Date: September 13th, 2017 2:17 PM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
It's a complicated question to answer.
-True stupidity is pretty rare. It's hard to be genuinely rock-dumb in journalism because most people do have to produce coherent written copy for people to read, and hardcore dumbs are incapable of doing this. I have seen some people whose unedited work is pretty rough, but these people tend not to last.
-Ignorance is a somewhat larger problem than stupidity, but it can come from surprising places. One that absolutely blew my mind recently was an American-born Ivy League graduate who didn't know that U.S. senators are elected statewide rather than from districts that split the state in half. He's fresh out of college, but come on, man. Still, this is most common with rookies and if people have been on a beat for any substantial length of time they become a lot more knowledgeable. Of course, the percentage of people in journalism who are inexperienced has gone up in recent years, I'd guess, but it's not really the root of journalism going bad.
-A lot of people can be really bad at applying basic reasoning, though XO overstates it because the worst examples are always posted here while pieces that avoid such failures rarely are. Still, there are some embarrassing ones; I've met data journalists who knew how to use STATA but somehow didn't understand basic shit like Simpson's Paradox.
-I'd say the most recurring problem with journalists is that they are increasingly stuck in bubbles where groupthink is easy to achieve and there is a resulting lack of rigor to their thoughts. This isn't just on big things like Trump v. Hillary; I've been in large conversations where I was the only one who didn't oppose the Redskins nickname. A very good example of this bubble, though, is the whole campus rape stat thing. A large number of journalists just uncritically cite very flawed studies supporting the 1-in-5 thing because editors and writers aren't really even conceiving of the possibility those studies could be way off. I once met a statistician who did surveys for WaPo, and we discussed some WaPo-run survey that supported 1-in-5. Notably, their rate included a large number of people who said they'd been assaulted while "incapacitated" by alcohol. I asked whether they'd explained to respondents that "incapacitated" means literally knocked out and dead to the world, and not simply drunk. They had not, and it actually had never occurred to him that people might misinterpret that question in a way that would drive up the supposed rape rate.
-A lot of journalists, even lib ones, know a great deal and are able to do a lot of heavy lifting to find information. Remember, the Rolling Stone UVA story may have been the work of an incompetent journalist, but it was also reporters at WaPo who exposed the whole thing as a sham.
-As was stated by someone else above, journalists can be really lazy which can cause a lot of problems and half-assed work. Not really the same thing as stupidity, though.