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Games journalists play VS critical thinking

This is a technique that journalists love to use to dram up some drama.

Look at this piece of news and see if you spot it:

games journalists play

First, they share the average across the European Union: a 7.5% shrinkage.

And then they add:

"The drop could be even more precipitous for... "

If you think about it, what value does that sentence really add?

These types of clauses often add little real value, and they're only there to fit the political narrative or the self-interest of the writer, or of the newspaper.

An average is a number that includes all the constituents of a group.
Once you know the average for the whole population, obviously any single subset of that bigger group might do worse than the average.

This manipulative game consists of giving an average and then adding the useless clause that sub-communicates: "and look, if this wasn't bad enough, this subset is going to do even worse!"
Albeit that piece of information adds no real value, readers feel far gloomier after reading it.

But of course, the opposite is also true.
And if one wanted to give it a positive spin, you could pick the best individual member of that group and add "but this other subset will do so much better than the average!" (or even: "but this other country will actually grow!").
And now the article feels much more positive.
It becomes a world of possibilities, where single individuals can buck the trend and grow despite the adversities.

The former induces doom and gloom.
The latter is about optimism and empowerment.

And of course, the realists instead look at the whole spectrum :).


bluesky and LorenzoE have reacted to this post.
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?