White Noise: news and Happenings from inside the media bubble

by Brian Clarey, Amy Kingsley and Jordan Green

Shades of error

It’s a fact that we who toil in facts often get them wrong. A study by Scott R. Maier, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication found 2,615 factual errors in 1,220 locally produced (as opposed to wire service) news stories that appeared in 10 metropolitan newspapers. Most of these errors were name misspellings and wrong ages, but still…. Meanwhile, in China, the people who brought you poison toothpaste have initiated a crackdown on “false news reports, unauthorized publications and bogus journalists,” according to a story in The New York Times. And this is no mere lip service: The Chinese journalist who broke the story about a Beijing restaurant substituting seasoned cardboard for pork in its dumplings was sentenced to one year in jail and a $130 fine when the courts determined the story to be false.

But really, you’ve got to read the dispatch from People’s Daily, the Communist Chinese-owned newspaper, translated into English on the website.

“The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the State Press and Publication Administration has ordered all news organizations or individual journalists who reported or released fake news to publicly apologize and correct the items as soon as possible. …

“Some experts suggest a stringent journalist permit system, raising the profession’s entry qualifications to maintain standards.”

Remember, these are the same guys who sentenced a corrupt government official to death earlier this year.

– BC

Sportswriting assignment, gender reassignment

It would be hard to imagine a more macho quarter of journalism than sportswriting: the overweight, would-be and has-been athletes sweating it out at the keyboard to make deadline, the heroic battlefield arc of the narrative, the locker-room reporting visits and brusque male nudity. So it might have seemed a strange twist of fate when Los Angeles Times sports columnist Mike Penner wrote these words on April 26: “I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken me more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage and type those words. I realize many readers and colleagues will be shocked to read them.” Now Penner is back on the job – as Christine Daniels. The sportswriter told Madeline Brand on National Public Radio’s “Day to Day” that reaction from readers turned out to be the polar opposite of what she’d expected. “It became known in the transgender community that there was a high-profile coming-out about to happen, and a lot of the leaders in the transgender community got in touch with me, and I was told to prepare for the absolute worst,” Daniels said. “‘You should have a friend come in and screen e-mails and phone calls.’ And I had that set up. ‘Do not listen to the radio. Do not watch TV. Certainly do not go on the internet or on chat rooms.'” By the next morning after the column had run Daniels was receiving one e-mail a minute. “By 5 or 6 o’clock that evening, I had 538 e-mails, and two were negative,” she said. “And I thought this could be the worst day of my life, the worst day of my career. I didn’t even know if I was going to get through it. And as it turned out, it was one of the best days I’ve ever had.”

– JG

Big House redesign

Last week, the Greensboro News & Record unveiled its redesigned website. It looks good. Designers replaced the old red and black banner with a mint green one and added a couple new features. The main story on Monday is about the inaugural Wyndham Cup Championship, which web editors highlighted with a framed feature photo captioned with four related stories. I like the “Most Viewed” feature, which The New York Times website introduced last year during its redesign. My biggest complaint concerns the use of sans serif font; I’m partial to serif fonts for online news products. You might run into a few glitches on the site this week – I had trouble jumping to a list of news stories – but the webmaster assures readers that most will be worked out by week’s end.

– AK

Cinderfella don’t play

Hoy! Flaven! According to Las Vegas Weekly columnist Steve Freiss, slapstick doofus and hero to the French Jerry Lewis demands $20,000 for one-hour interviews with the media. Ga-voik! Freiss, who also writes for Newsweek, USA Today and The New York Times – the Gray Lay-deee! – wanted to interview the aging celebrity on his personal career and his annual muscular dystrophy telethon, which has to date raised nearly $2 billion towards fighting the disease. Ga-vunk! Freiss, according to his blog, was “floored” by the request and the sum. Also, “morbidly fascinated.” There’s more: “I write for the ‘heavy hitters.’ There isn’t a single one that would pay for any celebrity interview, let alone one with a faded star who, while surely a fascinating conversation, wouldn’t exactly move the needle on circulation or viewership in any meaningful way. And $20,000 is just off-the-wall even if it was one of the tabloids that do pay for certain interviews.” Homina homina. Oh wait, that’s Jackie Gleason.

– BC