Pulitzer watch: The data we see and the data we don't!

TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2016

A well-deserved prize for the Post:
It happens every spring.

Yesterday, we granted a favorable review to Farah Stockman's front-page report in the New York Times about reactions to the 1994 crime bill. We even praised Stockman for her skill at kissing ascot.

Sure enough! That very same day, Stockman was awarded a Pulitzer prize. In this morning's New York Times, the award is reported as shown below.

Michael Grynbaum did the report. Can you spot a pattern here?
GRYNBAUM (4/19/16): Two other newspapers besides The Times won two prizes apiece. Farah Stockman of The Boston Globe, who recently joined the Times staff, won the commentary prize for columns examining the legacy of busing and segregation in Boston; Jessica Rinaldi of The Globe won in the feature photography category for her photos of a young boy struggling after a history of abuse.

The Tampa Bay Times won for local reporting for its look at the stunning failure rates among black students in a Florida county school system that abandoned racial integration.
Two newspapers won Pulitzers for work about public school issues.

That said, you've heard nothing about Stockman's columns or about the Tampa Bay Times reports. We explained the reason for that yesterday:

Nobody cares about any of this! More specifically, nobody cares about "stunning failure rates" among the nation's black kids. Nothing could be more obvious.

How good were those columns and reports? We can't tell you that. We weren't aware of Stockman's work, were only vaguely aware of the work by the Tampa Bay Times.

That said, both pieces of work garnered Pulitzer prizes—while leading to zero discussion. Your cable stars are much too busy rattling poll results.

We do feel sure that the Washington Post deserves its Pulitzer prize. Grynbaum describes its project thusly:
GRYNBAUM: The Pulitzers are now in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University on Monday reflected some of the changes sweeping the media landscape. Among the winners was The Marshall Project, an online outlet founded 17 months ago. The Washington Post took the national reporting prize for a project that used data, graphics and other tools of digital journalism to chronicle every killing by a police officer in 2015, unearthing fresh insights into a subject that has dominated the national political debate.
As we noted some months back, the Washington Post did something amazing here. Breaking every rule in the book, it compiled real information about an important subject!

As we've said for many years, facts and information play almost no role in our discourse. The Post was swimming against the tide in this undertaking.

The Post compiled a wealth of data on the subject of police shootings. Their decision to do this was strange, because modern journalism is more often defined by the flight from data.

Our big newspapers refuse to produce accurate reports about domestic and international test scores. The refusal to do so almost seems to be a point of professional pride.

Those same newspapers refuse to report the crazy data which define the ginormous looting of us the people within our "health care system."

Both sets of data are very basic and very important; both sets of data are religiously kept from view. Incredibly, the Post decided to create a wealth of data about another important subject. For that highly unusual conduct, they well deserve their prize.

That said, ask yourself this:

According to Grynbaum, the Post has "unearth[ed] fresh insights into a subject that has dominated the national political debate." Do you have any idea what those insights are?

Have you seen a single discussion of the wealth of data the Washington Post created? Are you aware of a single "fresh insight" which has emerged from their work?

Grynbaum seems to be describing a world he imagines instead of the world which exists. We can think of many discussions which should have resulted from the Post's data, but we haven't seen those discussions occur. Our discourse is based on the reading of polls, with mugging and clowning thrown in.

In honor of the Post: We'll try to get to a discussion which should have followed from Ta-Nehisi Coates' best-selling book, Between the World and Me.

The discussion in question should have followed from that book, but manifestly didn't. We don't have discussions in our country. We have instead polls, gaffes and cant.

30 comments:

  1. "Our big newspapers refuse to produce accurate reports about domestic and international test scores. The refusal to do so almost seems to be a point of professional pride."

    Can anyone link to Bob's report about the most recent "Gold Standard" domestic test scores?

    Didn't think so.

