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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Politifact reminds me of Michael Scott when he’s trying to roast; they are so eager to roast and find “lies” that they don’t do any deeper introspection on the substance of the statements they are evaluating.

Consider, for instance, their recent 4-Pinocchio rating for the old chestnut that “women make 77 cents for the same job as men.” Take this, exaggerating Obama:

The Obama campaign took a legitimate statistic and described it in a way that makes it sound much more dramatic than it actually is. The 77-cent figure is real, but it does not factor in occupations held, hours worked or length of tenure.

BOOM! ROASTED!

Well, except look at those caveats–(1) occupations held; (2) hours worked; or (3) length of tenure. If we look at BLS occupation figures, (warning: PDF!) we see that women are still pulling down less than men in a variety of categories, so how might those three factors play into this equation?

  • Occupations held: Well, this is a problem, except even in the most specific BLS figures the disparity exists. Female chief executives make 69% what male chief executives make. Unless there is some massive difference in the types of “first-line supervisors of retail sales workers,” women are still making 79% of what their male counterparts make. That’s a pretty specific job type, and yet, the disparity still exists. Now, there’s no way of knowing exactly which job they hold; (PDF) research suggests that within the same establishment, wage gaps are smaller, but the overall pattern still holds that women are paid less than men for similar occupations regardless of establishment. So is Politifact right that the 77-cent figure for “the same work” is false? I mean, maybe, but the real figure might be something like 80-cents. How much better is that?
  • Hours worked: Well, it’s hard to say for hours worked; those pesky women are always taking so much more time off! Or not. BLS figures show that there’s a small difference in aggregate hours worked, but the difference between 8.2 hours and 7.8 hours, even considering overtime, doesn’t make up for the 23-cent gap, and as part-time employees, women actually work more than men. Plus, in “white-collar” occupations where hourly wages don’t matter (managers, supervisors, chief executives, elementary school teachers, accountants, social workers), women still earn less than men. Maybe they’re also working fewer hours there, which is why their companies reward them less. Or maybe something else. But they definitely earn less for similar work, if not the same.
  • Length of tenure: This one pisses me off the most. Maybe those lower-paid women have not worked there as long. True! But is that “not the same job”? A seventh-year teacher and a third-year teacher/cashier/clerk/nurse are doing the “same work.” They do, however, have different levels of seniority. And it turns out that men get promoted at a much higher rate than women (10.6% of men get promoted, as opposed to 7.6% of women), even though their wage growth at each level of promotion is similar. Again, this could be because men are just much better, hard-working, committed, etc. to their jobs than women. Or, perhaps, it could be that there continue to be discriminatory hiring, firing, and promotion practices at these establishments.

The point of this whole exercise is to illustrate that Politifact’s urge to get Obama in a hits-generating BOOM! ROASTED! moment has actually obscured the truth behind the statement. Just because it is difficult to get an exact comparison of apples-to-apples, doesn’t mean that women aren’t working for less pay doing essentially the same job. The bottom line is: women are promoted less often than men, earn less money than men in similar occupations (or “the same work”), and are subject to discriminatory hiring, promotion, and pay. Even if the 77-cent figure did take into account those three missing factors, it would still hit pretty close to the mark.

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“National Signing Day” is among the worst things ever created in the history of bullshit media creations.

If you thought Lebron James’s narcissistic “Decision” was bad enough, the “National Signing Day” provides teenagers the chance to bask in the same spotlight as they choose… which college they will attend.

Now, I know, college sports is big-time business, so it makes sense for highly-touted high school players to be heavily recruited. Whatever.

But the phenomenon of “National Signing Day” is entirely one created by ESPN and its conversion of the day into an all-day media event–an orgy of interviews, TV cameras, etc.

I don’t know what makes me feel so disgusted when I see ESPN’s frontpage slathered with NATIONAL SIGNING DAY in all caps: is it the further perpetuation of the “me-first” culture? Is it the over-inflation of 18-year-olds to god status? Is it the fact that many of these kids, even the highest touted recruits, will end up injured, unprepared, or unsuited for professional football and end up without their college education? Something about the whole affair feels slimy, like those countdown clocks for the Olsen twins turning 18.

It may be the inevitable outcome of the recruiting business, but maybe that should make people think twice about the recruiting business and college sports generally.

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So, it looks like the Republican Party will get the nominee they all hate: Mitt Romney. For all that “the base” found him repulsive, his enemies could never coalesce around a single candidate capable of beating him. Now, it’s too late. The media may still describe the Republican primary as a race (much as they did with the Obama/Clinton race after Texas and Ohio), but barring scandal, Romney is now the Republican nominee.

Why didn’t the “anyone but Romney” forces gang up? After all, they really really hate the guy.

What we had was a classic collective action problem. Here’s John Nash via Russell Crowe:

Getting the Republican nomination for President, then, is the “blonde.” The Republican nominee not being Mitt Romney is the “friends.”

The refusal of any of the other nominees to leave the race and/or put support behind other candidates (as Michele Bachmann could have done for Rick Perry, had she done it earlier) made it impossible for the “anyone but Romney” forces to align, even though their policy preferences were largely more in line with each other’s than with Romeny’s. Why didn’t they? Because they each thought that with the field so fractured, they actually had a chance to win. Their overconfidence led to Romney’s eventual dominance.

