“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” – Mark Twain
“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain
“Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio.” – from “Citizen Kane”
- I think there are two kind of materials a newspaper has – opinions and news facts.
- I think that news should be focused on giving the complete picture of relevant statistics and facts, while opinions should be focused on the essential, at times contradictory, facts.
- One thing that a false, poorly written piece of news gives you is focusing only on a specific fact. For example, I could say that Samsung sells the most smartphones, but omit to include other data, like the average value per item sold. Or saying that in Asia iPhones have a marginal percentage of the market. Or saying that in the US most people buy iPhones. This refers to using statistics with a manipulative intent.
- On the other hand, if I write a piece of news, yes, I should have an equilibrium and give other data also, but I am more flexible in not covering all the data, and saying the whole picture.
- Also, I consider that an opinion should be more focused on producing a change, shifting things, moving the reader, rather than focusing on being scientifically approved data. I think an article based on the idea of “iPhones rule the market in USA” is often times more suitable than “iPhones have a competitive advantage in the USA, but in various other countries, they only have a small margin of the market”. The first title is more suited, I think, for an editorial, while the second one is something a news piece should be more focused on.
- Regarding truth – each editorial should only say the truth. If iPhone has 62% of the US market, I should read that in the editorial, and no other data (2/3, more than half, almost the entire market). On the other hand, I consider that lying by omission is what Mark Twain refers to, and I’m more flexible on this. Sure, you can focus on giving all the data in an editorial, but it’s not as bad if you don’t. In a piece of news, though, one should focus on the entire set of relevant data.
- I want to add that while the editorial doesn’t need to provide all the data, it should provide the relevant data. For example, the average price for an iPhone is a relevant data to be added. Or how many purchases an iPhone owner does compared to another one using a smartphone on Android.
Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues: IMRo. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org and reply to the confirmation email.