
"It may simple be that a facile understanding of the world is perfectly acceptable for most topics."
I agree, for most practical things it's sufficient to register a thing has happened without deeply understanding the causal premises leading to the event, nor the implications.
On the one hand as a reader we need to be more sceptical, but on the other, a bit more humility is needed from these news sources.
That being the case, and given the contentiousness that tech-related threads also sometimes generate, it's likely most commenters' opinions on programming and CS are only slightly more informed as their opinions on everything else. I'll include myself in this set -- I've been corrected (sometimes harshly) on a number of things I assumed were true and insisted on in good faith.
Take HN with the same healthy dose of salt with which you should take all other media.
That's precisely why HN!
> I've been corrected (sometimes harshly)
Yes, but that's the beauty of it. You get bullshit articles and often bullshit discussions but the quality of discourse is of very high quality, and often verifiable.
I would devour it. Gobble down her op-eds. Take my thinking from it, even proudly claiming to shocked friends from time to time that it's "where I get my opinion". I was pro-business, anti-union - a champion of conservative values and believed that society adequately served the honest and hard-working.
I bought it every day. I'd proudly strut about with it tucked under my arm. They could have told me black was white and I'd have lapped it up.
About 10 years ago a few things changed, and I can't say what exactly. The editor turned over from a lady who was a distinguished journalist to "some other old guy" - maybe that was it. Maybe it was the financial crisis brought about a lowering of quality standards or a need to compromise values. Or maybe it was the change in government that brought about a regime that was more harmonious with their editorial ideals. The Irish Times has strong ties both presently, and historically with the current ruling party but all through my youth they were in opposition and perhaps this gave the IT a rebellious note.
Maybe I was just getting older and wiser.
Probably all this coming together; but I started to notice the cracks more and more. Not just partiality, but sloppy, careless reporting. Some stuff just downright and even dangerously wrong at times.
They used to be subscriber-only but had some years hence gone purely ad-driven; when they started to go back to being subscriber only I jumped on it because I hoped that subscriber-driven revenue would improve journalistic standards. I enthusiastically battled in the comments section with the freeloading whingers as I saw them.
I signed up for the online edition and to have the weekend edition delivered (getting the delivery to actually come was a litany of operational issues that I won't get into now).
But nothing improved. They spent a bit more money on the site, and rebranded the print edition. That was it. They started introducing more and more obtrusive advertising, and the coverage just got more and more partisan and pro-establishment until one day, they printed just outright lies about the outcome of a trial I had been following closely.
That was it. I was done. The desperate bastards couldn't even give me a way to unsubscribe online. I actually had to ring them up on a number that I found buried in the terms and conditions. Even then on the phone they wanted to know the whys and wherefores and if I'd be back. They were pleasant and polite as was I with them.
Since then I've watched them spiral down down down. They're at a point now where they're presenting different agendas to different "segments": Online subscriber-only articles tend to be more progressive in their outlook. The free-access stuff is grotesquely click-baity. The print edition caters to the stuffy older more conservative readership.
This is a newspaper that claims to be the "Newspaper of Record". It saddens me that it's still far and away the best daily on Irish newstands though.
Sorry for the rant. It's kind of like when Luis Figo went to Real Madrid. One Barca fan recorded as saying "We hate him so much because we loved him so much".
"In this timeless clip, Prime Minister, Jim Hacker explains to Sir Humphrey and Bernard the importance of the papers and who reads which one."
Sir Humphrey: The only way to understand the Press is to remember that they pander to their readers' prejudices.
Jim Hacker: Don't tell me about the Press. I know exactly who reads the papers.
* The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country.
* The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country.
* The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country.
* The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.
* The Financial Times is read by people who own the country.
* The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country.
* The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who think it is.
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big
Geraldine Kennedy had some serious backbone and she wasn't driven by business considerations. On the other hand the corporate side made some horrific blunders during her tenure though I don't know to what extent she was involved with that.
Regarding Ms Kennedy, I imagine her to be a newswoman first and foremost and I wouldn't expect her to have to take responsibility for the business end of things. That would be the board in my view of things, and also in my view its the board that is steering things from the aft these days. Geraldine was a blip, we're seeing IT's real colours (blue) these days.
IT is still suffering from a few spectacular business blunders in the late 90s/00s, but who knows how many people personally benefited from these mistakes. That's modern Ireland.
Democracy is the best system of government, except for all the others - Churchill
With the News Media, it seems to be the combination:
News based on Capitalism and Competition is the worst system for making sense of information, creating echo chambers and clickbait to pay its bills in a race to the bottom, but we will still keep turning to it to inform our democracies.
How about something new for a change, namely COLLABORATION like wiki or open source news, and replacing the journalists risking their lives on the ground with citizen journalists that have cellphones. This is 2018 and people document every phenomenon anyway. All we are missing is collaboration.
