NEW KIDS ON THE LAWN: Their technical work!

THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014

Part 3—What ever happened to standards: As the so-called “worst generation” of journalists exits the stage, they are often being replaced by eager young Ivy League kids.

These replacements come from the finest schools, though you wouldn’t necessarily discern this fact from their frequently horrible work.

In some settings, these bright young kids are simply accepting the broken norms of their establishment news orgs. At the Washington Post, Philip Rucker (Yale 2006) recently became head spear-chucker in his newspaper’s never-ending jihad against the Clintons. At the same newspaper, Catherine Rampell (Princeton 2007) found herself worried by Chelsea Clinton’s “lucrative speaking career”—a lucrative career from which Chelsea Clinton reportedly hasn’t kept a single red cent.

In such cases, the so-called “new kids on the lawn” seem to be getting themselves in line with their owners’ preferred story lines. Elsewhere, though, we’ve often been struck by the lousy technical work which ensues when major news orgs hand the reins to very young Ivy League kids.

Very quickly, let’s consider the way the so-called “new kids on the lawn” have discussed some basic public school issues.

Last November, we discussed some woeful education reporting in The Atlantic, a storied American publication. To review our critique, you can just click here, then click once or twice more.

For today, let’s consider who did the reporting in question, which we think was rather inept.

The report in question was written by Julia Ryan, Harvard 2013. That’s right! Ryan graduated from Harvard in June of last year. By November, she was bungling basic education reporting for a storied publication.

What made The Atlantic think that Ryan was qualified to interpret the basic statistics which come with the public schools beat? We don’t know, but Ryan’s editor was Eleanor Barkhorn, Princeton 2006.

This was her official bio:
THE ATLANTIC: Eleanor Barkhorn is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Education Channel. She previously edited the Sexes and Entertainment channels. Before coming to The Atlantic, she was a reporter at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Mississippi. She graduated from Princeton University, where she majored in American literature and wrote her senior thesis about Oprah's Book Club. For her first two years out of college, she taught high school English with the Teach For America program.
Ryan was straight outta Harvard. Barkhorn was seven years outta Princeton, where she wrote her senior thesis on Oprah’s book club.

However gaudy their diplomas may have seemed, Ryan and Barkhorn didn’t seem ready to create an informed discussion of the nation’s most basic educational statistics. In fairness, this problem extends all through the mainstream press corps, which tends to stick to familiar themes of educational decline, even in the face of the most reliable statistical evidence.

People from the finest schools putter around on the public schools beat, failing to identify the groaning conflict between our rapidly rising NAEP scores and the gloomy, teacher-hating scripts which dominate elite discourse. Despite their gaudy Ivy degrees, these young journalists don’t seem able (or willing) to do the most basic reporting, which would undermine the elite press corps' most favored educational themes.

We’ve often torn our hair over the work of Motoko Rich, the New York Times’ education reporter. Rich, who can’t be called a “new kid,” is said to have been summa cum laude at Yale in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, Dana Goldstein (Brown 2006) is a full-fledged education writer at various liberal publications. According to the leading authority, she’s a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation and a Puffin Fellow at The Nation Institute!

Impressive diplomas to the side, have you ever seen these new and slightly older kids challenge the prevailing theme about our floundering public schools? Have you ever seen them push back against this ubiquitous, billionaire-favored theme with the most elementary statistical work?

(Concerning Gail Collins’ embarrassing groaners about public schools, let’s not even go there today. In theory, Collins is one of the Sam-and-Cokies whose groaning work on public schools these “new kids” should be challenging.)

A fresh young face and an Ivy degree do not guarantee expertise, journalistic skill or even basic forthrightness. Consider the disappointing work of Bryce Covert, Brown 2006.

At present, Covert is Economic Policy Editor at Think Progress, a progressive org. Before that, she was a contributor at The Nation and at Forbes Woman, where she wrote weekly blog posts on economics, politics and women's issues.

We were disappointed by Covert’s recent piece on the gender wage gap at The New Republic. Right from her opening paragraph, we thought she did a lousy job establishing a basic distinction—the distinction between 1) the gap in earnings between men and women and 2) the amount of that gap which may result from discrimination.

This is a very basic distinction. If you can’t (or won’t) explain it clearly, you’re likely to do very fuzzy work about the actual problems which exist in this area.

We thought Covert’s recent piece for The New Republic was extremely fuzzy. Looking back, the analysts found this earlier piece on the same topic, also for TNR.

