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 responses to “Why Reading the Front Page of the Newspaper Makes You Stupider

  1. I’d be hard pressed to name a good newspaper in the United States of America.

  2. More evidence of “that there” Liberal Media.

  3. For the kids raised on 24/7 “What Is Torture?” TV, are these the unintended consequences?


    Quick cheat sheet catch up:

  4. 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.

  5. @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”?

  6. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-fineman/battleground-states-obama-romney_b_2006186.html

    The Fourth Estate has an important role to play. And because its role is so critical to a true, functioning democracy, the blathering article above is INCENDIARY – the fourth estate has the power to be an agent for inciting CIVIL WAR instead of a ELECTION.

    You can cross the line of “what sells” as an excuse.

  7. 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?

  8. Q.E.D. A simple and elegant proof.