Class Warfare Blog

April 26, 2018

Consequences of 24 Hour “News” Cycles

Filed under: Politics,Sports,The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:28 am
Tags: , , ,

I will start with a comment about sports reporting. Yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers won a game in dramatic fashion over the Indiana Pacers in the NBA playoffs (basketball). The Cavaliers now have a 3-2 advantage in a best of seven series. One more win and they move on to the second round of playoffs. The other team goes home with a “better luck next year” wreath. All of the yada, yada, yada surrounding the game, though, shows a lack of appreciation for the basic situation.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were supposed to win that game and should be described as being very lucky that they did not lose it. At the end of the “regular” season, the top eight teams are placed onto a playoff grid based upon their won-lost records. Then the first ranked team plays the eighth-ranked team, the second-ranked and the seventh-ranked teams play, etc. So, an advantage is built in for the better teams in that they are given weaker opponents (at least initially). Additional advantages are given to the higher ranked team in that four of the seven games are scheduled to be played in their home stadiums, with the first two games being played on their home turf, giving them the ability to get a “good start” to the series. This is the basis of what is called the “home field advantage” or “home court advantage.”

The team with the advantage gets to play at a site in which they get to sleep in their own beds, eat home-cooked meals, drive their own cars, practice in their own practice facility and compete on a field/court with which they are more familiar than anyone else. (The Boston Celtics old home court, the infamous Boston Gardens, was so irregular that a ball dribbled from one end to the other would not make the same sound on any two bounces. The floor had dead spots, live spots, unlevel spots, you name it. It was never repaired because the Celtics players knew what to expect everywhere on that court, but their opponents did not. Why give away such an advantage?)

The “visiting” team had none of those advantages. They sleep in hotel beds, eat restaurant food, practice in unfamiliar surroundings and compete at a disadvantage on the opponent’s favorite court.

And then there are the fans. The word “fan” is short for fanatic and there are stories that would curl your hair about what fans will do to give their team a further advantage. I leave that topic up to your own research.

In a seven game series in basketball or baseball, the home field advantage is significant. Teams are compared on their records “home” v. “away.” Good teams almost always have a better record at home rather than in other venues. This is due to the “home court advantage.”

So, the “home team” is supposed to win! Cleveland was supposed to win that game last night as it was in their home arena and had every advantage in doing so. Cleveland is the higher-ranked team. Cleveland is supposed to win their series. That they had to struggle so heroically on their home court to win a game they were supposed to win is not a good sign. Instead the focus is on how brilliant their star was, how well he performed, how he won the game for them.

So, why are these things not emphasized as they were in my youth?

I think it is a consequence of the 24-hour news cycle. If you turn on a TV at any hour, you can find sports programming. When I was young, that was not the case. (When I was young, there was nothing on TV from 12 midnight to 6 AM; all you would get was “snow,” the visual noise of your TV trying to process no signal at all.) The sheer volume of reportage has increased many fold. For example, the first NFL Super Bowl had a 15-minute introductory show. Currently, every NFL game during the ordinary season has two to three hours of introductory material, provided by multiple channels! The Super Bowl is hyped for two weeks, almost nonstop. This is typical of modern sports reporting.

And with that much time to fill, you cannot just repeat the basic parameters of a series. So, those basic “truths” get diluted, diluted, and diluted some more. And what do they get diluted with? Necessarily, they are diluted with less important details. For example, human interest stories abound … now. What impact do these have upon the outcome of the game being covered? Answer: none.

The “basic truths” of sports competitions are being buried in oceans of irrelevancies.

We can also fault the shallowness of the reporting. Whenever the Olympics comes around, we are inundated with stories of Olympians, of how at a young age they decided to “go for the gold” and then we are shown “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” in all of its drama. Why, at no point, do these reports put things in perspectives? Why do they not point out that a huge majority of those with “Olympic Dreams” did not even make their teams and are nowhere to be seen? Why do they not point out the unfairness of the competitions staged to make the teams and the myriad of other political issues surrounding those sports. They will point out Olympic organizing committee corruption because it is now part of the genre, but little else of what goes on behind the scenes is shown. Oh, and cheating gets reported, somewhat.

So, this is a bit of the impact of the 24-hour news cycle on sports reporting.

My whole purpose in laying this out is to ask: “What is the impact of the 24-hour news cycle on political reporting?” Instead of sports reporting in which nothing is really at stake, in politics lives and livelihoods are at stake. There are real consequences in the political arena. What basic truths are being buried in irrelevant details? Could a politician, latch onto this as a modus operandi, and bury us in irrelevant details to hide what is really going on? Deliberately feed “The Beast” (the reporting media) what they like to eat and to hell with the public’s need to know. The salacious sells, so the heck with in-depth economics reporting or business reporting.

