Chicago murders and cuts in food aid!


What bad reporting looks like: Thirteen people were shot in a single incident in Chicago on Thursday night.

Reading Monica Davey’s report in today’s New York Times, it occurred to us that this is what bad reporting looks like:
DAVEY (9/21/13): The attack, which took place during a pickup basketball game, was the latest flare-up of street violence that has confounded city leaders. Chicago had more than 500 homicides in 2012—more than any other city in the nation and about 80 more than New York, which has three times as many people.

Most of the violence has occurred in poorer neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides, and Thursday’s shooting again vaulted the issue to the center of a continuing conversation here about the causes of gun violence and potential solutions.
The highlighted passage isn’t wrong. But for many readers, it will probably reinforce some ideas and beliefs which are wrong. It will extend a false picture.

Chicago did have more homicides than any other city last year. But Chicago is a very large city. That doesn’t mean it has the highest homicide rate.

In fact, Chicago doesn’t come close to having the highest homicide rate. We’ll restrict ourselves to cities big enough to have a professional sports team:
Homicides per 100,000 residents, 2012:
Detroit 54.6
New Orleans 53.2
St. Louis 35.5
Baltimore 35.0
Oakland 31.5
Kansas City 22.6
Philadelphia 21.5
Cleveland 21.3
Memphis 20.2
Atlanta 19.0
Chicago 18.5
Buffalo 18.3
Those are the twelve “pro sports” cities with the highest rates. The homicide rate in Baltimore is twice as high as that in Chicago. Detroit and New Orleans go much higher than that.

For more data, click here. Note: These are the rates for all homicides, not just gun homicides, for which data are harder to get.

As major cities go, New York City’s homicide rate is extremely low. But why would you write the highlighted passage in the way Davey did? Because that passage seems likely to mislead readers, we’d call it bad reporting.

For a larger sprawl of bad reporting, we would recommend the Times’ attempt to report the way the House voted to reduce “food stamps” (food assistance through the SNAP program) this week. The vote was held on Thursday. A news report and an editorial appeared in yesterday’s Times.

To what extent will the food assistance program be cut if the House vote becomes law? What sorts of people will be affected? It was very hard to tell from the work in the Times.

Below, you see the start of Ron Nixon’s news report. The headline said the cuts were “deep.” Beyond that, things were murky:
NIXON (9/20/13): House Republicans Pass Deep Cuts in Food Stamps

House Republicans narrowly pushed through a bill on Thursday that slashes billions of dollars from the food stamp program, over the objections of Democrats and a veto threat from President Obama.

The vote set up what promised to be a major clash with the Senate and dashed hopes for passage this year of a new five-year farm bill.

The vote was 217 to 210, largely along party lines.

Republican leaders, under pressure from Tea Party-backed conservatives, said the bill was needed because the food stamp program, which costs nearly $80 billion a year, had grown out of control. They said the program had expanded even as jobless rates had declined with the easing recession.
So far, we’ve been told that the program “costs nearly $80 billion a year,” and that the GOP bill would “slash billions of dollars.” But how many billions of dollars were cut? If you read two more paragraphs, you might start to think you have a rough idea:
NIXON (continuing directly): “This bill eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path,” said Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana, who led efforts to split the food stamps program from the overall farm bill. “In the real world, we measure success by results. It’s time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.”

But even with the cuts, the food stamp program would cost more than $700 billion over the next 10 years.
According to that, the program would still spend more than $70 billion per year in the next decade. And we’ve already been told it spends almost $80 billion per year at present.

That sounds like the program would be cut from $80 billion to $70 billion per year. But wait! If you read down to paragraph 10, you are now reading this:
NIXON: The bill, written under the direction of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, would cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. It would also require adults between 18 and 50 without minor children to find a job or to enroll in a work-training program in order to receive benefits.
Now we’re told that the bill would cut $40 billion over ten years. That suggests that the program would cost roughly $700 billion over the next 10 years, down from roughly $740 billion.

(If the program costs $80 billion per year now, why would is it projected to cost $740 billion over the next ten years? Even later, Nixon says spending is projected to drop as the economy improves, even without any further cuts to the program.)

Nixon wrote a full news report; it ran 800 words. In our view, he did a very poor job reporting the size of the proposed cut.

Nor did he try to explain who would be affected by this proposal. Who would be hit by the cuts, and by how much? He didn't say.

