It is just as hard now, as it was in the past, to assess reports
of data. In the past, one would have to wait until there was
enough sample size using the specific question. So often
now we need to assess the bias inherent in the source.
[If data is published in peer reviewed journals by a variety
of established authors, it is likely worth using the results and
conclusions. What must be factored in is that publications support
awarding of grants and promotions. Publications represent
a time-honored path. Things can be proven wrong, but rarely
do these kinds of results find the light of day.]
Think about business news or about scientific data, hypotheses
and conclusions in “news.” So much is hampered by bias from
various sources. In science, we speak about the importance of
controls or control charts and sample size. The logic of
conclusions and validity of models also play essential roles.
There is an equivalence in the non-scientific world of looking
at ‘news cycles’ and marketing of ideas. In addition, we are
encouraged to realize the emotional content and repeat frequency
with catchy easy phrases that sway human thinking when there
is not an equally persuasive rebuttal.
There was a time when audiences believed that there was an
editor and fact checker for what is reported in media. It seems
like this is no longer the case as the money driven enterprises
seek ready-viewers and ready-readers. So common now summaries
of habits miss that dimension.
Nonetheless, polls depend on the question raised, options of
answers, the sample size and variety, timing and context.
They are of a different “reality.”
to report, consume and believe the news we pay attention to.
It is of high value to highlight journalism best practices
using the scientific method.