Never count on a reporter to act in good faith any more than you would count on that from the police or from a lawyer. They will disembowel you.
This advice is much less applicable, happily, to technical publications in your field, or to 'citizen journalism,' but you still have to be cautious there. The major difference is that with technical publications or citizen journalists, you may have some actual leverage, and they may have some idea what you're talking about. You have no leverage, as a specialist, over the NYT, so they don't care what harm they do to you - what the heck are you going to do to them? And the average reporter for, say, Fox News, doesn't know what the heck, say, Bruce Schneier is talking about. They are worse than laypeople, actually, because they have an incentive to misunderstand.
Don't talk to the mainstream media. They will lie to you, and they are not your friends.
A reporter was trying to interview my mother about my sister. My mother said, "It's not that we don't think you're important but ...". This wound up in print as, "It's...that we dont think you're important."
Remember, it is the job of the media to get a compelling story out there. They don't care about the truth. They don't care about informing people. They want to create interesting stories that suck people in, and punish people who fail to give them access to information that they wanted (whether or not they had any right to pry).
When we see subjects that we understand misreported in the media, we invariably cringe. When you see subjects you don't know anything about reported in the media, your default assumption should be that if you knew the subject better, you would cringe, and the only reason you're not cringing is that you don't know better.
Not that I think it's an easy job to have to always be talking, while not knowing what you're talking about. I just think it's wrong that it's always portrayed as delivering facts, when it must be closer to hastily jotting down a lot of disjoint words, phrases, and half-quotes, and then trying to reconstruct a plausible-sounding story from it later.
Honestly, whoever did this is a failure at their job. This can't be a common practice because it's so blatantly wrong. Even Reddit commentors don't get upvoted for crap like this.
And is this one guy somehow the "standard"? Because it sounds like you had one or two bad experiences and decided to generalize your feelings to an entire profession. We've all run into a bad ______ who we can't understand how he still has a job, but that doesn't mean ______ as a whole are bad. (Fill in "journalists," "programmers," "waiters," "doctors" or pretty much anything else.)
I'm not familiar with that guy or with Wired's editorial standards in general, but I do think you're being unreasonably broad in a way that you wouldn't be if, say, you'd met a bumbling computer scientist.
One time is an anecdote; two times starts to be compelling. 6/6 times has a reasonable level of statistical significance.
FWIW, I'm somewhat convinced that a majority of computer programmers would fall under the general umbrella of "bumbling," though I don't think I'd use that term. "Marginally competent" might fit the bill better.
The fact that you saw the retraction should tell you that kind of writing does not meet the paper's standard. Editors don't enjoy writing notices to the effect of "Oops, I totally failed at my job there." They do it because the alternative is an even worse blow to the paper's integrity.
How much personal exposure have you had to journalists? They generally are smart enough that they could get a facile grasp on a technical issue in the limited time they have if they really wanted to, but it's rarely a wise use of their time. Human interest, nearest cliche, drama, all of these bring more eyeballs. High quality journalism will get you better quality (richer) attention but there are a lot more people who read US News, or the Sun, or Die Bild than read quality press.
tl;dr Journalists sell eyeballs, not truth
Journalist: btilly, would you ever rape a child?
btilly: No comment.
Headline: btilly refuses to rule out raping children
Next week they'll ask whether you're running for president, and if you don't comment on that then the cover of Time will be a picture of your face with the caption "Is America Ready For a Child-Raping President?"
I'm very glad to have never had to deal with it.
In Japan, there is evidence of collusion between news organizations and both political parties/figures and corporate sponsors. This leads to actual censorship in the news. So while blatant lies such as those found in Vanity, may not be a prevalent, it is clear that in some countries stories important news would never even have the ring of full disclosure.
The truth was reported. My mother said that. She could not honestly claim to have been misquoted.
The quote was slimy, misleading, manipulative, and many other derogatory things. However the one thing that it was not was illegal.
That is exactly what the journalist in question did. The omitted section of sentence was the word not, and it appeared at the end of a sentence.
If words are left off at the end of a sentence, and that is all that is omitted, indicate the omission with ellipsis marks (preceded and followed by a space) and then indicate the end of the sentence with a period … . http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/ellipsis.htm
The Chicago Manual of Style says that "other punctuation [besides the ellipsis, that is] may be used on either side of the three ellipsis dots if it helps the sense or better shows what has been omitted." Then, later, it says "When the last part of a quoted sentence is omitted and what remains is still grammatically complete, four dots — a period [or exclamation/question mark] followed by three ellipsis dots — are used to indicate the omission." And finally, "Three dots — no period — are used at the end of a quoted sentence that is deliberately and grammatically incomplete." http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/grammarlogs2/grammarl...
Also, I have no CMS subscription, but here's a public-facing FAQ that seems relevant:
These sources appear to confirm my uneducated belief, which agrees with btilly, that ellipses may be used to mark any omission, of any size, including within a sentence or spanning sentences (wp's comment on CMOS implies omitting entire paragraphs is legal).
But I guarantee that the journalist deliberately omitted the word "not" to completely reverse the meaning of the sentence.
Not exactly -- it's against the law to publish facts that the publisher knows to be false. So the standard isn't truth, it's honesty.