We’ll admit it! Covert’s work in that April 2014 piece made several of the analysts cry.

According to current research, how much of the gender wage gap can be attributed to possible discrimination?

Everyone knows that women who work full-time (35 hours or more) earn only 77 percent as much as men earn, on average. But after you adjust for basic factors like type of employment, degree of seniority and hours worked above 35 hours, how much of that missing 23 cents might stem from discrimination?

That is a grindingly basic distinction in this important policy area. How many readers understood the answer which Covert provided, or seemed to provide, or may perhaps have meant to provide, in the murky passage shown below, which appeared late in her piece?
COVERT (4/29/14): There’s also research that points to discrimination as a factor in that 23 percent difference between men’s and women’s earnings. When economists examine the gap and control for all measurable factors, there remains a residual portion they can’t explain. For the Government Accountability Office, that portion was 20 percent. For economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, it was 41 percent. It’s in this unexplainable portion where discrimination may be leaving its mark.
Do you understand what that passage says? We can’t swear that we do. But simply from reading that text in normal ways, we assume it means the following:
What Covert’s text seems to say:
According to Blau and Kahn, 41 percent of the 23 cents can’t be explained in standard ways. According to the GAO, 20 percent of the 23 cents can’t be explained in such ways.
If that is what that passage means, then Covert is saying this: The part of the wage gap which may result from discrimination is currently set at anywhere from 4.6 cents on the dollar (GAO) to 9.4 cents on the dollar (Blau and Kahn).

Is that what Covert is saying? If so, why didn’t she say it? Beyond that, why didn’t editors at The New Republic insist that she clarify that passage, which is extremely murky in highly familiar ways?

Covert has an Ivy degree. Until next month, she’s under 30. But her work is strikingly murky, and it’s being published by major orgs which are supposed to be progressive and/or smart.

Why in the world is The New Republic putting such murky work into print? Is it possible that its Ivy-credentialed editors are just a bunch of underwhelming “new kids on the lawn” too?

Tomorrow: When new kids are cast in partisan roles. Also, as the new kids see themselves (two examples)

52 comments:

  1. Bob (Harvard '69) is quite correct.

    The Ivy League has been producing silly pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-journalists with an overblown sense of entitlement for quite some time.

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    1. At least 45 years by some estimates. Other factors may be at work here. That said, we don't know, but look at that clown car which just passed by. Reminds me of the wreck of '99.

      Delete
    2. @ 10:16

      Did you leave out pseudo-liberals on purpose or just overlook them like they do black kids?

      Delete
  2. I understood what Covert said perfectly. I would like research into what percentage of the gap results because women have bosses who think like old white guys who constantly tell you what others "seem" to say. I would like research into what percentage of work productivity is lost because old white guy bosses contantly dismiss the work and suggestions of their younger subordinates while boring their peers with tales of wrongs by others that happened decades ago.

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    1. I also understood what Covert said: Even after taking in account the variables, it's hard to pin down exactly how much of the pay gap is the result of discrimination. And that's because it's hard to pin down a definition of "discrimination."

      For example, we hear the excuse that women are paid less because they are still taking those low-paying jobs that have always been dominated by women -- elementary school teachers, nurses, secretaries.

      Might not the fact that these have always been low-paying professions be due to the fact that they have been held traditionally by women? Would that not fall under "discrimination"?

      It's the same game that climate change deniers do with their volcanoes, their sunspots, and their "Mars is warming, too" theories. Since scientists can't predict the exact date that Miami Beach goes under water, then a little climate change might not be so bad after all, and there's really nothing we can do about it.

      After all, a little discrimination never hurt anyone, right?

      Delete
    2. Bob has his own tightly-held, apparently narrow definition of "discrimination." Although he refuses to reveal it, he expects everyone else to share it.

      Of course, he is not stupid. He knows perfectly well his definition is indefensible. That's why he won't tell us what it is, because its main purpose is to be used as a cudgel for attacking young "liberal" writers. It wouldn't work that way if he were out in the open about it.

      It's a shame he has to muck up a perfectly valid premise -- the weakness of today's Ivy League-educated journalists (a term that nowadays should be put in scare quotes) -- with the need to scratch his itch to attack everyone.

      Delete
    3. Two questions groaningly remain, urban legend.

      If Bob is not revealing how he defines a crucial element in a topic which he writes about so often (the wage gap), does that make his work fuzzy or does it make it murky?

