Five at 8 – 12/16/09: Video games cause violence? Prove it!

1) The Star Tribune today provided a sympathetic profile of David Walsh and his National Institute of Media and the Family, which is going out of business. Walsh has been a one-man critic of “violent” video games, and the media has generally accepted his premise — violent video games have a significant health impact — without question. In its last chance to do so, the Star Tribune also passed on the opportunity to utter two words: “Prove it.” Even after all these years, the premise is as much supposition as it is science. A 2005 study found no correlation, overturning previous “research.”

“It’s not as if this is a light switch that either video games do or do not cause aggression. You have to think about the strength of that effect. Most people assume it has a really big effect, but what we find from research is it actually has a very tiny effect.” researcher Patrick Markey concluded in 2007.

Craig Anderson, an Iowa State University psychologist, disagrees, citing 1990s research. “High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior,” he said. He also published a confirming study in 2008.

Dr. Cheryl K. Olson, co-director of the Center for Mental Health and the Media at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, looked at his data and had a different conclusion. “We don’t know enough,” she said.

Someone should point in these sorts of stories that the issue remains very much in question.

2) Despite all the new ways of communicating and telling stories, there’s still only one really compelling medium — the still photograph. Nothing moves, so you have to actually think about what you’re seeing. The Big Picture blog at the Boston Globe has two posts available (here and here) with the top pictures of 2009. Sure, some are predictable. But many are haunting and strike you right where it hurts.


With most media, the information is coming at you so quickly — so constantly — you don’t have time to think and absorb most of it. Not so with a photograph.

How do photographers do it? Ryan Lobo is one such person who photographs unusual human lives. Take his picture, for example, of a Liberian war criminal. He talks about and shows that picture in this new TED video.

Related: How do journalists adequately relay the aftermath of ‘crippling moments of horror’? Nieman Reports is taking a look at the question and also “how grief invades reporters’ hearts when death steals the lives of colleagues because of words they’ve written or images they’ve shown.”

3) Spotted at the C Concourse at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. (h/t: Linda Fantin):


Lane Wallace has observed all things Tiger and concluded that the world isn’t all about us.

Woods has apologized publicly already, in print statements. But apparently that’s not enough. No, to earn forgiveness, he apparently has to stand in front of lights and cameras, humble, shamed, and apologizing to…and that’s where I get puzzled. To whom is this public apology supposed to be directed? And to what end?

Meanwhile, Monte Poole of the San Jose Mercury News plays the race card in a column today.

4) Kill (the) Bill? Howard Dean says it’s time to stick a fork in health care reform, according to Vermont Public Radio. If you’ve lost Howard Dean…?

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5) Scientists have reinvented the wheel. This may be the most exciting thing yet to come out of the climate change summit.

By using a series of sensors and a Bluetooth connection to the user’s iPhone, which can be mounted on the handlebars, the wheel can monitor the bicycle’s speed, direction and distance traveled, as well as picking up data on pollution in the air, and even the proximity of the rider’s friends. The resulting data can both help the individual rider — for example, by providing feedback on fitness goals — and help the city (if the user opts to share the information) by building up a database of air quality, popular biking routes or areas of traffic congestion.


Officials in the last White House are facing the release of e-mails they had thought were private. Tiger Woods’ text messages and voice mails were made public. Have any of your texts, voice mails or e-mails come back to haunt you?


I’ll be live blogging while I go over 400 pages of documents being released by the National Transportation Safety Board about Flight 188, the Northwest Flight that overshot its intended landing destination of Minneapolis in October. Join me starting at 9 a.m.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The police chiefs of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Fergus Falls. By the way, the Pioneer Press has posted the video of St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington’s announcement that he’s leaving.

Second hour: Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger joins Midmorning to talk about workplace romances, the trade-offs involved in working from home, and the topics that get her readers all riled up.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former Congressman Tim Penny discusses the federal budget deficit. He is a member of the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, which issued a report this week: “Red Ink Rising–A Call to Action to Stem the Mounting Federal Debt.” Here’s a copy if you need a little light reading.

Second hour: TBA

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political Junkie Ken Rudin.

Second hour: Sorting out difficult alliances in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Guests include Ted Koppel.