Monday, May 23, 2016

Making stuff up with numbers

Nothing wrong with the headline, as long as you don't expect headlines to be true or anything. The race might indeed be "tightening," but none of the evidence here supports such a conclusion -- mostly because the "polls" don't show anyone "tied" with anyone else. Fox isn't the only cable network to get this point wrong, but it appears to be the most consistent in lying about numbers for partisan gain, so let's have a look:

Two polls released Sunday show Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton tied with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in a likely general election race, after having a double-digit lead just months ago.
  
Clinton leads Trump 46-to-43 percent in a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, compared to a similar one in April in which Clinton had an 11-point lead.

Odd. A 3-point lead wasn't a "tie" last week, when Fox reported on its own poll:

Donald Trump tops Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, according to a new Fox News Poll that also finds majorities of voters feel both frontrunners lack strong moral values and will say anything to get elected.

Trump has a 45-42 percent edge over Clinton, if the presidential election were held today.  That’s within the poll’s margin of sampling error.  Last month, Clinton was up by 48-41 percent (April 2016).

Hmm. Let's return to Sunday's story for a moment:

Earlier Sunday morning, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed voters favored Trump over Clinton 46-to-44 percent. The numbers also show Clinton losing an identical 11-point lead since earlier this spring.

Both polls were within the statistical margin of error, which means Clinton and Trump are essentially tied.

Well, no. It doesn't mean that. Not that the misperception isn't widely shared -- for example, by NBC itself (here, in its MSNBC guise):

Hillary Clinton’s advantage over Donald Trump has narrowed to just three points — resulting in a dead-heat general-election contest with more than five months to go until November, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Clinton, who remains a heavy favorite to win the Democrat nomination, leads the presumptive GOP nominee 46 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, a difference that is within the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.

NBC isn't done with the stupidz:

Read more »

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Today in attribution

How are those arithmetic lessons going, Los Angeles Times?

Who's won the most votes?
Clinton also leads Sanders in that category. She has received more than 12.5 million votes, compared with 9.4 million for Sanders. That's a lead of more than 3 million votes, according to calculations by the website Real Clear Politics.

If you believe the numbers, do the subtraction yourself. (And if you're relying on "calculation" by Real Clear Politics, stop.) If you don't believe the numbers, why use them?

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Notice is always taken, sooner or later

How stands the Union there, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

An introduction to the Money Issue on May 1 referred incorrectly to Webster’s dictionary. It was Noah Webster who created it, not Daniel Webster.


It's enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Yes, I can see how that happened

Sometimes, "because of an editing error" doesn't quite seem enough:

Because of an editing error, an article on Monday about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of the Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.

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Friday, May 06, 2016

That missing album

Man, the stuff you lose when you move. Honey, did you file "Birds of Terror" under "McLaughlin" or "Mahavishnu"?

Really, though, enjoy Friday afternoon's No. 3 most-super-important tale at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

A Jordanian border official said at a news conference Wednesday that Islamic State militants are using homing pigeons to deliver messages to operatives outside its so-called caliphate.

Stop press!

Brig. Gen. Saber al-Mahayreh said Jordanian troops captured one of the pigeons sent by ISIS fightes in Iraq to a person in Jordan with a letter addressed to him. Al-Mahayreh said militants are using outdated ways to get its messages out, aside from using social media.

“The jihadists tied a letter with a phone number to the foot of the bird, which was flying to a Jordanian resident,” he said.

In its rush to keep the fear burner at a low boil, Fox manages to leave out the one mildly interesting part of the original Torygraph tale (red underscore in the original):


... without some hint of which, ISIS appears to have a bad case of "my uncle took a message and he wrote it on the wall."

And now, in so many more ways than one, your moment of zen. Turn it up.

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Micetrap

So if the thing that traps mice is a mousetrap ...

In a potential food poisoning scare,  the FBI says it has arrested a man suspected of contaminating produce at open food bars at several Ann Arbor-area grocery stores with a liquid spray containing mice poison, hand cleaner and water.

... right. Birdwatching, not birdswatching; flyswatter, not fliesswatter*; and mouse poison, not mice poison. You're supposed to fix things like that in the text, not amplify them in the hed. While you're at it, when you've said "mouse poison" and "sprayed on food," it's spray-painting the lily to tack on "In a potential food poisoning scare." Save the space.

And the online display? It doesn't help to say "allegedly" in the deck when the main hed says he did it.





* Though I'm starting to like this one.

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Theoretical Thursday: Bluff-calling and eye-gazing

Do you get the impression every now and then that the Washington Times is just kidding around with the print edition -- that it's saving the single-malt crazy for the folks who enjoy it online?  The story's the same in both cases; the differences remind us that there's more to the framing process than just poking keywords into database searches.

At top is the print treatment of a fairly straightforward story:

Russia said Wednesday that it will deploy three newly created military divisions to protect its southern and western borders, days after U.S. and NATO military leaders unveiled plans to stand up a 4,200-member force in Eastern Europe to counter Russian aggression there.

... and the actors are more or less the ones you'd expect from the hed: Russia, NATO and the US. Notice how things change for the homepage, though:
 Notice how it's not just personalized but individualized: It's Putin staring down Obama, not Russia staring down NATO (hence the four-year-old filer of Putin aiming "a replica of the AK-47 assault rifle," rather than the undated shot on the front). It doesn't tell you what to think, but as Bernard Cohen put it, it's stunningly successful at telling you what to think about -- say, that extra jar of Survival Seeds for the bunker.

It's not as if the print Times doesn't lavish attention on the usurper; in the offlede, after all, the Justice Department is "President Obama's Justice Department." But this one seems a little stronger on the special sauce than usual, given what the older right-wing press seemed to make of the matter.

The real question the Times might want to ask is: Can't anybody here play this game? As in, wouldn't you have to know which player has the weaker hand to know who's bluffing? Is the Washington Times telling Putin what cards the pitiful, helpless giant is holding? Why does the Washington Times hate America? Why does the Washington Times hate freedom???

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A date which will live in ... wait, what?

Dear Fair 'n' Balanced copy editors: No, you really shouldn't just go around sticking prefixes on adjectives. Yes, you really should look up words like "infamous" if you don't know what they mean. (Hint: It's not "like, super famous.")

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