Friday, 8 January 2010

From the department of bad statistics

I’m glad to see that some things never change; in this case, it’s the low quality of local news reporting in Laredo. Pro8News breathlessly reports that Mexican drivers are ‘less likely to be ticketed’ since less than 25% of parking tickets in Laredo are issued to Mexican-licensed vehicles.

This story just begs to be placed on a research methods final as one of those “identify all of the problems with this analysis” questions. Bonus points for invoking Bayes’ theorem.

Monday, 7 December 2009

QotD, media groupthink edition

Megan McArdle, on today’s outburst of mass media bloviation on climate change:

If fifty-four newspapers had wanted to make a serious statement about the environment that their readers were sure to pay attention to, they might have stopped printing and distributing their energy intensive product for a day.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Why the dead tree media is in trouble

Thursday, 18 June 2009

From the annals of journalistic innumeracy

CNet’s Don Reisinger to his credit apparently can do simple arithmetic, but understanding the arithmetic seems to be beyond his grasp:

According to Howard Stern on his radio show Tuesday, 60 percent of Sirius XM’s subscribers—about 20 million, at last count (PDF)—listen to Stern’s two channels. That means 12 million people who currently have satellite radio won’t have any use for its streaming app.

Leaving aside whether Howard Stern actually accurately reports his listenership figures—something I doubt, in part because I suspect that most XM subscribers don’t subscribe to the “Best of Sirius” package needed to listen to Stern (heck, I have BoS on my subscription and have never listened to him), and in part because Stern is an egomaniacal blowhard and thus likely to inflate his own importance as a consequence—I really think it is unlikely that all of Stern’s listeners don’t listen to any other XM or Sirius channels. Suggesting that 60% of Sirius and XM subscribers will have no use for the application on the basis of the lack of Stern is frankly absurd.

Friday, 17 October 2008

I'd better have plan B ready

If the networks are planning for an Obama blowout, I suppose I need to dump some notes on my PDA about key Senate and House contests so I have something intelligent to say on election night when 7 pm rolls around and the election is effectively over.

By way of explanation: I have been invited to speak at an election night gala being hosted by the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo, which will be my first foray into real-time election night commentary (along with being my first foray into Mexico and, for that matter, the developing world). I never figured on being plunged into the deep end with an audience who probably understand about as much about U.S. politics as the average American understands about Mexican politics, but at least that keeps things exciting. And it gets me out of teaching my graduate public policy class that night, so there’s a small bonus there.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Voters don't give a damn about policy, news at 11

Alex Tabarrok on the open letter being sent to ABC about the debate that no sane person lots of people watched earlier this week on their network:

The only thing the signatories got wrong was where to send the letter. The letter should have been addressed to the American public. After all, this debate, which came in the flurry of all the tabloid journalism of the past several weeks, was the most-watched of the 2008 presidential campaign. The public got what it wanted.

I’d add the caveat that if there were any substantive policy differences of consequence between Clinton and Obama, this might actually be a worthwhile complaint about the Pennsylvania debate. However the policy debate at present between the two candidates is over minor semantic differences between public policy agendas at levels of detail that will have to be negotiated with other policy actors years down the road. I dare say the nuances of the differences between the two candidates’ health care policies will have the same impact on the average American as whether or not Obama wears a flag pin or not.

Actually, given chaos theory the presence or absence of a flag pin might actually impact the weather in six years’ time. No such hope exists for whether or not there is an individual mandate buried in the health care plan that gets sent to the Hill and then immediately thereon to the nearest shredder.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

The Liptak Effect

Rick Hasen notes that Linda Greenhouse’s replacement as the New York Times’ Supreme Court reporter will be Adam Liptak. Somehow referring to Supreme Court justices as going Times-native as suffering from “The Liptak Effect” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Bizarro campaign logic land

So, it’s not OK for Democrats to boycott debates held on Fox News, but it’s just dandy for all the Republican candidates except John McCain to refuse to meet with the New York Times editorial board. Apparently petulance is only petty when one is a Democrat.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

OTB Radio tonight

I’m appearing on OTB Radio tonight in about 55 minutes, talking about Michael Vick, the latest electoral college shenanigans, and why Americans don’t read (or something like that); you can listen in here during the show or catch a replay any time at the same link.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Sheehan: I'm sorry

That would be Ruth Sheehan, apologizing for her inflammatory columns at the beginning of the Duke lacrosse “fake but accurate” rape scandal in the Raleigh News & Observer, rather than anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who as of last report is still emulating a homeless woman in Crawford, Texas.

þ: Craig Newmark.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Teaching moments

Free Exchange notes New York Times reporter Erik Eckholm playing fast and loose with infant mortality statistics to extrapolate ominous trends from what appear to be random year-to-year fluctuations in infant death rates (and a downward-sloping overall trend, to boot).

