Last year when I told my childhood teacher that I was majoring in journalism, I could see disappointment color her face.
Her voice lowered and became sickeningly sweet, asking, “Do you want to get a job? It’s all fake news.”
While my teacher’s main objection was “fake news,” the problem that I see is less malicious but rather misleading and sensationalizing news.
Specifically, I’ve seen this misleading by using statistics without the context of where those statistics came from and what they mean.
I understand why statistics are so appealing. They provide catchy headlines that entice people to click on the article, they are persuasive and provocative, they are packed with information and tangible.
But ethical journalism shouldn’t be about the headlines, it should be about going further, making information accessible for the average citizen who isn’t statistically literate or able to understand the hidden complexities, like constructed population sizes, that lie behind those numbers.
People often trust data backed by research more than opinions, and so I think that journalists should continue to use statistics when possible but be careful not to mislead people, whether intentionally or not, by stating statistics without context.
Martha Harris, Provo