Dear Crosscut: Please Improve Your Quality Control

Last Tuesday Crosscut published a piece by Kent Kammerer that is premised with a blatant fabrication.   Kammerer writes:

Not long ago a representative from Futurewise and a realtor said that Seattle’s population will double by 2040.

The first clue that the above statement is not on the up and up is that there are no specifics provided about exactly who said this or when they said it.   But the fact is, anyone who knows Futurewise knows that no person from that organization would ever make such a patently silly claim.  Futurewise is widely recognized as one of the region’s leading experts on growth management issues—their roots stretch back through 1000 Friends of Washington to the origins of the Growth Management Act.  One can only assume that Kammerer is making shit up about the others he accuses too.

The piece is entitled “Why Seattle won’t grow as fast as planners say,” but nowhere in the article is a single planner—or anyone, for that matter—actually quoted saying that Seattle’s population will double by 2040. Of course, that’s because no planner with an ounce of competence would say such a thing.  The only place any “religious mantra” exists is inside Kammerer’s little head.

Given that the set up for Kammerer’s entire argument is such glaring bullshit, the question then becomes:  Why would the editors of Crosscut compromise their own credibility by publishing such hackery?  Two possibilities:  (1) an oversight, or (2) intentional disregard for journalistic integrity to further an ideological agenda, with the added bonus of manufacturing controversy to drive up the hit rate.

If it’s (1), well, we all make mistakes.  But given that it’s all but certain Kammerer has no evidence to back up his allegations—and in particular the libelous claim about Futurewise—the piece should be corrected or taken down.

If it’s (2), well, that’s pretty sad.  But unfortunately it’s worse than just sad.  These matters are massively important, and willfully abetting the injection of mendacious noise into the public conversation is irresponsible citizenship.

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P.S.  I would be remiss if I didn’t also pipe up about how Kammerer’s whopper attracts similarly truth-challenged commenters, e.g. “bubbleator” lied when he asserted that this very blog has been making the “Seattle’s population will double” claim.

21 Responses to “Dear Crosscut: Please Improve Your Quality Control”

  1. Frank

    probably comes from this kind of thing? not quite a fabrication if you hear it, extrapolate/exagerate to the entire city. although i agree it’s not what was stated at all, but I remember hearing about this vaguely. Anyway, it’s not like anybody uses those critical thinking skills you know!

    http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/newsdetail.asp?ID=4088&dept=40

  2. ktstine

    I am a planner by trade and I have to admit that I am often confused by the growth projections for Seattle, whether we have met them, when they get revised, etc. Maybe I am naive, but is there any central location that explains what the projections were at the time of neighborhood planning and which urban villages have met their targets?

  3. ktstine

    i meant planner by training; developer by trade.

  4. Matt the Engineer

    Dan, you must be new to reading Crosscut or haven’t been paying attention. Factless sensationalism is what they do. It’s kind of their thing. During the recent ST 2.1 vote, they continuously let through unsubstantiated and flat made-up numbers, and despite half the comments pointing this out they’d run an almost identical piece the next week. Their business model seems to be based on shock jock radio. I stopped reading them a while ago.

  5. Chris

    Dan -

    OT but there are a ton of people downtown passing out flyers for a rally for Children’s Hospital at 12:00 tomorrow.

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/409224_childrens12.html

    Good chance to go out and show support for the growth of the hospital…..and any opportunity to voice opposition to Laurelhurst NIMBYs is always a good time.

  6. freddyJ

    Dear Matt,
    And how is that different from reading this blog? Dan admittedly says his writing has certain levels of entertainment.

  7. Ellery

    freddyJ – The difference is that hugeasscity doesn’t claim to be a news source. It often times is one, but mostly it is a personal blog, full of both entertainment and insight that has earned it a considerable following. Crosscut on the other hand, claims to be “news of the great nearby”, and while that can include opinion pieces and editorials, they should uphold some standards of journalism, by backing up their claims and taking responsibility when patently false information is presented as fact.
    But back to this blog, where has it ever presented incorrect information as fact? Dan, and the other posters, are generally very good about citing their sources, and I’ve never seen data or accusations put out there without appropriate citation. There is plenty of opining, sure, and you may not always agree with the conclusions that hugeasscity makes…but you can’t argue that they are just making shit up.

  8. David in Burien

    Matt’s right. Not even worth reading. Don’t even get me started on how badly Crosscut botched the recent coverage of the litigation surrounding the Maury Island gravel barge dock.

  9. Joe G

    I would like to second both Matt and Ellery. Crosscut is the fox news of northwest online news organizations and hello, hugeasscity is a blog. For crying out loud. People really should pay more attention to what sources they are looking at and consider what they are reading.

    If you’re going to live in the 21st century, please do so responsibly.

  10. justus

    On the other hand… This: “no planner with an ounce of competence would say such a thing.” is not entirely true.

