Stir It Up
Why media shouldn't accept Detroit statistics at face value.
Published: April 25, 2012
We still love numbers. Any Detroiter who read the D3 post would probably embrace the 17th ranking although the post suggests readers not trust anyone's list, not even D3's. But numbers rule in journalism. I'm reminded of when I covered the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival for the Free Press in the early 1990s. My editor wanted to know how many people attended. I asked a festival official. He looked at the crowd and told me, "500,000." The next day I asked him again. He looked at the crowd and asked, "How many did I tell you yesterday?"
"Well there are more today. It's 600,000."
I reported it by saying that's what festival officials told me. Truthfully, nobody knows how many folks were there, although they did enjoy a great festival.
It really doesn't matter much to Detroiters whether the city ranks first or 17th in crime. Crime is still a problem that needs to be addressed. The same thing goes for literacy. However it does matter when businesses are considering where to locate and competing locations can wave this stuff in their faces and say, "Those people can't even read."
So the next time some list or statistics come out, regardless of what they say, be very skeptical — especially when it comes to repeating it to others. They just might believe you. Detroit is at a moment that we desperately need to get things right around here. Part of that is knowing where we really stand. As for the 47 percent, let's just retire that to the urban legend trash heap.
Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and
former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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