“Man-made” mistakes

The Sunday newspaper is a breeding ground for journalistic faux pas.  USA Today’s Report:  97 percent of scientists say man-made climate change is real asks more questions that it answers.  What does “very likely” actually mean?  Compared to what, very unlikely?  What is the scale for this?  Since when is “very likely” an appropriate scientific substitution for a number?  Later in the article, we finally get a statistic–1,372 scientists–followed closely by another “very likely.”

In the study, the authors wrote: “This extensive analysis of the mainstream versus skeptical/contrarian researchers suggests a strong role for considering expert credibility in the relative weight of and attention to these groups of researchers in future discussions in media, policy, and public forums regarding anthropogenic climate change.”

Layman’s terms for the average reader please.  USA Today simply includes this quote and does not expand on this idea.

Finally, who the heck are William R.L. Anderegg, James W. Prall, Jacob Harold and Stephen H. Schneider?  Scientists?  Sociologists?  Frat boys?  Can we please have some indication of who conducted this study?

Studies in articles normally make me nervous because it is easy to twist and manipulate numbers to work for yourself.  However, there was no manipulation of numbers in this article…mostly because there were no numbers.

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The Highs and Lows of Journalism

Another hot issue, marijuana usage and legalization, was also spotlighted in two newspapers this weekend.  Two very similar stories were written, but with very different headlines.

Workers at 3 medical marijuana businesses in Oakland unionize

Pot-club workers in Oakland are first to unionize

The first headline, written by the Los Angeles Times, presents no obvious bias or agenda.  However, the second headline, written by USA Today, chooses to use “pot” over “marijuana.”  Is it just me or does “pot” inherently have a negative connotation?

Now on an optimistic note read this article by David Sanger of the New York Times.  It’s an incredibly well-written and fascinating piece.

Amazing nut graf, vivid language, fabulous graphics.  Just an awesome piece!