Commentary

Double speak

ADN corona

Alaska’s largest newspaper is again downsizing, but it is understandable if you missed this news.

The email to ADN.com viewers from editor David Hulen required fluency in Orwellian doublespeak.

One could easily have taken at face value his pitch that “ADN has mobilized to cover the coronavirus crisis” and missed the contradiction that followed:

“We’ve had to temporarily cut back hours and pay for all employees, along with some painful layoffs.”

A reduction in force through layoffs, shrinking man hours and pay cuts is not  a mobilization. It is what the military would call a demobilization.

Doublespeak – from George Orwell’s dark vision of the future in the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four – is the description for language turned on its head. Demobilizing the staff means mobilizing the coverage. Retreating means attacking. Doing less means giving you more.

And mainstream journalism wonders why it has a credibility problem.

Be honest

The sad thing is Daily News staffers appear to have been working hard through the COVID-19 crisis. And you can expect those left to continue to work hard despite what is said to be a significant cut in pay driven by a drop in advertising revenue due to the pandemic.

With bars and restaurants closed, events canceled, the upcoming tourist season headed for the rocks, supermarkets trying to discourage hoarding rather than attract customers, and health care professionals avoiding elective surgeries while helping the sick, key parts of the advertising base are gone.

And all the commerce that has moved online doesn’t really need the newspaper or ADN.com. Once the shop of your choice gets your email, it can cut out the middleman and go straight to you.

This might be the darkest hour for journalism as older Americans have known it. I fear an old journalism friend who thought early on that COVID-19 might save the business was badly wrong.

“People need reliable sources in the midst of this,” he said.

He was right about that. The problem is there are likely a lot of people who are doing what I am doing on a personal level, and that is turning to professional sources instead of journalists.

To name just a few:

All of these appear part of the trend toward specialization in the tubes as readers and viewers are gravitating to sites staffed by experts or those who can appear so on TV.

Few journalists are experts on much of anything. A goodly number of them border on scientifically illiterate. They simply weren’t trained for this. A large share of them, maybe most, are far more interested in politics and sociology than science and technology.

The last time they took a science class was in a high school. The last time they read a peer-reviewed scientific study is never. Some don’t even know what “peer-reviewed” means.

help blurb

Winners versus losers

Given this, it’s to be expected they cover an exploding science story much the same way they now cover politics. It’s all about the score. It’s all about whose winning and losing. The nitty gritty of the substance is just too complicated.

Headline: “Third Alaskan dies of COVID-19 as state confirms 12 more cases”

Scary isn’t it? Especially when you consider no one ever died in Alaska before COVID-19 came along.

Except that is wrong. People normally die every day in Alaska.

About 12 people per day died on average in the state in 2018, according to the latest available data from the Department of Health and Social Services.

More than 800 of those deaths – more than two per day – stemmed from diseases of the heart. Many of these people would have lived longer, better lives if they exercised more, smoked less, ate better and moderated or stopped their consumption of alcohol.

Across the U.S., someone dies every 47 second on average from heart disease to bring the annual total death count to approximately 647,000, according to the CDC.

Alaska’s first, official COVID-19 victim was, sadly, dying of heart disease when he contracted the coronavirus that was blamed for his death.That is a too common occurrence in this pandemic.

Among those dead in Italy as of March 19, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) this week reported, 98.8 had a pre-existing medical condition, primarily high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, or cancer.

“About half (48.6%) of the COVID-19 deaths had three or more comorbidities, 26.6% had two comorbidities, 23.5% had one comorbidity, and 1.2% had none,” the ECDC said.

With more than 11,000 dead of COVID-19, Italy is now the focus of the pandemic, which appears to have originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and three months later appears finally in decline there. The Chinese data mimics that of Italy.

Washington state, where the pandemic is now also raging and on the rise, does not report on pre-existing medical conditions, but its data does show 93 percent of fatalities have been people over age 60, and 99 percent over age 40.

Older people are more likely to harbor pre-existing conditions than younger people.

These numbers led the director of the CEBM and a senior associate to Monday suggest that maybe the world has been going about battle with COVID-19 in the wrong way.

“Lockdown is going to bankrupt all of us and our descendants and is unlikely at this point to slow or halt viral circulation as the genie is out of the bottle,” wrote Carl Henegahn and Tom Jefferson.

Sounding more like economists than scientists, they suggested the focus shift to protecting the vulnerable while letting others get back to work.

“Changing the emphasis from hospitals to the community could avert a disaster for the wider population. Care in the home setting restricts movements of the infected,” they argued. “All those with a  fever and a cough should stay at home; they could be prescribed pulse oximeters, and oxygen could be delivered to severely affected cases; rescue antibiotics prescribed along with daily video-monitoring could be used to detect deterioration. In the older population, the mildly ill and the recovering, food supplies should be delivered at home.”

They went so far as to claim that sending old people to the hospital might just be dooming them.

“Older Patients admitted to hospital are at greater risk of delirium, pressure sores, adverse effects of new medications, malnutrition and hospital-acquired infections,” they wrote. “An older person admitted to hospital runs the risk of never seeing the light of day again. This is probably the clearest message coming from Italy.”

Distraction in chief

These discussions within the scientific community are interesting, but they sometimes appear to get lost in the media’s myopic search for latest COVID misstep by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Arizona man dies after attempting to take Trump coronavirus ‘cure’,” The Guardian headlined on March 24. “Wife survives after couple in their 60s ingested chloroquine phosphate, which Trump falsely claimed was approved to treat coronavirus.”

Chloroquine phosphate is the chemical in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

What the man and wife did was poison themselves by consuming a chemical cleaning agent that contains the chemical. Trump has advocated for the use of the medical version of the drug as a possible COVID-19 treatment but, as the BBC reported, “the toxic ingredient taken by the Phoenix couple was a chemical commonly used to clean fish tanks.”

The FDA did Sunday approve emergency use of the drug chloroquine phosphate under the supervision of a doctor to treat COVID-19.

How effective it will be remains to be seen, but it is guaranteed to help some if for no other reason than the placebo effect. This has mainly been studied in relation to alleviating pain, but has also been show to boost immunity which can help people fight off disease. 

Trump could actually be right on this one or partially right, but politics in the U.S. have become so divisive that not even a national crisis appears capable of bring people together.

And the media, of course, is in the middle of the mix, weighing the winners and losers on how they perform or say they would have performed if they’d been at the control when the plane went into a flat spin, and keeping score.

This what the ADN’s Hulen calls the journalistic effort to “produce timely, fact-based, clear-headed reporting that can be trusted. To hold officials and institutions accountable.”

Right.

Company man

This from an editor whose newspaper wrote almost nothing about its former owner, the now Alaska infamous Alice Rogoff, being in bed with Gov. Bill Walker after helping him get elected, and worse ignored intentionally or naively (take your pick) the implosion of the newspaper itself, an institution portrayed in federal Bankruptcy Court filings as ” vital to all of Alaska.”

With the Rogoff-owned Alaska Dispatch News in court with creditors and spiraling toward bankruptcy, Hulen had his reporters writing about how the lawsuits were normal business problems.

Then, months later with the newspaper in bankruptcy, it covered the announcement of the filing with self-serving claims from Rogoff about how the newspaper failed because, “like newspapers everywhere, the struggle to make ends meet financially eventually caught up with us. I simply ran out of my ability to subsidize this great news product. Financial realities can’t be wished away.”

She, her accountant and Alaska Dispatch co-founder Tony Hopfinger would later take the stand in an Anchorage court to paint a picture of Rogoff’s managerial incompetence steering the Alaska Dispatch News (ADN.com) off a cliff.

Hopfinger sued Rogoff after she reneged on a promise to pay him $1 million for his remaining interest in the online-only news operation he started with ex-wife Amanda Coyne in 2008.

It was growing toward success when an impatient Rogoff decided she could get more bang for her buck by buying the Anchorage Daily News (ADN.com) newspaper for $34 million six years ago. She named it the Alaska Dispatch News (ADN.com) and killed it in three years.

She sold the newspaper to the Binkley Company from Fairbanks for $1 million, but her legacy – Hulen – remains in charge of the newsroom. He claimed to be working from his kitchen table on Monday, something which was a norm for some Dispatch staff.

Unless your news organization is run by a control freak, why spend money paying for offices when reporters and editors can work from home and hold weekly or twice weekly staff meetings in a coffee shop or bar? COVID-19 might actually provide the Binkleys the opportunity to take the Daily News back to the future where it began in the digital world.

Hulen was hyping up the newspaper’s success there in the most noble of ways.

“We made a decision early on to make much of our coronavirus coverage free as a public service — and then we decided to make virtually all of it free. That continues.”

This would be the online version. Nobody is giving you the newspaper for free.

“But it’s a risk,” he continued. “Doing this work and doing it well takes resources. It’s why we ask our heaviest users to pay for online access. We know people will pay for quality news online because thousands of adn.com readers do. But what happens when you suddenly make much of the content free?”

His answer is that if you make it free, more people sign up.

