Chapters 2-4 of 'It Ain't Necessarily So' raised a lot of questions that got my head spinning. Most of them were in regard to determining the relevance of information when reporting the news. The book is very successful in raising issues. Suggesting answers, however, is a different matter. In the end, what this section of the reading communicates to me is the need for literacy...for citizens to stand up and take responsibility for forming their own opinions.
In its examples, IANS reveals many instances wherein reporters could have consulted additional sources. Several of these were in reference to statistics which could be brought into question by the findings of conflicting studies. The book seemed to indicate that every related study be consulted. When the news is what's right now, sorting through all that information and determining its relevance is inconceivable.
In delivering statistics to an audience, a reporter needs to strive to get the point across without creating a story bogged down with numbers. The goal is to simplify the information to communicate the impact on the average reader. Each conflicting (or supporting) statistic one adds to the story, the more tedious it becomes to the reader. How then, are we to determine how many sets of statistics to report? How do we determine which are the most important?
What struck me the most about Chapter 4 was the statement on page 75 that said "news stories...simply relayed the findings of the FRAC study to the public without negative criticism of any kind." The problem that arises regarding this topic is that reporters (ideally) are constantly striving for objectivity. This statement indicates that reporters should have sought out negative criticism. The findings, regardless of the degree of subjectivity of the criterion that led to them, were presented to the media as the results of a scientific study. Since science is accepted as a predominately objective discipline, I think that in reporting it I would try to slant such a story as little as possible. Verification is certainly important, but it seems to me that what's suggested here would be best left to the op-ed page. When the line between objectivity and subjectivity is so blurred, how do we determine whether we're adding a slant or merely reporting both sides?Posted by Jess P at October 19, 2003 11:15 PM