Friday, October 17, 2008

LiveScience flunks simple survey write-up

I could apologize for the long layoff, but it's been long enough that it would probably be kind of awkward.

The cardinal rule of mocking is that you don't say anything stupid while doing it.

For example: if you're blasting somebody for their "embarrassingly terrible spelling," you double-check to make sure you didn't typo terrible as terribel. Elsewise, you're just asking for reciprocal reprimands.*

The folks at LiveScience.com apparently missed this rule when crafting their piece entitled "Americans flunk simple 3-question political survey."

The story, which recounts a political knowledge survey, was picked up by Yahoo News this morning. A recent study, LiveScience tells us, found that 82 percent of Americans are too clueless to name the party in control of the U.S House of Representatives (Democrats), the U.S. Secretary of State (Condileeza Rice), and the British Prime Minister (Gordon Brown).

The piece was doing a great job of shaming us readers when the story tripped.
"While most news audiences knew that Democrats have a majority in the House, participants struggled to correctly name the current British prime minister.

Just four news audiences had a majority who correctly identified Gordon..."
If you know journalist writing, you know we don't use first names on second reference. So it raises the question: did the writer not realize that Gordon was Brown's first name? Did they think those crazy Englishmen do those surname/first name reversals like Asian cultures?

It's possible that the writer just had a brain cramp. But I find it more plausible that the reporter knows ole Gordo well enough that they're on a first-name basis. It certainly would explain why they were so concerned folks didn't know Brown's name.

Regardless, the original version has since been fixed at LiveScience. I'm optimistic I didn't make grammar error** in this post.

*In fact, that's basically how forum threads work.
**Wow. That was actually unintentional, and I feel too guilty to fix it.

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