Monday, April 17, 2017

Anencephalic Journalism

Folks are wondering why respect of and trust in mainstream media is at an all-time low. This little gem showed up recently an AJC article about millennials:
"In 1980, two-thirds of 25-to 34-year-olds were already married. One in eight had already been married and divorced. in 2015, just two in five millennials were married, and only 7 percent had been divorced."
Did you get all that? For starters these "journalists" really like to mix up their numerical metaphors, like "how many olympic sized swimming pools does it take to stack up to the top of the empire state building?" Now they could have normalized using percentages replacing "two-thirds" with 66.7%, "one in eight" with 12.5%, "two in five" with 40% and just left "7 percent" alone. That would enhance the clarity but somewhat undercut the dramatic effect and isn't "journalism" just about dramatic effect?

But the waters are muddied in other ways. In the first case, the near-but-post-boomers, they examine a cohort spanning 10 years - count fence posts, not rails. In the second case, without an explicit definition from the "journalist" but relying on Wikipedia (the only real source of truth) we can place the millennials' birthdates from 1985 thru 2005. To make it apples and apples let's say it ranges from early eighties to the early naughties to cover the 25-35 year old range.

So why didn't the author just say "when comparing two 25-34 year old cohorts, the first from 1980 and the second from 2017 we see these percentages of marriages and divorce?" Could be ignorance on his part or presumed ignorance on yours. Could be he just needed words to waste ink. No matter, he did more to undermine the overall credibility of the media than he did to inform the public. And that is why media gets no respect.