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T O P I C
Entertainment Journalism
April 28th 2000, 12:04 CEST by andy

This story is about irresponsible journalism, or 'entertainment' journalism as it is becoming known - news reported in a deliberately provocative or distorted way, intended to 'amuse' the reader and damn the consequences.



Increasingly nowadays, I think people are getting sick of bad journalism, especially opinion pieces which pose as being something else. The media can and does influence our daily lives, and individual journalists have a lot of power to affect social attitudes and sway public opinion.

Specifically, I expect most Planetcrap readers dislike the way that the mainstream media has recently been trying to convince people that violent games are evil and dangerous, while the gaming press has been trying to convince them that they are just a healthy, harmless way of passing the time - neither side presenting any evidence, of course, just preaching in that high-and-mighty tone that journalists seem to be born with.

As the 'Crap has been off-air for a while, and the worst of the media's witch-hunting / blind defending of games took place in that time, I'm guessing there are a lot of people out there with pent-up opinions they'd like to share.

To kick things off, I'll fill you in on something that has been bugging me recently. It isn't directly games-related, but it concerns a site most of you have probably visited sometimes. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting for your entertainment today... The Register. (Cue half-hearted drum roll and apathetic fanfare.)

Once you've had a quick scout around The Register, go and have a look at this story from the Observer newspaper: Where child porn lurks on the Net. Unashamedly mainstream and deliberately non-technical, that was the result of around four months of research into a British ISP, Demon Internet, and a regulatory body, the Internet Watch Foundation. I think it turned out very well. The only thing I wasn't happy about was that the article didn't go far enough, as some of the more 'shocking' information was excluded for legal reasons.

Now go and have a look at how the article was covered by The Register. Fairly straight reporting (although I'd question the repeated use of the word 'allegedly' when referring to known facts) but what you won't know from reading the story is that the subheading on the site's main page dismissed the Observer article as a "scare story which goes too far".

Along with terrorism, kidnapping and information that may lead to mass hysteria, I think it's fair to say that reporting about child porn and child abuse in general requires the utmost care. That care - above and beyond - was taken with the Observer article, so I think it was extremely irresponsible of The Register to dismiss it as a "scare story", especially when their own article made no attempt to explain why they described it as such.

More disturbing, when I contacted the Register journalist who wrote the story, his explanation was: "It is our view at The Register that too many Net stories are scare stories." Not much of an explanation at all, really. (He even went on to say that the Observer article could be viewed as either a scare story or "fair comment", which didn't make much sense to me at the time and still doesn't.)

Hoping that The Register would invest some time in more objective reporting, I explained that there was a lot of information not included in the Observer article that I would be willing to give to them - no payment, no conditions, I'd just hand over the info. I made this offer twice, to two Register journalists, and neither was interested. Neither even asked what sort of info I was talking about.

Naturally, this got me thinking: What sort of journalist dismisses as a 'scare story' the reporting of a commercial conflict of interest that allows paedophiles easy access to child porn, then can't offer any decent reason for why he did so and turns down information that could have lead to an important story? Easy: an entertainment journalist.

Since all of this took place, about a month ago, I've made a point of reading as many Register stories as possible, and it has become obvious that the site is pure, unadulterated entertainment news: Dull stories are written cynically with lashings of sarcasm; stories about individuals or companies include facetious insinuations about their integrity and reputation; stories about products or services pose quasi-satirical questions about their worth without explaining why.

In other words, The Register journalists are taking the most tabloid of approaches to their reporting of news - they write in such a way as to provoke an emotional reaction, whatever it is and at whoever's expense. It's appalling journalism, but it pulls in the crowds like nothing else.

Go and have a look through some of The Register's stories to see for yourself what I mean, but if you want to jump to the most blatant examples, here are a few recent ones that I've picked out:


Metallica sues Napster. The most biased piece of writing I've seen in a long time, reporting Metallica's decision to sue Napster for "in effect, trafficking in stolen goods".

After quoting drummer Lars Ulrich's comments about Metallica being sickened that their music is "being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is", for some reason the Register journalist points out that Metallica is "as much a tight business organisation as an artistic endeavour" and then sardonically dismisses Ulrich as a 'tub thumper'.

Does a 'tight business organisation' not have a right to defend its commercial interests? Is the law suit less valid because the person speaking about it is the band's drummer? This appears to be what the Register journalist is hinting at, but he doesn't actually come out and say it - if he did, at least readers would know they were reading an opinion piece.

Incredibly, towards the end of the story, the journalist takes it upon himself to declare: "Napster was designed to aid the distribution of MP3 files, and MP3 has always been said by the format's proponents to be about taking the power of distribution away from the major labels and putting it back in the artists' hands. Clearly, as a band of artists, Metallica disagrees. And as an international business too, that goes double."

That summary makes a HUGE leap of non-logic, saying that because Metallica doesn't want people using MP3 to steal their intellectual property, they must also disapprove of other artists using MP3 to distribute their own music.

Something tells me this journalist simply doesn't approve of the law suit against Napster. (He's a bit more restrained in his Napster rapped by rapper story, but I think his bias still creeps in a little.)


Name Keeper names no IP names. I'll not say too much about this because to be honest I'm not sure what I could say without risking lawyer problems, but what sort of respectable publication would run an advertorial, promoting and endorsing a commercial service, but present it as a regular news item?


TV show rips off Britain's brains. Not so much entertainment journalism as just a total lack of responsibility, but that's equally bad, if not worse.

The British TV station Channel Four is running a competition in which people can submit their ideas for online businesses. There's £2m available for investment in ideas that a panel of judges and venture capitalists like the sound of.

Open to abuse? Yes, of course - the people running the show (one of the brightest and most promising production companies in the UK) could conceivably take your idea and use it themselves. Unlikely, but possible.

The Register had so much confidence in this theory that it brazenly declared the competition a rip-off and quoted some legalese from the Terms & Conditions, translating it as: "Basically, whatever you send to us is ours. Forever."

The trouble is, that isn't what the quoted clause means. It means that the show's producers retain the right to use "your name and/or likeness and/or the results of your appearance". They get to print your name and photo in promo material - they don't get to steal your idea.

