Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Statistic may mean something, says someone...

...and may mean something completely different, conjectures someone else - "Abortion drop may mean people are being more careful, says reform group":

The drop in abortions performed in New Zealand probably indicates people are being more careful but more research is needed, says the Abortion Law Reform Association.

Statistics New Zealand figures show 17,940 induced abortions were performed in the year ending December 2008, down 440 (2.4 per cent) from the 2007 year.

"I'm hopeful that what it means is there's better use of contraception, better sex education and people are being more careful. But without research, one cannot really say that," Alranz president Dr Margaret Sparrow said. "Stats will never be able to say why the figures have gone down."

Dear Journalist who, for whatever reason, has not attached their name to this piece,

Please note in your article (printed June 17 in the New Zealand Herald), that Dr Margaret Sparrow has said that, while she hopes "better use of contraception, better sex education and people ... being more careful" are responsible for the drop, that is merely speculation and she really doesn't know. I know you probably didn't choose the headline, but still.... Jesus!

Editing the Herald

Of course, and article consisting of merely speculation wouldn't be complete without... speculation from the other direction:

Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr agreed that more research was required and said the drop in abortions was pleasing, although for his organisation the goal was to reach a figure of zero abortions.

"We would like to think the reason for the drop is a growing recognition in the community that abortion not only kills an unborn child, but is damaging to a woman's health."

I love the journalistic idea of balance where, however content-free an article on abortion is, one always has to contact 'Right to Life' to see what Ken Orr thinks about it - as if that is going to be hard to predict. 'Still against abortion? Got it.' Still, one has to appreciate his perhaps unintentional honesty - "I would like to think the reason..." Well, I would like to think that the reason for the drop has been the effect of my blog on potential mothers; my example has shown them that their child might have a bright future as a blogger. Why isn't my phone number in their Rolodex?


Speaking about content-free articles, how about this one - "Key again refuses to explain why Worth was sacked" - from NZPA?

Again, huh? So should we expect an update every day on Key's continued refusal to explain?
  • Thursday's update: "Key again refuses to explain why Worth was sacked - again"
  • Friday's update: "Key once more again refuses to explain why Worth was sacked"
  • Herald on Sunday update: "Key again refuses to explain why Worth was sacked - could it be hookers on P?"
In other news: the Beehive again hasn't burnt down.


  1. I'd love to see a daily update tio the effect that a politician has refused to answer a question, until they answer it.

    If they can't get away with ducking the question until the news media get bored of answering it, then there's much less incentive for them to try.

    And they end up looking more and more shifty the longer they duck a question.

  2. Does this mean we can look forward to more Garth George Abortion Rage™ tomorrow? We can only hope...

  3. Dr Sparrow's quote that she is 'hopeful that what it means is there's better use of contraception' is a clear example of the Herald's campaign to bring a little 'hope' to our otherwise bleak lives and news reports. Presumably their focus group testing shows that NZH readers value the feeling of a story more highly than its veracity?

  4. How about the greater availability of the Morning After Pill? Nah, it's probably water pollution causing a whole lot of spontaneous miscarriages.

    I kinda like the Key updates. It's a great example of the status of New Zealand's political journalism.