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Time Magazine: instantaneous communication via entanglement

  1. Jul 15, 2017 #1

    phinds

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    Damn near gagged on my breakfast this morning when reading the last sentence in an article in Time Magazine by Jeffry Kluger (a "senior writer at Time Magazine") where he said:
    I know we've all seen this kind of horse manure before but that doesn't make it any more palatable.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2017 #2
    Do you mean to tell me that the great, unbiased, and ever truthful TIME magazine would print something less that the absolute truth? I'm in shock!! I can't deal with this!!
     
  4. Jul 19, 2017 #3

    phinds

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    Your obvious dislike/distrust for the magazine is not the issue. Scientific illiteracy is.
     
  5. Jul 20, 2017 #4
    What do you see as the takeaway from this incident, then?

    My own view, having been a print newspaper reporter for roughly 10 years when I was younger, is that there are at least a few forces at work that undercut not only responsible science journalism, but responsible journalism of any sort:

    1) Lack of formal subject education on the part of even "senior" reporters; ditto copy editors who are supposed to catch errors. And of course print journalism as an industry has never believed in technical editing, to my knowledge. Lack of subject education results largely from a long tradition of insisting that reporters learn a field only by covering it, which inevitably leaves large gaps in their understanding; but there are also economic reasons - see next point.

    2) Commercial print/online journalism has been under ever-worsening economic pressure for decades. With not enough money, there aren't enough good reporters on staff; and even the good reporters don't have as much time as they once did (maybe 40 or 50 years ago) to do as good a job as they would like. Copy editing is also being undercut, with far fewer copy editors at all sorts of news outlets, from Tennis.com to NYT.

    3) Journalistic conventions that handicap sober, accurate presentation. These come in all flavors. TIME, for example, seems to encourage writers to end a piece with something snappy and/or provocative, regardless of whether it's sensible. The example you give seems to fall partly into this category.

    As to what to do about it . . . I have no idea. Someone in another thread proposed that since commercial journalism seems to be going down the tubes anyway, we as a society should let it die & focus instead on fostering nonprofit journalism; don't know that this would work in the U.S., but it's an idea: Fox Sports Ends Print -- the Death of Sports Reporting?

    It would be interesting to see if crowdsourcing could possibly create a news equivalent to Wikipedia, with citizen subject experts volunteering their time and others serving as editors (kind of like mentors on PF), with guidelines for good journalism to keep up standards; and nonprofit fundraising to support the venture. I don't know, but my initial reaction is skepticism. One difficulty is deadline: a Wikipedia article can be haggled about for weeks, months, even years, but a deadline article must come out fast. Perhaps an even bigger difficulty is risk and liability.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
  6. Jul 20, 2017 #5

    phinds

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    Yes, I do understand the considerations that result in this sort of nonsensical statement. One, that I would have emphasized more than you did is time pressure which, when combined with an apparent tendency to not check scientific facts anyway, results in misstatements.

    As to the thought of a "Wikipedia" type news outlet, I would go FAR beyond your "skepticism" and say it's an idea that is brain dead in modern America. It would be nothing but back and forth rants by wingnuts on both sides who are, after all, the ones most likely to be very vocal. Objective news would be completely buried in the noise.
     
  7. Jul 20, 2017 #6
    "Crowdsourcing" was probably the wrong term; "volunteer" might be better. What I meant was a very large force of volunteers. Participants would be vetted, trained, and required to adhere to standards. On a much smaller scale, mentors & mods do a decent job on PF, after all.
     
  8. Jul 20, 2017 #7

    phinds

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    Yes, that might work. It would still suffer the exact same problem that all media now suffers which is that there would be huge swaths of the public that believed it was biased and would not trust it but if it really was fair and balanced (as opposed to Fox News or MSNBC) then at least it would provide a source for many of us.

    EDIT: the problem this would have is that it would not have a fully trained staff of people who were paid to go where the news is (with their expenses covered), particularly war zones and dangerous areas.
     