Being an interfering git, but a helpful one, I sent a note to the Register journalist who wrote the story and pointed out how he had misunderstood the contract. No reply. The story stayed on the site, unaltered. The next day I wrote to The Register's editor, who I've contacted several times before and always received a reply, but he didn't respond either.

And to this day, the story is still on the site, accusing a highly-respected TV channel and production company of conspiring to steal people's business ideas, based entirely on a misunderstanding by someone who doesn't know how to read a legal document.


Entertainment journalism is nothing new - British newspapers such as The Sun and The Sport have worked that way for years and they never pretend otherwise - but it becomes a problem when it masquerades as something more valuable.

The Register is presented as a hard-hitting, serious, accurate and reliable news site, with a team of journalists that have their finger on the pulse of the IT industry and know their subjects inside and out.

The truth is that the site occasionally runs decent exposés and some members of the team are bright journalists with good insider information, but apart from that it's just sensationalist tabloid trash, pandering to its audience's whims and prejudices with distorted reporting, juvenile name-calling and 'underground' news leeched shamelessly from hacking sites.


One PR agent at a large British company, regularly featured on The Register, told me about a year ago how people from the site would often call his department, asking about stories that were pure fiction.

Of course, the stories would be denied, but would then appear on The Register with the only proof offered being the typical between-the-lines argument of "they denied it, so it must be true".

Where the anecdote turns really ugly, is that more often than not, according to this PR agent, his department would get a 'jokey' call from The Register a few days later, admitting that they now knew the story was false, yet the story would stay on the site with no form of apology or retraction.

As far as irresponsible journalism goes, I think that says it all. If, as appears to be the case, The Register has a policy of never publicly admitting to its mistakes, how can anyone ever be confident that anything they read there is true?

C O M M E N T S
Home » Topic: Entertainment Journalism

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#1 by "Bob Aboey"
2000-04-28 12:09:01
bmw@carolina.rr.com
FIRST!!!

YEAH MOTHA BITCHES!!!
#2 by "Desiato"
2000-04-28 12:32:07
desiato_hotblack@hotmail.com
Morn, I'd love to see an auto-kill filter for "first post" messages. It isn't like we'll miss them, and it frankly reminds me too much of Slashdot. (ugh)

With that out of the way, I think the above article can be summed up (or at least reduced to) these common elements.

As much as we would like to believe that ethics and money (or more specifically, the MAKING of money) go hand in hand, more often the mere prospect of making more or possibly losing what you've been accustomed to getting is the root for many behavior patterns we see in the media and big business.

Bands have every right to promote their music and to defend it, but to pretend that they AREN'T a business as well is just naive (sp?).

Frankly -- the only way to be a PURE artist is to give your work away and not worry about money, just what comments/criticism your work receives.

Yes -- highly idealistic, but if you really want to keep the urge to create seperate from the seven-headed hydra of greed, it really is the only way ultimately.

I'm done -- donning protective flame gear.

"Marriage, Friends, Religon -- these are the demons you must slay in order to suceed in business.." -- Mr. Burns, The Simpsons

Heh..

Desiato..
#3 by "MCorleone"
2000-04-28 12:34:06
john_st123@hotmail.com
Damnit.  The ObFirstUselessPost is back in force, I see.  

Morn, "I'll not say too much about this because to be honest I'm not sure what I could say without risking lawyer problems, but what sort of respectable publication would run an advertorial, promoting and endorsing a commercial service, but present it as a regular news item?"

I don't know if I'd describe the Register as a respectable publication.  They've always tried to be on the risque side, and a lot of their stories are proven incorrect as time goes on.  I would hazard to estimate 25% of their stories are incorrect.

I haven't been to their site in a while, but I remember their catchphrase was "Biting the hand that feeds IT".  With a catchphrase like that I wouldn't hold the register in high regard as a pinnacle of journalistic integrity.  In fact, I put it on par with BitchX's old site for reliability as a news source.

As far as the whole mp3 debate/crusade goes, I'm of the view that pirated mp3's are not robbing any money from artists.  A musician friend of mine agrees.  Most of the people that I know that can actually afford to buy the albums that they love do fork out the cash for them.  For example, I have the new album due out next month for a band called "A Perfect Circle".  As their album is not due out until next month, I'm very thankful for mp3.  Will I buy the CD next month when released?  Damn skippy I will.  The people that would keep the mp3's and not buy the CD, generally wouldn't have bought the CD anyway even if they didn't have the mp3's.  They either don't like the band enough to buy the CD, don't like the album, or wouldn't have been able to afford it.  

It's my theory that the people old enough to understand the whole business and economy of the music industry will want to support the bands they love.  Younger people without that understanding will be happy with mp3's, but they wouldn't have bought the CD's anyway for whatever reason.  One might even argue that mp3's allow the artist to reach a wider demographic, by allowing a listener who might not take a chance on a CD to listen to it risk-free, and if they like it, they'll buy it.  

I hope my idea came across semi-understandably.  I apologize if any J's are missing from the above post.  New keyboard time.
#4 by ""
2000-04-28 12:34:43
Sadly enough, this kind of journalism probably isn't going away. Writers can easily concentrate their article the same way advertisers pick what to place in a commerical, for example. Advertisers show just the good, while news writers can get a big reaction out of people if they concentrate on only the bad. Who wants to read about good stuff now, anyways?

As for The Register, I find their writing style pretty entertaining. I don't have a problem with how they present things, because for the most part I can understand what they are actually saying. Unfortunately, most people can not, and that's what they are doing on purpose.