    ReplyDelete
  2. FAILURE FACTORIES

    http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2015/investigations/pinellas-failure-factories/

    Bob Somerby indicated he knew something about this series which won a Pulitzer Prize announced yesterday. It began in August.

    Bob says you never heard about it and that proves something he said yesterday.

    Was it covered in the Howler? Such coverage seems to be as non-exisistent as coverage of the most recent NAEP scores.

    I suggest Howler readers follow the link above.
    The series looks to make an interesting test case for Bob Somerby's most often stated, least often documented "fact": white liberals and their media heroes don't care about black children.

    We think the fact you haven't heard about it proves more about Bob's claim applying to himself more than anyone else.

    A whole series of comments seems to be brewing.
    But, if Bob is right, you really don't care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somerby is not a journalist. He doesn't cover news. He is a media critic. That is plainly stated at the top of his blog where it says: "musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the american discourse"

      The people he talks about here ARE journalists and they should be expected to COVER real news, such as the problems of African American kids in our public schools.

      Many of us DO care about this subject. I agree with Somerby that the media and our liberal pundits do not care about it as a topic of discussion. If asked, they would express the appropriate level of concern, but they don't prioritize coverage of these issues.

      I believe it is because our society does not have the will to address endemic and chronic poverty. Poverty is at the heart of why African American and white children perform poorly in school. Unless we do something meaningful to address poverty, test scores are not going to improve a great deal and the lives of poor children are not going to improve either.

      It may be a downer to say this, but we need to either admit that we don't care enough about kids education to address poverty or stop fooling around and enact serious economic changes to change poverty levels.

      Bernie Sanders, ranting about banks, isn't doing that. He doesn't care about black or white poor children. He has done nothing in his time in the Senate to address their needs. I believe Hillary Clinton might care, since she HAS done things to help poor kids across her career. But bandages are helpful but not a solution to why black kids have school problems.

      I believe we are seeing apathy in the face of a problem that most liberals have given up on, and that is too bad for all of us.

      Delete
    2. "Somerby is not a journalist. He doesn't cover news. He is a media critic."

      Thank you for giving me the lede for Part 2.

      Delete
    3. Well, Somerby is apparently not a "media critic" either, except in his own imagination and those of his rapidly dwindling fan club.

      If he were a "media critic" wouldn't he pay attention to the "media"? All of it? Particularly when they write long in-depth studies of his very core issues?

      What's his excuse? He doesn't know how to use a search engine?

      Or is it simple laziness? Far easier to stick to his handful of chosen targets and call them the sum total of the nation's "media" rather than go to all the time and trouble of finding out what else is being written and said outside the NY Times, Washington Post and MSNBC.

      Delete
    4. 1. Attack Somerby
      2. Attack the number of commenters
      3. Attack anything except the substance of what he discusses every day

      Delete
    5. Dave the Guitar PlayerApril 20, 2016 at 12:36 PM

      Bob is "a" media critic, not "the" media critic. I am certain that other bloggers (you?) have read every newspaper, heard every radio news broadcast and watched every TV "news" program and have made appropriate comments. I find it "lazy" that you come here to find fault with Bob's comments, rather than finding fault with the "journalism" that prompted his comments in the first place.

      Delete
    6. No, I don't read every newspaper. But in the information age, I can and do read a lot of them, especially about topics that I consider important.

      One cannot just dwell on three sources among hundreds if not thousands (NY Times, Washington Post, MSNBC), pick and choose carefully from that, then reach the conclusion he has about the sad state of all journalism.

      Unless, of course, his point is selling his narrative rather than honest criticism.

      Delete
  3. FAILURE FACTORIES

    Part 1

    The Tampa Bay Times ran Part 1 in its series on resegregaton of Pinellas County public schools on August 14, 2015, a Friday.

    Of that series and another Pulitzer prize winner Bob says:

    "That said, you've heard nothing about Stockman's columns or about the Tampa Bay Times reports. We explained the reason for that yesterday:

    Nobody cares about any of this! More specifically, nobody cares about "stunning failure rates" among the nation's black kids. Nothing could be more obvious.

