Monday, February 16, 2009

Why The Bogus Figge Swim Story's So Important

At 11 AM ET today you can find at The Huffington Post the headline – Jennifer Figge Swims Across Atlantic, First Woman – followed by the AP story we now know was bogus.

But Huff Po has done nothing at the story page to inform readers the AP subsequently issued a correction and ran a second story confirming the first was bogus.

You only learn about the AP’s correction if you scroll down and read through the comments, some of which mention it.

Something else:

It was interesting and fun to scroll through the comments made between Feb. 7 when Huff Po first published the bogus story, and Feb 10 when the AP issued its correction.

Here are two of them. See if one at least doesn’t leave you smiling. I end this post with a few questions.

The first comment:

I have a love of the sea. Even though I am not a sailor. There is something about the wide open expanse, depth, and power of a great body of water that lends itself to metaphor for real life. The Old Man and the Sea is a favorite story. Humans against...or in tune with the elements or conditions that exist, is the story of all of our lives.

Mrs. Figge's accomplishment is awesome to me because it causes me to imagine her experience and thereby I can tap into the spirit of her accomplishment. Can you imagine being out there, amongst the towering waves and the sea creatures as you seek to optimally blend with the environment with an intent of progression towards a destination, a goal, an island of reprieve from the cold waters of existence?

Bravo dear lady, bravo!
And the second comment:
This is shoddy reporting - I read this article on several different news sources and none of them answer the obvious questions, like does the boat continue under power at night while she is sleeping? Or does it try to maintain its position, or does it allow itself to drift with the current?

It looks like someone just did an uninformative news release and it's been picked up, but I wish media sources wouldn’t cover something like this until they get a few answers for their readers.

Otherwise the idea of "swimming across the ocean" is really quite meaningless. I mean, what percentage of the distance was she actually in the water and what percentage riding on a boat? From this article, we have virtually no idea of the answer.
Is there anyone reading here who doesn’t “wish media sources wouldn’t cover something like this until they get a few answers for their readers?”

The Figge “Atlantic Swim” story wasn’t a hard story to get right, was it?

Bloggers in their “pajamas with a laptop” were shredding the Figge story within hours of its publications.

Yet the AP and many major newspapers ran with it and stayed with it for days.

Why does something like that happen?

One of the lessons of the Duke lacrosse case is how poorly news is reported in America.

The Figge “Atlantic Swim” story is another such lesson.

That's its real importance along with the critical question it raises: Why can't reporting by our major news organizations be more reliable?


Anonymous said...


This is off topic but is reflecttive of the newspaper business.

Dallas' paper of record, Dallas Morning News, just raised its daily price to $1.00. (This is after raising it to $.75 last April.). I was having a cup of coffee so I borrowed a section laying on the restaurant counter to browse the editorial and opinions section. I was greeted by a top top bottom column by Ellen Goodman claiming that when men get laid off they sit around and watch T.V. while women work twice as hard. Hmmmmmm.

I then perused the editorial page until my eye caught the key words "climate change". In the same paragraph I also spotted "La Nina"!, "water conservation" and the ever popular "commit funds". It never ends.

I deposited the paper in the trash.