--
Dethstryk
Damage Gaming<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#5 by "Dethstryk"
2000-04-28 12:36:29
dethstryk@damagegaming.com http://www.damagegaming.com/
Whoops. CrapSpy lost my identity stuff when it crashed. I lub betas. :)


--
Dethstryk
Damage Gaming<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#6 by "SiliconVortex"
2000-04-28 12:37:11
siliconvortex@mailandnews.com
News casts in the Los Angeles area are especially bad as well.  No matter how many times it rains, every time it gets cloudy it's <b>Storm Watch 2000</b>.  Every news cast requires at least 3 live reports, even if there is no reason for any.  They make the poor reporters stand on some dark deserted corner where 8 hrs ago someone ran into a stop sign.  An add I heard on the radio yesterday, their lead story of the day was of some wwf wrestler.  How he had a chicken for a pet.  It then announced that they were the #1 news cast.  Oh yeah.
The more "respectable" news casts advertise like this.  "Over 200 southland residents may have been exposed to a deadly toxin?  Are you affected?  Watch Channel Sucks at 6pm to find out."  "A local teacher was charged with pedophilia, did your child have contact with him?  Find out at 11pm on Channel Blows."  These may seem exagerated, but they're pretty much what I've heard on the radio just in the last week.  You see jokes on SNL and Simpsons, but at least lately the real news has been outdoing the jokes.  It's rather sickening.
I get all this even though I never watch the news, only what my roomates are watching and I see on the way by.  At least most print media that claims to report news at least trys to report relevent news.
I could go on and on.  I'm sure it's bad in other cities too, but of all the places I've been, it's by far the worst here.  I try never to subject myself to this filth, it's not even entertaining, just pathetic.<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#7 by "SiliconVortex"
2000-04-28 12:40:24
siliconvortex@mailandnews.com
Ohh...auto link to a post when you put #number.
Lets see how it likes #40 :).<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#8 by "Morn"
2000-04-28 13:41:33
morn@planetcrap.com http://www.planetcrap.com
MCorleone:

<quote>Morn, "..."</quote>

It's Andy's story, not mine. Just FYI. =)

- Morn
#9 by "Chango"
2000-04-28 13:50:39
papa_chango@hotmail.com http://www.btinternet.com/~jedi99/
Well, I'm sorry Andy, but I'm finding it hard to agree with you on this.

A site that you don't like publishes stories that you personally find offensive for one reason or other, and you complain to them.  That's it.  End of debate I'm afraid.  You have to bear in mind that the entire topic is about why the sight rubs your rhubarb the wrong way, and how much you disapprove of their alledged 'journalistic talent'.  Tabloid newspapers do this all the time; misrepresentation of the facts, quotes that simply were never spoken, etc etc.  The fact that these people have done it on the internet doesn't make ithem any better or worse.

I can agree with the opening lines of your topic, however, that a lot of the sites out there claim to be non-biased and professionally 'middle-ground' when, in fact, all they are are outlets for their personal opinion - which, subsequently, gets read by people who will take it read as gospel.  That's a bad thing, but afterall the internet comes in all different colours.

-Chango
#10 by "Clorox"
2000-04-28 14:21:12
clorox@ignmail.com http://www.mp3.com/mixmessage
Why do people believe that there has been any new gestalt (no nick puns:) in news media, distorting and supressing info to support their analysis, or at least doubt any contrary opinion.  People like W.R. Hearst have been "giving us the war" since WWII.  It's just been reduced to pure sensationalism because 82.2% of Americans believe in the existence of angels, sends their kids to school with Lunchables®, and just don't have time "keep up with everything."  Why expect the technology press be any different?

The recording industry fears mp3s because suddenly the distribution playing field leveled dramatically.  If radio listeners migrate to net-based feeds, these companies might suddenly be faced with artists looking to retain much more than the thin slice they've been getting served.

But trying to stall with some good old-fashioned litigation is always heartwarming.  Fortunately, strung-out musicians are really receptive to "...hey, you know all that money you've never seen?  Look here...I'll bet you those mp3's have been taking it from you!"
#11 by "Clorox"
2000-04-28 14:27:32
clorox@ignmail.com
Just to avoid any corrections...I'm fully aware Hearst gave us a completely different war than WWII, but what are the odds that fewer than 40% would have been more confused by the Spanish-American war. :)  <i>...like that was when we killed all those cubans in Grenada, right?...</i>
#12 by "Dethstryk"
2000-04-28 14:30:00
dethstryk@damagegaming.com http://www.damagegaming.com/
<b>#10</b> "Clorox" wrote...
<QUOTE> But trying to stall with some good old-fashioned litigation is always heartwarming.  Fortunately, strung-out musicians are really receptive to "...hey, you know all that money you've never seen?  Look here...I'll bet you those mp3's have been taking it from you!" </QUOTE>

What I don't understand is any band that actually embraces the MP3 scene whole-heartedly. I'm talking about bands like Offspring, who recently said they completely supported MP3s because it distributed their music even more.

I think they might be thinking of some service that sells MP3s, because these guys can't honestly think it's good they are getting screwed out of money.

But then again, I've always looked at MP3 trading as the same thing as copying a CD or something on to a tape from a friend. Sure, this is a bit widespread, but who is <i>really</i> going to get in trouble for it? People like Napster who thinks it is better to make it so ridiculiously easy to get them that record execs can't help but notice.

Sheesh, if it would have been kept to IRC channels and individual file trading, it all would have been fine, I'm sure. You don't see anyone bitching about VQF's, or whatever that gay compression was.


--
Dethstryk
Damage Gaming<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#13 by "Chango"
2000-04-28 14:34:31
papa_chango@hotmail.com http://www.btinternet.com/~jedi99/
Gay compression utilities??!

-That's the next new topic right there, Mr0n!!!!!


-Chango
#14 by "Dethstryk"
2000-04-28 14:35:45
dethstryk@damagegaming.com http://www.damagegaming.com/
<b>#13</b> "Chango" wrote...
<QUOTE> Gay compression utilities??!
 
 -That's the next new topic right there, Mr0n!!!!! </QUOTE>

Yep. I could go on for days about that kind of stuff.


--
Dethstryk
Damage Gaming<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#15 by "Clorox"
2000-04-28 14:43:12
clorox@ignmail.com
<quote>Increasingly nowadays, I think people are getting sick of <a href=http://www.planetcrap.com/stories/8/#956924852>bad journalism</a>, especially opinion pieces which pose as being something else.</quote>

Perhaps we can determine if people truly are being sickened by comparing the number of comments to this thread with those of the other threads. ;|
#16 by "Chango"
2000-04-28 15:04:55
papa_chango@hotmail.com http://www.btinternet.com/~jedi99/
I find it interesting that we first bitch about a games company ripping us off by taking our hard earned money for a product that is wank, and then we're championing Napster and the MP3 revolution when it's ripping the artists off of their, quite literally hard earned, money...


