Monday, February 11, 2008

National trends don't count

Read with a big grain of salt the Washington Post reprint on today's Seattle Times front page: Girlhood Gone Wild: Drinking and Drug Use Grow.  It's riddled with errors and anecdotally-driven speculation, too many for me to refute right now.  (e.g. the quote "a growing number of reports show that..." -- what does that even mean?)

But my biggest criticism is the underlying assumption that a national story is relevant to you.  It's too hard to keep track of what may or may not be happening at a national (or international) level, when what really matters --and where you have direct control -- is your own family and school.

And what about my school?  In fact, on Mercer Island we have the exact opposite problem. According to a study by Columbia University psychologist Suniya Luthar, half of all Mercer Island boys have tried marijuana by graduation time, but only 30% of girls have.  And more significantly, it's the boys [who this article implies we can ignore] who appear to be driving the problems.

I have no idea what's happening in Bethesda, Md (the source of quotes in the article).  People in Bethesda should figure that out.

2 comments:

MercerIsland Blogger said...

Unfortunately, the news has become lazy. It's easier to report salacious anecdotes than dig into real trends, supported by data and reputable research. This article is akin to the AP saying they will now cover Britney Spears and the press as a whole reporting more on the sleazy, the gossipy, the voyeuristic than the news than the meaningful.

One refreshing exception comes from the same newspaper at fault in this issue, the New York Times. Over the last year they've cut a lot of data in interesting ways, from the words used in the State of the Union to the spending graph in this article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/opinion/10cox.html?em&ex=1202878800&en=75692916a2f54771&ei=5070

Real data, presented in a way that people can easily understand it. As a data junkie, I love it.

Richard Sprague said...

Yes, true. And thanks for the link -- I hadn't seen that.

Incidentally that discussion of rich/poor economic trends reminds me of a recent Economist article that concludes the rich really aren't all that different anymore.