TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: The Hazards of Instant Communication

The Hazards of Instant Communication
4 Jan 2006 11:02:47 -0800

By now you've probably heard the sad story that the WV miners,
originally thought to be ok, were in fact not. It appears this was a
communications misinterpretation. One report, 1010 newsradio said
cell phone conversations and relayed to the public before they were
confirmed and properly interpreted.

In reading this morning's newspaper closely, I note the headline "12
are alive" was quoted from family member statements, not officials.
Further, the official comments were pessimistic. I also note that the
premise that the men were alive was based simply that they couldn't
find them, not that they had any contact with them which is really
what would be needed. Not having a body proves nothing.

I mention this because of today's passion for "instant" news. In
another thread, a poster was glad to be bypassing established
companies in getting music out; others are glad to bypass established
news organizations.

But instant news is not news. It is raw data. Raw data in itself is
meaningless, indeed dangerous. News is the _intepretation_ and
_compilation_ of raw data. Let's look at a classic example.

When FDR ran for election, a telephone poll predicted he'd lose. He
won by a landslide. Why was the poll so wrong? Because it was a
telephone poll and at that time those who had telephones were not
representative Americans; they were more affluent and more likely to
vote for Hoover.

We all know the famous Truman victory where everyone just "knew" Dewey
would win. They "knew" wrong.

When breaking news happens, there is tremendous misinformation.
Individual witnesses can be notoriously unreliable and possibly
biased. (People who didn't see anything will claim that they did just
to be on TV and get some attention.) In our discussion about the
stranded Amtrak train, my newspaper reported that the train was indeed
resupplied with food and sudry, yet others asserted there were no
supplies at all. So, who was right? (I believe the train was indeed

A good news organization takes the reports from various sources and
assembles it together. Contradictory information is re-checked.
Historical and situational background is checked and matched against
the story and contradictions again resolved -- this step is critical
toward defining and reporting a story accurately. Individuals at home
receiving snippets from the Internet are not getting the full story at
all, yet they think they are. Yes, I know news organizations are not
perfect, but it is better than no checking at all.

[public replies please]

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: That report from West Virginia was one
of the saddest things I have ever read. WV, one of the poorest states
in the union earns much of its living in the coal mines, a dirty job
and dangerous by anyone's standards. Wasn't there a popular song
several years ago which went (something like this} "Work (some amount)
of hours, and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt;
Saint Peter don't you call me cause I can't go; I owe my soul to the
company store.". A lot of WV people are grieving today since this
incident. The really cruel part of the whole thing was how the folks
were at first told that 'their men were all okay', only to find out
the sad, bitter truth later on. The hassle though is not in getting
the news too fast or too slow, but getting it _accurately_ whenever
it arrives.

That famous headline "Dewey Wins" in the Chicago Tribune was a good
example of rushing things through but getting it wrong. According to
Tribune historical accounts of that incident, the newspaper was on
strike at the time; some division of the multitude of unions which
_used to be involved_ in putting together newspapers (linotype oper-
atorss perhaps?) had been on a work stoppage for several days.
Management was attempting to do that job function and the reporters
had put together _two different_ front pages; one for "Truman Wins"
and one for "Dewey Wins" so they could be ready to slide the proper
front page into place at the last minute and start the press run. They
were under a lot of pressure at the Tribune at that time, due to the
strike and the lateness of the election results and the paper's own
publishing deadline. When it seemed 'almost certain' that Dewey was
going to win, they went to press _but with the wrong front page_. I
have seen a photo many times of President Truman holding up a copy
of the Tribune front page -- in that early edition -- it was hastily
corrected by the time the next edition came out about two hours
later -- saying "Dewey Wins". The early edition was supposed to say
"(whoever)wins, election results to follow in next edition". Although
the story was quite simple and short, just the headline and a few very
sketchy details, it has been a source of embarassment for them ever
since. PAT]
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2006 07:30:51 -0600
From: Cellular-News <>
Newsgroups: comp.dcom.telecom
Subject: Cellular-News for Wednesday 4th January 2006
Message-ID: <>
Organization: TELECOM Digest
X-Telecom-Digest: Volume 25, Issue 5, Message 6 of 15
Lines: 97

Cellular-News -

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