Tag Archives: Bad Journalism

Greatest threat to print journalism?

Answer: The Internet.

This is a theme that has popped up a million different times over the last number of years, “the death of print media” etc etc. According to the Irish Times Editor, Geraldine Kennedy:

the internet has posed a “huge threat” to the traditional structure and financing of the newspaper industry.”

While the internet is clearly drawing advertising and readers away from traditional print publications, there is no definitive evidence that the traditional media will die anytime soon. What we do know though is that the traditional media, in Ireland at any rate, is at this very minute under threat from a far more traditional source:

“THE IRISH Times Ltd made an after-tax loss of €27.9 million in 2009 as a result of costs related to a restructuring of the business and the effect of the recession on advertising revenues.”

“Circulation revenues fell marginally during the year but advertising income was 42.5 per cent lower due to the effects of the economic slowdown, particularly in property and recruitment.”

Maeve Donovan who “spearheaded the controversial “investment and diversification” strategy“, i.e. the purchase of MyHome.ie (which appeared to be a means of cutting out the middleman in the property advertising paradigm), also received “an ex-gratia payment of €1.1 million.”

Property advertising, as we all know, is declining predominantly because of an excess of 300,000 houses and the creation of a bad bank, guaranteed by the government and therefore the Irish public, with a balance sheet of empty and unfinished commercial property, which in turn prompted a series of deflationary government budget strategies, precipitating the IMF and ECB putting in place a means of exhorting billions of Euro from the Irish public to repay British, French and German banks for the coming generations.

So not only did the media’s symbiotic relationship with the property industry discredit journalism, and in turn alienate readers, but its over reliance on property advertising compromised the financial structure of instituion itself.

The traditional media doesn’t need a threat from the internet, it is well able to destroy itself.

On bad photoshop, bad journalism and pissing into the wind

Myers writing in last Wednesday’s Irish Independent:

“Yet there is hardly an RTE radio or television news bulletin in which a reporter doesn’t say the hideous, “He should have saw,” or “he should have showed”, or “he should have went”.”

How predictable is this? A conservative columnist railing against ‘improper use’ of the English language. In this case RTE’s alleged systematic corruption of “he should have seen” into “he should have saw”.

Stop the fucking press!

And who is to blame for this degradation of ‘proper English’?

“These wonderful institutions [colleges offering courses in journalism and media studies] clearly taught their students all about the evils of imperialism and the horrors of male sexual chauvinism and the unspeakable crimes of Zionism, and equally, of the boundless benefits of multiculturalism and quotas.

Clearly, this left little or no time for the relatively trivial matter of teaching people how to write and speak English correctly, talents that graduates must presumably acquire on the job.”

Yet again, its the four horsemen of the apocalypse: universities, feminists, peace activists and…drum roll please…foreigners.

That’s it, last post ever on Myers.

Israel says, Israel says, Israel says

Dear Mark,
Having just read your piece in today’s Irish Times, ‘Report says Israel violated international law’, I just wanted to ask why you led the first four paragraphs with statements from the Israeli government?
Were there no other reactions to the report? Have the families of those who were killed made any comments? Would it not have been reasonable to lead with the findings of the report and mention the government reactions (Palestine and Turkey too) in the closing paragraphs?
I can understand that you’re the correspondent in Jerusalem, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to act as a public relations officer.
Yours sincerely,

Previous MediaShots on the subject:

‘The false reality of news journalism’ – Reporting Palestine and the Mavi Marmara

‘Officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’

Crap Journalism and Islamophobia

This is the last time.

Ian O’Doherty writing in today’s Irish Independent:

“I noticed five Algerians were arrested last Friday in connection with a plot to kill the Pope, further proving just what a religion of peace Islam is” [Irish
, 20/09/10]

If O’Doherty is honestly unaware that:

“Six men arrested in a suspected terrorist plot against Pope Benedict XVI on his state visit to Britain were released without charge late Saturday night.” [MSNBC,

“Six men who were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 on Friday, 17 September, were all released without charge late on Saturday night and early this morning.” [The
, 19/09/10]

…then he is simply crap at his job.

