Friday, September 28, 2007

Why is journalism considered a profession?

Because if if were a trade journalists would be required to at least get the basics right.

From an AP story about Bush-Clinton fatigue:

The dominance of the two families [Bush & Clinton] in U.S. presidential politics is unprecedented. (The closest comparisons are the father-son presidencies of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, whose single terms were separated by eight years, and the presidencies of fifth cousins Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, whose collective 20 years as president were separated by a quarter-century.)
What?! John Adams left office in 1801. John Quincy Adams didn't enter office until 1825. That's not eight years, that's 24 years!

Also, this writer, one NANCY BENAC, also forgot about William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, a grandfather-grandson pair of US Presidents. I think that's a little closer in the familial relation department than fifth cousins, but that might just be me.

I'll see if I can get a screen capture up, as I'm sure some of those fine editors at the AP will figure this out eventually....

ADDED: I note that the Canadian version of the story on Yahoo is correct about the number of years between the two Adams' presidencies, as is the San Luis Obispo Tribune version. I have no idea who has screwed this up, but it doesn't appear to have been a simple typo: someone must have gone in and re-written the copy, either to correct it or to mess it up.

AND MORE: There's even more wrong with this story - the stat in the opening line:
Forty percent of Americans have never lived when there wasn't a Bush or a Clinton in the White House. Anyone got a problem with that?
I do have a problem with that. Namely that said fact is wrong, is you believe the US Census Bureau, in any event. Checking the estimate here for citizens under the age of 20, one finds that the Census Bureau estimated there were approximately 82 million such people in 2006. From a population of approximately 299 million, that leads to about 27.4% of the US population having been born since 1987, two years before G. W. H. Bush took office. It's hard to believe the demographics have changed that much since 2006!

This is wrong in all three versions of this story. Are the various editors and reporters so innumerate and so lacking in basic fact checking? The Magic Eight Ball says, "Signs point to 'Yes!'"

LATEST: It appears the forty percent comes by way of a cheat. If one includes people born since 1981, the year G. H. W. Bush became VICE PRESIDENT, one can get over 40%. That's cheesy, though. I mean who looks back and thinks of the Mondale years, or the Rockefeller years?


Pastor_Jeff said...

For the last five years of his life, Robt E. Lee was president of my alma mater. One of the things he did was create a professional journalism program (Lee suffered from his share of armchair quarterbacks, critics with 20-20 hindsight, and hacks, too). I think it's fair to say the results have been mixed, although W&L's program is well-regarded.

GHWB was probably the last VP nobody thought much about.

Icepick said...

No, no one thought much about Dan Quayle either.

I would also argue that no one thought much about Algore either until he was actually running for President. I would even say that Clinton didn't think much of him, given that he put him in charge of the Kyoto negotiations. Surely Clinton knew that a huge defeat was likely in the Senate, and wanted to distance himself from it.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Quayle was kept in the public eye by a scornful media for his gaffes and malapropisms. I guess we heard less about Gore-bot early on, but wasn't he in charge of "reinventing government"? Whatever happened with that?

Did you see the Vanity Fair article about the Gore/Clinton relationships and the Al-Bill-Hillary power triangle? Interesting stuff.

Icepick said...

I don't read Vanity Fair, but I've heard about the weirdness. Quayle was kept in the spotlight, but no one actually cared about him.

And I would posit that Gore being in charge of "reinventing government" was another shit job that Clinton foisted on someone else so that he could appear to be concerned without actually having to worry about the fall out. (Healthcare reform, Kyoto, "reinventing government".)

But the only Veeps people have cared about, other than the ones that assumed the Presidency when the President couldn't continue, are Cheney and Burr. And that's because they both liked to shot people while in office.