Monday, February 21, 2005

NY Times publishes unsourced data 
That's about all I can say for this piece (click the graphic in the upper left corner, too.)

Iraq remains, however, a country with high unemployment, mediocre public services and some of the highest crime rates in the world (probably worse than the late Saddam Hussein years).

Of course, no need to bother mentioning that Iraq's high crime rate is largely thanks to Saddam opening up his jails and releasing thousands of violent criminals back into the population on the eve of his departure. Nope...that would add needless perspective to the story, wouldn't it?

As for the graphic, the editors note the increasing death toll on civilians in Iraq.

But they make no effort to delineate the difference between civilians who are truly the unintended victims of war, and those who are deliberately targeted by terrorists.

Gee, you think that might be a useful distinction to make?

Note also the troop level numbers. The artist shades the most recent number a deep shade of gray, indicating a deteriorating situation. But the most recent number is from January 2005, coinciding with the transition between OIF II and OIF III, and a deliberate spike in available manpower coinciding with the Iraqi elections.

I have no idea why the exponential increase in the number of trained Iraqi security personnel is shaded dark gray, indicating, it seems a deteriorating situation. Why?

The increasing number of children in primary school is also given a steadily darkening hue of gray. Why?

I'd love to see the sourcing in the table. Unfortunately, the New York Times can't be bothered with transparency, can it?

I guess the graphic comes from Amy Unikewicz, a graphic designer. I also suppose it's reasonable to source the data to the Brookings Institution, though somehow I doubt that Iraq is saturated with teams of Brookings Institution researchers collecting reams of original, primary data.

So the underlying numbers come from somewhere else. Where?

Iraq Body Count?

Well, maybe. Iraq Body Count lists 462 fatalities in the month of January as their high estimate, and 437 as their low, by my count. So it looks like the Brookings institute just split the difference.

Does the New York Times plan to make a habit out of publishing unsourced data?

You know, just asking.


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