October 31, 2005

Newswriting- It Ain't Necessarily So, Ch. 6 & 7

"For our purposes, though, the possible impact of the methodological changes between the two surveys is of greatest interest. The 1975 findings on child abuse derived from hour-long in-person interviews with parents in 1,146 households; the 1985 data emerged from thirty-five telephone interviews with parents in 1,428 households."

These survey answers are more significant because of the context that they arose from. It is interesting to note that researchers predicted a rise in the amount of abuse from the 1985 interviews because they reached a higher volume, and the telephone is by far more anonymous than an in your face interview. However, results proved them wrong: more of the telephone calls )85 % as compared to 65% of the 1975 in-person interviews) were complete in 1985 leading to the assumption that those who are less likely to participate in the survey were probably abused.

Researchers already had their thoughts about the anonymity and distance the telephone creates in juxtaposition with the more limited time span that they would be conducting the survey. However, their results strayed from their original hypothesis. It is interesting to see in this chapter that there are differences between the way surveys and questions are administered: directly versus obliquely, on the phone versus in person, and who the surveys target, ie teens.

Sometimes questions capture the ambivilance of a view, an opinion. Other times questions are more empirical. Another portion of the chapter discussed clarity of question: don't just ask confusing questions, be direct. It is easier to collect data from polls then if words and phraseology do not get misconstrued. It would be nice to see a straight up question sheet, with the number of people surveyed, the demographics, and their answers. That way a reader could arrive at conclusions on his own about what is going on in the crop of people surveyed.

Posted by KatieAikins at October 31, 2005 9:23 AM

I have often wondered, during all of our classroom and blog discussions about using statistics in news stories, how much citation and explanation should accompany statistics that journalists use in their articles.

Not all readers would understand these citations, nor care about them -- unfortunate, but true, methinks. So how much information is too much?

Posted by: ChrisU at October 31, 2005 11:09 AM

I think as long as the sources pertain directly to the information that's being presented, but if I see a document with as many pages of sources as there is the to the story, I tend to pay more attention to that. I think simply getting the background info, like where the people live and what it's like, as well as ages, etc. is enough like Katie said.

Posted by: Erin at October 31, 2005 11:26 AM