Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Maddening math

"An Obama administration program to encourage the use of electronic health records made over $729 million in erroneous payments, according to a new audit."


So what. Was the program a $750 million program? Or was it a $100 billion program?

Reporting numbers is tricky, but it doesn't have to be. You've got your absolute value, your marginal value, your average value, your historical value, your various comparative values, all kinds of values. So many that it could eat up a 500 word story in nothing flat.

Nevertheless, you have to choose the ones that are most salient--and failing to do so renders the lead point meaningless.

This story turns out to be salvageable, because three paragraphs away it tells you the program spent $6 billion over the audit period. Plaudits to the reporter for including that, though given its distance from the lead fact, it's not clear whether it was accidental or intentional that it was included.

Bonus question: Which is the better "fact," that a new school building cost $15 million, or, as the authorizing documents show, $14,793,243?


Post a Comment

<< Home

web page hit counter