In their featured editorial, the editors did even worse. After thundering a bit, they larded their piece with statistics which weren’t directly relevant to the basic questions at hand.

How big are the proposed cuts? Who would be affected, and how? This is the way the editors began:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (9/20/13): Another Insult to the Poor

In what can be seen only as an act of supreme indifference, House Republicans passed a bill on Thursday that would drastically cut federal food stamps and throw 3.8 million Americans out of the program in 2014.

The vote came two weeks after the Agriculture Department reported that 17.6 million households did not have enough to eat at some point in 2012 because they lacked the resources to put food on the table. It came two days after the Census Bureau reported that 15 percent of Americans, or 46.5 million people, live in poverty.
The editors said the proposal would “drastically” cut food assistance. But, like Nixon, the editors had a very hard time quantifying their claims.

As they started, the editors said that 3.8 million people would be dropped from the program. But they didn’t cite a source for this claim, and they never said how many people are in the program at present.

Instead of presenting that relevant number, they presented some numbers which weren’t directly relevant. Let’s assume that 46.5 million people live in poverty. Will any of them be affected by the proposed cut? This was the best the editors could do:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (continuing directly): These numbers were basically unchanged from 2011, but in a growing economy steady rates of hunger and poverty amount, in effect, to backsliding. Cutting food stamps would accelerate the slide. Food stamps kept four million people out of poverty last year and kept millions more from falling deeper into poverty. Under the House Republican bill, many of these people would be impoverished.
According to the editors, four million people were pushed above the poverty line by food assistance last year. Millions more remained below the poverty line despite receiving food assistance.

According to the editors, “many” of these people would be affected by the proposed cuts. This is a very lazy, very careless attempt at real reporting.

In the past, we’ve often noted an odd phenomenon at the New York Times. Often, the newspaper’s editorials involve a lot more hard information than its news reports.

That didn’t happen here. The rest of the editorial was basically filler—information about the general economy which did nothing to answer some basic questions: By how much would food assistance be cut? What sorts of people would be affected?

For ourselves, we know of no reason to think that this program needs to be cut. That said, we wanted to know how big the proposed cut actually was. We wanted to know who would be affected, and by how much.

The Times was generous with its adjectives (“deep” and “drastic”) but stingy with its basic facts. We’d say Nixon did bad reporting.

The editorial was worse.

For better reporting, see this: In our view, the New York Times did some lousy reporting about the proposed cut in food assistance.

The news report by USA Today was clearer, with much more information. What is the reason for that?


  1. Really, really fine and sorely needed analysis. I am so grateful.


  2. The USA Today article makes sense of the proposed Food Stamp cuts, that the New York Times does not is disgraceful for such a self-important paper.

    1. I noticed the US Today article has a sidebar video about how NY homicides are lower than Chicago.

  3. To DinC
    Don't say it, David.
    We know. We know.

    1. Sing once again with me
      Our strange duet
      My power over you grows stronger yet
      And though you turn from me to glance behind
      The commenter from California's there
      Inside your mind.

    2. the phantom of the comment

  4. "These numbers were basically unchanged from 2011, but in a growing economy steady rates of hunger and poverty amount, in effect, to backsliding. Cutting food stamps would accelerate the slide. Food stamps kept four million people out of poverty last year and kept millions more from falling deeper into poverty."

    I don't understand how food stamps keep someone out of poverty. They allow someone to eat. They cannot be used for anything except food. In order to get them, someone must be poor already. They do nothing to change a person's employment status or income. They put food on the table. Food is a recurring expense that keeps you alive but having food doesn't improve your financial situation. You might also say that giving someone money for food allows them to spend their money on other things, but these are people who would go hungry without the aid, so there is no money to be saved when food stamps are provided to them. Because they have no money to eat with. So, what are they talking about when they refer to keeping people from sliding into poverty?

    Maybe this contributes to the idea that food stamps provide discretionary income to people or that they are eating luxury items or more food than they would eat otherwise (perhaps becoming obese thereby)? When people think that eating is a luxury, they can cut a person's food without feeling guilty about it.

    1. Money that would have gone for food can be used to pay other bills, which does indeed "improve [my] financial situation." Is that so difficult to understand? My food stamps do not go toward luxury items either, nor am I obese.

