Saturday, June 22, 2019

Journalism, Purple:

Journalism as currently perpetrated by many news outlets that claim to be professional, unbiased, and factual. In reality, they are partisan, prone to sensationalism, and motivated primarily by the bottom line. (No. 1)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my (eventual) grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who don't, yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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                                  Just Who IS This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars 
Dana -- A Gentlereader
Iggy -- A Sticky (GT*)
Marie-Louise -- My Muse (GT*)

"Ideology, politics, and journalism, which luxuriate in failure, are impotent in the face of hope and joy." -P.J. O'Rourke

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

It's my protologism, sung to the tune of It's My Party (and I'll cry if I want to).

It's my protologism, I'll define it the way I want to
Define it the way I want to, define it the way I want to
I love inventing words or phrases, don't you?

[Apropo of nothing much, Wikipedia has a very interesting entry about It's My Party. I'll betcha a bottle-a-pop you didn't know it was Quincy Jones first hit single.]

I wrote a three-column series about journalism last summer wherein I proposed that our new millennium has seen a revival/update of yellow journalism and I named the phenomenon Purple Journalism.

At the time I created this clever concatenation of words (cough, cough) it was my intention to occasionally write a column illustrating my concept with an example of exactly what I mean.

You can stop holding your breath now because a headline posted on a recent Drudge Report reminded me of this and inspired this column. If you're not familiar with the Drudge Report it's an extremely popular website consisting mostly of news stories gathered from outlets from all over the planet Earth 

Matt Drudge is a genius who posts links to outright Purple Journalism, purple tinted more or less straight news, and straight news stories whose subject matter is either gruesome or prone to induce anxiety -- purple tinted content.

The result is world-class clickbait without the downsides of ordinary clickbait (endless linking, endless advertising, and links that have little or nothing to do with the headline that lured ya in the first place). 

[Tell me, oh windy one, are you ever going to tell them about the actual story? The one that allegedly is a good example of whatever the hell it is you're on about?]   

Background is important, Dana, and yes, I am.

The following headline is from an article in The Guardian, a UK newspaper that's not one of the United Kingdom's (in)famous tabloids.

Heavily processed foods like ready meals and ice cream linked to early death

Below it is the following subheadline.

Two major studies add to the body of evidence against food made with industrial ingredients

Scary shtuff, huh? No need to purple it up, really, so Mr. Drudge opted for simplification to achieve maximum impact.

Heavily processed food linked to early death...

[This is the sort of news that cries out for public attention! For the love of God, people are dropping dead! I wonder if Congress is looking into this? Why isn't this all over the news? I'm gonna throw all my beloved bacon away, right now!]

Dana, I would call your attention to the fourth paragraph of this declaration of existential apocalypse, which reads as follows.

"The study, published in the British Medical Journal, does not prove that ultra-processed foods cause disease. Nor does the effect appear particularly large, even in the most enthusiastic junk food consumers. The results suggest that 277 cases of cardiovascular disease would arise each year in 100,000 heavy consumers of ultra-processed foods, versus 242 cases in the same number of low consumers (my italicizations and emboldenizatons).

[Wait... what?]

If I may, some interesting things I noticed as a result of a careful reading of this 12-paragraph article, with " accompanying editorial...", for ya sunshine.

"... industrial ingredients may have had a hand..."

In another study of 20,000 college graduates in Spain, 335 subjects dropped dead over the course of 15 years of various and sundry causes.

"The top quarter consumers of ultra-processed foods – who had more than four servings a day – were 62% more likely to have died than those in the bottom quarter, who ate less than two portions a day. For each additional serving, the risk of death rose 18%." 

Sounds scary, huh? Read it again. We're not told how many of the unfortunate 365 had more than four servings of "ultra-processed foods" daily. Which means that we have no way of knowing how many "were more likely to have died" from eating them. 62% of ? = ? 

And wouldn't you like to know how they figured out how many of these meals of death were consumed daily by 20,000 people over the course of 15 years? Or how they figured out the same thing from the other study, of 105,000 people over the course of five years. 

Hey kids! You too can easily spot Purple Journalism and cut back on your Xanax consumption. Always remember, the scarier the headline the greater the need for a careful reading of the text. 

Helpful hint: when obvious questions occur to you that a professional journalist failed to ask you may have stumbled into [insert dramatic music here] The Purple Zone. Poppa loves you. 

Have an OK day. 

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©2019 Mark Mehlmauer As long as you agree to supply my name and URL (Creative Commons license at the top and bottom of my website) you may republish this anywhere that you please. Light editing that doesn't alter the content is acceptable. You don't have to include any of the folderol before the greeting or after the closing except for the title. 


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