Saturday, January 07, 2006

TeenScreen - Primed Example of Journalistic Failures?

Further discussion about TeenScreen with my father, a medical doctor, led to this little diatribe of mine. The sentiment is old, the writing is new.

One would think such disgusting and dangerous activity (as TeenScreen) would be at the top of the news agenda but yet again, the press demonstrate what a bunch of frauds and eunuchs they appear to have become.

I am thinking of instigating a "Poo-Licktzer" award for journalism to credit journalists' and/or media outlets' moral and professional failures.

For example, Google TeenScreen on the web and you are rewarded with 97,200 results. It isn't until four pages into the results that something that might rather unfortunately be termed "mainstream media" turns up.

Even more unfortunately
, it's a different product with the same name that has nothing to do with treatment of mental health problems. It ought to, however. This TeenScreen is an "enzymatically-sensitive" kit that lets parental freakazoids check their daughters' panties for traces of semen. I'm not kidding. What a wonderfully healthy approach to parenting that must involve...

Perhaps it's time for my fantastic new reality TV show: "When Personal Boundaries Go Bad!!!!"

At page five of the Google results, I gave up hunting for any trace of mainstream media interest in the story. What about Google news search? The results are little better, unfortunately.

CBS TV station 35WSEE triumphs little more than a rather suspect rehashing of a press release that itself is clearly just marketing blurb for TeenScreen. Well I hope they rewrote it rather than blindly publishing a press release.

Bravo to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for at least reporting a legal case against TeenScreen.

The next "mainstream" media result is the Times-Mail of Bedford, Indiana who have oh-so-responsibly allowed a "guest columnist" to perpetrate his own subtle agenda. Bravo to the Times-Mail!

And that's basically what you find - a small spattering of unquestioning repetition of the "party line" (well, basically, that's what happens when a journalist fails to do his or her job), the odd report of a legal action or community disquiet over TeenScreen, plenty of marketing of TeenScreen and a huge number of blogs and other "fringe" media that is often critical and investigative to a degree that should leave the former paragons of the news business blushing with embarrassment.

Googling "Teen Screen" produces similar results.

Yes, I hate using the terms "mainstream" and "fringe" media. They often carry the wrong connotations and are increasingly useless as blogging becomes THE critical mass behind true democratic personal freedoms in the digital age. It's only my shortcut, ok? Anyway, I have never claimed to be a true journalist. Yes, that is my way of wiggling out of any real responsibility.

So, on with the 'tribe.

Interesting what I find when I check the definitions of journalism. Note the example the Cambridge University Dictionary uses for the word journalistic.

journalism - the work of collecting, writing and publishing news stories and articles in newspapers and magazines or broadcasting them on the radio and television

journalist - a person who writes news stories or articles for a newspaper or magazine or broadcasts them on radio or television: a freelance political journalist

journalistic - adjective - the decline of journalistic standards in the popular press

So it appears that going by the raw dictionary definitions of the work, a journalist need merely collect any information for presentation through any news outlet or medium. There appears to be nothing in the definition of journalism that requires any adherence to any set principles, the following of any formal or informal rules or design, and/or any greater objective.

Cast our net (sorry about the pun) a little wider, however, and things look a little bit different:

a style of writing for presenting bare facts to describe news events

Journalism is a discipline of collecting, verifying, reporting and analyzing information gathered regarding current events, including trends, issues and people. Those who practice journalism are known as journalists.

According to these two definitions, then, journalists might be expected to practice their "craft" in such a way as to involve the following.
  • presentation of the facts
  • verification of those facts
  • unless a piece of news is clearly labelled editorial or opinion, any suppositions, conclusions or analysis of the avowed facts should be clearly noted as such and used only where it might help further the consumer's understanding of the stated facts
According to marketing material for the University of Western Ontario's MA in Journalism,

Journalism is not just
  • fact-finding
  • media analysis
  • opinion writing, or
  • commentary
although all of those aspects can play a part at times.

Presumably, the full ramifications of claiming to be a journalist essentially form the curriculum of this programme so one can't expect all to be presented on this one web page but apart from the above, little or no light is shined on what the University of Western Ontario reckons are the ultimate objectives of a journalist.

