November 1, 2005

Newswriting - IANs Chs 8 & 9

"In many cases, of course, reports do mirro real changes. But in others, the supposed changes seem actually to be confined to the reporting mechanism. Reports of a phenonmenon can go up (or down), not because the phenomenon has suddenly become more (or less) common, but because the method of compiling the reports has suddenly become more (or less) accurate. In those cases, the underlying reality may not have changed at all; the only change may be in the methods used by statisticians to compile information," (134).

This theory that the methods have changed links to the idea that changing questions yields differing results in surveying. It is interesting to ponder, why would a researcher suddenly shift the method of experiment conduct? At face value, one might dismiss this because the change could be so little. However, one must probe deeply and consider that the methodology used, in effect, brings about the statistical results of research. Far be it to say, sometimes research methods are shifted piece-meal in order to 'enhance' results for those conducting the research. This enhancement is usually needed in order to support some commonly held view by the conductor (or in other cases, financier), of the operation.

Another interesting idea that the chapters include is: don't misconstrue ideas by saying "crime is up," rather say, "reports of crime are up." As an attentive, thoughtful reading audience, we need to take into consideration what exactly is increasing. It is not the actual crime, per se, but the flurry of reports that surround crime.

Chapter nine provided some valuable insight, as well: " itself is the process through which scientists test one another's theories and evaluate and criticize one another's research. Science is supposed to be cumulative, to comprise a body of knowledge that is logically consistent, testable, and self-corrective. In that sense, peer review is more than a practice adopted by scientists. In a fundamental sense, it is science, because only a researcher's peers will have the expertise needed to determine whether a research finding is scientific, in a sense that adds to our knowledge and is consistent with what is already known," (149).

As many of us are English majors, it is important to keep in mind the testable work that goes into science. Of course, we all strive to do our best on close readings and incorporating literary criticism and style techniques in our writings, but none of our works can be proven in a way that scientific research can. We can be peer reviewed, however, it seems as though there is no solid method we use to get to the ideas that we form and later write. Scientists have to be able to replicate experiments in order to judge and prove the validity for the sake of the community. Our peers can agree and disagree with our ideologies; their peers follow their process. A peer reviewing in a science department works to add credibility to the claim of a scientist. It is important that we place value on that system, but at the same time, it is also important that we value the first hand work that goes into experimental procedure. Remember, scientists are only human beings, and sometimes, they, too, go with their own biases rather than being 100% objective.

Posted by KatieAikins at November 1, 2005 1:34 PM

Indeed scientists have the opportunity to include their biases in their research. Katie, I totally agree with your blog and support that we as journalists have to be 100% sure that our information is correct.

The only question that I'm asking (not specifically to you, Katie. I'm asking it to the world.) what is the constant in the universe that says, "these statistics are exactly correct and there are no exceptions." My point is that we are always trying to get more and more accurate results to polls and statistics, however, is it really even possible to get 100% correct results? Human being naturally change, and are affected by outside circumstances. People are always going to change their answers, points of view, and ideas. If we go on what people write as answers for surveys, we can never be sure that it is the whole truth.

All of this however has to be taken into consideration that the reader's of the article are really looking at the statistics that they've just read and comparing the question asked by the survey, who it was asked to, and all of this important detail which I feel the average newspaper reader does not do.

What I'm trying to say is that it's a shame that large organizations and big businesses have to manipulate statistics to support their causes. The reason readers need to do all of this research and wondering is because people can not just be honest. That's how the world is I guess, just not fair. People are always trying to get more for their money. I'm not going to get into my view on society, that's another subject. I can feel myself getting up on that soapbox so I'll quit while I'm ahead. But can you see my point? There is no real way to get totally accurate information. Or is there? I feel that there isn't but does anyone else have some ideas?

Posted by: Andy LoNigro at November 3, 2005 10:53 PM


I totally agree with you - we have to do all this work, and for what: to defraud news that should be truth based? Large corporations provide points of contention - it is not normal to have to research statistics provided to one in a newspaper. Newspaper are meant to be disposal and to not evolve into basis for conducting lengthy investigation. The truth should readily be at our finger tips.

Good points, Andy :)

Posted by: Katie Aikins at November 4, 2005 12:02 AM