Could somebody do this?

Yes, his name is Donald Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

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April 9, 2018

Patrick Reed: Master’s Champion … From a Broken Home … WTF?

A professional golfer by the name of Patrick Reed won the prestigious Masters Golf Tournament yesterday, a major breakthrough in his career. To celebrate this achievement a number of “news” sources decided to run stories about how Mr. Reed is estranged from his immediate family. Apparently he and his wife and wife’s family are quite at odds with Mr. Reed’s family.

And I have to ask: what the fuck does that have to do with Reed winning the most important golf tournament of his professional career? None of these stories was looking for the motivation that drives Patrick Reed to professional excellence. In fact neither of the stories explained the rift in his family. This is a huge invasion of privacy. What if there was a family betrayal of Mr. Reed? Would anyone be served by making that public? What if Mr. Reed is an atheist and has been disowned by his Christian family (or vice versa)? Is anyone one served by such a revelation?

One article even brought up allegations of him cheating while playing college golf, of course none of these allegations were proved.

What are these articles but cheap gossip, possibly published to tar Mr. Reed’s accomplishment. As I read these pieces with a growing sense of outrage, I kept looking for the point of these articles, something other than an interest in the salacious details of someone’s private life. I found none.

Just because someone is celebrated for athletic achievements, doesn’t mean we are allowed access to their private lives. This does not come under the public’s right to know that is so bandied about. This might have been different if Mr. Reed took some sort of political stance involving family values or its ilk, but I have seen no evidence of that.

I think hit pieces run like this need right next to the “Like” button a “Fuck You, Asshole, Mind Your Own Business” button.

December 22, 2017

I’ve Been Dreading This Day

Filed under: The News — Steve Ruis @ 11:23 am
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I just read on BillMoyers.com that Mr. Moyers is retiring his blog. He is now well into his eighties and if anyone deserves a restful retirement it is Bill Moyers!

Thank you, Bill!

Bill Moyers has stood for the highest quality journalism for many decades now and his retirement will be felt. This is a time when journalism is in decline. It has happened before but this time seems particularly critical as plutocrats are actively undermining what democracy we have left. Propagandists seemingly abound on almost every street corner (certainly every intersection of the Internet) and quality journalism is hard to find.

Thank you, Bill!

I find myself reading the NY Times with increasing skepticism, even disgust as they seem to be trolling for dollars in any way they can as respectable journalism is not selling well right now. They also seem to be almost a poster child for what “corporate media” has become. I subscribe to The Guardian (U.S. bureau of a U.K. news organ) and scour blogs for more honest takes on current events. The days of Edward R. Morrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Hundley, Ben Bradlee, and David Brinkley are far behind us. I consider Bill Moyers the last of that long line of inherently respectable and trustworthy journalists. It wasn’t always like that. Journalism may have attracted the likes of Samuel Clemens, but it was hardly a reputable undertaking for many, many years. It seems that the profession is heading back down from the heights of those worthies.

I will miss Bill Moyers, and even though we differed on a number of topics, I respected his opinions as always being well thought out and well said.

Thank you, Bill!

I wish … I dearly wish … that this could be a passing of the torch moment but I see no one in U.S. journalism worthy of such a nod, would that there were.

Thank you, Bill!

PS The BillMoyers.com site will apparently remain as an archive site and for that I am thankful as we will be able to go back and see how many times he and his colleagues were prescient.

 

June 27, 2017

The Teenification of Us

Filed under: The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:43 am
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I am reading “news stories” in which the writer states that President Trump tweeted this and then his son in law tweeted that and…. This sounds like two young teenagers in a conversation “He went … and then I said … and then he said, and I went…”

Can we stop with the reports on who tweeted what. These are not official communications, nor are they particularly interesting. They sure as Hell aren’t “breaking news.”

December 6, 2016

All the “Fake News” that Is Fit to Publish

Apparently the latest hot topic for political pundits to pontificate upon is the idea of “fake news,” otherwise known as lies. What they are decrying is not that lies exist or that there are so many of them, but they are so easy to “publish.” Hah!

There are more lies now than any other time in human history and I am confident in that statement because there are more people alive that ever before in human history and all humans lie. And it is also true that each of us has more reach than ever before. You are, for example, reading this blog, which in effect is my personal publication organ. This was not possible even a short time ago.