If he is actually aware of this development and chose not to mention it, then he is simply engaged in spreading Islamophobia, which wouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

More on ‘bad journalism’

Last week we mentioned the Irish Independent’s Kevin Myers, this week we have the Irish Independent’s Ian O’Doherty:

The highlighted line reads:

(What are you talking about O’Doherty? You don’t have a car! — Ed)

Presumably written by a sub-editor and accidentally left in the published text.

[Update: As pointed out in the comments by Harry Browne, this is humour, not a mistake.]

For some reason the breaking news of O’Doherty’s first encounter with self-service supermarket checkouts and his irritation at wider car parking spaces for families reminds me of an article by Brenda Power in the Sunday Times back in May.

Power had, by glorious chance, happened upon a woman wearing a burka pushing a pram beneath a billboard displaying the famous Hunky Dory crisp advert, right in the midst of the controversy. This moment of pure chance prompted this article.

Also, O’Doherty claims in the article that most aid money sent to Pakistan is “being filtered away by corrupt politicians or the Taliban,” the clear implication being that to send money for relief work is to support corruption and terrorism. The truth is of course somewhat different. The Frontline Club recently hosted a discussion on the issue.

Karen Pierce, UK Foreign Office director for Afghanistan and South Asia, said that “In any event of this type there is a risk of diversion [of money] – I don’t think the risk in Pakistan is any greater in this crisis than in any other.”

There’s bad journalism and then there’s bad journalism

There is a clear difference between ‘bad journalism’ and ‘bad journalism’.

The first type might be better described as lazy journalism, the kind of thing popular tweeter @badjournalism enjoys highlighting. It’s very entertaining, but it rarely tells us anything particularly interesting about why we read what we read in the newspapers. The second results from a convergence of a combination of ‘filters’. These filters are explained in detail by Herman and Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media; and some are discussed in our MediaShots and interviews.

Kevin Myers, writing in the Irish Independent, is like cupid to these two forms of bad journalism. Skilfully combining a prior judgement made on a particular issue that fits into a unique right wing anti-pro-whateversuits-authoritarian narrative that the Irish Independent readers allow themselves to be subjected to each day and a wilful use and misuse of facts or things he made up in order to bolster that fundamental.

In this particular article Myers has chosen the day when the countries most indebted bank recorded “one of the worst half year performances of any Irish company” (€8.2 bn for the first six months of the year) to lambast government and specifically Green Party governance on the basis of its public transport policy.

This case of alleged incompetence, there have been many of course, centres around plans to build a commuter rail line in the north of the city. He faults the plan on a number of points, but the two central ones are cost and environmental impact. The first is no surprise, capital expenditure is not very popular in the press at the moment, the second comes as a bit of shock, given it comes from a journalist who wrote of Global Warming:

“The biggest threat to mankind is probably less from “global warming” than from the hysterical myths about it which have besotted and beguiled the world’s scientific community.” [Kevin
Myers, Irish Independent, 06/01/10

But in reading a bit further it becomes clear that environmental impact is not so much a concern for our habitat as a tool with which to beat a designated enemy, and it is useful in this respect because of the contradiction it poses for the Green Party’s environmental credentials.

In order to back up this second point he writes:

“What’s really fascinating is that this proposal emanates from the Greens, because they are committed to public transport by rail as an ideological dogma. But this is not just any kind of rail: it runs underground, which means that a tunnel will be built to Dublin Airport, essentially parallel to the existing, and already under-utilised, port tunnel. Let’s use the Chesapeake Tunnel as a comparison. Its 23 miles required 100 million tonnes of concrete. The Necro North tunnel, however, will probably be one-third the length of the Chesapeake. Let’s be conservative, and call it a quarter.

