In This Episode: There’s a lot of talk about accuracy in the media these days, up to and including frequent accusations that the mainstream press publishes “fake news.” For the most part, I don’t think that’s true, but that doesn’t mean people who watch TV or read news online don’t have to be intelligent consumers of news, especially when it comes to medical or scientific topics. Or, to put it another way, we need to exercise Uncommon Sense as a filter on the news, and this episode has an example of why.
Sometimes I Smile, Sometimes I Roll My Eyes: About the news business, that is. As a news commentary column, news is, of course, the road this publication drives on. Here’s what I mean.
I have a little bit to say about a story this week, so let me start with that story — from the 26 November 2017 issue:
There is some great additional detail on a story from True’s 16 August 2015 issue. To start with, you need the story:
To answer the very important question of the title, you need a little background, which is illustrated by a question from reader Steve in Texas:
Some time ago, I “Liked” the This is True Facebook page, but almost never see any posts. I figured you weren’t active until I went back to the page, and saw a ton of stuff I thought was great! How come I’m not seeing it regularly? I see most posts from my friends.
Last week, my BS-o-Meter failed, and a fake story made it into This is True. It has happened a few times over the past 18 years of weekly columns, but luckily only a few times. Let’s start with the story, from True’s 5 August 2012 issue:
There were a couple of stories I found earlier in the month, but decided to hold until the Memorial Day issue. And they get to be in the blog, since one of them has illustrations you need to see for the complete effect.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever done a movie review in True before, and I won’t be doing them that often, but I went to see Avatar this weekend, and I was very impressed.
When I started True back in 1994, there weren’t too many people online — especially compared to now. Once I quit my Day Job to pursue online publishing full time, I was constantly looking for peers — people to talk with that would understand what it was I was doing.
There were several cranky responses to a story in last week’s issue. Let’s start with the story, from the edition dated 5 July 2009:
There will probably be two responses to the first story in this week’s issue: 1) I was too hard on the public library/librarian, and 2) I wasn’t hard enough on her. To be sure, my tagline was judging her based on the standards of the American Library Association.
Episode #41: Truth is Stranger than Fiction Because Fiction Has to Make Sense — An Example — from True’s 15 March 2009 issue.
Chris in Washington asks:
Randy: you’ve mentioned Twitter a couple of times, and I see you have a link on TRUE’s home page to your Twitter page. I’ve looked at Twitter a couple of times, and I just don’t get it. Do people really care that their friends (or favorite celebrities) are “Waking up to face the day.” or “Eating a bologna sandwich for lunch.”? Why?
A quick note about This is True’s story sources. When I started True, I wanted my stories to be from “mainstream, legitimate newspapers” — with an early addition being the weekly news magazines (like Time and Newsweek). I’ve always stayed away from broadcast sources, since I always want a printed version of a story to rely on.
Episode #6: If At First You Don’t Succeed. From True’s 13 July 2008 issue.
Sometimes newspaper editors do their work mechanically, not paying any attention whatever to what they’re printing — even on the front page. And I have the photos to prove it. From True’s 23 December 2007 issue:
This week’s lead story brought a fair amount of mail from the Premium subscribers, many of whom were surprised by my take on the story. Here it is:
The following essay was included in True’s email editions for the week of 19 November 2006.
I had reserved this space tonight for a major rant. What makes one of my rants “major”? I was actually going to call for a boycott and a letter-writing campaign — I don’t recall ever doing that before. I wanted to show how collective outrage can make a difference. But you know what happened? Collective outrage grew on its own, quickly rising to a spontaneous chorus of “NO!” And the perpetrator listened.
CNN host Kyra Phillips — took a bathroom break while President Bush was speaking from the site of Hurricane Katrina’s one-year anniversary remembrance. The story, from True‘s 10 September 2006 issue: