Lazy journalism

Is it me or is it now the job of modern day hacks and hackettes to simply regurgitate press releases and rumours while not bothering to check the facts — let alone check their copy for grammar, typso1 and decency?

A case in point is this BBC item from my RSS feeds that I saw this morning:

I checked that it wasn’t just my twisted mind that saw something not very tasteful here by asking a couple of colleagues. I do concede that this was posted pretty early in the morning so it may just have slipped through unnoticed. Someone at the Beeb has since spotted this and the offending news item has now been amended to something a little more appropriate.

Earlier this month we had the mysterious self-destructing palm tree upsetting the guys at Google Sightseeing, the erroneous reports of an alien SETI signal and most reported of all is the story of the adopted twins that got married to each other. This last item appeared in just about every media outlet despite it being a complete fallacy.

1 Before you ask, yes. That was on purpose.

Sometimes I’m just not that bright

Of late, in-and-among the pop-culture dross that seems to somehow pass itself off as newsworthy, I’ve noticed a lot of items on the state of the stock markets.

I do understand the basic tenets of commerce. However, the exchange of currency for goods or services rendered is about as far as my understanding of the financial world goes. Take, for example, the €4.9 billion loss made by Societe Generale which has been attributed to just one of their traders, Jerome Kerviel. Where has all that money ended up? At the other end of the spectrum is the $11.6 billion made by Goldman Sachs in 2007 by gambling against everybody else. Michael Lewis sums it up and concludes Goldman Sachs assumed that everyone in the industry (including their own employees) were “a bunch of idiots”.

I am also curious as to why this speculation is given protection by the government. Of course, I’m talking about the £25 billion bailing out of Northern Rock. Alistair Darling is obviously defending his actions but I don’t see why other forms of gambling are not given the same protection. I understand that my pension is affected somehow. Just how different is this to when I lose money in the casino?

In an attempt to find out more about this befuddling area I came across an interview with a hedge fund manager. I think I’ll have to read it again a few times as the only thing that is currently sticking in my mind is an arcane Simpsons reference. For now I’m going to rely on Bird and Fortune to simplify things for me and make me chuckle at the same time.

Update: The YouTube video is no longer available.

How wrong can you be?

It appears that the answer is very. Especially if you happen to be the Met Office who supplied the weather data that the BBC presented to me this morning.

A little on the chilly side I thought, but it looks like it will be a nice enough day so I’ll leave my umbrella at home. I took one step outside and looked up at the clouds. It was like I was about to enter Mordor. The clouds were clearly full of snow. Sure enough, after returning to pick up my umbrella, I walked to work through just about the full gamut of precipitation. A veritable blizzard was threatening to freeze my ears off by the time I arrived at the office. I passed a child on his way to school who was nearly in tears because he was that cold (he would have been in tears had his tear ducts not frozen).

The Met Office has spent a lot of money on technology and wants to spend more. They have their eye on a £200 million super computer that they hope will allow them to provide far more accurate forecasts. This shouldn’t prove to be too difficult as it appears they can just about tell me what the weather is doing at the present moment and I can look out of my window to find that out.

I have an alternative conspiracy theory brewing. Little known fact: The Met Office is actually part of the Ministry of Defense. I don’t think that the Met Office actually has all that much technology and their forecasters just wing it while the MoD pockets the cash for covert operations.

Facebook workaround?

Facebook is to face questions from the Information Commissioners Office here in the UK. There is some concern about what information about you Facebook keeps on its servers even after you close your account. It seems that simply deactivating your Facebook account does not remove your wall posts or other such items you may have posted and you have to do this manually which can be a long process if you’ve been a user for any length of time.

I got to thinking about the kerfuffle that erupted when Scoble got himself banned after breaking the Facebook terms of service. You did read them when you signed up, right? All traces of Scoble were removed after his account was suspended. His wall posts and photos were gone and he also vanished from friend lists and groups.

So, if you want a quick way to totally remove yourself from the pages of Facebook (although maybe not their servers) then the answer is simple: break the rules.

Tough decisions: gym or TV?

I very nearly went to the gym this evening but I’m still counting this weekend as constituting part of my birthday so I decided to stay in with a glass of wine instead. I’m glad I did as I had completely forgotten about the new eight-week season of Ski Sunday that started on BBC 2.

The days of David Vine commentating are long gone but I feel that the Winter sports magazine has been overlooked and underfunded in the past several years. Pitifully short runs or ratings killing early broadcasts have almost been the death of the show so I was glad to see a new look with elements from Top Gear and some Michael Palin travel escapade thrown in for good measure and actually shown in a prime time slot. I was also much relieved to find out that Sam Fonteyn’s anthemic theme tune Pop Looks Bach has survived the refresh.

As for the racing, what better way to kick things off than with the Kitzbühel downhill? A horrific crash to American Scott Macartney left me hoping that this year wouldn’t be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully he’ll be okay despite some bruising to the brain. For some light relief, Bode Miller’s outrageous riding of the safety netting was the most thing jaw-dropping thing I’ve seen on the Hahnenkamm since Kristian Ghedina’s spread eagle at 135 km/h off the final jump a few years ago.