Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bogus trends in the news

This article from Slate talks about news pieces touting a trend towards backyard chicken raising, and in the process mentions the general news tendency to make up trends. I've been thinking abou this lately....every now and then I'll read an article that gets me hot and bothered; I remember one about parents paying for their teens' plastic surgery or something. It was in reading that one that I realized I was getting upset over a bogus report with no statistical backing, and I was reminded of the process back when I worked news (disclaimer, my experience is all from The Daily Texan; an excellent college daily, but I don't want to seem liking I'm claiming pro newspaper experience).

It only takes a few quotes to make a story, so if you can get a few people to say things to support your thesis, you can get your thesis out there. The news story structure slightly obscures the fact that the writer HAS a thesis behind the article. We should remember it.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, but I think that Slate article sucked in the same way in that there were no stats to back up his claim that it isn't a trend. In the comments someone pointed out that some areas require you to have a permit to have backyard chickens. The reporter could have looked at the number of permits granted to see if it was rising. Also, backyard chickens would certainly generate complaints. Is the number of complaints rising?

    This was like kids on a playground saying "Uh huh" "Uh uh" at each other.

    I do agree with the point that reporters often exaggerate what they're reporting on. Man bites dog is news, but a trend of men biting dogs is front page news.