Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The great clue hunt

Why do people out there distrust The Meedja so? Is it ... because some City Council candidates get better treatment than others?

No, that can't be it. How about our sometimes cavalier attitude toward representatives of mainstream religions?

No, it must be something deeper than that.

Or is it because we can't even read a press release without bungling it like Chicken Little? As in this example from Poynter's daily roundup of "story ideas that you can localize and enterprise*":

Half of Americans Have Foot Pain
It's sort of interesting, isn't it, that the newest uncomfortable styles come just as the American Podiatric Medical Association says one-half of Americans already has aching feet.

OK. The head on the press release is wrong ("New Survey Finds Nearly Half of Americans Suffer From Foot Problems"), but didn't we already learn about not trusting the heds on press releases? The lede gives a slightly more clueful representation:

If you think you’re the only one that has to cover up ugly yellow toe nail fungus or skip a day at the gym because of pain in your feet, think again. Nearly half (47 percent) of Americans will experience a foot ailment at some point in their lives, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

Well, that clears things up a little. The thing doesn't say half of us has aching feet now (gollum, gollum); it says half of us have had or will have foot problems at some point. Slight difference, wouldn't you say? Sort of like the difference between "half of Americans will have the flu at some point" and 150 MILLION STRICKEN; PANIC IN STREETS!

And if you read on a bit -- say, as if you were the sort of assigning editor who paid attention to stuff -- you might have wondered if "foot ailment" is the same thing as "aching feet." Take it away, podiatrists:

The most common foot conditions included: Sweaty feet/foot odor (25 percent)

So No. 1 on the hit parade of past, present or future foot issues (at 25%) isn't even pain. Hardly even seems fair to ask all the normal stuff you'd ask about the alleged poll's alleged methodology, does it?

* Not to tear off the benign descriptivist mask or anything, but -- has a trial date been set yet for the lackey of Satan who decided to verb "enterprise"?


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