Tuesday, August 27, 2019

How the Media slants the news, example MCVIII

Oh noes, a Trade War!
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — U.S. lobster exports to China have fallen off a cliff this year as new retaliatory tariffs shift the seafood business farther north.


Meanwhile, business is booming in Canada, where cargo planes are coming to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, to handle a growing bump in exports. Canadian fishermen catch the same species of lobster as American lobstermen, who are based mostly in Maine.

The loss of business has brought layoffs to some Maine businesses, such as The Lobster Co., of Arundel, where owner Stephanie Nadeau has laid off half the 14 people she once had working in wholesale.

“They picked winners, and they picked losers, and they picked me a loser,” Nadeau said. “There is no market that’s going to replace China.”

America has exported less than 2.2 million pounds (1 million kilograms) of lobster to China this year through June, according to data from the U.S. federal government. The country exported nearly 12 million pounds during that same period last year. That’s a more than 80% drop.
This story caught my eye, since I grew up in Maine.  Lobster fishing is a hard business, and the government has in the past done any number of bone headed things that have damaged Maine's seafaring economy.  For example, George H. W. "Read My Lips" Bush imposed a tax on yachts that raised no revenue at all while putting boat builders out of business.  So yeah, this could potentially be another example.

But I'm suspicious of the press, and was on the lookout for numbers that would put the situation into context.  Are Maine lobstermen selling fewer lobsters?  All the article dished up is breathless prose:"fallen off a cliff", "they picked me a loser", "80% drop".

Well, the 80% drop is the drop in exports to China, not in total sales.  So what's going on up in Maine?  Are the lobstermen all going out of business?

We're never told.  We're also never given any numbers to establish context - how much was sold last year vs how much sold to date this year.  Until the tenth paragraph, where we see this:
Lobster prices paid by American consumers have remained fairly steady during the trade dispute and there remain many buyers for U.S. lobster.
Oh.  You'd think that if a major market "fell off the cliff" then lobster prices would drop.  Supply, meet demand.  We don't see that here.

Actually, I fibbed here in this post.  If you click the link to Boston.com (the Boston Globe web site) you don't find the last quote at all.  The Globe edited it out of the AP story (I guess to save newsprint costs on their website or something. /sarc).  But the same AP article is available all over, even at Canada's CBC.

So the whole story is a nothingburger.  It's a tale told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury but signifying nothing.  Actually, it's not so much told by an idiot as told by a liar.  Burying the lede is an old and infamous journalistic trick; the Globe "improves" on the trick by eliminating the lede.

I do like the local paper here because it has started focusing on local news.  That's something that's valuable to me - what's going on around these parts - and I'm happy to pay for it.  But this nonsense from the AP is worse than useless to me; they tell a story that simply isn't true and I'm uninterested in taking the time to get to the bottom of things (unless, like here, I just want to point and mock).

No wonder nobody trusts the media and they're all going out of business.


libertyman said...

The New York Times uses the word "lede" I guess I read that somewhere because I can "rede" but can't figure out the use or pronunciation of the word in its context.

Some of the gun magazines use "leade" I guess for the same reasons or they figure the audience can't figure it out when they talk about chambers or the heavy metal most bullets are made from.

I am being a little pedantic here, but I think the New York Times is to blame.

SiGraybeard said...

I propose there's an area of ocean where that kind of lobsters come from and they're either harvested by Canadian or American-based boats. If Canadian lobster exports to China go up and ours go down, we could be selling lobsters to Canada who would do the actual exporting.

If the open market price on lobster hasn't changed much there isn't much change in supply vs. demand. And there hasn't been.

Seems like it must be the normal, everyday, condition of some businesses grow while some businesses shrink.

Michael Z. Williamson said...

in firearms terminology - the "leade" is the distance between the mouth of the cartridge and the point at which the rifling engages the bullet. Also called 'throat.'

And now you know.

Old NFO said...

Yep, whining and bitching... Typical of the fishermen anywhere...

Borepatch said...

Libertyman, I've always heard it pronounced "leede" and it refers to the most important thing that the story talks about. "Bury the lede" means hiding the key point in paragraph 17 because you know that nobody reads past paragraph 5. They do this so when people accuse them of not publishing news they don't like, they can (truthfully but misleadingly) claim that they did in fact publish it.

SiGraybeard, the Gulf of Maine has terribly cold waters which seems to make lobster tastier (I'm allergic and so couldn't say one way or the other). The Gulf is shared between the USA and Canada; there are indeed a lot of lobsters fished out of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia waters. But yeah - if the price isn't going down, the withdrawal of the Chinese from the market isn't making any difference.

Michael, I hadn't known that. I expect it would be pretty important in the accuracy of the gun.

Old NFO, it was THIS BIG but it got away ...

Beans said...

I'm shocked, shocked I say, to see misreporting and outright fakery used in reporting news stories...

Yeah, like all the actual economics people saying "What Recession?" while all the media is screaming "Trump's Recession!!!!"

I give them the same respect for their information I give to weather forecasters. If I want to know if it's raining I'll open my door and take a look.

LindaG said...

If they sold more lobsters at lower cost in the US, could they recoup some of the loss? I like lobster, but Maine lobster is a luxury.

Borepatch said...

LindaG, it doesn't seem that there are any losses to speak of. The price isn't dropping. I guess that some people could have invested in a shipping channel for China, but it doesn't seem like this couldn't be used to ship to Los Angeles.

libertyman said...

English is a funny language, and I failed to make my point clear in my response.

The words "lead" and "read" can be pronounced two ways depending on its context. Most English speakers will pronounce them appropriately. The addition of an "e" to "lead" is an attempt to clarify this, in my opinion, unnecessarily. The word "lede" seems to be made up or its use goes back to an old misspelling of "lead". It seemed to be championed by the New York Times, the first place I saw its use. What is wrong with saying "The lead story today is..." who would not understand that?

My lathes have leadscrews, every machinist knows that it is not made of the metal lead, and will pronounce it correctly. Screw threads have a pitch and a lead, you do not have to spell the word differently to pronounce it correctly to be understood.

I guess that is why I find the use of the word "leade" when the word is "lead", and yes, it is pronounced as leed, as being as unnecessary as spelling "read" in two different ways.

Should we do this?:

I read the book, it was a good rede.
I read the book, it was a good reade.

That makes it clearer, I guess.