Friday, November 30, 2012

Bias of False Equivalency (Friday LINKS)

About three months ago, at the Civility in Media Roundtable, one of the people there who managed a local paper noted that for certain issues, they have explicitly told their reporters not to contact certain members in the community who claim to hold a representative view for "the other side."  They noted that the bias towards a "minority report" has made demi-gods out of certain people who, my words, have no other relevance other than the fact that they hold an opposing opinion.

I found that both fascinating and reassuring.  Unfortunately, that is not the general practice for today's media.  "There are two sides of every story."  "We report, you decide."  I would presume that on any given story, the reporter spends more time trying to find the "other side" than they do trying to get the facts straight on the majority position.  This is all for the appearance of presenting "the whole."  A report, no matter how detailed, is not complete unless it includes proponents and critics.

In a way, that's lazy journalism.  Rather than go out and find the facts yourself, stripped of advocacy, you find people who already know a lot about the subject and shake them down for all their best arguments.  You call Critic Cathy, tell them what Advocate Adam said, and you're off to the races with a dozen great quotes.  Meanwhile, the facts lay undisturbed.  (Oh, but Tom, what is a "fact" really? -- Back to philosophy class, please).

An interesting example of this is the requiem(s) for soon-to-be-former Board of Education member Alan Dyer.  If you read either the Editorial in the Flier or the report in The Sun, you would think the "Lion of the Board of Education" just retired.  "Sure, his lawsuits and crusades cost taxpayers money, but so did his impeachment.  Let's just call it a wash."  And believe me when I say that I understand the resistance to kicking a man on his way out the door.  But let's be honest about what we're talking about - A one term Board of Education member who was incompetent at using the political process to reach his goals and used the courts as a back-stop.  Harsh words, but true.

It is very VERY difficult to win a vote of substance.  The status quo is a heavy beast.  But through collaboration, persuasion, and, yes, horse-trading, you prioritize your objectives and get things done.  Mr. Dyer, despite his best intentions, was not good at his job.  We spend so much time talking about these lawsuits that we lose the forest for the trees.  Behind every lost vote in every government chamber, there is a lawsuit available.  Not a successful one, mind you, but we are all a blank sheet and a filing fee away from finding ourselves a named Defendant.  But these lawsuits are rarely invoked, primarily due to the "loser's" faith in, and respect for, the process.  Mr. Dyer did not have that respect and was promptly removed by the voters because of it.  Not because he was a pain in the rumpus, but because his frustrations over being bad at his job were spilling over into the business of those who were good.

We can talk about the "clique" and "the Four" or whatever ominous names are attached to those we disagree with, but there aren't two sides on this one.  There are the facts and there are interpretations of fact.  I genuinely appreciate Mr. Dyer's service and his willingness to suffer the slings and arrows of public office, but I don't think we need to feel compelled to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear in the name of covering "both sides".  Mr. Dyer is a failed politician.  His term is now over.  Selling this as anything other than that only invites that story to continue.


A hearty congratulations to River Hill for winning its fourth State Football Championship.  (This is a surprisingly controversial issue.  Please don't feel compelled to bring your fight to the comments below.  I assure you there are message boards specifically for that purpose somewhere else in the interwebs).

An Ellicott City teen is being charged with using a vacant apartment as a "party house."  Not to glorify law-breaking, but it is a shame that this kind of ingenuity could not have been fostered for some other purpose.  I hope this kid gets a chance to redirect that energy to something useful (although I'm sure his friends found his skills correctly applied and utilized).

Congratulations.  You are "partially recovered" from the Recession.

Same-sex marriages will begin on January which time all opposite-sex marriage rings will least that's what the commercials told me.

Edward Lee picked the Ravens to win a game!!!  If you follow Baltimore Sun Sports, you know this is big news.  In fact, I'm surprised its not on the front page.  I'll have to look back, but I think Lee picked the Ravens to lose to their Bye week one year.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow reports that Patch reports (normally its the other way around) that the Ale House Columbia will be opening on December 10 with an Opening Shin Dig on December 14.  As a big fan of the Pratt Street Ale House, this humble blogger would happily accept an invitation to a soft open preview and my schedule is looking good for next week.  Just sayin'...

That's all for today.  I apologize for my absence yesterday, but I had an "extended work-day" yesterday, sending me down to Washington, D.C., for a mediation that lasted through the afternoon.  I also want to give a shout out to the great folks at Davis, Agnor, Rapaport, and Skalny, LLC, for throwing another fantastic Holiday Party.  Due to a CA Board meeting later than night, I was only able to attend for an hour, but this party clearly holds a special spot on many an important calendar in Howard County.  It was a honor to be invited.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!  It's impossible not to.

Ravens: 31
Steelers: 13