Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
Explorations of personal and community journalism...
Traditional, Alternative, Online...
The new TAO of newspapers?

Subscribe to "Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is not being polled good or bad?

The Nieman Foundation's Watchdog site has a short article by Phil MeyerNiemanWatchdog Blog on on what to look for in covering pre-election polls, introduced as follows:

The renowned journalist-pollster offers a 5-point checklist. He sees primaries as more difficult to poll than general elections and has no problem with focusing on the horse race.

Very clear and concise article, and kudos to my friend and former professor in now being officially "renowned." What caught my attention was this passage of Phil's:

Telephone polls can't help focusing on the people who are easiest to reach. How do they get away with it? Well, it causes no problem when the easy-to-find folks hold the same views as those who are hard to find.

Polls chronically fall short on young people, many of whom can't be reached by land line, which is the basis of most random-digit dialing. The bias created by under-representing them can be self-correcting because young people are less likely to vote. That could change in an election where they are worried about finding jobs or getting drafted.

NewsU course on pollingI read that and it dawned on me that I'm no longer a "land line" user myself, having been annoyed by the amount of junk accumulating on my answering machine via the old BellSouth. (Now I have two cell phones; one for use in Floyd, one for the rest of the world. And Radnet, which I keep meaning to try with Skype.)

I wonder how many even-not-so-young people like me are falling into that "no land line" category. Meanwhile, I'm generally annoyed by the arrival in my e-mail (or Facebook) of anything looking like a poll. Am I being fair? Have I disenfranchised myself? Should I understand more about this whole public opinion process? Probably.

Anyhow, with election coverage taking over the news, it may be time to point journalism students (and other readers... both of you...) to the source of that last link -- a free course on Understanding Polling, from NewsU. (Or click the course menu graphic.) Here's a review of the course by the Wall Street Journal's "numbers guy," another site worth bookmarking.

Questions after the numbers
It's hard to make any story about "numbers" interesting, but it's possible. At a Nieman event some years ago, I met one of the best in the business, New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston, successfully covering one of the most boring beats imaginable: "taxes." At the time, he was part of a panel discussion titled Important Questions Happen Before Reporting Begins and gave some great tips. Now he has a new book out, and I just heard him telling some of the stories behind the story: on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

1:58:35 PM    comment []

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2008 Bob Stepno.
Last update: 7/19/08; 1:25:23 PM.
January 2008
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Dec   Feb