*heeheeheeeee...oh I am so amused...*
#17 by "deadboat"
2000-04-28 15:39:31
crush@0wn3d.net http://0wn3d.net
Bad journalism?  ::cough:: <A HREF="http://www.dailyradar.com">Daily Radar</A> has to be the stupidest bunch of fucks I've ever seen.  Maybe not sensationalistic journalists, but certainly ignorant.

It tries to be "l33t" by reviewing games with the vocabulary of a 14 year old.  "THIS LEVEL SUCKS SO BAD" etc.  Just read their Daikatana demo review - was one part of it even nearly comprehensible?  I believe they were just trying to jump on the "bash Daikatana" wagon.  Their stories seem to try to use cool lingo and insults to "entertain" the reader, instead of actual facts, research, or objectivity.

I can't believe that only 5 years ago, some of the gang of clowns now at Daily Radar were behind the best magazine in the biz, NextGen.  Christ, the first 20-30 issues of that magazine were incredible.  Then it just began to roll downhill a bit...

You can tell when NextGen began to decline by the quality of the cover stock.  When they went away from the thick card, non-glossy cover to the thinner, glossy cover... bleh.  They still have nice news and preview sections sometimes, though.  And their technical articles (the inside of the PS2 for example) are unsurpassed in print media.  However, the reviews in the back often suffer from Daily Radar syndrome - your NextGen reading experience would improve greatly if you cut off the last 30 pages and threw them in the trash.

/me leaves soapbox
#18 by "deadboat"
2000-04-28 15:40:59
crush@0wn3d.net http://0wn3d.net
Maybe Incite and DailyRadar should fight in the "Toilet Bowl" with the loser earning the title of "Worst Gaming Media to Ever Grace the Earth."
#19 by "spyke"
2000-04-28 15:47:15
spyke@planetquake.com http://www.planetquake.com
Well, I must say that journalism merely for the sake of reporting <I>something</I> is dangerous. It leads to uninformed people forming opinions based on less-than-truthful information, and can end up being harmful.

But journalism on the internet is a whole new ballgame. I know by many "real" journalists the internet used to be laughed at, not viewed as something substantial. The reality is that now a helluva lot of people get their news from the internet. And the adage that you can't believe what you read on the internet is still around, and scary.

People need to be able to depend on whatever medium they get their news from, or else big problems will arise. How to make the internet completely dependable is a problem that will never be solved; it's way too easy for someone to integrate false information. So what can we do? Stick to reputable sites that have a presence outside the net? I'd really hate to do that.

Somehow, the net has to regulate itself when it comes to news reporting. How that could happen, I don't know.. But it's early and I need coffee. :)
#20 by "Timdog"
2000-04-28 16:07:44
TheTimdog@hotmail.com
Hmmm, well to add more to this thread, take a look these two articles on suck.com
<a href=http://www.suck.com/daily/2000/03/20/>Scare Journalism</a> and <a href=http://www.suck.com/daily/2000/03/24/>Napster</a> (watch out for project crapster). <I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#21 by "David Long"
2000-04-28 16:47:57
ogv@gamestats.com http://ogv.gamestats.com
I don't think there is really anyone left at Daily Radar/NextGen that created those first 20 or so issues of the paper magazine Next Generation. They really had something with the early incarnation of it, but from what I've heard it never gained much of a subscriber base or decent circulation in that form.

I agree that you could pretty much cut off the magazine at the reviews and it'd be ok. I even suggested it to them on a number of occasions when they asked how to make the magazine better. I read that mag for the technical articles, the old interviews they did and the previews. They covered those things better than anyone. Throw in things like "The Way Games Ought To Be" among other excellent columns they used to run and reviews were like an afterthought.

I think they still have them because it's assumed you MUST have reviews to have a print gaming magazine. IMO, that's bullshit. I don't think their readers would miss them one bit. I still subscribe and while it's nowhere near as good as it was, they've still done some good work. Plus if you follow consoles, there really isn't anyone else that takes them seriously. It's NextGen or kiddie mags. Even on the net...<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#22 by "David Long"
2000-04-28 17:06:18
ogv@gamestats.com http://ogv.gamestats.com
Also, I do agree that there is far too much "journalism" done by web sites that falls under opinion rather than facts. I've tried really hard at my own site to put the facts first and my opinion of those facts in a separate section. In fact, that's what the "news" section is designed around. I think it's important to make a clean break between the two since many people can't separate the two while reading what is called "news".

As for the Metallica MP3 thing, it's only going to get worse before it gets better. This is very telling and on the mark...

<b>#3</b> "MCorleone" wrote...
<QUOTE>It's my theory that the people old enough to understand the whole business and economy of the music industry will want to support the bands they love.  Younger people without that understanding will be happy with mp3's, but they wouldn't have bought the CD's anyway for whatever reason.</QUOTE>

The understanding is the issue. As time goes by and less people understand copyright laws and intellectual property, the ability for a band, artist, gamemaker to get ANY profits from their work disappears.  People won't realize that to trade MP3s is to take 5 more dollars out of their favorite band's pocket.  Education could solve this problem, but time is against the industries that are being affected by the free distribution of owned products.

There are many more people out there that copy and trade MP3s, games, etc. that COULD and SHOULD buy the material than there are that do it because they can't afford to. Our "I need it now" society has trained them that taking it because they can now is better than saving up so they could purchase it legally later.  As long as they know they won't get caught, it won't stop either. Many don't even know it's wrong.

Quick aside... CrapSpy is damn amazing.<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#23 by "Steve Bauman"
2000-04-28 17:18:30
sbauman@adelphia.net http://homepages.together.net/~sbauman/
<quote>(although I'd question the repeated use of the word 'allegedly' when referring to known facts)</quote>

Well, here's the crux of the issue. They use "allegedly" exactly once in the article you linked into, but perhaps you, in haste or an attempt to "pump" up your own story and make it more punchy, said there were "repeated" uses of the word.

