Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Wednesday Morning Ogden City Puff-piece Roundup

Press release journalism? You be the judge

Just to kickstart a little discussion this morning, we'll shine the spotlight on a couple of stories appearing in the Standard-Examiner, testing the narrow gap, wethinks, between "real news reporting" and "public relations fluff," which some journalistic experts concede is "blurrier than we’d like to think."  Once again we'll reinforce our constant warning that when it comes to statistical reporting in our home town newspaper, we should all remain wary, and that we should likewise regularly remind ourselves of the tireless efforts of  Dan Schroeder, Ogden City's #1 political watchdog.

1) For starters, we'll direct our readers' attention to this morning's Scott Schwebke story, reporting that "[a] newly developed Ogden Police Department computer program has determined a 15 percent drop in local crime in the past five years and a 13 percent decline since 2011:
What's happened here, wethinks, is that Mr. Schwebke simply adopted this self-serving Ogden Police Department puff piece, and unquestioningly regurgitated it as this morning's S-E front page feel-good news.

Happily, Professor Schroeder is "on the case," providing within in the S-E comments section this highly instructive "caveat":
How self-serving of the OPD to develop its own standards of reporting crime statistics, which the press has no way to assess or corroborate. But think about these numbers for a minute. If the crime rate dropped 15 percent in the last five years and 13 percent in the last two, that means it dropped only 2 percent between 2008 and 2011. Yet if you look back at the headlines during that time, they proclaimed enormous drops in crime! The Standard-Examiner should quit printing the city's latest announcements and instead step back and do its own story on the long-term trends as evidenced by publicly available data.
Of course Professor Schroeder has ambled down this road before:
And for a real eye-full, check out our full WCF article collection below, consisting of six great articles slicing, dicing and ginsu-knifing the Standard's press release journalism-style crime stats reporting approach:
Professor Schroeder rightly calls for the Standard to "quit printing the city's latest announcements and instead step back and do its own story on the long-term trends as evidenced by publicly available data," of course; and in that connection, the Standard doesn't come up completely "dry," we suppose.  Check out this morning's "companion" video story on this same Ogden crime stats theme, folks:

This O Gentle Readers, seems to be what will apparently continue to pass for background research on "long-term trends" these days at our home town newspaper, we guess.

2) We'll next fix the focus upon a second chirpy pro-Ogden S-E puff-piece from which we'll helpfully extract "the gist":
Junction City made the top 10 of the On Numbers Economic Index last month.
The index ranks metropolitan areas in the United States and provides a monthly measure of economic vitality. Ogden, a newcomer to the list, went from ranking No. 12 in March to No. 8 in April.
“Making this list for the first time validates our efforts to draw Ogden into the national spotlight,” Mayor Mike Caldwell said.
You can check out the full Jesus Lopez story here:
Once again, of course, Dr. Schroeder steps up to correct the record:
"Junction City" is not the same as the Ogden-Clearfield metro area, which extends all the way down to North Salt Lake. This ranking, like virtually all the others you hear about, is for the metro area--not the city. It is undoubtedly driven mostly by population growth, mostly in Davis County. For Caldwell to claim credit is highly disingenuous.
The not-so-fine definitional distinctions concerning "the Ogden-Clearfield metro area" is something Professor Schroeder knows more than a little about, of course:
And the beat goes on, with our home town paper more or less blindly adopting the latest pro-Ogden puff-pieces, whilst the Good Professor Schroeder blows his truth-whistle (almost) unheeded.

Press release journalism?  You be the judge

1 comment:

blackrulon said...

"...domestic violence incidence over the last two years may have been overreported by as much as 50 percent as a result of counting calls when no arrests were made...." Does this mean only crimes that are solved are counted? Because Ogdn Police have developed their own way to count crime numbers, apparently calls reporting Scott Schwebke has not gotten to be a better reporter since he was moved to the crie/police reporting desk. crimes are not really crimes. I

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