Saturday, October 22, 2011

Significant Omissions

"State adds 23,300 jobs."

No, it doesn't. 
But not one single editor at the Charlotte Sun thought that plump, round number looked a bit fishy.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that Florida probably added about 23,300 non-agricultural jobs in September. But readers are unlikely to know these points of accuracy unless a reporter actually does his job.  
Here’s how the reporter doesn't do his job: 
  • Doesn't say the report is passing along an estimate.
  • Doesn't say the estimate comes from sampling  surveys – not from tax receipts, not from counts of vacancies filled, not from tallies of names added to payrolls. 
Here’s what the reporter does do:
  • Omits the fact that the federal labor department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics altered its sampling sizes between two of the periods compared.
  • Omits the fact that the feds have been sending the states the estimates since March with a specific caveat:   “New estimation procedures may result in more month-to-month variability in the estimates, particularly in smaller SMAs.”
Sure, we’re all hungry for good news, particularly in the jobs arena.
But in real journalism, fantasy, spin and lies by omission are never good news.


  1. Don't overlook that the Sun's story is a light rewrite, introduce its own errors, of state-digested press release. The reporter didn't, as you rightly imply, verify that spin doc by simply comparing it with the federal report.

  2. I thought it was a solid news story!

  3. @Anonymous: Round of applause for the one who thinks it's solid to omit the very points of accuracy that would help readers to a substantially fuller understanding of the facts. It's "Dunn-Rankin," right? Glad t'meetcha.