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Informed Opinions errs in reporting data

by Shari Graydon

Oops. We made a mistake this week, and we’re sorry.

In trying to cram all sorts of data into a one-page news release, we compounded a previous error — and then roped a trusted journalist into spreading our mistake. Ouch.

Earlier this spring, we monitored one-week’s worth women’s perspectives in six influential Canadian news media, including the editorial and comment pages of the Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Toronto Star. The results of the research have been available on our website since August, but — being the under-resourced project that we are — we hadn’t solicited attention to them.

Then last week, we used the occasion of the federal government’s official funding announcement to issue a news release of our own. Not surprisingly, we got lost in the Wikileaks juggernaut. But The Star’s Susan Delacourt wrote a lively and thoughtful blog related to the week’s biggest political story and, in her inimitable way, linked it to the context our research provided.

Susan’s blog got us noticed by a couple of National Post columnists, who requested more details about their paper’s numbers. When I looked up the coding sheets, I discovered that the information disseminated actually inflated the Post’s numbers overall, stating that 12% of its commentaries were penned by women, when, in fact, the figure was actually 8% (3 out of 37). However, in stating that the week’s analysis turned up zero female columnists, we inadvertently omitted Barbara Kay, who’s column in the week studied had been duly noted and tabulated. (The other two women contributors were both reprinted from Slate magazine and so marked as op eds.)

Additional details about the research — which, in finding that women’s voices were outnumbered by men’s by almost 5 to 1, was generally consistent with other, more comprehensive recent studies — are available on the Informed Opinions site. And we expect to update the research with a larger sampling in the coming months. In the meantime, we’ll be more careful.

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