It's very hard to prove a journalist is being deliberately misleading. So it's only been used in the case of Holocaust deniers and even then the Supreme Court ruled that the law was not compatible with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government has shifted the false news law to being a regulatory requirement for broadcasters, but it's unclear whether this isn't still unconstitutional.
FOX News, in my estimation, does seem to cross the line when it comes to repeating statements they know (or should know) to be false, often over the course of several days. So I can see why they want even the regulation withdrawn.
More details: http://openmedia.ca/blog/false-news-and-crtc-who-asked-what-...
In short, you'd be amazed at what happens to the families of movie stars.
Both Reuters and Al-Jazeera come across as attempting to be as objective as possible about the stories they cover. In fact, the former has been criticized for the policy of objective language.
I think the key is to try to figure out who's useful for what subject matter. Vanity Fair is probably not reliable for anything.
I'm not really seeing this frothing at the mouth you're speaking of, particularly when you leave out Opinion articles rather than reporting. (But HN is really not the place for this conversation...)
Though it seems that the photos were faked by low-level partisans on the ground, not by high-on decree from Reuters itself.
Reuters isn't significantly better or worse than anyone else, in the scheme of things, but it's a bad idea to have too much faith in any news outlet, regardless of how sophisticated it may currently make you sound when you brag about how you get all your news from Al Jazeera. (Personally I get all my news from Taiwanese animations.)
“If I did not have the background that I had, I don’t think I would have had the guts to say what I said about Stuxnet,” Langner says now, finishing his second glass of wine during lunch at a Viennese restaurant in Hamburg. Langner studied psychology and artificial intelligence at the Free University of Berlin. He fell into control systems by accident and found that he loved the fiendishly painstaking work. Every control system is like a bespoke suit made from one-of-a-kind custom fabric—tailored precisely for the conditions of that industrial installation and no other. In a profession whose members have a reputation for being unable to wear matching socks, Langner is a bona fide dandy. “My preference is for Dolce & Gabbana shoes,” he says. “Did you notice, yesterday I wore ostrich?” Langner loves the attention that his theories have gotten. He is waiting, he says, for “an American chick,” preferably a blonde, and preferably from California, to notice his blog and ask him out.
This looks bad in isolation. But the piece is enormous; more than 60 grafs long. Langner's complaint makes it sound like a hit piece. It's not; it's simply using those (apparently misleading) details to add some color. The article is ostensibly not even about Langner, even though it quotes and discusses him warmly throughout.
I don't want to sound like I'm defending bad reporting, but the VF articles has substantive concerns about Langner as well --- for instance, his prevalence as a authoritative source for lots of other journalism about Stuxnet --- and one way to dodge that is to redirect attention to stupid stuff like what kinds of shoes he really prefers.
"Tk" also another great journalism shortcut; it's like "XXX" in code --- easy to search for and fix later.
I'm in Chicago.
It is simply not possible to appreciate the sheer awfulness of mainstream media reporting until someone has actually reported on you. It is so much worse than you think."
-Eliezer Yudkowsky, http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/01/predictible-fakers.htm...
They've got some short deadline to write a few thousand words on some topic they don't really understand and don't really care about, either... and the consequences for rushing out a just-good-enough article are pretty minimal.
Sound familiar? It reminds me of high school, and dashing off some crappy just-good-enough essay on the night before it was due. Journalists (or the vast majority thereof) are stuck in an endless loop of having to write two crappy high school essays on different subjects every day. I don't envy them.
The character limit on articles alone is enough to break the hopes of many people.
Their fact checking is completely useless. They don't check any of the most important or fundamental claims, only the very trivial. Editors apparently don't care or are incompetent.
In the case I'm intimately familiar with the reporter made no claim or attempt at impartiality. He was actively hostile and came close to threatening. He was on a witch hunt and continued his vendetta over a couple years of trumped up articles until he realized no one else bought his bullshit.
I pray for the day when shitty journalists can't hide under the umbrella of a "respected" brand like Vanity Fair. It's too much power with no effective checks or balances.
The only US states that require all-party notification of a conversation being recorded are:
California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington.
All other states allow you to record a conversation without notifying the other party provided you are party to the conversation. If the conversation crosses state lines, Federal law applies which only requires one party to know the call is being recorded.
A PR rep being in the room during the interviews never would have let this get out of hand in the way that it did, and they would have framed the interview better to suit the tech company. This is just a case of an unsophisticated tech guy being trodden on by an experienced journalist in order to suit the journalists goals for the story.
PR might be 90% useless now, but there are good PR people out there who could have helped in this case.
Btw I am a huge fan of VF but I thought the Stuxnet piece was weak. I am surprised that some of the more experienced tech journalists are not all over the story releasing articles, books, touring lecture, etc. the mainstream mass market would eat up this story in a hurry (movie deal!)
or Clive Thompson for NYT Magazine - his tech writing has been excellent, particularly the Netflix prize and his coverage of privacy and security issues
And its HN submission (1 comment):
by a reporter whose work I used to see on my local TV news, explaining how subjects of news stories can turn the tables on reporters by understanding more of the news business. The tips in the book are frank and useful--including sometimes declining to be interviewed.
This is what happens when the "perception is reality" maxim gets to people's heads.
Vanity Fair: Fact or Fiction?