Rock Stars Die Younger??? Plus: Worst Column Ever!
This just in: Rock stars die younger!
"An analysis of mortality rates among 1,064 musicians lends support to the long-held impression that rock stars have below- average life expectancies, especially within the first five years of becoming famous, the scientists said."
I know, I know, it's a shocker. You're reeling and rocking from this shattering bulletin. You would think that the rocker lifestyle (hoovering powdered substances piled into small hills on mirrors; randomly snogging runaways; Jack Daniels-and-mango smoothies for breakfast; constantly flying in small planes out of small midwestern towns like Mason City, Iowa) would actually extend the average life span.
(This news makes us wonder what other bombshell is poised to drop. Iraq war not going swimmingly?? Who knows, we might find out that professional athletes are more likely than normal people to take performance enhancing drugs. Can we get some scientists on that??)
The Worst Column Ever
I nearly hurled when I read this stupid column in Editor & Publisher saying that reporters should be less objective and more opinionated. I don't just disagree: I spit on the fool who extruded this detestable putrescence.
The brain-dead columnist, Steve Outing, writes:
'A recent example was a story of NASA scientists recalculating some average-temperature figures that appeared to indicate that "Dust Bowl" year 1934 was the hottest year on record, not 1998, as was believed. Newspapers dutifully reported on the "controversy" as global warming skeptics seized on the erred statistic to support their notion that it's all a hoax, as in this New York Times report, [sadly it's already archived but I'll try to dig it out -- Joel] even though scientists involved explained that it was inconsequential in terms of the larger global temperature trend, "nudging it by an insignificant thousandth of a degree....The problem with that kind of coverage is that it doesn't permit journalists to find the truth in an issue, like global warming.'
His one example is a story by Andrew Revkin. Yes, the very same Andrew Revkin who has written many influential articles in the Times warning of the perils of global warming. Did Revkin somehow transmogrify into a dupe who listens to flat-earthers?
No: His latest article could not be more immaculately reported and written. It has precisely the right tone. It takes the new data and places it into perspective. The recalculated temperatures do not alter the reality of anthropogenic climate change. No sane person could read this article as bending over backwards to accomodate the deniers.
There's a broader issue here, which is whether we should abandon "objective journalism." I vote no on that. And I don't think that you say, "Some issues are so important you can't be objective." That's mushy thinking. Readers appreciate journalism that begins with a question rather than an answer. We all benefit from independent thinking and a search for truth. If that search results in a powerful statement of fact that motivates people to make a change, that's all to the good. But you don't set out at the start with your conclusions firmed up.
[Update: Obviously your blogger had too much coffee. Invective intended satirically, ya dig. To make clear: I agree that "balance" is crazy if one side's view is scientific and the other side's is nutty. But being "objective" doesn't mean that. It often means you have to say, This is the most persuasive argument. But that's not advocacy journalism, that's just telling it like it is.
I concur with Kurosawaguy's comment in the boodle: The problem with "balanced and objective" reporting is that when you quote two experts with opposing views on evolutionary theory and they both have PhD's, you seem to create an equivalency of expertise. Many readers, even when told, will not grasp that the fact that the creationist has his PhD in electrical engineering and that he is the bishop of the Humina Humina Temple of the FSM makes his expert opinion on evolutionary biology worth exactly zero.]
Essentially the argument is that Climate Change is a special category in which journalists who normally do "objective journalism" should instead do "advocacy journalism." There are several fundamental problems with this. What exactly are we supposed to advocate? A gas tax? Carbon sequestration? Protests outside Exxon-Mobil headquarters? (Mr. Outing, to his credit -- now I hate myself for what I've written about the chap -- actually gives a decent answer: He says we should write about ways that people can lower their carbon footprint. But that's just consumer journalism that I doubt anyone would object to or find particularly controversial.)
And why is Climate Change different from, for example, water pollution that spreads cholera and other diseases, or nitrogen runoff in the oceans, or loss of biodiversity due to habitat destruction, or overfishing that has obliterated certain fish species? The destruction of our ocean ecosystems is a huge issue that hasn't gotten enough attention.
Yeah, we don't need to quote insane people in a stupid attempt to create "balance." But if there's a riot going on in the blogosphere about tweaked temperature numbers (for example), there's nothing wrong with citing those opinions and putting them in perspective. That's not seeking balance; that's called truth-squadding a bogus claim.
Did I mention that I know I'm right.
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