Thursday, February 07, 2002

BIAS IN ACTION
Now here's an example of media bias I can recognize. According to CNN.com - Justice: Microsoft public comment weak, The Justice Department said Thursday that only about 10 percent of the public comments it has received by e-mail about the Microsoft antitrust settlement were substantive, while others have ranged from form letters to pornography.

Wow. Sounds like a lot of junk and naked pictures got sent their way, huh? Well, not quite. It all hinges of what one means by "substantive."

Read a bit further and it's revealed that of the more than 30,000 comments received, 15,000 were against the settlement and 7,500 supported that settlement. Right there, you're talking about 75% of the comments registering a valid opinion. In addition, says the article, another 7,000 comments were dismissed as opinion, like "I hate Microsoft."

Forgive me for being a Mac user, but doesn't the opinion "I hate Microsoft" perhaps count for something in this case? The article finally reveals that More than a thousand messages are said by Justice to have been completely off-topic. Some of those were advertisements -- known as "spam" -- and at least one e-mail contained pornography.

So they got one porn e-mail. Out of over 30,000 comments, the Justice Department gets one porn email. Anyone who opens an email account gets more porn email than that in a month. Yet CNN feels that one porn email justifies a mention in the lead paragraph, which, when you re-read it, sounds like only 10% of the comments made sense and the rest were junk or porn.

You might think that CNN would compliment the population for generating over 20,000 on-topic responses, but no. Instead, CNN (or perhaps the Justice Department itself, you can't tell from the article), strives to downplay the number of negative responses to the MSFT Antitrust settlement, describing the overall response as "weak." Is that some kind of dare? Do they need to be hit with pies in order to recognize a point is being made?

BTW - their version of "substanitive" means pages of comment were included with the opinion. So that's the lesson for today. If you want the Juctice Department to take you seriously, you better respond with more than "Yes or No."

No comments: