Wednesday, July 13, 2005

News Math

In a recent news article posted on CNN.com, linked to through a subject line of "'Mostly children' killed in Iraqi bombing" it was reported that a suicide blast... well, actually that subject line is pretty clear.

Here's what the article reports:

27 people died
20 people were wounded
"at least" 7 children and 1 US soldier were killed.

The quoted "mostly children" contention in the subject line was not mentioned or attributed in the published report. I wish it was, because if of the 27 dead, SEVEN were children, it would appear that somebody was pretty hasty in sorting out the casualties, as 7:20 does not a majority make. CNN must have caught the error, since they didn't put it in context with the reported numbers and made a point to put the statement in quotes, to mark the logic as not their own. So who would say such a thing?

The claim stirs outrage that, as one US major put it, "The terrorist undoubtedly saw the children around the Humvee as he attacked. The complete disregard for civilian life in this attack is absolutely abhorrent." Perhaps that major was being quoted, but not attributed. The problem is, he'd be understandably shaken by the event, and likely motivated to communicate that his enemy is a barbaric monster. Shouldn't his statements be tempered by the journalist with the facts reported by hospitals and Iraqi police, as quantified above?

And who were the other 19 people that died (actual majority of casualties)? Iraqi civilians that, one may claim, "died for their freedom" in a war that came to their neighborhood? Why are they less important?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Joyriding a Hurricane



I must say, I have thoroughly enjoyed the national tv coverage of Hurricane Dennis. Call it a guilty pleasure that satisfies the same shameful craving that perpetuates juicy tabloid gossip.

Did you see the Anderson Cooper and John Zarella coverage of the hurricane on CNN? There was this incredible clip when a Ramada Inn sign came crashing down and sheets of aluminum were blown down the street with surprising force. Okay, so the hurricane coverage wasn’t actually about the Ramada Inn, but since Cooper and Zarella were there, CNN simply couldn’t have had a better story, and I can’t blame a soul for thinking otherwise. The Ramada Inn sign was the #2 story on their website Monday morning. Why? Because it was awesome to watch. Not newsworthy, but really compelling footage. Reporters standing outside in a hurricane: Jackass meets Fear Factor. You wouldn’t want to do what they have to, but if someone’s crazy enough to try, you kinda want to see if it’s as bad as you think.

The death toll took a back seat--not because they weren’t trying--because as hard as he tried, Wolf Blitzer just couldn’t get anyone to report casualties anywhere. Property was damaged, but the “bullet” they were postured to cover was inexplicably “dodged.” The mood was reportedly “good.”

Reporters standing next to “space age” technology taking weather readings from the stormy shores preferred their manual weather machines held high overhead as they braved extreme weather conditions. They boasted that nobody was on the streets but them, which seemed to raise some earnest questions that nobody would dare ask for fear of undermining our amusement.

At one point a weather map pointed out just the eye of the hurricane and the location of Cooper and Zarella, like that was the story: Cooper and Zarella versus the hurricane. He was wearing only a jacket, letting his bare head get pounded with repetitive buckets of rain and 80mph winds.

Fine, I’ll admit it. I loved it. I rooted against the Ramada sign with Cooper and company. We relished the deadly serious report akin to reporting on taking a shower with your clothes on. “I’M STANDING IN A HURRICANE AND IT’S VERY WINDY--AND WET!” (Psst, not to be rude, but I think that’s why you’re the only one standing in it, but I’m sure the people inside feel better about their decision now.)

“What can happen to oysters in flood conditions?” Blitzer wondered aloud. The response was a single word, “Contamination.” I think Blitzer probably knew that already, but the answer meant a lot more coming from a woman standing outside of a seafood restaurant. She just might be screwed! Unhappy with her response, Blitzer turned his attention to her companion who might have more to say. He was better, but he confirmed that they weren’t in any trouble at the restaurant. With a little prodding though, he and Blitzer agreed that if someone were in the business of harvesting these shellfish, they’d be hosed.

Newsworthy? Faggedaboutit. But tune in next time. You might find Cooper and Zarella, you might see property demolished by nature, but whatever happens, I promise you’ll be entertained.