Testy Copy Editors

Our new website is up and running at testycopyeditors.org. This board will be maintained as an archive. Please visit the new site and register. Direct questions to the proprietor, blanp@testycopyeditors.org
It is currently Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:43 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours




Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 12 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Simple math?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 12:37 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 37
Location: Batavia, NY
Here are the first few grafs of a story we published today. It generated much debate among editors.
Names have been changed to protect the innocent (and litigious); otherwise, it’s verbatim.<p>————<p>By Joe Blow
Staff Writer
Revenue at County Airport for the first 5 1/2 months of 2004 has increased about 28 percent compared to the same time frame in 2003, County Official John Doe said.
Cash flow from Jan. 1, 2004, through June 10, 2004, totaled $124,876. The airport took in $97,580 during the same period in 2003, Doe said.
Its 2004 expenses remained about the same from a year ago, about $137,000, according to the county.
Airport revenues are derived from fuel sales and hangar rentals. The airport took in $357,700 and had expenses of about $351,700 for all of 2003.
Doe said this year’s revenue jump isn’t linked to any one factor.
“I think it’s a lot of small things,” he said.
....<p>———<p>Joe Blow left it to the reader to do the rest of the math, but here are some facts:
-- The airport is running a deficit this year.
-- It ran a deficit the first half of last year, but still made a $6,000 profit.
-- If this year’s trend matches last year’s trend, the airport is on pace to clear $97,000!
My take: Highlighting a 28 percent increase in revenue is misleading, because it’s left to the reader to do rest of the math. And who knows if last year was typical? Maybe we should have spiked it ...


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 12:54 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 1775
Location: Baltimore
You've pointed out gaping holes that should have been filled before that story was published. <p>I didn't check the math. I hope someone at your paper did. And if I ever hear another reporter or editor say, "Hey, don't blame me, I went into papers because I can't do math" ...


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 3:01 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 122
Location: Nashua NH
Speaking as a reporter who majored in math (we are a lonely breed) and who loves numbers in stories, I agree that this article should have been completely rewritten ... partly because it's got too many numbers.<p>In three short paragraphs there are six dates, five numbers of five digits or more, and a percentage. Egad. If you want that much data, put it in a chart.<p>From a construction point of view, the article's problem is that it doesn't know what it's saying: The lead talks about revenue, but most of the subsequent data is NOT revenue, so it confuses things. My guess is that the reporter was also a bit befuddled.

English-major editors OK messes like this because their eyes glaze over at the sight of numbers, but they'd never (hopefully, anyway) let the equivalent pass them in words.


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 3:23 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2002 1:01 am
Posts: 8342
Location: Bethesda, Md.
A story like this one needs only revenue and profit figures. "Cash flow" and the like are confusing to readers, especially if the story is off the business pages.


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 7:03 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 12:01 am
Posts: 3137
Location: Homebush NSW Australia
New Zealand's National Business Review used to give its staff seminars on how to recognise creative accounting and the like. It was the most useful formal in-house training I've ever encountered.


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 12:14 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 1025
Location: The Lexington Avenue Spaceship
Let me guess: This story was based entirely on a report presented by the airport official at a county legislature meeting, right? And the reporter simply transferred all of the figures presented in the report to the story without any analysis.<p>Normally, I'd say it should be pointed out to them that it's worth having the editors tell the reporter to take some time after the meeting to look over the figures and figure out what the real story is, rather than simply emptying his notebook into the computer. But of course I've worked at that paper and know the people involved, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 3:24 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 37
Location: Batavia, NY
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by EMorse:
Let me guess: This story was based entirely on a report presented by the airport official at a county legislature meeting, right? And the reporter simply transferred all of the figures presented in the report to the story without any analysis.
<hr></blockquote><p>You're right! But it's worse! Said story was the week-after-the-meeting follow-up!


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 6:04 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 1025
Location: The Lexington Avenue Spaceship
Oy. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 6:04 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 25
By Joe Blow
Staff Writer<p>County Airport reported a narrower deficit for the first 5 1/2 months of 2004 than it did in 2003, County Official John Doe said.<p>The airport collected $124,876 from fuel sales and hangar rental from Jan. 1 through June 10, Doe said. That was 28 percent more than the amount collected during the same period a year ago.<p>The airport spent about $137,000 during the period, however, creating a $12,000 deficit. During the same period a year ago, when the airport spent the same amount but collected far less, the result was a $39,000 deficit.<p>---------------------------<p>What is "revenue?" It's what you collect, or charge, or take in. So say it that way.<p>What are "expenses?" It's what you spend. So say "spend."<p>Related: What is a "bond?" It's a loan. So, say "loan" and "borrow." People understand those terms. <p>Finacially speaking, "revenue" and "cash flow" are completey different animals. Best to bleach out those kind of terms.<p>[ June 23, 2004: Message edited by: Grammatically Incorrect ]</p>


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2004 9:32 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 37
Location: Batavia, NY
Nicely done, G.I.<p>It irks me to no end when writers parrot officialese. My favorite is "floating a bond." What the heck is that supposed to mean? And don't get me started on cop-speak.<p>Has anyone ever compiled an officialese/English translation guide? With helpful common phrases?


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2004 10:05 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 1:01 am
Posts: 25
Float a bond.
Issue a bond.
Sell a bond.<p>They all mean the same thing: Borrow money.<p>The usual: The school district will place a $30 million bond issue on the ballot to build two new high schools. The 15-year bonds will carry a 5.4 percent interest rate.<p>Better: The school district will ask voters for permission to borrow $30 million to build two new high schools. Repaying the loan would take 15 years and cost district taxpayers $xxx million. To help pay off the loan, the owner of a home valued at $xxx,000 would add $xxx to the annual property-tax bill for the next 15 years.<p>This is the sort of "bond-issue" boilerplate that can be saved in the system, then called up whenever a bond story arises. Just fill in the blanks.<p>Haven't thought about it much, but perhaps the same can be done with some other esoteric governmental functions:
-- criminal bookings/chargings/pleadings
-- mill levies
-- ballot petition procedures


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Simple math?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2004 6:41 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 1:01 am
Posts: 399
Location: Lesotho, where it does snow
As a veteran business wire reporter I can say without any hesitation that the "bottom line" number here is the deficit and how it compares to the same period the previous year. The lede could have said something like "The deficit narrowed to $xxx on increased revenues" if the revenue increase is such an amazing development. But the increase in revenue means nothing if the big picture is not taken in to consideration.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 12 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group

What They're Saying




Useful Links