Thursday, January 26, 2006

More on Newsweek & trend stories....

Thanks to the Mothers & More POWER loop for pointing me to this excellent analysis of the weaknesses in media trend reporting:

Women's pages: Next time you read about 'what women want,' check the research -- it's likely to be flimsy

I do my best as a writer to make sure I don't fall into these traps of sloppy reporting. It's an ongoing challenge. Humans love stories, anecdotes, and what appear to be trends based on our own experiences--it's how our brains make sense of the world. My background is in neuroscience rather than journalism, but I am proud of the fact that the training I received to write my doctoral thesis at Stanford taught me a lot about interpreting, writing about, and referencing scientific data.

More thoughts about the Newsweek cover story The Trouble With Boys:

Conservative commentators also have reason to be upset about the reporting that gave scholar Christina Hoff Sommers only one paragraph of coverage. I agree that this was sloppy, perfunctory reporting. If Newsweek is going mention the idea that some people believe that "misguided feminism is what's been hurting boys," then they need to back it up with more information than one paragraph. It doesn't serve anyone to assert this idea as an unexplored factoid. I would be interested in hearing more about WHY people might believe this. Hoff Sommers is the author of two books on this topic, including The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men. As much as I am repelled by the "misguided feminism" hypothesis, I should check out her work. Actaully reading the work of people you disagree with is an important exercise that all of us should take on. These days our media landscape provides us the unfortunate luxury of being able to seek out only the opinions that confirm our world views without challening them, cutting off the possibility for nuanced discussions.

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

--Alice in Wonderland.

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