Sloppy Journalism from KUOW Radio in Seattle

Headlines are often the only text a reader takes in. That’s why good journalism should accurately reflect article content.

The following headline on the website of KUOW radio in Seattle misleads readers. In a small focus group, readers thought the headline suggested a health hazard in water. The headline proclaimed “Wifi wires will run through water pipes in northern Washington town”.

Below is the text contained in the article below the headline.

Starting next month, people in Anacortes can get something unusual in their drinking water: the internet.

A normally busy sidewalk on Seattle’s University Way Northeast has been cordoned off for an all-too-common reason: the concrete is being torn up to put in new fiber optic cable.

An hour north, the seaside town of Anacortes has found a way to avoid all that disruption: fiber optics cables in existing water pipes.

The city of Anacortes in Skagit County is making internet a public utility in an unexpected way — running fiber optic cables through water pipes.

Sitting inside Anacortes’ main water pipe is a skinny plastic tube, like a drinking straw inside a glass of water.

“We have inserted a fiber optics cable inside of live water lines all the way from Mount Vernon to Anacortes,” said Fred Buckenmeyer, who runs the city’s public works department. “First in North America.”

Buckenmeyer said this internet tube is made of the same plastic as the water pipe it sits inside.

“Like having a water pipe inside a water pipe,” he said. “No chance of contamination or anything like that.”

Buckenmeyer said the utility had lots of leftover capacity after installing a fiber-optic system for monitoring the various pumping stations along its water system. He said this novel approach cost less than the alternative: digging under the Skagit River, the Swinomish Slough and 15 miles of farms, wetlands, streets and sidewalks along the way.

City officials say they hope to entice customers away from Comcast with locally owned and cheaper internet service.

Project manager Jim Lemberg said if municipal broadband can capture a third of the Anacortes market for internet service, the project will pay for itself in 15 years.

Here’s why this headline misleads the public.

The article talks about “fiber optics cables in existing water pipes”. Fiber is not wire. Referring to fiber as wire is completely misleading. “Wire” is never mentioned in the article.

Wifi is radio, hence radio waves. “Wifi wires” is nearly a contradiction in terms. Many times wire is used to make a connection from a router to an access point (which is the radio transceiver). The access point in turn uses antennae for the radio waves.

Radio transmission through water does not work well. Wifi is best when line-of-sight through air.

Wifi is never mentioned in the article. “Internet” is referred to three times.

The bottom line: KUOW is misleading the public with a headline that barely reflects article content.

Is there any wonder why the consuming public distrusts the media? The Society of Professional Journalists had started a project on distrust of media. Based on this KUOW article, it is easy to understand why there is distrust in media.


QFC needs a logic shot for vaccination promotion

QFC — a retail grocery with stores in the Seattle area — is owned by Kroger. QFC offers vaccinations in the stores’ pharmacies. The QFC website is an example of how not to provide and promote vaccination customer service.

The first problem is that vaccinations don’t show up in the Pharmacy and Health drop down menu. See the image below.

Illogically, the consumer is supposed to know to click on “My Prescriptions”. That menu item brings up another page with a left-hand menu, see below.

On this page the consumer finds “Vaccinations Made Easy” under “My Prescriptions” and “Vaccinations” under Pharmacy Services. If the user clicks on “Vaccinations Made Easy” the user ends up on another page with a Consent form that gathers relevant information. “Consent” is not a “Prescription.”

If the user clicks on “Vaccinations” under “Pharmacy Services” the user is taken to a page with the heading of “Vaccinations Made Easy with No Appointment Needed!”. Huh? Shouldn’t that headline be associated with the other hyperlink (“Vaccinations Made Easy”)? Regardless, why are there two different hyperlinks on the page for vaccinations? Why not consolidate all vaccinations information on the same page? In marketing terms, splitting this information (with inconsistent use of terminology) destroys the sales funnel — the focus on content aimed at a sale. See image below.

Each of those hyperlinks takes the user to a PDF file with this content:

Similar content can be found at the following URL. Please take a moment to update
your bookmark:

Gee. Isn’t that a helpful schedule? Rather than go into more detail, QFC should think about user experience rather than some convoluted corporate logic if it wants to makes sales and make it easy for the customer. And while corporate doesn’t have its promotional act together, it puts pressure on pharmacy staff to make vaccination sales. Corporate is failing in its job to deliver leads and then blames staff for not making sales targets. This scenario is simply unfair to pharmacy staff. The best customer service is when there is a good user experience that easily flows leads into the organization.


Not So Sound Reasoning

Frustrations with financial institutions never seem to end. Some of this frustration is from sloppy product development. Take the image above from Sound Credit Union in the Seattle and Tacoma area. Note that there are two different requirements for the PIN. The first set in black is for first-time or recurring users — what people normally see. The set in red is an error message when the wrong requirements are put in. The second set does not even make sense by itself. A digit is a number (in computer land). So does the second set mean there should be four or five characters? (Five characters: four digits + one letter.)

This kind of inconsistency — nearly contradictory — drives consumers crazy with frustration. Sloppy product development creates costs for any organization through frustrated consumers who either take business elsewhere or call for support. Call center staff should not be burdened down with what is simply poor editorial control within product development.