Thursday, August 02, 2007

Of the 270,000 people who died yesterday...

…approximately 3,300 died in traffic accidents. Of those, perhaps 125 died in the US. Of those, as many as 30, according to the Associated Press, may have died in the bridge collapse incident in Minneapolis (as I write this, it’s too early to know the death toll).

Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization, almost 45,000 people died of heart disease and stroke yesterday; nearly 15,000 died of pneumonia and tuberculosis; about the same number died of various cancers; about 7,500 died of AIDS; nearly 5,000 died of diarrheal diseases; another 5,000 died of measles and other childhood diseases; nearly 3,500 died of malaria; 2,500 died of non-traffic-related accidents; and over 2,000 people committed suicide. Yesterday. Just like every day.

It is certainly newsworthy that a major bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed and that several people died. I know people in the Minneapolis area and am probably no more than three degrees of separation from at least one of the victims. It’s a sad day, and my heart goes out to the survivors of those victims.

Nonetheless, when editors and reporters fall into the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality of sensational journalism, doing their best to raise levels of fear and paranoia in the populace, so that the innumerate among us live their lives in a constant state of panic that a piano will fall on them or they’ll be struck by lightning or killed by a terrorist or plunged unceremoniously into the ocean deep, I fantasize that news reports of mayhem and tragedy would start with the lede, “Of the 270,000 people who died yesterday….”

Numbers matter. Numeracy matters. Perspective matters. Editing matters.

1 comment:

Michael A. Banks said...

... and then there were some who used the bridge collapse as a photo opportunities. "If it bleeds it leads ... and is a great photo op."