Be Less Stupid — December 5, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Be Less Stupid: Journalism’s Epic Fail


As more and more journalists conflate commenting on stories they read elsewhere on the web with actual news gathering, Americans are becoming more and more stupid.  

Plus, see Episode #1 of This vs That for a special discounted price. We reveal the fastest way to board 100 passengers onto an airplane.

By, Jon Hotchkiss, creator, This vs That.

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There is something disturbing happening at many of America’s news gathering institutions that I believe will cause deep and lasting damage to our country, it’s economy and its civil defense. And, no. I don’t mean all the lying at 60 Minutes over Behngazi.

What I’m referring to is the increasing and steady decline of actual news gathering which is making all of us more stupid.

Here. I looked up “gathering.” These are a few definitions:

  • To cause to come together; convene
  • To accumulate (something) gradually; amass
  • To gain by a process of gradual increase
  • To collect by making a selection

Unfortunately, for those of us who want to be informed – and less stupid – about issues that matter, who want facts & unbiased information, news organizations that live on the web (as opposed to the broadcast news organizations) seem to have gotten away from the business of “gathering” to focus mostly on just “telling” their readers about a bunch of other stuff they read someplace else on the internet.

Kenzy_Desk“Gathering” requires gradual accumulation, it’s active, I don’t think “gathering” is something you can do from the prone or seated position behind a desk while you’re playing Candy Crush on your laptop. “Gathering” is something you do while standing on your feet, mostly. You also might be hunched over, for instance, if you’re gathering news at a crime scene. Or interviewing an Oompa Loompa. Dan Rather was a news gatherer. Which reminds me, “gathering” requires going outside. It’s not something you do at your desk. It requires  getting your hands dirty. Many times, “gathering of news” involves being some place you don’t belong. Oh, and you might want to bring a trench coat. Start with an off brand, before you get a Burberry like the professionals.

Moving on.

You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about what passes for news, what gets reported, and how committed big corporations who fund news gathering organizations are to keeping Americans informed. I thought a good metric would be to find out what kind of stories the big news organizations are covering and compare them to the stories they used to report. And right out of the gate, I ran into some trouble.

slate-logoI started at And well, Slate does not appear to have a search engine on their site. At least, I couldn’t find it. I wanted to search for stories going back 5 years that had either “Facebook” or “Twitter” in their title, my assumption being that those stories are really easy to write — and if you’re writing more of those, you’re likely writing less of something else. After-all, to write a story about Twitter or Facebook, you just turn on your computer — and you don”t even have to be at your desk. You can do it on your phone, while you’re in the car. Even driving.

(Note: To those of you who might suggest that more reporting of internet stories could also mean that the news gathering organizations have dedicated more money and hired more reporters to cover that beat, I say: Very funny!)

TheAtlanticLogo1-940x350After, I went to And while they have a search engine, it doesn’t appear to just search TheAtlantic’s website. Either that, or The Atlantic has written 49,000 stories about Twitter.

Next, I tried the search engine at the New York Times. Sadly, I encountered essentially the same problem as I did at Slate. It’s almost nytLogoas if these news sites don’t want just some random guy with a laptop, wi-fi, 11 emmy loses and a couple of free hours on a Wednesday afternoon to meticulously chart their choice of story coverage and demonstrate how things used to be good, and how now they suck. Hey! Wait a minute.

Fortunately, didn’t get the memo about complicating a search of their archives in order to prevent me from shaming them into doing more real news gathering.


Above, you’ll see the number of stories the website has done over the last 5 years with either the words “Twitter” or “Facebook” in the headline. In 2009, Salon did just three Twitter stories. In 2011, they did eight Twitter stories. So far, in 2013, they’ve done 58.

As you can see, their coverage of “Facebook” is nearly identical.

(you can see ALL of Salon’s Twitter stories, here. And Facebook stories, here. 2009-Present)

Yes. Some of those stories were about the Twitter IPO, which is genuinely news, but only four of them. Here’s a sample of the other 54. Do they rise to what you consider “news”?

  • Ashton Kutcher vs Wal-Mart: Epic Twitter Clash
  • Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black’s Epic Twitter Battle
  • Twitter Slams Oscar Host Seth McFarlane
  • Chuck Woolery’s Twitter Meltdown Over Islam
  • Ashton Kutcher’s Massive Twitter Fail
  • Could Twitter Have Prevented The Iraq War?
  • Kanye West Joins Twitter
  • John Mayer Dumps Twitter

My intuition tells me that if we compared the stories from other web based news gathering organizations, we would see results similar to Salon. Those results clearly showing a steady decline in real news gathering and a steady increase in “telling” readers about some stuff they read somewhere else on the web. Or, in Salon’s vernacular: ‘Journalism’s Epic Fail’

However, my intuition isn’t fact. At least not yet. So, now that I’ve now done my part, I’d like to suggest that it’s your turn. It’s your turn to find some facts about news coverage and share them with everyone. Maybe you have access to Lexis – Nexis and can do a better search, a search with finer parameters and search terms. Better yet, don’t take instruction from me, after-all, I lost at the Emmys 11 times. Rather, figure out what you want to know and find the answer.


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“Are you as interested in science, truth & unbiased facts as I am? If so, let’s stay in touch.”




If you enjoyed this post, you’ll enjoy This vs That, the new 6-hour investigative series for science enthusiasts, skeptics and critical thinkers.

Here’s what people just like you are saying about This vs That:

  • This Vs. That is the latest and greatest in web TV. – Sammi T.
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In Episode #1 of This vs That we…: 

  • Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 11.32.46 AM Reveal the fastest way to board 100 passengers onto a 757.
  • We’re joined by astro-physicist, Dr. Jason Steffon from Fermi Lab, who puts his theoretical “Optimum Boarding Method” up against seven of the airline industries standard boarding procedures.
  • Plus, be on the look out for a hilarious improved song by co-host Brad Sherwood and a guy who makes a ham sandwich with his feet.


Exploding BeansWe determine which BBQ fuel, propane or natural gas, is actually hotter — and thus, better to cook with? To make this determination, we blow up Costco sized cans of baked beans… using both types of fuel. Which ever explodes first, is the hotter fuel. This vs That worked under the supervision of UCLA Chemistry professor, Dr. Alf Bacher.

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