Media need some high school arithmetic/statistics sensibilities: Poor Assembly Election Reporting by NDTV

I had been waiting for the counting day even before the first vote in these elections was cast. Thanks to technology, I can watch the media circus live here in Chicago. I shall reserve the real implications of these elections for some political analyst to delve on, but shall opine a bit about how disappointing one of the leading channels was.

So I tuned into NDTV and say at 8:30 am out of some 50 seats on which leads were being reported SP had 25 odd and BJP had 20 odd. This was enough for them to jump overboard and talk about “Brahmins have returned” and “Muslims and others seem to be voting for BJP”. Cause and effect relationships were discussed with regards to Mr Khurshid’s statements and the BJP’s resounding comeback. Even the psephologists seem to concur with the journalists and Mr Roy. The Decimation of Mayawati and total failure of congress was announced.

3 hrs later, It was clear that the initial leads were an aberration. The BJP did almost as disastrously as last time and congress infact ( in my opinion) has done well to gain quite a bit.

Here’s what took the cake when Prannoy Roy /Barkha Dutt commented

The BJP started very well…But later they fizzled out……..

Think about why this statement is highly problematic.  Does a statement like that even mean closely what he implies? It merely means that the first few seats that were reported were where BJP happened to lead in. Perhaps by chance, or perhaps because urban centers tend to report leads faster and the BJP does well there, in which case it is even more problematic to say anything basis the first few results.

 I think the EC is absolutely correct in banning exit polls from being reported before everyone has cast the votes. At least it should be the case, before these news channels take a course in high school mathematics!

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Author: harshT

Assistant Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism

1 thought on “Media need some high school arithmetic/statistics sensibilities: Poor Assembly Election Reporting by NDTV”

  1. The problem is that the middle class NDTV audience has absolutely no hand in actually determining election outcomes. However they would like to believe that they hold the most power. NDTV would like to work on their very basic mathematics skills based on some pre-opinion that they have held…they dont really matter – but god forbid if they are told that!

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