    2. Anonymous @2:49P,

      Hunger is a paralytic. If you and your family don't have enough food, then all your time and energy are focused on the next meal. You can't afford to plan for a better job next week or save for a car payment so you can drive to a better job next month or get the education to get a better job next year. Food stamps give people in need the breathing room to grasp some autonomy. Without that, it's almost impossible to dig out. The best description I've ever read is George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.

  5. Congress to the poor: We'd love to keep you from starving but you don't finance our election campaigns.

  6. Yeah, Chicago, don't worry about those 500 homicides. You have plenty of people to spare.

    Meanwhile, there were 543 homicides in the entire nation of Canada last year.

    1. What would those rates be, adjusted for relative population sizes of the two countries?

      Where does it say "don't worry" in the article above?

    2. Chicago has a population of 2.7 million. Canada has a population of 34.8 million.

      Do the math yourself.

    3. Do you think journalists should be leaving out half the relevant figures and telling folks "do the math yourself" in their articles? Especially when their comparisons suggest conclusions opposite to what the math tells you?

    4. Nor do I think bloggers should try to spin away 500 homicides in a city by saying the murder rate is only just a little worse than Buffalo's.

      The homicide rate in every U.S. city, including Chicago and Buffalo, is horrendous. And Somerby's "skinniest kid in fat camp" logic in trying to say Chicago's isn't really all that bad should be insulting to thinking people.

    5. Anonymous @12:36A,

      You're another one who just can't seem to get it. Or maybe you're the same one since you can't be bothered to have the courtesy to use a nym.

      TDH isn't blogging about the homicide rate in US cities. He isn't talking about how horrendous the homicide rate is in US cities. And he isn't trying to spin 500 murders in Chicago one way or the other. He's talking about a journalist's failure to use statistics properly.

      Until you understand that, may I suggest you stop speaking on behalf of thinking people.

    6. Yes, a person who calls himself "deadrat" questions the courtesy of a person who goes by "anonymous". How droll!

      I guess if you can't attack the merits of the comment, attack the "anonymous" person for failing to have a "nym."

      "TDH isn't blogging about the homicide rate in US cities."

      Oh really? I guess you missed his list of the homicide rates in a dozen cities. All brought up to "prove" that 500 homicides in Chicago really isn't so bad.

    7. anon 11:15, sorry, you're wrong, the point of TDH, for what it's worth, is that the Times report suggests that Chicago is the worst, which is misleading, in that other cities have higher per capita rates. Your self righteous sarcasm isn't warranted.

    8. Anonymous @11:15P,

      I'm gonna type really slowly so you can follow.

      I'm sorry my nym is a problem for you. I don't know why because it allows you to figure out easily which comments are mine. Multiple people post as "Anonymous," which makes it hard to follow a conversation. I'm not interested in anyone's name. Got it?

      The point of TDH's list is to show how misleading it is not to normalize the homicide statistics. I realize that you think TDH is trying to prove that Chicago isn't "so bad," but that "proof" is only in your head. TDH is trying to prove that the NYT really is that bad.

      Got it now?

      I hope so because I can't really type any slower.

  7. So a program costing $80 billion a year, if you want to use the top end figure, is "out of control" while defense spending is not.

    There you have in a nutshell, GOP Tea Party thinking. And Bob misses it.

    As for whether the NYT was correct in calling these cuts "drastic," well, a 5 percent cut in any program at a time when human needs for that program are increasing seems pretty drastic to me. Of course, I'm neither a Tea Partier nor a word parser like Somerby.

    1. Do you really think Bob is unaware of the differences in priorities between Tea Party and progressives with respect to defense spending?

      Bob objects to using imprecise terms such as "drastic" in place of quantifying the exact size of the cuts -- what percent of the budget was actually cut? You say 5 percent, but the article doesn't specify and that is the point of the post.

      You do not seem to be a statistics parser either. But your intent to criticize Somerby is clear. Shouldn't you understand what someone is writing about before disliking them?

    2. Millions of kids in the inner city are already going hungry, BEFORE the House Tea Partiers passed these cuts. How often has Somerby lectured "liberals" about not caring for inner city children? Yet his very first response to cuts in a program that throws a lifeline to these very kids, as thin as that lifeline might already be, is to parse the NYT for a word he can bash them with.

      Wow. What a champion of the kids he is.

      And FYI, I understand what has turned into a vanity blog very well.

    3. Your points are obvious to everyone here. Somerby doesn't need to say them. His points are different and not so obvious. That is why we read his posts.

