Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where did you hear that?

A text message from my mother (sorry mom): "New report says car accidents are increasing. I'm worried."  
My first response to such a claim: Oh yea? Where did you hear that?

Just as I like to question the fact sources coming from friends or family members, I like to validate news articles I hear in the media as well.  Information that gathers readership can sometimes be more important to a media outlet than validating the source, and its important to validate it before you start spreading the findings to the world.

“Do Parents Really Know What Their Kids Are Eating?” is the title of an NPR youth radio segment I listened to today.  It is based on a poll conducted by a collaboration of NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health.  As far as credibility, I felt certain that NPR and the Harvard School of Public Health would give accurate validity, and be very holistic in their research methods approach.  What was most interesting about reading a Harvard School of Public Health article was that I was able to analyze their article using the recommendations they made on how to read research findings in the media. 

It is not uncommon for news media to attempt to diffuse information about a new study or finding in the science world, and misrepresent the data for readership.  We have seen this in many cases such as the “Organic food is not healthier” food issue, which was based on one study that in the end was not the most reliable study to provide such a claim.  These outbreaks of information could have quite severe consequences for the general public if you are not questioning the study's validity and reliability.
Unlike many other media outlets attempting to spread information about a new study or research topic, this NPR segment seemed to be in collaboration with the research it was discussing.  While the segment did not necessarily state the numbers and methodologies of the poll conducted, it was able to shed light on some of the survey questions asked, and represent the sample well – choosing answers that were representative of the original findings. 

After listening to the radio segment, I was interested in finding out more about how they gathered this data, and what the numerical findings were.  I clicked the link to the summery of the poll, which was the closest I could come to the original article.  From reading the summary I was able to gather that the media source was utilizing real data.  Besides the fact that reliable research was put in to find this information, I felt more confident in this data because it was not necessarily pressuring viewers to change their behaviors.  It was simply bringing light to an idea that could potentially improve the health and diet among children... I can't argue with that.

WP 3/1

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