“A heartening thing happened: In recent days, we’ve seen among the biggest spikes in digital subscriptions at ADN ever,” he wrote. “We’ve seen hundreds of new digital subscriptions even though the bulk of the content has been free. We’re touched and deeply grateful for the support. If you value what we do, haven’t subscribed yet and are able, please consider joining your neighbors in supporting local journalism.”

But if this is truly the case – if making the website free has sparked “the biggest spikes in digital subscriptions at ADN ever” – what exactly is the “risk” in making it free? If that claim is true, wouldn’t the Binkleys be rushing to make it free rather than claiming a “risk”?

It’s all rather confusing. Maybe the situation is best summarized by a now former adjunct instructor of philosophy at the University of Alaska Anchorage:

“Logic is dead in this state.”

Or it least it appears to be so in much of the journalism business. “We have met the enemy,” as Pogo observed 49 years ago, “and he is us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 replies »

  1. Hulen says people are signing up for the ADN in droves. I’ll wager $100 that is bullshit. Would love to see ADN crater. Same with public radio. Both are zits on the ass of society.

  2. I don’t always agree with Medred, but he it hit it out of the ballpark with this piece. Excellent writing!

  3. And in the end, Medred has to show his priapistic troubles – The never ending boner – on his way to be the Alaskan Victor Noir!

  4. Speaking of “double speak”…look at all the misinformation coming from the CDC.
    “CDC guidance on masks remains under development…the new guidance would make clear that the general public should not use medical masks – including surgical and N95 masks – that are in desperately short supply and needed by health-care workers.”
    (Adn.com)
    Yet, Dr’s and Scientists from China are stating that masks can greatly reduce the risk of transmission among the general public?
    Why does the CDC really want all of us to get sick?
    “The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks.
    This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact.
    Droplets play a very important role—you’ve got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth…”

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/not-wearing-masks-protect-against-coronavirus-big-mistake-top-chinese-scientist-says#

  5. I’ve taken to turning to professional sources instead of journalists, as Craig mentioned simply because if you want the facts that’s where to go to. Craig does an excellent job of linking to the actual source of information in his articles, and does so unlike virtually every other “news source” out there. I don’t have a fancy app for my weather, I use NOAA just like the fancy apps do but somehow the fancy apps almost always get it wrong-er than NOAA…it cuts out the middle man and his/her interpretation, that’s not to say NOAA is always right…they aren’t. And so it goes from weather to other science related fields to politics and financial information, those in the know (the experts) should be able to inform as to their area of expertise far better than those who are not experts. Aggregating all of that information into an article and sharing it in a way that someone as dumb as I am can understand it is valuable in today’s world.

  6. Aside from “real” medical issues, obesity itself is a co-morbidity for almost every ailment. A “young, healthy person” who is obese and out of condition is not really “healthy,” in terms of resistance to disease.

    • Matthew,
      Good point.
      With over 70 million Americans considered obese, you can see where the state of American “health” was before the C-19 pandemic started to hit.
      Unfortunately, I just found out that the Mars candy bar company will benefit greatly from the new government bailout.
      One must ask, why are we continuing to prop up failing businesses that lead to tooth decay, diabetes and obesity among our people?

  7. Sooner these so called “journalists” go bye-bye the better.. Nothing but propaganda driven, frenzied, lying hacks. ADN is no different than CBS, and the Times is no different than ADN, which is no different than the Post. All one big incestuous orgy.
    Another “mistake”.

    “CBS News admitted to a “mistake” on Monday after airing footage of an overcrowded hospital room that was allegedly in New York City but was actually from a hospital in Italy.

    “It was an editing mistake. We took immediate steps to remove it from all platforms and shows,” a CBS News spokesperson told Fox News.

    Last Wednesday, “CBS This Morning” included a brief clip showing several patients and medical professionals in one room during a report about the rising threat of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City.

    However, that same footage aired days prior on Sky News.”

  8. What covid 19 does is kill a bunch of at risk people at once and that is not good entertainment. What’s interesting is the mastermind of Trump. This guy will be giving out money til his reelection. If congress opposes him they will take the blame. pānis et circēnsēs

    • Kevin, and if Trump doesn’t handout money Congress will blame him. Did you see the garbage lined, pork bills the Democrats tried to ram through and have Trump sign?
      Just remember, a good Democrat friend of mine said “never let a good crisis go to waste. Former thug Chicago Mayor I believe..

    • Kevin,

      Bread & Circus is objectionable here, only because it’s Trump doing it.

