Commentary

Historic firsts

ktuu kenaiThis just in:

Commercial salmon drift gillnetters will Thursday be allowed to fish in the Kenai River, an Alaska first.

But wait, there’s more.

It has just been discovered that the Nome area set a new record low temperature in March.

Or so you would believe on both counts if you were reading Anchorage mainstream media Wednesday, July 12, 2018.

KTUU.com produced the Kenai story with the headline sure to send personal-use dipnetters and anglers into a tizzy.

For anyone who read it and thought maybe the headline was just a mistake, there was the story itself: “For 12 hours Thursday, the Kenai and Kasilof rivers will be open to commercial gillnetters following an emergency order issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game late Wednesday afternoon.

“According to that order, set gillnet fishing in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers is ‘warranted in order to harvest sockeye salmon returning to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.'”

Anyone who actually read the order would see that it was opening commercial fisheries in Cook Inlet “in the Kenai and Kasilof sections of the upper subdistrict….” not the Kenai River.

But whatever.

Nome’s record cold, meanwhile, popped up at KTVA.com in a story lauding musher Scott Janssen, the popular “Mushing Mortician,” for a being a hero for getting rescued along with friend Jim Lanier during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March. 

extreme cold

Had it actually been 60 degrees below zero on the trail where Janssen and Lanier were rescued, it would have been a new record for the Nome area. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Nome was minus 54 on Jan. 28, 1989.

Where the minus 60 came from is unclear. It might have been someone’s guess at the “wind chill” temperature which is a measure of how quickly exposed skin will freeze in a cold wind. Wind accelerates cooling,  and the National Weather Service’s wind chill temperature provides a comparison for still air.

For example, at a temperature of 20 degrees below zero in a 50 mph wind, the National Weather Service calculates a wind chill of minus 60. What that means is that in that temperature with that wind, exposed skin will freeze as fast as if in still air at 60 degrees below zero.

The air temperature will not change, however. It will still be only 20 degrees below zero, and if you get out of the wind as Lanier and Janssen did by cuddling behind a dog sled, you will be spared the windchill or at least most of it.

The actual temperature experienced by Lanier and Janssen, as reported by some fat-tire cyclists who stopped to talk to the duo during their ordeal, was near zero with the wind gusting to about 40 mph.

The wind chill temperatures for such conditions is minus-29, according to the weather service chart, making the minus-60 even harder to fathom. Still, it was cold, cold enough the cyclists didn’t want to stand around and chat too long lightly dressed as they were for their push-a-bike to Nome.

But it wasn’t extreme cold. If it had been 60 degrees below zero with the wind blowing 40, Janssen and Lanier would have been in a big, big trouble. The wind chill goes off the chart at that point, but would probably be somewhere around 100 degrees below zero.

No one bothered to comment on the KTVA story, but a commenter on the KTUU story labeled it “fake news.”

It wasn’t. Fake news is meant to deceive.

The KTUU story, like the KTVA story, was just news written by someone without a clue as to what he or she was writing about.

Such is the state of the news today, and it’s a far bigger problem than fake news.

Quality has never been journalism’s biggest selling point. Newswriting is a lot harder than most people realize and for that reason even the best of journalists make a considerable number of mistakes.

But there is a point at which the quality can become so bad people just stop reading, or they turn to government – as Americans turn to government for so many things these days – for their news.

The Anchorage Police Department already has a news team pumping out social media news. So too the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for wildlife and sport-fishing news. Both will be happy to regularly e-mail it to you if you only ask.

There is a trend here, and it’s not a particular good one for democracy. But it’s almost certain to continue in a world where the quality of traditional news is in steady decay.  It would be almost funny if it was funny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 replies »

  1. Here’s an excerpt from a book I read on ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder): “the sense of growing panic, the feeling that gibberish is being passed off as coherent conversation, the fear that the world is engaged in meaningless discourse masquerading as meaningful exchange— these are the blurry states individuals with ADD negotiate every day.” 

    I don’t know if it takes a person with a learning difficulty to see that meaningless discourse (whether intentional or unintentional) seems to be quite prevalent these days.

    Like

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