Daily Archives: June 12, 2008

Blinded

If WSB starts a story by telling viewers they’re about to expose wasted tax money– your money!— chances are, they’re going to spend the next couple of minutes bashing science.

So it was in a piece this week. Tom Regan found that Georgia Tech had gotten a federal grant to develop a robotic drum machine. The video showed a rather marvelous gizmo that actually pounded a drum. Its distinction was its ability to improvise based on rhythms created by a human being on another instrument.

But to WSB, there was nothing marvelous here. It trotted out Herman Cain, righty WSB radio talk show host, to utter predictable banalities about wasted tax dollars. WSB also found a living, breathing drummer who wanted no part of a government-funded robo-drummer.  Was the Georgia Tech researcher available?  Regan said no.  Was there anybody available to defend federal funding for scientific research?  Apparently not.

A recent piece about federal grants to study rafting in Nepal and wine service in Napa valley was a little more evenhanded. Conveniently, the UGA researcher who did the rafting study was conducting another study in Afghanistan and was unavailable. And although Amanda Rosseter interviewed a predictably outraged taxpayer-watchdog type, she went out of her way to suggest that federally funded scientific research may, indeed have value.

But earlier this year, WSB did another piece that ridiculed a federal study on walking habits. The piece never alluded to the national obesity epidemic as a possible justification.

Sure, there are legitimate questions to raise. The international space station is arguably a bottomless pit of taxpayer boondogglery, and many scientists agree. WSB’s stories would have more credibility if they had a science-based voice. But if their best critic is Herman Cain, WSB is just playing to the cheap seats.

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