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March 07, 2010


I agree with Brendan that Tom Friedman is now a poor columnist. It's sad, because he was excellent years ago when he restricted his columns to foreign affair, a field where he's extremely knowledgable.

The political science experiment regarding bias showed that academic researchers will go to a lot of trouble to do something in a convoluted way in order to get a publication. And journals publish their analyses as long as they're complex, whether or not they're meaningful.

To see whether newspapers favored McCain or Obama in their letters to the editor, there's a straightforward method: Just count the number of letters published that are pro-McCain or pro-Obama and compare the two totals. That's too simple and straightforward to get published in a learned academic journal.

Instead, these researchers wrote and submitted letters to a bunch of newspapers and kept track of the percentage of their pro-McCain and pro Obama letters that drew interest. Unfortunately, their approach was dependent on the assumption that the newspapers received equal numbers of pro-McCain and pro-Obama letters.

If newspapers received a larger number of pro-Obama letters (which I suspect was the case) then they had to accept a lower percentage of such letters in order to print an equal number of letters favoring each candidate. I

Without knowing what percentage of the total submitted letters favored one candidate or the other, this study gives no information regarding bias.

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