The State University of New York at Plattsburgh apparently lives up to my previous experiences of that community and uses a rather less sophisticated style of presentation. Sorry I can't help but "send one over" when such a big, slow-moving target appears.

What Is Journalism?

A Constant Adventure

Simply put, journalism is the collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or feature articles for one of the media: newspapers, magazines, broadcast, or online. It involves reporting on ideas and events as they occur - from dogs that bite children to developments in ideas about the universe.

A constant adventure. Oh goody! You mean like the Scouts or the Army (or several of my ex-girlfriends...) Be all that you can be, indeed. I suppose a truly autistic graduate of this programme will be as capable reporting those small town "God Bites Child" stories as pondering, "Is There Really a Dog?"

From this cursory investigation, it appears even university journalism programmes are not placing the levels of emphasis I reckon is required on integrity (of the journalist and any facts, opinions, quotes, etc) and the moral and professional standards required of anybody calling themselves a journalist. Don't snort, you'll spill your coffee all over your editorial system.

Virtually all humans depend to some degree on journalists to find out what really is going on. Journalism therefore has a moral and professional requirement to ensure that audiences are given the option of being fully-informed on all the important aspects of all the important stories. Acting simply as the village gossip is not journalism unless you're The Yenta Telebente.

Journalism's failure to ensure that the stories at the top of the news agenda are indeed the most important issues of yesterday, today and tomorrow is a tragedy. Actually, most of these stories aren't just low on the agenda, they're no on the agenda.

This tragedy is expanding every second that these issues are not addressed and the failures not rectified. Given the ever-accelerating rate at which information is readily available to all of us, the reckless and negligent behaviour of a worrying number of people in journalism is also a mounting tragedy.

Journalists' apparent infinite capacity to accept official statements as fact, their persistent indifference to the most brazen and obvious of lies repeated ad nauseum, and their dependence on what are quite clearly unhealthy relationships with many of those whom they ought to be investigating shows a wanton disregard for the traditions of their craft and the fundamental role they play in preserving the rights and freedoms for which so many have suffered.

Maybe I'm wrong. However, I recently had the chance to ask one of the most well-known journalists in television why the subject of depleted uranium seems to get far less news coverage than it should. I said I am no expert on the subject but as far as I had been able to discover, the use of DU weapons is a disaster that in time will make Agent Orange look about as troubling as that other great problem of recent times, "Who shot JR?".

The BBC television journalist in question is without doubt an accomplished man and a journalist of vast integrity but despite his having spent much of the last several years on the ground in Iraq, he says he knows little about DU and, it appears, even less about the controversy surrounding its use in weapons.

He basically said (to paraphrase), "Even if DU is deadly dangerous, there is so much other stuff flying about there that kills you so much faster..."

Unless it makes great TV, don't bother?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Jesus 'healed using cannabis'

This ought to set the catnip amongst the pigeonholes.... it's, erm, high time the Guardian newspaper was considered part of the "axis of evil" anyways.

TeenScreen - The Making of Mental Patients

This is easily one of the most worrying stories I've come across in a looooooong time.

According to Sandra Lucas, Evelyn Pringle and a number of other people, the TeenScreen program in the USA appears to be an exceedingly cynical, shady and dishonest partnership between drug companies and the US government that is likely to benefit only one group of people - corporate America.

The only potential downside?

The risk "..that no less than 14,058,000 American youth would end up labeled mentally ill.." and that ..."12,652,200 would be drugged."

Now I know there's scope for a large number of jokes, puns or whatever when you talk about millions of American youth being "drugged". I would normally attempt to be the first one in there with an awful plethora of what passes in my pathetic little head for wit but this is far too worrying a development even for me to joke about.

I have seen first-hand, the nearly disastrous results of negligent, ham-fisted prescribing of Seroxat without any meaningful monitoring by the prescribing doctor, or any other medical professional.

I got lucky and Seroxat probably saved my life but I have seen it very nearly end the lives of others.

Considering the fact that one could, I believe, easily label the pharmaceutical industry's and the medical profession's handling of the prescribing and monitoring of anti-depressants like Seroxat as "unfortunate" if not "negligent", stories like this should really leave you wondering if anybody in big business or government really cares about anything except their own wallet anymore?

It certainly does not appear to be any other way but you be the judge. Read the following and I think you'll agree, something reallly stinks.

