Posts tagged misleading media

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More non-news, based on very sloppy research


Today the Christchurch Press reported, that ‘Sex stereotype proven‘, and the byline ‘University students have long been stereotyped as promiscuous – and new research shows it is true.’

Unfortunately, when one reads the article, NOTHING in it supports this claim.  The research makes a whole bunch of findings, such as:

  • 20 per cent of respondents reported at least three partners in the last 12 months.
  • Ten per cent reported having sex with between 10 and 20 people
  • 3 per cent reported more than 20 sexual partners.
  • Out of those surveyed 32 per cent had been drinking when they last had sex.
  • Almost half of the respondents reported at least three sexual partners in their lives.
  • 57 per cent of people reported only one sexual partner in the last 12 months.

All good so far, so now for the comparison with some agreed norm, or with some other group, right?  I mean the headline read promiscuity is proven right?

Either we need to see a comparison with other persons of a similar demographic (age, gender etc, perhaps say compared to Polytechnic students, or even just people of a similar age not in higher education) or they need to make an absolute reference to some agreed norm on what is promiscuous.  Is having two partners a year promiscuous, or three, or ten?   We don’t see ANY comparisons, just a bunch of findings.  So what we have is just a whole bunch of percentages measuring how much uni students have sex, and that often alcohol is involved (although note this doesn’t mean it’s caused it, they just imply that, they could also have found that 50% of people ate a meal before having sex, would they then imply food causes promiscuity?).  Ummm, so what?

Anyway, my point is, this is a good example of research that says nothing but a bunch of random facts, and provides little in real information.  There is no comparison to any control group for the purposes of comparison, there is no comparison with any agreed norm about what promiscuous is, and no comparison with say, ten years ago, to show any change over time.

The article’s text even admits there is no comparison:

Canterbury District Health Board clinical director of sexual health Ed Coughlan said it was “really difficult” to say how the sexual behaviour of Canterbury students compared with the rest of the country. 

The only thing remotely worth of the team ‘research’ is a passing comment at the end of the article:

The study also found students who reported being attracted to both men and women were “significantly more likely” to lose their virginity before the age of 16.

That finding is worth further investigation, as it indicated a certain group is more likely to pre-16 sex (which is both illegal, and also has been associated with higher risks of pregnancy and/or STI transmissions).  Perhaps this group could be targeted for education and/or condoms and/or something else.  But no, they prefer just to post random figures about who does who and how often and call it research.   Research should provide meaning information to help inform decisions – and the one bit that did that was glossed over!

I think I’ll do my own research, and here is a finding: 90% of research is twisted and misreported by the media.. (I made that up, but you couldn’t tell right?)

Research needs to be meaningful.  For this, any claims made needs to be factual, or at the very least, strongly indicated by the research.  ‘Proven‘ and ‘show it to be true‘ are strong claims, and in this case there is nothing to support the headline.

Black and White Version: Some research is crap, some media misreport things.  It looks like this is both.






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The REAL big ben

Big Ben on a lean? No, media got that headline wrong (again).


The REAL big ben

Today the NZ Herald reports that Pisa expert says Big Ben leaning.  Using the text Monitoring instruments suggest the tower’s tilt has increased by about a centimetre a year since 2003 below a picture of the tower.

I am gonna call them on that one and say I can guarantee it’s not.  How do I know this?  Coz as anyone who’s done a tour of London knows Big Ben is NOT the clock tower, it’s the big bell inside it.   So the headline should read Tower hosting Big Ben is on a lean says Pisa expert. (or something like it).

Sure, it doesn’t REALLY matter to 99% of people, and lots of people do call the tower Big Ben, BUT journalists do this for a job – this isn’t a twitter post, or a FaceBook status update.  They need to do their homework.

End of rant.

Black and White Version: Sometimes Journalists are lazy.  Sometimes that annoys me.  Sometimes I blog about it.

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Misleading Press, and scaremongering Labour MP


Today the Christchurch Press reported Chch door open for asset sales, and quoted ChCh Central Labour MP was today on National Radio saying that the ‘sale of assets must be stopped’. The Press reported:

A legal loophole means city ratepayers’ stakes in Christchurch City Holdings Ltd’s (CCHL) assets – including electricity company Orion New Zealand, Christchurch International Airport Ltd, Lyttelton Port Co, Red Bus and City Care – could be sold to help pay for the estimated more than $20b rebuild of the central business district.

Well it’s all just rubbish. Here’s what wrong with this story:

  • The headline is misleading.  This is no open door.  The door was never closed.   There is also no loophole. The Council can, if it chooses, sell any asset it owns, and has always been able to do this.  There is no new provision that the CERA act creates that didn’t already exist.
  • Labour are trying to make a story put of this by trying to ‘block CERA from forcing sales’, yet the Minister for Earthquake Recovery (Gerry Browlee) is VERY clear that it’s a CCC decision, not CERA.   Mayor Parker (both Browlee and Parker were also interviewed on National Radio this morning) agrees and says the Council aren’t even considering this, and if they did it would be done with full community consultation.
  • The Government and the Council are both clear on their roles here.  Only a Labour MP (and the ChCh press) seam to think there is an issue.

The Press should know better that running such a misleading headline (that or just being stupid and falling for the spin from an MP).

While it’s not my intention to make this post about the merits or otherwise of selling such assets (my gut reaction would say keep em), it was interesting to note that the CCC has $2 billion in assets, that reportedly returned $600 million over the last 10 years.  So that’s $60 million a year, or a return of 3% (that’s simplistic, since I have assumed the asset’s value was $2 billion throughout the last 10 years, and its very likely that the assets have increased in value over the period).   Based on that I might suggest that at the very least this issue is looked at and the question of are they a good investment?, earthquake or not, is asked.  The problem with ideological approaches of don’t sell or always sell is that such questions aren’t asked.  IMHO, asking that question would be a far more interesting and valuable story.

Black and White Version: Just coz an MP says it’s true, doesn’t make it so.  Media need to do their job and RESEARCH before printing misleading headlines.

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Newspapers reporting non news


Yesterday I read in the NZ Herald about Power shock stuns home loan applicant (yep, they are trying to be clever with the headline) who couldn’t get a mortgage due to an old bad debt.

They reported:

“The bank went digging around in my credit history and there was a black mark that showed up.

“I promptly got a letter from Baycorp saying something like, ‘You owe TrustPower about 100 bucks’. Once I paid it, it [the loan deal] went through, no problems at all,” she said.

Ummm, yep, that happens.  You owe money, people won’t lend you more.  You pay it back, they (normally) will.  Simple.  So why is this NEWS?

It even explains it at the end of the article:

She said the bill wasn’t a problem but it was a shock to see something come back from the past.

“There were so many people unaware of the debt, so surely it would suggest there is a problem with the way power companies are communicating with their customers,” Ms Healey said.

“If they wanted me to pay it, why didn’t they contact me?

“Perhaps they sent mail to my Dunedin address, but I never got any and maybe my untrustworthy flatmates never forwarded any on.”

Right, so the complainant admits they don’t mind paying it, and admits the flatmates probably didn’t send the mail on.

Again, no news, nothing to see here, move on.

Black and White Version: Sometimes newspapers seam to make up stories for no apparent reason.

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