Ne’er The Twain

It’s said you can prove anything with statistics.

Perhaps. But you can certainly make any argument by carefully selecting which statistics to cite.

On Monday for instance, an EU survey showed Ireland still lags in internet access, with one in three still using low-speed dial-up modems.

The survey confirms computer ownership and internet access are on a par with European averages, but the country lags badly in broadband penetration.

But another report concentrated in the drop in the number of traditional landlines and public phone boxes, as the population moves to mobile phones.

The following day, a second survey highlighted growth in internet access, concentrating on the numbers online without going into how they got there.

The two surveys produce essentially the same data, yet by choosing which items to highlight, one report created an impression of Ireland lagging behind, while the other gave the impression of a society discarding old technologies in favour of the new.

And the latest report reinforces the impression of a growing and thriving internet society.

Perhaps the truth is that there are liars, damned liars, and public relations executives.

Or perhaps, journalists should ask questions instead of letting themselves be spoon-fed.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.