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Dec. 17, 2009

The case for more rigorous Chips Indexing

by Warren Zhang, Managing News Editor and Ombudsman
Some of the more observant readers of Silver Chips may have noticed a slight change in the staff box this cycle. Traditionally, the roles of Extras Editor and Newsbrief Editor are fulfilled by junior staffers and we are proud to announce that page editors Eli Okun and Philipa Friedman have stepped up to fill the roles of Extras Editor and Newsbrief Editor, respectively. This shift of power allows us to take a moment to reflect on these two sections and plan new ways in which Silver Chips can improve the quality of our reporting for future issues.

Ombudsman Warren Zhang
Ombudsman Warren Zhang
While the Newsbrief Editor has a fairly straightforward job - this editor collects and summarizes important and recent news stories that cannot be covered in a full news story - the Chips Extras Editor has a less obvious role within the paper. The main role of the Extras Editor is to compile eight Chips Indexes - statistics relating to stories to be featured in the paper - for inclusion on the soapbox page. The Extras Editor assigns Chips Index ideas to the Journalism 1 class, the prerequisite course for those interested in joining Silver Chips, to obtain these numbers.

The benefits of this relationship are apparent for both sides - the Journalism students receive training for what future work on Silver Chips might entail, since the Extras Editor enforces the same strict standards for Silver Chips work on the Chips Index work, and Silver Chips can release interesting statistics to go along with the issue without foisting more work on busy staffers.

The relationship has certainly worked thus far, but it has not been without its problems. Though Silver Chips trusts Journalism students to perform accurate and in depth investigation of their assigned topic, Chips does not have a good framework in place to evaluate to accuracy of the given statistics. Currently, we ask the Journalism students to precisely describe the process through which they arrive at their results but the implementation of this requirement has been loose. Perhaps, the new Extras Editor can install a more rigorous framework for Chips Index verification, maybe providing a new form or verification process for Journalism students.

Another area in which Chips Index could use improvement is in the polling method used to generate several of the statistics published. In the years past, the Extras Editor has only required that Journalism students interview 250 Blazers, what the past editors believed to be a representative sample of Blair, for Chips Indexes looking for a certain "Percentage of Blazers." While 250 Blazers can be considered a representative sample, 250 students comprise roughly 10 percent of Blairís population, Chips has not regulated how Journalism students have decided which 250 students to interview.

Most of the time, the answers from these surveys were the result of a convenience sample of Blazers, that is a sample of Blazers not randomly selected but generated through other means. The results generated from this style of sampling are prone to being skewed and misrepresentative of what Blazers actually believe. Therefore, another area in which the new Extras Editor can try and improve is creating a more representative polling method with which Journalism students conduct their investigation that is also feasible for these students.

All of these suggestions are not to suggest that the current system in place doesnít work - Silver Chips is very impressed with the dedication and hard work that Journalism students put forth on behalf of the paper. However, like everything else on Silver Chips, Chips Index can use improvement and this regime change allows us an opportunity to implement changes.



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