As a result, no one (except Romney) gets what they want.

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“The Devil Inside,” a mockumentary exorcism movie that critics and viewers alike agree is total garbage, has been bizarrely successful.

This reminds me of the “My Humps” phenomenon, in which a song that was so terrible that no one in their right mind could possibly enjoy it defied the expectations of the band, label, and thinking human beings.

These phenomena go beyond mere “So Bad It’s Good.” No one walked out of “The Devil Inside” or listened to “My Humps” and thought even ironically that it was good. This is voluntary experiencing badness in mass quantities.

A few notes: scarcity is important here. January is typically the worst time for new movies, particularly mass-market movies. Thus, January has regularly produced a parade of box-office horribles, from the Big Momma’s franchise to Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Additionally, this is not a case of differing opinions between critics and viewers. Devil Inside scored abysmally (“F”) on Cinemascore, which surveys audience members with exit surveys to determine how they enjoyed the film. Viewers hated it; critics hated it; and yet, people went to go see it in swarms.

Was it a good marketing campaign? Maybe. But plenty of good marketing campaigns fail to build buzz that translates to eyeballs.

Rather than asking a question of marketing/box office success, I think this question gets at a central idea of movies: Why go in the first place? We go to see films (or listen to music, etc.) for a variety of minutes, and we’ll pick something based on our goal. Sometimes, we want to be scared, and in January, when pickings are slim, we’ll go see a terrible one. Sometimes, we want to listen to a dance single, and when one appears on the radio, we’ll keep listening, even if we don’t even enjoy it.

Tastemakers would hate to admit it, but our tastes are as much about availability bias and what’s right in front of you, rather than some careful selection. We watch whatever we can agree on (e.g. the success of “Pawn Stars”), not what is greatest (e.g. the ratings for “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Wire,” etc.).

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This man speaks truth:

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With the closing of Borders and the budget-cutting at the state and local level, it’s worth asking what the value of a library is.

I grew up loving libraries, and my parents took me every weekend. I learned more content from weekend library trips (and the subsequent hours of reading) than all the hours of schooling I had. I admit that I have fetishized books to some extent; I love the feel of the corners, the smell of the pages, the crack of the spine.

And yet, in an age where books can be digitally mass-produced, is a big room full of books as obsolete as a chained library? The printing press made books readily available; then the paperback made them cheap and easy to distribute; and now the digital age has made them invisible packets of ones and zeroes to be ported around in a tiny electronic reader.

Libraries are trying to adapt, to be sure, picking up eBooks and trying to become community centers. But I wonder if libraries will bring the same kind of joy I felt as a child, or whether the sterilized world of eReaders will shutter these institutions.

Maybe I’m just romanticizing the whole thing. Libraries were never places where people came together to build community or share ideas, per se. One had to be quiet in the library, and the little study spaces cut you off from other people. Children’s programming existed, to be sure, but that wasn’t the focus of a library.

It’s weird for me to imagine a world of libraries with all the trappings of libraries — people studying, reading, and researching — but none of the books.

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There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” It’s most associated with Richard Nixon and Watergate scandal (the only scandal I will ever end with “-gate”). I wonder if we are going to see something similar with Rupert Murdoch and the News of the World phone hacking scandal. The crux of the matter is that reporters at the News of the World hacked the phones of people they wanted to write stories about, which ranged from celebrities to politicians to murdered children.

When this news first broke, I didn’t pay much attention to it. It looked to occur solely in Britain, and was perpetrated by a tabloid rag. Plus, while hacking into phones is clearly wrong, that appeared to be the end of it. British authorities would investigate it, and that would be that.

How things have changed. First, Murdoch closed News of the World, Britain’s biggest tabloid, which ran from 1843 until last week. Then, he withdrew his bid for British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB, the most profitable pay-TV station in Britain. These appear to be awfully drastic damage control steps, and a sign that Murdoch was extremely serious about preventing further blowback. Too late.

Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of News of the World and current head of News International, the publishing division of News Corp – Murdoch’s whole empire – resigned. Shortly thereafter, she was arrested.

Ok, and yet still after all this, I couldn’t get too wound up about the scandal. That changed when, within hours of Brooks’ arrest, reports surfaced that the highest ranking police officer in Britain was resigning. The reason? It looks like there are strong allegations that the British police accepted payment to not investigate the crimes. Hacking phones looks bad. Paying the police to cover it up is worse.

There are also allegations that 9/11 victims may have had their phones hacked, too. This widens the scope from just Britain.

And the kicker? The original whistleblower of the whole affair, Sean Hoare, was found dead today. The police have stated that his death is not suspicious, but in the current climate, even one not prone to conspiracy theories will find that difficult to believe.

I have no idea how much of Murdoch’s empire will crumble, or whether this will become a bigger story in America, or whether it will have any repercussions for FOX News. But still, the schadenfreude is pretty tasty, so I think I’ll grab some popcorn and see how this plays out.

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