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First, it was the whole Plame non-scandal, where reporters - members of a profession that, over many years, have asserted a near absolute right to protect their sources - sang willingly about a source to a special prosecutor.

Then, a couple of days ago, an Australian member of the fourth estate, after promising not to, revealed the identity and home address of a blogger who owns a site that is critical of Islam. (Which is not to suggest that anyone who has ever criticized Islam has ever been the target of death threats or actual assassinations, either attempted or successful.)

You'd think that alienating potential sources would be something journalists would avoid at all costs. Then again, perhaps we're moving into an era of news reporting in which sources really aren't necessary, because they can only get in the way of how a reporter wants to present his or her interpretation of the news.

(Here, I have in mind a marvelously revealing television spot I saw a little time ago for a local newswoman, in which she proudly points to her education, qualifications, and accomplishements and concludes by stating (admitting?) that, as a newsperson, she doesn't want to simply relate the facts, but to tell us all what the facts mean.)

Frankly, it's getting to the point where newspapers ought to start publishing "based on a true story" disclaimers along with some of their news articles.

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From UT's Daily Texan:
Mailer said he initially only understood [Gary] Gilmore through the press, but discovered he needed more information to accurately write his novel.

"If you believe literally what you read in the press, you're going to have a very poor notion of reality," he said.
Gee, ya think?

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While browsing some stories about the upcoming French elections, I ran across an intriguing headline at the International Herald Tribune, When science slams into the uninformed blogger.

As I'm clicking on the link, I'm thinking how, when it's clear that some traditional-media fact-checker was asleep at the switch, headlines tend to be a lot less specific about who screwed up, as in "Accusations of wrongdoing disputed" (although to be fair, from time to time, I have seen newspapers print retractions and corrections). Anyway, as the browser screen clears in preparation for the new page, I wonder just what it was some poor blogger did to gain such noteriety.

It turns out a researcher at the Oregon Health and Science University...
...has searched for the past five years for physiological factors that might explain why about 8 percent of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams instead of ewes. The goal, he says, is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of sexual orientation in sheep. Other researchers might some day build on his findings to seek ways to determine which rams are likeliest to breed, he said.

But since last fall, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals started a campaign against the research, it has drawn a torrent of outrage from animal rights activists, gay advocates and ordinary citizens around the world — all of it based, Roselli and colleagues say, on a bizarre misinterpretation of what the work is about.
Now check out the following:
The news media storm reached its zenith last month, when The Sunday Times in London published an article under the headline "Science Told: Hands Off Gay Sheep." It asserted, incorrectly, that Roselli had worked successfully to "cure" homosexual rams with hormone treatments and added that "critics fear" that the research "could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans."
The controversy then apparently spilled over into the blogosphere (finally, blogs get mentioned!), and "PETA began an e-mail campaign that [...] resulted in 20,000 protests, some with language like 'you are a worthless animal killer and you should be shot,' 'I hope you burn in hell' and 'please,die.'"

The article went on to state that a number of bloggers who had uncritically quoted the Sunday Times article dropped their criticism of the research when presented with the facts. The authors of the Times article, on the other hand, "referred questions to a managing editor, who they said was traveling and could not be reached."

Something is wacky at the headline department at the IHT, methinks. Either that, or - could it be possible? - the IHT was having a little fun at the expense of the Sunday Times, implying that anyone who relies on news published in the Sunday Times is "uninformed."

* * *
Speaking of news, Feht called to say that the front page of the Pagosa Sun has a piece on how the Archuleta County clerk's office has had to deal with an unexpected flood of tax bills returned by the post office, and that the closing of our store in August has been given as the reason for the situation. This is all fine and dandy, but I find it difficult to believe that over 5000 tax bills had to be returned by the post office because our store closed. After all, we delivered mail to just short of 200 private mail boxes.



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