“The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data But It Still Is Information”
– Ace, Nov 1 2010, posting on his blog Ace of Spades (links at bottom of this post)
This is something I wish a lot of editors and reporters would be clearer about. News stories — whether in print or filmed — often start out with a tragic story about someone whose life is miserable because somewhere a government or non-government organization does or doesn’t have a policy they are or aren’t enforcing.
The tragic story is meant to grab your attention and make you think “that’s not right, something should be done!!!”, but it’s still just one story. It’s an anecdote. Maybe the person in the anecdote is very typical of a large group of people. Maybe they’re not. That type of information starts to head more into data territory. But it’s difficult to make data interesting; most people start to fall asleep when the article or new story starts talking about W% of population X being affected in Y way Z% of the time. So stories are told instead to grab your attention — and while the story and the person behind the story are important, data is important too.
And yes, data can be manipulated also. But I’d rather see a news story with at least some data (and preferably a source for that data so I can look up whether the source is biased or heavily interpreted) than one that is just tragic stories.
Source: My post wasn’t about the election, it was about news stories in general. But the November 1 post by Ace on Ace of Spades where I got this quote from was a post about the election. Ace of Spades is an unabashedly conservative blog with occasional adult language, which is why I put the links down here with a warning. 🙂