      In your own groan about his murky muck up, where would you put the scare quotes in Ivy League-educated journalists? It could be the whole phrase. It could be just "educated" or just "journalists" or it could be both those two words.

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    4. Like July 2410:48, I understood perfectly, too. 20 out of the 23 percent was due to discrimination. But then another study said it was 41 out of the 23. Oh, maybe that's 41 percent of 23 percent, or 9.43 percent.. Then I guess it must have been 20 percent of 23 percent, or 4.6 percent. So I have to agree with Bob, it could have been better edited.

      Delete
    5. And Bob is certainly an expert on what needs editing, so not to confuse those who feign confusion.

      Delete
  3. Before any trolls show up with their stupid complaints I just want to say that I find this series an excellent example of TDH transferring his teachings skills from the classroom to the blog. Without positive critical feedback from writing mentors like Mr. Somerby, how can these
    young women advance in their careers.

    If you really think about it, this series is itself a small contribution to reducing the wage gap.

    This is an excellent way to show Bob Somerby cares about young white women journalists. Most liberals don't care.

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    1. "writing mentors like Mr. Somerby"

      BWAAAAHAHAHA!

      I got to say, this is the best parody of a Bob fan I have ever read. Thanks for the belly laugh.


      Delete
  4. When many of the other factors affecting the wage gap indirectly result from discrimination, focusing narrowly on the remaining difference exhibits bigotry, in my opinion. Why not ask why women work fewer hours in different types of jobs as part of our discussion of workforce gender inequality? Somerby is being a dinosaur about this.

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    1. He-rex, or She-rex? Even old fossils like BOB can't fool teh rubes forever!

      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0602_050602_dino_sex.html

      KZ

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    2. "The research offers hope that other dinosaur specimens can be sexed for the first time."

      Wow! Once we can sex dinosaur remains we ought to be able to get old "worst generation" journalists to apologize for what they did to Clinton Gore before they leave the room and turn the lights out.

      Delete
  5. "We’ve often torn our hair over the work of Motoko Rich, the New York Times’ education reporter. Rich, who can’t be called a “new kid,” is said to have been summa cum laude at Yale in the early 1990s."

    But since you can't call her a new kid, you will just throw her into the mix so you can crap on her academic credential.

    Actually you have done more than tear your hair out, Somerby. You have chucked many spears her direction, Mr. Charlie.

    When asking "Who the Sam Hill is Motoko Rich" you suggested a piece she had written about Michelle Rhee was favorable because she married a guy who was employed in a management position in the New York municipal bureaucracy. You the connected his employment to the mayor, Bloomberg, then noted Bloomberg's opinion on Rhee
    all in the endless do-loop of bullshit guilt by association that is characteristic of guys your age whose career has the tell tale skid marks of bottoming out.

    http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2013/01/michelle-rhee-yes-real-world-no.html

    ReplyDelete
  6. Finding the nuggets of bigotry in this thread is a lot easier than searching for the smoking gun/mushroom cloud precursors we always believed that sand spear-chucker hid over in magic carpet land.

    That said, my gap is bigger than your gap. We always beleived that.
    We'd be surprised if it isn't.

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    Replies
    1. "Nuggets of bigotry"? How kind of you.

      I'd call it a steaming pile.

      Delete
  7. I watched a Noam Chomsky video where he said (and I'm paraphrasing), what they teach you at Harvard (and all the Ivy Leagues) is obedience. The successful students learn the unspoken rule of what can and cannot be said. I guess it's about maintaining the social order and staying in power.

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    1. I think there should be another Godwin's Law re: The first person who references Chomsky.

      Especially, a Noam Chomsky video.

      Delete
    2. Obviously young lady you rarely minded your mother.

      Delete
    3. I can envision those hordes of unruly rich white kids descending on Ivy League campuses every year only to be taught obedience.

      Delete
    4. That Barry. He was a pot puffing left coaster before Columbia and Harvard made an obedient social order mainenance man out of him.

      Delete
    5. How about the hippy-ish Bill and Hillary? The Ivy League sure whipped them into shape in short order.

      Delete
    6. Are you making the same sexist hip reference that causes the right to focus on Hillary's pants-suits?

      Delete
  8. Thanks for the link, Somerby. Glad to see in your earlier work you also attacked Eleanor Barkhorn for her father's past employer and her husband's current employer.

    Can't diss the young lady just based on her age and academic affiliation alone. The men folk bear some of the blame!

