I know nothing, but let me tell you about it anyway

Few things make me more upset than “journalists” who have no knowledge of the facts of a story, write about it or get on television, answering phantom questions about hypoteticals. Then the anchor or host treats their answers like they relate to the story at hand. Then they guide the reader or listener through the “facts” of a story based on the answers to these hypothetical questions as if they are relevant. Unless you are paying attention and reject the entire story when this occurs, you will get the facts of the story all wrong. Is it any wonder Americans are so ill-informed about so much?

The latest example of this type of “journalism” can be found right here in my local newspaper, the Dayton Daily News. Not only does the writer start by asserting an unsubstantiated “fact” (…dying from [a seizure] is rare) but early in the article she states:

Medical specialists who did not treat the boy told The Associated Press on Tuesday that while Kawasaki syndrome is poorly understood, it’s extremely unlikely the disease had anything to do with the teen’s death.

Let me repeat: “medical specialist who did not treat the boy told…” And, AP, why are you lapping this up? What kind of journalism institution are you anyway?

And now, we have Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the worst offender of them all*, slated for the Surgeon General. Has he not done enough damage with his glib, over-arching generalizations of the American health care scene at CNN? I’m sure Dr. Gupta is a competent doctor, but it is unethical and immoral to lead people down a path that is so generic as to be dangerous to their health. Whatever you believe about Dr. Gupta’s competence, his words have weight.

I attribute this “fact-filling” as a desperate attempt by media to be the first on the scene and to fill 24/7 airtime with breaking news stories. Here is a bit of advice from the the old school: If you have nothing to say on the matter, just shut up before you start sounding like an idiot.

*No, I have no supporting evidence he is the worst, but go to YouTube and sift through the video.

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6 Replies to “I know nothing, but let me tell you about it anyway”

  1. You’re absolutely right. Nothing bother me more (well, some things do) than someone giving an opinion that they have zero experience with. Enough people hear it, it becomes fact.

    As for Gupta, I wouldn’t give it much thought. (a) the surgeon general doesn’t do much, (b) he’s probably more articulate than what the CNN editors allow him to be

  2. I, being an inkstained wretch, don’t have a problem with the story. I have a problem with its newsworthiness. But given our ghoulist delight in the trials and tribulations of the rich and famous, some editor ordered the story written.

    The bizarre cause of death is questioned; the role of religion in treatment is inspected; and experts with a broad knowledge and rich experience in the matter are asked for conclusions.

    The whole matter could have been put to bed if the family has wished to comment. Which is their right to withhold.

    And the crux of the story is stated: “We’re dealing with a massive lack of information.”

    I would have played that much higher.

  3. @inkstained How you are able to write a story of substance without any first-hand facts is the entire problem. Journalist should have the ability to say, “WTF?” to their editors, and editors to their publishers and publishers to their audience. But, the world doesn’t work that way because viewers and readers demand the dribble. And the average reader doesn’t filter veracity like ink-stained folks.

    @norcross Ordinarily, I would agree that the surgeon general doesn’t mean squat, but health care is going to be a big deal in the next several years. Gupta WILL be the public face of the Obama health plan.

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