    How good were those columns and reports? We can't tell you that. We weren't aware of Stockman's work, were only vaguely aware of the work by the Tampa Bay Times.

    That said, both pieces of work garnered Pulitzer prizes—while leading to zero discussion. Your cable stars are much too busy rattling poll results."

    On August 17, in the first Howler since the series began in Tampa, Bob did not mention the article. What did he deem worthy or his readers' attention?

    A post long critique of Martha Raddatz:

    "Raddatz is a TV entertainer—a corporate-paid pretender."

    But wait. There was more that day. A post upbraiding the disrespectful Jonathan Alter for a terrible sin Bob managed to connect to his all time favorite cable star:

    "Earth to so-called press corps:

    You know that fellow, Candidate Trump? His name really isn’t “The Donald.” Now that he’s actually running for president....

    Is there anything our upper-end journalists are able to treat in a serious, professional manner?...

    We’ll list offenders as they appear in this, our new running feature....

    You can call him “Mister Trump” or “Candidate Trump.” You can call him “Johnson” or “Jackson.”

    But guess what? Except in the childish minds of these life forms, he actually isn’t “The Donald.”...

    Journalists today just wanna have fun. It isn’t just Rachel Maddow!"

    While Bob Somerby was chastising "life-forms" for calling someone by a long used nickname, the Tampa Bay Times was beginning a Pulitizer Prize winning series about...black kids.

    You never heard about it. And Bob Somerby did not and still cannot tell you about it. Because white liberals just don't care.

    Next?: While Tampa exposes racial division Bob busts the press corps chops over those Iowa Pork Chops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cynical trolls use the problems of black kids as a stick to beat Somerby with. That's about as ugly as things get.

      Delete
    2. Doesn't fit Bob's narrative to point out that great, Pulitzer-worthy stories are being written about minorities and public schools.

      He'd rather feed his sheep the sweet hay that nothing is being written at all because "liberals don't care about black kids."

      By golly, that's his story and he's sticking to it.

      He even blames "the media" for his own ignorance and laziness to find stories about a subject that he claims, and only claims, to care deeply about himself.

      Delete
    3. @ 11:22: Bob says he found the story. He just blames the rest of the media for not covering it. He doesn't need to explain why he didn't. He is, after all, Bob Somerby, the most interesting caring man in the non-journalist world.

      And now, on his way to Mars? We don't know. We just see him getting father and farther out there.

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  5. Not so pure Bernie:

    “The Sanders’ have partially released their 2014 tax return and on the return, Jane Sanders is still drawing a salary as an alternate commissioner for the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission. (TLLRWD Commissioner)
    This is the commission that oversaw the Sierra Blanca dump site, that Sanders voted for and also voted to strip out the Wellstone amendment in conference.
    The Wellstone amendment would have given legal recourse to this mostly poor Latino community to fight the placement of this waste dump, if they could prove environmental racism. The compact was passed, with vigorous help from Sanders. Later and fortunately the dump was scuttled by the state of Texas.
    This is just for 2014. Mrs. Sanders could have been drawing a salary for years and unless they release more tax returns we'll never know for sure.”
    Sanders' are still profiting from Sierra Blanca nuclear waste dump, per their 2014 tax return"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You make me sorry I voted for Clinton in my state.

      Delete
    2. So, it is OK for Sanders to accuse Clinton of corruption over her speaking fees while his own wife is paid off for his active support on an issue in the Senate? No wonder he doesn't want to release his tax returns!

      And here comes the double standard. Clinton cannot point out anything negative about Bernie without losing your precious support -- because she must remain a lady no matter what is said about her? Those Clinton rules strike again.

      Delete
    3. Dave the Guitar PlayerApril 20, 2016 at 12:45 PM

      The goal of the Clinton campaign should be to make Hillary look good, not to make Bernie look bad. Your post is not helping.

