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“Awash in Data, Thirsting in Truth” the Article by Margaret Sullivan Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2021

Introduction

The article’s thesis is that while data may be important in journalistic reporting, sometimes numbers obscure the truth from the audience. The author argues that the importance of data in reporting cannot be overlooked, but in some cases, numbers do not tell the whole story. Data-driven stories pose serious challenges because “they can come out feeling too neat, as if the complexity and messiness of the real world can be reduced to mere data” (Sullivan par. 11).

The way journalists interpret data compounds this problem due to the lack of fact-checking and verification. Therefore, the author opines that the best way to handle this issue is to mix narratives powered by anecdotes with a data-driven approach to reporting.

Quality of Arguments

The arguments in the article are of good quality. First, the author separates her thoughts and opinions from ideas given by other people by utilizing quotation marks appropriately. She uses evidence-based arguments to present her points. She does not rely heavily on her opinions. On the contrary, she quotes respected figures in the area of the importance of data in reporting. For instance, Dean Baquet is an executive editor at The New York Times while Greg Brock is a senior editor. Additionally, the article opens with a quote from Mark Twain, which sets the stage to explore the topic having established her stance.

The author does not sound biased, and her arguments are neutral even though her stance on the topic is clear. She argues behind expert opinions and by retelling personal anecdotes, which allows the audience to make its conclusions. Moreover, she offers a counterargument to her stand that data-driven reporting might obscure truth from readers. Therefore, the arguments in this article could be said to be of good quality because they are unbiased and the majority of them are expert opinions on the subject matter.

Case Presentation

The author makes an accurate case concerning the topic. Her voice throughout the article is limited to a few lines. The bulk of the article is a presentation of expert opinion and case studies on the issue at hand. She starts by asking two open-ended questions – “How important is data to reporting? And does it get readers closer to the truth or obscure it?” (Sullivan par. 2). This approach prepares the audience to start on a journey towards answering the posed questions.

The author then introduces case studies based on two pieces appearing in The New York Times. In the first article on the working conditions at Amazon, the author appears to question the use of anecdotes to expose poor working conditions at such a hard-driving company. In the second story, she seems to question the use of data to argue that a “creative apocalypse” is yet to happen in the contemporary digital age. The author does not want to make conclusions for the readers. On the contrary, she presents cases and valid arguments for the audience to draw its conclusions. I think this assertion explains the accuracy of the case presented by the author.

Authority used to Back Conclusions

As mentioned earlier, the author uses expert opinion and authoritative sources to back up her conclusions. She references The New York Times, which is a reputable newspaper. Additionally, she quotes people, such as Dean Baquet and Greg Brock – an executive editor at The New York Times and a senior editor at the standards department respectively. The author also quotes from an interview she had with Jake Silverstein, a magazine editor. Alex Howard is an opinion leader and a writer on data-driven journalism. He is also a “fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University” (Sullivan par. 12). These sources are verifiable and authoritative on the subject matter, and they help the author make informed conclusions.

Aristotle’s Ways of Supporting an Argument

Sullivan uses ethos to establish her authority in the subject matter. She starts by giving her personal experience concerning how she questioned the two articles in a bid to gather more information on the value of data-driven reporting. She says, “I wrote in a blog post that while I admired much about the piece, its length and display might have been overdone, given the lack of hard proof that Amazon’s practices make it an outlier” (Sullivan par. 4). This assertion undermines her credibility and authority to talk about this topic. In other words, she is not a passive observer. She also uses logos to highlight the logic behind the claims made in the article. She achieves this goal by citing and quoting authoritative figures in the field of journalism, such as Dean Baquet, Greg Brock, and Alex Howard.

Conclusion

I agree with the article that combining data-driven reporting and anecdotes is the appropriate approach to bringing the truth to the audience. Such a mix of stories would capture and present the world in different ways. Data journalism cannot tell a story in its wholeness due to the complexities and heterogeneity of information within a given data set. Similarly, stories cannot be complete if told using anecdotes only, as they are subject to personal bias, hence the lack of sufficient evidence to corroborate such accounts. Therefore, a mix of the two would present the truth better as compared to using each independently.

Work Cited

Sullivan, Margaret. “. The New York Times. 2015. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, June 8). "Awash in Data, Thirsting in Truth" the Article by Margaret Sullivan. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/awash-in-data-thirsting-in-truth-the-article-by-margaret-sullivan/

Work Cited

""Awash in Data, Thirsting in Truth" the Article by Margaret Sullivan." IvyPanda, 8 June 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/awash-in-data-thirsting-in-truth-the-article-by-margaret-sullivan/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Awash in Data, Thirsting in Truth" the Article by Margaret Sullivan." June 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/awash-in-data-thirsting-in-truth-the-article-by-margaret-sullivan/.


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IvyPanda. ""Awash in Data, Thirsting in Truth" the Article by Margaret Sullivan." June 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/awash-in-data-thirsting-in-truth-the-article-by-margaret-sullivan/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. ""Awash in Data, Thirsting in Truth" the Article by Margaret Sullivan." June 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/awash-in-data-thirsting-in-truth-the-article-by-margaret-sullivan/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) '"Awash in Data, Thirsting in Truth" the Article by Margaret Sullivan'. 8 June.

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