Truthiness, Cont.

I mentioned earlier how hard it is for some news organizations to say, "2+ 2 = 4," as opposed to "experts say 2+...."  A few reader updates.

1) Truthiness in Dallas. A reader sends a picture of a plaque at the site of the Texas School Book Depository Building:

Thumbnail image for IMG_2766.JPG

The reader -- a visitor to Dallas rather than a local -- adds, "I was just stunned by 'allegedly' and the inscribed underlining and circling in the bronze plaque, which I hope comes thru in the shot."

2) Truthiness at CNN. Competent medical authorities have established beyond reasonable doubt that a seminal British study "showing" that childhood vaccinations caused autism was a fraud. Not just wrong in its conclusions but deliberately faked. But this (non-bylined) report from CNN presented the latest debunking with "critics say, the author disagrees, who can tell?" truthy "balance." Interestingly, as Jay Rosen pointed out in a note, CNN's Anderson Cooper did a much more straightforward "this is a fake" report on his show. More background here.

3) Truthiness in Tunnels. A reader in Sydney quotes (and dissects) a study in which "experts claim" that digging a tunnel for an underground road is more expensive than building on the surface. Jarrett Walker, a transportation planner in Sydney, asks:
>>Why did we need "state planners say" in this sentence?

State rail planners say it would be several hundred million dollars cheaper to build aboveground tracks ...

All other things being equal, underground construction is more expensive than surface.  This is an easily verified fact about the universe, readily found in any transport engineering textbook, so it's misleading to describe it as though it's an allegation.<<

Experts say I am grateful for these contributions.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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