Numbed by the numbers, when they just don't add up.
The Public Editor
Numbed by the numbers, when they just don't add up
New York Times, 23 January 2005 Daniel Okrent
The public editor column appears twice monthly. The present commentary focuses on "complaints...about innumeracy at The Times."
It is easy for jounalists to uncritically accept numerical figures provided by an outside source. For example, in November 2004, a study by the New York City Comptroller's office asserted that New Yorkers spend more than $23 billion annually on counterfeit goods. This translates to a nonsensical $8000 per household, but apparently no one at the Times tried this arithemetic before running the story.
Many other examples are presented.