Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sexual abuse and the press

Yesterday I reported a survey which seems to indicate that 1.8 million kids were abused by teachers in a single year (a very conservative estimate), while the number of abuses by priests averages out to about 220 (not 220 million, not even 220 thousand—two hundred and twenty).

I would think that the outrage by the press would be much greater toward the public schools since an overwhelming percentage of American kids go to public schools and since the number of abuses is astronomically higher in public schools. For example, a Google search for “sexual abuse and teachers” produced over 15 million hits while a Google search for “sexual abuse and priests” produced just under 4 million hits. That’s about what I would expect.

Interestingly enough a Google News search for “sexual abuse and teachers” produced 334 articles while a Google News search for “sexual abuse and priests” produced 492 articles. Even allowing for "false drops", the press apparently wrote more articles about an average of 200 sexual abuses by Catholic priests than they did about 1.8 million (or more) abuses by public school teachers!

Even more telling was a search of the Proquest Newspapers database. A basic search for “sexual abuse and teachers” produced 3,314 hits. A basic search for “sexual abuse and priests” produced 11,565 hits.

Can someone explain to me again how there is no liberal or anti-religious bias in the press?


Kevin said...

Very good post. That's an interesting analysis.

John said...

I'm not sure how you're running your Google search, but when I ran it I came up with 5.8 million references for abuse referencing priests, and 19.1 million for abuse referencing teachers.

But surely Googling doesn't pass for research these days does it?

Dennis said...

John, first, you have to run the exact same search phrase. I just ran them again and came up the the same results I reported.

Second, although you came up with diffent numbers, your search supports the point I made in that paragraph (you may want to read it more carefully)

Third, there is a difference between a Google Search and a Google NEWS search.

Fourth, I did't just use Google, I also used Proquest Newspapers.

Fifth, I never claimed this was some kind of scientific study but the results--especially the Proquest Newspaper results--are so significant as to require some kind of explanation. For you to ignore the Proquest results and simply dismiss the Google results as not scientific without even trying to explain the results seems to imply that you already have your mind made up and don't want to be confused by information that might contradict what you've already decided.

Ed Merwin, Jr. said...

While "bias" may be considered one aspect of the whole, good old fashioned "capitalism" should not be overlooked. The media knows that people traditionally place a stronger, more intimate, trust in their priest, pastor, etc, than they would an educator. Thus when this "trust" of one's relligious figure is breached, viola, a news story (feeding frenzy?) is born.

John said...

I did run the exact same search phrases that you indicated (although I wasn't sure if you used quotation marks or not).

Yes, there is a difference between Google and Google News, but you indicated you searched both ways. You're right, though, I misread part of your post and my numbers do seem to match that part of your claim.

I do not have my mind already made up; I was distracted, though, by the use of Google as evidence. I've seen it used many times in ways it wasn't intended - as I'm sure you have too.

You may have a point. However, Ed beat me to the punch - I think people are more shocked/outraged when a priest is the abuser (right or wrong) because religion is involved and people view them as being held to a higher standard.

Anonymous said...

Good analysis. There does seem to be a bias.

John said...

Another factor that may come into play is that the Catholic church has been caught trying to cover up these scandals, and that's not exactly going to minimize backlash.