Posts Tagged 'Journalism'

Grunge Speak – #81 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In the 1990s, grunge was growing in popularity. It was a counter-culture, stripped-down, angsty musical genre out of Seattle that would heavily influence rock music throughout the nineties.

In November 1992, the New York Times printed an article describing how the Seattle grunge scene was developing its own lexicon. Some examples:

  • cob nobbler – loser
  • harsh realm – bummer
  • lamestain – uncool person
  • swingin’ on the flippity-flop – hanging out
  • tom-tom club – uncool outsiders
  • wack slacks – old ripped jeans

A few months later, The Baffler (a Chicago-based magazine), revealed that the lexicon had been a hoax, made up on the spot in an interview with the Times by Megan Jasper. Jasper was a sales rep for Sub Pop records, who fooled the reporter in resistence to grunge becoming more mainstream.

Although the words didn’t catch on, people still used them satirically, to the chagrin of the Times. Some were printed on t-shirts as jokes, and the term “harsh realm” even became the title of a science-fiction series about a group of people caught in a virtual reality world.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump. Continue reading ‘Grunge Speak – #81 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Taking the Onion Seriously – #83 of 100 Top Hoaxes

I’m re-starting the 100 Hoax Countdown! I’ve recovered from the devastation of losing all of my computer files, and re-compiled the list. I won’t be posting a new hoax every day like I was before, but I’ll try to post a new hoax at least once a week. On with the show…

Number 83 on the countdown is two accidental hoaxes, caused by the satirical news printed in the Onion being taken as true.

In 2002, the Beijing Evening News printed a surprising story, that the United States Congress were threatening to move out of Washington unless a new Capitol Building was built:

“Don’t get us wrong. We actually love the dilapidated [old] building,” House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was quoted as saying. “But the cruel reality is, it’s no longer suitable for use by a world-class legislature. Its contours are ugly, there’s no room to maneuver, there aren’t enough bathrooms, and let’s not even talk about the parking.”

The reporter for the Beijing paper apparently lifted the story from the Onion, reworked it a little, and submitted it without realizing that it was satirical. Even after the editor of the Beijing

The New Capitol Building Design

The New Capitol Building Design

Evening News was told about the error, he defended the story and did not retract it:

Yu Bin, the editor in charge of international news, acknowledged Thursday that he had no idea where the writer, Huang Ke, originally got the story. Yu said he would tell Huang to “be more careful next time.”

But he adamantly ruled out a correction and grew slightly obstreperous when pressed to comment on the article’s total lack of truth.

“How do you know whether or not we checked the source before we published the story?” Yu demanded in a phone interview. “How can you prove it’s not correct? Is it incorrect just because you say it is?”

I think Yu Bin has something to learn about burden of proof.

While it might be conceivable that congress would demand a new building, the next accidental Onion hoax is pretty inexcusable…

In August 2009, the Onion published a satire making fun of people who believe that the moon landing was a hoax, with the headline “Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked.” How anyone could possibly believe that is beyond me, but two Bangladeshi newspapers ran the story not realizing it was a joke!

The Daily Manab Zamin reported that Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, had admitted at a news conference that the historic landing was part of an “elaborate hoax”.

Neither they, nor The New Nation, which also ran the story, realised that The Onion, which also prints a parody newspaper, was not a genuine news site.

It’s crazy that any newspaper would print a story without even checking for one corroborating source.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Taking the Onion Seriously – #83 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Rachel Maddow + Basketball + Bill Nye = Win

Yesterday’s Rachel Maddow Show provided me with yet another reason to love that woman. She uses footage of amazing 3-point shots in basketball to show how something out of the ordinary doesn’t disprove the ordinary. Washington has had some snowy weather recently, and the global warming deniers are loving it because they see that as proof that global warming isn’t real. They can’t tell the difference between weather and climate.

You can watch the video here, it’s fantastic and features an interview with Bill Nye the Science Guy. But her point can be summed up in this quote, which begins around 4 minutes:

If one person wins the lottery…it does not disprove the existence of the recession. When it rains in the desert, that does not disprove the existence of the desert…If you have smoked a cigarette in your life and you are not currently suffering from lung cancer or heart disease, your existence…does not disprove the fact that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. The evidence we have of flight (birds, bees, airplanes, what have you) does not disprove the existence of gravity. The existence of monkeys does not disprove evolution. The existence of tadpoles does not disprove the existence of frogs.

Full court shots are hard, evolution is real, gravity is real, the recession real, deserts dry, smoking bad, frogs exist, also so do storms.

