Sunday, January 25, 2009

Compare and contrast: journalism vs. science

Journalism's got a lot in common with scientific research - in both endeavors you're trying to understand and convey the nature of reality. But there are differences too, that you may not grasp if you're coming at it from the "science" end - it's not just that "journalism's peer review is a good deal easier to sneak through."

The good Dr. Heisenberg plays a much larger role in journalism, because your forays into gathering data involve the efforts of, in effect, lab techs who may have a strong desire to skew or otherwise obscure the results. And you won't necessarily know whether they're trying to do so, since you barely know them - with each story, you're working with a different group of techs.

So you need to put a fair amount of effort into controlling for any bias introduced by the techs - which means running the same experiment using different techs, or - if you realize you've left some "wiggle room" in an experiment - rerunning it more rigorously, using the same tech.

(Stripping out the metaphors, what this means is that you'll want to ask multiple people the same question, and you may ask the same person multiple variants of the same question. Which, I have found, makes the lab techs take umbrage...)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama is the Union's new president

Just so you know.
"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom (and a livable world) and delivered it safely to future generations."

President 'has four years to save Earth'
We are measured by our actions.

Jeff Ackerman is The Union's new editor

Just so you know.