Thursday, February 17, 2011

RTFS

No. No, they didn't. What jumped was the number of applications for benefits. This is a regularly reported statistic, it's been particularly salient during the recession and recovery, and there's not much excuse for screwing it up.

It's wise to tread with a bit of caution when picking on individual hed errors, because we've all clammed a hed at some point or another. (The only people who don't make hed errors are people who don't write heds.) This stat, though, is worth treating with extra caution, because it's become a special sort of whipping boy for a particular faction of partisan U.S. journalism.

I'm really at a loss to explain why, but over in Fair 'n' Balancedland, the report on new jobless claims produces a consistent reaction over and above all similar stats: "You LAH!!!1!!1!!" when it's on the favorable side, but solid gold -- as in "see? told ya! we're all going to hell" solid gold -- when it's on the unfavorable side. Fox helps, of course, by labeling the stat a "president" story when it's increasing and a "state and local" story when it's decreasing, but it's not creating an attitude -- just reinforcing one.

Real journalists shouldn't set their watches by what happens at Fox. But like it or not, they need to know this story is going to be held up as an example of their abject Marxist toolhood. That means we need to post -- and pay attention to -- the "do not feed the wingnuts" sign.

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