Wednesday, 7 September 2011

one millions pounds!

I hate it when 'journalist' (or 'politician', frankly) is used in popular culture as a term of abuse, as if these people are ipso facto deceitful, mendacious, etc. It's just nonsense.

However, partly because of the fact that everyone wants free stuff so newspapers don't have money to pay for research which takes time, which means staff journalists have to churn out tons of words a day; and partly because it's the easiest thing to do and lots of journalists are lazy (unlike you, I'm sure) a lot of silly press releases get parroted as journalism.

Slate published a great dissection of how this works last week, with respect to NFL contracts. The Philadelphia Eagles, their reformed dog-killer quarterback Michael Vick and Vick's agent all wanted to announce a $100m dollar contract. They colluded in the creation of one, even though it was absolutely impossible that the six-year contract would ever be paid. In a nutshell, the Eagles can cancel well before the end, and also the sixth year (worth $19m in this case) is forfeited if he plays a third of ANY of the first three years. Thus that sixth year is moot, since under those circumstances, Vick would have long since been cut.

Vick will get about $50m, if he plays well, and about £40m, if he doesn't. Anyone can do this research - it takes five minutes - but newspapers don't bother and so the headline gets repeated. It's not a long piece, and it's about the same process that creates cancer scare stories, and a hell of a lot of others.

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