The reason "allegedly" is used a lot is simply to avoid libel issues. It's why a guy who walks into a McDonalds and guns down 50 people in plain sight of everyone is an "alleged" gunman (he hasn't been to trial yet, so to use that terminology would possibly be libelous). And after the trial he becomes a "convicted" murderer (just to protect themselves in case the case is overturned). If he turns the gun on himself, he can then be referred to as a murderer (I believe), since libel laws change when someone is dead.

Journalists are held to higher standards for libel than the general public, because the general public puts more faith in the accuracy of their statements. Hence a lot of qualifiers, which I don't necessarily think is a bad thing.

Why is that? Because frankly, I don't want to be told how to think. I was information, and I'll make my own decisions.

But getting back to this topic, somewhere down the road, journalism became a money-making enterprise. On TV it's particularly bad, because the shows are incredibly cheap to produce and get good ratings. Talking heads get paid a lot, but the reporters that do most of the work do not; still, it's cheaper than a sitcom as you don't have an ensemble of highly paid actors to deal with.

Since journalism makes money, it's in its best interest to have lots of readers to make more money. So editors are faced with decisions like, "can we make this punchier? Sadder? Happier?" Anything to draw a greater reaction from readers. And it's usually subtle. AP stories are typically dry as a bone, but someone can take their basic story, add in a few choice adjectives and boom, suddenly it's more entertaining.

Then there's advocacy journalism versus straight journalism. It would appear to me the Register follows the guides of the former, that is they write stories with a point of view. It's as legitimate form of journalism as straight journalism, but there's a fine line between advocacy and tabloid journalism when, as you point out, the people writing the stories are doing it solely for the shock or entertainment value, not because there's really a story there.

OK, let's look at the original story (hey, you wrote that... cool):

<quote>Every day thousands of paedophilic photographs showing adults abusing small children are posted on the Internet... Yesterday The Observer found scores of paedophilic material in several newsgroups carried by Demon. </quote>

OK, I'd prefer something more concrete than the vague "thousands," especially when later it becomes "scores". So what is it? Thousands? Hundreds? Hundreds of thousands? Were these kept vague because the actual number of legitimate photos was small, and it would have made the article have less of an impact (or legitimacy)?

<quote>...stories about individuals or companies include facetious insinuations about their integrity and reputation; stories about products or services pose quasi-satirical questions about their worth without explaining why.</quote>

Hmm, oddly enough, similar charges have been levied against you at various times in the past (I wish we had specifics...). Maybe not the exact wording, but many of your past articles here contained things you perceived as being factual but could actually use quailfiers... damn, I wish we had those old stories around...
#24 by "Chango"
2000-04-28 17:44:23
papa_chango@hotmail.com http://www.btinternet.com/~jedi99/
So the intertnet is fast destroying the music world, and in the next year or so will destroy the video rental side and the cinema side of the entertainment industry.  Also, ecommerce is supposedly destroying the whole high-street retail market; there's going to be an upcoming trend of sites that give games away for nothing ( http://www.freeloader.com), thus destroying the middlemen like marketing and promo....

At some stage somebody really powerful is going to turn the internet on it's techno-assed head, in order to bring the money back to the vultures we presently hate.


-Chango
#25 by "Valeyard"
2000-04-28 17:54:53
valeyard@ck3.net http://www.ck3.net
Regardless of what the original point of this thread was, Andy's done us all a nice service.

It's up to each individual to determine which media sources are trustworthy.  There are three main types of news sources - useless, deceptive and respectable.  This one fits in the deceptive category...which really means that it's a useless source trying to make you believe it's respectable.  Thanks for saving me some time...I guess I won't have to bother with this source either.

These decpetive sources can be a good source for information and news, but because of their poor standards, you can't trust the content...so it's just not worth it.  I'd much rather read the "Weekly World News".  At least they don't really take themselves seriously.

On the other hand, I don't know that they were overly harsh on the child-pornography story.  It wasn't really a "scare" story...but it was close.  That doesn't mean it was wrong, or even innaccurate.  (Though the only services I've found that offer TOTAL access to newsgroups originate in Europe...not the US).

What I don't understand is why they would run the story, and attempt to discount it?  It's like "Hey read this....it's not that important".

Frankly, I didn't think the story was a "scare"...but it didn't provide me with any new information.  For the average person at home, who knows nothing about the internet...it could have been a scare.  To me, that's the problem...and it's not the author's fault.

-You can't properly educate them (public) without giving them the information.
-You can't give them ALL the information without making the situation worse.

These limitations, when combined with the bias that always seems to accompany articles on topics like this, tend to make things like this <i>appear</i> to be scare tactics.

At least they weren't trying to misrepresent the facts - THAT would be a true "scare".  Saw one of those just the other day....on excite.com.

-Valeyard
#26 by "Bad_CRC"
2000-04-28 18:16:18
http://hammer.prohosting.com/~badcrc/
Great link Timdog.  :)


The Crapster idea is brilliant.   Just set up  10,000 systems with bogus songs on them, anyone who tries to download a pirate song will end up with a huge list of links that look like songs, but are just a recording of someone saying  "Bad pirate, bad!"   It would make napster obsolete overnight.
#27 by "Chango"
2000-04-28 18:25:13
papa_chango@hotmail.com http://www.btinternet.com/~jedi99/
This is tricky ground for me, as I would imagine it is for a lot of you here too.  

I am against piracy of any kind, so much so I've been known to grass on people I've seen pocketing items at my local Game store, but I also download MP3's quite regularly.  This doesn't seem to bother me, adn I think the reason for this is the legal vagueness of MP3's, emulators, etc... whereas walking into a shop and walking out with the latest Metallica CD without paying for it would set alarm bells ringing in my head (due to it being illegal, rather than me wanting a CD by Metallica).

That's why the internet is going to destroy us all.... it's new territory, legally and otherwise.  And we're still stuck in that timeframe where everyone tries the next cheeky thing, and then the next, until somebody makes it illegal.


