Monday, September 15, 2008

Godfrey Lackey Police Chief Senator Sez Ogden City Crime is Down

More pro-Godfrey propaganda from the Godfrey House Propaganda Organ

Emerald City Crime is front page news in this morning's Standard-Examiner, with this moronic Sam Cooper story, blaring the headline, "Ogden's crime hits 10-year low." The Standard-Examiner presents a hokey table within this morning's article which compares (we think) crime stats during the first six months of 2007... with midyear figures for 2008.

It's impossible to compare Mr. Cooper's information, of course, with any of the other verifiable crime data from previous and similar six month periods. Crime stats are seldom provided over such short periods and are not publicly available. Six months' worth of so-called "crime data" are what competent statisticians would call a "small and statistically insignificant sample."

We already have earlier upside-down crime data from Mr. Cooper's earlier POS article.

Better analyzed crime stats are available from gentle reader monotreme's fine 2007 crime series, as well.

We already know the so-called "brick and mortar" stalwart Greiner will lie for Godfrey... any time The Boss demands. His pension is on the line, after all.

The only thing we have extra for intelligent analysis beyond the vague statistics in today's Std-Ex article is Godfrey Lackey Chief Greiner's statement (taking into account eight months of unverifiable purported data,) appears to be this:

OGDEN — With hard work and the help of technology, crime rates in Ogden have hit a 10-year low, the city’s police chief says.
“The gross number of part one crimes for the first eight months of this year is at the lowest point it’s been in more than 10 years,” said Chief Jon Greiner.
Of course the last month (August) of Greiner's data fails even to show up in today's Std-Ex's graphic table.

So we guess we're going to have take the Std-Ex's word for this on the crime data. Boss Godfrey is a crime fighter, LOL, according to today's Std-Ex.

And speaking of Greiner's high tech computer technology, consider this...

What's next for Ogden... This? (we can always have hope.)

So what say out gentle readers about all this?

15 comments:

dan s. said...

I'm becoming convinced that nobody at the Standard-Examiner understands numbers. At all.

The table has two columns, labeled "June '07" and "July '08". This seems to indicate that each column represents crimes committed during just a one-month interval. But above the table it says "from June 2007 to July 2008", as if somehow the table represents the entire 14-month time period (but in which column??). The numbers are far too high to represent just a single month for the inner city only, but there's no way to tell what time periods they do represent. Meanwhile, the text of the article talks about only "the first eight months of this year", presumably January through August. So there's no way to corroborate what the text says by looking at the table.

I suppose the Standard-Examiner (and perhaps Curmudgeon) would simply say that it's not their job to understand the administration's claim--just to report it.

Don't even get me started about the lack of context, or about how it was the city (not the newspaper) that chose what time period and what neighborhood to look at.

And don't even get me started about how the city has refused to disclose its full, month-by-month statistics for previous years, even when asked in a GRAMA request.

Gene said...

It's frightening enough that a newspaper could publish a lame story like this, accompanied by and even more lamely described graph.

The really sad part... it got by an editor or two... one who wrote the headline... and at least the other one who ordered it to be published.

This article is definitely one of the worst that the SE has published within memory.

Sam Cooper is a dunce, at the very least.

wsu_alumni said...

Right on! They even got it on the KSL evening news tonight how Ogden's crime rate is the lowest it's been in 10 years! No facts reported...just the "news" of it.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan S:

You wrote: I suppose the Standard-Examiner (and perhaps Curmudgeon) would simply say that it's not their job to understand the administration's claim--just to report it.

With respect to the bold faced clause above, nonsense. You know better. Or should. A consistent and continuing complaint I've had here about the SE is its habit of reporting the claims of office holders or their spokespersons without examining them, without seeing if they comport with the facts, without checking them against available sources. They do that repeatedly, and I criticize them for it repeatedly. That is press release journalism, and it does not serve the SE's readers well. From KSL's "newsreaders" [as opposed to "reporters"], I expect no better. From reporters --- and editors --- on my Home Town Paper, I expect a great deal better.

