Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why run fake news when ...

... you could be running real news? Don't know. Maybe we should ask the people who do!

Teens are swearing more than ever
`Why We Curse' author says adolescents using up to 90 swear words a day
Adolescents and preteens are swearing more publicly than ever -- especially at school, experts say.

Wow! An empirical science claim, made by "experts"! And it's about Our Kids and Teens! Surely this is a major national news story, worth being plucked from the obscurity of the Sacramento Bee and played nationally!

Suppose we look at the substance of the story -- you know, the part that supports the claims in the lede -- for a moment.

It's conversational swearing -- in the hallways and in the classroom -- that is on the rise, says Timothy Jay, one of the leading scholars on cursing in the United States.

There's our expert, and he's making a pretty clear statement. Here's the kind of swearing that's on the rise. And how bad is it?

He estimates that the average adolescent uses roughly 80 to 90 swear words a day.

Frickin' kids, huh? And their music: It's just noise! Trouble is, you can scan all the way to the end of the story without getting to anything that supports the lede. "80 to 90" has to be "more" than something for the story to be true, right? (Let's not even bother with significance testing for the moment.) So what's it more than? How do we know that the little delinquents are swearing either "more" or "more publicly" than ever?

The short answer is that we don't, meaning that likely as not, we can't (if some long-suffering editor at Sacramento pointed out that the lede is bogus, somebody owes him/her a drink). What we have here is a non-story; it's an excuse to babble a bit about something that looks "family"-related, but it isn't news by any known or reasonable definition.

Too bad it's eating up so much space, then, because if you were editing wire at some McClatchy rag and wanted to make points with the glassholes by running a story from the provinces, you might find this:

March 4 vote could give religious right sway over Texas schools
AUSTIN -- Although little noticed by the public, the race for a local seat on the State Board of Education could lead to a dramatic ideological shift on the panel and -- by extension -- in Texas school policy.

Well, switcharoonie. You mean we could find an substantive McClatchy national story that actually says something useful and informative about how things stand in the nation? Instead of, like, you know, I mean, some conventional wisdom about, like, Those Kids? And their baseball caps language?

Jeez. If you were actually interested in national news, you could look at the Texas story in the context of this:
For the first time ever, evolution is to be taught clearly and explicitly in Florida classrooms now that the state Board of Education approved a batch of new science standards that mention the ''E'' word. But there's a catch: The subject will be taught as "the scientific theory of evolution."

No, it isn't especially well written (Miami was always overrated as a place that produced good writing). It does, though, have the advantage of being competently reported and contextually sound. As long as we're going to waste space on national news (hey, it's another year before we have to cover the Academy Awards again), what if we tried running some of the actual news that's out there?


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I like that "catch". If Florida's lucky, their science teachers know what a scientific theory actually is and teach the kid properly.

That'll give 'em something to swear about...

5:49 AM, February 26, 2008  

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