One might also wonder what effect—if any—Hurricane Katrina had on the 2005 mortality rate. That is, if one weren’t Eckholm, who doesn’t even mention the possibility of a relationship with the largest natural disaster in Mississippi history.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Interesting paper alert

This working paper by Holger Lutz Kern and Jens Hainmueller just crossed the POLMETH wire and may be of some substantive interest—particularly for those who are debating the use of state-subsidized broadcasting into authoritarian states, like the U.S. broadcasts into Cuba and many of the BBC World Service’s foreign-language services:

A common claim in the democratization literature is that foreign free media undermine authoritarian rule. No reliable micro-level evidence on this topic exists, however, since independent survey research is rarely possible in authoritarian regimes and self-selection into media consumption complicates causal inferences. In this case study of the impact of West German television on political attitudes in communist East Germany, we address these problems by making use of previously secret survey data and a natural experiment. While most East Germans were able to tune in to West German broadcasts, some of them were cut off from West German television due to East Germany’s topography. We exploit this plausibly exogenous variation to estimate the impact of West German television on East Germans’ political attitudes using LARF instrumental variable estimators. Contrary to conventional wisdom, East Germans who watched West German television were more satisfied with life in East Germany and the communist regime. To explain this surprising finding, we demonstrate that West German television’s role in transmitting political information not available in the state-controlled communist media was insignificant and that television primarily served as a means of entertainment for East Germans. Archival material on the reaction of the East German regime to the availability of West German television corroborates our argument.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

The Sabato Effect

James Joyner posts on the ubiquity of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato in the mass media. Like Joyner, I think part of the explanation is media laziness (and part of it is Sabato’s self-promotion), and I expect research on media expert use in various subdomains would find similar patterns in other areas of media coverage.

That said, I think citations to experts within each subdomain are distributed according to a long tail function, suggesting that while Sabato seems dominant because of his frequent citation by media outlets (and our human cognitive bias that makes events that occur 1/4 to 1/20th of the time seem more frequent than they actually are), the “field” actually predominates over him.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

AP perpetuates Iraq-9/11 link myth

If, as my good friends on the left argue (quite plausibly, I might add), Iraq was not linked in any way to the 9/11 attacks, what are we to make of the AP consciously linking the conflict in Iraq to the 9/11 attacks in its latest ‘body count’ dispatches? Here are your choices:

  1. The AP has bought into the Bush administration’s false consciousness of a 9/11-Iraq link.
  2. The AP has a right-wing bias in its reporting.
  3. The AP had to “balance” reporting of the Saddam Hussein appellate decision in order to create the appearance of fairness.
  4. All of the above.

If you chose the last option, you too can write for

Thursday, 7 December 2006

More on media bias (yawn)

Go see my thoughts on some new research on media bias at OTB, since I’m far too lazy to cut-and-paste them here.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

The new gay scare

Nice to see NBC getting in on the act of insinuating gay men are all pedophiles:

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) took two male pages with him on a three-day camping trip in 1996, former congressional pages and National Park Service officials tell NBC News. The pages, who were 17 at the time, went rafting and camping with Kolbe in the Grand Canyon over the July 4th holiday that year.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Kolbe confirms the overnight trip but says that the pages did not travel alone with Kolbe. The congressman’s sister was on the trip, along with office staffers and several Park Service employees, says Kolbe spokeswoman Korenna Cline. Gary Cummins, the deputy superintendent of Grand Canyon in 1996, tells NBC News that he also was on the trip with Congressman Kolbe. He confirms that two young men were on the trip with Kolbe, as part of a larger group. ...

Congressman Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican congressman. He has been active with the congressional page program for years, and was himself a page in 1958 for Sen. Barry Goldwater.

I didn’t realize the congressional page program was designated as the feeder program for the DC chapter of NAMBLA. Thanks for the memo, NBC.

I look forward to similar NBC exposés about every other instance in which a gay person went camping with a large group including at least one person under the age of 18.

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

IU study: Daily Show as substantive as network news

Ars Technica looks at a recent study conducted at Indiana that concludes that the Daily Show has just as much substantive content as network news programming—although that may simply be damning with faint praise.

That probably explains why these days I mostly surf Google News and watch very little of either Stewart or Couric.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006


My former co-blogger Brock is having issues with the Commercial Appeal’s circulation department—this is the same division that managed to keep delivering the paper to my mother’s new house during her entire week-long honeymoon. If the circulation division is as slack-jawed as the motley collection of idiots/editors that have turned the paper into something I wouldn’t use as birdcage lining for fear of insulting the intelligence of parakeets, I don’t see Brock getting this mess straightened out any time soon.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Me, in transcript form

For those of you who missed my 15 minutes of fame, here’s a transcript from CNN. I’ve tried to reconstruct what I said in the audio gaps from the webcam to the best of my memory.

Monday, 17 April 2006

D-Day Morning

Monday’s Herald-Sun, which seems to have more of a pulse on the defense than its Raleigh-based competitor, gives us the players’ attorneys’ perspective heading into Grand Jury Monday:

In what the defense team believes was another effort to get ready for the grand jury, police detectives went to a Duke dorm Thursday night to question lacrosse players. According to the defense lawyers, the officers wanted to know who was and wasn’t at the North Buchanan Boulevard party the night of March 13–14.

The effort to question the players, the lawyers say, proved authorities lack confidence in the dancer’s visual identification of her alleged attackers, which reportedly was made from photographs.

