Misinterpretation of data is a common problem to all users of statistics especially non statisticians. It may be caused by a number of factors including misunderstanding of the data, using incomparable definitions, concepts, sources and sometimes deliberate misinterpretation of the information.
Currently, Journalists are faced with interpreting more statistical information than ever before as they seek to inform and educate the public on important socio-economic and political issues of interest.
Many of the facts and figures quoted in the news, such as employment and inflation rates in the dailies are official statistics released from the National Statistical System. It is however, interesting to know how the various newspapers from the different press houses interpret the same data.
When data are misunderstood by the media they put up banner headlines that are completely different from the content of the article or feature they are writing on. Sometimes a media house report focuses on one aspect of the data ignoring the main finding. This leads to misinterpretation and misinformation since the underlying issues are usually not taken into account.
Factual information must have integrity, objectivity and accuracy. However, it is also important to recognize that information can be misinterpreted by personal bias, inaccurate statistics and even by the addition of fictional data. It is important to understand the statistical definitions and concepts behind the information that one is using to explain issues.
Misinterpretation arises when the underlying definitions, classifications or methods of data collection are different. This is especially true for statistics from different sources. Nowhere is this more apparent than with data on vital statistics. To minimize such occurrences, the GSS, the lead Agency in the production of official statistics in the National Statistical System in partnership with the UNFPA, is organizing this programme to equip journalists who write/comment on especially socio-economic and demographic issues how to correctly interpret and explain official statistics they use in their journalistic work.
Objectives of the workshop
The objective of the workshop is to build the capacity of the media to correctly interpret statistical information in their reportage
The specific objectives are:
• To train the media on definitions and concepts behind the statistical information they use
• To train participants on how to correctly interpret figures, tables and charts
• Select some participants for a post training coaching program
The training will cover the following areas: use and misuse of statistics, interpretation of indicators, definitions, standards and classification used in statistics, basic statistical analysis of data in tables and charts and when to use tables or charts. The training will involve PowerPoint presentations, discussions and class exercises.
The organization of the workshop will also entail tracking the participants to their work places after completion of the workshop. This follow up session is to verify if the participants are applying the knowledge gained from the workshop.
At the end of the workshop participants are expected to:
• Produce a non-technical feature article each on selected socio-economic and demographic issue by applying knowledge acquired from the training.
• A schedule for mentoring selected participants.
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