Saturday, May 28, 2011

May28: better and better

Today, The Moncton Times and Transcript front page had a special report that was a real special report. It dealt with the growing use of the private sector for the building and maintenance of projects that have normally been entirely public.

The reporter, Jacques Gallant, did a good job of it, too. I have a heavy bias on this topic. But even someone as biased as I am would have to admit that the story gave a well-balanced outline of both sides in the debate.

I could have lived without the free ad disguised as a news story to hype a rock concert on the first page. But one shouldn't expect change to come both completely and immediately.

The commentaries by local students in the "Whatever" section were , as usual, impressive. They commonly take light subjects. But, instead of writing them up as trivia (as their elders do), they make them thought-provoking. This Saturday, I particularly commend Christina Korotkov, a grade ten student age 16, who has a more mature understanding of life just from watching movies that I had figured out by  age 50.

The one weakness of this page is that it needs more careful editring. That is not a criticism of the writers. Even pros need good editing - and newspapers have seen a sharp decline in good editring for decades. That's why I frequently see run-one sentences, non-sentences, clumsy sentences, non-words, excess verbiage, and basic errors of spelling.

This page can be an excellent learning experience for the students, as well as being an enjoyable read for the rest of us. But it really needs much tighter editing. And it needs to be done in the old way, by a fussy, difficult, nit-picker, an old hand who still wears a vest, rolls up his sleeves and reeks of tobacco.

The NewsToday section remains weak. There is so little space for foreign and Canadian news, there is no point in carrying it. The selection of news also seems to be made on the basis of reinforcing our own propaganda. We rarely see news that suggests "our side" is doing anything wrong.

Most people get their news from TV, or the web. If a paper is not prepared to devote space and expertise to foreign and Canadian news  (and business), they should just drop it, and save some trees.

Similarly, the editorials should go. TV and radio producers do not give themselves opinion sections. They recognize that producers have no special expertise on anything but producing. As well, most radio and TV stations do not claim that the station itself has an opinion.  (Admittedly, though, that is changing as some TV networks now market themselves by giving  their market audience the news it wants to hear.   (Fox TV is a good example. It's unethical and it's lying. But it seems to be the coming thing.)

The hypocrisy (and ignorance) of eidtorial opinion is shown in today's lead editorial. The writer advises premier Alward to consult scientists and statisticians - and to ignore special interest groups - on the issue of fracking to develop shale gas deposits.
1. This advise comes from a newspaper that exists only because it serves special interest groups with biased reporting and propaganda editorials.
2. The writer shows very little understanding of scientists or statisticians. Scientists often desagree sharply with each other. (Hitler had no trouble finding reputable scientists to support his racial ideas and his persecution of Jews.)
      Statstics, the same set of statistics, can be used to prove wildly conflicting ideas.  As one statistician put it, "If you torture statistics enough, they will tell you whatever trueh you want to hear." The educational statistics poured out by Atlantic Institute of Market Studies are a good example of torture.

There is no such thing as a final proof in either science or statistics.

All of this makes today's editorial is a good example why we should not have editorials.

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