I subscribe to my local newspaper, both the paper edition which is hurled against my house daily with great force and the online edition. I read as much of it as I can every day, scanning the headlines for news and also reading the obits. Sometimes, my quest for truth is like sailing in a sea of information, with the waves of half-truths, binary arguments, and emotions splashing over my hull. Facebook, as magical and trusted as it is for many as a news source, is often too heavy on puppies and kittens and too light on economic indicators.
On Monday, November 30, 2015, the front page headline in my local paper was:
(This link to the online edition was posted in the Business section of the paper, as you can see.)
It was a provocative headline for the uninformed and I include myself in this category when it comes to naval destroyers. My local blog readers may know that one of the Zumwalts is being built here at Bath Iron Works, or BIW. Bath is a quaint town not far from here, the gateway to our beautiful Midcoast area. What happens at BIW is a concern to a good portion of our local population.
Because of its relevance to my life, I read the article. I read it again and I scratched my head. Was it just a slow news day? Wait, it was Cyber Monday. Why did the paper decide to run an Associated Press story? The lede, the hook that draws the reader in, did its job. I ended up reading all 665 words of the story. Twice. When Handy came over for afternoon coffee, I read it out loud to him. Unfortunately, the article was talking a lot but it wasn’t saying anything.
I thought about the article all week, relative to how news is presented “these days.” I decided to do some internet research about the United States Navy’s Zumwalt program.
Here’s what I learned in 90 minutes:
The Zumwalt-class destroyer is America’s next generation of combat ships. Controversy surrounds the ship because of its hull style and its production costs.
The hull style, called “tumblehome,” is essentially a pear-shape, or more junk in the underwater trunk. During the Russo-Japanese war (1904 – 1905), the hull style was found to be excellent for navigating long distances and narrow waterways. However, large waves pounding on the vessel can upset its stability. Ship losses during this century old war lead to a change in destroyer design; the Zumwalt’s new old design is one not seen in our lifetimes. Everything old is new again.
The cost of building one Zumwalt is difficult to estimate, but according to Wikipedia, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2005 that the ship’s acquisition cost would be approximately 4 billion dollars. As of 2009, the cost per ship had risen to 5.9 billion dollars.
Nevertheless, the cost of the ship caused the Navy to end the Zumwalt program and only three ships will be built.
So, looking at all the facts, we know at least three things:
- the seaworthiness of the tumblehome hull style has been questioned for over 100 years,
- the cost of building the Zumwalt has been discussed for at least 10 years, and
- the Navy won’t be building any more Zumwalts after the first three are completed.
Was there any “news” in the 665 word Associated Press article? Yes, the very last paragraph in the article said “Bath Iron Works will be testing the ship’s performance and making tweaks this winter. The goal is to deliver it to the Navy sometime next year.”
There’s my Friday paper. Handy and I love the Friday paper because it includes the Market Basket flyer.
Discovering the truth is a difficult proposition. We have oceans of information and tsunamis of misinformation. Read carefully, read broadly, and listen. I sure hope my ability to parse information isn’t too “tumblehome,” sending me to the bottom of the information ocean.
Fair winds and following seas to you this Friday, my truth-seeking friends! We’ll get back to small fuzzy animals, Chinese super buffets, and blue holiday ribbons next week.