      If Somerby talks about the journalistic failures of the NY Times, it does not mean he doesn't care about meals for inner city kids.

      Your agenda, clearly, is just to smear Somerby. It makes me wonder which of his columns set you onto this vendetta -- are you a Maddow fan, a relative of Dowd? Maybe he attacked one of your sacred cows? Whatever, please go away. You are annoying those of us who want to discuss things on topic. AND the topic here is not defense spending or poverty or quien es mas liberal. This is a blog about big media and how it influences politics. It is not a vanity blog -- it is a rarely addressed topic of considerable importance. That you don't "get" that, suggests you belong elsewhere. Go quickly.

    4. Ah, the Somerby Rules.

      If Bob fails to talk about hungry children but instead harps on a word in an NYT editorial, it doesn't mean he doesn't care about feeding inner city kids.

      But if, say, Rachel Maddow doesn't talk about education in the inner city, obviously that means she doesn't care at all about inner city kids.

      As for my "agenda", dear child, well your mind-reading powers are a bit off. I keep hoping that the aliens who abducted the real Bob will someday return him so this blog will stop being a vanity blog, utterly fixated on the NYT and MSNBC, and start discussing real issues in its formerly original, insightful manner.

      If, for example, he truly wants to discuss hunger in America, he might reach back all the way to Reagan and his fictional "welfare queen" to see how politicians have been playing the poor against the middle class.

      Effective? You bet. Even Somerby himself questions whether a 5 percent cut in a program that feeds hungry people is "drastic."

      And of course, he doubts it because the NYT said so.

      Somerby these days is nothing more the modern Spiro Agnew, claiming all that is wrong in America can be traced to the nattering nabobs in the "liberal" press.

    5. Well, sure...why worry about people having all the particulars in a news report in order to formulate an opinion.

      You tell Somerby everything he needs to say and he can blog on it.

      Why bother with the New York Times middleman.

    6. Anonymous @6:49P,

      TDH is a blog about journalistic malfeasance written from a liberal point of view. It's not a blog about funding for social programs; it's not a blog about the problems of children living in the inner city. Although these topics come up as cases in point in the bungling of them by journalists. Since the author rarely mentions himself and never in much detail, it certainly isn't a vanity blog.

      Now maybe you feel that the topic TDH analyzes in such detail isn't worth anyone's time, and maybe you feel that the direct discussion of social issues is more important than the theme topic. And that's fine, but if so, what are you doing here? I'm not suggesting that you go away. I'm just wondering why you can't seem to get the point. You're like someone who examines the menu in a Chinese restaurant and complains that sauerbraten is missing.

      TDH doesn't want to discuss hunger in America. He wants to discuss how journalists handle stories about hunger in America. TDH doesn't want to know whether the cuts in food stamps are "drastic." He wants to know why the NYT can't obey the simplest rules of journalism and tell us the actual size of the cuts. TDH isn't charging Rachel Maddow with not caring about inner city kids; he's charging her with not caring about her profession as a reporter.

      And you know what? That's the way TDH has always been.

      So, really, what are you doing here? 'Cause there are some really nice blogs a few urls away that serve a decent sauerbraten.

    7. deadrat,

      Are you joking? TDH routinely accuses all liberals, and especially media liberals, of not caring about inner city kids. (Bob cares about the kids so much that he left teaching to do stand-up comedy.)

      If you read the NYT article on the SNAP cuts and the USA Today article which TDH praises, you'll see they are virtually the same. It's the same with the Chicago homicide article--Somerby's got nothing. The New York Times compared Chicago to ...well, New York. So what?

      The House cut about $4 billion/year from food stamps. The Times tells us it is about a 5% cut. That's the news. If you want to know more about who qualifies for SNAP (and who will feel the cuts) you would have to do more research than reading your daily newspaper. That's not a surprise.

    8. Independent research? How novel!

      But it is a violation of the Somerby Rules of Journalistic Perfection. Every single NYT news story or op-ed must tell the entire picture on any given subject in a concise package that can be read in 10 minutes and can be completely understood by all without a single word that can be parsed into the subject for a blog post.

    9. Trollmes,

      Liberals presumably care about inner city kids, because that's the kind of thing liberals are supposed to care about. If media liberals do care, then they should at least spend some time talking about things like education or gun violence in a knowledgeable say. if other liberals do care, then they should hold liberal journalists to this standard.

