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November 3, 2005

Final Reflections on It Ain't Necessarily So

I just finished It Ain't Necessarily So, and feel that the focus of the book was to be leery of statistics you read about in articles. Chapter 9 discusses tunnel vision. On page 163 tunnel vision is defines as "the dangers posed by looking in only one direction for an explanation, hence ignoring alternative explanations that give a rounder, fuller picture of a subject." Examples to explain this are listed in the book. The first example is a claim that infectious diseases are killing more people. An experiment might have found this, but it is ignoring the fact that it is a great possibility that more people are getting infectious diseases because in general people are living longer. The fact that the average life expectancy is getting higher is actually good news.

When you read a statistic you need to be aware of the methodology that was used to find that statistic, and also look at the statistic free from tunnel vision.

In conclusion the book says that too much is wrong with journalism including;” error, neglect, ideology, interested motivation..." I believe the authors have proven that all of these can interfere with receiving unbiased reports. One problem I do have is much as the examples in this book, although varied and extensive, are very outdated. This book was published in 2001, but many of the articles used to prove points were from the 90s. Maybe the problems presented by the authors no longer exist. Did they have to find outdated articles to make their claims against journalists? I wonder why the older statistics were mentioned, rather than current ones. Maybe journalism and reporting have become better, based on the authors' standards, in the past ten or so years. I think it would be interesting to have an updated critique from these authors.

Posted by JennaOBrocto at November 3, 2005 5:34 PM

Comments

Problems with error, neglect, ideology, and motivation? Were the authors describing journalism or my life?

Oh, and before I forget, I want to give a shout out to Jenna's little sister. What up, li'l Jenna?

Posted by: Michael Dell at November 4, 2005 3:33 AM

I understand that we, as consumers of news, need to be leery of statistics and journalism in general, but I think reading this book has also shown that we need to be careful when discussing journalism with the "experts." News articles and numbers can be tweaked to fit a point of view or purpose, but I think this book also proves that some ideas and opinions manipulate those changes.

Posted by: Katie Lambert at November 8, 2005 7:36 PM

Jenna,

That is a really good idea. It would be nice to have the updated thoughts, because we are certainly not getting them in this book. Perhaps, we want that now because we are so used to up to the minute and latebreaking news, we being the wired generation that we are.

I read your comment about reading, and I am glad you share the love for it, as well. Tell me, Miss Jenna, who is your favorite author? I read that you really like to read romance, which is something I never knew. Isn't it nice to use these blogs to find out new information about peers?

Thanks, Jenna, and have a good day!

Katie

Posted by: Katie Aikins at November 9, 2005 2:29 PM

Jenna,
I also feel that the book is trying to make us become leering of the statistics we read as you said. And truthfully, for me it has worked. We have been reading articles in my Honors Thinking and Writing class about gender assumptions and how advertising and sports etc. affect our views of both men and women. Of course, the authors, especially in one particular article called "The Two Ways to Hurt a Woman" utilize statistics in order to prove points. There are statistics about rape in the article similar to the ones we keep hearing in IANS (I believe one even says 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted before the age of 17!...which seems a bit out there to me). And so, of course after reading IANS, I certainly question those statistics. Naturally she s not a journalist, but the same concepts apply. And I think IANS is correct in pointing them out and I still think discrepancies between journalism and science exist.

I know the examples are outdated, but there is good reason for it I think. Think about how long it takes to publish a book. It certainly isn't something you can do in a day or a week or even a month. Especially in a book like this in which the authors probably spent loads of time doing the research in order to put the book together. I think that would take some time, looking up articles and examples to prove points and deciding which to include and which to not, deciding exactly what points they want to discuss, which are most relevant to the book’s topic. It is a lot of tedious, time-consuming work. So, yes by the time the book actually went to print, some of the examples were old.

The beauty of your observation is that this is exactly the kind of thing the authors are encouraging people to do: question what they read. You are perfectly correct in realizing that the books examples are outdated and that means things might not be the same today. Journalists and scientists might have reduced or remedied some of the problems brought forth in the text since publication, we just don't know. Great job in pointing out something that we should remember when reading anything: when are the examples from and when was it published?

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at November 10, 2005 12:59 PM

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