1 – Breathe deeply, do not allow your mind to buy into the catastrophising style of reportage.
2 – Remind yourself of the following:
When trying to make news by reporting a change in something, the media love a bit of added ‘wow’ factor. It is how they justify something as worthy of inclusion and to hold your attention, make themselves seem credible and in the know.
3 – Ask yourself three easy questions:
a- over what time period is ‘this’ being measured? Over last year may just mean that last year was very low and looked at over, say, five or ten years would the spike/plunge be a tiny blip in a consistent trend?
b – how was the data collected, analysed and interpreted? You’d be amazed at how often the most fundamental flaws start back in the process. Most people do not know how to do research to ensure accurate, reliable, repeatable results.
c – does the person/organisation who has published this have any agenda? It is most likely they do. Whilst in and of itself this is not a ‘bad thing’, it may help explain bias.
4 – Decide that if you really want to know more you will sit on this gem of reporting and look into it further. Ask me, ask someone who knows how this can/does happen and suspend your horror for the moment.
There are almost endless layers of detail. I am, not a technical wizzo. I have used some analysis tools and understand (broadly) how they work. I have been trained in research methods and am very happy to ask the questions required to unpick these sorts of issues. More importantly, I have a network of experts to draw upon , for no person is an island.
I am assuming that when reading this you are not one of those people who is on a hair-trigger to be offended or outraged, either personally or on someone else’s behalf. These people don’t actually want to know more than the headline shocker.