Wednesday , June 19 2024
The Wild, Wild, Web: When automation and political correctness root out journalistic dishonesty.

When Political Correctness Meets Automation: A Disaster Of Olympic Proportions

To quote that great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra, “I didn’t really say everything I said.” This seems to be the case in a story that was published this week about the results of an event at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic trials. These trials are taking place in Eugene,
Oregon all this week.

Tyson Gay is an American sprinter who won gold medals at the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4 x 100 meter at the 2007 World Championships last year in Osaka, Japan. Last week he was at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene Oregon, trying to make the U.S. Olympic Team.

On June 28 in the 100 meters quarterfinals, Gay finished in 9.77 seconds, setting an American record and going 3rd fastest all time. On the following day, in the same event, he finished first in what was called a wind-aided 9.68, the fastest 100 meter ever run under any conditions. Unfortunately for him, the wind was clocked at +4.1 meters/second and the world record does not count.

Even more unfortunate for Gay is the meeting up of automation and political correctness. Automation is the term for what happens when people are too lazy to do their job and want something else to do it for them. Hey, I work with computers and like the conveniences that automation brings me just like the next person, but that does not take all of the responsibility out of my hands.

The second thing is this whole political correctness thing. Political correctness is defined as the process of seeking to minimize offence with regard to gender, race, culture, age, ability, or other identity groups by changing language, policy, and/or behavior.

It appears that an article was picked up by OneNewsNow, a website that is run by the American Family Association; a Christian-based news and commentary source, and was published on their site. In and of itself, this, this is fine, it is what a lot of web based sites do to manage the flux of news items available and it allows them to keep their readers informed with a lot more information than would otherwise be available if writing everything themselves.

In this case, the problem stemmed from the fact that rather than just publishing the article, they ran it through a software program to clean up the language so that it fits more into their standards of publishing. The use of this kind of software is to me a problem. Sure, one obvious problem is that thinking that the software is a panacea and that it is a replacement for common sense as it is not, but in this case, it brought the real problem to light. Before I state my point, let me tell you what happened.

The observant reader already knows where this is going. We have an Olympic athlete, whose last name is Gay, being run through a politically correct software package without human intervention such that we now have articles that read:

“Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials”

“Homosexual runs wind-aided 9.68 seconds to make Olympics”

“…Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat, and had to scramble to finish fourth…”

True, is the case here that the problem has multiple levels; automation, and political correctness being the two of them, but there is also a third; the fact that when you run an existing article through this software, you are changing the words of someone else without their authorization. It seems to me that if you are using someone else’s words, you need to either one, request permission to change them, or two, acknowledge that you are editing the article, and what the purpose is for the editing when it is published. To just make the wholesale changes is akin to Photoshopping someone else’s words.

To me, this is a fundamental problem that I see at times on the Web; people want to use your words but not the way you say them. They do not want to take the time to rewrite it in a way that fits their own views; that would require work on their part, so instead they take an existing story and “make it better.”

While that is not in and of itself, plagiarism, it is journalistic dishonesty, and it is something that should not be tolerated. To me it is unethical and, in general, wrong to do. When you read something next time, be aware that you could hear the author say “I didn’t really say everything I said.”

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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