Why are omissions so important?
Omission occurs when important information is not reported or is reported incompletely. We can think of omission as being news that should have been reported but is left out of the news we read, see and hear. When important news is omitted, we get a skewed or biased perspective. Obviously no news organization can cover every newsworthy story from every possible perspective. But news organizations and their reporters do have an obligation to seek the truth and be reasonably comprehensive in their reporting. The information citizens need to make informed decisions comes, to a significant extent, from news organizations. If important stories are ignored, are reported incompletely, or present facts that are not adequately verified, then the obligation to seek the truth is undermined. In these cases the news that is omitted can be as important as the news that is published.
Key Questionsto keep in mind while reading the following example of Omission:
- Does either article omit important information? If so, to what do you attribute the omissions?
- Are there questions either reporter should have asked that were not asked?
- Did the information for the story come from a single source or from multiple unaffiliated sources? Were multiple sources necessary for a full understanding of the story?
- Are you likely to have a different understanding of the issue depending on which of the articles you read? If so, to what do you attribute the difference?
Here are two reports of a Harris poll on schoolchildren and violence:
It is often said that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The misuse or misunderstanding of statistics can give us a distorted view of reality. One form of statistical information news organizations frequently use is polling. Polls have become an important part of our political and social discussions, often being used as evidence to promote or undermine a position or idea. One thing that makes them powerful is the appearance of scientific accuracy. Polling firms generally claim their results have a margin of error 3-5%. It is important to keep in mind that the results pollsters get often depend not just on the validity of the polling sample but also on the wording of the questions asked. Questions can be framed to � intentionally or unintentionally � elicit certain responses. When reading poll results, check to see if the exact questions that were asked are included. If they are not, the apparent results of the poll should be treated with skepticism. If the questions are included, consider other ways they could have been asked. If you can easily come up with fairer or less biased way to ask the question then, once again, skepticism is in order.Reporters should not simply pass on polling results to their audience without verifying the quality of the polling and noting any polling results that may call into question the current findings. As in their other reporting they have a responsibility, when reporting on poll results, to question and verify. If they don�t do so, important information gets omitted. Information that an informed citizenry needs.
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