  9. Jul 20, 2017 #8

    StatGuy2000

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    I admit that I was the one who proposed nonprofit journalism, since in my mind, responsible journalism is one of the pillars of a democratic society which the private sector can no longer be relied upon to provide (even as far back as the 1950s there were inherent tensions between cutting edge journalism and commercial considerations -- consider the situation faced by Edward R. Murrow and CBS president William Paley re. McCarthyism, portrayed in the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck). In the US, there are already moves towards this direction (most notably with ProPublica).

    One other direction that can help address the problems of journalism would be independent, online organizations (e.g. The Young Turks) who base their funding through a combination of ads through YouTube and subscription (which can be set up through online donation platforms like Patreon).

    I can certainly see similar moves described above can be made toward science journalism in particular, although I'm not certain if the situation with commercial science journalism is as dire as the broader field of journalism (I'm curious how print magazines like Scientific American are fairing as of this moment).
     
  10. Jul 20, 2017 #9

    mfb

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  11. Jul 20, 2017 #10

    phinds

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  12. Jul 20, 2017 #11

    russ_watters

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    ...and @UsableThought , please note that we are already there. Wikipedia is already being used as a clearinghouse and archive of information on major news events, and is often cited on PF during the evolution of major stories. Since Wikipedia is a tertiary source, it has appeared to me to work great. Moving up to a secondary source (What you imply) could be problematic....or maybe not, if the primary source information is in the public domain on social media.
     
  13. Jul 22, 2017 #12
    What is amazing is that they simply could have run it by a physicist, before publishing it. They could have even run it by the physicists on this forum, free of cost, and got quick feedback if they don't have an in house one. They could have also used Stackexchange or Quora. If they are really crunched for time, they could just wiki entanglement. It's baffling that Time would be so reckless.
     
  14. Jul 22, 2017 #13
    TIME is not being reckless. They are following (1) a tradition which they would say is justified by the need to meet deadline (remember they are digital these days and not just a weekly pub) rather than get beaten by the competition, and (2) sound business strategy for any mainstream publishing company these days given dwindling advertising/subscriptions. Moreover, there are few if any consequences for print companies in following this strategy. In fact, you can argue they would be reckless to follow your suggested strategy!

    If you haven't already, see the list of reasons in my post #4 and @phinds's followup in post #5. I will go further now & respond to your comment specifically:

    Before all else, one reason TIME would not start a thread on a place like PF to ask about a story - still less ask members here to review the text of a draft story, God forbid - is that this places part of the editorial process outside of their control, in public view. Forget it. They won't want the loss of control; they won't want to publicize a draft so that all their competition etc. can see it also.

    Now let's imagine that PF starts a new service wherein publications such as TIME can place private threads w/ restricted access, so that only some members w/ review privileges can see & comment on TIME's threads asking for comments on drafts or even just what a new development means. So we avoid the problem described above. Even so, there are still more problems that would make this untenable, having to do with resources and editorial control.

    To start with, someone at TIME (let's say the reporter, or a copyeditor) must initially start a thread to get input. Problem 1: Because of the nature of asynchronous forums and volunteer reviewing, comments will often take at least a day or two, possibly longer. Waiting even the minimum day or two to get these comments means TIME has to push back on its deadline - not good in a competitive news environment. Problem 2: Even if comments come quickly, some of these comments may be confusing or contradictory; which means that the reporter or copyeditor must now put in further time sorting things out. Problem 3: Suppose the comments mean part of the draft must be rewritten and possibly even re-reviewed; more deadline time seeps away.

    Problem 4: All of this extra time for tech review translates into time taken away from the reporter doing reporting or the copyeditor doing copyediting. This means a staff that can't crank out as much copy; which means hiring more staff to compensate. But the news budget doesn't have money for more staff. If they are like most shops, they rely entirely on a small staff of over-burdened copyeditors to do both fact-checking and proof-reading.

