Thursday, July 09, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.


biggerbox said...

Morning Edition was outstanding this morning in their listener comments section. They included one about the inane "airplane to Healthyville" segment that had me so aggravated the other day. They ignored all the comments on their website about what a stupid story it was and what a bad analogy, etc., and chose to play a comment that used that bad analogy to take a swipe at the public option. Ignoring their critics AND misleading about the issue at the same time! A Morning Edition double-play!

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Not surprisingly, Democracy Now does good public radio.

John Pilger on Honduras, Iran, Gaza, the Corporate Media, Obama’s Wars and Resisting the American Empire.

geoff said...


I noticed that. Amazing. Maybe they'll bring Fulton back to analogize about how bailing out Goldman Sachs is just like bailing out a boat: if you don't do it, you might sink.

A good news room will shun analogies since they are inherently false. Though an analogy can sometimes help gain perspective that is enlightening, more often an analogy (especially the airplane to Healthyville analogy) obfuscates and skews the issues.

That got some of you writing in with a less optimistic vision, like Jesse Janowack from Williamsport, PA. "After Government Air opens," he writes, "my employer no longer sees the need to help me pay for Private Air, so I by a ticket on Government Air for the next flight to Healthyville," and Janowack then imagines, "Not surprisingly, a lot of other people are doing the same thing because their employer also stopped paying for Private Air, so many people actually, that the plane is full for the day."

This is precisely the response the Fulton piece was fishing after. It wouldn't surprise me if Janowack's employer turns out to be Bluecross.

Most of the comments in fact, exhibit this same kind of fear of government that the piece seemed designed to elicit.

I liked this comment, though:
The entire analogy was misleading. Airlines work as well as they do =because= there is fierce competition. That competition simply does not exist in healthcare insurance. Most local markets are served by near monopolies --- a single HMO/PPO has 75% or more of the market. This =lack= of local competition is precisely why the so-called public option is vital.

But you'd better put on your seat belts, folks, Alicia Shepard warns us that there are more analogies to come: "The airplane analogy is the first of several to come."

Alicia also gives us a precious peek behind the curtain:

Often, when NPR does explainer pieces, they are two-way chats between a reporter or expert and a show host. But this format was different, using an unfocused analogy. And because it was not clear what the piece was trying to convey, it came across as a reported piece that involved only the administration's side, without any representation of opposing views. Hence the criticism.

geoff said...

Something else disturbed me about Alicia Shepard's NPR "mea culpa" for making a bad analogy. She writes,

The goal was to explain in a simple analogy what the public plan involves, since the term is swirling around now without much explanation, said Anne Gudenkauf, NPR's senior science editor. "This was simply an explainer, describing what the administration's proposal for a public plan is," she said. "Like a glossary. Or a dictionary entry."

So...Gudenkauf, whose BA in journalism qualifies her to head up the science desk, actually wrote the story (or her desk did) and Fulton was just a reader? I suppose that's the way it works. But then, it was so poor at explaining and there was nothing definitional about it - like a glossary?! It's another bizarre NPR non sequitur.

Anonymous said...

Another stimulus package will apparently require the president to "decide if it's worth borrowing the money" to do so. Funny, I don't ever remember that language being used when discussing tax cuts or well, ever, but maybe my memory is fuzzy. The use of that specific language twice in two days on NPR is interesting.

biggerbox said...

Jimminy Cricket, that 'explanation' of the 'explanation' from Alicia Shepard and Anne Gudenkauf was a crock. They are really working hard to lose any benefit of the doubt I might have given them. I particularly liked the bit where Gudenkauf, supposedly the SCIENCE editor, says:
"It was not a journalistic examination. It was not an analysis. It was an explanation."

So, now the person in charge of science reporting is "explaining' social policy issues by using bad analogies? Doesn't science usually involve empirical research, data, and, dare I say it, "analysis"?

Perhaps we could find a real scientist who could derive a number for the velocity at which NPR is heading into the crapper. Gudenkauf seems to think instead, I'd want an "explainer" about how it's diving faster than a rocket-powered whale on its way to Deep Underwater-ville.

Kevan Smith said...

It gets filed under the "Economy" section, presumably because it deals with euphemisms for the term toxic assets, but ti turns into a discursive bit on Orwellian language: .

