More broadcast journalism

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 1 14:09:04 UTC 2010

If overall the *rates* were similar, the fact that NYC is extraordinarily
crowded and Arizona is quite the opposite would have some bearing on

Since big cities usually have higher crime rates than deserts, similar rates
in thsi case might indicate that something unusual was affecting the Arizona
rate, but what that might be could not be determined from the information

TV news is often careless about distinguishing rate of occurrence from
number of occurrences. ("Crime rate" sometimes seems to cover both the
incidence and the number of incidents - or "incidences" as they generally
say on TV.) They're worse on the difference between "per cent" and
"percentage points."

I think they're better with these distinctions than formerly, but that's
just my impression.


On Sat, May 1, 2010 at 9:54 AM, Dave Wilton <dave at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET>
> Subject:      Re: More broadcast journalism
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Plus it's comparing a state with a city. Arizona has a population of 6.5
> million, NYC 8.3 million. It wouldn't be terribly surprising if total crime
> in Arizona was similar to that of NYC. One might expect it to be about 25%
> lower, given the somewhat smaller population, but other factors might drive
> it up.
> Not to mention that NYC's violent crime rate is relatively low. The bad old
> days of the 70s and 80s are long gone. This Wikipedia page, which gives
> 2008
> FBI statistics ranks NYC 55th in violent crime and 75th in property crime.
> Even Anchorage, Alaska is higher.
> But the FBI says this about its crime statistics:
> "Each year when 'Crime in the United States' is published, some entities
> use
> reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough
> rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in
> a
> particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to
> simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading
> perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid
> assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range
> of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.
> *The
> data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of
> individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or
> colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage
> or
> student enrollment.*"
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of
> Bill Palmer
> Sent: Saturday, May 01, 2010 6:15 AM
> Subject: More broadcast journalism
> Twice in the past few days (Lou Dobbs this morning + one other time a few
> days ago by someone else, but I don't remember who) conservative
> commentators have asserted that Arizona now has a crime rate equal to that
> of NYC.  That seems unremarkable.  I'm sure there are many places with
> crime
> rates that equal or exceed NYC's...Detroit, Richmond, St, Louis, Atlanta,
> maybe.
> It would only be noteworty if there was an equal amount of total crime,
> nest-ce pas?
> Bill Palmer
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> The American Dialect Society -
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