Showing posts with label CNN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CNN. Show all posts

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Media and Mathematical Ignorance

 Going into the Presidential election, many of my pro-Obama friends and co-workers were nervous.  They had been hearing ad infinitum that Romney had caught up to Obama, and that this race would be a cliffhanger.  In dogged defiance, I insisted on this blog and elsewhere that Obama would win by about 100 electoral votes (Yes, I am permitting myself some gloating).

The disconnect between the reality of Obama’s impending decisive victory, and the supposed neck-and-neck nail-biter being reported by the mainstream media (especially in the final week or two of the campaign), can only be attributed to one or two factors:

1) The mainstream media needed to lie about the election to retain audience viewership, and thus command the highest-possible amount of advertising dollars; or

2) The mainstream media are truly incompetent when it comes to understanding and analyzing statistics.

Liars, or Stupid.  Or both. Take your pick.

The maps displayed by CNN, NBC, and other major media outlets all contained a collection of so-called ‘swing states,’ where the races, according to an effervescent John King and a hyperactive Wolf Blitzer, were ‘too close to call’ because the polls were all ‘within the margin of error.” Interspersed among the Reliably Blue and the Reliably Red states were a chain of unknown “yellow” states, that simply contained all the uncertainty of a well-matched, fever-pitch sporting event.

Yes, they were within the statistical margin of error.  No, that did not mean they were toss-ups.  And herein lies the media’s thorough misreporting of facts.

Consider the actual results and the polls from four of the so-called “too-close” swing states in the week leading up to the election:

Nov 1  Survey USA,  Obama 50%, Romney 46%
Nov 4 You Gov,  Obama 49%, Romney 45%
Nov 5 Public Policy, Obama 51%, Obama 47%
Actual: Obama 52%, Romney 46%

Nov 1 NBC-Marist, Obama 49%, Romney 46%
Nov 2 We Ask America, Obama 52%, Romney 45%
Nov 3 Public Policy, Obama 51%, Romney 48%
Nov 4 You Gov, Obama 50%, Romney 46%
Actual: Obama 53%, Romney 46%

New Hampshire
Nov 5 Rasmussen, Obama 50%, Romney 48%
Nov 5 New England College, Obama 50%, Romney 46%
Nov 5 Granite State/UNH, Obama 50%, Romney 46%
Actual: Obama 52%, Romney 47%

Nov 4 You Gov, Obama 48%, Romney 47%
Nov 5 Reuters, Obama 48%, Romney 47%
Public Policy, Obama 52%, Romney 46%
Actual: Obama 51%, Romney 47%

In each case, the media insisted these were too close to call.  In each case, the media insisted that all the polls were within the margin of error, and implied – or stated outright – that they could not be reliable indications as to what was happening in those states.

And that’s where they were either ignorant or lying.

Fact 1:  Take a look at those polls again.  In not one case did Obama fall behind Romney in those polls.  If anything, the media should have reported that Obama was consistently ahead of Romney in those states.

Fact 2: Statisticians allow themselves only a 5% possibility of error.  That means that poll results that pollsters consider a ‘safe bet’ is more than 95% likely to accurately reflect voter sentiment. 

A result that lies within a poll’s margin of error does NOT mean that the difference between the candidates is negligible, or that the numbers could even be reversed; it means that the certainty of the poll accurately reflecting the population is something just under 90% or 92%.

Imagine if John King had announced the following:

“Polls in the key states of Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada and Wisconsin show a 90% certainty that Obama will win each of those states.”

That would have been an accurate reporting of what it means to be within the margin of error.

It also would have made for poor drama, and low advertising revenues.  But the fact is that “within the margin of error” means nothing more than that. 

And the reality is that Obama consistently outpolled Romney in those states, and won in those states by margins at least as big as the polls.

The polls were indeed accurate.  But the media was crippled by a combination of stupidity and desire for drama.

Friday, October 07, 2011

CNN Ownership biases #OccupyWallStreet reporting

Throughout the Occupy Wall Street protests, those involved have complained that the mainstream media were turning a blind eye to the events taking place. While individuals on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were posting minute-by-minute updates, the largest media outlets in the country appeared bored, annoyed, and even antagonistic towards the swelling protest movement. One evening, a clearly annoyed news anchor quipped, “Alright, for all you people tweeting us, here’s a shot of Wall Street.” A few seconds of clip followed, with snarky comments and rolled eyes. But now, three weeks into protests which have attracted tens of thousands, in dozens of cities, from the retired to union workers to students from all walks of life, with hundreds of arrests and verified reports of police misconduct, it's hard for the media to avoid the movement.

