Catching up with a few things
I have been wayyyy behind on my reading, so some things I'm just getting to that you may or may not know:
-- When I was with the AP, I hated two words: Morgan Quitno. The Lawrence, Kan., publisher of statistical guides is also a purveyor of some of the most statistically suspect rankings going. M-Q still haunts me -- our students regularly get their hands on some press release or wire story about the latest slop and want to do a story on it. I usually badger them enough to back up the numbers that they drop it. WSJ's "Numbers Guy," Carl Bialik, took apart this statistical chop shop in a November column about one of its education rankings. Among the points:
- "Mr. Morgan says the company has no special expertise that qualifies it to determine which factors to include and how to weight them."
- "He told me any person is as qualified as he is to compile these rankings."
- "Morgan Quitno doesn't consult with education experts in setting up the rankings. Instead, Mr. Morgan says the company responds to critics by tweaking the rankings in future years."
Which brings us to Dave Copeland. Last time we checked, he was in Pittsburgh and stopped blogging with a thought-provoking post about the whole blogging idea. (No, it was not one of those "bloggers stink" posts, but one that took a hard look at the occasional angst of actually doing it.) Well, he's moved to Boston and is back blogging. His latest post takes a zinger at another of those newspaper "woe is us" columns, this one by Fred Grimm of the Miami Herald. As Copeland notes: Well, maybe if you knew a bit more about the inner workings of the real world of business you'd know why newspapers are doomed. They lose money, partly because their once loyal readers don't want to spend "pocket change" to read whiny drivel about how great those papers are. Grimm, like a lot of newspaper people, uses the medium interchangeably with the broader profession of journalism. The reality is good journalism can occur anywhere, and increasingly it's occurring on the Internet and in books.
Finally, back to a good site that will help you deal with the mystery of political polls as we start an election year. Check out Mystery Pollster run by pollster Mark Blumenthal.
And on that note, let me propose that you check out this month's Common Sense Journalism column. It has a few election year resolutions, including how to report polls correctly.