News Abuse

An interesting thing happened recently. For the first time ever I actually heard the results of a survey I took part in published in the news media. The survey in question was about domestic violence and was completed by students in Wales (which of course I am one of). This NUS and Amnesty International survey, which can be found here, seems to show that domestic violence is on the rise and an alarmingly high number of students know of someone who has been subject to abuse in a relationship or has pressured a partner into sex.

This of course seems a horrific thought, that so many young people have seen or know of this level of domestic violence. However there is a key flaw with this survey, which has surprised me the most. As of course I was subject to this survey I got to see what the questions were and with some luck I happened to be studying research methods in the media at the same time. I can say on the record that this survey was highly biased.

It seemed to lead the participant into answering that they knew someone who had been hit, and if you hadn’t then you couldn’t really answer all the questions properly. Me and two of my friends, who are also doing my course, filled out these questions and were quite shocked at how it seemed to lead us into making claims that we knew people who had subjected a woman to an ambiguous level of abuse. As such we decided we didn’t want to contribute to something which distorted reality so we left feedback in the closing comments, which implied that we thought the survey was unnecessarily biased. What then surprised us was that one of the NUS staff who had handed us the survey claimed that they too believed that it was biased and that some of the top level management also wasn’t happy with it, although as Amnesty International had supplied it without their input they had to just deal with it effectively.

The fact that this has now been publicized as hard news makes me wonder how much this happens where a seemingly biased piece of research can be made to serve an agenda and create a moral panic around it. Now this of course is a noble cause to a certain degree as domestic violence is deplorable but why should everyone be shocked into submission with a very biased piece of research into the matter. Surely if the results don’t speak for themselves in a fair test then is the issue such a big problem?

I also don’t like the thought that leading research such as this could easily get the public to believe in something which is morally wrong, after all it only takes an organization with an ill agenda and a newspaper looking for easy news for a survey similar in structure to create a moral panic on something which in reality isn’t really that bigger problem and could have adverse effects on certain people. I don’t agree that we have to be manipulated into taking action on something, rather we should have something which reflects the true picture of things but then I suppose when has the absolute truth been important to news?


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