Anecdotal ‘poll’ guesses at blog influence on reporters

The bullet points in the telephone survey by the marketing firm Brodeur were impressive but the fine print undermined their authority. A press release about the survey said:

  • Journalists are increasingly active participants in the blogosphere: One in four reporters (27.7%) have their own blogs and nearly one in five (16.3%) have their own social networking page.

  • About half of reporters (47.5%) say they are “lurkers” – reading blogs but rarely commenting.

 Then I read to the last paragraph, in which readers are usually told how the information was gleaned:

“the online survey was conducted among a random sample of North American reporters and editors between December 18, 2007 and January 3, 2008. Some 4,000 reporters were invited via email to participate; a total of 178 completed responses.” (italics added)

If by random Brodeur meant “we don’t know who responded, why and how they differed from the vast majority of non-responders,” I would understand. But random in this case does not mean the sample has a scientific or statistical validity and so whatever its findings they should be taken as strong anecdotalism — there are 178 responses — but I would suspect they self-selected themself for inclusion in ways that greatly make this survey not easy to extrapolate. I am a reporter like the 3,822 (add that to 178 to get to the 4000) people who were invited but declined to participate* and what peaked my interest in this headline was astonishment that anybody had actually taken an accurate reading of this group.

 As it turns out, no one has, which makes the survey more useful as a suggestion than as a statistic.

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* (I don’t answer PR polls because they are generally intended to ascertain my views toward news-makers; reporters are not supposed to have views or they are expected to stifle any feelings they might have; I have occasionally been offered small sums, from $25 to $100, to answer questions but have always declined. I’m not suggesting the size of the bribe be higher; that would only make it more annoying to feel obliged to refuse.)