Lies, Damned Lies…

September 29, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

This is going to sound like a back-handed compliment, and I suppose in some ways it is. That being said, I’m pleased that the Journal Star demonstrated some incredulity when analyzing annual census survey results that showed some ... well, odd variations from previous years. Rather than just report the results outright or bury dissenting opinions deep within the article, the piece gives prominent play to the notion that sometimes numbers lie. That’s an all-too-rare phenomenon in media reporting on statistics, medical breakthroughs, epidemiology, sociology, and, well, pretty much any other science-y category.

Despite the survey’s problems, it’s not entirely useless. We may not be able to have much confidence in specific numbers, but the general trend—overall increases in poverty-related indicators—is consistent with what common sense suggests is true. That’s worth our attention.

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The Comments

Fletch September 29, 2010 at 1:53pm

I walked away with this thought: Wow, so in a recession and economy that’s been troubled now for a couple of years, there is an increase in poverty indicators? No kidding, Sherlock.

What’s next, *another* study showing the smoking is bad for you?

Sadly, my #LNK tweet this morning didn’t show up on LNK - my LJS thought of the day was regarding the use of the word “tryed” in a headline on Page 2B. “Wow” is all I can say.

Mr. Wilson September 29, 2010 at 1:59pm

I think Twitter is having spasms right now. I’ve noticed several Twitter-related shenanigans this morning.

There’s always this definition of tryed. Perhaps the LJS is using the same slang as the hip kids.

Dave K September 29, 2010 at 5:36pm

I’m not too surprised that statistics showing people growing poorer over the last two years are excused as misleading because of the sample size. 

I’m reminded a few years ago about the LJS article about the post-smoking ban restaurant data.  I would have really liked to see a headline like “Smoking ban causes job loss in restaurants; results may be misleading”.  Even though the second half of that headline wouldn’t exactly be true, it would be better than not reporting on the job loss in the first place.

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