Friday, October 9, 2015

Gallup Away

If you're into polling, read this summary of Gallup getting out of the "horserace poll" business. Fascinating stuff, especially the comments from other pollsters.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Been Around a While

I started this blog in May 2007, so it's been around a while. It's original mission was to focus on research about media and politics but over the years it's morphed into commentary about current events, media coverage, polls, and criticism of journalism. It's also played a minor supporting role in a student newspaper walkout and earned me criticism from that very same student newspaper. Heh, maybe I'll sit out the next student walkout. My response to their response, here.

See the graphic below for the most popular posts, at least in terms of traffic.

Dominating the list is stuff about the Great R&B Walkout, which also resulted in me being interviewed supporting the students in various national media outlets. It was an odd time as many faculty either sat it out or were more quiet in their student support.

I'm rarely quiet. Plus I have the advantage of rank (full professor) and tenure.

Some of the others below have other explanations. The fourth and fifth place ones are about popular areas of research, so a lot of scholars end up here reading the material, or at least scoffing at it. Then there's one about a local gag order I bitched about, and then yet more R&B stuff.  On a normal day I'm read by ones of people, maybe tens of people. So check it out below.

I've written a total of 1,625 posts (counting this one) from May 2007 to Oct. 7, 2015, when I posted this one. I want to hit 2,000 before I hit the 10-year mark. I figure the election year will help.

I've also blogged good story ideas that are often, eventually, picked up by student or local media. And sometimes I reveal the innards of Grady's politics, but not as often as I'd like.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Poll Support x Twitter Followers

In the GOP race we all know Trump is ahead (though perhaps slipping), so I decided to examine all the candidates by their national poll numbers and number of Twitter followers. First off, there is a high correlation between the two (r = .80), in large part thanks to Trump's lead in both polls and Twitter followers. Still, remove Trump and the correlation is still .71, so we got something here.

See the scatterplot below. Yeah, that's Trump all alone in the top right corner. If we drew a regression line here, it'd be running up from 0,0 to Trumpland, a nice linear fit. As I tell my students over and over, however, correlation is not causality. You cannot argue lots of Trump followers equals poll popularity, nor the other way around.

Raw data is below.

Poll Twitter
Bush 8.3 326,000
Carson 17.3 705,000
Christie 2.6 55,600
Cruz 6.1 519,000
Fiorina 11 581,000
Graham 0.3 27,800
Huckabee 2.8 411,000
Jindal 0.5 20,900
Kasich 3.1 111,000
Pataki 0.3 54,600
Paul 2.4 693,000
Rubio 9.5 888,000
Santorum 0.4 245,000
Trump 22.8 4,036,000

Millage Rates

I teach journalism, but I'm also a bit of a nerd when it comes to statistics, math, and especially public opinion polls. Today let's look at an "explainer" produced by our Newsource students down stairs. You can watch it here for context. Go ahead. It's fast. Then come back. Oh, and I love the clever bit about what's a millage rate? It's not Milledge Avenue. Nice job on that.

OK, done? Good.

At the 1:27 point we get to my point. Here's a screenshot:

So what's the problem? Not the math. The issue is the "If your assessed property value is $100,000 ..."

That's not quite how it works. Here's a nice, simple description, but I'll save you the visit off site and summarize it for you.

1. You have the assessed value of your home. In our example above, $100,000.
2. You then take 40 percent of that value.
3. And then you remove various exemptions, like homestead exemption. Let's say $10,000
4. This gives you the taxable value.

So in the example above, a $100,000 assessed value would become a tax on $30,000. So instead of a $1,913.10 tax bill, you'd see more like a $765.24.

How'd I catch this? I own a home in Clarke County -- with higher taxes than Jackson -- assessed at more than $100k, and I know my tax bill is below $1,913.

So there's commercial value, assessed value, and taxable value.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rate This Rating

As The Red & Black reported today, UGA (where I teach) finished in the Rate My Professor Top 10 universities. Full list here. We're #8! We're #8! So very exciting -- except that we were #3 last year, so we've dropped.

So, let's rate that rating. In other words, what's their methodology? Here's their methodology page, and from it we can tell a couple of things. There are a lot of ratings, millions of them, and nothing about this is random or systematic. The final rating is a combination of individual faculty ratings and campus ratings, which kinda makes sense, but beyond that there's no rigor in the data collection. It's big data, but necessarily good big data.