What is lacking is not control over the sources of such material, after all we do pride ourselves in having a political system that protects the freedom of speech, but that people are apparently not at all skeptical about the “information” they have available.

I must insist that all news is fake news. It is the case in which every time I have been interviewed for publication that I have felt that the interview and what was published were at odds. Local papers never seem to get it right. I have heard that same criticism over the years about larger publications.

“I must insist that all news is fake news.”

The manipulations of the Bush administration leading up to the Iraq war were willingly embraced by major “news” publications, even though they turned out to be made of whole cloth. What, the utterances of our politicians are no longer trustworthy? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you … that anyone ever thought they were. Politicians look at the “press” (now “the news media”) as something to be managed or controlled, not as something to embrace as a bulwark of democracy. The “press” no longer looks at itself as the protector of democracy, nor does it have the role of scourge of dishonest politicians.

What is needed is for all of us to be a lot more skeptical. We need to ask “Where did you hear/get that?” On Facebook? Oh, that explains a lot. Apparently many Americans get a substantial amount of their news off of Facebook. WTF? Well, Facebook has a well-known reputation for journalistic integrity I guess. (No, it does not; I am being sarcastic!)

Come on, people! Get a pair! Show the whole world that you are not the gullible idiot who thinks that “if it was on the Internet, it has to be true.”

We need more guidelines. How about “Breaking News!” — Breaking news means we got it wrong, but we got it fast! And “this was verified through a confidential source” means (a) if I told you who told me, you’d laugh at me or (b) I am willing to be manipulated by someone who is unwilling to be quoted.

Our news media were on an upward trajectory away from “yellow journalism” and toward greater integrity but that trend has been reversed. In today’s journalism, opinion is promoted as fact and to make money news organs are peddling opinions without any facts. The newspaper guideline “If it bleeds, it leads” has been replaced with the 24-hour news cycle’s “Look at the shiny object, how does it make you feel?”

September 15, 2016

Our Scum Sucking News Media Have Chosen to Hide the Facts about Public Education

Newspaper after newspaper after news sources has chosen to hide the facts and instead beat the drum of a lie: “Our public schools are failing! Our public schools are failing.” One particular point of leverage is trying to sell families of color that their children would be better off in a charter school than in their “failing” local school.

“The meme ‘Our public schools are failing!’ is a lie.”

Well, let’s do some fact checking. The federal government has supplied the only consistent nationwide testing in the form of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams. The NAEP has a search engine from which you can acquire the following data:

Average scores, Grade 4 Math,
National Assessment of Educational Progress
White Students / Black Students

1990: 218.63 / 187.42
[…]
2007: 247.88 / 222.01
2009: 247.85 / 221.98
2011: 248.70 / 223.80

What these data show is that in under 20 years, Black students have achieved an average performance level higher than that of white students from 20 years ago. You can see there is still a gap between white students and black students on these tests scores, because white students didn’t stand still, they improved, too, but how did this incredible improvement in performance by Black students occur? By what magic? Surely it cannot be due to the performance of our failing public schools?

The increase in math education test performance is so great that in one generation Black kids have about two grades higher performance than did their parents at the same age.

The meme “Our public schools are failing!” meme is a lie.

And if you want to know why this lie is being promulgated, follow the money. (The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the pot of money labeled “For Public Education.”)

If you want to know why our news media have fallen in with the liars, follow the money. More and more news organs have been scooped up by conservative owners, who expect their news organs to a) make money, and b) support conservative narratives moving us toward the glorious world they see in our future, where all of the children are above average, and government regulators disappear, and….

September 9, 2016

Scaring Ourselves to … Bad Policies

The NYT posted another “investigative journalism” report, this one is on crime, specifically murder (Murder Rates Rose in a Quarter of the Nation’s 100 Largest Cities, 9-9-16).

If one looks at their graphics, though, another headline could have been “Murder Rates Either Fell or Stayed the Same in Three Quarters of the Nation’s 100 Largest Cities.”

“’The homicide increase in the nation’s large cities was real and nearly unprecedented,’ wrote the study’s author …” yes, but this highlights another disturbing trend in modern journalism, the examination of the gaps but not the actual amounts. So, education reporters talk about how the gaps between black and white students has stayed the same or risen but ignore the fact that both Black and white students scores has risen considerably. Black students have increased their performance on standardized tests substantially. In one generation, Black students knowledge of mathematics has increased almost two whole grade levels (e.g. fourth graders can do math that their parents did in sixth grade)! That news somehow does not make it above the fold, below the fold, or anywhere in the paper apparently.