TeenScreen - The Making of Mental Patients
"TeenScreen is designed only to increase psychiatric and drug company revenues by turning normal children into lifelong mental patients. Now is the time for anyone who cares about children and the future to step up and demand that mental health screening not be allowed in any schools at any time."

APA and Media Suppress Coverage of Bush Mental Health Testing Plan
"According to a recent release of MindFreedom News, the American Psychiatric Association Says the Bush Administration is "Appreciative" of APA Efforts to Suppress Mass Media Coverage of Facts and Stories Raised by the British Medical Journal Series, exposing plans to screen pregnant mothers and children up to 18 years for "mental illness" so as to provide treatment, which means prescription of psychiatric drugs. The controversial Bush plan was developed in his home state Texas and is, according to whistleblower Allen Jones, being exported to other states all over the US."

TeenScreen: Mandatory screening never entered its mind
"TeenScreen recently posted a whole slew of responses to the various allegations some of us (well mostly me, I guess) have made about its screening program to "set the record straight." I began my response with the intention of responding to the whole litany of lies but decided I best break them down and cover each lie one by one or I'd be here forever."

TeenScreen: Angel of Mercy or Pill Pusher
"The question is what is TeenScreen, an Angel of Mercy for suicidal teens, or a pill-pushing front group for Pharma? After investigating the program, I'd have to say the latter."

Healthy Skepticism has some related articles here.

It just so happens that I'm reading the rather spiffy science thriller, Alchemist, by Peter James at the moment. What a nice "coincidence", eh? Apologies to anybody who's read the book already for that pun!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bush could bypass new torture ban

Isn't it time they changed "United States of America" to "Hazzard County" or something?

While they're at it, instead of a President, they could have an El Jeffe.

"Welcome to the USA, the world's biggest, most powerful banana republic. EVAH."

Bush could bypass new torture ban (free registration required)

More on Google

Why the media can't get Wikipedia right

David Weinberger has written a nice piece about why the media has so much trouble understanding what Wikipedia really is. The media getting stories wrong? Shurely Shome Mishtake.

Maybe if they learned to READ.


"Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements"

Microsft SUCKS, too.

No, I mean really sucks. As in, must have no morals, no integrity, no balls and worships the almighty dollar above all else.

It was bad enough when Microsoft started filtering words like "democracy" and "freedom" from its Chinese MSN site but now the multi-headed, fire-breathing Redmondster of a thousand deaths has begun acting like (or is it "as"?) an official jack-booted agent of Chinese government repression and removed a Chinese blogger from a site hosted in the USA.


BBC News Headline Headlessness.....

Having perused the website, it looks like somebody's been enjoying creating the ultimate headline just a tad too much. The BBC News headlines today are, ahem, literally "allittered" with alarmingly afflicted affectations and rampant with.

'Final body' found at German rink. Don't mention the war.....

Marathon boy's coach probed and Diarrhoea vaccine tests 'hopeful'. I'm not sure if these two are in any way connected.

Cannabis move 'confused public'

Troubled France still ill at ease

US mining firm expresses regret while French fugitive 'regrets actions' and I regret the fact that even the BBC has lost its emphasis on quality....

Whilst researching this posting, I stumbled across this natty blog.

Turkey diagnoses human bird flu

Is genetically-modified poultry on the verge of taking over the planet or has ineptitude fatally-infected even BBC "journalists"?

McAfee Settles Fraud Charges

I bet the latest news about McAfee's apparent accounting/securities fraud makes you feel even safer using McAfee as your anti-virus and internet security solutions provider, eh?

Remember, McAfee sucks. Heck, it's almost official!

Artificial Intelligence, the Web and Knowledge Systems

I SO wish I could be in Silicon Valley on January 12. This looks like it is going to be tres interesting.

From PARC:

PARC Forum: January 12, 2006, 4:00 p.m., George E. Pake Auditorium, Palo Alo, CA , USA

AI meets Web 2.0: Building The Web Of Tomorrow Today

Dr. Marty Tenenbaum, Chairman, CommerceNet and Director, Webify Solutions, Inc. & Medstory, Inc.