      Delete
    4. The goal of the Clinton campaign is the same as the goal of the Sanders campaign -- to get the candidate elected. Clinton didn't make a pledge the way Bernie did to avoid negative campaigning. She knows better than to tie her own hands when her opponents show little restraint. But, she's been through this before. It is Bernie breaking his pledge to stay positive. Clinton is just moving forward, doing what she always does. Focusing on the issues and avoiding the petty stuff unless it gets out of hand.

      The info I posted about Bernie's wife came from a liberal organization supporting Clinton, not the campaign itself. The source ultimately is Bernie's tax records and his record in congress -- the tax records he tried to delay releasing, for obvious reasons.

      Anyone can see why you and he don't want to have the focus on them -- it does make him look bad. In fact, it makes him look like a miserable hypocrite and a skunk for trying to avoid accountability while pretending to be clean as a whistle. Very bad, in my opinion. And Clinton didn't make him do it -- this is all on him.

      Delete
  6. Today Huffington Post is saying that Clinton won among those favorable to Wall Street. (As if anyone in that group would vote for a man who called fraud their business model.) HuffPo implies that Hillary won because of that support. They didn't point out that she won 78% of the African American vote and 65% of the Jewish vote.

    No mention at all of Bernie's vote against the bill funding medical assistance for first responders, something Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were instrumental in creating. New Yorkers remember, even if 9/11 was before the time of the children so enthusiastically supporting Bernie. Bernie outspent Clinton 2/1 in campaign advertising without making a dent in her support because of her actions as a Senator. If Wall Street were buying Clinton's candidacy, wouldn't you expect her to have been the one spending the most to attract voters?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Clinton’s victory in Tuesday’s New York primary was also achieved through the support of women (61 percent), nonwhite voters (67 percent) and Democrats looking for an experienced candidate (90 percent), according to CNN." Same Huffington Post Article

      Delete
    2. Did you also read the headline, where the Wall Street support was mentioned? How many people read through to the end of the CNN article to find the truth? Do you understand that lying is one type of propaganda and slanting is another? HuffPo avoids outright lying in favor of major slanting. That's why I am pointing this stuff out -- because some people, like you, will miss the way in which they are being manipulated. Hillary won because the majority of all people in NYC voted for her (even people under 45), not because she had Wall Street behind her, as the headline to the story implied.

      Delete
  7. It is time for Bernie to quit. Now his campaign looks like the same kind of con that Ben Carson was running. Running a non-viable campaign in order to grift off the contributions of gullible voters is fraud, in my opinion. There is no way Bernie can win. It is time for him to stop taking money under false pretenses (funding trips to Rome for his family while pretending to meet with the Pope). There is no point in dragging this out except to line his own pockets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This sounds like a what a Clinton 2008 supporter would accuse an Obama paid spammer of writing.

      Pretty soon I may think about sending Bernie a sympathy card and seeing if there is a PUMA Chapter I can join after he throws in the towel.

      Delete
    2. Oh, by all means go ahead. Your PUMA effort might have the same impact on this election as the non-existent PUMA threat had in 2008.

      And it had an impact. McCain thought he had a "game changer" in Caribou Barbie to whom the disaffected female voters mad that Hillary didn't win would flock to.

      Looks like Trump will have to nominate an old Jewish coot to appeal to all the Bernie Bros.

      Love to see him pick Joe Lierberman.

      Delete
    3. An old Catholic Coot like Bob Somerby might cover a news story like that.

      And of course invoking Barbie is a good way to get his attention since he loves to cover dolls.

      http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2014/08/supplemental-all-this-week-playing-with.html

      Delete
  8. FAILURE FACTORIES

    Part 2

    Somerby is no journalist

    "Somerby is not a journalist. He doesn't cover news. He is a media critic."

