Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Morning Papers: Reporters can be stupid

Have you ever wondered about the people who majored in journalism?  I do.  At Illinois, each journalism major was required to take upper level political science classes, and those of us who were in classes with them liked to refer to them as the curve boosters.  Okay, not all of them.  However, it was seen as not having as much writing as English majors, and still without the rigorous science and math classes - just pick five, don't flunk, and you are done.

So, say you are a beat reporter in Missouri when an earthquake rattles Oklahoma.  You have a quick deadline, so why not interview the local geology professor to get a scientific perspective?  The results are not pretty.  From the story, you think that the professor is kind of a dick.  Reading the comments, it's kind of obvious what the problem is: the reporter did not understand that earthquakes happen at a particular point, and you can feel that earthquake even if the point is in another state.  Someone with no knowledge (or interest) in science doesn't go to the wikipedia page on earthquakes to brief himself before writing the questions, and then cannot understand the answers.  You can tell that the professor made that distinction - the fault system is not under our town, everytime you feel shaking doesn't mean it's an earthquake, people in Missouri are not as used to earthquakes as those in California.  The reporter can't figure out that none of these facts would indicate that you wouldn't have felt the earthquake in your town.  The professor even corrected the reporter, but the reporter still doesn't get it - he actually thinks that it's being perceived as an attack piece on those who felt the quake.  The truth is that it should be an attack on a dumb reporter.

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