Why Reading the Front Page of the Newspaper Makes You Stupider

By James Kwak

At least when it comes to statistical issues:

(Courtesy of Nate Silver.) Gallup is the huge outlier among the tracking polls, which shows Romney leading by 6–7 points. (On average, the national polls show an exactly tied race.)

This news is a few days old, but the general principle it illustrates is timeless. Reporting tends toward the dramatic and the surprising. In some cases, that’s probably fine—like if you read the paper for entertainment. When it comes to statistics that suffer from measurement error, it’s journalistic malpractice.

8 thoughts on “Why Reading the Front Page of the Newspaper Makes You Stupider

  1. James, all you have done here is explain what we were taught in Journalism (now Communications) School fifty years ago, i.e. “Dog bites man is not news but man bites dog is news.” The trade off between news and entertainment is driven by the need to have lots of eye balls of readers to sell to advertisers so the owners of the paper can have a profit. If you can find a way out of that trap, you will probably be made a saint, at least by the Newspaper Publishers Assn.

  2. @James Taylor – If all you keep reporting is “man bites dog”, then the line to the story is “dog bites back man”, and then people are placing bets on that game of savagery in the thunderdome….

    Here’s what women have learned about men – there is no “low” established to the question we ask, “how low will they go”…it’s scary. There is no low.

    Hedonistic, sadistic Nihilism as “government” – where’s the “low” in that “rule of law”?

  3. Got my “Official General Election Sample Ballot” – there are 10 people you can “vote for one” for President of the USA.

    Any questions about the “Fourth Estate” acting as a “domestic agent” against USA…?

    The 10 people are: sitting Pres. Obama, of course, then Jeff Boss, Peta Lindsay, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, Jill Stein, Ross C. (Rocky) Anderson, James Harris, and Merlin Miller. Also a Personal Choice Write in (use keyboard below) – so Vote for Annie! :-)

    Wait, there’s an empty chair, did I forget someone?

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