Monday, July 06, 2009

One of the Thousand Cuts

Great example of a meaningless yet annoying error in the opening graph of a story on fireworks by Amy Chozick that appeared in the weekend WSJ:

The technology is from China. The 45,000 pounds of explosives, monitored from a command center on the Intrepid battleship, will need to soar as high as 1,000 feet in the sky. Around 9:20 p.m., a new, experimental model known as the "ghost shell" will explode across the night sky, then vanish--only to reappear and disappear several more times in a wave pattern.

This year's Fourth of July fireworks show in New York--more than 10 times larger than the one in Washington--needs to be bigger, brighter, longer and louder than last year's.

The fact that the Intrepid is not a battleship, but an aircraft carrier has no bearing on the integrity of the rest of the story whatsoever. But it demonstrates either ignorance--the writer isn't familiar with the history of the Intrepid or doesn't know the difference between a battleship and an aircraft carrier--or incredible laziness--she doesn't care whether she gets an easily verifiable fact right or not.

Neither explanation serves to give one confidence in the quality of journalism on display. Let's not even not even get into the lapse by the "gatekeepers" who we are constantly assured are on vigilant duty to safeguard the veracity of the information being reported.

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