There's a brief mention of torture at the end with sound bites from Cheney and Obama, I guess to provide evidence for "the debate" on the issue. However, no mention that torture is criminal.

Anonymous said...


Pretty funny listening to More a Liarsome dog Obama for using "euphemisms" as if it is a bad thing when he does it but no mention of Bush and NPR using any word or phrase other than torture to describe American policy/practices.


Anonymous said...

I found that there is an organization of Ombudsman(s) and the head of that organization is a name many here will recognize Dvorkian. Same guy as used to shill for NPR.

Alicia (Tortured Logic) Shepard is being rewarded among her peers (and that's how these things work - give everybody recognition so they have someting to put on their mantles). She is featured prominently in the latest Ombudsman on-line entry and she will be at the Newseum on Saturday.
It may only be about ego.



Oh God Kill me now, Maria "The FOX" Liasson report on political language this AM:

don't know weather to laugh or cry, so I think I'll rant.

NPR, now a temple of FOX Orwellian newspeak, pot calls the Washington kettle black.

This is hilarious, Mara Liasson, a full time FOX News employee for more than ten years,

is reporting and complaining about the misuse of words by politicians? Every Sunday Mara sits down with her buddies at FOX and they call Obama "Baby Killer", "Marxist", "Fascist", "Communist" and worse.

Also, there's that silly little fact the Ms. Liasson and NPR won't call water boarding torture, it a “harsh interrogation technique”. Despite, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights says that water boarding is torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross have called what the U.S. did “torture.” Water boarding is unambiguously in violation of the International Convention on Torture, which has been ratified by 140-some countries. Yet NPR’s
official editorial policy is that NPR doesn’t know the definition of the word torture.

Ms. Lasson and NPR's uncial embracing of GOP/FOX talking points for the past six years has done much more damage to political discourse in this country, than anything a politician has done. Politicians obfuscated for cemeteries, that’s nothing new there, but what’s NPR's excuse for "aggressively interrogating" our language when it reports the news.

NPR, just like FOX be void of any self-awareness or sense of irony.

Anonymous said...

"Subtle is the NPRer"

RE: CIA lying to Congress

If you read the July 10 John Nichols piece "The C.I.A. Coming Clean"
(partner content from "The Nation") you might be inclined to think "Wow, NPR may not be so bad after all. They are actually willing to call a spade a spade on this one". I know I was, at first...

...until I realized something: the piece is labeled "OPINION" (and in all caps!).

On the other hand, here is how NPR characterizes the issue on "NPR's NEWS BLOG" (AGAIN IN ALL CAPS and note the blog name: "NEWS") from the day before:

"NPR: Panetta Did Not Tell Congress It Had Been Misled By CIA, Intel Official Says

By Mark Memmott

While some House Democrats say they were told by current CIA Director Leon Panetta that they had been misled by intelligence agency during the eight years of the Bush administration and in the early months of the Obama administration, a "U.S. intelligence official" has told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly that Panetta never said that. Her report is introduced by NPR's Nora Raum:
//end "NPR NEWS BLOG" quote

Got that?

The report by John Nhcols (which is almost certainly closer to the truth in this case) is labeled "OPINION" and the report that essentially claims Panetta did not say what he is on the record as saying is labeled "NEWS".

It's NPR's subtle way of discrediting (or at least casting doubt on) stories that are otherwise virtually air tight.

...and it is HIGHLY DISHONEST because it is almost certainly done with intent to deceive.

ironic, given the subject in this case.

larry, dfh said...

Fri m.e. we kearn that 'trhe pope and the president agree on the poor and peace in the middle east'. News to me, I wasn't aware that the pope favored blaming everything on the poor for the investment bank failures, or approved of taxing the middle to support the ultra-rich. And I didn't realize that the pope didn't recognize the democratically-elected hamas govt. of Gaza. The line was obviously written by someone in the State Dept. or some other such govt. agency. No analysis whatsoever by npr, just reading what the govt. wrote.

Anonymous said...

there is an organization of Ombudsman(s) and the head of that organization is a name many here will recognize Dvorkian. Same guy as used to shill for NPR.

"Dr. Dvorkian, I presume?"

Jay Schiavone said...

