Can’t even get the simplest things right!


The Los Angeles Times tries to report on Los Angeles crime rates: We’ve spent the afternoon in video-and-transcript Hell, reviewing the horrid pseudo-discussion moderated by Melissa Harris-Perry last Sunday.

We’ll discuss that rolling nightmare tomorrow. For today, let’s review a recent post by Kevin Drum.

Drum reviewed a news report in the Los Angeles Times—a report about Los Angeles crime rates. The report referred to the city’s “decade-long decline” in crime.

But as Drum noted, violent crime in L.A. has actually been on the downward slope since 1991. Everybody seems to know this, except the Los Angeles Times.

Why does this sort of misstatement matter? In talking about a ten-year decline, the impression is given that the decline “might well be due to improved policing techniques introduced by Bill Bratton in 2002,” Drum notes. But in fact, the decline began long before Bratton’s tenure. And crime rates have been dropping all over the country during the years in question, as Drum further notes.

This is terrible journalism—real bottom-barrel stuff. What makes it worse is the ubiquity of this kind of gong-show, in which local officials are given credit for positive trends which are actually being observed on a much wider basis.

For ourselves, we’ve seen this sort of gong-show journalism in the reporting of test scores. Consider what happened in North Carolina about a decade ago.

Two major school systems—Charlotte and Raleigh—were aggressively boasting about the steady rise in their test scores. In each case, local officials claimed that the rise in the scores was due to their brilliant reforms.

Their boasting was trumpeted widely.

But uh-oh! As we noted again and again, scores were rising in similar ways all over the state of North Carolina. Scores were up in those two cities, but they were also up everywhere else.

Eventually, the state of North Carolina had to revise its statewide tests. When it did, passing rates fell way back down, giving the clear impression that the rise in passing rates around the state had occurred because the tests had gotten easier as the years went by.

In the meantime, reporters had sung the praises of two urban systems, without noticing that test scores were also rising everywhere else. This gong-show reporting spread all the way to PBS and to the New York Times.

(Surprise, surprise!)

You live within a badly failing intellectual culture. Even at your biggest newspapers, your journalists can’t seem to perform even the simplest intellectual tasks.

We strongly recommend Drum’s post. Here’s the bad news—this type of gong-show journalism has been going on for some time.

The Way We Are is very bad. As matters currently stand, we are a very dumb people.

Are we perhaps getting worse?


  1. Related, crime in NYC began to decline prior to "America's Mayor" taking office. The maligned Dinkins was still in charge when the decline began. But we can never let the facts get in the way of a good novel.

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