MONDAY, MAY 10, 2021
Can Our Town hope to survive this?: This very morning, on page A3, the New York Times presents a list of seven Noteworthy Facts drawn from today's editions.
There are seven "noteworthy facts" in all. This is one of the listings from today's version of this daily feature, which is available in hard copy only:
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER
In 2016, two media scholars analyzed a data set of 300 million tweets from the 2012 election. Twitter users, they found, “selectively share fact-checking messages that cheerlead their own candidate and denigrate the opposing party’s candidate.”
These media scholars today! Two such giants had uncovered a noteworthy fact—people [sometimes or frequently] selectively cheerlead for the candidate they favor, while denigrating the candidate they oppose!
To someone inside the New York Times, this seemed like a "Noteworthy Fact." It was a noteworthy fact deemed to be of special interest.
Nor is this the only example of dumbnification found in today's "Of Interest" feature. Whoever selects this newspaper's "noteworthy facts" had also spotted these. We're presenting each listing in full:
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER
Edmonton's Connor McDavid, 24, ranks fourth in the N.H.L. with 1.4 points per game in his career, behind Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy. He has 31 points in his last 11 games.
Southern California is home to the nation’s largest concentration of warehouses.
The Scythians inhabited the steppes that eventually became Ukraine from the 7th until the 4th century B.C. To the classical Greeks, they were known for their fierce fighting, for their elaborate funerals and for smoking marijuana.
Those ancient Scythians, with their "Mary Jane!" But also, these noteworthy facts today!
You've now seen four of the seven listings in today's compendium of New York Times Noteworthy Facts. For the record, we're omitting the "noteworthy fact" about when Cirque de Soleil originated. ("In the 1980s.")
We're often struck by the world-class dumbness displayed on the Times' page A3. This morning's effort seems especially noteworthy, what with the newspaper's shocking discovery that people (sometimes or frequently) cheerlead for their favored candidate while denigrating the candidate they oppose.
Who would declare that a "noteworthy fact?" In our view, the answer to that question is itself a noteworthy fact.
Remarkably, someone at the New York Times judged that fact to be noteworthy! Someone at the New York Times decided to single it out.
As a bit of anthropology, that selection strikes us as an extremely noteworthy fact. This is why we say that:
You'd think that no one could be so dumb as to see that blindingly obvious fact as especially noteworthy. But someone inside Our Town's smartest newspaper did in fact single it out.
That strikes us as a significant anthropological and cultural fact. Can Our Town really hope to survive this kind of intellectual leadership?
How dumb is life inside the world of the current New York Times? How dumb is life inside that org, but also how scripted and arrogant?
We plan to explore that topic this week, focusing on one major news report.
In print editions, that report appeared above the fold of yesterday's (Sunday) Times. First, though, consider this:
In its print editions on Friday, April 30, the Washington Post published a front-page report about foster care in the state of Ohio. The impetus for the front-page report was the recent shooting death of 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant.
Bryant was living in foster care in Columbus, Ohio at the time of her shooting death. In print editions, the headline on the Post's report said this:
Teen's death ignites call to reform foster system
What followed was a lengthy, competent news report about foster care in Ohio. The report had been written by two experienced, veteran journalists—Tim Craig of the Washington Post and Randy Ludlow of the Columbus Dispatch.
In fairness, the world's isn't going to change because of Craig and Ludlow's report. That said, their report included a lot of information about the stresses on Ohio's system, starting with "a surge in the number of foster children" caused by "the nationwide opioid crisis."
In somewhat cursory fashion, the reporters described the way Bryant had ended up in the foster care system. They quoted various people with various views about Ohio's overall system, ending with a cautionary note:
CRAIG AND LUDLOW (4/30/21): Many foster parents also say they, too, would like to see the day when their services are not needed. But in Ohio and elsewhere, they know it’s only a matter of time before they get another call from their agency pleading for them to take in another child.
“There is literally nowhere else for these kids to go,” [foster parent Laura] Flynn said. “So for people who want to criticize foster parents, you instead should think whether you can take in a teenager.”
Stating the obvious, a person can criticize some state's foster care system without criticizing foster parents. That said, there's no perfect way to run foster care, these reporters had seemed to suggest.
Yesterday morning, above the fold on Sunday's front page, the New York Times offered a more detailed account of Bryant's history in the foster care system. In something resembling a break from standard practice, they even named the person who kicked the other young woman in the head right before Bryant was shot.
The Times now offered its account of Bryant's history within the foster care system and of her shooting death. It's hard to find the words to describe how scripted, arrogant and dumb this New York Times' effort was.
The lead reporter for the report is one year out of college. (In fairness, approaching two.) He was joined by a second reporter who's working for the Times for one year as part of its Newsroom Fellowship Program, a recent successor to its summer intern program.
These cub reporters were joined by a veteran reporter who ought be ashamed of herself for having her name anywhere near any such report. That said, there seems to be little sense of shame available at the Times, the most famous news org in Our Town.
Does anyone care about Ma'Khia Bryant, or about the many other kids living in foster care? Does anyone care about how kids end up in foster care?
Does anyone care about what sometimes happens to such kids when they're in foster care? About what happens to such kids after they "age out?"
The report in yesterday's New York times was disgraceful for its arrogance, but also for its world-class dumbness.
By our lights, the dumbness bled all the way over into the realm of stupidity. In our view, the dumbness was largely driven by Storyline, narrative, script.
The Times had assigned a couple of kids to handle this important topic. Joined by an award-winning veteran, the youngsters produced a front-page report which was arrogant, scripted and dumb.
Some editor or editors waved the report into print—and who knows? Those editors may have been the source of the report's large dumbness!
Briefly, let's be clear. Nothing is going to change at the New York Times. Also, nothing is going to change in the streets of Our Town, where we Townies seem to believe that we're all above average.
Yesterday's front-page report is the fruit of the culture we've chosen. But can Our Town expect to survive in the face of such arrogant dumbness?
Leading, highly credentialed experts insist that it probably can't.
Tomorrow: The roll call of the scribes