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April 7, 2004


STUDENT'S QUEST PROJECT PROBES HOW MEDIA MISUSE STATS

    OSWEGO -- Kimberly Trela, a senior majoring in journalism and sociology at SUNY Oswego, will explore "How the Media Misuse Statistics" at 9:15 a.m. in Room 105 of Lanigan Hall at Quest on April 21.

    Trela said her presentation will illustrate the problem and discuss "why we should care about misleading statistics in the news."

    Quest, Oswego's annual symposium dedicated to sharing the scholarly and creative activity of students, faculty and staff, will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Lanigan Hall and Hewitt Union.

    Trela's project has spanned both of her majors. "The topic came from my senior seminar in sociology where I did a paper on the method behind public opinion polls," she said. "During that research, I found a lot of material on how the media misuse statistics and the repercussions of that. I saw the connection, liked the topic and decided to keep going with it."

    It became an independent study project with Linda Loomis in SUNY Oswego's journalism program. Loomis described Trela as "an amazingly independent student researcher" whose ideas represent "the best of both worlds: intellectual and practical."

    "We, as readers, viewers, listeners and surfers, must find valuable news and information among the trivial and misleading news and information," Loomis said. "Kimberly's presentation will help consumers of media messages make informed judgments about current events."

    People reading stories heavy on polls and statistics need "to be aware that the statistics they hear are sometimes misleading or flawed," Trela said. "The public puts a lot of faith in numbers because it's something we've been socialized to accept. Because of that, they tend to believe numbers that aren't true."

    Many reporters do not have background in the topics they cover and "just give the numbers they receive. They only go so far and don't explore the issue further," Trela said. "Then the readers just take the report as a fact and don't do any exploration or investigation."

    Trela said the topic is timely in an election year when more polling data than ever will make it into the news. "Politicians will use the media to support their side and their arguments" through poll numbers and cherry-picked statistics, she said. Advocacy groups can issue alarmist information by using misleading statistics on subjects for which journalists cannot find other sources, Trela said.

    With the shrinking news cycles, reporters are often in such a hurry to file stories that they do not take time to check statistics, qualify the potential for bias or include a broader context, she added.

    After graduating in May, Trela plans to pursue a master's in social science with a concentration in student affairs and diversity at SUNY Binghamton. She said Oswego's journalism program has given her a number of life skills in interviewing, investigating and writing. "I don't regret spending four years in journalism at all," Trela said.

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A Quest session by Kimberly Trela will discuss how the media misuse statistics.

CRUNCHING STATISTICS -- Kimberly Trela, a senior majoring in journalism and sociology at SUNY Oswego, will give a presentation on "How the Media Misuse Statistics" at 9:15 a.m. April 21 in Room 105 of Lanigan Hall on campus. It will be one of more than 120 programs at Quest, SUNY Oswego's annual daylong symposium to share the scholarly and creative pursuits of faculty, staff and students at the college.


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