Part 1—Is Lyndsey Layton human: This morning, we were gently shaken awake at our usual 3:15.
Already, the analysts were debating a crucial question:
Is Lyndsey Layton human?
The source of the problem was clear. In this morning’s Washington Post, Layton (Wesleyan, Class of 1986) had written an error-strewn, incomplete news report about an important topic the Washington Post should have been covering for decades.
Is “Lyndsey Layton” human? That’s what the analysts were asking. We weren’t sure what to tell them.
Layton’s multiply-bungled report appears on page A3 of this morning’s Post. Excitedly, her headline shouts a fact which has been clear for decades.
The relevant data have always been there, open for everyone’s review. We’ve been linking to those data for many years now.
Nothing is new in Layton’s report. But because an interest group released a report, she was able to say the sky is blue, bungling as she went.
This is the way her report began, hard-copy headline included:
LAYTON (11/10/14): Hispanic pupils make gains in math“According to a report released Monday!” Go ahead! Enjoy a sad belly-laugh!
Hispanic students have made significant gains on federal math tests during the past decade, and Hispanic public school students in major cities including Boston, Charlotte, Houston and the District have made some of the most consistent progress, according to a report released Monday.
Child Trends Hispanic Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center, analyzed 10 years of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, that U.S. students have taken every two years since the early 1990s. Also known as the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is the country’s most consistent measure of K-12 progress.
Between 2003 and 2013, when the most recent NAEP tests were given, the average math scores for Hispanic students in U.S. public schools rose nine points in fourth grade and 13 points in eighth grade. NAEP is graded on a scale of 1 to 500; the gains realized by Hispanic students are roughly equivalent to one grade level.
Hispanics attending public schools in major cities posted similar gains, with 10-point and 13-point increases in grades four and eight, respectively.
According to Layton, the author of the exciting report called the score gains by Hispanic students in the cities surprising. We don’t know why anyone would say such a thing, or why a Post education reporter would treat such a statement as news.
(Layton has been at the Post since 1998. She moved to the education beat in 2011.)
In fact, Hispanic students have been recording substantial score gains in math for as long as the NAEP has been conducted. In the case of the NAEP’s “Long Term Trend” study, that dates to the early 1970s.
This may seem like news to Post subscribers, but that is only because the Post never reports such facts. Today, Layton excitedly reports this “news,” but only because an interest group has published a report on widely-cited federal data she herself has apparently never reviewed.
Is Lyndsey Layton human? How about her editors? We didn’t know how to answer.
Layton makes several errors in her report, errors which took thirty seconds to check. Beyond that, she fails to report the large score gains in math produced by white, black and Asian-American students over these same many years.
On its face, Layton produced a faux report. Whatever this pile of verbiage is, you can’t really list it as “news.”
That said, giant chunks of American news are now essentially faux. Consider the wonderful headline which appeared last Friday at the new Salon, a faux news site which seems to come from the corporate pseudo-left.
By now, everyone knows that you can’t trust the headlines and photographs at Salon. Persistently, the headlines fail to capture the actual point of the piece.
This headline was even better than that. It appeared late Friday:
“Clueless, lifeless zombies”: Why Chris Hayes is right about Democrats, principles, and fighting back“Why Chris Hayes is right,” the encouraging headline screamed.
Even a humiliating midterm defeat can be recovered from—if Democrats learn the right lessons and battle back
Unfortunately, Curry had rather plainly said that Brother Hayes was wrong:
CURRY (11/7/14): Democrats must now navigate the stages of grief, a tough task for a party so prone to denial. On MSNBC, Chris Hayes argued that Democratic candidates erred in running away from Obama. So did an indignant Al Sharpton and even Republican Joe Scarborough. Many liberal pundits had urged Democrats to stand by their man. Paul Krugman recently called Obama “one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.”Curry didn’t focus on Hayes. Salon apparently wanted to.
I think they’re all wrong. Obama left the Democrats in Congress long before they left him. They know their districts and states better than any pundits do and only bailed on Obama when voters started bailing on them, by which time it was too late. Their real mistake was failing to speak up years ago when Obama abandoned many of their party’s principles, or even to realize he’d done it.
The MSNBC analysis is part of a larger fallacy; that the problem is merely tactical; a matter of message, not policy. The worst thing about the theory is how it disrespects voters; if only we had better slogans, they’d appreciate all we’ve done for them. The condescension alone is enough to blow an election.
Rather plainly, Curry said Hayes was wrong in his analysis of the election. He said Hayes and the others named were in denial, condescending.
In its upbeat headline, Salon simply changed “wrong” to “right.” Presto! The news had been improved!
Salon has become a non-stop gong-show. But vast amounts of what we see around us is faux news.
All week, we’ll highlight species of faux news from the corporate pseudo-left.
Tomorrow: The state of the economy