-Chango
#28 by "Warren Marshall"
2000-04-28 18:29:33
warren@epicgames.com http://www.epicgames.com
<quote>Morn, I'd love to see an auto-kill filter for "first post" messages. It isn't like we'll miss them, and it frankly reminds me too much of Slashdot. (ugh)</quote>

Or ShugaShack.  I don't know what can be done about it, but it's just about the lamest thing I've ever seen ...

Requiring registration may alleviate it somewhat since most of the "First post, bitches!" posts are by anons...
#29 by "Valeyard"
2000-04-28 18:31:01
valeyard@ck3.net http://www.ck3.net
I'll probably catch a lot of heat for this:

**warning...this is likely to offend many of you

<a>http://bitch.shutdown.com/</a>
<a>http://bitch.shutdown.com/fuckthechildren.html</a>

The first is her front page, which has links to some interesting stories on various news sites concerning the kiddie-porn issue.

The second is a typical editorial from her that also touches on this issue.

I'm not remotely saying that I agree with her position, I'm just pointing it out.  The "bitch" and I see eye-to-eye on a some things, she just tends to take them much farther than I ever would.  On many of the other issues, I can't even begin to agree.

For instance, the second link...if you can get past the initial shock, the more subtle point is that we shouldn't be going after the people who POSSESS it, when the problem is with the people who CREATE and DISTRIBUTE it.  It's about treating the disease and not the symptom.

We do agree on one thing...free speech.  I don't know if I've ever run into a more clear example of free speech in action.  Love it or hate it, it's someone else's opinion..and they're just as entitled.

-Valeyard
#30 by ""
2000-04-28 18:36:04
<b>#23</b> "Steve Bauman" wrote...

<QUOTE>They use "allegedly" exactly once in the article you linked into, but perhaps you, in haste or an attempt to "pump" up your own story and make it more punchy, said there were "repeated" uses of the word.</QUOTE>

Stupidity. Not deliberate, I assure you.

I'd been going to comment on how they said 'allegedly', 'claimed' and 'suggests', but somewhere between brain and keyboard they got muddled into one.

My point was that the whole of the Register story was non-committal, which made me think that the person writing it didn't actually know what he was talking about. The most obvious example is in the third paragraph: "Demon, The Observer claimed, continued to carry a number of the newsgroups banned by other ISPs." That's a known fact. Demon acknowledges it. The IWF acknowledges it. Why act like there's some uncertainty?

Journalists have a responsibility to their readers. The Register journalist introduced doubt where there has never been any. That's irresponsible.

<QUOTE>Then there's advocacy journalism versus straight journalism. It would appear to me the Register follows the guides of the former, that is they write stories with a point of view.</QUOTE>

Advocacy journalism is fine with me. My favourite journalist writes advocacy. Hell, 99% of what I've ever written myself is advocacy / opinion pieces. What's important, though, is that advocacy should never be presented as anything else. The Register acts like its dispensing facts.

<QUOTE>I'd prefer something more concrete than the vague "thousands," especially when later it becomes "scores". So what is it? Thousands? Hundreds? Hundreds of thousands?</QUOTE>

When I did the original research, between August and November of last year, I concentrated on one specific group. There were, on average, around 800 pictures / videos in that group each day. There are a further three groups that are also quite active, with a few hundreds posts each day.

In a version of the article that I wrote myself I actually went into great detail about the number of pictures contained in the group I'd monitored, compared to the number in normal adult porn groups. I didn't write the Observer article, but I don't have a problem with the way it was phrased.
<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#31 by "Andy"
2000-04-28 18:40:02
andy@planetcrap.com
Sorry about that last post, CrapSpy had crashed and I forgot to re-enter my details.
#32 by "Rantage"
2000-04-28 18:52:38
rantage@hotmail.com http://www.steelmaelstrom.org
Warren, #28:
<QUOTE>
Requiring registration may alleviate it somewhat since most of the "First post, bitches!" posts are by anons...
</QUOTE>

Agreed.  Morn, although this may not be a popular idea with you, it seems that the majority of PC posters are willing to put a name behind their opinions.  Such a move <I>might</I> be worth it in the long run.
#33 by "Brandon 'GreenMarine' Reinhart"
2000-04-28 18:54:27
brandon@epicgames.com http://unreal.epicgames.com
Registration is fine with me.  I don't like to register for news service sites, but I don't mind if its a discussion forum.
#34 by "Warren Marshall"
2000-04-28 18:57:52
warren@epicgames.com http://www.epicgames.com
The Napster/MP3 thing is just the musical incarnation of software pirating ... same excuses, same justifications, etc ...

It's really nothing new.  But now it's in the public eye, so it's going to get it's 15 minutes of fame.

I use Napster ... but I also buy the CD's for the bands I really like ... most of which I discover by using Napster (or getting MP3's from friends).

On the other hand, I don't warez games.  I haven't for many years.  Hmm ...
#35 by "Sgt Hulka"
2000-04-28 18:58:05
sgt_hulka@yahoo.com http://www.hulka.com
Man, I want to say something, but my mind is as blank as a fart.  I'm just pissed that I can't go to E3 this year, oh well, there's always next year, that is unless I die in the war, or Romero gets a hold of me.  I'm not afraid of Romero, but that hair frightens the living daylights out of me!
#36 by "Rantage"
2000-04-28 19:33:55
rantage@hotmail.com http://www.steelmaelstrom.org
I bet Romero's got one <I>ugly</I> melon beneath all that hair.  I remember when I got pig-shaved in Basic Training...not a pretty sight.
#37 by "Steve Bauman"
2000-04-28 19:59:23
sbauman@adelphia.net http://homepages.together.net/~sbauman/
<quote>The most obvious example is in the third paragraph: "Demon, The Observer claimed, continued to carry a number of the newsgroups banned by other ISPs." That's a known fact. Demon acknowledges it. The IWF acknowledges it. Why act like there's some uncertainty? </quote>

Well, they're not reporting the actual facts, they're reporting The Observer's repesentation of the facts. They're reporting on a report. If they didn't do the research, they're actually doing the right thing.

