Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spouting Nonsense: A pumpkin Spoutly for journalism student Brent Sullivan

On October 24th there was an article by Brent Sullivan at NCC NEWS ONLINE titled Forget Ghosts This Halloween, Public Speaking Is Frightful For Many. It opened with the startling statement that:

“According to a recent Gallup poll the thought of having to speak in public scares Americans more than a visit to the dentist, a flight across the country or an encounter with a snake.”

I eagerly went to the Gallup web site to see this brand new poll with different results than the well-known one from 2001 titled Snakes Top List of Americans’ Fears. But, a quick site search (starting with the word snake) revealed there is no new poll. That 2001 poll had listed what more people fear, not what people fear more. Snakes came first (51%), public speaking came second (40%), flying came eighth (18%), and dentists weren’t even listed. Going to the doctor was twelfth(9%). 

NCC is an acronym for Newhouse Communications Center. Their About page explains that:

“The content on this site is produced by students in the Broadcast and Digital Journalism Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.  We strive to work to professional standards.”  

Most of Brent’s article is about the Orange Orators, a Toastmasters club at Syracuse University. He apparently got a confused version of that Gallup poll from them, but never bothered to check the original source. Perhaps he also believes in the Great Pumpkin. Brent won my fourth Spoutly award.

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