Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 3, 2008

Garbage Studies and Media Transparency

Filed under: Education, media — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 8:12 am

Every once in a while a news story comes along to bemoan the seeming lack of intelligence of the American population. Here is one bemoaning the ignorance of Americans of the first amendment. First of all, the study was done by McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum. From their website (unfortunately it is Flash based, and I don’t know of a way to deep-link it. Here are the links I followed Events & Information >> About Us).

The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum is the nation’s first museum dedicated to freedom and the First Amendment.

Opening its doors on April 11, 2006, the Freedom Museum inspires generations to understand, value and protect freedom. Through interactive exploration, visitors gain a greater understanding of the struggle for freedom in the United States and the role the First Amendment plays in our daily lives.

So, a story appears bemoaning the state of education in the country about the first amendment based on a study done by an apparently expensive museum that was about to open built around educating the public on the very issue the museum is dedicated to.  Isn’t that convenient.

The underlying point is this good journalism, sound science, scrupulous governance is based around transparency.   Before the Internet, some forms of transparency were not always practical.  However, in this information age we find organizations unable to adopt the new norms, such as a simple link.  Why was the raw data not provided: the questions that were asked, the answers people gave, etc. in some standard machine readable format.  It doesn’t need to be presented in the story, however, it should be linked to and available, much like how books have endnotes.  I understand the privacy concerns over names and phone numbers, but there are certainly ways that much of the data can be filtered out and the more private data could be made available to legitimately interested parties.  Conclusions are worthless without the data that actually supports that view.

Education on the first amendment is something that I honestly support.  However, I cannot condone marketing presented as journalism.  There is a distinction between the two that it is important to maintain.  The issue isn’t whether I can prove McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum botched their study.  The issue is why the media doesn’t do more to provide transparency in such cases when the costs are negligible.

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