As for Mr. Cooper, the SE might be well advised, if he's going to continue to do stories like these, to spring for a course for him at WSU in Statistics and Probability. Even the intro course would... or should... allow him to handle numbers provided by self-serving sources [in office or out, pro administration or anti] with appropriate skepticism informed by knowledge of the basic principles of statistics and probability. Or even better, spring for the course for the current news editors, so no matter from what beat or reporter the bilge comes in, they will be able to edit it intelligently so that it ends up being accurate when it goes to the readers.

dan s. said...

Curm:

Well, I did say "perhaps". I was remembering how you once defended the Standard-Examiner's decision to print administration-provided statistics without context.

bridge to nowhere said...

If you believe that, then you'll believe that republicans are for less government and less taxes

Monotreme said...

I agree with what's been said above. It's hopeless. I have given up on trying to get the S-E to actually report, instead of merely repeating.

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:

Can't afford to give up. It's all we've got by way of local news. Remember that old punchline: "It may be a crooked game, but it's the only game in town."

And it has improved in its reporting, and some of its editorial stands in the last two years.

Dan I think has got it right: they are not familiar with statistics, and how to read them critically or interpret them accurately. In this increasingly statistical age, it really would pay them to run an editor or two, not to mention at least one of their reporters, through a Statistics and Probability class.

Sure as hell couldn't hurt.

Nicole said...

Hello, I'm new to this forum.
I wanted to add a couple of points in fairness to Mr. Cooper (whom I know).
For one, its easy to see he tried to get an objective analysis of the statistics from Weber State(note the four paragraphs in the middle.)
Also, having worked at a newspaper, I highly doubt that he designed the 'hokey' table. Most newspapers have a separate department to design tables and graphs (I believe the Standard is the same way).
It's also clear from the beginning of the story that he questioned Greiner on the validity of the stats. Greiner is even quoted responding defensively. As some of you pointed out, it's impossible to verify recent police stats. But for a newspaper, If the chief of police says crime has hit a 10 year low, it's news whether he's lying or not. An in this case, I believe Greiner's claim was met with an appropriate amount of scepticism.
Besides the table, I thought it was a fine article. (But then, I can see most of you are attacking the article more because of what it says.)

Jason W. said...

My, my look who has been attending another crime conference. And note who has not (neuroscientist!).

THE SKI IS BEAUTIFUL BLUE

RudiZink said...

Good point, Nicole. The table data obviously did not fit the "data" in Cooper's story, which boiled down to a "soft" press release journalism story incorporating Chief Greiner's assertion that crime was down in the central city through the month of August.

It's obvious that the table was probably added to the article by an editor at some point, for reasons which are not entirely clear.

Our apologies to Mr. Cooper for our criticism re the "hokey" table.

Curmudgeon said...

Nicole:

Couple of points. First, you're right in that Mr. Cooper was clearly asking Chief Greiner about the stats the Chief was claiming showed a steep decline in crime. And you're probably right at the graphics not being in the reporter's control as well [which is why I think running some editors through a Stat and Prob course might be a good idea].

Second: The SE has, unfortunately, a history [not all of which, by any means, can be laid at Mr. Cooper's door] of reporting self-serving statistics by elected officials, without checking to see if they stand up. What some of us are commenting on then, is not this single story, but a long pattern in SE reporting of not knowing what to make of statistics presented by interested parties... especially during election cycles.

Third: during the recent election, when the accuracy of the the Mayor's claims that crime had gone down under his administration became an issue, and the SE reported the Mayor's claims, the reporter [I don't think it was Mr. Cooper, but I don't really recall] noted in a story comments by a WSU professor familiar with statistics to the effect that such numbers could be read in several ways. It turned out later, the professor revealed, that the SE reporter had not asked him specifically about the numbers Godfrey claimed and the paper reported, but only a general question about how different people could read the same numbers and draw different conclusions about them. The SE story, however, gave the impression that the professor had provided some credence to the Mayor's claim about the numbers as a valid one. He hadn't, because he hadn't been asked about those numbers. Though the story made it appear that he had. My guess is the reporter didn't know enough about statistics to know what questions to ask.

