New York Times confession: “It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus!”


At long last, the Times comes clean: Sometimes, you just have to chuckle when you read the New York Times.

This morning, we get a trend story on the front page. Julie Bosman has a hot scoop: We the people can no longer focus!
BOSMAN (3/5/12): Can you concentrate on Flaubert when Facebook is only a swipe away, or give your true devotion to Mr. Darcy while Twitter beckons?

People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.

E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.

That adds up to a reading experience that is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity. And some of the millions of consumers who have bought tablets and sampled e-books on apps from Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have come away with a conclusion: It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus on reading.
It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus! As readers of the New York Times, we’ll have to admit that we’ve noticed!

Bosman offers little real evidence in support of her thesis. Because we read the Times every day, we can’t help wondering if this front-page report isn’t really a confession—a confession by this sorry newspaper’s extremely flighty staff.

At the New York Times, reporters can’t focus! They also can’t seem to construct a graphic, a basic point we noticed again last week.

Uh-oh! Last Monday, Jackie Calmes authored a long front-page report about Obama’s treatment of debt and deficits. Inside the paper, her report was accompanied by a large graphic. The graphic purported to show the relative size of four well-known deficit-reduction plans.

If you look at the headlined numbers on the graphic, you get the clear impression that the Bowles-Simpson plan proposed slightly less deficit reduction than President Obama’s plan. Accordingto the headlined numbers, Bowles-Simpson proposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction; Obama's plan proposed $4.3 trillion.

Key point, although you’ll just have to trust us: The visual effect of those headlined numbers was much more striking in the hard-copy Times than in the on-line version of the graphic.

If you go by the headlined numbers, it looks like Obama proposed slightly more deficit reduction than Bowles-Simpson. But good lord! This is what you’re told if you read the tiny small print down below:
NEW YORK TIMES SMALL TINY PRINT (2/27/12): The savings claimed for each plan are not directly comparable since they do not all use the same budget baseline, but make different assumptions about the future of some current policies. Using the same baseline, Bowles-Simpson would save $6.5 trillion to Mr. Obama’s $4.3 trillion.
Good lord. Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands at this newspaper’s sweeping incompetence.

Julie Bosman has finally confessed. These people can no longer focus!

Let’s restate that key point: The headlined numbers were very dominant in the graphic which appeared in the hard-copy Times. They clearly suggested that Obama’s plan proposed more deficit reduction than Bowles-Simpson.

If you bothered to read the small tiny print, you saw that was massively wrong.

Why would anyone construct a graphic that way? Until we read Bosman’s courageous confession, we had no real idea.


  1. The New York Times can't help it. They only hire Ivy League and elite Tier I research university educated, connected young white people these days, like the Parkers and Barbaros.

    These young people, like their longstanding reporters, are innumerate. They have no sense of the world outside their narrow social, class and racial spheres.

    Many of them are also pretty worried about appearing too tough on conservatives or getting on the bad side of the Democratic Party.

    They are little better than the guest bloggers that Huffington Post or the Daily Beast hires, except that they have far more high profile gigs. You see them on TV, on so many popular major websites, filling the screens of the New Republic and Slate.

    They like to hear what each other has to say. They also are pretty attentive to the billionaires. The rest of us they couldn't give a fig about. About time we all came to realize that and adapted accordingly.

  2. Private organizations, even small ones, report this sort of projection better than the government does. A private organizaion would show:

    -- the actual total spending for the prior year,
    -- the projected total spending for the current year, and
    -- the projected total spending under the various proposals.

    Since a 10-year projection is so uncertain, they might show:
    -- shorter term projections.

    Or, they might show:

    -- 3 projections for each alternative, based on 3 different economic forecast possibilities.

    Without this sort of data, there is no way to understand just what, say, "$4 trillion in savings" or "$1.8 trillion in savings" really means.

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