Did Vice even try to get the numbers right on this piece?

March 22, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Sometimes we see pieces that make us wonder – did they even try? Such as this from Vice: “More than 150,000 transgender youth live in Texas and Arkansas alone, and those states have already cracked down on gender-affirming care.”

That strikes us as a bit high really. That would be something like 1.5% of all children, from babies through to high school graduation parties. So we read on:

“Of the estimated more than 150,000 transgender youth between the ages of 13 and 17 in the U.S., more than 10,000 live in Texas and Arkansas.”

Now we’re not sure, a high or a low number. But it’s obviously very different, 150k and 10k. To try a check we looked at Vice’s own source: “nearly one third of the estimated 150,000 transgender youth in the U.S.”

Ah, yes. We’ll take that as being 150,000 transgender youth in total for the country then, not for Texas and Arkansas.

No, leave aside whether this is itself too high a number, boosted to make the problem seem larger, or not. We are about accuracy, not specific positions, in media.

Clearly, there’s been a certain failure in that accuracy – it’s possible to wonder whether they even tried here.

Vice is a significant media outlet these days. The cable channel reaches 60 million households, the magazine has a distribution of 900,000 copies, the website gains 26 million or so visits a month. The sort of resources that buys an organization might well be spent on just a little more attention to the numbers.

We will though let you in on two little secrets about journalism. Journalists tend to be those who followed the “words path” through life rather than that of numbers. Being out by more than an order of magnitude just isn’t unusual, sadly. You know, the number of zeros just tends to blur a little after a bit.

The other is more to the point here. Which is that the headlines and subheads are usually written by editors, not by the journalists themselves. That first quote is the subhead, the second with more likely numbers is from the body of the article. Different people likely wrote each. This means that those who write the headlines at Vice seem not to read Vice’s articles – or at least not understand them if they do – which is an interesting indication of how much attention we should pay really, isn’t it?


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