Tom Webster, writing and speaking

It's Still All About The Question

Added on by Tom Webster.

Sure, you can survey-monkey anything, but be sure you are at least asking the right question! Take this recent survey, which concludes that the media over-covered the Michael Jackson story. The question asks:

“With regard to the topic of Michael Jackson’s death, indicate whether or not you feel the media coverage is appropriate.”

The answer choices given are "Too much coverage," "Appropriate coverage" and "Not enough coverage." The problem with this construction is the lack of three simple words in the initial question: "...the amount of." Whether or not the coverage is "appropriate" is not necessarily a measure of the amount of coverage--in fact, I would argue that "appropriateness" has very little to do with quantity, and a lot more to do with taste. The survey respondent may be able to intuit the intent of the question from the choices, but that's exactly the problem--whenever you rely upon the respondent to intuit the intent of the question, you run the risk of generating a meaningless result.

As far as I am concerned, the "amount" of coverage has not been excessive, but that coverage has been far from appropriate. This was the King of Pop, people!