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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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

17 thoughts on “Blinded

  1. tom regan

    Doug,

    If you’re so enthralled by a drumming robot that can
    be picked up on any toy shelf for 10 bucks, perhaps you would prefer to pickup the half million dollar tab for this professor’s next musical Frankenstein.

    I am all for scientific advancements. But for something like this? Let the music industry foot the bill, not taxpayers.

    As for the walking study? The proposal said the study on campus walking patterns would help “companies like Sprint” save on health care costs.

    Then why not let Sprint pay for the study?

    Incidentally, there’s no ‘federal science expert” available to talk about our reports. That’s because they don’t want to talk. The National Science Foundation, which funds these studies has repeatedly refused to talk with us, or even respond to written questions.

    Next time you climb into your arm chair quarterback chair with your bag of clever little cynical quips..here’s a novel suggestion…

    GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT! It might help.

    Best Wishes. And keep up the great work.

    TR

    Reply
  2. live apt fire Post author

    Tom–

    My arm-chair was so very comfortable until now. But your abuse is always welcome. Thanks for that.

    And although I don’t believe you disputed any of my facts, I will always endeavor to get them as straight as my addled, distracted and occasionally-cynical mind will allow.

    Are you really saying the robo-drummer is available for ten bucks at a toy store? The one that improvises? Feel free to send me a link.

    Visit again. Weigh in anytime.

    d

    Reply
  3. Edward

    How conveniently these Luddites dismiss anything scientific without ever considering the possible further implications these studies might have in other areas. The drum machine, for instance, while on the surface appears frivolous and non-essential, has advanced robotics and software that can be applied in a host of other applications that are far-reaching and important. If WSB could put aside their “Faux News” envy, they might have even brought up that very valuable issue. But no, they took the cheap shot, playing to the typical viewer’s fear-and-loathing of science to attract ratings.

    I call that SLEAZY.

    Reply
  4. shelbinator

    I don’t suppose we can expect much more from news in a state that has pulled up sixth from last in graduating kids from school. Science is hard! And Tom Regan is just testifying to that fact. It would take way too much intellectual curiosity to figure out that the important part of the drumming robot is in its artificial intelligence, which the music industry would have no interest in funding (I’m sorry, is there some big pool of funding in the music industry for scientific research, huh?), and not whatever instrument it plays or task it performs.

    As a formerly NSF-funded graduate researcher at Georgia Tech, I would not look forward to having to explain in small words to Regan why it’s important for me to figure out which way fatigue cracks are going to turn in a vibrating piece of metal. “Let the airline industry fund that,” I can hear him cry! Except as we’ve seen in the luggage-check line, they don’t have a lot of money lying around for research, either. Plus, if a jet engine explodes and the plane falls out of the sky, it stands a good chance of landing on any number of taxpayers who don’t buy all that many airline tickets. I don’t see health care plan purchasers like Sprint, let alone many health care plan providers, all that interested in the long term vision of anything, so obsessed they are with trimming the margins for next quarter’s numbers. There are things in this world, Tom, that will only be discovered by people who are not immediately concerned with turning a profit, and that’s the whole reason we rely on a goofy thing like the federal government to keep an eye on the common good (they’re clearly not interested in profit). It’s just like why we buy health insurance even though we don’t plan on getting sick or hit being hit by a car; make sense, Tom?

    Outstanding post, Doug.

    Reply
  5. TravisBickle

    It sounds to me like the piece succeeded in its mission: present a potentially divisive issue and get people to take sides. Methinks the animosity toward ‘SB is becoming a little overt from our blogger.

    Sure the robot is interesting, maybe cool. But the objective of the piece was to PRESENT the issue and let the viewer opine.

    Of course we want the scientific explanation. Please tell us how it will benefit taxpayers, that’s all we ask. But their egotistical response is to stonewall in attempt to kill the story. Thats not a new tactic if you’ve ever been in the business. Ever air a story with a “No comment”?? c’mon!

    It is, unfortunately, the state of the business. We are cranking out more with less. And those tv journalists that have yet to deal with that stress, you will. And you are in a dream world if you don’t think you will be some day soon.

    Do I think the piece was thorough enough with regard to its content, sure.
    Was proper time and care with respect to it’s caliber invested in it, yes.

    And by saying WSB + taxpayer waste = bashing science, you reveal a lot about the motivation for your post.
    Every one in town knows WSB is the only one that consistently challenges wasteful local governments and agencies ala Belcher. A few science related stories and they get that kind of blanket statement? Sheesh!

    Reply
  6. ChesterMolestor

    Hey…it’s all about the money. Dougie boy why don’t you fork over your own cash for these wasteful studies. It’s my hard earned money being used for this crap. Univeristies like Emory have 8 billion in endowments and they don’t spend it. If they want to do wasteful studies fork over some from their big bankroll…not my hard earned money stolen by NSF and handed over to a Danish researcher who is living the American dream!
    By the way…you called Bachman a square jaw…is that because you have a big ugly moon face and no one will hire you in television?

    Reply
  7. foxnews watcher

    Doug,
    You sound like one of those left wing media liberals! You don’t work? I bet you sit around all day and watch kiddie porn while waiting for the news to come on? I bet you smoke pot all day as well.

    Reply
  8. live apt fire Post author

    Call me stoned, but isn’t “left wing” the only kind of liberal?

    The pot helps me endure my ugly moon-shaped face better while avoiding work.

    I can do without the kiddie porn crack, but otherwise, thanks for the abuse. Visit the site anytime.

    d

    Reply
  9. sammie

    d,

    I can’t decide if i hate to love ya, or love to hate ya!

    Anywho, keep up following the mega-issues facing mericans.

    Reply
  10. LBJ

    Speaking of over reacting to “waste”, the State of Ga. Visa card story was a great example. Yes, some State employees abused it, but I didn’t see one acknowledgement in any story about how many millions the program saved. A live check to pay Office Depot for a $3 box of paper clips costs way more than the item. And, they didn’t mention that criminal minds get checks cut fraudulently more often than bad Visa card charges. As long as the program is properly supervised, it’s even safer than a check.

    Reply
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