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Journalists and Math Part II

October 8th I posted "A Perfect Storm of Misinformation" talking about Mark Liberman's suggestion that a discomfort with math among journalists might be one possible reason why so much research is reported so badly. This month's American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, made me think he is right. Read it and weep.

Someone named Barry wrote a letter castigating the editor for getting the year that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon wrong. Her response:

"Sure we remember, Barry, but that was 35 ... oh, wait ... 37 years ago. See? We’re still having trouble with numbers. Which is why we’re journalists instead of mathematicians. But thanks to you and everyone else for making us aware of our error.


This is one of the more terrifying facts of life. Journalists act as our intermediaries. They get us the news. News is built on facts--as many as available. In a democratic society it is crucial that we get to see as much info, and accurate info. How will we ever get voting data right not to mention everything else in this world? This would be a good project for everyone to take on locally to internationally.

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