Friday, November 30, 2012

Irish Times - The Truth in the News Headlines

From yesterday's, 29 November, Irish Times online 2.50pm.:

Headline of a report said: "Almost 25% of teens overweight"

First paragraphs of the report, by Genevieve Carbery, said:

"While more than a quarter of Irish 13-years-olds are overweight or obese, over three quarters of obese teens are exercising to lose weight, a new report has found."

"The results of the Growing Up in Ireland study released today also found that of the 8,500 children surveyed, 20 per cent were overweight and 6 per cent were obese."

A quarter is 25 per cent so which is it? The Irish Times report is a mess and suggests that nothing you read in the newspaper can be relied on. 

It is not clear from the Irish Times report if the 6 per cent found to be obese are included in the 20 per cent overweight. The sub-editor who wrote the headline either reckoned that 20 per cent is almost 25 per cent which is hardly true or added 20 and 6 percent and got "almost 25 per cent". Either way he made a mess of it. And of course the study investigated 13 year olds only so the mention of "teens" in the headline is untrue and misleading.

A quick glance at the actual report, a model of clear presentation in contrast to the Irish Times report, confirms that the 6 per cent is not included in the 20 per cent. So if you add the overweight and obese these add up to 26 per cent, over a quarter. But to express this as "more than a quarter of Irish 13-years-olds are overweight or obese" as the Times report does is misleading. In fact, it is clear that only 6 per cent are obese.

The real news appears to me to be: Almost three quarters of teens (13-year olds) are not overweight and Sixty per cent of the teenagers (13-year olds) interviewed exercised six or more days in the last 14 days. Both finding are surprisingly positive but headlines are never written like this. Emphasise the bad news!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Put them all in the Army for 2 years, Michael.