Variation on a theme. Space and time in the media expands to fit the journalists available. That’s the conclusion I have reached about the way this rather meaningless federal budget is covered. And not just budget coverage really. It happens every day.

It is as if news editors who have all these highly paid resources in Canberra think that what they churn out must be important and thus given prominence. And to hell with what the readers, viewers and listeners are actually interested in.

You will get my drift if you look at the front pages of this morning’s papers and compare them with what stories are currently on the most read list on the web sites of those very same newspapers.

Apart from The Australian there is not much of a correlation between the editorial news sense and the interest of the readers. And even that Melbourne Herald Sun yarn that sneaks into the top five list is actually a fun  piece about the Treasurer breaking a glass during an interview rather than what he actually said during it.

I wonder what would happen to a newspaper’s circulation if the best journalists were assigned to writing about something other than the political nonsense?

Picking the lies. Some helpful hints for those of you determined to take political interviews seriously is given in a soon to be published paper in the American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry.

UCLA professor of psychology R. Edward Geiselman, is an academic who has has taught investigative interviewing techniques to detectives and intelligence officers from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Marines, the Los Angeles police and sheriff’s departments, and numerous international agencies.

Along with three former UCLA undergraduates — Sandra Elmgren, Chris Green and Ida Rystad — he has analyzed some 60 studies on detecting deception as well as conducting original research on the subject. They present their findings and their guidance for how to conduct effective training programs for detecting deception.

Geiselman and his colleagues have identified several indicators that a person is being deceptive. The more reliable red flags that indicate deceit, Geiselman said, include:

  • When questioned, deceptive people generally want to say as little as possible. Geiselman initially thought they would tell an elaborate story, but the vast majority give only the bare-bones. Studies with college students, as well as prisoners, show this. Geiselman’s investigative interviewing techniques are designed to get people to talk.
  • Although deceptive people do not say much, they tend to spontaneously give a justification for what little they are saying, without being prompted.
  • They tend to repeat questions before answering them, perhaps to give themselves time to concoct an answer.
  • They often monitor the listener’s reaction to what they are saying. “They try to read you to see if you are buying their story,” Geiselman said.
  • They often initially slow down their speech because they have to create their story and monitor your reaction, and when they have it straight “will spew it out faster,” Geiselman said. Truthful people are not bothered if they speak slowly, but deceptive people often think slowing their speech down may look suspicious. “Truthful people will not dramatically alter their speech rate within a single sentence,” he said.
  • They tend to use sentence fragments more frequently than truthful people; often, they will start an answer, back up and not complete the sentence.
  • They are more likely to press their lips when asked a sensitive question and are more likely to play with their hair or engage in other “grooming” behaviors. Gesturing toward one’s self with the hands tends to be a sign of deception; gesturing outwardly is not.
  • Truthful people, if challenged about details, will often deny that they are lying and explain even more, while deceptive people generally will not provide more specifics.
  • When asked a difficult question, truthful people will often look away because the question requires concentration, while dishonest people will look away only briefly, if at all, unless it is a question that should require intense concentration.

Some vintage political speeches and music. The US Library of Congress calls it the National Jukebox — a collection of historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. It is a fascinating collection. Here are a couple of links to get you started: William Jennings Bryan on An Ideal Republic and Enrico Caruso in 1905 singing Romance de la Fleur.

Peter Fray

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