      Pelosi wanted the Bread in the form of unemployment insurance. Why? To encourage people to quit working, to promote layoffs by business … to make the adverse effects on the economy deeper, longer lasting. To impair Trump’s chances in November, because the country will be worse-off.

      Trump wanted to use the Bread to assist small business in keeping workers on the payroll, to keep unemployed people off the dole. To keep things rolling, maintain economic activity, reduce closures & idleness. To enhance his chances in November … because the country will be better-off.

      There are better & worse version of Bread, and the same goes for Circus.

      • Ted, remember the last economy crash when Pelosi said to the women and I quote, “quit your jobs, stay home, if you want to take up painting or a hobby you always wanted to do we will take care of you”. Pathetic.

  9. Medred uncovers the facts . Parts the the curtain and looks into the smoke . A nice piece of writing and thought. Dangerous times we live in . History is recording monumental change that will shape the future fast . The question , is covid an engine of change a distraction to manipulate the masses , to accept our enhanced chains and slavery, just a test ? Or the ultimate coup to consolidate power to the worlds strong pullers . Make no mistake the virus is dangerous , yet the panic ,distraction and over reaction is more effective and permanent than the disease. Roll out the talking heads , Gates embracing Chinese totalitarian methods without question , facebooks creator calling for extreme lockdown. With enhanced electronic observation, world leaders calling for snitching on neighbors destroying trust and comradeship ,Orwellian speech to degrade our communication and ability to create concensus through distortion of facts and inability to utilize language as intended or developed . Funny money controlled by a unaudited fed . Something is at hand . We are being distracted and trained at the same time , accepting imprisonment . It’s said iron bars do not a cage make . If your mind is free you are still free . Well if you accept imprisonment without iron bars then you are a true prisoner. Conditioned to accept a master . Don’t allow it .

    • Not a shot fired and we are all prisoners doing as we are told like slaves . Social distancing, travel bans , inspections, quarantine, buisness and life shut down Where’s my handout/ bailout ? Yes master I won’t question the narrative. Just don’t embarrass me or take away my comforts . Censor and Inprison those who don’t conform . Truth is illegal. Facts are perception. Assange is a criminal, Snowden is a traitor . Double speak is at hand . Thoughts are a crime / conspiracy laws . The progress of freedom Americans fought / died / lived for is being set back multiple generations. Will it recover ? Is the disease more dangerous than loss of freedom? What’s more valuable,your life or freedom? Your life eventually ends regardless of what you do . Is life without freedom a life ? You become what you do . Practice following orders and acting like slaves or peasants , and what will we become? Be truly Leary of doublespeak . Language holds our society together and allows bonds , plans , action , direction , understanding , knowledge and unity . It’s the pillar of society. United we stand . Divided we fall . Accurate communication is key . Confusion / distortion of our language will destroy our unity and our civilization.

      • Craig,
        Very good critical analysis of the dangers at hand.
        (Along with the over hyped dangers as well)
        I was just telling my parents that the worst thing someone can do is go to the hospital right now.
        What we are seeing is that hospitals and nursing homes are the real “Clusters” of this virus…just like MERS and Sepsis.
        Closed air systems with little to no sunlight are not the best place for our natural immune systems to heal.
        I just went to read “Truthdig.com” and there is an Alice Rogoff type of woman stating she fired the editor Robert Scheer and is putting all staff on “hiatus”??
        In a time when we desperately need reliable analysis more than ever it is quickly disappearing accross the U.S.?
        I was also thinking that if “newspapers” / online news sources brought back Obituaries we would see way more people die every day from OTHER causes than from C-19.
        This panic driven coup of our democracy is the work of the NWO/ WHO/ UN.
        Bill Gates and Dr. Fauci stand to make billions on the new (probably mandatory) vaccine.
        What is lost is the fact that over 219 CEO’s just stepped down from their posts before the pandemic hit in January…over 1,000 CEO’s quit in this last year alone? What do they all know?
        Add up all the “short selling” of stocks and you can see where we are headed…the worst economic depression in the history of our country.
        Americans cannot give up Liberties for the illusion of safety…travel bans are unconstitutional in America and need to be fought tooth and nail.
        This may be the last chance we have to stand together before the powers that be make our country look like the USSR during their collapse in the 90’s.
        Bailouts propping up a failing fossil fuel economy is not the answer, a new greener economy is the way forward but everyone is suppressed through a “panic driven media psychosis”.
        Thanks for your work in bringing us the news during these trying times…it is refreshing to know that some people can still have independent thought!

      • And the younger generation marches willfully, complete with cellphones and bio/tracking apps in hand to slaughter.

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