Rare Sighting of Bias in the Press

No, wait, wait! Don’t jump to the conclusion that my posting title above is sarcastic. On the contrary, as I’ve said a number of times in the past, I believe that most journalists do try to be fair. There are other obstacles to accurate reporting — lack of depth, susceptibility to PR fallacies, a self-confessed innumeracy and so on — but they generally do try.

Sadly, a report by the Bay Area NBC station on Trump and the H-1B work visa is a clear exception. Its message is that Trump’s criticism of H-1B is NOT shared by the very people he claims to be protecting, American tech workers.

“Techies disagree with Trump [on H-1B],” the reporter tells us — and then offers as “proof” a techie CEO. Yes, CEOs do like to hire H-1Bs for cheap, immobile labor; we all know that. But this news report doesn’t have any comments at all from actual techies, i.e. engineers or programmers.

Instead, the report includes an interview with Melinda Jackson, a poli sci professor at San Jose State University, in which she “explains” that Trump’s criticism of H-1B is pure nativism, rather than there being genuine problems with the visa. The mere fact that the reporter sought Jackson’s opinion reflects the reporter’s preconceived views of the issue, I believe.

And what about that CEO who was interviewed? He claims that his company just can’t hire in this “hot” job market. Well, his firm, Vectra, lists a couple of open positions, one for a Platform Engineer and the other in Quality Assurance. The latter is quite generic, certainly not needing an H-1B, and while the latter is more specialized, I know of people who would qualify.

As many of you know, I have had my own problems with Trump regarding H-1B (along quite different lines), but this news report is a travesty.

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11 thoughts on “Rare Sighting of Bias in the Press

  1. Posted as a comment to their website: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Trump-Takes-Aim-at-H1B-Visas_Bay-Area-322235011.html

    “Follow the money.” This aphorism should guide reporting on H-1B visas. Simply put, the H-1B program brings in younger and therefore cheaper tech-braceros. The result is the careers and lives of American workers destroyed and the hopes and aspirations of American kids considering STEM careers undermined. Moms, don’t let your kids grow up to be unemployed programmers.

    As to quoting Vectra’s Hitesh Sheth on the need for H-1B visas: would you ask the head of Volkswagen if their emissions standards can be trusted?

    And a thought experiment for the quoted San Jose State University Prof Melinda Jackson: how would you feel if your University were to look abroad to find a younger prof as you grow older and more expensive?

    A few of the best and the brightest, yes. But the H-1B program is an ugly scam foisted upon American workers.

    Shame on Scott Budman for such shoddy and one sided reporting.

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  2. They are still looking for Unicorns. In my 30 years of experience I have about 7 years of java spread out in the over the last 18 years. ( I work in multiple languages at most jobs and I usually work at the system level ). Most of my experience in java is as an architect where I lead teams. Since I was in the language from the start I designed my own MVC ( at AT&T ) which I’ve used in several projects. My MVC is linked to the database where parameters can be set. I also used the Google Guice MCV at my last project which is most likely the most advance MVC for java. Almost all Java jobs require the Spring MVC, if you do not have X numbers of experience in Spring you will not get the job. I can not get a job since I do not have experience in Spring.

    This brings up another point. All companies use non-technical head hunters to find the job. They just memorize the skills and ask how many years of experience you have in each. If I try to explain the above they think I am trying to trick them. You must have X number of years of Spring . I can not get beyond this wall.

    In the past 2 years I have moved to the Scala language with the play MVC. The paradigm for this MVC is a quantum leap from Spring. From this, in my past year of unemployment I have been able to build a tool that totally automates the back end from the create table statements in the DDL. It can actually build a running web site from just the DDL using a shell script to install play and Scala to generate all of the code needed for JSON/REST based system including the routes file. This includes join classes for foreign keys. Why don’t companies want this, it saves a considerable amount of time and money to get the product to market? The analogy here is that in Japan machines harvest the fruit while here in America cheap labor inhibits this progress.