Fourth: From what he printed in his story of the professor he asked about the Chief's statistics, I again wonder if Mr. Cooper knows enough about statistics to have asked the right questions. The professor's reply as he reported it had to do with the root causes of crime, not with the statistical validity of the chief's numbers. I wasn't there. I don't know exactly what was asked. Just noting that the replies Cooper reported did not address the accuracy of the numbers as the chief was using them.

Fifth: if the SE is going to report, as it must because as you state it is news, the police chief's claim that crime has dropped significantly recently in a particular area of the city, then the SE in my view has a responsibility to its readers to check the numbers out. That requires some familiarity with statistical analysis, if only to enable the paper to know what questions to ask of numbers presented as the Chief presented his. That requires enough familiarity with statistical analysis to be able to construct meaningful graphics to include in stories. That requires at least one news editor with sufficient background in statistics and probability to be able to vet stories coming in, identify problems [if any].

Sixth, you're probably right that some here would attack what ever numbers Greiner offered up, because it's Greiner [aka the Godfrey administration] that offers them up. I'd only point out that the paper's editors and/or reports having a greater competence in statistics than it seems apparent that they do, would make it possible for them to critically analyze self-serving statistical manipulations from whoever offered them... pro Administration sources or Administration opponents.

Finally, from my own POV, any urban daily has a responsibility to hold any claim from an elected official or spokesperson of one up to scrutiny. That is --- or ought to be --- one of the main roles of a newspaper in a popular republic : to treat every claim by those in power [of any party, any faction] with a skeptical and gimlet eye. To check every claim against the available evidence. When a newspaper doesn't do that, it fails at the essential job of a free press in a free nation --- to discover and reveal what those in power do not want discovered or revealed. It abandons the vital role of the press in a democracy, a role that Jefferson understood but that the editors of the SE seem often to forget. Jefferson famously said that if he had to choose between living in a nation with a free press, but without government, or a nation with government, but without a free press, he'd prefer the former.

I think he meant it.

dan s. said...

Nicole,

The quotes from Wadman (of WSU), toward the end of Cooper's article, don't address the issue that I (and most others) are raising here.

Wadman is saying that even if we had complete and accurate crime statistics, the causes behind those statistics would be complex. That's a good point to make but it says nothing about whether the statistics are reasonably complete and accurate in the first place.

If the newspaper is going to report statistical data at all, it has an obligation to ensure that the data are presented correctly, and that readers are given enough context to put the data in perspective. In this article there is no meaningful context for the numbers, which are so obfuscated that readers can't even tell what each number represents. This is a clear violation of the the SPJ Code of Ethics: Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error ... [don't] oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context. Unfortunately, too many journalists seem to think that ethical rules don't apply to numbers.

Incidentally, I don't think a conventional course in statistics would be the best place for a newspaper editor to start. Even introductory statistics courses are far too technical, and the common-sense numeracy skills get lost in the complexity of standard deviations and correlation coefficients. Instead, I would recommend that editors start with a good book like How to Lie With Statistics or Innumeracy.

Curmudgeon said...

Nicole:

Let me recommend Innumeracy as well. Very chewy book and well worth a read. A careful read.

lionel said...

One point of correction for those who believe that Griener's actions are an attempt to protect his retirement.

HE ALREADY IS RETIRED FROM THE CITY PAYROLL!

He and the fire chief both are double dipping from our tax dollars. They are both officially retired as police and fire chiefs and are drawing full retirement pay. Then, after taking advantage of a special little rule for insiders they waited a small amount of time and then went back to the very jobs they retired from, which were saved for them by the little lord, and both at full salaries.

Great little scam if you're one of the insiders.

Greiner is also drawing retirement from 20+ years in the army reserves and of course he also slops up a hefty bit of change for being a state senator. Bottom line is he has four big old paws digging and scooping cash out of the public trough! Oink Oink

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