But that doesn’t mean they have to report fairly or objectively. And they aren’t.

Three days after #OccupyWallStreet issued their Sept 29th official list of grievances (posted on this blog), reporters were still making snide comments about the protesters not knowing why they were there. And one of the most blatant exercises of biased journalism this week came from CNN’s Erin Burnett, who dripped with condescension for the protesters. She looked straight at me through my television screen and spat “Who are these people? What do they want?” and then proceeded to interview people in a way that treated them like they were just stupid. She proactively went to the defense of the Financial Industry, telling those she interviewed that the bailouts actually produced a profit for taxpayers. As she concluded her report, she gratuitously threw in the comment “seriously!?” (an unprofessional reference to the Saturday Night Live routine).

Another journalist, David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, responded to Burnett’s report by writing “…two of the most fundamental attributes of good journalism are curiosity and a respect for the people on whom you report. Burnett got an "F" on both those counts with her Occupy Wall Street piece."

Why all this antagonism towards this movement, especially from CNN? When the Tea Party protests began, the media practically ‘created’ events by suggesting that a few hundred people heralded a mass movement. Now, thousands are involved in calling for reform of the political and economic processes in this country, and much of the media appears antagonistic towards its growth and demands.

Whenever you want to understand “the story behind the story,” just follow the money.

CNN is a wholly-owned company of Time-Warner, the conglomerate that has been routinely allowed to escape antitrust laws as it acquires and merges with other media outlets by describing itself as being in the “Communications & Entertainment Industry,” a category so broad as to include magazines, news outlets, music production, and sports franchises.

And who owns Time-Warner?

The Financial Industry.

52.57% of the outstanding voting shares of Time-Warner were owned by Financial Houses as of the June 11 quarterly ownership reports.

The largest of these are:

The American Funds, owner of 94 million shares and 9% of the company, is the third largest holder of mutual fund assets in the US. You may not have heard of them, because they do not advertise, but prefer to make all sales through private broker-to-client recommendations. In 2007 the California Attorney General brought suit against them for fraud, stemming from allegations that company was paying kickbacks to brokerage firms to entice brokers to recommend the funds to their clients.

Dodge & Cox, Inc, subject of a 2009 Kiplinger’s article, “What Went Wrong at Dodge & Cox,” by Andrew Tanzer, detailing their over-exposed position with Lehman Brothers, Wachovia Bank, and Freddie Mac. At 88 million shares they represent more than 8.5% of the company.

J P Morgan – Chase, owner of over 49 million shares. The same company that just gave the NY Police Department a 4.6 million “gift,” and which received a 25 billion dollar bailout from taxpayers – not for loans or to stabilize the company, but to buy other companies, according to Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (“What we do think it will help us do is perhaps be a little bit more active on the acquisition side…”) as reported earlier by blogger Jonathan Turley.

FMR LLC, better known to most people as Fidelity Investments, the same company that was accused by the SEC of pressuring 62 employees in 21 different branch offices to destroy or alter improper documents. The majority of Fidelity itself is owned by Ned Johnson and his daughter Abigail. Abigail, with a personal net worth of $11 billion, was ranked by Forbes as the 17th wealthiest person in America. Her father is ranked number 40.

State Street Corporation, global financial investors with offices throughout the Pacific Rim, currently owns 40 million shares, or almost 4% of Time-Warner. They are currently fighting or settling 31 separate legal actions by clients, including “unconscionable fraud” for overcharging pension funds, fraudulent pricing, mingling funds with the now-defunct Lehman Brothers, and mismanagement.

BlackRock Trust, which bills itself as the largest handler of financial assets in the world. BlackRock is the investment house that, one year ago, was involved in the purchase of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, both Manhattan housing complexes. When the complexes went into default in January of 2010, BlackRock walked away from the deal in spite of having already invested significant amounts of workers pension funds into it. Workers in the California Pension and Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension fund, lost $500 million.

Marisco Capital Management, a subsidiary of Columbia Group, itself owned by Ameriprise, a financial services company with a list of legal actions longer than this blog article.

Rounding out these owners would be The Vanguard Group, Fundamental Investors Inc., and T. Rowe Price.

Make no mistake about it: CNN is owned by the very financial houses against which #OccupyWallStreet is protesting. The very financial houses that have gambled with workers pensions, taken tax money in the form of bailouts in order to make further 'investements,' and engaged in fraud on a widespread, pervasive, and global scale.

And Erin – having broken through the glass ceiling – has now decided to engage in “Good Little Girl Syndrome,” deciding that if she pleases her financial-house bosses, she’ll get a reward.

Pity for Erin…she’s on the wrong side of history.