TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Two Things ... (was Re: The Hazards of Instant Communication)

Two Things ... (was Re: The Hazards of Instant Communication)

Al Gillis (
Wed, 4 Jan 2006 17:57:34 -0800

<> wrote in message

> 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
> resupplied).

> 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]

Thing One ...

Thinking of the Truman "Dewey Wins" photo mentioned above I took a
photo of the two newspaper boxes outside our employee entrance this
morning. On one paper, the USA Today, the headline says 12 miners
were alive. Just to it's left the Portland Oregonian headline says 12
were dead. Although the event itself was sad and horrifying I thought
the juxtaposition of the two headlines was interesting. (And I'm
feeling badly for those the miners left behind).

Thing Two...

The song Pat recalled for us was Tennessee Ernie Ford singing "Sixteen
Tons". Want to memorize the lyrics? Check this:


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