And, in crime reporting, how about the fact that murder rates in those cities has declined substantially since a high around 1990? They even include a graph showing this general decline but they are reporting only on an up-tick at the very end of the graph that may be part of a trend … or may not be.

Journalistic narratives are leading us astray. Violence is on the decline (per capita). Murder is on the decline (per capita). Crime is on the decline (per capita). But that doesn’t sell newspapers. The lede is still “if it bleeds it leads.”

August 6, 2016

The NYTimes: On the Slippery Slope and Accelerating

Journalism is suffering or, rather, we are suffering from a steep decline in the quality of journalism. Schlock and shoddy journalism has always been with us and always will, because it is cheap. If I may quote an executive of the National Enquirer magazine in court, “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”

High quality journalism, though, is expensive. And, unfortunately the funding base for high quality journalism has evaporated. First on TV, where news divisions were not expected to make money but now they do, to newspapers, which used to be somewhat profitable and now are marginal at best.

The result has been that a great many journalists have been fired and a great many good journalists have retired and been replaced by, well, poorer journalists.

I was reading a column in today’s Times (“We’re in a Low-Growth World. How Did We Get Here?” by Neil Erwin, Senior economic correspondent at The New York Times’ The Upshot column in which he refers to an interview with Larry Summers, economist and former Obama administration economic advisor:

Mr. Summers, in an interview, frames it as an inversion of ‘Say’s Law,’ the notion that supply creates its own demand: that economywide, people doing the work to create goods and services results in their having the income to then buy those goods and services.
In this case, rather, as he has often put it: ‘Lack of demand creates lack of supply.’”

Apparently the good reporter missed something in translation, because the “framing” is a bit upside down. Say’s law has been widely discredited (and in economics that means “doesn’t work” rather than it is flawed logically or whatever) and the fact that demand drives supply is long standing economic principle.

The way it is stated it appears that Say’s Law is the operative principle, but in these unusual times it has been inverted (“In this case, rather …”). So, “normal” is declared to be an aberration.

Do realize that many folks still quote Say’s Law as if it were valid because it supports the fiction that is supply-side economics (which has also been thoroughly discredited (aka doesn’t work), just look at the last 35 years as evidence).

So this piece implies that Say’s Law is valid and an unwary reader would have that “factoid” reinforced.

Only a savvy journalist would note that either Mr. Summers misspoke or he was speaking ironically or was actually trying to counter the zombie idea of Say’s Law (zombie ideas are those that refuse to die because they are propped up for various reasons).

In any case, we lose when the quality of journalism declines and decline it has. We are on the slippery slope and accelerating. Soon, someone on the N.Y. Times staff is going to say “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”

June 7, 2016

Super Bowl 2017; It Is Over!

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:20 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The media are all over themselves declaring Hillary Clinton the “winner” of the Democratic Party presidential primary contest. Even though she has not won enough delegates to be so declared, they are including estimates of the “superdelegates” who will also get to vote along with the elected/appointed delegates gotten through the primary processes.

This is a mere prediction, not a conclusion, but it is not being “reported” as such. It is as if well in advance of the Super Bowl, a winner was declared based upon “estimates” and there was no need to actually play the game.

What is the point of declaring a “winner”? Does that change anything? (No.) This is part of a trend in which pundits have to handicap each and every contest there is: from horse racing to baseball games, to the NBA Playoffs, now to political contests. When I was young, we often didn’t find out who “won” an election until the next day or even later because it took that long to count the votes. With more modern vote counting schemes, we got to declaring “winners” on election eve. But now, that is not fast enough. “Winners” are being declared with less than 10% of the ballots counted.

How long will it be until the charade of voting is dispensed with an the Oligarchs just tell us who we elected. It will save us all a great deal of time.

April 7, 2016

American News Sucks

My Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who in my opinion is to be much admired, wrote an op-ed piece regarding tax avoidance schemes by the wealthy (If You’re Rich, You Can Avoid Paying Tax; That’s Got to Change, The Guardian Online, April 7, 2016). I got to read this because it was published in The Guardian. In case you are not aware, The Guardian is based in the U.K.

Time and time again, I have to get local and U.S. centric news from outside of our borders. Why is that? There is something very, very wrong with U.S. news organizations. Important news dissemination is taking a back seat to eye candy, so far back that one cannot find important stuff.

This obviously is in the best interests of the corporations and plutocrats who currently own our government. What we don’t know can’t hurt them.

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