All that said, go UGA. We're #8.

Interestingly, in the Top Professor's list, two are from Georgia but neither is from UGA. I suppose we make up for it with lots and lots of well rated, but not top rated, professors.

In full transparency, my rating on a 5-point scale is 4.3.

My thoughts about stuff like this? Harmless fun. Don't take the numbers too seriously, given the lack of rigor, but if I were a student I'd certainly look at them for guidance. Keep in mind that often the students who post are those pissed off about their grades. And the N is small. Mine has 10 ratings based on posts from 2005 to 2015. Not exactly a good data source and, in fact, fairly meaningless.

Running the Name


This is no surprise. I fully expected either (1) UGA's athletics machine would lean on the young lady or (2) he'd apologize and all would be well or (3) it was all, of course, a misunderstanding, and anyone can confuse a death threat, or (4) she felt the pressure and just surrendered to the inevitable.

This makes even less excusable the use of the student's name in the story. See my post below.

Original Post

A 20-year-old UGA student accused a football player, Isaiah McKenzie, of making terroristic threats. According to reports, he said "he was going to call some friends and they were going to come out and he was going to kill her." Yes, that's a felony. It's also a felony to eat at Chili's, where this allegedly happened. Don't we feed our players?

Stories by ESPN's David Ching and AJC's (DawgNation)'s Chip Towers identified the woman by name. They were wrong to do so.

Thankfully, The Red & Black and The Athens Banner-Herald did not name her. They got it right.

She's filed a complaint. Until McKenzie is arrested, there is no compelling reason to name her. Indeed, look hard at the SPJ Code of Ethics, especially the part about "minimizing harm." College football fans are nuts, and that's putting it nicely. Just look at some of the Twitter and Facebook comments about this young woman. Sickening. By putting her name out there, Ching and Towers, you've put her at risk. Congratulations.

Let's look at some of the arguments for naming her.
  • It's a public record. Yes, it is. So is the name of a rape victim, but we (the royal journalistic we) make an ethical choice to not name the victim. Just because it is a public record, that doesn't mean it has to be published or aired.
  • It's unfair to McKenzie to name him and not her. Sorry, he has the whole University mouthpiece industry to back him. She has herself. This is a false argument. Again, if he gets arrested, that changes matters. It's just a complaint.
  • It's all a plot by Bama, or the cops who hate football, or someone. Yes, conspiracy theorists, unite now. Jeez.
Quite simply, you do not name her. Not yet. Hell, they even named her father, the head of a government agency in Atlanta. Really? It's not like he's the friggin mayor or something. I expect this kind of crap from ESPN, defender of all that is athletic, but I expect more from the AJC.

Sports reporters, just don't do the cop beat. You'll hurt someone.

Oh, by the way, I tweeted this last night. Never got a response or justification from either. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Ethics of Deleting Tweets

I don't often write about journalism ethics here, mainly because I have a certain moral flexibility when it comes to getting the story. A rather harmless Twitter mistake fluttered across my desk just a few moments ago and it got me wondering about the ethics of deleting tweets. So here's the tweet from our student newsroom:

A harmless misspelling of Heisman. No biggie. Three minutes later I responded:
And a few minutes later the original tweet was deleted and a corrected version posted. Without a thank you, I should note, so me being me I replied via Twitter: "Better. You're Welcome." That was a little while ago. So far, no thank you.

Anyway, it raises the question (to me, perhaps not to you) whether you should delete the original offending tweet. Keep in mind this is about journalism ethics, not PR, in which obviously you'd delete a mistake or something embarrassing, especially to the boss or client.

On more serious stories, this piece does a good job arguing that, to me, you should correct but never delete the offending post. It's all about transparency. But does this apply to dumb typos? Especially typos that make it seem like Nick Chubb made the mistake when, we all know, it was a harmless mistype by a social media news editor. My own feeling is that it's OK to delete a tweet like above but it's not OK to delete a more serious mistake, as in saying someone is dead when they're not. Again, transparency. At some point we'd like to see a Twitter correction function or even a flag that says this tweet corrects an earlier one.

Or, perhaps, you can just put CORRECTION in the tweet, especially when there's still plenty of space to burn.

And thank your audience when it corrects you.

Yes, you're welcome. Again.