      Perhaps you don't agree with this point of view. Perhaps you agree but think it's too trivial a matter to spend a blog on. Fine, I'd be happy to read those comments from you although I'd wonder what you're doing here. TDH's point of view is valid or not independent of the fact that he left teaching.

      Sorry, but a 5% cut in SNAP isn't "the news." That's a statistic. The news is what a 5% cut in SNAP means. I'm willing to believe that's "drastic," but the failure to quantify that adjective is just as big a failure as the failure to use homicide rates in talking about violence in big cities. Your buddy at 12:44P seems to think that TDH wants the NYT to be perfect, but all he's asking for is competence.

      It's OK if you set the bar lower, but I'll still wonder what you're doing here if that's true.

    10. So Somerby doesn't just want statistics cited, he wants the narrative to go along with it?
      That doesn't sound anything like the Somerby I've been reading for the past 5+ years.

    11. Anonymous @4:56,

      You've been reading TDH for over five years and you still don't know what narrative is? I don't know how you've been reading this blog, but you're doing it wrong.

      TDH objects to statistics given without context. Giving homicides without homicide rate is misleading. I'll bet they teach about normalizing quantities in high-school journalism classes, where they put out newspapers that deal mostly with the football team and the cheerleading squad. How come the NYT doesn't understand this?

      Why don't you?

    12. I've been reading TDH for longer than that, and I know perfectly well what "narrative" means.

      It's the stories others tell, never the stories Somerby tells.

      And don't fool yourself, this blog has long ago abandoned any notion of thoughtful analysis and is now and has been for quite some time all about selling Somerby's favorite narratives.

    13. deadrat,

      The House legislation's cut in SNAP was the news. What it "means" could be spun 100 different ways. First of all, the cuts will probably not happen-there will be significant changes when the House bill is reconciled in conference with the Senate version. So where do you go from there on meaning? Political ramifications...that is, pure speculation about future elections and legislation? Is that how newspaper articles should be written?

    14. Anonymous @11:48A,

      Nice try on the answer to what "narrative" means, but I'm afraid you've missed the "proficient" cutoff. Maybe you'd have done better if I'd made the question multiple choice. Narrative is the stories people tell in the absence of or the disregard for facts.

      TDH has a theme. Sometimes he pursues that unto narrative. Mostly he doesn't. HIs complaint about the NYT gaffes in this entry is valid. Context, including normalizing raw numbers, is important. It's something they teach in high-school journalism classes. Why doesn't the NYT get this?

      Why don't you? If you want analysis of inner-city homicide rates or a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of federal food assistance programs, you're in the wrong place. And apparently you have been for a very long time.

      What are you doing here?

    15. Trollmes,

      The House's cut in SNAP is an event. Some events are news and some aren't. Is this just some grandstanding on the part of some teahadists? Some ballyhooed spending cuts turn out to cut very little and have the same effect. The NYT says this one would be "drastic." Is that true? TDH is right: I can't tell from the story.

  8. you gotta be consistent, at least for some people. if you arent and youre regularly hypocritical, its hard to take you seriously even when you have a possibly good point now and then -- especially if it looks like you have been consciously this way.

    but some people may be wired differently in this regard or they may have an ideological or emotional attachment to somerby which overrides his faults for them.

    1. PMF,

      Could you rephrase your 1:11A comment in English? Or at least tell whom you're addressing?

  9. I read Monica Davey and Timothy Williams report following the link here in this post. Is there a reason why Williams was left out in this critique? Because criticizing just women is a Somerby practice that has been questioned by some, this omission is bad reporting.

    1. How about because almost the entire story is about Chicago, where Davey is reporting from, and almost none of the story is about New York, where Williams is reporting from?

      By the way, if TDH actually criticizes women unfairly and he unfairly criticized Davey in this instance, then the omission you cite is bad reporting and worth noting. Because it a "practice that has been questioned by some," not so much.

    2. The ommission of the male reporter's name
      is possible explainable. But for many readers, it will probably reinforce some ideas and beliefs which are wrong. It will extend a false picture.

    3. TDH criticizes Lawrence O'Donnell, Chris Matthews, the professor who got the facts wrong about education recently (who was male), and a variety of other male writers over time. His main complaint about women writers at the NY Times is that their tone and content seem to reflect antiquated ideas about how women were expected to write for the women's pages that used to be the only place female journalists were found. In that sense, TDH advances fairness for women, not unfairly criticizes them because they are women.

