A Tale of Two Spins

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP



I came across this image a few weeks back…Don’t know where I saw this, but it was super interesting.

The image shows two newspaper headlines reporting on the same economic data but with seemingly contradictory spins. One headline suggests a negative outlook, highlighting a “3-month low” in December for GST revenue, while the other emphasizes a positive trend, with “GST Collections up 10% YoY.”

This juxtaposition is a classic example of media framing, where the same set of facts can be presented in different ways to create differing narratives. Media outlets often have their own editorial angles, which can influence the way stories are told. The choice of words, whether to focus on a decline or an improvement, and what comparative benchmarks to use (like month-on-month versus year-on-year comparisons), can significantly shape public perception.

The first headline focuses on the short-term decline, which might resonate with economic concerns, suggesting a potential slowdown or emerging issues within the revenue system. Meanwhile, the second headline chooses a longer-term, year-over-year comparison, which shows an overall positive trend, thus portraying an image of economic resilience and growth.

Such disparate presentations of the same data highlight the importance of critical reading skills and media literacy among the public. It’s essential for readers to look beyond headlines, which are designed to catch attention and may not fully represent the complexities of the data.

This phenomenon also underscores the debate around “media manipulation” and “spin”. While “manipulation” implies a deliberate and dishonest intent to deceive, “spin” is a more neutral term that refers to the natural bias that any storyteller brings to the narrative. It’s an inherent part of journalism that reflects the diversity of perspectives in society but requires an aware audience to navigate the nuances presented.

In the next Nano, I will share ways to deal with these media spins…