## Wednesday, September 01, 2010

### Is It Too Much To Ask For A Journalist To Know The Smallest Amount Of Math?

I was enjoying this article about 200 year old champagne being recovered from the Baltic Sea, and then this ignorance just jumped out at me:

He said the cold sea water was a perfect way to store the vintage bubbly, with the temperature remaining a near-constant 4-5 degrees Celsius [around freezing temperature in Fahrenheit, or 32 degrees] and no light to expedite the spoiling process.

So, 4-5 degrees celsius is "around" freezing temperature, 32 degrees Fahrenheit? Really?

Is it so much to ask that a reporter know, or, God forbid, look up, that 0 degrees celsius would be 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so 4-5 degrees warmer than that would actually be closer to 40 degrees Fahrenheit? Could this reporter not make even the slightest effort to do some 7th grade math and be a bit more accurate?

Anonymous said...

I think that the writer was providing the freezing point of water in Fahrenheit (32 degrees), not suggesting that 4-5 degrees Celsius is roughly equivalent to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

I don't think this is a math boo-boo so much as an unclear writing boo-boo.

-Mark Roulo

David said...

I believe it was a New York Times writer who didn't understand the difference between "feet square" and "square feet."

And hardly any journalists seem able to grasp the difference between "kilowatts" and "kilowatt-hours."

MikeAT said...

You want a reporter to check, verify, look up facts...whatever drugs you're on please pass them down...my head is killing me...

Darren said...

Mark, is clear writing too much to ask of a journalist?

allen (in Michigan) said...

It should be kept in mind that journalists are the opposite of specialists; they know less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything.

Anonymous said...

Darren: "Mark, is clear writing too much to ask of a journalist?"

Me: No, of course not.

I think about is some ...

Me: Yeah, probably :-(

But if we are going to hang him (and I'm fine with that), we should get the charge right :-)

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

This may well be the sub editor rather than the reporter. What could have happened is that the reporter said "3-4 degrees Celcius (around freezing)" Which accurate, but then the sub editor felt the need to translate that and simply translated the "freezing" into "32°"