One of the lawyers, Kerry Sutton of Durham, described the interrogation over the weekend as a “hail Mary pass at the last moment.” ...

Jason Alexander Bissey, a neighbor to the house where the woman allegedly was raped, provided a written statement to defense attorneys that they shared with The Herald-Sun over the weekend.

Bissey said he saw the “skimpily dressed” accuser leave the house between 12:20 and 12:30 a.m., but then heard her say she was going back inside to retrieve a missing shoe.

According to defense lawyers, Bissey’s observation had to be after the time the woman allegedly was raped in the house, since she never actually re-entered it.

But if she had been raped and sodomized for 30 minutes, as she claimed, would she really have been so worried about a lost shoe that she would dare to face her attackers again, attorneys Ekstrand, Thomas and others are asking.

Meanwhile, NBC17 has an exclusive interview with the second dancer, who it (unusally, as she is not believed to be a victim of a sex crime) declines to name, although it is believed her first name is “Kim” and she is either black or Hispanic:

[The second dancer] refuted claims made in recent days by defense attorneys that the accuser was intoxicated and injured when she arrived at the party.

“She looked absolutely fine,” the second dancer said, noting that the accuser’s demeanor changed dramatically after they left the party.

“She was definitely a totally different woman than when I first met her. She definitely was under some sort of substance,” the woman said.

A source close to the official investigation of the case has told NBC17 that the accuser might have been drugged at the party.

The second dancer declined to discuss specifics of what happened at the party.

“If I could see the future and would have known what that night would’ve brought, I would have paid more attention. I wish I had paid more attention to everything that happened around me,” she said.

The woman admitted calling 911 to report racial epithets yelled at her and the accuser as they left the party. But she said the details of the incident became jumbled in her call because she was trying to hide the fact that she had been performing at the party.

The woman said her parents don’t know she makes a living as an exotic dancer, and she was afraid the information would be made public if she had been upfront with the 911 dispatcher.

Nothing much (yet?) from the somewhat more accuser-friendly confines of the News & Observer, although there is a FAQ on how grand juries work and a report on how the controversy is affecting recruitment of prospective students.

Sunday, 16 April 2006

My 15 minutes

Well, I don’t think I made a fool of myself or the university in my brief via-webcam appearance on CNN’s “On the Story” this weekend; it was actually rather fun, but a little nerve-wracking at the same time. There were a few hiccups with the audio on the iSight they sent me—probably some QoS issues on the upstream link from the Mac mini—and it was a bit weird not being able to see anyone I was talking to, but otherwise it seemed to go well.

Incidentally, the reporter/producer I talked to on the air, Abbi Tatton, was very nice and something of a fan of the Monster Raving Loony Party growing up.

I doubt I’ll be going into podcasting or vidcasting on a regular basis, but it was still somewhat neat to be able to broadcast nationwide (worldwide?) from my living room.

Friday, 14 April 2006

ESPN issues reporter upgrade

I noticed on Friday’s SportsCenter that ESPN has swapped out reporters for the Duke lacrosse scandal, replacing some black guy whose name I never learned with SN fave Rachel Nichols. Suddenly I feel the need to start hanging out behind the Bryan Center… nothing against the other reporter (who may or may not be named George Smith; Google is no use), just that he was so non-descript I am pretty sure I walked right past him yesterday without really being sure it was him.

Thursday, 13 April 2006

Lowering the profile of the media circus

Silly me thought the media circus was gone—until I wandered over to the Bryan Center to mail some Easter cards and found four satellite trucks parked in the vistors’ parking lot, in addition to Dan Abrams and (I think) that ESPN guy whose name I haven’t learned yet (George something or other, I think). I hope Duke is charging them all $2/hour per parking slot, like we peons would have to pay, but somehow I doubt it.

Monday, 3 April 2006

The media's eye of the storm

Since there’s no real news today (again, doubtless because Mike Nifong is well away from the nearest camera), here’s the latest on the media navel-gazing.

Rush Limbaugh has helpfully lived up to his reputation as a big fat idiot by referring to the alleged victim in the case as a “ho.” Yet another person to add to the pile of media morons loosely connected with this case.

Meanwhile, another media crapstorm has emerged as the News and Observer’s public editor takes the paper to task for its decision to publish an unrebutted interview last week with the alleged victim in the case, a choice defended by the paper’s executive editor. One wonders about this little tidbit of the editor’s response:

We took care in editing the story not to introduce new accusations—the basics were the same as in police reports, which had already been made public.

This would seem to indicate that the alleged victim had additional accusations beyond those previously alleged—you don’t need to be careful if no more accusations were made.

In other N&O business, John in North Carolina notes that a person claiming to be the mother of one of the members of the lacrosse team has posted a comment to the blog of the paper’s Metro columnist, Ruth “Don’t Call Me Cindy” Sheehan, who has taken to the paper’s pages on two occasions to excorciate the whole men’s lacrosse team.

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Um, I thought you guys were libertarians?

Go read the cover of this month’s issue of Reason and then report back to me on the most egregious problem with it. Besides my concern that Reason had finally surrendered to the neo-Malthusians, that is.