Part 2. WCIJ Error Spreads Media Virus. Scores of Media Infected by WCIJ. | Wis.Community

Part 2. WCIJ Error Spreads Media Virus. Scores of Media Infected by WCIJ.

... Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has created a tenacious anti-rail virus, a "feathers-to-the-wind" media story that the U.S. Government Accountability Office is opposed to inter-city rail projects....By Bill Sell

A Series of Commentaries.Introduction. ..(more to come)

Part 2. The Virus

Wikipedia:

A is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without the permission or knowledge of the owner.

I advocate for public transportation and so I am familiar with the benefits and limits of rail, and the proper role of government.

The efficiencies of bus and rail are well-known. WPR underwriter CSX touts that its trains can move 426 tons of freight on one gallon of gas. Even the old Milwaukee :

 

One full bus takes 30 cars off the road reducing congestion and making the air healthier to breathe. That's comparable to a line of cars six blocks long traveling at 25 mph.

And so it happened, that when I visited the WCIJ website, I found myself staring in disbelief at what WCIJ calls the 'conclusion' in the : I know the work of the GAO; and it commands respect.

[img_assist|nid=3970|title=Screen Shot of WCIJ Website|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=400|height=56]

 

 

 

 

 

  • How could this be?
  • Why would the U.S. GAO say that?
  • (I then found the report on the Net and read it.)
  • The GAO real "Conclusions" are on page 54 of the report (but not in the WCIJ Report).
  • Only 16 of the GAO's 40,000 words appear in WCIJ's report.
  • But who fabricated WCIJ's purported GAO 'conclusion?'

I have trouble believing WPR would intentionally be party to a fabrication.

My better angel kicked in and say "Silly Monkey" (my neighbor's favorite nickname for me) - long time Friend of WPR that I am.

Of course! I surmised kindly (at first) that someone else fabricated that GAO 'conclusion' and WCIJ just carried it forward. Public Radio would *never* lie to me!

So I did what any investigative journalist could do: I turned to Google. My goal was to find the author of the 41 words (see screenshot above).

And Google delivered.

So, step by step: Don't you dare take my word for it.

Investigative Journalism 101 - you, too, can play the game. You are as good as you are if you abide by the .   Maybe a shill if you don't.

Do It Yourself Investigative Journalism

Of course, you can find the 16 words on page 44 of the .

For your convenience, copy the 16 words (here bolded) [ "little impact on the congestion, environmental, energy and other issues that face the U.S. transportation system." ] and include the quotation marks to limit the scope of the search engine.

If Using Advanced Google Search:

  1. At THIS EXACT WORDING OR PHRASE, PASTE: little impact on the congestion, environmental, energy and other issues that face the U.S. transportation system
  2. At RESULTS PER PAGE: 100
  3. If the Google list is short, go to the very bottom and click on: REPEAT THE SEARCH WITH THE OMITTED RESULTS INCLUDED.

Google presented to me, on different days, slightly different counts - 65 to 72 - news outlets and blogs that picked up the WCIJ quote, word for word.

Each pointed to WCIJ as the source.

I decided to devote time to reading each of the three-score commentaries. Yes, I love investigating. And this trail is hot.

 

Reading the Commentaries

So I read media reports that Google linked me to.

  • I found no link dated prior to July 21, the WCIJ Report publication date.
  • I found that each medium referenced WCIJ as their source.
  • In their own words each news outlet attacked public investment in high speed rail.
  • It appears by all logic that WCIJ has created a mendacious anti-rail virus, a "feathers-to-the-wind" media story that the U.S. Government Accountability Office is opposed to rail projects.
  • On July 21, 2009, WCIJ successfully Swift-Boated the substance of the .

WPR Gets Mud on Its Face.

On July 22, 2009, the amiable Jim Packard on WPR's Larry Meiller show read the fraudulent paragraph to his audience:

WPR's Jim Packard:

"a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report [...] concluded rail projects would have 'little impact on the congestion, environmental, energy and other issues that face the U. S. transportation system.'"

[Packard continues in his own words:] That's a rather harsh assessment for Wisconsin trying get some stimulus money to build this Milwaukee to Madison corridor.

 

Letters to the Editors

So, I am in the process of sending a Letter to the Editor of each newspaper or radio station in my Google list. I point out the fabrication. (I will report on The Letters in another blog in this series.)

Plausible conclusions:

  • WCIJ originated the fraud.
  • Each of the Googled media attributes the paragraph (above) to the US GAO, instead of WCIJ, the true author.
  • No news outlet appears to use that 16 word GAO phrase before July 21.
  • None wrote a report based on the GAO Report itself.
  • None gives evidence of having read the GAO Report.
  • None appears to question WCIJ's journalism.
  • Each of the media outlets pans high speed rail as a public investment.

Our new   needs to watch what it leaves behind as it moves through the media; digital mistakes are forever.

A series of commentaries on Report by Lexie Clinton of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, with Andy Hall and Jim Packard. Web: July 21 and Radio: July 22, 2009.

Parts 1 and 2 are the first of my several commentaries on the July 22 High Speed Rail report by Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporting on Wisconsin Public Radio. I will soon publish more about this WCIJ report - about the content, language, common sense, the Governor's transportation strategy, the debate about reducing congestion, and suggestions of resources available to a journalist interested in transportation policy.

Part 3. Next, The "Correction"

The author is a life-long Milwaukee resident. 33 year owner of a downtown Milwaukee business serving editors and authors nationwide. Founding Member Bay View Neighborhood Association. Founder of Transit Matters. Steering Committee Coalition for Advancing Transit. Member Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. Shepherd Express Community Activist of the Year, 2007. Member, Public Policy Forum. Associate Member, Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Published

August 31, 2009 - 11:52am