Megalomedia - Wake up to your news

Monday, May 30, 2005

Of whiskey shots and mainstream hits

Much to my surprise, I returned from a night of bbq'ing and boozery in Montreal with the MediaScout crew to find that Megalomedia had more hits last Friday than on any previous day since I introduced the counter on May 18. Even more surprising, more than 30 hits came from the U.S. It turns out that the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz cited Megalomedia in his rundown of blog coverage of the FBI report on Koran abuse. The article is here. How Kurtz found me is a mystery, but I'm sure Google is partly responsible. Either way, it's cool to know that this puppy is reaching beyond my friends and family. It also generated the first bit of debate we've seen in the comment section in awhile, so scroll down to last Thursday's post and have a look, it's kind of interesting. Point / What'er-point? The Post's "Issues and Ideas" section leads with what appears to be a point / counterpoint on the racial profiling in policing study that was done in Kingston. Check out the CBC's coverage here for the background. Upon closer examination, however, the articles are actually quite similar. The first, written by a "writer and musician working in Toronto" says that police shouldn't be blamed for stopping more blacks than whites because, in Toronto at least, blacks are responsible for more of the crime. He goes on to blame the media for trying to hide that fact, despite noting that media reports about gangs being taken down in Toronto helped make him aware of the problem. You can read it here. The second piece, wrtten by the author of a study on race and hiring, notes that if racial discrimination were to blame, the ratio of stops-to-charges for blacks would be lower than for whites, which is not the case. He cites that as proof that the stops are legit. This one is only for Post subscribers, so I can't link to it. Contrary to what the Post would have you believe, this is not a clear-cut issue. The second piece doesn't address long-standing concerns about discrimination throughout the entire judicial system. Perhaps that there are more blacks convicted of crimes shows bias in the courts. I'm not saying it does, but it's disingenuous to ignore those concerns. The second piece is, however, much more balanced than the first. Wherein the second piece at least offers substance, the first seems to be really selective in the data used to back it up. It contradicts itself (see the media blame game cited above) and cites crime statistics to back up arrest rates in a mind-boggling display of circular logic. Police are justified in singling out blacks because blacks are so often arrested? Wow. There are reasons to be wary of race-based crime statistics, but to dismiss the Kingston study outright is pretty irresponsible, even by Post standards. And if you ARE going to dismiss it, at least get credible people with sound arguments to do it. Sea King Down! Every major daily, save for the National Post and Toronto Star, grabbed Dean Beeby's Canadian Press article on the dismal performance of a Sea King helicopter during a recent high-seas exercise. The Globe seems to have run it in its entirety, so you can check it out here. By my count, 21 papers ran the article, but of those, six (including the reasonably significant Calgary Herald and Montreal Gazette) decided to omit a rather important quote. See, while the Sea Kings have been justifiably attacked for their poor performance over the years, the man in charge of Sea King maintenance said this particular series of breakdowns was more about bad luck than bad aircraft. That's a pretty important bit of information. But because the "aged helicopters break down too much" narrative is fairly well known in Canada, those six papers figured it was okay to leave it out. Had this been a Coromorant, one of our shiny search-and-rescue helicopters, or one of the CF-18s, readers would want to know why they performed so badly. But because it was a Sea King, we don't need that info. This is just another example in a long line of reasons that I'd hate to work for CP. Their journalists tend to put out really well-written, balanced stories. However, papers get to edit them down to fit their needs, and far too often, that involves gutting some important details. I don't think the six papers axed the quote because of some anti-government, anti-Sea King agenda, but other times you have to wonder about details that are left out. Realistically, Beeby should have probably moved the quote in question up higher in the story, but I think the onus is on the papers to ensure that their edited versions of the story provide the same context and balance as the original. Hrm, this post is getting long. I wanted to comment on a few other things, but I think I'll cut it off here. Oh, but I will toss in this link. The New York Times did a report on preserving the trust of readers. Among the findings were concerns about biased language in balanced reportage and distinguising between columns and news stories. I haven't read it all yet, but it's worth checking out. Let's hope the Canadian papers think so too.

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