Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Headline Of The Week, ‘Nah, The News Media Isn’t Promoting Fear And Panic” Division'”

It’s not often that I post a comment that is mostly links and quotes as a Comment of the Day, but Dr. Emilio Lizardo (That’s his real name, by the way..KIDDING!) performed a real service by gathering this information in one place as a follow-up to the “Unethical Headline” post of last night.

II fear I buried the lede in that one, so some more follow-up is coming. Just two points, and I’ll turn it over to the doctor. Comparing the Wuhan virus outbreak deaths to greater numbers involving routine, yearly, largely unavoidable deaths in the US is a dishonest way to minimize the significance of the current threat. This device is used by the “save the economy, let ’em die” advocates, who are multiplying among conservative commentators. It was also the despicable strategy used by apologists for the terrorists after 9-11, like Michael  Moore, though comparing the number of  weekly auto fatalities with bomb attacks that murder 3,000 Americans is self-evidently moronic.

On the other side, comparing the current epidemic deaths to wars is an equally dishonest strategy of those trying to make the  current situation as terrifying as possible to promote fear and facilitate political gain.

These are two sides of the same unethical coin. (And now you know what the graphic above means)

Now here’s Dr. Lizardo’s Comment of the Day—his first, I think– on the post, “Unethical Headline Of The Week, ‘Nah, The News Media Isn’t Promoting Fear And Panic” Division’.”

I’ll be back for one comment at the end.

Unethical? Nah! And, of course, it’s not personal; it’s business. Not.
And this narrative has been taking place for a week or so:

NYT “News Analysis” – 1 April

“Under the best-case scenario presented on Tuesday, Mr. Trump will see more Americans die from the coronavirus in the weeks and months to come than Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon saw die in the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined.

The lowest estimate would claim nearly as many Americans as World War I under President Woodrow Wilson and 14 times as many Americans as Iraq and Afghanistan together under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/us/politics/coronavirus-trump.html Continue reading

Unethical Headline Of The Week, “Nah, The News Media Isn’t Promoting Fear And Panic” Division

What possible excuse can there be for this? There is none.

Let’s start with the “six wars combined” stat. That doesn’t count the  top six wars in  US history in combat deaths, each of which  also happen to have  had more than 10,000 deaths. The “battlefield” modifier is also a cheat: the headline actually calls deaths from the disease “battlefield deaths”! They aren’t battlefield deaths.  Meanwhile, the two earliest major wars in our history both had more than 10,000 military deaths, which is the usual way we tote up such things. The next three combined, The Iraq War (#9), the Philippine-American War (#10), and the Spanish American War (#11) add up to more than 10,000, so to  get to six you have to  carefully work around the list and drop in some wars nobody remembers.

But who thinks like that? We have have over 40,000 suicides every year. Almost 40,000 die ever year from car accidents. About 35,000 die every year from falls. 10,000 is less than the typical year’s deaths from fire, choking and drowning, and so what?

The headline is yet another cognitive dissonance trick: war is something we regard as especially horrible, so the idea is to get the public to associate the epidemic with wars, which involve violent death. Yeah, let’s really scare them .But the Wuhan virus has nothing to do with wars. The comparison doesn’t belong in the story, much less the headline. Comparing it with other pandemics and epidemics would be misleading enough.

The news media’s coverage of the Wuhan Virus epidemic  has been uniformly despicable: sensational, politicized, unreliable. At a time when a competent, objective press and broadcast media is essential—it always is, but in a national emergency especially so—journalism has dived to a new low.  None of the news media is beyond reproach: Fox News has frequently taken the opposite approach to the rest, hyping skepticism about the seriousness of the outbreak and various doomsday models, and spreading rumors and speculation as fact. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: “Rolling Stone” Founder/Owner Jann Wenner

rape-on-campus

 

I’ve been awarding Ethics Dunces for more than a decade now, and I’m beginning to find the title too generic. For example, Jann Wenner, in this instance, is a particularly repugnant Ethics Dunce. In short, the title’s too good for him.

