January 20, 2005

Letters to the Editor

Grade inflation

A couple of points regarding "GPAs Get a .76 Boost from Grade Inflation" (1/18/05): You base your article on a Duke professor's study, released nearly two years ago, which states that average undergraduate GPA rose from 2.50 in 1965 to 3.26 in 1999. That study gives as its source an "internal University of Miami document." The professor's website lists the URL for the document. The URL is no longer valid. It's possible that the GPA data are correct, but it might have been prudent of you to ask U of C administration to confirm.

It might also be worth noting that plus/minus grading in the College began, according to your registrar's website, in the summer of 1984, in the middle of the period reported by the Duke professor. You offer no data that track GPAs within the two different grading systems, so it is possible that the change of systems, and not grade inflation per se, led to a change in averages.

Robert Nelson

City University of New York

Media and the Left

It's difficult for me to imagine how Laura Hamilton's Viewpoints submission could have been more disconnected from the reality of contemporary news media ("Big Media and the Left: A Shameful Partnership," 1/18/05). Leaving the usual punditry aside, the article makes a series of bizarre allegations that just don't wash.

For starters, in her catalogue of news corporations from which all Americans supposedly drew their news before the advent of the "blogosphere," Hamilton leaves out some fairly important names: the New York Post, The Washington Times, the Boston Herald, and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. It's also worth pointing out that there are thousands of local papers with an enormous collective circulation and a reactionary slant.

Still more troubling is Hamilton's claim that news corporations "ruled the political world" and "toppled politicians." Of course journalism has had an impact on American political history, as we can see from the Tammany Hall scandal and the Clinton impeachment, but Hamilton asserts categorically that "liberals controlled...the news" without a single particle of evidence appearing in support.

The bulk of her editorial is devoted to the CBS News debacle over President Bush's discharge records, but rather than confine herself to the facts of the case, Hamilton chooses to proclaim—again without any evidence—that CBS is "reporting Democratic Party propaganda" and is the agent of the aforementioned "liberals" who engage in the "creation of news" to a purpose she leaves unexpressed.

Hamilton's fast-and-loose games with the facts and gratuitous insults are both part of the same kind of irresponsible journalism that she herself criticizes. If she wants to see an end to the type of news casting that Mary Mapes, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity have popularized over the last 10 years, she should drop the offensive and insulting rhetoric, check all her own facts, and at least try to write sine ira et studio.

Moreover, Hamilton can't write off her own reactionary bias by claiming her article was an editorial, since the article doesn't editorialize. The words "opinion," "think," "ought," and "should" never appear; she never suggests a potential course of action or makes it clear that any of what she says is a matter of her own belief, even in the terse language I've outlined above. Instead, she presents a conspiracy theory long on accusations and short on evidence, and in my opinion the result is poor journalism.

Harry Schmidt

Third-year in the College