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The usage of statistics in the articulation of information quality in news reporting

Martinisi, Alessandro (2018) The usage of statistics in the articulation of information quality in news reporting. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This study examines the usage of statistics by journalists in delivering information quality. It examines the articulation of statistics in the area of crime and health in the UK through an original theoretical framework constituting a set of five quality dimensions: Relevance, Accuracy, Timeliness, Interpretability and Accessibility. Each dimension is conceived in this study as a threshold to guarantee the quality of information in news. These five dimensions have been evaluated by using a triangulation of methods: content analysis, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. In this way it was possible to understand the whole journalistic workflow, from production to consumption, on how statistics are articulated throughout in order to substantiate quality news stories. In addition, two further secondary methods have been applied, including Close-reading Rhetorical Structural Analysis and Q-sort analysis, in order to validate the main methods and in an attempt to obtain a deeper insight into usage and articulation of statistical information in news. The study particularly highlights the dichotomy between the normative and professional aspirations of journalism, whereby statistics help support the quality of news, and there is a desire to strengthen the ability of storytellers (journalists) through use of numbers. The research discovered tensions and issues that were key factors in the articulation of quantitative information. At the centre of the analysis, the study found that while the concept of quality, and its dimensions, remains a theoretical aspiration among journalists, what they aim to achieve is ultimately credibility and authority. Quality statistics do not automatically translate into quality news, mainly because of internal and external interferences that this study tried to bring to surface. Also, contrary to initial expectations, numbers do not seem to fully satisfy the five quality dimensions when dealing with crime and health news stories. The relevance of statistics in journalism studies cannot be overemphasised. Nowadays journalists examine on a daily basis, and against the pressure of time, masses of quantitative information related to economic, political and social phenomena, including scientific and academic research reports, public opinion data, political polls, and official and non-official datasets. This is why a discussion about quality and its dimensions, is even more crucial. It is therefore the aim of this study to improve our understanding of the usage of statistics as a primary means for the construction of journalistic quality upon which a deep reflection is becoming even more urgent in times of ‘post-truth’ journalism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: quality journalism; data-driven journalism; statistics; quality statistics; quality information; philosophy of information
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Media and Communication (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Alessandro Martinisi
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2018 10:05
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2018 10:05
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21358

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