    Chelsea and Hillary salute you.

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    Replies
    1. Some serious "daddy issues" on display here.

      Bob's got the Harvard degree. If only his Poppa were fabulously wealthy and he married well, he wouldn't be biding his time on a one-man blog while he waits for the phone to ring with his next stand-up booking.

      Delete
    2. His old poppa operated a burlesque parlor frequented by Harvard "men" learning obedience. Perhaps that inluenced him as much as Motoko Rich's husband and Eleanor Barkhorn's father indluenced them.

      If not, it's at least worth the same mention. For clarity.

      Delete
    3. The link to Barkhorn also reveals a tendency of Bob to get Norwegian wood when he reads Willa Cather and thinks about young Ivy lady journalists.

      Delete
    4. Serious Bob issues on display above. And obviously no Harvard degrees among those suffering from them.

      Delete
  9. Bob not so long ago reached all the way to Paris to find an expatriated five-year-old yearning to learn Croatian to mqke some sort of point how the resegregation of schools in Tuscaloosa really wasn't that bad.

    And he calls other people "murky"?

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    Replies
    1. Your bungling trollery is groaningly murky. Extremely, strikingly fuzzy.

      Otići!

      Delete
  10. Good God! The old Howler is back. Fuzzy 2, Murky 4. Derivatives of Groan 2. Gack!

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    1. Whatever!

      Delete
    2. Correction: That said, whatever!

      Delete
    3. Ljubav znači da se nikada ne bi rekla da su mi je.

      Delete
    4. Nejasan: deadrat's sockpuppet.

      Delete
    5. Otići!

      Odlazi i uzeti svoje mrtve štakore s vama!

      Delete
  11. Philip Rucker (Yale 06) did a beautiful job covering Hillary Clinton's jihad aganst elephant poachers.

    Except he didn't mention it may have been funded, in part, by her obscene and grotesque speaking fees opaquely dervied, in part, from student loans.

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  12. I wonder, do jihadists use spear-chuckers? What did they teach at Harvard back in the day about metaphors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sand spear-chuckers are jihadists by Sharia law.

      Delete
    2. It was a strikingly empty non-response.

      Delete
  13. OMB (Quick Inquiry For OTB Followers)

    Last Friday BOB wrote: "Tomorrow, we’re going to try to wrap up this week’s report."

    Anybody see the wrap up? Should we keep looking for it? We liked last week's report and wanted to see how it ended.

    Don't get us wrong. "New Kids" is great too! Especially the part about
    Lehrer (Victoria JuCo '54), Shields (Notre Dame '59), Gigot (Dartmouth '77) McGrory (Emmanuel '39) and Bruni (UNC '86).

    We care about earth kids!

    KZ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When do we get to Maureen Dowd (Catholic U. '73), Joan Walsh (Wisconsin, '80 -- the very same state that spawned Tailgunner Joe!) Big Ed Schultz (Minnesota State-Moorhead, '77), and Chris Matthews (College of the Holy Cross, '67)?

      But rejoice and be glad. Bob is closing on his 60-day chip from Maddow Anonymous.

      Delete
    2. Would that be a reference by any chance to our own Rhodes Scholar Rachel Maddow (Color TV "09)?

      Delete
    3. Yes indeed! Bob seems to be well on the road to recover from his Our Own Rhodes Scholar addiction, though relapses won't be unusual.

      But for weeks, he hasn't scoured years-old personality profiles to determine how well or how poorly she performs on the shooting range.

      Delete
    4. @ 3:51 I salute you for your excellent memory. Bobnation needs more alert readers keeping their eyes out for ex-Badger commie hunters like Walsh. Who would have known she had a Bay area sleeper cell going without Somerby.

      Delete
  14. It's sad that the TDH comment sections have become a mass of trolling (tip: to save time skip 'anonymous' and 'urban legend'). Must be quite a few angry 'elite' journalists with too much time on their hands (which sounds likely, considering how slap-dash conformist, ill-organized and poorly researched their work is.) Fully understand why Bob hopefully/supposedly never reads them.

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. Wow, so interesting conversation. Now I become even more confident that I have chosen the right profession. However several years ago it seemed unreal for me and I mostly applied to essay and coursework help service but when you have a great desire you move in the right direction. I knew that it wouldn`t be so easy but it wasn`t my aim to searcj for the easiest ways. As we can see people mainly don`t believe the journalists and it is clear because it is too much lies nowadays.

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