    4. Again, commenters have suggested the nature of TDH comments about women journalists are less flattering and of a nature, in the form of adjectives, that is related to their gender. The fact that this report was written by two people, one male and one female, and the male's name is left out is curious. And therefore for many readers, it will probably reinforce some ideas and beliefs which are wrong. It will extend a false picture. Because that ommission seems likely to mislead readers, we’d call it bad reporting.

    5. Anonymous @ 4:59,

      Again, commenters on this blog suggest lots of crap. That the male's name was left out might be curious if you haven't actually read the story and checked the byline.

      You call it bad reporting, and you're welcome to your opinion. I'm gonna stash that opinion with the rest of the crap suggested by commenters here, and suggest in turn that you start your own blog.

    6. Commenters suggest "lots of crap" you say.
      Presumably one of the crappy suggestions to you is poor treatment of female media personalities. That would mean such a charge would fall in the category of "ideas and beliefs which are wrong."

      This post criticizes an article which has a byline which reads Monica Davey and Timothy Williams. TDH never mentions Williams, It refers only to Ms. Davey. No explanation is given by the poster for his selection of one of two reporters for his piece subheadlined
      Bad Reporting. The reason given for this being bad reporting is not because it is "wrong. But for many readers, it will probably reinforce some ideas and beliefs which are wrong. It will extend a false picture."

      The two NYT reporters left out a set of statistics TDH would prefer. TDH left out the name of one of the reporters. That's bad reporting. By TDH standards advanced in this very post. And my commentaries have almost been taken word for word from the author of this post.

      So you could byline my series of comments: By Anonymous and Bob Somerby.

    7. False equivalency here. You may be anonymous but you are no Bob Somerby. Leaving off the name of the person less culpable in a complaint seems fair, not biased.

      You fixate on points that have no value except to malign Somerby. Boring and transparent.

      Please just go away.

    8. Leaving off the name of a person is, in fact, not naming names, according to TDH just Friday in its complaint against Krugman.

      Some have offered explanation as to why TDH ommitted the name of one reporter. Unless you are TDH in disguise you have no idea why this was done.

      Deciding to leave off a name of a reporter determined by the author to be less culpable by the critic might be fine as long as the critic explains he has done so and why. Otherwise in this case, TDH feeds into its own critics who say the Howler has it in for women, particularly young women.

      If you don't agree, you basically undermine
      EVERYTHING THIS FINE BLOG has ever stood for.

      And if TDH doesn't print an addendum to clarify the correct authors or explain why he left one out, then he will not be able to print any future work either demanding or deriding a correction.

    9. So unless you're TDH you can't offer up anything valid, but if you are his critic you not only can, but to the point TDH must answer or be invalidated.

      I hope you silly twits hold your breath.

  10. I think Somerby's point is that the NYT is not providing hard reporting.
    I would like to know what the cuts are going to look like, because many people and grocery stores around here depend on SNAP.
    Unlike a lot of you who follow this blog, I'll wager, I shop at the same stores food stamp recipients do. And our local farmers' market accepts food stamps.
    Changes in the program would have negative consequences, even for those of us who don't need SNAP.

    1. Lots of people in my community use SNAP and they shop at the same stores as those who don't.

  11. OMB

    Damn whiever wrote that deceptive NYT article trying to make it seem like Chi-town is a killing capital. Guess they missed this much better picture of what's going on in the Toddlin Town:

    KZ (Who found this by following BOB's links)

    1. What are the motives of people who want to portray Chicago as more violent than NYC? First, they want to reassure those who live in NYC that it is no longer a violent place. Second, they want to pretend to care about the people being killed in Chicago, even at risk of exaggerating the rate of homicide there (compared to similar cities) because during the entire Trayvon Martin episode people kept pretending that ignoring deaths in Chicago while focusing on Trayvon's death made one racist -- no racists at the NY Times. Third, the narrative about Chicago that is being spread everywhere (from mainstream newspapers to late night standup comics) is that Chicago is homicide-central and no one cares. It is today's easy-to-understand, feel-good message about evil guns and scary black people in cities most of us don't inhabit, so it makes good press. Fourth, we all get to feel like there are easy answers to difficult problems by pointing at those deaths in Chicago, even if Chicago isn't the main homicide hot-spot, the problem is widespread, and its solutions are not so easy.

