July 6, 2012

Reuters Report Erroneously Claims That ‘Most’ Prisoners in the U.S. Are Black; Writer Blames ‘Editing Mistake’

On Tuesday, Tom Brown at Reuters (HT CounterContempt.com aka “Republican Party Animals”) wrote about the case of Quartavious Davis, a 20 year-old sentenced to life (and then some) after being “convicted of participating in a string of armed robberies in the Miami area in 2010.”

In the process, Brown, whose column title was inadvertently humorous (“Insight: Florida man sees ‘cruel’ face of U.S. justice”), demonstrated his lack of knowledge and failure to confirm through research by asserting that “United States … prisons house fully one-quarter of all the prisoners in the world, most of them black.” As David Stein at the linked blog noted, this statement isn’t merely untrue, it’s most sincerely untrue (link was in original):

“Most” U.S. inmates are black? Brown needs to brush up on the MSM bias playbook. One needs to be careful when lying about figures that are as easy to find online as fetish porn sites. As U.S. government stats clearly show (see Table 16 at link — Ed.), black men make up a little over 40% of the male inmate population (state and federal combined). Black women make up about 32% of the female inmate population. Combined, blacks make up about 39.4% of inmates in U.S. prisons (whites make up about 34.2%. Hispanics comprise the rest).

… Yes, black people comprise the largest plurality of inmates, but they are not in any way a majority. To say that “most” U.S. inmates are black is false. Patently false. And here’s the kicker – Brown knows this! Early on July 4th … I wrote to Brown, pointing out the error.

Stein goes on to note that Brown responded, saying that “I’ll get the story fixed shortly. It’s an unfortunate editing mistake but I have no one to blame but myself.”

As of 3:30 p.m. today, the story has not been fixed.

It’s odd that Brown takes the blame himself while simultaneously calling it an “editing mistake.” It seems from here that it can’t be both. Either Brown made a lazy error that got past editors (in which case the mistake is Brown’s, period), or one of the story’s four (!) editors thought he knew more than the story’s author and arbitrarily changed the text (in which case Brown is blameless.

Regardless, the “most prisoners are black” claim is one among many myths that journalists apparently think is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be checked. You know what they say about “assume,” right guys and gals?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.




    Comment by reliapundit — July 6, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

  2. That’s a lot of immaculate conceptions. (:–>)

    In all seriousness, that’s a great and too-often ignored point.

    Comment by Tom — July 7, 2012 @ 8:11 am

  3. [...] Reuters Report Erroneously Claims That ‘Most’ Prisoners in the U.S. Are Black; Writer Blames ‘… [...]

    Pingback by Reuters Report Erroneously Claims That ‘Most’ Prisoners in the U.S. Are Black; Writer Blames ‘Editing Mistake’ | PERSUASION IN INK — July 7, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

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