Can we trust tomatoe statistics?

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In chapter 3 of "It Ain't Necessarily So," the authors talk about how we can't trust surveys that have been taken on rape, spousal abuse, and abduction. They say that people can always lie, and that it ends up being the investigator's opinion on how broad the crime is. They feel that when surveys are taken, the statistics are often higher than they should be.

However, I don't understand how a survey could ever be taken that is fullproof. The authors of the book call statistics that are higher because of a broad sense of the crime, "tomatoe" statistics. I feel that the only way to know exactly how many people are lying or not is to be inside their heads, which is impossible. So I disagree with the authors by realizing that surveys are the most accurate way of getting statistics, even though they may not totally be accurate. I think that reporters should be able to trust the statistics that they recieve. However, it is smart for a reporter to not take information for granted. It's a good habit to always check out the information that you recieved and make sure that it's factual.

In the last section of the reading, the author's point out once again the energy that it takes a journalist to make sure that their information is substantial. It says, "In other words, it would have taken a certain effort to determine that a "bait and switch" tactic had been used."

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I would have to agree with you Andrew. The book states, "..."tomato" statistics: cases in which news reports call attention to alarmingly high numbers of criminal incidents by obscuring the crucial differences that make a few of the incidents far worse than the vast majority of the others..." Reporters are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill and seem to only want to make articles and the information that is being presented as exciting and seemingly crucial.

I don't think the authors were implying that we shouldn't trust statistics, at all -- I think they were just trying to argue that journalists must be more responsible when using statistics, and be sure to report not just the statistics, but also a brief description of how they were compiled.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy published on October 25, 2005 9:35 AM.

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