    It’s true that no one looking at current growth projections would come to that conclusion. But then, our growth projections are almost certainly wrong; especially as far out as 2040. Projecting future population using past trends is always fraught…

    For example: unless projected climate impacts to the Southwest are vastly overstated – and we can all hope they are – we will see waaay more population growth in Seattle and across the PNW than any planner is currently anticipating.

    But that’s about the art of making projections, not about Crosscut. Crosscut is staffed entirely by Scooby-Doo villains…

  11. Max

    Crosscut is the last refuge for Lesser Seattle. Their echo chamber gets smaller by the year….

    Kammerer was pre-destined to live in the ‘burbs, but somehow stayed a Seattleite for all these years. He’s a nice man, but a total waste of time.

  12. freddyJ

    Ellery,

    First, I never made the accusation that Dan et. al. lie. I said this blog has certain levels of entertainment that Matt clearly is blind to a contradiction in his ethics on journalism. But, I understand your point. Thank you for the developing the clarity and taking responsibility for a post written by someone else. Had he eloquently said what you did there would be no confusion.
    Still, one must take your position on blogging with a grain of salt. Although, Dan et. al. are not traditional journalists they are on the frontier of the future of journalism. With the infusion of the online world in our lives, blogging is becoming the method that we get a lot of our information (your and my reading this blog regularly proves this). This blog influences our knowledge on certain subjects. Anyone can write but can they ask the deeper questions the kind that get to the soul of what things are about? Or, are we just talking about the state of things? Has Dan or anyone reading here ever asked the deeper questions of urban planning and development? Have they been on both sides of the issues to understand them better?

    Most of what I read about urban planning is the same: density, density, density. But do we ask why and where does the need for density come from? Is it a proactive or reactive response to current conditions? Does it work for certain situations or can it be applied blanket wide?

    The ground work laid to get us to this iteration of journalism should be respected. To elevate Dan et. al. beyond the trashy journalists today (as crosscut is claimed to be) the sensationalist, fear mongering single minded “reporting” needs to be dismissed. This blog should be responsibility not entertainment (as it is most of the time). So long as this blog continues to “report on” rather than investigate it will side more the entertainment side of journalism (in my mind) than fact finding and knowledge building. For example, until Dan et. al. treats Mike O’Brien with the same probing intellect as directed toward David Miller this blog will not have even the remote likeness to journalism and we all should take what is written with a grain of salt and do our own investigating to the legitimacy of this blog’s claims (not just ask for their sources) Otherwise this blog is just a club and Dan et. al. should start collecting fees for their time gathering us all together.

  13. Joe G

    @freddyJ Not sure your demographic,(will certainly be looking for it in a minute) but as a consumer of this new frontier of journalism in this new frontier of information, of which I have grown up with, it would be irresponsible on a consumers part to take what any one person says as the truth or fact without looking into it yourself. We have every ounce of information quite literally at our fingertips.

    And for that matter(I didn’t pay much attention to the Dan/David spat) but it looked to me that David is really the one that provoked the whole thing. Now maybe I’m wrong, but didn’t David comment and Dan responded (slapped down)? So, I’m guessing that if Mike were to comment to a post and Dan were to disagree with him that he would treat him in the exact same manner. It is very unfair to suggest that Dan wouldn’t treat everyone at the table as equals.

  14. freddyJ

    Joe,
    I’m not sure why my demographic matters in this conversation but maybe you can give some clarity to that????
    To be a consumer of something means you are “buying” into that product which should mean we believe in supporting that “product.” So I’m not sure about how that tallies out in you mind. I think you can see through the thread of “journalism” turned into talk radio, arguably a predecessor of blogging, that people do indeed get their sole source of information from these single entities or from like minded sources.

    Although it sound like you are different, I’m sure you are aware of people buying into single minded media. For example, some people still think, via conservative political sources that Obama is not a natural US citizen or that they should go out to be disruptive (a la Bill O’reiley) in town hall meetings to shut out their opponents.

    Not everyone has the time and luxury to access the same information you and I do. We seem to either have good employment to allow for us to use our work internet connection or are paid well enough to purchase internet at home. That is just not the case for most people which means their source of information is limited. In short, we are very privileged to have “every ounce of information” at “our fingertips.” If it is the case that the internet is a source of balance could you provide me with four aspects of Mike McGinn that is unfavorable in your mind and those sources?

    By “slapping down” you must have paid more attention to the discussion between Dan and David. I personally saw it as a useless spat between a biased source of information and a politician trying to reach out to as many people as possible. That’s not to mean that Dan shouldn’t ask the hard questions but David by responding to Dan’s first round of peppering walked right into a nest of snakes. Do you really think all the resulting posts read as ganging up on David by a group of people equally informed and balanced of opinion? Hardly, in my eyes.

