When Your Facts Undercut The Premise Of Your Story

Hidden in this WSJ blog post (Back to School Shopping Is a Digital Holdout) is the revelation that less than 10 percent of shopping is done online.

Sure, the back to school figure is lower — just 6 percent. But the comparable figure is 9 percent for the holiday season: “In 2014, 6% of total retail dollars was spent online during the back-to-school season, according to eMarketer, a research firm. That compares with 9% during the year-end holiday season.”

To my eye, that means that parents are less likely to do back to school shopping online than they are to do shopping at other times of the year, but it doesn’t make parents into holdouts and shouldn’t obscure the little-noted reality that online shopping in general (like broadband access and technology in general) isn’t as widespread as journalists and tech evangelists seem to think.

On topics serious and silly alike, let’s all be careful about how we frame our stories — and what assumptions might be built into them. It’s especially embarrassing (in my opinion) when the story contradicts or undercuts the headline.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.