It'd be like me finding a John Romero quote on Gamespot and saying, "John Romero said...", when in fact I should be saying "John Romero was quoted on Gamespot as having said..." because I do not know if the quote, indeed, was accurate or not.

I'n not really defending the story, but I think it was non-commital because one journalistic entity covering another is a minefield of potential litigation... if one fucks up a single word when covering the other, you know they'll be all over it with lawyers in tow...

<quote>What's important, though, is that advocacy should never be presented as anything else. The Register acts like its dispensing facts. </quote>

That I would agree with. Not necessarily about the Register itself (because I'm neither a reader, nor do I really care about it), but the sentiment.

It's really bad when it's subtle; when coveirng a trial or something, instead of saying "Fred stood in the corner awaiting his fate," you could say, "Fred stood menacingly in the corner awaiting his fate" or "Fred stood solemnly in the corner awaiting his fate" and really change the way a reader perceives the story or the people within them. Death to adjectives and adverbs in straight news! (Ugh... want some water to make that less DRY)

<quote>In a version of the article that I wrote myself I actually went into great detail about the number of pictures contained in the group I'd monitored, compared to the number in normal adult porn groups. I didn't write the Observer article, but I don't have a problem with the way it was phrased. </quote>

Based on your numbers, I'd say they exaggerated a tiny bit for effect. Enough to deserve someone else pointing it out as a scare piece? No, probably not.
#38 by "Darkseid-[D!]"
2000-04-28 20:05:56
Darkseid@captured.com http://www.captured.com/boomstick
hrm ...

Dr Dre is banging on about Napster stealing.

anyone else find it BLOODY ironic that hes under legal challenge for using an unauthrorised sample from another artist.

anyone want to explain to me where precisely the difference is?


Oh and Lars _is_ little more than a danish ex tennis star turned pro tub thumper. The fact that he blathers complete shite in most interviews fully upholds the registers sniffy dismissial. After all drummers arent noted for being the most intelligent guys around (Keith moon anyone?)

Ironic .... seeing as Roger Taylor of Queen had more than one degree. Bill Ward of Black Sabbath likewise .. Mike Bordin ex Faith No More ..

oh and Id hard class myself as dim .. and I play drums too :)


Ds
#39 by "Steve Bauman"
2000-04-28 20:23:22
sbauman@adelphia.net http://homepages.together.net/~sbauman/
<quote>
-You can't properly educate them (public) without giving them the information.
-You can't give them ALL the information without making the situation worse.
</quote>
I ran into this problem when I started to work on a story about Warez and the Web. I thought it would be interesting to try to figure out who owns these warez sites (I suspect they're marketing vehicles for porno sites), why they do it, etc.

But it may actually promote the sites; I was trying to figure out how to rename all the sites (becuase most are also the URLs) and do all sorts of things to try to keep the article focused.

I may revisit the idea, but I had to drop it and move on to other things.
#40 by "Andy"
2000-04-28 20:26:06
andy@planetcrap.com
<b>#37</b> "Steve Bauman" wrote...
<QUOTE>Well, they're not reporting the actual facts, they're reporting The Observer's repesentation of the facts.</QUOTE>
The bit about Demon carrying groups that other ISP's don't carry was presented by The Observer as a straight fact, not a 'representation'. For The Register to cover it as a 'claim' suggests that it may, possibly, not be true.

If we'd said something explosive like, for example, "in 1996 Demon recognised the commercial value of child porn newsgroups and launched a new dial-up service in the Netherlands", then THAT should be reported as a claim. But when the company itself acknowledges that something is true, and has even been using it as a PR vote winner for the last eight years, there's no excuse for a reporter clouding the issue. That's not journalistic duty, it's either ignorance or malice.

<b>#37</b> "Steve Bauman" wrote...
<QUOTE>Based on your numbers, I'd say they exaggerated a tiny bit for effect.</QUOTE>
It's possible to download 2,000+ unique child porn pics from Demon's news server within most 24 hour periods, so I don't think there was any exaggeration.
#41 by "Apache"
2000-04-28 20:59:11
apache@warzone.com http://www.voodooextreme.com
SiliconVortex: God I hate LA local news, why is it they use the term 'Southland' in every sentence? ;) Plus what's up with 15 minutes of Hollywood news EVERYDAY! (ahhh!!!!) It's bad enough I have to live here, without seeing it on the news every night...

Anyhoo, back to the topic at hand..if want 'NEWS' in its purest form, just read the yahoo biz wire...

(http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/)

Otherwise, pick a site with news personalities you enjoy reading, and stick with them :-)
#42 by "Tom Cleghorn"
2000-04-28 21:02:55
tc10NOSPAMPLEASE@st-andrewsNOSPAMPLEASE.ac.uk http://www.fisty.com/~tom
<b>Steve:</b>
<quote>Death to adjectives and adverbs in straight news!</quote>
Absolutely. That was one of the things that drove me mad when I was in the States last summer - the way the US media treats news as a commodity, rather than a straight supply of information. One report that springs to mind was an oil-pipe explosion in Bellingham, in which two young boys were killed, just before I got back to Seattle; the local paper that I read treated the damn thing like a short story, starting their front-page report, no less, with something like 'It was a normal day in Bellingham for little Jimmy Doe - little did he suspect that he would end it in hospital with third-degree burns to his entire body,' or some such fluff. I haven't been able to swiftly track down any British reports on it, but I would imagine that, say, the BBC may have said something like this: 'In Bellingham, in Washington, today, two children were killed in an oil pipeline explosion...'
You can see the difference. Admittedly sports reports over here do tend towards the prosaic side of writing, but, at the end of the day, what's more important - that you're fully aware of all available facts concerning a football match, or that you have the same awareness concerning an explosion resulting in a major fire and two childrens' deaths? It really does irk me. Look over the BBC News website, and you'll see how news should be presented - read almost any US newspaper, and you'll see pointless fluff written by journalists trying to prove how big their vocabulary is.
#43 by "David Long"
2000-04-28 21:14:05
ogv@gamestats.com http://ogv.gamestats.com
<quote>Anyhoo, back to the topic at hand..if want 'NEWS' in its purest form, just read the yahoo biz wire...

