More from the world of bad reporting!


The New York Times and SNAP: We couldn’t help noting more bad reporting in today’s New York times.

Ron Nixon in back on the food assistance beat. Today, his report starts like this:
NIXON (9/25/13): House leaders on Tuesday said they were working with their Senate counterparts toward a new five-year farm bill, just days after the House pushed through a bill that would slash billions of dollars from the food stamp program.


The farm bill, a 1,000-page measure that sets the nation’s food and nutrition policy, was formerly a bipartisan piece of legislation. But it has been mired in partisan gridlock for nearly two years. Most of the acrimony has been over cuts to the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

House Republicans, led by the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, have pushed for nearly $40 billion in cuts to the program, a move opposed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats.
This is a classic example of “the journalism of big numbers.”

First, we’re told that the House passed a bill “that would slash billions of dollars from the food stamp program.” Frankly, that doesn’t sound good.

Later, Nixon gets more precise. The bill would cut “nearly $40 billion” from the food assistance program.

That sounds like a very large number! But how large is it? At no point does Nixon provide a number with which those billions cane be compared.

How big is that cut on a percentage basis? Nixon never says.

We know of no reason to cut or slash food assistance at all. We also know of no reason to report large numbers this way.


  1. 1000 pages sounds like a lot too.

  2. OMB

    Your Howler keeps not getting results!

    KZ (Who agrees with BOB on this post)

    1. You agree and yet you still have to take a dig at him!

    2. Anon@702: Just leave now.

  3. certifiedgooglemachineoperatorSeptember 25, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    4 million/year cut over next ten years, or 5%/year on average

    1. certifiedgooglemachineoperatorSeptember 25, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    2. certifiedgooglemachineoperatorSeptember 25, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      "...or 5%/year on average"

      the 5% cut is of the whole program. so I assume the total snap benefits allocated for the next ten years is 80 billion. [80 billion x .05 = 4 billion]

      "The $40 billion cut — $4 billion a year over the next decade — amounts to about 5 percent of the total program cost." -npr

    3. certified,

      Just so you know, Bob's well aware of the context of the amount of the cuts because it was discussed in the NYT earlier this week. But we are supposed to pretend that we don't know that. Even though there is a link at the top of the new article to the old article and , indeed, a link to a chronology of the farm/SNAP bill over the past few years. In fact, Bob could receive email alerts from the NYTImes on all farm bill news, but he would rather yell at the kids to get off his lawn.

    4. certifiedgooglemachineoperatorSeptember 25, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      sorry, i got it wrong. its 800 billion (over ten years) x .05% = 40 billion cut over ten years.

      got to give somerby credit on this one, at least in my case -- i was very confused.

      (see "costs" section)

    5. Sorry but your math is a bit off.

      1 percent (not .01 percent) of 100 billion is 1 billion.

      1 percent (not .01 percent) of 800 billion is 8 billion.

      5 percent (not .05 percent) of 800 billion is 40 billion.

      The cut was 5 percent, not .05 percent.

    6. certifiedgooglemachineoperatorSeptember 26, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      yes, its either "5%" or ".05" without the "%" when multiplying, but I think most people would understand what i meant.