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January 31, 2005


Mr. Nyhan,

I agree that he-said-she-said too often is uninformative. But what if the "Wham! Punch! Slam!" is, oops, wrong. It is simply false that "Only the conservative Heritage Foundation" has produced research showing that African Americans get a worse deal from Social Security than whites--and often receive a negative return.

A trivial Google search--or, if a reporter feels inclined, an actual literature review--will pull up plenty of other research, from a variety of sources, that make this same point.

The Cato Institute, for example, has arrived at a similar conclusion. Perhaps a reporter would contend that Cato and Heritage are intellectual bedfellows on this issue, but that doesn't change the fact we're not longer talking about "only" Heritage. And there are more experts, from other think tanks and from academia and from the government who also agree. We're now well beyond bedfellows and far beyond "only" Heritage.

So is it better for a news article to be, in a way, uninformative--in the sense that a reader is unable to come to any other conclusion than that there is great controversy on an extremely complex issue--or plain misleading?

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