Saturday, January 26, 2008

Personal foul, defense

OK. what two things have to be true for this hed to be true? You in the back, with the "Dr. Disgust"* T-shirt?

Exactly. There has to be "city union disgust with mayor," and it has to be bigger as of this writing than it was before. Is there any evidence to support either one, or has the desk left another writer hanging out to dry? Let's see:

The largest union local representing city workers called Friday for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's resignation, and next Wednesday -- with or without the mayor's presence on the 11th floor of City Hall -- city employees are expected to protest outside the building to drive their point home.

Bad start. Disgust is what we call a "basic emotion," and neither "calling for resignation" nor "protesting" is part of it.

Let's proceed. AFSCME 207 says he's a lame duck who won't get any respect. AFSCME 2920 says stuff like "dishonesty" and "theft" are "unacceptable." Other unions are angry but not surprised and want to see the mayor resign. Consultants point out that naughty text messages and the like "don't do much to boost high opinion" (press, comma, stop the!). Unions are likely to be "dispirited and less enthusiastic."

Is that disgust, and does it mean there's more disgust now than at this time last week? No, and that's a violation of "objectivity." Objectivity doesn't have a problem with going after the mayor's naughty text messages (particularly given the apparent trifling with public safety departments, which is vastly more important than the alleged wanderings of the mayoral kielbasa). Objectivity does, you know, worry a little about introducing unrelated categories into the mix, and it worries even more about proclaiming changes in something you haven't even demonstrated you can measure.

Going after the Evil Text Messages was good journalism. Don't screw it up by changing the subject.

* No joke. There is such a guy, and the quantitative study of disgust is eternally in his debt.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

But don't unions always and by definition have "disgust" for mayors?

8:51 PM, January 28, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

No, no, no! Unions always "demand." Mayors always "offer." Disgust is optional. Sort of like black tie.

9:27 PM, January 28, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Oh, yes. Of course. You're right. (Of course you're right)?

8:10 PM, January 29, 2008  

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