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News, Reality, and Context

This is an op-ed

Mark Twain famously said “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

Traditionally, it has been the job of a journalist to “give context” to the information that is being presented.  One responsibility of journalism to present facts–facts that are verified, put in context, and explained so that the average person can understand them.

Modern journalism seems to have forgotten all three of those points.  News sites will toss up a “statistic”–some number given without context or history–and then insist that their assumptions and misunderstandings are “facts”.

We’re Number One!

Take a look a the image at the top of this editorial.  According to that, our engagement rate has, in the last month, increased by 82,000%.  The Chronicle must be more popular than the New York Times with those numbers!  Right??

Nope.  The Lodi Valley Chronicle didn’t exist 30 days ago1It technically did. The domain name was purchased.  But there was no content, and nobody could see it..  We went from zero sessions to 821.  I’m incredibly happy with that, but anyone with a basic knowledge of math will understand that’s not an “82,000% increase”.

Numbers Lie

Any time someone cites a number or a statistic, ask them where they got it, and what the context is.  You know that “statistic” that politicians are citing about how many plastic straws we use?  It came from a 9-year-old who called some straw manufacturers.

Should we be concerned about plastics in the oceans? Yes.  Should we be concerned about plastics in landfills? Yes.  Should we blindly accept the numbers we’re given? No.

The Chronicle will do its best to give context, history, and relevance to any significant issues we report.

That “82,000%” looks attractive, but the “821” is a number I can count on.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 It technically did. The domain name was purchased.  But there was no content, and nobody could see it.

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