« Live and Learn | Main | Pleasantly Surprised »

Question the Question

IANS Ch 5 and 6

Inside each of us, reporter and newspaper reader alike, is an Alice B. Tolkas demanding to know the answer; but she very much needs to be balanced by a Gertrude Stein inquiring about the question.

According to this statement, it's up to us, as readers and reporters, to determine the validity of the facts we read and write. While we may appreciate the answers polls give us, we should also look at the questions such polls use. Without knowing the question, we can never really know the answer. The authors of IANS stress something very important when they encourage their readers to not only search for the answer, but to question the question as well. If we fail to do so, we may unknowingly allow ourselves to believe false or slanted information. By questioning the questions that lead to answers, we can find out more than the answer--we discover how and why someone sought the answer in the first place.

Comments (6)

Tiffany Gilbert:

Hey! That's what I wrote about! I think this IANS book is pointing out wayyyy too many things we have not even thought of. It's a good book on mistakes that we can learn from. I think it all goes back to verify or duck. Should you believe a random statistic that you really don't know much about. It may be wrong, spread rumors, and ruin reputations. I think we are learning to become less gullible and not believe everything we are told.

You got it, Tiffany. I don't expect that a handful of classes and homework that cover statistics will make anyone an expert, but if you're getting the point that numbers are powerful, and that we have to be extremely careful as journalists when we publish any statistic as a fact, since the vast number of our readers will know far less than we about the subject. If we're not extremely careful, our readers won't have a chance.

Bethany Merryman:

I feel all journalist should be required to read this book. I mean seriously I don't think reporters purposely don't check the questions and so on. I don't even think they cross their minds, but instead put trust into the survey and the answers. When in reality they should be looking at the question like Ellen said. And ask why is the question being asked!? Then talk about the result. Or is that news not as newsworthy?


"I mean seriously I don't think reporters purposely don't check the questions and so on. I don't even think they cross their minds, but instead put trust into the survey and the answers."

The problem is that sometimes reporters are under the pressure of a deadline and they just want a statistic that will support the facts they are presenting.

I'm sure Dr. Jerz has mentioned something like this in your class. It's important for a journalist (or any writer) to let the facts gradually build upon one another to reveal the truth in the end, rather than to decide what is true ahead of time (based on personal opinion) and then try to find facts that will support that point of view. That's the making of a weak, misleading, and ultimately biased news story.

Truth, is there really a truth. I think the more important aspect is finding out the methods. If we try to find truths, then we are asking wrong questions, truths are abstracts notions, but to find out the methods-which is evidential, then we have unlocked the process and determine from these facts how objective (or -true, if thats what you want to call it)the poll/data is.


Wow, Mitch, that's a really interesting thought. I guess Dr. Wansor's linguistic class is starting to rub off on you. I remember him describing the difference between social truths and scientific truths. I'm really glad you made that connection. Thanks!


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 22, 2007 12:04 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Live and Learn.

The next post in this blog is Pleasantly Surprised.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.