    Problem 5: Using outside reviewers means having less than total control of the editorial production process - and this is out of the question for a shop like TIME. There is no way top editors are going to put "go/no go" story decisions, or even "um, wait until I think about it some more" decisions into the hands of outside reviewers except under very rare circumstances. Keep in mind that for most ordinary stories, e.g. the entanglement story in question, even persons being quoted won't be allowed to see their quotes until after publication! (The exception is with highly confrontational or investigative stories, where reporters, if they have a chance, will often read quotes to the subject to give them the chance to comment.)

    And bear in mind that there is nothing unique to do with physics that can result in errors creeping into a story: It can and does happen for all stories, on all topics. Which means if TIME were to follow your strategy of trying to identify free review resources, it would have to do the same for all its stories regardless of topic: politics, psychology, health, etc. etc. And do this every week. Again, where is the money coming from to pay staff for these extra administrative duties? Even worse, what happens to deadlines? This story about entanglement was already being released elsewhere; why would TIME want to be late on it, just to be accurate to the nth degree? Its readers don't care about accuracy to that degree; they are not physicists, but ordinary persons. How does TIME gain from this strategy?

    As for your suggestion that reporters can just look at Wikipedia etc., this presumes (a) the reporter knows enough to understand the subject in the first place and thus understand an article about it, clearly not the case here; and (b) that Wikipedia and similar online sources can always be trusted, also not the case.

    So the problem, as we define it, isn't solvable by seemingly simple, common sense measures. It is an industry wide problem not specific to TIME or to stories on science. The industry itself needs financial help and/or radical change, includes changes to paradigms about deadlines etc. Tough sell in today's nasty marketplace, with mass audiences encouraged by the train wreck that is social media and TV to become increasingly partisan and impatient.

    Scientific journals and scientific or technical books employ technical review editors because their reading audiences are quite different: they consist of experts in these fields who are much more likely to complain (and to vote with their feet) if technical review isn't done & articles or books contain obvious errors. Errors occur even with technical review, but at least the publisher can say an effort is being made. And specialty publishers (excluding open source) typically can and do charge much higher prices for content, albeit to much smaller audiences.

    P.S. See my next post for questions about how all this might apply, or not, to WikiTribune.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  15. Jul 22, 2017 #14
    Following up on my previous comment in which I responded to Fallen Apple with a hypothetical scenario about tech review at a place like TIME: Having said all that, I'd be curious as to how WikiTribune plans to handle such things as deadlines and "technical review" when they start covering the news this September.

    Given that they say they will do only "evidence based journalism" (well, almost everyone says that; but never mind) they will have an obvious incentive to minimize hype & error. What I don't know is whether the disincentives for an extra-intensive or out-the-shop review process will be quite so discouraging as I believe they are for TIME et al. Having just glanced at the Wikipedia article on WikiTribune (see link below), I see that WikiTribune is described as a for-profit operation, not strictly nonprofit as Wikipedia is. So three immediate questions are, 1) how narrowly are they defining their mission; 2) what do they expect their payroll costs to look like in various scenarios from ideal to the minimum acceptable; and 3) how will they define their deadlines based on their mission?

    It looks like they will be paying journalists & getting funds to do this through crowdfunding, which began in April of this year. So their news budget & presumably their ability to do fact-checking or other review will be influenced by how much they raise. I have to run out just now rather than research this further, but for those who are curious, here is the WikiTribune link again:

    https://www.wikitribune.com

    And here is the Wikipedia article on WikiTribune (the same guy who started Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, is starting up WikiTribune):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikitribune
     
  16. Aug 7, 2017 #15
    I hadn't been aware of this, but ProPublica and the New York Times are now collaborating some investigative stories. Two examples:

    "Take the Generic Drug, Patients Are Told. Until They Are Not," 8/6/17

    "The Deep Industry Ties of Trump’s Deregulation Teams," 7/11/17
     
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