Home > Uncategorized > Why Journalists Need Math: Knockout Edition

Why Journalists Need Math: Knockout Edition

Jamelle Bouie has a great post explaining why the recent media apoplexy over the “knockout game” is contributing to a panic over a growing trend that is neither growing nor a trend. As he notes,

 it’s worth emphasizing the broad picture. Overall, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2012 crime report, there were an estimated 127,577 assaults with “hands and fists” in American cities with more than 250,000 people, a 0.7 percent increase from the previous year. The “knockout game” may or may not be a new phenomenon, but with a few instances out of tens of thousands of assaults, it’s not a trend, and media outlets shouldn’t treat it as one. A few teens may describe their behavior as a game, but to hold them up as signs of a crime wave is to cherry-pick data and mislead the audience. A little incredulity, in other words, would go a long way.

It is yet another reason more journalists need to follow Matt Waite’s advice from his wonderful piece at Nieman Lab and realize that they are not inherently bad at math. Rather, they just need to spend a bit more time working to learn it.

Update: Apparently, a lawmaker in my state (Wisconsin) is considering proposing a bill to increase the penalty for perpetrators of violent crimes that are also the knockout game (h/t Megan Duncan).  This potential “solution” is in greater search of a problem than proposed solutions to voter fraud, which occurs about as frequently as alien abduction.

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