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How to Read the News Like a Pro

When it's your job to read the news, you come across a lot of stupid, badly written, and just plain wrong "news" reports. They're not necessarily fake news, but these godawful stories do serve as an important reminder... but let's stick a pin in that thought for a moment.

This morning I ran across a Reuters report on Venezuela which is such a perfect example of "stupid, badly written, and just plain wrong" that I have to share it with you.

Let's approach it in old-school fisking style, but abbreviated.

First the headline, which reads: "Once oil wealthy, Venezuela's largest state struggles to keep the lights on."

That headline gives the impression that Venezuela has run out of oil, but nothing could be further from the truth. The country still possesses the world's largest oil reserves, so there's plenty of oil wealth. It's still right there in the ground. It hasn't gone anywhere. The problem is that Bolivarian socialism has ruined the country's extraction industry, but you wouldn't know that from anything in the entire story.

Here's the second graf:

The rolling power blackouts in the state of Zulia pile more misery on Venezuelans living under a fifth year of an economic crisis that has sparked malnutrition, hyperinflation and mass emigration. OPEC member Venezuela’s once-thriving socialist economy has collapsed since the 2014 fall of oil prices.

When Hugo Chavez took over the country in 1998 and began imposing his socialist regime, oil prices were at around $18 a barrel. Twenty years later they've "collapsed" to... about $70, with some temporary lows around $40 or so.

That is to say, oil prices since 2014 have averaged about triple what they were in 1998. And from '98 to 2014, oil was mostly on an upward trajectory and routinely went for well over $100. So the question isn't how this "crisis" was caused by a "collapse" in oil prices. The question is: What the hell did Maduro and Chavez do with all the damn money?

Skipping down further:

The six state-owned power stations throughout Zulia have plenty of oil to generate electricity but a lack of maintenance and spare parts causes frequent breakdowns, leaving the plants running at 20 percent capacity, said Angel Navas, the president of the national Federation of Electrical Workers.

Here we finally get a tacit admission that Venezuela is still oil rich. But it's juxtaposed against the fact that the country is no longer able to maintain its power plants... without explanation.

More:

Although Caracas has fared far better than Maracaibo, a major outage hit the capital city on Tuesday morning for around two hours due to a fault at a substation. The energy minister said “heavy rains” had been reported near the substation.

Heavy rains in Venezuela? Why, that's as rare as having hot weather in Texas. And yet Texas doesn't seem to have any trouble getting oil out of the ground (at any price) or keeping the lights on (even under full summer A/C load).

And even more:

Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second largest city, seems like a “ghost town,” said Fergus Walshe, head of a local business organization. He said businesses had shortened their operating hours due to the lack of power.

“Before, business activity here was booming,” he said.

Before WHAT, a smart and/or honest reporter would have asked. But when the answer is "before socialism," a left-leaning ignoramus just doesn't want to know. This "informative" story, in other words, is an 800-word exercise in Sergeant Schultzism.

Let's take one more look at that second graf, because it features a telling line: "OPEC member Venezuela’s once-thriving socialist economy has collapsed since the 2014 fall of oil prices."

Emphasis added. For emphasis.

Here we have a story detailing Venezuela's economic collapse, and every single problem can be explained by two words: Because socialism. And yet the only time reporter Mayela Armas uses the word socialism, it's in the context of a "once-thriving socialist economy."

If it was thriving, then I'll repeat my question: Where'd the money go? But in Armas's case, inquiring minds want to KNOW NOTHING, SEE NOTHING.

Now let's take that pin out of my earlier thought.

I know a bit about socialism, and quite a bit less about the oil industry. And yet even my little bit of knowledge was enough to leave Reuters "rekt," as the kids say, on a stupid, badly written, and just plain wrong "news" report. Now think of a field where you have some expertise, and how many mistakes you find when you read a story about it in the news. Then think of something your spouse knows a little about, and how frustrated her or she gets reading just plain wrong reports on that topic. Extrapolate from there, and you'll realize just how malignantly uninformed the "news" has become.

So the press might not actually be an enemy of the people, but all-too-often it's no friend to the truth.