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  3. Norm, maybe folks from the Programmers Guild or similar could do some media training. Television usually just wants someone who holds an official spokesman role, looks respectable and talks succinctly,

    Television’s job is to put footage to air in a few hours. Sometimes it’s hard for them to find a spokesman, especially if the program is not very important. The secret is to have short sentences ready.

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    • I’ve urged them many times to, for example, arrange to meet with newspaper editorial boards. For some reason, they haven’t done so, to my knowledge.

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    • The only people I’ve seen on TV talk against the H1B visa are Michelle Malkin, John Miano, a couple of Disney IT workers, and their lawyer Sara Blackwell. And occasionally, One America News Network (OANN) talk show host Graham Ledger. Sara Blackwell and some of the laid off Disney workers had an event recently in Chicago. Other than these, it doesn’t get much coverage.

      As I’ve said, we should organize some kind of media effort of our own. I don’t know what’s creating the logjam, there are thousands of active voices and tens or even hundreds of thousands affected. In Breitbart articles on H1B, I see thousands of comments and commenters, and in the petition to abolish the H1B (http://www.petition2congress.com/7637/abolish-h1b-visa-program/view/) over 2000 people signed it.

      So far, Donald Trump and Senator Jeff Sessions are the only ones that I’d consider as leaders of this movement. There are people speaking out as I mentioned above, but their voices are scattered and dim.

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  4. Actually, I see now that the video is an old one dating from last August. The clue was the following statements at 2:04:

    “…Something that will most certainly happen if Trump continues to run. Now, from Jeb Bush hailing an Uber to…”

    However, you can see this video linked as a trending story connected with a May 7th story titled “Clinton, Bay Area Politicians Skewer Trump at Oakland Event” at the following cached URL:

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:V_PG9gGBcKQJ:www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Clinton-Bay-Area-Politicians-Skewer-Trump-in-Oakland-Event–378516055.html+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    Hence, it looks like this confusion may have come from some sloppy, if not misleading, layout on the NBC Bay Area site. Still, it would be good if reporters would address the three points that I mention in my last comment rather than pointing to old videos.

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    • Following is what appears to be Trump’s H-1B reform plan from https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/immigration-reform on his site:

      “Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs. We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program’s lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.”

      This contains the following three claims that I think that many people would find shocking:

      1) We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs,…
      2) yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program
      3) More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program’s lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two.

      Rather than getting the opinion of some random tech CEO and a poli sci professor, it would be nice if a reporter would investigate and report on these claims.

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  5. Several of us have contacted writers and editors and academics in CS and economics. We’ve given them government statistics with source citations, CIS analyses with sources, our own analyses. We’ve given them our own and collected personal stories of particular circumstances and the devastation wreaked. (PG has a web page of them, Jennifer Wedel collected some, I have a collection — including some of theirs — that’s public.)

    http://www.kermitrose.com/econ10PersonalToll.html

    I’ve exchanged e-mail with editors of the local Gannett rag on several occasions, the paper where I grew up and still have a number of relatives, in towns where I have other relatives, writers and editors in towns where I worked in the past, the papers where my best friend used to be business editor, a couple state governors’ economic development and PR people, half a dozen people on Marco Rubio’s and other senators’ staffs… It’s like USA citizens sending out resumes for STEM jobs; the messages, the data never pierces into the cranial cavity to the nerve cells of the individuals to whom it is addressed, but go straight into the infamous black-hole.

    The only time I recall anyone being invited to talk with an editorial board in person was quite some years ago, when Sona S. and several others met with people at a NJ paper.

    I did have one odd response from a writer for some tech publications. After taking great pains to craft my argument, cite the data, etc., I got back a message containing only the name “Henry Gutierrez”, (not Luis), and attempts to figure out who he is got nowhere.

    There for a while, I got one writer to be more conscientious about specifying the H-1B1 set-asides (for Chile and Singapore), what might be called the base cap, and the 20K exemption set-aside, and the unlimited exemption set-aside, and then, occasionally, the actual numbers of visas issued, but he quickly relapsed. Anyone relying only on his writing would believe that only 85K H-1B visas are ever issued each year. The last time that few were issued was back in 1997.

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