Wouldn’t it be great if there was something called Science Based News

I emailed this letter to NPR after hearing this story in which one guy (Tom Malinowski, the Washington director for Human Rights Watch) was criticizing President Barack Obama for acting to slowly in the Libyan Crisis, while another guy (retired General Wesley Clark) criticized him for taking any action at all.

Dear NPR,
It seems to me that there is a serious flaw in news commentary in which you allow two guests with opposite views to each give their opinion without forcing them to engage and challenge one another. In this format there is no consequence for either person if he is incorrect. Most likely, a year from now, one (or both) of these men will be proven wrong. But unfortunately, also one year from now, it will have been forgotten that at this particular moment in history, one of these men is greatly complicating the situation by giving an opinion that is basically ignorant.

Could it be possible to get both of these men to agree, now, to come back on the show in 2012 and explain how and why they got their criticism so very wrong?. They could then go on to explain how they have changed their way of analyzing current events since their failed 2011 interview. This should help prevent one or both of these men from being so wrong in the future?

NPR, you have a great opportunity here. It is likely that there is one of four outcomes for the President’s recent actions in Libya.

1) Despite the President’s actions, the rebel movement will be crushed by Kaddafi, in which case Mr. Malinowski will have been proven wrong.
2) The US is drawn into a protracted ground war, in which case Mr. Malinowski still will have been proven wrong.
3) The situation stays essentially how it is now (no American or Allies suffer) and the entire incident is a blip in history. In this case a great humanitarian disaster has averted and Gen. Clark is wrong.
4) The rebels make great strides and Kaddafi will be isolated (or thrown out of power), proving that the President acted correctly and within a reasonable timeframe, in which case both Mr. Malinowski and Gen. Clark will have been proven incorrect.

When confronted with past interviews that where dead wrong, it would be wonderful to one day hear an analyst say “Wow, What was I thinking.”

There is one more aspect of this “result based reporting” that I feel should also be adhered to. These news analysts should be asked if they are willing to come back in a year and discuss their position BEFORE NPR allows them to broadcast to a national audience. If they are not willing to do so, then they should not be allowed on the air.

A framework such as the one I have outlined, If used repeatedly, would go a long way in helping the field of “news analysis” relieve itself of a burden that it has carried for far too long - the overabundance of experts who have no idea what they are talking about.

I know I am being hard on these guys. They are just giving their opinion. But NPR would save time and credibility if they were to find one guy who can express both opinions. If the guest were to say, “this one thing could happen but so could the opposite. The President has tough choices and I don’t envy him.” That would be an EXPERT and not just a guy with an opinion.

Here is a picture of those guys if they were caught in one of those transporter pods in the movie The Fly and accidently fused together.



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