The Howler gets results: This is our third day on a one-day diversionbut last night, The Howler got results! On Pardon the Interruption, Michael Wilbon went on at some length, with Dan LeBatard, about how the SEC is overrated this year. Take out Florida, and theyre the ACC, Wilbon said. For the record, if you take out Florida, the SEC is 1-6 against the ACC this year. (Florida has beaten Miami and Florida State.)
Yesterday morning, Wilbon plainly called the SEC one of this years two best conferences. No, we cant find tape or transcript of last nights show. But my, how TDH does get resultswhere the issues dont matter, that is.
The way we get handed our data: We were struck by a pair of news reports in this mornings Post and Times. The articles described a new study of the rising cost of college education. In the Times, Tamar Lewin said the following. It seemedstill seemshard to believe:
LEWIN (12/3/08): Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.
If we go on this way for another 25 years, we wont have an affordable system of higher education, said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.
Say what? [P]ublished college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation? If we understand what increased means in this context, that would mean that a four-year college ride which cost $100,000 in 1982 would have cost $539,000 in 2007and Lewin said these figures had been adjusted for inflation. (If the figures werent so adjusted, the difference in price would be even larger.) That struck us as an astounding statisticand it was featured in the Post report too. But Lewin made no attempt to explain such a mammoth hike in prices, and she gave no specific examples of price hikes from specific colleges. We were simply asked to swallow the dataand to marvel at the problem the new study seeks to highlight.
Can that figure really be accurate? We semi-assume it is, but we arent quite sure. But we note a few points:
First, the Posts Susan Kinzie didnt say that these figures were adjusted for inflationand when we went to the site which presents the new study, we werent sure if thats what the study says. (The studys formal roll-out occurs today.) This chart is prominently featured in both the Post and the Times; its title says, Percent Growth Rate in Current Dollar Price since 1982-84. Is a growth rate the same thing as an increase? And does current dollar price mean that the figures have been adjusted for inflation? Frankly, we arent sure. We see signs suggesting that may not be so, but like 99 percent of Times readers, we arent expert enough to be certain. And lets say it again: The Times says the figures are adjusted; the Post is silent on the question. Its like the old joke called Goldbergs Law: The man with one watch always knows the time. The man with two watches isnt sure.
Are those figures adjusted for inflation? Frankly, we arent sure. (Obviously, the Post should have said. It makes a very large difference.) But since the Times says the prices are adjusted, wed have to say that its report falls down especially badly. Such a price increase would strike us as astoundingbut the Times doesnt seem to notice. Why would prices have increased so much? What do specific examples look like? Taking some startling data in stride, the Times makes no effort to say.
Have prices really risen that much after adjusting for inflation? We arent surebut this is the way we often get handed our data. The Times says adjusted, the Post does notand neither seems to notice how startling these new data are. Heres our question: Given the way these newspapers often function, are you prepared to accept, on faith, the notion that Lewins claim is accurate? We arentand yet, were constantly asked to put our faith in the claims of a news elite which has failed us many times in the past.
Have prices really risen that much? Can we see a few specific examples? Lewins claim seems hard to believeand like Goldberg, we made a mistake today. We checked the time on two different watches. What time is it now? We arent sure.
Hamlin knows drama: With thanks to Steve Benen for linking us there, heres a superb blog post by Matt Browner Hamlin about a ludicrous New York Times piece. Yes, its only Alessandra Stanley, the newspapers silly-bill TV Watcher. But Stanleys utterly ludicrous piece concerns a very serious topic. And her reinvention of this topic as drama is quite typical of the way the Times works. (To read Benens post, just click here.)
The piece by Stanley is so bad it hurtsand yet, its very familiar. Her insistence on building drama around the Clintons reminded us of a Kit Seelye piece from all the way back in June 1999a piece which typified one of the ways this gang covered all of Campaign 2000. When it came to the Clintonsand therefore to Goreyour upper-end press corps had lost its mind by the late 1990s. From that day to this, they have been churning silly dramas whenever the Clintons or Gore are sold. To borrow from Lord Russell: Their world has been novels, all the way down. Hamlin notes as much in his critique of Stanley.
Tomorrow, we may add a few things to what Hamlin wrote; Stanleys piece is so absurd that it would be hard for any one blogger to do it full justice. But we were thrilled to see a fairly new site presenting Hamlins critique. Right smack-dab in his opening sentence, Hamlin identifies Stanleys work as what it so sadly isas the press corps latest piece of silly drama-projection. If we want to live in a sane country some day, younger bloggers will have to hammer the press corps culture of drama-projection again and againand again and again, and then one more time after that. We thought Hamlins piece was truly superb. But this will have to be done many times.
Stanley is a pal of Dowds; she often displays the same desire to force her own foolish dramas onto your most important news topics. And lets state the obvious: This group will never stop working this way, until widespread ridicule makes them stop. They live inside a sumptuous palaceand their flighty minds are full of dime novels. Theyre too dumb to see the world other ways. Theyll insist on novelizing your news until theyre finally stopped.
You cant get dumber than Stanley and Dowdand this sort of work virtually defines the way your upper-end press corps functions. Meanwhile, progressives and liberals have never quite made a habit of calling this nonsense what it is. (Darlings! In the career world, it just isnt done!) Were glad to see Hamlin calling so loudlycomplaining about this drama-projection. If you want to have a sane country some day, its a highly encouraging sign.