3rd Degree win journalism award by falling for local con

In more news of our friend Danie Krugel: it seems that Vodacom, in their infinite wisdom, have awarded etv’s show 3rd Degree the Journalist of the Year Award 2007 (region: Bloemfontein, category: TV Feature), for their piece on Danie Krugel. And no, this would not be an investigative journalism piece where they show him as the fraud he is; rather, it’s the piece where, ala Carte Blanche, they fall for his nonsense hook, line and sinker.

From the press release:

The judges wrote: “For the almost eerie investigative feature on a home-made invention which has helped trace criminals and victims in a crime-ravaged land, and which may soon become part of the official police armoury.”

From etv’s site (it’s all flash junk so i had to copy it out by hand – all typos are entirely theirs):

Its time to celebrate: 3rd Degree producers, Charlene and Eddie Stanley, and Megan Small and Laurell Boyers, have taken the hotly contested television awards in both Gauteng and Bloemfontein at the prestige Vodacom Journalist of the year awards hosted last week.

This week 3rd Degree takes a re-look at one of the award winning pieces. It’s an invention that uses DNA samples and satellite technology to trace people. If they get a piece of skin, nail clippings, blood or just a few strands of hair, they can find you — wherever you are. That’s the claim.

Their invention has been slammed by scientists and critical policemen — calling it ludicrous, untested and wishful thinking. Yet the inventors have many accumulated success stories over the past two years that seem difficult to explain.

If true, this invention has the potential to revolutionize crime fighting. But in the wrong hands, it can wreak havoc. We put it to the test. We also follow a real life crime situation, and see how effective it is as a crime fighting tool. When four girls go missing, we find one of their hairbrushes and try to track them down. With some amazing results.

This is the standard of journalism today? To win an award, all you have to do is fall for a con artist, even while admitting that all the experts you should be listening to as a journalist are telling you he’s full of crap? Here I thought that the standard of journalism displayed by 3rd Degree and Carte Blanche regarding this story was a journalistic anomoly specific to science reporting, but it seems it’s actually considered to be the goal, a shining example of journalistic excellence!

By the way, I notice that back in the 3rd Degree story, and also in the first Carte Blanche story, Danie had a partner/co-inventor, Leon Rossouw, has not been mentioned at all in the Carte Blanche follow-up, nor in any subsequent interview or article. I wonder what happened? It sounds like there’s a man that someone may want to interview… but that would probably be considered poor journalism.

(tip o’ the cheap hairpiece to Con-Tester for this one)


13 Responses to “3rd Degree win journalism award by falling for local con”

  1. Graciously accepted, dear lady, mullet an’ all :). There’s a bit more on this brouhaha over at the SA Skeptics’ Forum.

  2. residentRsole Says:

    Some say that the Fourth Estate is dead, so I’m not too worried about this crap journalism anyway.

  3. I just had to make a small edit to the text I copied from the etv website – i accidentally typed the right word- ‘prestigious’, rather than ‘prestige’. Silly me.

  4. Investigative Journalism Shows: Putting the “reality” back in to Reality TV.

  5. non-sceptic: what’s your point? Are you saying that quantum phenomena are the cause of 3rd Degree winning a journalism award? Or perhaps that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is the reason people can’t tell a con artist from a real scientist? And how do you get around the issue that quantum phenomena do not manifest at the macroscopic level? I’d be interested to see your equations.

    Or did you mean to post that link on this post?

  6. residentRsole Says:

    moonflake: I thought that quantum phenomena were observable at a macroscopic level in the Einstein-Bose condensate. Or have I misunderstood the latter ?

  7. no, you are technically correct, perhaps that was a poor choice of words, seeings as BECs are technically macroscopic even though we can only make them with a few particles at a time at this point. Shall i rather say, quantum phenomena do not manifest at a classical scale, of the kind that would in any way be useful for, say, finding missing people or rigging Journalist of the Year results.

    Warning: Some of you will probably know this already, but for other readers i’m going to go into a little detail here:

    The reason BECs are capable of behaving in a quantum way at a macroscopic level is because they are all identical particles at an identical energy level, which means their quantum states are identical. In normal matter, lots of different particles with lots of different quantum states exist, which blurs out the quantum behaviour.

    Here’s one way of thinking of it: in the classical world, we would expect that if there are two things that could happen, then we could state that the probability of option A happening, P(A), plus the probability of option B happening, P(B), is equal to 1. So classically, P(A) + P(B)=1. In the world of the quantum, this isn’t true. The equation is more like P(A) + P(B) +/- P(A,B) =1, where the third term is a probability that relies on both options. This is part of the reason for quantum entanglement… the probabilities of option 1 and 2 are ‘entangled’ by the third combined term. Now it’s important to note that the third term can be either positive OR negative, while the other two are always positive… which means in a big complicated system with lots of particles, that term is going to get fuzzed out because the sum of the positives over the whole system will be roughly equal to the sum of the negatives over the whole system. As you increase the number of particles in a system with different quantum states, the third term tends to zero and the behaviour tends exactly to the classical expectations we’ve all come to know and love.

    BECs get around this by having all the particles at identical quantum states, but normal matter like hair and cells and you and me, can’t and doesn’t. Therefore quantum mechanical phenomena cannot be used to explain classical events in the traditional macroscopic world that exists outside of a lab.

  8. residentRsole Says:

    Shall i rather say, quantum phenomena do not manifest at a classical scale,

    moonflake: Yup, that would have been the perfect way to say it. 🙂
    Do the astrophysicists/cosmologists theorize that there may be a BEC star somewhere out there ?

  9. Con-Tester Says:

    Amidst a media frenzy, Danie Krugel is “assisting” in the Madeleine McCann disappearance. See here.

  10. Gaaarrgh. The gall. I can’t believe this con-man has made it into the international press. Maybe he really does have a paranormal machine. But I bet the real secret is that it shoots stupidity rays at anyone claiming to be a journalist.
    At least Sky does a better job, but now South Africa looks like a bunch of chumps

    Yesterday Joburg was gridlocked for four hours because an email did the rounds telling people there was a hurricane/tornado on the way! What the hell is wrong with people???

  11. Bast – you always bring me the very best links 🙂 thanks! and regarding the joburg email hoax, WTF? Just when I think people have got as stupid as they can get, things like this happen.

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