The Plural of Anecdote is not Data..or is it?


  1. In New Orleans in 2003, at what was the last Public Radio Conference, ever, I did a presentation on Digital Radio, in the very early times of HD Radio.

    Before my session, my colleague David Liroff (formerly of WGBH and CPB) did a session on what PBS and U.S. Public TV had learned through the challenging upgrade to HDTV in the years prior. David shared a lot of great things in his session, but prefaced it with an aphorism he had borrowed from someone else:


    THE PLURAL OF ANECDOTE IS NOT DATA

  1. Such and easy and true statement. One story does not make for the evidence to prove something, and a collection of stories may not be an accurate picture of reality. The use of real or apocryphal anecdotes in politics notwithstanding.


    As aphorisms go, it is a good one.


    David Liroff never claimed credit for it, but he was the first to share it with me. In looking into the history of the statement, I recently found origins going back to the 1960’s


    Oddly enough, the “source” of the quote may not have said what several of us have adopted.


    In a blog post by David Smith, the credit goes to Raymond Wolfinger (presumed to be the political scientist from Stanford and then UC-Berkeley) as the first to coin the phrase – but with a difference:
  2. Professor Wolfinger claims to have said “the plural of anecdote is data.”

    And I guess that is true, too. Data is data. Whether it is data that allows you to make appropriate measurements or judgments is a different issue.

    This takes me to a different thought about most people. Well, not actually most people, but of the phrase, “most people.”

    That will be for another day.
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About sehanley

Musician, journalist, teacher, technologist, consultant & former NPR station manager. A media and entertainment professional, journalist, entrepreneur, technology advocate, educator, student, mentor, manager, and media, musical and theatrical performer. Voice talent and coach for music and spoken word. I also act and sing (mostly jazz, but a lot of experience with choral, classical and musical theater, too). Brass instruments, too, but my AF ofM card lapsed years ago. Heard on the national jazz service, PubJazz, and in the Pittsburgh market on WZUM/Pittsburgh Jazz Channel. I also teach college level courses in media and journalism. I managed the leading NPR/public radio station in Pittsburgh, PA for 16 years, a few years later was GM of the NPR station WBHM in Birmingham, AL. I served for six very busy years on the NPR Board of Directors and have done much volunteer service for national and local organizations in the communities I have been privileged to live and work in. Former NPR Board Member, former President of the Pittsburgh Radio Organization, sometime musician, relentless technology advocate. Opinions expressed are not the viewpoints of any employer or affiliation past or present.
This entry was posted in CPB, HD, HDTV, NPR, PBS, Scott Hanley and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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