Thursday, February 21, 2013

When Amateur (Catholics) Write Poll Stories

Hi.  My name's Barry and I'm a Catholic.

Wanted to get that out of the way before I criticize how this poll story is written.  I'm not even a recovering Catholic, but a go-to-Mass-every-Sunday Catholic, yet I can't let this poll story posted today on a Catholic site go untouched.

Okay, my religious butt covered, it's time for a little beat down of a fairly simple story from both a journalism and a public opinion perspective.

* The lede sucks.  It's too long and it starts with the wrong info (According to ...).  As I tell my reporting students, start with the WHAT.  If it's a poll, lead with the results.  And talk about vague.  This is your lede, that "many Americans have very strong feelings about illegal immigrants and immigration reform."  Zzzzzzzzz.

* Learn the language of polling if you're gonna write a poll story. The third graph is terrible. "The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online poll is measured using a credibility interval. In this survey, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points."  You mean margin of error.  People get that.  And you're not measuring credibility with this, but precision.  Yeah, it matters.

* The last two graphs, what the hell are they doing in the story?  Even if I sympathize with the point of view here, they don't belong.  To quote Steve Smith, an unknown and unimportant presidential candidate from four years ago, is ridiculous.

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