I would agree with the the articles concern for the state of journalism for a number of reasons. I have shied away from most of the mainstream reporting as a result of the lack of facts and misrepresentation of reality (not on purpose of course-smiling here). I would also suggest that the "softer attributes" be used to drive the discovery of the hard data using testing and analysis tools available.
You know Rich, it is a potent approach that you have specified here. Treating each article or each piece of journalism (i.e., sometimes, the journalist or the journal itself!) as an individual data point, is in fact a very practical and widely practiced approach.
One may not straight away notice how frequently we engineers have adopted this same approach in our daily dealings. These days, we do analyze the user ratings/comments about a product before we go buy any consumer product. In fact, we perform this analysis most of the time prior to taking any sort buying decision and has become the norm rather than the exception. For me personally, this practice has become a good-old piece of due diligence prior to any buying decision nowadays.
How many of you research the message boards and focus groups when you plan to buy a piece of consumer electronics good? Or even a an industrial item for that matter? Do we not compare the different brands and different models on their functionality based on user-comments and user-ratings on these focus groups?
Almost everything that gets published, whether journalistic or not, has a purpose. Even these stories and these comments.
Journalism used to mean hard factual un-biased news. Investigative journalism was also prized for its ability to change situations of all kinds, hopefully for the better.
Today journalism more often than not means just a job at some media outlet, when anecdata, opinion, factoids, sound bytes, celebrity musings, and other types of information fuse into info-tainment where facts are less important than the supposed relevance of today's in vogue subject to the audience.
And don't you just know it ! Facts have the disgusting habit of getting in the way of opinions, or removing the veil over truth and hidden agendas, and are many times just downright embarrassing to deal with.
Much easier and less work NOT to dig up too many facts when "journalists" can instead rock back in their chair and write an opinion or anecdotal fluff piece.
The sad part is that the chief editors allow this to go on. Oh, I forgot... perhaps the editors have the same problem. Do you think?
I agree with Rich. What I have difficulty with is putting too much credence in user ratings/comments. I find that I have to take user ratings/comments with a grain of salt (maybe much more salt). I think that user ratings/comments have the same issues the article talks about regarding journalism today. You are still left with the challenge of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
In my opinion such journalism is also encouraged by a breed of researchers who are eager to get some quick publicity on some hasty conclusions based upon some statistics they collect. One research group finds that drinking TEA is good for health and another finds that drinking TEA is damaging to the health. Both findings are supported by the statistics collected using sample groups. Many of these research work does not go beyond the academics. Don't you think that most of the movie reviews by the film journalists are all biased to bring you to the theater to watch those many times stupid and boring movies? Finally as an engineer we have to apply our own QA to these news/reports to separate facts from the fiction. Editors want to print something exciting, journalists want to earn their bread, we engineers have to go by hard facts though the wild imagination of some of these reports can click some news ideas into the minds of some innovators
News journalism is a pretty difficult business these days. The "24-hour news cycle" has created a massive hole that needs to be filled with new information every day. And the various competing technologies for providing that information continue to evolve and change the competitive landscape. Add in the changing demands of the audience and you've got one very complicated operating environment.
I think everyone is just trying to find their way through a dense forest of information and competing media. The old models have been thrown out the door, and the new models have yet to be designed.
It reminds me of walking through a maze, where there are various different paths to take, but you don't know which one will get you to the destination without trying it first. But in this case, the maze is constantly changing and evolving. New paths are being added all the time and old paths are being sealed up.
It's a new world for a lot of people out there...
I saw the same article - but in my local paper. Apparently there was at least one study done at USF that had some data behind it. However, I agree with Bill that there is not much other data behind article, although I too agree with the premise. Isn't sleep the downtime needed to imprint experiences etc. ?
Too many so-called journalists try to make the news or report their opinions as opposed to reporting the "Who, What, When, Where, How" of traditional journalism.
I agree that you can't trust most of what gets published in main stream media these days -- it seems that a "soundbite" is all that's required as the basis for an entire article. I'm not sure what happened to checking your sources, securing multiple sources, and last but not least ... finding out who funded the research to begin with. (Okay, I'm starting to rant, I'll stop now!)
I agree with phoenixdave that it's the changes in media -- the 24-hour news desk, the constant need for online content, and audience demand for immediacy -- that have caused some of (as you aptly called it) this bad habit of journalism.
I can see how this same kind of pressure for quick turnaround and deadlines could apply pressure to an engineer's work as well. But the outcome, as all the comments have suggested, is far less superior!
And how about when the news agencies do as you illustrate and add in a sensationalized and misleading headline? "New graphene enhanced super conducting plug-in zero emission hybrid makes the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs." I can't count the number of times I've seen such a headline, only to find that the article basically just discusses some research project in the manner you describe. It makes me feel cheated. Maybe entertained, though. But usually not informed.
Absolutely agree with kdboyce here. I dont think there is any source of information which can claim no influence from business, politics, religious or self interests. And frankly, how many of us really scrutinize the reports? Anecdotal and light-on-facts reports make for a entertaining and popular read. Maybe, if only facts were made the basis of opinions, the news would cease to be interesting! At least, in some part. And media houses want to more readers. Truth was never the motive.