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October 27, 2005

Aims of the Text - It Ain't Necessarily So, Ch 4 & 5

Since we began reading this book, there has been lots of discussion about the biases of the authors and complaints that they bash journalists and point out problems, but don't offer any solutions. I totally understand the reasoning behind these accusations and agree that this text does instill some of the negative reactions that people are feeling about it. But, try to consider a few things for a moment.

"You draw one conclusion if you emphasize the raw data and a substantially different conclusion if you emphasize the percentages. In cases like these, the most informative news stories will therefore give you both sorts of data, enabling you to draw the appropriate conclusions yourself." (pg 88)

This quotation from Chapter 5 is evidence that this text does make statement about a problem, and then offers a solution. It says that numerical evidence, although accurate, may be misleading, so it is most beneficial for journalists to report both percentages and raw figures. So, there ARE cases in this book in which solutions to problems are presented.

Of course, there are also a lot more instances in which problems are presented and no possible solutions are expressed. Now, I know this book might easily offend those aspiring reporters out there with the way it seems to be attacking journalism, but try to keep a few things in mind.

Remember the introduction when the authors spelled out the aims of this book? Here's a refresher in case you don't remember:

"In reality, no news other than that in which we directly participate can ever really be "immediate"; it cannot come to us in an "un-mediated" fashion, without passing first through the hands of another. We must perpetually rely on some mechanism of mediation. Is there a solution? Perhaps we may supersede the "unseen hand" of the gatekeeper (or at least compliment it) by becoming savvy, empowered consumers of news, capable of gate-keeping the gatekeepers...Or at least knowing when things are going awry, and why." (pg 4)

This passage recognizes the importance of journalism and also emphasizes that it has some weaknesses. But, the point of the book is to make people more informed news consumers. The authors might not be offering solutions to the problems they present because there are no absolute solutions. All the problems that are pointed out are always going to be problems; even if the journalists and scientists do everything they can to eliminate them. We are people, we are not perfect. These issues will always exist to some extent. All the authors are trying to do is shed light upon the discrepancies that arise as a result of the collaboration between scientists and journalists in order to allow us, the public, to think for ourselves and interpret the news as realistically as possible.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at October 27, 2005 12:44 PM

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