Blog: The Educated Reporter

“Everybody’s doing it”?

Three times in the last few weeks I have seen newspaper pieces include statements like, “Chris estimated that more than half his classmates used Adderal during the ACT” or “Sarah said that 90 percent of the students at her school drink on weekends.” Oh, really? Did Sarah hire Harris Interactive to survey a representative sample?

We can illuminate that substance abuse—or cheating, or stealing, or whatever—is a widespread problem without resorting to unverified guesses passed off as fact. Specific, personal examples can be just as powerful and have the added advantage of being accurate: “Chris said he was introduced to Adderal by a good friend, who got it from a soccer teammate, who got it from his girlfriend. Heading into the ACT, he shared his Adderal with three classmates.” Etc.