Friday, November 12, 2010

Who Let the Reporters Out?

Someone had sent me the following link comparing the two parties tax plans:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2010/08/11/GR2010081106717.html

And this is the reason why reporters shouldn't be allowed to...well, do anything, unless they got some education beyond learning how to be a journalist. (Hint: Everything you need to know to write you learned in high school. You should learn specific subjects in college so you can appropriately report as needed.)

Anyway, my beef is not necessarily with the content of the piece itself--I have my opinions about the tax plans, but that's neither here nor there for now*--but the statistics in the report are flawed.

Firstly, there is no accounting for the size of each section. The number of taxpayers in the $25-50,000 range is going to be vastly different than the ones in the million-plus range. If you're counting actual revenues, that chart is going to look a lot different.

In addition, the size of the intervals changes. It goes from chunks of $25,000 to leaps of $500,000. While the two charts can be compared one from the other, which is the point of the piece, comparing it vertically makes no sense. A line graph would have been significantly more appropriate.

Don't get me wrong--I strongly suspect any corrected charts would look roughly the same. And I'm not denying the fact that the chart is correct--it is. However, the chart as depicted skews the information in a way that, while it probably supports the content of the article (more of the tax breaks would go to the rich) doesn't necessarily mean that the chart isn't flawed. If it's an article about a value judgment on the tax cut plans, that's fine; but don't construct statistics out of duct tape and broken dreams to do it if you're going to claim to be a journalist. That is what politicians are for.


*I will probably bitch about this later.

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