The fact that it is snowing somewhere…does not tell you any useful thing about the overall climate.

This is why we get our information about climate change from scientists, not pundits.

Another Bigfoot Photo

My bullshit detector went off as soon as I saw this story…what a pathetic bit of journalism.

It begins…

A Kentucky man said his surveillance camera captured something in his back yard last week, but no one is sure what it is.

Here’s the picture he captured:

Bigfoot

Ok…why is this in the news? It’s a fuzzy black blob, and you can’t tell what it is. The owner of the picture says:

“It looked like it had the outline of a head, and, like, gorilla-type shoulders, and then the arms crossed is what it looks like to me,” Mahoney told WAVE-TV Monday.

Yeah it vaguely resembles that, but gorillas in Kentucky? The story goes on…

Mahoney said he doesn’t think he captured Bigfoot on film. But that doesn’t explain what the camera saw, either. Mahoney said whatever it was smashed down weeds and grass as it passed.

If he doesn’t think that it was a Bigfoot picture, where did the reporter get the idea to put the word “Bigfoot” in the headline?

Where are the pictures of the smashed down weeds and grass?

The story also links to a slideshow of images which are telling. The first image is this one:

Bigfoot BS

And then they keep getting more and more zoomed in (they get more and more blurry). When you see it to scale it’s obviously not big enough to be a gorilla as it barely goes any higher than the low brush.

One commenter on the story suggested that it may be a bird coming in for a landing. I can see this as if you look at the more zoomed in picture above it looks kind of like a bird coming towards and to the right of the camera with its wings folded in front of it. The makes sense to me as the camera is meant to take wildlife photos (according to the article), and a bird is fast-moving enough that it would create a blurry image whereas land animals would be slow enough that he could get a clear picture of them.

The story concludes with this gem:

His wife took the photo to a wildlife expert on black bears, who said that whatever it was, it was fur-covered. But she told Mahoney’s wife that she couldn’t say for sure it was a bear, either.

How anyone can tell that that’s anything fur-covered from such a blurry and far-away image is beyond me. And then of course since they can’t say for sure that it’s a bear, the person writing the headlines decided to go with Bigfoot.

I wonder how many of my fudged up photos I could get published in the newspaper?

There’s even a poll attached to the story…

Poll

Come on, WLWT.com, not even an “I don’t know” option?

Bigfoot’s Footprint? Or Pereidolia?

I noticed a cute little fluff piece in my local paper the other day: a man in BC had discovered a rock with an indentation that looks like a footprint:

Masthead--footprint-find-au

That’s pretty cool, but I think it might just be a coincidence, a case of pereidolia. There are hills where there should be valleys. The people who found it did the right thing and sent pictures to anthropologists and paleontologists to verify whether or not it is a real fossil.

I didn’t think anything of the story until today when I saw this article in the Calgary Herald, which speculates that it may be Bigfoot’s footprint. What the hell, Calgary Herald?!

1. It hasn’t even been confirmed that this is a real footprint.

2. The guy who found it said his foot fit perfectly in the indentation…if it is a real footprint it’s probably human.

3. Bigfoot? Seriously? Maybe if Bigfoot were found to be real and residing in BC it would be reasonable, but there’s no reason why this reporter should be speculating that this is Bigfoot’s footprint.

A pathetic bit of reporting on what is otherwise a fun story.

Newspaper Apologizes for Starting Prime Minister’s Wafer “Scandal”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a very strange news story in which there were reports of outrage over Prime Minister Stephen Harper not eating a communion wafer.

Communion Wafer Stephen Harper

Now, the newspaper that ran that story is apologizing to the Prime Minister,

The Telegraph-Journal, based in Saint John, yesterday disavowed the tale, saying it “sincerely apologizes to the Prime Minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused.”In a rare front-page apology, the newspaper said the story “should not have been published.

“We pride ourselves in maintaining high standards of journalism and ethical reporting, and regret this was not followed in this case,” the newspaper said.

Kudos to the paper for not burrying the retraction in the back pages.

This story is no longer about the communion wafer, but instead about the state of journalism in our country. This is an example of how accurate reporting gets lost in the editing process:

“Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them,” the newspaper said.

It’s difficult to trust newspapers with the knowledge that editors are sometimes willing to simply make something up in order to sell more copies. We’re living in an interesting time in which print journalism is in decline and the best reporting is now sometimes coming from amateurs posting on blogs (I’m not talking about mine here!).


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 50 other followers

AtheistBlogroll5
Free counters!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50 other followers