That means 25 million tonnes of concrete, for the tunnel alone, and not including the stations (least of all the huge Dart-Luas underground interchange at the Green). Roughly 20pc of concrete is cement, which means around five million tonnes. But cement-manufacture is one the most CO2-intensive processes known to man. So, making five million tonnes of cement releases some four millions tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

But the whole country produced just 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2006 — levels already more than 25pc higher than the allowable emissions for the period 2008-2012, according to our submission to the UN climate change authorities. Yet instead of cutting emissions, we are proposing a scheme that will probably add 6pc to them through cement manufacture alone.” [Kevin
Myers, We don’t need BP to go prospecting in our waters to face ruin, Metro North will do it, Irish Independent, 01/09/10

The first question that came to my mind was whether the Chesapeake Tunnel is actually the real name of a tunnel or whether it was another humourless renaming of a tunnel, namely the Dublin Port Tunnel.

Well, as it happens there is a Chesapeake Tunnel. It’s full name is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, built in 1964 and connecting “Virginia’s Eastern Shore with the Virginia mainland at Virginia Beach near Norfolk.” That’s Virginia in the United States by the way. And, as far as I can tell there isn’t another Chesapeake Tunnel anywhere else in the world. A strange choice of a comparison perhaps, but lets not get suspicious just yet.

“The Bridge-Tunnel measures 17.6 miles (28.4 km) and is considered the world’s largest bridge-tunnel complex. Construction of the span required undertaking a project of more than 12 miles of low-level trestle, two 1-mile tunnels, two bridges, almost 2 miles of causeway, four manmade islands and 5-1/2 miles of approach roads, totaling 23 miles.” [chesapeake bay bridge-tunnel, bridge-tunnel facts]

So the tunnel section of this particular piece of infrastructure is only two miles long. That poses a little bit of a problem. It is quite difficult to make a like for like comparison if the projects are entirely dissimilar. Now I don’t know where Myers’ figure for “100 million tonnes of concrete” came from, but it likely has a lot to do with the 5,189 concrete piles used to support the 20 km long bridge over water with a depth between 25-100 ft. But that’s entirely irrelevant, you just simply can’t compare a bridge with a tunnel.

On the other hand the Dublin Port Tunnel (DPT), you would have thought, is a more appropriate project to make the sort of comparison Myers is attempting.

According to Banagher Concrete Ltd, the company who produce the DPT’s precast segments (and confirmed by The Irish Concrete Federation):

“The lining consists of 3,037 rings with an internal diameter of 10.84m and a thickness of 350mm. Each ring is made up of six segments, weighing 8 tonnes each, and one key segment weighing 2.3 tonnes.”

So that’s 3,037 rings multiplied by six segments at 8 tonnes and one at 2.3 tonnes, which works out at 152,761 tonnes.

If I was a paid journalist and my articles were read by up to 560,000 people I’d probably go and check all these figures with the sources, but I’m not, so I won’t.

According to another report, a press release provided by DPT, the rings are about 1.7m wide, which seems about right. So that means 3,037 segments covers 5.16 km (the total length of the tunnel is about 9km, twin bore, but presumably the cut and cover sections are constructed differently, either way, it doesn’t matter the section weights are all that applies).

Now, the proposed Metro North includes approximately 10 km of tunnel, requiring 5,882 segments. Therefore based on the above figures, that works out at 295,864 tonnes.

Which is about 24,704,413 tonnes less than Myers’ estimate.

20% of this figure is 59,172 tonnes and if “making five million tonnes of cement releases some four millions tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere” then making 59,172 tonnes releases some 47,338 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Which, if you hadn’t guessed before reading it, makes the rest of the article complete and utter balderdash.

But what does this tell us about the Irish Independent? Very little we didn’t already know.

The smallest non-victory ever recorded

We recently had an almost infinitesimally short exchange with Michael Christie, Reuters Iraq Bureau Chief, where we challenged his figures for Iraqi mortality.

We are happy to say Christie has since attempted to redress this:

“Muhsin al-Timimi, a 47-year-old journalist, hopes for an end to the war in which more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians, and more than 4,400 U.S. soldiers, have died.” [Iraqis say war “not ending” despite U.S. drawdown, 29/08/2010]

Of course, still no mention of The Human Cost of the War in Iraq, A Mortality Study, 2002-2006.