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Bug #7667 closed:unresolved

Size of black population in marijuana story was changed without notice

Media Outlet Logo
This bug appeared in a news report published by New York Times on Jul 19, 2010 by Jesse McKinley. View the original news report.
Bug Type:  Faulty Statistics or Math

A statistic regarding the black population of California apparently was changed in this story without any notification to readers. The version of the story that I read online on Monday contained this sentence:

Blacks make up only 6 percent of the population in California, but unlike two larger minority groups in the state where opinions on the measure are also split — Asians and Latinos — their “participation in elections is on par with their populations,” according to the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit group here.

The story now says:

Blacks make up less than 10 percent of the population in California, but unlike two larger minority groups in the state where opinions on the measure are also split — Asians and Latinos — their “participation in elections is on par with their populations,” according to the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit group here.

Supporting Information:

The reporter cites the California Voter Foundation here; it appears he was referencing this report:

http://www.calvoter.org/issues/votereng/calvoters/calvoter_experience.html

which cites an August 2008 report that says: "Blacks make up both 6% of the population and likely voters" in California.

Why was the story changed and why didn't the NYT notify readers?

Response

Anonymous has not contacted New York Times

Bug History

Jul 20, 2010 5:36 pm Open Anonymous
Jul 22, 2010 4:06 pm Open: Under Discussion Scott Rosenberg
Jul 22, 2010 4:06 pm Open: Responded To Scott Rosenberg
Dec 03, 2010 10:07 am Closed: Unresolved admin

Discussion Leave a comment

We've received a response from New York Times editor Rick Lyman explaining what happened here:

"In the early Web version, Jesse wrote that the black population of California was about 6 percent. Later, one of his sources tried to argue to him that the most recent official Census estimate was from 2008 and showed a black population of 6.7 percent. Another source told him that they believed that a more accurrate, up-to-date figure was more than 7 percent, closing in on 8 percent. So rather than get involved in trying to exactly pin down the population, we decided in later Web versions and in print to just say that the black population was less than 10 percent.

I don't think there is anything here to correct. The two versions are not contradictory. The black population is both 'about 6 percent' (based on the most recent Census estimates from 2008) and 'under 10 percent' (based on that estimate and on other estimates that put the number a bit higher)."

Jul 22, 2010 4:06 pm