Archive | August 2012

More UH Propaganda

Here we have another misleading claim by the University made on the UH Facebook account a few weeks ago.

Maybe this is minor, but I think it deserves a quick going over as it reflects a common problem at UH and society in general: logrolling.
Some website creates a mediocre list of higher-ed admins who use Twitter, and, perhaps, in exchange for them putting the most PR-oriented admins at the top of the list, they get free publicity when those image obsessed admins brag about how they’re at the top of the list on this website.
Nevermind that the list isn’t a ranking (Khator isn’t #1 as her Facebook suggests – she was just at the top of the list), that 3 out of 6 comments on the list website are pointing out misspelled names of 3 different admins, or that the descriptions of why the admins should be followed are all pretty bland/similar:

” shares updates about school events, research, and even a few tidbits about his personal life”

“shares great higher ed news, Houston updates, and, of course, information about Rice”

“uses her feed to talk not only about Webster but about higher ed in general.”
The poor quality, arbitrary listing arrangement, and obscurity of the site ( it’s just a blog published by one person (and now a guest writer) are no match for school’s hunger for good publicity.

With mutual itches being scratched at UH and this education blog, and  the trusting students high on school pride, it seems like no one is hurt.  A minor truth merely suffered minor abuse.

This example still serves as one of many that speaks to too often overlooked issues (something lacking in the media) of public relations’ tendency to bend or break the truth, as well as how businessmen may use subtle marketing techniques, such as utilizing publicity seekers’ desire to self promote.

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The River Oaks Examiner Forgets to Cite Source (Plagiarism?)

A few weeks ago I went to a House of Pies on Westheimer and picked up a copy of the local paper, The River Oaks Examiner.
I didn’t get around to reading it until recently, but I’m glad I did because there’s yet another example of poor journalism in it.
This example comes from Katherin Cabaniss, “a former prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and currently the Executive Director of Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit organization” according to the Examiner.
In her article on tanning beds, Cabaniss talks about a recent infamous case of a woman tanning her 5 year old kid, lists some Texas laws regarding tanning, lists some risks of indoor tanning, and then goes back to listing more Texas laws.

In “The Risks” section, Cabaniss says:

“Tanning is a trend that is here to stay. However, the risks are significant.
The Department of Heath and Human Services actually declared that tanning beds are carcinogenic! They are formally defined as cancer causing instruments. Studies have shown a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning.
Nonetheless, 28 million people tan indoors annually. Seventy percent of those users are Caucasion girls and women. In 2010, the tanning industry saw $2.6 billion in revenue.
Further, frequent intentional exposure to UV light may lead to an addiction to tanning! (This clearly applies in the New Jersey woman’s case.)”

While it may seem to some that the author is an expert on tanning risks, since she knows so many facts about tanning apparently off hand, in fact the author got all of these facts from the same website.

The American Academy of Dermatology’s “media resource” on Indoor Tanning says:

“The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency of Research on Cancer panel has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).6”
“Studies have found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning.9,10”
“Nearly 28 million people tan indoors in the United States annually.”
“Nearly 70 percent of tanning salon patrons are Caucasian girls and women, primarily aged 16 to 29 years.2”
“In 2010, the indoor tanning industry’s revenue is estimated to be $2.6 billion.5”
“In addition to the above mentioned risks, frequent, intentional exposure to UV light may lead to an addiction to tanning.16”

Once again, the author seems to think making minor changes to the sentence structure and adding shallow/obvious things like tanning is “here to stay” and “the risks are significant” means she doesn’t have to cite her source at all, even though she used over 5 quotes from the same web page.
This seems especially odd considering the author is a former prosecutor.

So is this hypocrisy? Is the Crime Stopper committing intellectual theft?

Does the fact that her facts came from AAD’s “Media Resources” section mean that she doesn’t need to attribute?
Does the fact that AAD hasn’t responded about the incident mean that it doesn’t matter???

Comments are appreciated.

Editor at Major Newspaper Calls Quote from Texas Watchdog “puzzling” and “highly questionable”

I recently emailed an editor at a large daily newspaper about the Texas Watchdog quote, and received this response:

To re-use a quote that was published somewhere else isn’t plagiarism, but they should have credited the place that got the quote. It’s considered plagiarizing to run parts of stories (non-quotes) from another publication and try to pass that off as your own reporting/work. Quotes are OK to be shared, but it’s ethical to credit the place that got them. So, the second place to run the quote should have said:

“Texas A&M has one of the finest business schools in the country, and yet we can’t figure out how to in-house save money out of our department,” Draper told the Texas Tribune.

The real puzzling part to me is that the Watchdog added “with a metaphorical scratch of the head” to that attribution, which indicates that its reporter was there to get the quote. Could there have been two reporters talking to the guy at once? Maybe. Was it a news conference? Possibly. If so, then it was OK for them to run it and add the shake of the head and that’s that. But if not, to add that to the attribution when they weren’t even there … that seems highly questionable to me.

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As you can see in my previous post, no defense was offered from the Texas Watchdog founder regarding the “scratch of the head” addition, so only time can tell what to make of it.
The editor who provided the above quote wishes to remain anonymous, making them my first ever anonymous source.  I have mixed feelings about using an anonymous source, especially since I don’t have the reputation/history to provide enough credibility for it to mean much, and also since I just criticized Mr. Lisheron’s acceptance of the truth of an anonymous source (with a large potential for conflict of interest) in the story in question, but rest assured the quote is real and the only potential conflict of interest in this case (me wanting to look right) isn’t that big.

One author of the original article was also emailed, as well as CJR – both of which have not yet responded, which may speak to the subtlety of Mr. Lisheron’s violation or the shared understanding among journalists of the many difficulties in the field/many ways to mix things up. Or maybe even the collegial feelings journalists have for each other.  Or maybe they haven’t had time to respond.

In the mean time, readers here are encouraged to respond.

I look forward to your comments.