(http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/)</quote>

Actually, it's easier and more complete to use Business Wire themselves instead of Yahoo's feed for it. Why wait for Yahoo's ads and slow loading servers with no sorting by industry?

http://www.businesswire.com/ is the way to go if you want press releases.<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#44 by "Clorox"
2000-04-28 21:17:12
clorox@ignmail.com http://www.hoovers.com/industry/description/0,2205
Yeah, obviously this whole slanted journalism thing works better than we thought.  Why else does everyone continue referring to mp3 files as though they were synonymous with music piracy?  If this is logical why don't we talk about software piracy and zip files in the same breath?  Perhaps it's because the only context mp3s are mentioned in the press is in relation to piracy.

Swimming in rising <a href=http://www.hoovers.com/industry/description/0,2205,6240,00.html>profits</a>, the recording industry isn't addressing issues critical to them <i>now</i>, they are trying to secure their control over the music business of the <i>future</i>.  What will protect the music production/publishing industry when they aren't able to rely on exclusionary distribution networks?

Then there's the whole artist-victim angle... a snowjob.  I hope the irony of an ever-expanding, multi-billion dollar a year monster with a well-known appetite for the blood of musicians isn't lost on someone besides myself.  I certainly won't lose sleep over their "plight"; I don't, in general, fret too much over bullshit.
#45 by "Steve Bauman"
2000-04-28 21:24:40
sbauman@adelphia.net http://homepages.together.net/~sbauman/
<quote>The bit about Demon carrying groups that other ISP's don't carry was presented by The Observer as a straight fact, not a 'representation'. For The Register to cover it as a 'claim' suggests that it may, possibly, not be true. </quote>

OK, let's say I wrote that story for the Register. You did the legwork, so you know everything in it is absolutely statements of fact. I, however, do not. I have to base everything I know about it on what you're reporting, and if I print what you say as absolute fact and it proves to be wrong, I'm fucked.

OK, let's say you write an article "the sky is blue." That's a fact. Then I write one saying "the sky is blue," based on your factual account.

But let's say it turns out you were wrong, that you hadn't realized you're colorblind, and the sky is really neon pink. Your article is wrong, your facts are wrong, and guess what, so is mine. This is how news organizations pass on false stories; they go by someone else's reporting, trusting it to be entirely true, and do not, for whatever reason, verify its facts.

However, if I said in my article "Andy reports the sky is blue", I've solved that problem (though I'm ethically bound to report your fuck up). Does it add doubt to your own story? Sure it does, it adds the possibility it's not true. But you know what? It has to, and if someone wants more information, they need to track down the original source.

But unless I have firsthand knowledge of something, that I've seen the proof with my own eyes, it's absolutely reckless for me to report it as absolute fact.

<quote>But when the company itself acknowledges that something is true, and has even been using it as a PR vote winner for the last eight years, there's no excuse for a reporter clouding the issue. That's not journalistic duty, it's either ignorance or malice. </quote>

Well, it would require some work for a reporter to look all of that up, so I'd say it's probably neither ignorance nor malice; instead, it's laziness. Laziness is usually the source of most bad journalism...
#46 by "Steve Bauman"
2000-04-28 21:26:57
sbauman@adelphia.net http://homepages.together.net/~sbauman/
<quote>Look over the BBC News website

I get most of my "hard" news from AP and the BBC, mostly through Yahoo.
#47 by "Morn"
2000-04-28 21:31:33
morn@planetcrap.com http://www.planetcrap.com
<b>#27</b> "Chango" wrote...
<QUOTE>I am against piracy of any kind, so much so I've been known to grass on people I've seen pocketing items at my local Game store, but I also download MP3's quite regularly.  This doesn't seem to bother me, adn I think the reason for this is the legal vagueness of MP3's, emulators, etc... whereas walking into a shop and walking out with the latest Metallica CD without paying for it would set alarm bells ringing in my head (due to it being illegal, rather than me wanting a CD by Metallica).</QUOTE>

Is it possible that this is because on the net, there are no other people who may see you "steal"? Or rather, that 99.9% of the people around are actually doing the same?

Don't get me wrong -- I have a nice little MP3 collection myself (well, compared to what some people I know have collected, it really <i>is</i> tiny), although I do buy most music I like on CD -- not because I want to be honest, but because I just like having the CD around for when I'm not using the computer, or using the computer for something where I can't play MP3s at the same time. It's just that, in my opinion, getting high-quality MP3s is, essentially, the same thing as stealing a music CD, and we're basically just little kids trying to find out how far we can go.

Anyway -- whenever someone mentions his "huge ass 25 GB mp3 collection", I just think: why did the guy bother with downloading so much <b>crap</b>? He could just have bought the music he liked for less of the money he's put into downloading all that stuff.

Same thing with Napster really -- I'd care more about its legal issues if it wasn't such an utter piece of horse poo.

And right now there's a Vengaboys remix playing in the radio, and it seriously makes me wonder why we're bothering with music these days, anyway. :/

- Morn, swinging to the Vengaboys
<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#48 by "El Asso Wipo"
2000-04-28 21:48:55
dickcheese@hotmail.com http://www.bluesnews.com
I download Metallica MP3's and immediately delete them, just in spite of those silly overgrown outcasts known as Metallica.  Lars is such a wanker.
#49 by ""
2000-04-28 21:53:08
I prefer to buy my music anyway- not least because you get the nice, shiny case and inlay. There are times that I want to get mp3s though:- A significant chunk of my music is on vinyl, and my turntable is in no fit condition to play anything, quite apart from the effort of setting it up through my PC. However, having mp3s of music that I've <b>already</b> got is legal isn't it? Not wishing to seem naive or anything.
Not that it particularly matters at the moment anyway. It's not like I can even find any Ned's Atomic Dustbin or Wonder Stuff mp3s. Sigh.<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
#50 by "Grinder"
2000-04-28 21:54:40
pimurho@blueyonder.co.uk http://ww.pimurho.org.uk
Oops. Crapspy lost my details. #49 was me.<I><B></B></I><I></I><I></I>
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