Wenner’s iconic baby, Sixties relic Rolling Stone magazine, is a defendant in a  $7.5 million lawsuit brought by Nicole Eramo, a former Associate Dean of Students at the University of Virginia, who claims that the 2014 Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus” depicted her as a villain in the shocking story, which was ultimately shown to be about a gang rape that never happened. (Ethics Alarms covered this episode extensively, an ethics train wreck, here.) Testifying in video excerpts from his deposition, Wenner said his magazine was wrong to retract the  article, despite the fact that it was based on false allegations. In his videotaped testimony Wenner claimed that much of the material in the article was accurate

How Dan Rather of him! In a classic example of agenda-driven reporting, Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely accepted the tale of a never-identified student called  “Jackie” who claimed to have been brutally raped at a party that never happened, at a misidentified fraternity, primarily by one student who was falsely accused. Because of the article, the  fraternity system at the University was temporarily shut down and permanently subjected to more stringent regulations. The male student body was tarred as teeming with sexual predators. The entire thesis of the article was based on the fabricated rape account. There is no ethical justification to continue to present such an article after its diseased heart must be removed. Continue reading

Amazing! The Columbia School Of Journalism Just Boarded “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck

train-wreck

An Ethics Alarms ethics train wreck occurs when a notable unethical act or event becomes a long-running ethics disaster that exposes not merely the ethics deficits of the original participants, but others who become involved later, including, among others, public officials, commentators, experts and pundits.

This might be the first time I have ever seen the organization specifically brought in to perform a forensic ethics analysis of what caused the wreck end up with its own ethics sullied. Incredibly, however, that is what has happened to the prestigious Columbia School of Journalism, which just delivered the definitive verdict on Rolling Stone’s abysmal journalism concerning a false accusation of a fraternity gang rape by a University of Virginia fraternity.

The Columbia Journalism School held a press conference today to discuss the details and implications of its findings regarding Rolling Stone’s (tardily) retracted article, “A Rape on Campus.”  Columbia Journalism Dean Steve Coll emphasize that the fiasco  was “the collective fault of the reporter, the editor, the editor’s supervisor, and the fact-checking department.”

“We don’t believe that ‘Jackie’ was to blame,” Columbia academic affairs dean Sheila Coronel added.

Wait: how can she possibly make such a manifestly dishonest statement like this? The woman who made the false allegations that resulted in the story isn’t to blame for the story? She was the one who claimed to be gang raped at a party that never happened, at a fraternity that didn’t have a party, by frat brothers who didn’t exist, using quotes that were never said. “Jackie” is not only to blame, she is the single person most responsible for the story, its botching by Rolling Stone, and the harm it did to the fraternity she accused and the University of Virginia. “Jackie” started this Ethics Train Wreck rolling: note that I named it, months ago, “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck, because while Rolling Stone’s incompetent and biased reporter and editors played insane engineer, throttling down and blindly driving the engine to disaster, it was “Jackie” who owned the train and shoveled the coal.  And she’s not to blame? Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Columbia Journalism Review’s Report On Rolling Stone’s False UVA Gang Rape Story

So I guess democracy is in big trouble then..

So I guess democracy is in big trouble then..

The Columbia School of Journalism was tasked with delivering the final verdict on the already thoroughly discredited Rolling Stone story “A Rape on Campus,” which first ran Nov. 19, 2014. The report, which was published yesterday, could not be more critical or devastating to the publication’s reputation and credibility. The one positive conclusion about Rolling Stone that the report documents is that the magazine cooperated fully with the investigation. In light of everything else Rolling Stone has done in this indefinably awful instance of atrocious and unethical journalism, that compliment is like praising a serial killer for leading police to the bodies of his victims.

The news media this morning is full of punditry on the CSJ report, none of it kind to Rolling Stone, so I will confine any new commentary here to the following 10 observations Ethics Alarms has already discussed the matter and related ethics issues extensively.

1. Upon receipt of the CSJ report, Rolling Stone finally took down and retracted the story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. The story has been on the magazine’s website since mid November, and it has been universally identified as unreliable, misleading and false before the month was over. Why was the piece still up almost five months later? What the reporting of the Washington Post and others demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt was that the story was based on unsubstantiated allegations and terrible reporting practices sparked by the reporter’s ideological agenda and her own biases. Once a news article is found to be so sub-standard that it should never have been published, that means it need to be un-published,  and does not belong on a news source website, unless it is under a banner stating: “Retracted and Discredited.”

2. While the Columbia report added some new details and had the name of a university on it, its findings added little to what had already been reported elsewhere. The CSJ’s proper role was to examine the lack of professional and ethical journalism policies and procedures that led to this fiasco, and to make recommendations to prevent similar abuses of the First Amendment from occurring. The fact that the article itself was indefensible did not need confirmation.

To me, it looks like Rolling Stone used the investigation to stall, delaying accountability as long as possible. Continue reading