Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hands-Free Cell Phones Kill, and Other Media Blather

Want to see an example of media innumeracy at its schoolmarmish best?

Look at this alarmist report relayed today by the Poynter Institute, misstating the findings of an already flawed "study" on cell-phone use by people driving cars.

Is it dangerous to drive (or, more dangerous) while using a hands-free cell-phone to hold a conversation? Well, as you can see, the study carelessly flips among hand-held cell-phone use, text messaging and hands-free cell-phone talking. And the journalist "expert" blithely states something that simply is not documented in the badly written report, or its sloppy methodology. The report is by the AAA, an organization that loves to make guesses and is accustomed to credulous media attention, especially around the holidays.

Come on, how is hands-free cell-phone talking any different than holding a conversation with another person in the car? Or listening to the radio? Or singing the Star Spangled Banner, or "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," really loud, for chrissakes? If it is different in kind, I'd like to see evidence.

But all the schoolmarms want you to know that something, uh, might be dangerous if you don;t watch out. Like driving in the first place.

The Institute -- the Ding Dong School of journalism academe -- tells us that the "two thirds of drivers" who believe that using hands-free cell-phones is safer than using hand-held ones "could be wrong."

Yeah and I say tomorrow "could be Friday."

But it ain't.

More phony-baloney alarms to further buzz-kill the holiday season. And it's only Dec. 17!

By the way, did you know that Christmas trees can catch fire if you're careless with matches, candles, or frayed wiring on lights? (Don't laugh. Right now, there's probably some poor schnook in some unhappy newsroom somewhere working on that holiday perennial.)

UPDATE: Oops, too late. Newsday already has the tree-fire scoop.


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