Saturday, January 19, 2008

Statistics are sexy

Of course, you probably didn’t think so the last time you had to calculate the probability of picking a red marble out of a basket, run an SPSS regression, or assemble a meta-analysis study of different data sets. Yet, I’ll admit there’s very little that’s sexier than someone objectively good-looking who has an exceedingly strong command of what he or she is talking about, imparting statistical information in front of some spiffy slides or charts. I become thoroughly absorbed, the rest of the world seems to fall away, and my mouth would be ever so slightly open.

In the case of CNN election coverage, it would be in front of some very high-tech LCD or plasma screens, and the reporter in question is chief national correspondent John King. Gasp! Not Anderson Cooper? As much as I loved the silver-haired, blue-eyed anchor, he doesn’t have the same grasp on politics . . . not by a long shot. It is King whose thinking and analyses are shrewd, nuanced, and impassioned.

I’ve enjoyed CNN election coverage thus far. It’s really quite entertaining to see seasoned reporters get worked up about Iowa and New Hampshire, some of the most sparsely populated states in the Union. It’s been engaging to watch them make judgments, backtrack on it, and try to explain where their thinking went wrong (as in the case of New Hampshire). It’s more to appease their shortcomings than for the benefit of viewers.

In the morass of these reporters, anchors, and pundits, there is a beacon of light that is King. He’s done his research. He places the emerging results from the primaries in historical context. He takes the time to explain things properly and thoroughly to the viewer. He delves into the complexity of the predictors of voting outcomes. Sometimes, he gets a little too excited and speaks a little too quickly, but I find this rather charming, as he is usually really quite sedate and level-headed. And wow, is he really good at using that complicated technology CNN has provided him.

Click here to see him in action.


Picture credits: CNN

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