Our View: Count the zeros

Oct 052008
Authors: Collegian Editorial Board

In Friday’s “Our View” staff editorial, the Collegian editorial board endorsed an alternative plan to the government’s $85 billion bailout of insurance company AIG that was floating around e-mail inboxes. The plan proposed that the sum be parsed out among the roughly 200 million U.S. citizens who are 18 and up.

The calculation that was cited wrongly concluded that each recipient would receive $425,000, when in reality, the correct math reveals only $425 for every U.S. adult. So, we wrongly assumed that the math presented was flawless and ended up with a few extra zeros in our figure.

Well, this fact makes the plan much less exciting.

T. J. Birkenmeier, the author of the original message, stated on his blog that his “little experiment” was a test, initially for 100 of his friends. Two out of those 100 caught the error. He says his point is that we consumers of mass media are “number numb” and that we need to be alert and critical when we are consuming information.

The Collegian editorial board, having been informed of our mistake by a few of our ever-watchful readers, has learned a valuable lesson from the error.

We would like to echo Birkenmeier’s sentiments and ask that everyone attempt to be extra critical when consuming information — whether that comes from journalists like us or chain e-mails. This warning is especially necessary to heed during the historic election season we are in — when campaign ads and legislative-agenda toting groups are constantly attempting to form our thoughts for us.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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