Friday, October 11, 2013

"Just" Percentages

Attention news media:

Let it be hearby declared that the use of the word "just" or "only" in front of a percentage is unnecessary. Let it also be acknowledged that the reader/listener/viewer is fully capable of understanding what a percentage means, and thereafter deciding for themselves if that number is surprisingly high, surprisingly low, surprisingly unchanged, unsurprisingly high/low/unchanged, bad for X or bad for Y, or WHATEVER.

Further let it be understood that usage of the word "just" or "only" to describe a percentage can be interpreted as making that value assessment for the media consumer, and that this can conceivably be interpreted as bias, particularly when it is not made explicit what value a percentage has to be in order to warrant a descriptive "just".

In the event that a particular percentage is being reported in an area where the consumer is not expected to be knowledgeable, then let the surrounding sentences contain sufficient context.

Finally, in an unrelated note, let it be decreed that all idle speculation as to the motive of actors in a political situation does not belong in any responsible piece of journalism.

Instead of this:

In an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released Thursday evening, 53 percent of the public blamed Republicans, while 31 percent blamed Mr. Obama. Just 24 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable opinion of Republicans. 
The survey found that just 21 percent of Americans view the Tea Party movement favorably, while it suggested that Mr. Obama has received less blame for the nation’s fiscal problems. The president was viewed favorably by 47 percent of those surveyed, while 41 percent viewed him unfavorably.
Perhaps motivated by those numbers, Republicans on Friday sounded more conciliatory than they had during weeks of often angry words from both sides in the tense budget standoff.

please re-write to this:

In an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released Thursday evening, 53 percent of the public blamed Republicans, while 31 percent blamed Mr. Obama. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable opinion of Republicans. 
The survey found that 21 percent of Americans view the Tea Party movement favorably, while it suggested that Mr. Obama has received less blame for the nation’s fiscal problems. The president was viewed favorably by 47 percent of those surveyed, while 41 percent viewed him unfavorably.
Republicans on Friday sounded more conciliatory than they had during weeks of often angry words from both sides in the budget standoff.

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