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The aim of this blog is to fit into the blogosphere like the bracingly tart taste of yogurt fits between the boringly bland and the unspeakably vile.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Information sources

There’s a lot of information available to anyone who looks. There’s even more misinformation available.  

Sometimes there’s a shortcut to the needed information, such as a link from a newspaper article. Sometimes using exact words from an article in the browser may help.

Whose ox is being gored 

The major caveat about news sources, such as newspapers, is credibility. Today’s news media includes a lot of advocacy journalism, which isn't identified as opinion like the editorials used to be. The same five questions we use when evaluating political claims can help tease out bias in “news” articles:

  • ·         Who does this point of view (POV) benefit?
  • ·         Why is it proposed now?
  • ·         What supporting or conflicting data is reasonably available?
  • ·         Does the data look “cherry picked” (selected to prove a point)? And most important,
  • ·         Is the article supported by facts and/or logical argument? (“Everybody knows,” and self-quotes aren't factual or logical support, of course.)

Cherry picked data is usually evident when the data all points to a specific conclusion or is suspect in its application.


One Register article, for instance, noted that “police” supported gun control measures. Actually, an organization of large-city Chiefs of Police announced their organization’s support of a few of the proposed measures. And, it was announced immediately after their visit to Washington, D.C. seeking grant funds. However, a large-scale survey of the rank and file, especially of the street cops, revealed that the overwhelming majority of cops believed the proposed gun control laws would be useless in combating crime. This was not mentioned.
We see similar data cherry picking in reports of $500K PR programs (Mesa Water) or excessive spending on infrastructure such as road repair (Costa Mesa City).

All use it to convince

Propagandists appeal to emotion, agitators divert attention to irrelevancies, and both cherry pick their data. Unfortunately, Advocacy Journalists use cherry picked data as well. Ask the five questions!

Some user-friendly sources

Very good, if sometimes clunky, access to “everything you ever wanted to know about Costa Mesa government” is available on the City’s website: . Transparency is real on the website, but the data file is enormous. So it is important to understand and define exactly what is wanted.

Some relevant articles and commentary (remember advocacy journalism) are available from the Daily Pilot:

For subscribers, a wider variety of news can be found (with the same caveat) in the Orange County Register at:

And more obscure. . . 

There are weekly newspapers, both print and online that feature Costa Mesa, as well as blogs that focus on some aspect of the City of the Arts. Caveat emptor, though, if credible information is the goal. We have found one, or possibly two, well-researched news sources among all of them. 

This blog is not a news source.

Everybody has an opinion, only a few have the facts.

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