Tuesday, January 24, 2006

To the AP: Please Do A Fact Check

The AP has a story entitled "Nagin Chides Media Over Coverage" in which the following appears.......
Estimates are that more than 1,200 died in Louisiana and Mississippi in a devastating 2005 hurricane season that left almost 1 million people displaced ......
First look at the "estimate" of the death toll. It wouldn't take much to find that the official death toll for MS and LA is 1311. A few google searches would get the death tolls of each state, then Add. Is it really that hard to be precise and count all the dead?

Worse however is the number of displaced people is OFF by......almost 1 million!

At present there are 2 Million people displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA of course had the number wrong until a few weeks ago but they did own up to the mistake and released it to the press. Now that figure is for both Katrina and Rita. But 28 days after Rita struck FEMA was working to find temporary housing for 30,000 people displaced by Rita in Texas. Let's say that FEMA was way off on that number too in October and so make it 60,000. Also subtract 35,000 for those presently displaced in Alabama which brings it to 100,000 of the total are outside LA and MS. Then the number displaced in Louisiana & Mississippi is still 1.9 Million.

OK it took me about an hour to track down that last part but is it really asking too much of a newswire reporter to do the same. I would certainly hope people see there is a big difference between 1 million and 1.9 million yet I continue
to see the 1 million figure due in large part to the AP from which many papers subscribe.

Numbers mean something.
They determine how we view and attach meaning to the problem in our collective conscience.
And they definitely have meaning when Washington responds to the problem by disbursing aid.

Look I really appreciate the AP but it is time the 1 million figure disappears.
I sent an email to the AP. If you would like to do the same the address is info@ap.org

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