IMITATIONS OF NEWS: Gently shaken awake!


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

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 a report released Monday!” Go ahead! Enjoy a sad belly-laugh!

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
Even a humiliating midterm defeat can be recovered from—if Democrats learn the right lessons and battle back
“Why Chris Hayes is right,” the encouraging headline screamed.

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.”

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.
Curry didn’t focus on Hayes. Salon apparently wanted to.

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


  1. OMB (Breakfast with the OTB)

    Part 1 - Is Bob Somerby Human? Our multiple personalities were debating this while we slept. The minute we woke up, they zipped up tighter than Susan McDougal before a Starr Grand Jury.

    They merely handed us a copy of this post with a note reading:

    "Read this then take 30 seconds to check the errors."

    We are not as fast as BOB. But it looks like this might be a multi-part series so we hope to get back to you before the first Interlude.

    We did note Bob's piece covered a reporter (female) who used BOB's BELOVED ROUGH RULE OF THUMB. We don't need 30 seconds to find that error. And we'll bet BOB did not complain about that, or call it a mistake.

    1. If Bob wants to know how myths and falsehoods gain purchase and never seem to die to advance favored narratives, he should consider his "beloved rough rule of thumb."

    2. There's nothing wrong with this rough rule of thumb as long as you don't use it for making precise technical comparisons. KZ would know that if he weren't a schizophrenic person (impaired thinking) with an obsession about Somerby.

    3. Since there is nothing wrong with this rough rule of thumb, show us how it works in the real world.

      Both black and white 8th graders have improved their scores on the main NAEP math test since 1990 by right around 25 points each, or roughly two and a half years of academic progress.

      Yet the gap between black and white students in math remains at roughly 30 points, or give or take three years.

      So my question to you is which seems approximately correct?

      A. Today's black 8th graders are performing math at a level half a year ahead of 8th white eighth graders
      23 years ago, while today's white kids are doing the work of second semester high school juniors of the last generation.

      B. Compared to 8th grade white kids, the level of math peformed by black kids is somehere in the 5th grade level.

      C. Math tests indicate black students will never erase the gap between white kids if the last quarter century
      of scores is a rough indicator.

      D. It is a good thing they changed the scoring system on the NAEP 12th grade math test in 2005, or using a rough rule of thumb we could predict a day soon that our high school seniors will be scoring below their 8th grade siblings.

  2. OMB (Huevos Revuelots Con el OTB)

    Part 2- Is Lyndsey Layton Human?

    We tried to answer BOB's question by looking for clues in the work of the nation's foremost educational expert, BOB Somerby. A better-than- Nexis review of America's best educational reporting archive revealed a dozen recent articles, none of which posited an inquiry into the humanity of the lady before.

    In fact, the criticism is mild and very positive things are scrambled in as well. A sample:

    "In her valuable piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton put it like this:" BOB 6/10/14

    "The AP utterly fails: For our money, the Washington Post was basically right about the latest NAEP scores.

    According to reporter Lyndsey Layton, the new data .....
    For our money, Layton pretty much got it right." BOB 7/5/2013

    Layton belatedly told the truth, but Williams kept pushing the scam. The NCES had issued “a grim new report card,” he said....

    Endlessly, the public has been misled about NAEP data, or told nothing at all.

    Last Friday, the Washington Post finally quit. After decades of pimping this overt public scam, its reporter correctly explained what the NAEP data actually show." BOB 7/2/13

    In Sunday’s Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton described the way these hapless elites are helping Gates “reform” the nation’s schools...
    Layton does a very good job reporting the way the money flowed as Gates pushed the Common Core through the various states. On the down side, she never notes the logical flaw at the heart of this project."
    BOB 6/10/14

    "(Layton's) long report is very informative. But it does have a few holes."
    BOB 6/12/14

    "In this morning’s Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton reports the latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP). After all these years of rank deception, Layton and the Washington Post are finally reporting a basic fact:" BOB 6/28/13

    "In Sunday's Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton produced a valuable report about the way Gates has used his billions to create and sponsor the Common Core." BOB 6/11/14

    In our view, BOB seems to like Layton when she concurs with his previously stated views. That said, there must be something he recently discoverd. We'll keep searching as we orbit your ending world and report back.

    1. He likes people when they engage in competent journalism and complains when they do not. What is so hard to understand about that?

    2. Yes, It is customary for Bob to cast doubt on the humanity of those he says "bungle" reports, and his understanding readership know it is unecessary for him to cite a single example of such bungling.

      Don't most people suggest others who err might not be human?

    3. Excessively literal again. According to you anything Somerby says can only be taken at face value.

    4. Indeed. If he asked it five times it would be a literal question. Some poeple just don't get Somerby.

    5. "What is so hard to understand about that?"

      What is so hard to understand that he praises a journalist when he can use their work to fit his narrative, and then call the same journalist sub-human when he can't.

      And advancing Somerby's narrative "seems" to be his sole yardstick with which to measure competence, of which you "seem" to believe Somerby is the sole arbiter.

  3. A new report, based on a new independent analysis of existing data, renders and tenders encouraging news. Sounds fit to print to me, even if the advanced students have soooo moved on.

    But before you can say, "Are Hispanic Kids Human?" M. Somerby quantum leaps to a completely different topic, doing a full u-ey on the ricketiest of Segways...In other faux news...

    Nevertheless I'm always pleased when BS assails the increasingly decadent Salon. Are we talking about the headline calling for (barely of age) Chris Hayes's man-on-a-dark-horse nomination in 2016? I searched the text gamely for some -- any! -- connection to the clickbait headline but all too quickly tired of wading through the usual apparatchik bilge. Didn't even get to use my browser's "Find" function.Tell me, is there indeed a groundswell?

