The segregation of news: For unknown reasons, the New York Times decided to try it again.
In this morning's editions, Southall and Gold report on rising gun violence in New York City. For unknown reasons, their editors let them try to report some statistics.
The reporters focused on the shooting death, Sunday night, of a 1-year-old boy in a stroller. At one point, though, they presented some elementary data.
This is what occurred:
SOUTHALL AND GOLD (7/13/20): Davell’s death came during another grim weekend of gun violence in the city, where shootings in June and July are up sharply compared with the same period last year, a spike that has helped push the overall number for the year higher.Yes, that's what it actually says. That's what it says in our print edition. That's what it still says in the news otherwise significant news report which appears online.
As of July 12, there had been 634 shootings in 2020, compared with 394 in 2019. At that pace, the city would top 800 shootings for the year. It would be the first time in three years that the city had reached that number.
As of yesterday, there have been 634 shootings in New York City this year. At that pace, the city will top 800 by the end of the year!
Yes, that's what the news report says. No, we didn't invent that.
As we've mentioned in the past, people do make mistakes. And in this case, to be perfectly fair, the statements we've highlighted are all technically accurate.
At the current pace, the city will indeed top 800 shootings this year. That said, at the current rate, New York City could very well top twelve hundred shootings this year! By our calculations, the current pace would produce a total of 1196 shootings.
We have no idea how the Times reporters, or perhaps their editor, settled on eight hundred shootings as the statistical benchmark. Nor do we know how they picked three years as the time span of highest relevance.
When did Gotham last experience 1200 shootings in a calendar year? We can't tell you that, and the Times report, as presented online, offers no link to any data.
We haven't forgotten that one-year-old boy, the one who was shot and killed in his stroller on Sunday night. We'll return to his death as we make our main point, but first, let's offer some context:
By "shootings," the Times reporters probably mean "shooting incidents" (as opposed to "shooting victims"). Those are separate categories in New York City's CompStat data, last week's version of which can be perused right here.
For the record, while "shooting incidents" are substantially up as compared to last year at this time, that CompStat report seems to say that the current number is 17.3% lower than the corresponding number at this point in 2010.
Strikingly, the current number is a walloping 78.3% lower than the corresponding number in 1993! The reporters stress the fact that city residents are alarmed by the current pace of shootings. But even at the current alarming pace, "shootings" in New York City are way down since that year.
That larger number of shootings occurred during the long high-crime era which produced, among other things, the 1994 crime bill. As we all can remember, high-spirited entities within our own tents used that bill, in 2016, to launch attacks against Candidate Clinton. Also, she had used a disfavored term—"super-predators"—on one occasion in 1996.
These highly visible attacks helped send Donald J. Trump to the White House. In such ways, our own occasionally fallible tribe has helped create our less than bravura new world, in which a one-year-old boy was shot and killed in Brooklyn this past Sunday night.
As a bit of an afterthought, here's what happened that night:
According to the Times report, that one-year-old boy, Davell Gardner Jr., was shot in the stomach as he sat in his stroller at a cookout in Brooklyn. "He died a short time later at a nearby hospital," the Times report says.
We saw a report about Davell Gardner's death just last night, on cable. For better or worse—quite often, for worse—we saw the report on a frequently gruesome Fox News show, Tucker Carlson Tonight.
Carlson mentioned the death of this one-year-old boy in his program's third minute. The final segment of the show concerned the rise in shootings in New York City, with general ruminations about the current state of the NYPD.
We mention this for a reason:
Carlson's program is reliably larded with ludicrous name-calling aimed st those of whom he disapproves, along with ridiculous editing of videotape and butchered versions of various people's public statements. Again and again, the journalistic standards put on display are an embarrassment and a mark of the times.
That said, you may see topics discussed on Carlson's show which you won't see discussed on the other two cable news channels. Last night, viewers heard about that shooting death, and about the rise in shooting incidents in New York City generally.
(CNN's transcripts show no sign of any such discussions from 6 PM Eastern through midnight. MSNBC's transcripts will show up sometime next month.)
On our own tribe's cable channels, a certain type of segregation may perhaps seem to exist. Shooting deaths will be discussed, at length, if the shooting was done by a police officer. Such shooting deaths count so much that cable hosts may even start to edit, alter or rearrange their accounts of the way these deaths occurred.
On the other hand, shooting deaths may not seem to matter much, or at all, if the're done by people who aren't police officers. If a kid if shot and killed in a civilian crossfire, it may not seem to matter on our own tribe's cable channels.
There is another way in which cable channels currently "segregate" news. Increasingly, people with differing points of view, or even with different points of emphasis, aren't likely to encounter each other on these carefully curated programs.
On CNN and MSNBC, you will increasingly see no guest who doesn't present the current approved Storyline, whatever it happens to be. Amazingly, this segregation of viewpoint and emphasis may be slightly less dominant on Fox at this point, although that's just a guess.
Nationwide crime has been on the decline for several decades. For our money, Kevin's Drum's analysis of this phenomenon has been one of the blogosphere's few great achievements to date.
Now, especially in urban settings, violence and shooting incidents seem to be on the rise again. Why haven't various municipalities been able to protect their children, and the parents of those children, from this kind of violence? Is there merit to a critique you may hear on Fox, in which you'll be told that the current black lives movement doesn't seem to focus enough on this type of shooting death?
We've been watching Carlson lately because we could no longer stomach Anderson Cooper and his endless Sarcasm/Storyline. We've occasionally glanced in on Laura Ingraham too.
As compared to Carlson, it seems to us that she has been much less ridiculous in her presentation of certain Fox-only themes and points of view. You will, of course, have to flip back to Lawrence when Dinesh D'Souza comes on.
During these sojourns, we've been struck by the segregation of cable news—by the sifting of what topics you'll see discussed, of what information you'll be given, depending on which channel you are watching.
Monday morning, Slate's Lili Loofbourow said she shares "the longing for better discourse." We were struck by one aspect of the essay she wrote about that topic. We may return to it tomorrow.
Last night, we were struck, once again, by where you have to go on cable to hear about one-year-old kids getting shot and killed in their strollers.
Could it possibly be, we asked, that our tribe was possibly wrong when it ranted, railed and carried on about the word that candidate used on that one occasion? Also, is it possible that our occasionally imperfect tribe is making misjudgments today?
Tomorrow: Paraphrase is amazingly easy, direct quotation is hard