      So, yes, shed your tears about how evil Somerby is ignoring the news about Chicago in order to portray the NY Times as a greater evil. His attempts to explain that this is yet another example of rube-running are falling on KZ's deaf rube ears. And no, it doesn't make me feel safely superior to think of KZ as a rube. It scares me and makes me feel sad.

    2. Guess you didn't follow my link. It was an article about how Chicago's murders had fallen dramatically. And it was written three months ago by the same NYT reporter Bob is critical of in this post.

      Christ, given this response and the ones from
      deadrat et al to the commenter complaining about Bob not even giving the straight dope on who the reporters are he is accusing of poor work, I would say this is the ultimate refuge of a very loyal tribe.


    3. the new chicago superintendent of police, mccarthy, seems to be a very dynamic guy with a lot of ideas who, as ive heard it, has largely overcome severe police resistance to an outsider getting the job. he nearly got the job under daley who interviewed him at very great length and then instituted some of his ideas which annoyed mccarthy as i remember it.

    4. So the problem is with Somerby, not the reporter who left out pertinent info in this latest report.

      Since she had reported it in a piece written in June, it's fine that she inexplicably left it out in a Sept report?

      You need a new blogboard troll assignment because now with every blog offering, you're having more ludicrous aha!-moments than a dorm room bong party.

    5. i suppose there could be a number of reasons for various people wanting to portray chicago as the murder capitol. but i think the single biggest one, for anti pres.obama forces, is to remind people that the president came from a city with a very mobbed up reputation. the street gang murders evokes that image in peoples minds indirectly.

    6. Do you have any idea how a newspaper works, Cecelia? You have no idea what the reporter left out. For all we know the reporter could be a big BOBfan and tried to include
      both raw numbers and rates going back to Clinton, but the editor cut those, not the reporter.

      Since you dropped the T-bomb again, might I ask who gave you your job as head of the Sisterhood of Sycophants?


    7. she read somerbys mind

    8. Rationality gave me the responsibility to call out troll operatives.

      With your logic one would have to assume all poor reporting to be bad editorial judgment. That's specious. It would still be bad reporting in the NYT.

    9. And, per the point I began making back at 1:44, what TDH criticized in bold letters could have been penned by the second reporter, whose name was left out for reasons as yet unexplained.

    10. Anonymous @11:12,

      Yeah, the second reporter could have written the graph that TDH criticized. In fact, the two reporters might have had nothing to do with the piece, which could have been ghosted. Or perhaps they wrote it jointly, and the editor spiked their version and wrote his own.

      Monica Davey has been reporting from the New York Times Midwest bureau in Chicago for a decade. Before that she wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Chances are good that she's responsible for the Chicago end of things. If you're desperate to spread the blame, TDH gives you the link so you can read the byline for yourself with one click.

      Haven't you gotten yourself a trifle, er, sidetracked with this?

    11. Deadrat, can you at least admit that you have no idea what the precise contributions of Davey and Williams were to that story?

      Of course, you can't because then you would be left with arguing against the indisputable truth.

      Somerby was too lazy, dumb, incompetent, sexist or whatever word he is quick to use on others who make the same mistakes to even notice that the story had two bylines.

      At best, lazy and incompetent. At worst, sexist.

    12. Of course I have no proof what "precise" contributions each author made. But I have some idea of how news organizations work because I've known journalists. Some in Chicago, in fact. Thus I can make an educated guess that the national reporter assigned to the the Midwest bureau of the NYT located in Chicago wrote the Chicago end of the article.

      For someone who's missed the entire point of TDH's criticism, you're awfully quick to throw around words like "lazy," "dumb," and "incompetent."

      I'll type it again even slower in the hope you'll understand: TDH was probably right though not provably right about who was responsible for the Chicago reporting in the article. Even if he was wrong, and the Chicago reporter coasted and let her colleague write the whole thing from New York, that won't matter to the point that TDH makes because that point doesn't rest on the number of authors.

      Got it now?

  12. Pardon me for butting in on this fine exchange, but please excuse Cecelia.
    In addition to sycophancy she is also into telepathy.* She can read BOB's mind so she thinks others can as well. Therefore any point made which requires reading BOB's mind can be valid, as long as it proves BOB was right.

