Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dead and buried: news that matters

While Buz Williams bloviates about the leftist media elite, the Courier and most other media outlets are largely burying a story affecting the lives of a million Arizonans, half of them kids. From Cronkite News Service via The Arizona Capitol Times:

Cuts to food stamp benefits hit more than 1 million Arizonans Friday


That's tomorrow. How many people in our area will be affected? How many kids will be going to school hungry? How much money will it suck out of the tills of our local grocers? How will this additional stress spread through families and the rest of the community? We'll likely never know the answers to these questions, because they just aren't as important to our local editors as, say, baseball games.

Update, Friday: Some numbers. If this isn't repaired within the year, the AZ economy will be out about 109 million clams. And no, you're not paying less taxes to balance that. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Must-read: Why competent opposition matters

Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, tees off on an example from the Obamacare "debate" showing how overstretching the truth leads to dismissive backlash that can further obscure important policy considerations. If you care at all about how media decisions affect your thinking, you have to check this out:
What a Small Moment in the Obamacare Debate Says About Ideological Media

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Those pesky apostrophes

I've written before that proofreading at the Courier has improved markedly over the years I've been writing this blog, but that's the sort of territory easily lost to inattention. I'm sure most of my readers would bug out quickly if faced with a daily litany of proof complaints, so I generally let them pass. But when the headlines display ignorance of the basics. I have to say something, even though I know most of my readers can see it as well as I can.

Today the problem is painfully wrong apostrophes on the op-ed page, one buried in Tom Cantlon's column — "It's more like a couple who own an apartment complex and one wants to add to it to increase it's revenue, ...." — but the other really glaring in the editorial headline — "State can't shun it's fiscal burden."


Last I knew you can't pass the ninth grade without the ability to distinguish between the contraction "it's" and the possessive "its." You definitely can't land a paycheck as an entry-level proofreader. Seeing this get by a suite of pro newspaper editors is just embarrassing to the profession.

Boilerplate: Why does it matter? Inattention to details like this indicates disregard for clarity of communication, sloppiness of thought, and low regard for readers, editors and the publication itself, all alarming qualities in people we depend on to inform us about the conditions, needs and actions of our community.

Update, 8:30pm: Someone corrected the headline fail in the online edition, but not the one in Tom's column. This is an improvement over the policy not so long ago of not bothering at all.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Editorial: A frameup for NAU

The unnamed editor today seizes on an apparently insensitive move by a real-estate developer to slam NAU, ulterior motive in hand.

Citing this AP story, he lashes out at the university and its president, John Haeger, for supporting the elimination of a piece of a crummy trailer park to build more substantial student housing. Except neither the editor nor AP made the phone call to ask for the school's position on the matter.

Instead we get a quote from a salesman for the developer asserting that NAU is "excited" about the new buildings. I expect if he'd mined the data set a tiny bit more deeply he'd have also found out that the developer is hoping to make money on the deal from NAU students, that NAU will not own any of it, and the salesman thinks the project is new and improved. Note that the developer takes no heat here, only the school.

The editor flashes his motivation in referencing the "loss" of his favorite baseball team's "traditional" spring training program from NAU to Glendale. We've recently seen another example of the importance of this topic to the editor.

That's pretty lame, but to go after John Haeger, one of the brightest lights and sweetest people in public service in our state, for the actions of a real-estate shark is just low.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Letter: Treat Obamacare just like Prohibition

Phillip Thiele attempts to rile up a supposed silent majority of Americans to oppose the inevitability of better access to health insurance for all by comparing it with Prohibition. Okay, you've had your chuckle, now consider the unintended wisdom here.

Prohibition was an idealistic campaign by social conservatives, not least women who had endured untold abuse, depradation and ruin at the hands of generations of drunks, rammed through legislatures that clearly understood that it couldn't work, but to vote against it risked being labeled as not 'clean' enough to hold office. The new women's vote in particular put legislators in fear of replacement by wild-eyed zealots that would be at home in today's Tea Party. Ultimately it failed, and was rather quickly repealed, as the predictable consequences were tearing society apart.

The proper parallel is the health-care 'system' we have endured up to now. Running against the successful examples of every other developed nation for half a century, we plowed forward on ignorant idealism about the sanctity of the market (and, for the real power brokers, the sanctity of immense profits), enduring predictable consequences that have been tearing our society apart for far longer than the tenure of Prohibition.

Where Mr Theile and his ilk, adamantly blinkered to the real effects of their ideology, projects a campaign by political idealists, in reality the ACA and the long, slow march toward responsible, practical health-care solutions are not parallel to the institution of Prohibition, but rather its repeal.

We still have the wild-eyed zealots in the wings, of course, and that's what's driven the House of Representatives to vote several dozen times for repeal of the ACA, to shut down the government for two weeks now in an attempt to extort a repeal, and to threaten the entire world economy with destruction of faith in the credit of the United States. (If that's not "getting down to business," Mr Theile, what is?)

In an admittedly flawed and patchwork way, the proponents of better access to health coverage are trying to correct a history of bad decisions. It probably won't work as well as we need, but it will be substantially better than we've been doing. The ship was on the rocks. Only a fool pours on more steam for that.

Drive-by editorial: Pay attention to abused kids, for a second

The unnamed editor draws another write-it-and-forget-it column from the passing fancy of the teevee news, describing the abuse, neglect and murder of children as "a singular facet of a complex societal ill that goes unchecked, ... What a sad commentary on life in modern-day America."

The really sad commentary is that a newspaper editor has so little grounding in social history that he thinks this is a "modern" phenomenon," so little understanding of our social systems that he imagines it's worse now, and such thin interest in the issue that it only comes to mind because a sports star is involved.