Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wall Street Journal Publishes Another Sloppily Rendered Chess Article

I wrote two detailed critiques of a Wall Street Journal article about the Kasparov-Karpov 25th anniversary match; the Wall Street Journal article not only contained several basic factual errors but also demonstrated that its author had no understanding of chess history and how chess strategy/tactics have evolved over the past 150 years. The Wall Street Journal's most recent attempt to cover chess is equally unsatisfactory: Barbara Jepson's piece titled Abolish Women's Chess Titles inspired a passionate and detailed refutation by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, the reigning Women's World Chess Champion.

The issue of whether or not FIDE should award separate titles--with significantly lower standards--to women is interesting but the more pertinent matter in this instance is the fraudulent way that Jepson put together her story. Kosteniuk explains (in a comment posted beneath the blog post cited above):

What's upsetting is that the Wall Street journalist, Barbara Jepson, tricked me by telling me that the article she was writing was about "Women's Chess", which made me very happy, as I supposed she would be writing something to support women's chess (not destroy it), that's why I took great care to answer in a positive and honest way (as I always do).

She asked me several questions including if I thought special women's titles should be eliminated. In my answer to her, I wrote very clearly with my reasoning that "Women's titles and tournaments should exist". And then she changed the title of her piece to "Abolish Women's Chess Titles", and used my name in it (I guess to add some authority to it, as if to boast she consulted with the women's world champion about it), only quoting some insignificant point I made to another question about sponsoring, without stating I was against that idea of abolishing women's titles, so that most people thought I agreed with the idea of abolishing women's titles since I was featured in her article and said nothing about the lead question of abolishing titles.

This apparently caused on purpose misunderstanding led me to get several emails from people asking me why I supported abolishing women's titles. This lie started to be posted all over the web and can still be seen on several web sites. I had to immediately respond on my blog and set things right.

Now you, dear reader, please judge for yourself what kind of article that Wall Street Journal was?

Whether or not one agrees with Jepson's premise, it is irresponsible of Jepson to mislead her readers to believe that GM Kosteniuk supports the abolition of separate FIDE titles for women. Sadly, this type of agenda-based "reporting" is all too typical; journalists form a conclusion and then shape their coverage to reflect their biases, as opposed to objectively researching a subject and reporting what they discover. I provided several examples of such tendentious coverage in a post titled How the Media Works--or Doesn't Work.

Another related problem is the media's obsession with "breaking news"; every outlet wants to cover a story first, often at the expense of covering that story accurately: the Washington Post's Dana Milbank declares that because of such haste The News is Broken. The 24 hour news/sports/entertainment channels are contributing to the death of real journalism, because the "beast" must be fed nonstop content 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even if there is nothing true, significant or meaningful to report. Ratings go down--and revenues thus drop--if the networks do not constantly offer up "new" stories, so these channels constantly "break" stories without providing any depth or context. Then they move on to the next "breaking" story without bothering to fix the stories that they literally broke.

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