    KZ (* Telepathy is better than puppetry)

    1. Bless my soul, this should have been a reply to Cecelia at 10:39 when she was changing from the T-troll bomb to the T-twit grenade.


    2. it's telepathy to state the obvious that a reporter is just as responsible for reporting the facts in Sept, as they were in June.

      However, accusations that the blogger has some sort of bias against young women is not presumptuous twaddle, but a charge that he must directly defend himself against or be judged guilty.

      Don't give up your day jobs, guys.

    3. No Cecelia, it was telepathy for commenters to know or at least excuse why Bob left out one of the reporter's names. It was sycophancy for you to call such telepathic
      based commentary valid.

      It is knowledge of the newspaper business to know that a report in June that is exclusively about Chicago's murders is going to have more facts about those murders than a paragraph in a story about a particularly bad recent killing incident that happened there.

      As for accusations about the blogger and problems he may or may not have (we just don't know) with women, I made none. I saw none made. I saw a commenter express concern that because such accusations have been made, the blogger may have left himself open to furthering those impressions through this post.

      I think BOB is a fine person. But I will say that his premise in the first part of this post is not that the reporters (or if your prefer his version, the reporter) were/was inaccurate or wrong, but that what they did include, without his long list about the murder rates, which they left out, might give stupid people reinforcement for their stupidity. Good reporters therefore must write down to the wrongheaded among their readers lest the wrongheaded head further in the wrong direction.

      That is why my replies to you are often lengthy. Wouldn't want to be guilty of the sins of a NYT reporter or reporters.


    4. Well, since I'm always guilty of not caring about confusing wrongheaded people, I'll be more brief than you were.

      Being ignorant of a statistic isn't synonymous with being stupid or wrongheaded. It would be very easy for anyone to conclude from that report that Chicago has the nation's highest homicide rate. In your vast knowledge of print journalism, you failed to consider that newspapers are responsible for making clear considerations such as proportionality to pop.

      So there's your bit of telepathy...or sycophancy...or your daily troll.

      I leave it to the other sycophant mind-readers here to be amused by the concern our trolls have in that Bob is confirming THEIR charge of his sexism!

    5. Ah, what a mind reader you are. "Anyone" can conclude from reading that story that Chicago has the nation's highest homicide rate?

      I suppose that after all the coverage of the Aurora, Colo., movie mass murder, "it would be very easy to anyone to conclude" that Aurora had the nation's highest murder rate as well. After all, nobody compared the actual murder rate in Aurora to that of, say, Buffalo.

    6. KZ, I agree that we'll never know the reason Somerby disappeared the male byline on a double-byline story. But he certainly does have a long history of targeting women journalists with sexist demeaning language that he doesn't use against his male targets. This does seem to be more evidence of that strange trend.

      That aside, it was at a minimum careless, lazy and inaccurate of Somerby to do so. The very thing he seems to rail about when others do it.

    7. Anonymous @11:08,

      And yet you won't be able to come up with examples of "sexist demeaning language." Go figure.

      Again, TDH's point about not normalizing homicide stats is independent of who wrote it. It's likely the Chicago-resident reporter for the NYT wrote the Chicago end of the piece. If she didn't, then TDH's omission neither affects his point nor absolves her responsibility. You're right about one thing: your carping is "at a minimum."

    8. Anon11:01am, oh, sure...people would conclude such a thing about Aurora, Co at the snap of a finger.

    9. Anon11:08am, indeed. A strange trend imagined by a strange mind. You need some meds for that.

    10. AH, of course, the Deadrat rules of debate:

      "The sun rises in the east"

      Deadrat: "And yet, you won't be able to come up with examples of the sun rising in the east. Go figure.

    11. Cecelia, the story was about a mass shooting in Chicago. Why wouldn't a story about a mass shooting in Aurora lead you in a different direction?

    12. Anonymous @4:06P,

      And sure enough, I was right. No evidence for demeaning, sexist language. Just another claim. This one that it's so obvious that the language is there that it's as sure as the sun coming up in the east.

      Tell you what. Find some actual quotes to back up your claim -- how hard could it be? -- and wake me at dawn.

    13. Because it's Aurora, Co, Einstein, and that makes your argument even more clueless.

      In your attempt to argue that it's illogical mind-reading to suggest that people can easily get the wrong idea of Chicago murder rates from the NYT piece, couldn't you at least go with the multiple murders in New York state in March of this year?