Monday, August 31, 2009

Letter to the editor

This is the letter I submitted to the local newspaper today after reading this story. I suppose I should don a red flannel shirt and sneer out of one side of my mouth when I talk now.

Are reality-based stories on the way out?

I was disappointed to see the Portland Press Herald promote the guess-based Farmer's Almanac this week as a legitimate source of weather information (“Farmers' Almanac calls for a cold one,” Aug. 31) and that people should worry about an extra-cold winter this year.

The story, a sloppy Associated Press piece glanced over by a negligent editor, repeated the fable that the Farmers' Almanac has a 80 to 85 percent accuracy rating. Unmentioned were the tallies by anyone outside of the organization – they always show the almanac has a rating no better than guessing.

The piece tried to save credibility by saying “many people read the forecasts only in fun.” Yet, towards the end of the story, almanac editor Peter Geiger bragged people call him to help decide if they're going to lock in their heating oil costs for the winter.

This doesn't sound like fun. It sounds like The Portland Press Herald is presenting a band of cranks as legitimate sources of information on an important subject. What's next, high-risk investment tips from a clairvoyant? Cancer treatment advice from a witch doctor?

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