Friday, August 29, 2003

Dying for crisp thinking

Are media correspondents idiots?

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle talks about the rate of homeless deaths in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Now I want to be absolutely clear: this blog isn't about the homeless. I have nothing but sympathy for the plight of many of them. Can't say all, because I don't think there is any group that is homogenous enough to make a blanket claim about. But many. Most.

This blog is about the media, who can't seem to figure out what the news is.

This article says there are 169 homeless deaths a year. How newsworthy is this? I don't know if this is a 50%, 5% .5% or what mortality rate. Ok, buried in the article is a broad estimate of the population, 8,000 - 15,000. So 169 is between 1.1 and 2.2%. Hmmm. That doesn't sound so bad. I mean, no I wouldn't want them to die per se, but everyone does, and dying at the rate of <2% of a population per year doesn't sound out of line.

The article also mentions that there are far fewer homeless deaths elsewhere, eg. 37 in Boston. But again, how many homeless are in Boston, where it is bloody cold for a good part of the year? Previous articles have discussed a migration of homeless to SF due to weather and liberal policies. I have no idea what the relative number of homeless are between SF and Boston.

That's the point of my rant. I don't know, and the article singularly failed to tell me.

The headline for this article should have been "Homeless die at 4 times the rate of the larger population" if they wanted it to be truly useful. Or whatever the real number is.

The peak of insanity here is mention of 8,000 deaths a year total in SF. Wow! There are fewer homeless deaths than non-homeless? I knew home ownership was stressful, but hadn't realised it increases mortality rate. Streets, here I come!

Flipping idiots.

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