Sunday reads – Dec. 3, 2016

N&O: Fight fake news by backing real journalism

This is a nice sentiment from ECU journalism professor Cindy Elmore. I especially like this:

I envision commercials that feature real journalists who have to sit through six-hour city council meetings because something might slip in that is important for residents to know.

She notes that most of her students think of journalists as people in front of TV cameras, which considerably understates their total numbers. She also suggests a six-point test to identify real journalists.

▪ Real journalists give their real names and real contact information – not blog handles that offer no way to learn anything about the identity, much less the credentials or partisan ties of the writer.

▪ Real journalists at real news organizations subscribe to a code of ethics, such as that of the Society of Professional Journalists. “Fake news” writers do not.

▪ Real journalists go out of their way to include knowledgeable sources on both (or all) sides of an issue. They do not generally get to include their own opinions in what they write – unless the piece is clearly marked as such.

▪ Real journalists have editors who act as a line of defense to ask for verification, edit for clarity and fairness, and sometimes demand more reporting.

▪ Real journalists recognize they should interact with readers and viewers, as their limited time allows. They don’t mutely hide behind websites.

▪ Real journalists work at news organizations where advertisers do not have the power to influence news stories.

But then I read the comments under the story, and the first commenter makes me want to bang my head on the desk, “That’s why I got this subscription and donate to moveon.org.” While a subscription to the N&O supports real journalism, moveon.org is a political organization, not a news source.

NY Times: Why blue states are the real ‘Tea Party’

Writer Steven Johnson makes a strong case that blue state voters have a better claim to represent ‘Tea Party’ values – that they are overtaxed and, thanks to the Electoral College, underrepresented.

This was always a betrayal of one-person-one-vote equality, in that a voter in rural Wyoming has more than three times the power of a voter in New Jersey, the country’s most densely populated state. But those imbalances have become far more glaring, thanks to a filter bubble more pronounced than anything on Facebook: the “big sort” that has concentrated Democrats in cities and inner-ring suburbs, and Republicans in exurbs and rural counties.

The right way to think about the political conflict in this country is not red state versus blue state, but red country versus blue city. And yet we are voting in a system explicitly designed to tip the scales toward the countryside.

I doubt we will see a serious effort to alter the Electoral College, or even a lot of protest from blue staters over this idea, but it certainly is relevant in light of the economic differences highlighted in the election results.

Times-News: ‘Taken away, day by day’

Reporter Natalie Allison Janicello had a good piece in my local paper yesterday, digging into the motivations of a local ‘Southern rights’ group. The leader of the group is either unable to clearly express what the ‘Southern rights’ are that he feels are threatened, or is not willing to admit to a newspaper reporter that he supports ideas expressed on the group’s Facebook page.

Those ideas include: kicking Muslims out of America, celebrating the assassination of President Lincoln, having North Carolina secede from the United States and objecting to LGBTQ events in Burlington.

Multitasking? Just stop. It makes you tired

Multitasking makes you tired so, in the end, you end do less.

When we attempt to multitask, we don’t actually do more than one activity at once, but quickly switch between them. And this switching is exhausting. It uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, running down the same fuel that’s needed to focus on a task.

“That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing,” says Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University. “People eat more, they take more caffeine. Often what you really need in that moment isn’t caffeine, but just a break. If you aren’t taking regular breaks every couple of hours, your brain won’t benefit from that extra cup of coffee.”

This is one of the reasons I don’t ask job applicants if they can “multitask,” and one of the reasons I’m suspicious of people who claim they can.

Quartz: Neuroscientists say multitasking literally drains the energy reserves of your brain

Local zoning a drag on the economy, promoter of inequality?

Fascinating piece in the New York Times about how local zoning and development regulations that are “anti-growth” may, in fact, be slowing economic growth as much as $1.5 trillion per year.

Essentially, in fast-growing communities where there are more jobs and more higher paying jobs, local development rules make it difficult or impossible for low-income people to afford to live there. As a result, those people don’t move to areas with more, higher-paying jobs — which is what you would expect them to do in a free market where people make rational economic choices.

But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy.

It has even to some extent changed how Americans of different incomes view opportunity. Unlike past decades, when people of different socioeconomic backgrounds tended to move to similar areas, today, less-skilled workers often go where jobs are scarcer but housing is cheap, instead of heading to places with the most promising job opportunities, according to research by Daniel Shoag, a professor of public policy at Harvard, and Peter Ganong, also of Harvard.

One reason they’re not migrating to places with better job prospects is that rich cities like San Francisco and Seattle have gotten so expensive that working-class people cannot afford to move there. Even if they could, there would not be much point, since whatever they gained in pay would be swallowed up by rent.

The story spotlights Boulder, Colo., as one example of this, and mentions San Francisco as another. Here in North Carolina, it seems we’ve seen this same dynamic in Chapel Hill and perhaps other parts of the Research Triangle region.

Certainly makes it worth reconsidering how we handle local development ordinances.

NY Times: How Anti-Growth Sentiment, Reflected in Zoning Laws, Thwarts Equality

What are you feeding your kids for breakfast?

From the New York Times’ Well blog:

With Cheerios and other processed cereals, “you basically have rapidly digested sugar mixed with bran and germ,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “It provides fiber and minerals, but also digests in the mouth almost immediately.”

That gives you a quick spike in blood sugar, but no energy for later.

Basically, if you’re going to eat (or feed to your kids) processed cereals, you should add fiber and fat to slow down the digestion of those carbohydrates so they’ll have enough energy later on.

Ask Well: Choosing the Right Grain for Your Morning