    You can read all over this blog that behavior. When someone disagrees with a post or another person posting, that is not of the blog’s mainstream thought, you will almost every time find a ganging up reaction. Dan only fed into this by continueing his “slap down” of David and increasing the belligerent bashing of David. This is hardly responsible to being a resource of information. It’s sensational rabble rousing no different that what Rush Limbeau does.

    This brings me back to my original comment to Matt that he should, for the same reasons that he doesn’t read Crosscut, not read HAC.

    Sorry to you all if you disagree with me but we are all blinded by parts of the “truth” by the sources of which we read. That’s a reality and we only contradict ourselves by thinking otherwise.

  15. dan bertolet

    freddyJ @14: Please give an example of a HAC post I have written that you believe has a level of sophistry equivalent to the Kammerer piece.

  16. Joe G

    freddyJ,

    I want to first say that it saddens me to think that anyone is feels as though they are being ganged up on. See, the way I view blogs such as this is that it is a space for like minded people to share their thoughts and ideas. I think that when someone disagrees it is great, i am never one to turn down an argument. And I would like to think that I am open to hearing others ideas and views on the world. I would suggest to you that if you disagree and feel the need to say so that you should be prepared to defend your positions. It seems as though you are ready to do that. Thats fantastic, because thats what these blogs are for, the exchange of ideas.

    Your demographic (which i was unable to find in the post from the other day) only matters to my point in that I am 24 and its in my understanding that people such as myself, certainly that are my age are not just looking at one source for news. Looking at hundreds of sources. All over the web and believe it or not in varying biases. Now, i would say that I tend to look at more progressive leaning sources of information more often but thats kind of human nature. I am going to go where I am more comfortable. So my point was that we have the information so use it. Even the birthers are doing it.

    Now I honestly couldn’t pay to much attention to the spat between Dan and David because so many new ideas were being presented to me at once that my cross checking and researching was having me constantly distracted from the main post. It seems to me though that Dan was giving more attention to David because he was running for office. He should be questioned as such. He very well could have been making decisions that obviously Dan and the rest of care deeply about. Of course Dan is biased, this is his blog, its called hugeasscity and it was started by him, presumably, to share his ideas re urbanism and so forth. The whole point is that its his point of view. He not even pretending to be unbiased. And THANK GOD!

    And thank you freddyJ for sharing your opinion. The free exchange of ideas is a powerful thing.

    BTW: to respond for your request of four negative things about McGinn, I would really have to think about that one. I am pretty inline with his ideas and a huge supporter of the guy. But no one is perfect and you have quite honestly given me something to ponder. Am I too in love with Mike to see his flaws? Hmmmmmm. I’m going to stare into his soul some more and let ya know. :)

  17. freddyJ

    Dan,

    I never said you falsely made up information (to my knowledge). Whether it’s true or not only you and joe G know.

  18. freddyJ

    Joe G,

    Thanks for the rhetorical response (as if I didn’t already understand how blogging works).

    I’m still confused as to why demographics matter in our discussion. People of all kinds, ages, nationalities, genders use the internet just like you and I. Being 24 makes you no more special than someone else. Me being 108 should make me no more special than anyone else (although maybe a little remarkable to be reading such small serif typeface) just as my two year old Native Australian daughter with built-in USB port is no more special. Seems more like you are trying pigeon-hole me as being different than you and a trait of being naive. Which I am not sure you are (but I am leaning toward).

    I believe we agree that Dan is not a journalist, even though he has articles published, and that this blog is biased and not “traditional” news, only information (as it is called now). But, in my opinion finding balanced and objective “information” is as rare as seeing a Dodo (whoops that would be…never). All we receive in terms of “information” is so singular that there is no way any of us really see the whole picture. My point, as stated above, is that no matter what you read it will be biased. I also find it most often true that people tend to read only what they agree with (especially as they get older), thus, ground even more their singular focus.

    It is also looking clearer to me that you don’t seem to hold attention to things for too long. 1) Your tone in your last response seems to insinuate that you are done addressing the subject and 2) you are possibly looking for an out on the McGinn challenge because you aluded to finding information on the web seeming…easy. But, that’s all fine with me.

    Like every blog conversation, I am sure this one will die out after it falls off the page, getting buried deeper under other postings. Thus, the free exchange of information halts with a short life lost in vastness of the space of Wordpress’ server memory.

  19. bailey

    “Thus, the free exchange of information halts with a short life lost in vastness of the space of Wordpress’ server memory.”

    i have nothing new to contribute to this conversation. i just found that last sentence oddly beautiful and wanted to repeat it.

  20. freddyJ

    Yep. Thought so. Great exchange of ideas Joe G.

    bailey, Thanks man. I’m a spoken work artist living out of my trunk.

  21. Ye Olde Crosscut Not Dead Yet | hugeasscity

    [...] just hired a new deputy editor, who will hopefully pay a bit more attention to the credibility of what they publish.   Coincidentally, this past week saw two land-use-related pieces that show [...]

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