    Meantime, someone tell the analysts this post should have been cleft in twain. The two verses simply don't belong in the same song. Each deserves its own truth-in-editing headline. Do the Blogspot elves so brutally enforce a maximum number of daily posts?

    1. I think there is more uniting these stories than you think. The theme uniting these two examples is that both are misleading because they appear to focus on a specific group/person of interest when the actual story is broader.

      Focusing on Hispanic kids to the exclusion of other groups implies that they have solely made progress while others have not, which is just not true. The Salon headline, by focusing on Hayes misleads both as to what he said and his importance in the story. In both cases, the misleading focus seems to be to attract readers interested in Hispanic kids or Hayes, regardless of what the real story happens to be.

    2. Oh! So the theme of this story would unite it with the week Bob spent covering the second home of game show host Meredith Vieira which was supposed to be about journalists but instead misleadingly focused on one person's home.

  4. We applaud Bob for leaving behind, at least for several days, his twin obsessions with Rachel Maddow and Al Gore. We hope he continues looking at other things. We are however, deeply skeptical that it is the left, not the right, that is deserving of attention for its "psuedo-news.." A person who believes climate change is a vast hoax cooked up by the scientific community is in line to become chair of the Senate committee that oversees environmental policy. This, among many other bits of ridiculousness, is not the fault of "corporatist faux leftists," or whatever abusive term Bob puts forth. Yet, that will be where BOb continues to place his focus. To us, this makes little sense -- if, that is,one's goal is to try to fix the things that are wrong with the country.

    1. Jon Stewart, in an interview with Maddow, expressed some of the same frustrations Bob does about her show and cable news. He doesn't see it in black and white terms you do. ("the left doesn't deserve attention for its "psuedo-news.") He accuses her of "bending the rules of journalism", "improperly elevating partisan distinctions" and says "on cable news, left versus right is or seems to be only what matters and that that is a fun house mirror into what actually matters" which is reminiscent of BOB's thoughts about the adoration plutocrats have for the petty snarking and "psuedo-news" of both sides.

      Good night and warmest regards.

    2. Ie. "There's one guy holding both puppets!'”

    3. We were not aware that A) Jon Stewart was an ultimate authority on anything besides comedy; or B) That Mr. Stewart spends the bulk, or even a tiny part, of his shows endlessly attacking Maddow as the embodiment of all things wrong with America, as Bob did until recently. We do recall seeing Mr. Stewart, whose show we occasionally watch, frequently attacking the right for some of the same insanity we ourselves notice. If Mr. Stewart is to be used as a judge (a dangerous proposition), and he really thought Maddow was the problem, he would pay more attention to her. He does not, except for one appearance which I have seen endlessly referred to here, probably, by you. We admit to trying to watch it, but being unable to do so because we dislike Ms. Maddow's mannerisms to an extreme degree. Disliking her mannerisms, and finding her an apt topic for God only knows how much negative attention, however, are two different things.

      "That puppet on the right is beating the shit out of me."

      "Never mind that, look at that puppet on the left. Wow, look at that sneer. That has got to be the ugliest goddamn puppet I've ever seen"

    4. Not "never mind that, look at that puppet on the left" son - "there's one guy holding both puppets!'”!!!

      Make of Stewarts comments what you will. I wouldn't and didn't call him an ultimate authority but I would call him an authority on cable media.

      I understand your frustrations though and it stinks to get the shit beaten out of yourself by sleazy, lying charlatans.

      You should watch that interview! It's amazing and her cluelessness is unbelievable.

      As far as BOB, your reaction to what he writes is you choice and your business but if it brings you down, get used to it because he will not stop ever. That is for sure.


    5. "I would call him an authority on cable media."


    6. It is funny.

      Not certain it is BWAAAAAHAHAHAHA!

      Maybe two less A's in BWAAAAA and one less HA.

  5. "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." TDH

    Somerby claims not to know why the author of a report calls progress of Hispanic kids "exciting."

    Many people don't know why Bob says some things either. Like the second clause of the sentence in which he expresses ignorance.

    Coverage of a non-profit group's report on test scores is "faux news" for Bob Somerby. Bob "nobody cares about black kids" would have mentioned a plethora of high places and accused the Post of wanting to jump off of them if this had been a report about black student test scores and the Post had ignored it.

    There have been comments before about Bob not caring about Hispanic kids. This gives them ammunition for the argument. And shows Bob to be a shameless fraud.

    1. Improvement by Hispanic kids is the same as improvement by other groups. By issuing a statement that focuses only on the improvement of Hispanic kids, the author implies they are making more progress than kids in general, so it is misleading. It doesn't make Somerby a fraud to ask for accurate reporting, and he is not complaining about Hispanic kids progress so claiming he has anything against such kids is idiotic.

    2. "The author implies." Famous parrot imitation of the species "bonfanus plagixaris."

      So by repeatedly saying the Children at the One True Channel don't care about black kids, when they in fact ignore education test scores in general, does our One True Bob imply they are racist? Or just that black kids need more attention than others?

    3. What a pathetic person you are, using black and Hispanic kids to further a grievance you hold against a blogger for reasons unrelated to anything about education.

    4. I agree 10:33. He is just like the liberal elite rubes who sneer at salt of the earth types like Cliven Bundy.

      They just called him racist too to score tribal points and lose progressive causes votes in the process.

      When will these subhuman droog children learn?