Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A bolus of quotes

Why do we, scientists or nonscientists, hotshots or regular Joes, tend to see the pennies instead of the dollars? Why do we keep focusing on the minutiae, not the possible significant large events, in spite of the obvious evidence of their huge influence? And, if you follow my argument, why does reading the newspaper actually decrease your knowledge of the world?
[the News that oozes issue]

Laura Rozen:
The phenomenon of local papers like the KC Star avoiding publishing well reported material that local political constituencies would perhaps find inconvenient is an enormous disservice to the cities they cover. *

Philip Meyer:
We are trying to push journalism toward science. Almost everybody else, it seems on most days, is trying to push it toward art....

One response to information overload has been the elevation of spin. When attention-getting is more important than discovering and imparting the truth, the marketplace rewards those who are skilled at creating appearances. Our goal needs to be to find a way to help the marketplace reward the truth-tellers....*

the predominant criticism of our media is not based on a desire that [reporters] act more like partisans than journalists. It is based on the fact that they do not act like journalists at all.*

As for columnists -
Interestingly, almost *none* of these noted pundits ever call us to ask questions about our operations, or the deal, or our perspective. They just opine. *

If there is a point to mainstream journalism at all--rather than dueling press releases--it is that reporters get to ask questions. *

having access to a blog as a platform is useful, but for almost everyone using that platform to respond to a reporter’s story is about as effective as talking to yourself in an empty room.*

...every time a smart [blogger] invests a paragraph in pointing at [particular person's] stupidity, or makes a detailed analysis of the corruption of the big-money US media, while one of the smart person's friends is doing the same on her/his blog, good ideas and important facts are being crowded out.*

Obviously, the blogosphere gets a lot of its strength from its decentralized structure, but it seems to me that productive debate is a lot like life. If you pack a lot of enzymes and DNA and other molecules in a tight package, you get life. Disperse them, and you get a few random reactions. Pack comments about a particular paper in one place, and a real debate can emerge. Disperse them across the blogosphere, and you encourage cheap shots and irrelevant tangents, while good observations go unappreciated. *

There are two kinds of debaters: those who think debate is a method for testing the validity of propositions, and those who think it's about who wins. That second sort isn't worth anyone's time or trouble. *

when someone shows himself unable to understand or accept overwhelming evidence for a theory that is conceptually rather elegant and simple, it does indeed throw his intelligence and judgment into question. *

And, returning to Taleb:
certain professionals, while believing they are experts, are in fact not. Based on their empirical record, they do not know more about their subject matter than the general population, but they are much better at narrating -- or, worse, at smoking you with complicated mathematical models. They are also more likely to wear a tie.

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