    Contrary to a Reply as repetitive as the work of Blogger/Journalist Bob Somerby, "The Bob" is a journalist. Just not a good one. The focus of his daily reporting may be his opinion on news coverage, but to claim his work is not attempted journalism actually demonstrates why Bob is bad as both a journalist and a media critic. Neither he nor his readers seem to understand journalism any better than relativity.

    The Pulitzer Prize winning work of the Tampa Bay Times in 2015 focused on the resegregation of Pinellas County public schools and the devastating impact that had on black student performance in St. Petersburg, Florida. Blogger/Journalist Bob Somerby, a former teacher in predominately black Baltimore public schools, never mentioned a word about the series, which ran for several months.

    Why, on earth, you ask, might anyone expect Somerby to at least mention this series? Because just a year before, Somerby's blog, the Daily Howler, spent six weeks covering just one long, but very similar, article. The article, called "Segregation Now," appeared in The Atlantic in April, 2014, and Bob Somerby began trying to rip it apart on April 23rd. He wouldn't stop until June 6th.

    "Segregation Now" concerned the exact same topic, resegregation of schools in one southern district, Tuscaloosa City Schools in Alabama.

    Here is how the full Howler coverage began after a prologue a few days earlier.

    "Nobody cares about this"

    Sound familiar?

    Bob went to great lengths to tear down the article written by Nicole Hannah-Jones about Tuscaloosa schools and the impact resegregation had on the mostly black children who were put into Central High School.

    Some of Bob's readers disputed his points vigorously. Sadly, for Bob, throughout the series he made the mistake of stating that the senior girl who was one focal point of Hannah-Jones's reporting, D'Leisha Dent, could not get into a four year college. In fact Dent had accepted an athletic scholarship to such a college two days before Somerby wrote his first full post devoted to the Atlantoic article. Bob repeatedly ignored comments from his readers pointing this out. The Howler series abruptly ended in June, two days after Bob wrote a post that did not admit his error but rather reported the acceptance of Dent by the college as if it were news.

    Bob and his readers who defended him were quick to note the college Dent would attend was predomonantly black. Of course, during his series Bob's point seemed to be that Tuscaloosa schols were not resegregated because the whole school system was predominantly black.

    Bob's other major point was that Hannah-Jones, and liberals whose hearts warmed to her tale tearing down the south, were ignoring vast test score progress made by black children. Unfortunately the only thing Bob could use to show the progress of Alabama black student was 8th grade math test scores on the NAEP by Alabama children statewide.

    The Tampa Bay Times series shows that the scores of Tampa Bay students in resegregated schools are worse compared to other black students in Florida, an intrastate comparsion Bob Somerby did not make with Tuscaloosa's kids.

    Bob Somerby, in a little over a year, backed away from even mentioning, much less critiquing, a media story about resegregation in a sourhtern school system. Why?

    It is not because, as some of his defenders would have you believe; that he is not a journalist and doesn't cover news.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Recall also that Bob first tried to sell the fable that Tuscaloosa schools weren't resegregating at all!

      His evidence? He went to the school district's Web site and found pictures of "beautiful" grade school-aged black kids and white kids playing together.

      Such is the intellectual depth of a Somerby series that went on and on and on for weeks.

      Oh, and don't forget the ex-patriated mother of twins in Paris whose five-year-olds wanted to learn Croatian.

      That launched him into the REAL problem with education today. Not schools, certainly not teachers, and of course not "re-segregration" which is just another way to dis the South and thorw around "R-word bombs". (Don't we know we took care of racism in the '60s?)

      Nope the "real problem" was the long since debunked "vocabulary gap." Black parents simply aren't talking to their babies enough. And if they did, they'd all want to learn Croatian by the time they reached kindergarten.

      Delete
    2. Please post evidence that the so-called vocabulary gap was ever debunked as an explanation of educational outcomes. It is the basis for recommendations for early and universal preschool and for the efforts to get parents to talk to, read to and sing to their children (exemplified by the First Five campaign in California, for example). Where has this been debunked?

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete