Journalist-Bites-Reality!

How broadcast journalism is flawed in such a fundamental way that its utility as a tool for informing viewers is almost nil. (Steve Salerno, Skeptic)

The mythical Red State/Blue State paradigm is just one of the more telling indications of a general disability the media exhibit in working with data. A cluster of random events does not a “disturbing new trend!” make — but that doesn’t stop journalists from finding patterns in happenstance. Take lightning. It kills with an eerie predictability: about 66 Americans every year. Now, lightning could kill those 66 people more or less evenly all spring and summer, or it could, in theory, kill the lot of them on one really scary Sunday in May. But the scary Sunday in May wouldn’t necessarily mean we’re going to have a year in which lightning kills 79,000 people. (No more than if it killed a half-dozen people named Johanssen on that Sunday would it mean that lightning is suddenly targeting Swedes.) Yet you can bet that if any half-dozen people are killed by lightning one Sunday, you’ll soon see a special report along the lines of, LIGHTNING: IS IT OUT TO GET US?