Talking Heads on the Television

I’ve noticed on the news there seems to be a lot of Analysts now. They’re not called correspondents or reporters or journalists but Analysts. Especially when they’re talking about “Security”, “Politics”, or “Economics”. Sometimes they manage to get referred to as the Senior Analyst especially if they are an older gentlemen. I wonder what training and expertise these people actually have in order to be called Analysts. That word seems to convey more than if they were referred to as simply the “senior political correspondent.”

Despite the extra felling of authority the title of Analyst seems to give them, when the people being referred to – especially if it’s the “Senior Security Analyst” – are government employees the term analyst seems to have a negative connotation. If the person is a member of the U.S. intelligence community and the President refers to them as an analyst the President seems to be trying to diminish their opinion.

How many people watching the news actually know what that term means I wonder. How many people understand what it takes to actually do analysis? It’s not just offering an opinion. Everyone has an opinion and most of them are not any better than others. Some of them are just awful, especially when they are just spewed out in a social media post. Some of them are good; but that doesn’t make them truly informative, or accurate though.

I’ve taken several courses in analysis and critical thinking. One assignment we had had us look at meta-analysis or an analysis of what analysis actually is. The short reading with the assignment attempted to demonstrate the question of what is analysis. Boiled down, the answer the reading provided is one of breaking down a problem or question into its component parts. By breaking a position or situation into its component parts, we are better able to understand the question and derive an answer. While this is a fine beginning to what analysis is, it only provides us with part of the answer. Just breaking a problem down into its smallest parts only provides us with the basics of what the problem is and allows clarity as to what might be the actual question. This is an important part of the process, but is only a part of the process. After a problem is broken down into its constituent parts, we must then see how they relate, not only to each other but also with the desired outcome.

Using the example given in my assignment, looking at the gas gauge of a car and seeing it is near empty, will demonstrate my point. The assignment determined that on a long trip we can analyze whether we would need to stop by viewing our gas gauge. Seeing our gauge is nearly on empty we determine we need to stop now and get gas. I disagree with this very simple determination and think it shows a faulty use and definition of analysis. Therefore, the person doing just what the example cited demonstrates as their analysis can hardly be referred to as an analyst.

Just looking at the gauge all we see is that the gauge is registering near empty. We must then take into account whether or not the gauge is correct based on our knowledge of when we last filled the tank. Additionally, we must also take into account the ultimate destination and its proximity. If its proximity is relatively close, we may judge the risk of waiting to fill the tank until after we reach our destination is preferable to stopping before reaching our destination. Therefore, by doing additional analysis and not just looking at the gauge we can come to an opposite conclusion. Analysis is just not breaking down a problem into its component parts but then seeing how those parts interact with each other. Moreover, we need to see if there is a connection to the problem we are presented with to determine if we are analyzing and reaching an accurate conclusion for the desired outcome.

Consequently, a good analyst would be one that goes beyond just understanding what something is and goes on to discuss how that item effects other items and what the long term and secondary and tertiary effects are of influencing those items. Without going the additional step of taking the smallest pieces and seeing how they interact the basic analysis of breaking something down just leaves you something broken.

Now, some of the people on the news may actually have the experience and training so they can be referred to as true analysts. Unfortunately, not enough of them seem to show the secondary step of going beyond just breaking down and reporting an incident. Additionally, too many viewers simply jump to one of two conclusions, either the Analyst is an authority and right, or they are a stooge trying to push an agenda and are wrong. Appreciating you don’t know all there is to know and allowing yourself the leeway of seeing other points of view and trying to see what is the product as opposed to what you want the product to be, although annoying at times, makes for a more interesting life and a better analysis.

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