Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FOXNews badly (as well as subtly) misrepresents the data

This has been going around the Internets for a while. However, I haven't seen (although I haven't looked hard) a site that commented on the placement of the points that come prior to the obviously misplaced 8.6% point.

So I did it by making a graph in Excel and laying it over the FOXNews graph
As you can see, there are a few points that are lying above where they ought to be, and FOXNews was a little generous with their 8.9% and 8.8%, putting them a little lower than what their actual positions should have been. Specifically (and possibly deviously), the visual location of FOXNews' 9.2% is significantly closer to 9.5% than is actually warranted, given their y-axis. This gives the March-June rise in unemployment a steeper visual slope than what is warranted by the actual data.

You could have said that I made the scale wrong, but I'm actually using the scale of the FOXNews graph: see how the grey and black lines overlap at 8.0% the points overlap at 9.0%. If the y-axis is actually linear (and there's no reason to think that it isn't), then there ought not to be any vertical shift between the values as displayed by Excel graphing and their own graph.

Furthermore, you cannot have Excel give you a different data value than the one for the point, unless you do it manually. Excel will also not plot points higher or lower than they ought to be, based on the given y-axis.

Does FOXNews pay their interns enough? Or are they even hiring interns that know how to use Excel? Or is it something else?

In short, while the obviously fallacious positioning of the November value of 8.6% is an obvious misrepresentation of the data, the fallacious positioning of the 9.2% and the 8.8% is a more subtle misrepresentation of the data by showing a steeper rise in unemployment than the axes ought to depict.

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