Self-congratulatory journalism, bad journalism

Have you read a newspaper, magazine or online story which includes a boast along the lines of “as predicted by this publication”?

Are you impressed?

I’m not.

It is what I call self-congratulatory journalism; the media version of self-abuse.

If you call yourself a journalist, stop doing this now.

Nobody cares how clever you are. Nobody turned to the story for information about your brilliance.

Readers want facts. OK, let’s get real and admit what all the research shows — they also want entertainment.

“We predicted this would happen” maybe correct, but it is irrelevant and it certainly isn’t entertaining.

The “we told you so” school of journalism is more likely to put people off.

If you want to preen. Go and do it somewhere else. Start a blog.

6 thoughts on “Self-congratulatory journalism, bad journalism

  1. On the other hand, I love it when newspapers do the end of year round ups and they score their predictions from the year before.

    (Yes, I realise that’s different from what you’re talking about.)

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  2. Scoring last year’s end of year wraps is a legitimate story if a paper is honest enough to:

    a) come clean on all the badly wrong predictions as well as the correct ones;
    b) run the scoring story even when last year’s predictions were way off mark; and
    c) not brag about it in an obnoxious “ooh aren’t we clever” manner.

    Most papers do a) reasonably well. I’m certain some have conveniently forgotten to do the job when last year’s were bad.

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  3. I was thinking about this over the weekend. In 1981 walked in to the first lecturer of stage 1 chemistry, in my first year at Auckland Uni. The lecturer started the lecture by asserting in a loud gruff voice that “science is prediction”. For some reason it has stuck with me all these years.
    I have heard many scientists state the prediction is not necessary for science. Understanding is sufficient. I have deluded my self enough times to know that the only way you can distinguish between the feeling of understanding and actual understanding is to make falsifiable predictions. In other words, understanding that does not make testable predictions is no understanding at all. It belongs with the crystal worshippers as homeopaths.
    If journalists seek only to act as descriptors of the world then they practice nothing more than stamp collecting. Predictions are the only way they can test their grasp of the complex systems the seek to understand and describe. Prediction is thus very important.
    The systems they are seeking to understand are horrendously complicated so any chance of success is very low. If you get a prediction right it quite likely by chance but we take the rough with the smooth when it comes to luck, so take the credit anyway.
    Go ahead and gloat but also tell us why you got it right and also tell us when you get it horribly wrong.
    cheers

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  4. But does ‘taking the credit’ do anything to serve readers? This should be the first priority of a journalist, not satisfying the ego.

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