When Journalists Fc**k Up The Numbers
Highly recommend you read the section titled “important excerpt & links”, both links titled the Vitality of Mythical Numbers are superb reads.
Introduction (Jack Shafer @ Slate)
Everybody cuts corners. Take me, for example. Today I could be writing a critique of the Libyan war coverage. I could be assessing the disaster reporting from Japan or essaying on the difficulties of getting the Syrian uprising story.
But instead of doing anything ambitious or worthy of your time, I’m going to rewrite (I mean update!) a piece I wrote in November, “Numbers Are Hard To Come By.”
Premise (Jack Shafer @ Slate)
On the chance that you missed that piece, it’s about how news outlets habitually cut corners in their reporting when they can’t find solid data that support their theses but still want to run the story. They grab the nearest available—or most frequently repeated figure—and couch it with the phrase “numbers are hard to come by.”
Important Excerpt & Links (Jack Shafer @ Slate)
One of the reasons that so many numbers are, as they say, hard to come by is that in so many cases, nobody has the necessary incentive to properly tabulate them. (If this topic makes your bunnies hop, read Max Singer’s “The Vitality of Mythical Numbers,” Public Interest, Spring 1971; and Peter Reuter’s splendid companion piece, “The (Continued) Vitality of Mythical Numbers,” Public Interest, Spring 1984.)