Accuracy in Media

FiveThirtyEight editor Nate Silver said the media’s failure to contextualize the continued increase in coronavirus cases is a “basic error” and so widespread that was “revealing about the media’s goals.”

Silver was responding to a tweet from James Surowiecki who took issue with an Axios report on the growth in coronavirus cases which he said failed to mention that an increase in testing could be partly responsible for the growth.

“Axios does a piece highlighting the growth in cases outside [New York], and, just like the NYT, doesn’t even mention the fact that at least some of that growth in recent weeks is the result of the sharp increase in testing,” Surowiecki wrote.

Axios apparently was paying attention to Silver’s tweet as it updated the story Surowiecki mentioned noting, “This story has been updated to clarify that increased testing could be part of the reason the number of cases in the U.S. is rising.”

Later in the day, Silver made sure he mentioned increased testing when he tweeted about coronavirus numbers.

“Overall, the patterns remain the same: —Deaths remain roughly at a plateau, with daily fluctuations due to reporting issues — Raw number of cases slightly declining but ~steady if you remove NY — Tests increasing significantly —Positive test rate declining, even if you exclude NY.”

What Surowiecki and Silver have pointed out is a major flaw in the media’s reporting on the number of coronavirus cases as they focus solely on the number of infections and deaths without mentioning the number of tests administered because it bolsters their case that the Trump administration has bungled the handling of the pandemic in the U.S. and damages his chances of re-election in the fall rather than focus on the progress officials have made under very difficult circumstances.



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