This being HN, let’s hack it together. If you want to build a site like that together, contact me (greg at the domain qbix.com)
For example in your scenario how do you stop state actors from infiltrating and perpetuating stories or views that are positive to them? As you've no doubt seen recently, facts are surprisingly malleable with the right viewpoint and those citizen journalists can submit one-sided videos removing or altering context.
In an ideal news media world the role of a journalist should be to provide full context for why something matters while performing their own independent investigations. Meanwhile, the people reading said media should have the proper education and critical thinking skills trained to analyze multiple pieces of information to understand biases.
But I think we can make something way more popular and comprehensive, catering to every category of news and in nearly every region and scale.
So much this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_medium_is_the_message
What is reported is decided based entirely on what will hold the most attention for the advertisements. If media outlet attempts to act according to any other rule they are displaced by one which will maximize eyes on advertisements. (This is much like politicians who base every decision on getting more votes against politicians doing anything else.) The exception to this rule is when the media is directly used to further other interests of the large corporations which own it.
You might say "what about slavery", and you would be correct, except that this makes my point perfectly. It was illegal to teach a slave to read, at a time when the only media was newspapers and the written word. Why did they have to prevent slaves from having access to media? Because the system was so unnatural to human psychology that it could only persist while there was no media whatsoever.
So talking about 'media' in an environment besides 'capitalism' doesn't even make sense.
The rest of your post fails to substantiate this claim. Concretely, the "this" that you claim is orthogonal to capitalism is that:
>> When [social benefit of a service is completely misaligned aligned with the profit of realizing that benefit], they may pretend to do a job while they are actually doing a very different one.
Unsurprisingly, this is not a big problem for economic systems that do not reward profit-making. It is certainly true, as you note, that there are other ways in which the distribution of reward warps behaviors even in systems that aren't organized around profit-making.
But the problem of social benefit being misaligned specifically with profit-making is very much a quintessentially capitalist problem. Witness e.g. the fact that capitalist systems always end up realizing and attempting to solve this problem with a patchwork of laws and regulations.
Also, consider that your comments about psychology are mostly comments about your own biases and value systems. People who grow up and are successful in other political/value systems tend to say similar things about their own milieu.
Re-reading what you posted I have to agree with this.
>Unsurprisingly, this is not a big problem for economic systems that do not reward profit-making.
There are few examples of such systems and they are extremely unstable, there are certainly no examples surviving more than a hundred years or so.
> Witness e.g. the fact that capitalist systems always end up realizing and attempting to solve this problem with a patchwork of laws and regulations.
All systems end up solving all problems with a patchwork of laws and regulations, except the problems that go away by themselves, or the problems that are not addressed at all.
> But the problem of social benefit being misaligned specifically with profit-making is very much a quintessentially capitalist problem.
Again, this is just a tautology. Above you effectively define capitalism as the system that rewards profit-making. So any feature of any system that is specific to profit making can only exist in capitalism in the structure you set up, so it's not a meaningful claim at all.
> Also, consider that your comments about psychology are mostly comments about your own biases and value systems.
No, this is simply not the case. If you think that mammals don't inherently have a concept of personal property you should see how my dog reacts when the cat is sleeping in her bed. We have to spend countless hours teaching children to share, not because it is natural for them, but because what is natural for them is not adaptive to life in a society. Our social structures have evolved much faster than our biology.
That's exactly the problem. Who do you like?
Because I've seen HORRIBLY inaccurate articles on guns done by BBC and NPR who routinely has Michael Bloomberg on as an "expert" in the field when he happens to be the single source of almost all gun control money in the USA right now.
There is no white whale. There are stories that Fox has absolutely gotten right. The are things Vox or Vice get right. CNN this last month refuses to acknowledge they made up a claim from an anonymous source. NYT and WaPo have run articles dangerously close to fake news and retracted them.
If you followed the 2016 election, you should be aware that there is no unbiased news. Glenn Greenwald's The Intercept article which I typically like have some extremely biased articles by the other authors. Mind boggling they're on the same site.
It extends past news as well.
Who seriously thinks it's "right" in terms of bias to have the cast of Avengers in a commercial telling me I need to vote for Clinton? There are the same people that feign protest against things like Citizen's United.
In the Wikileaks Podesta emails it was discovered that The Colbert Report as far back as 2013 was running content designed by Clinton's campaign as an intro to her running. If no one remembers the last six months of Jon Stewart's Daily Show, I'll remind you it was The Trump Show, I am under no illusion that was by someone's design as Viacom who was for Clinton.
I don't think there is a solution to "just don't listen to Vox or Fox".
"Turn on the TV, hear a bunch of what the fucks, dude is dating so and so, blabbering about such and such, and that's not Jersey Shore, homie that's the news. The same people that's supposed to be telling us the truth"