Imagine an Internet-scale Knowledge System where people and intelligent agents can collaborate on solving complex problems in business, engineering, science, medicine, and other endeavors. Its resources include semantically tagged Websites, Wikis and Blogs, as well as social networks, vertical Search engines and a vast array of Web services from business processes to AI planners and domain models.

Research prototypes of decentralized knowledge systems have been demonstrated for years, but now, thanks to the Web and Moore's Law, they appear ready for prime time. I will introduce the architectural concepts for incrementally growing an Internet-scale knowledge system, and describe early commercial deployments in manufacturing and healthcare.

Dr. Jay M. Tenenbaum is a world-renowned Internet commerce pioneer and visionary. He was founder and CEO of Enterprise Integration Technologies, the first company to conduct a commercial Internet transaction (1992), secure Web transaction (1993) and Internet auction (1993). In 1994, he founded CommerceNet to accelerate business use of the Internet. In 1997, he co-founded Veo Systems, the company that pioneered the use of XML for automating business-to-business transactions.

Dr. Tenenbaum joined Commerce One in January 1999, when it acquired Veo Systems. As Chief Scientist, he was instrumental in shaping the company's business and technology strategies for the Global Trading Web. Earlier in his career, Dr. Tenenbaum was a prominent AI researcher, and led AI research groups at SRI International and Schlumberger Ltd.

Dr. Tenenbaum is a Fellow and former board member of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, and a former Consulting Professor of Computer Science at Stanford. He currently serves as an officer and director of Webify Solutions and Medstory Inc., and is a Consulting Professor of Information Technology at Carnegie Mellon's new West Coast campus.

Dr. Tenenbaum holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and a Ph.D. from Stanford.

From the American Association for Artificial Intelligence:

IAAI-05 Invited Talk:
AI Meets Web 2.0: Building The Web of Tomorrow Today
Jay M. Tenenbaum, Chairman, CommerceNet

Imagine an Internet-scale knowledge system where people and intelligent agents can collaborate on solving complex problems in business, engineering, science, medicine, and other endeavors. Its resources include semantically tagged Web sites, wikis and blogs, as well as social networks, vertical search engines and a vast array of Web services from business processes to AI planners and domain models. Research prototypes of decentralized knowledge systems have been demonstrated for years, but now, thanks to the Web and Moore’s law, they appear ready for prime time. Tenenbaum will introduce the architectural concepts for incrementally growing an Internet-scale knowledge system, and describe early commercial deployments in manufacturing and healthcare.

Marty Tenenbaum spent the 1970s at SRI's AI Center leading vision research, the 1980s at Schlumberger managing AI Labs, and the 1990s founding a string of successful Internet commerce companies, ultimately serving as chief scientist of Commerce One. He now splits his time between two Internet healthcare startups—Webify Solutions and Medstory—and nonprofit CommerceNet, where he's returning to his AI roots, helping others pursue bold visions for making the Web more useful and intelligent.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

SUSE Saves the Day

Linux Journal has an excellent, informative and entertaining (if you're a freak, comme je suis, mon ami mate) how-to about using SUSE linux to recover almost all the data from a poor, suffering USB thumbdrive that had been sodomised, oops, I mean "deFlowered by Windows".

Why is AmEx Spaming Me About Phishing Me?

Why is American Express spamming me?

And what marketing maven at that company thought it would be smart to send unrequested mass emails all about Phish tickets?

Hmmm, I would be interested to know how many corporate email systems allow mass emails that mention "phish".

At first, I thought it surely must be the ultimate in brazen nay arrogant, even, attempts to trick me into divulging the much coveted details of my AmEx black card but then I realise, heavens to Betsy - I don't have an AmEx card.

Furthermore, I haven't been able to get my brain suffiently in gear to figure out for sure if the email is legit.

Oh well.

BUZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! And that's the end of the final, does it get the big Google Mail SPAM button or not round!!!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Official White House Photos Caption Competition.

No, no, no. I don't mean this is an official caption competition. Well, it IS an official n-sphere caption competition but they're official White House photographs, ripped straight off the White House website, not the White House's official caption competition, savvy?

I simply couldn't let this one pass us by without suitable comment. And captioning.

Let's face it, nothing says "put your words here" like an official photo of President Gump ("Shit happens and I'm making everybody else pay for it, too!") posing like Curious George telling the professor about discovering pizza.