Jeffrey A. Dvorkin is the Canadian hack's name. Here is how Bob Somerby recounted Dvorkin's most significant work as NPR ombudsman:
DVORKIN: NPR often calls on think tanks for comments. But NPR does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.
Here's the tally sheet for the number of times think tank experts were interviewed to date on NPR in 2005:
American Enterprise—59
Brookings Institute—102
Cato Institute—29
Center for Strategic and Intl. Studies—39
Heritage Foundation—20
Hoover Institute—69
Lexington Institute—9
Manhattan Institute—53
SOMERBY: There are of course, other think tanks, but these seem to be the ones whose experts are heard most often on NPR. Brookings and CSIS are seen by many in Washington, D.C., as being center to center-left. The others in the above list tend to lean to the right. So NPR has interviewed more think tankers on the right than on the left.

The score to date: Right 239, Left 141.

Only in [the] America[n press corps]! Dvorkin says that NPR “does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.” As evidence, he offers a numerical accounting which tilts almost two-to-one toward conservative think tanks! Only in our broken discourse could such “logic” obtain.
Some have complained that Brookings and CSIS aren’t really think tanks of the left. But for the sake of argument, let’s leave that point to the side. Where except in the mainstream press can we find public figures who reason so strangely? By any rational standard, Dvorkin’s figures represent one thing. So he says that they stand for the opposite!

gopol said...

Brookings is hardly to the "left" if there is such a place.

The "left" is more the provence of people who are independent of corporate funding: university professsors with tenure like Chomsky, who are paid to think conscientiously and thoroughly and examine arguments based on their merits. AEI and Brookings tend to be staffed by people who went after more money for less work are will to espouse the opinions of their corporate task master, if that's what it takes.

masbrow said...

A refreshingly truthful discussion om Science Friday TOTN with Arnold Relman. Ira Flatow is by far the best journalist on NPR.

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...


Agreed. Flatow is usually great.


Anonymous said...

I have only listened to Flatow a couple of times, but one of the times i did he was supposed be 'mediating" a debate between author of republican war on science Chris Mooney and (AIDS and global warming denier) Tom Bethell and essentially allowed Tom Bethell to use up most of the time.

I guess that's Flatow's (or NPR's) idea of "balance" (2:1 Right to left [rational individual to kook?] allocation, as indicated above)

Anonymous said...

should be "2:1 kook to rational individual", of course.

Anonymous said...

Dvorkin was the "King of balance" at NPR.

I think he honestly believes that "good journalism is ALL about balance" nothing else.

I used to read some of his BS (I know, too much time on my hands) and some of his stuff was absolutely hilarious in an absurd sort of way.

I remember one article he wrote giving the results to an "analysis" he had performed of election coverage (I belive it was Bush v Kerry). I forget the actual numbers he gave for the breakdown of coverage for bush vs kerry, but it was something to the effect that kerry had gotten 49.58537% favorable (ie slanted his way) and Bush something like 49.58538%.

I may exaggerate a bit but not much. He had it out to several places past the decimal point. It was absolutely absurd.

I was educated as a scientist and that kind of nonsense just drives me up the wall, especially when some quack tries to convince me that there essentially IS no objective truth that journalism should concern itself with (that it's all essentially he/said she said so why not just strike a balance and let the listener decide?)

Dvorkin was especially bad, in my opinion and things have apparently gone downhill from there.

larry, dfh said...

And let's not forget the council on foreign relations. There's always some smug asshole from the cfr on npr.
But when it really matttered, before the Iraq Obliteration, both npr and pbs were dramatically in favor of WAR in their guest line-ups and airtime allocations. I believe mcneil-lehrer was 97:3, or something like that. Somersby did the breakdown.

larry, dfh said...

I heard some female announcer actually have a minor orgasm when introducing jack welch. Now we all know that NOBODY is more pro-war, or more pro-republican than jack welch, former head of g.e., big-time member of the m.i.c.

gopol said...


uh...sorry to be daft, but, the only thing i get for MIC is "metastable intermolecular composite." What is MIC?

larry, dfh said...

military industrial complex, as in Smedley Butler's racketeers.

gopol said...

Ah, of course. The story goes that DDE wanted to call it variously the Military-Congressional-Industrial Complex (McIC)or the Military-Academic-Industrial Complex (MaIC), depending on who's remembering. Given that academia (especially the ivy league, U. Chicago and UC Berkeley) are heavily financed by corporate dollars, my earlier comment about university professors having more pure thoughts is certainly naive, but I tend to think there is a preponderance of truth in it.