Comments on: When journalists forget they’re innumerate http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/ A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 By: Barry Kelly http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/comment-page-1/#comment-1839 Fri, 22 May 2009 13:16:29 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/#comment-1839 I don’t think I’ve ever read a journalistic story in a newspaper that made statements quoting statistics that, upon reviewing the original sources, did not turn out to be more or less misleading.

Stylistic habits of mixing up the phrases when describing different proportions is often the culprit. Journalists will often write things like “A% was foo, while B% of the remainder was bar, and the rest were baz” – leaving you to wonder is that B% a percentage of (100 – A), or a percentage of the whole.

Just a couple of small tables of data would help hugely, particularly when percentages, ratios and proportions are being discussed.

Another bugaboo is people that talk about % differences but don’t mention the base rate – ignoring the fact that small bases can give rise to large but inconsequential percentages. Oh, and folks that talk about averages, but don’t mention variance or distribution shape – another black mark.

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By: Mark Palko http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/comment-page-1/#comment-1824 Thu, 21 May 2009 23:12:32 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/#comment-1824 I believe “How to Lie with Statistics” is still in print. Could we take up a collection and send them all a copy?

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By: maynardGkeynes http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/comment-page-1/#comment-1810 Thu, 21 May 2009 19:24:35 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/#comment-1810 Paying copy editors more than $8/hour might help, too.

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By: Unsympathetic http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/comment-page-1/#comment-1805 Thu, 21 May 2009 18:02:43 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/21/when-journalists-forget-theyre-innumerate/#comment-1805 Please remember to send that email to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The housing bubble was only roughly $8,000,000,000,000 (trillion) — and the journalists at both of those papers decided to overlook the entire thing.

Include a link to Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.

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