Roger’s Rules

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

How do you spell “Schadenfreude”?

Trust The New York Times to add a further dimension of meaning to Benjamin Disraeli’s comment about “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” When the Audit Bureau published circulation figures for major U.S Newspapers a few days ago, you could, if you closed your eyes and listened hard, make out the strains of Chopin’s funeral march: it was bad news almost everywhere: The Wall Street Journal was down 1.53%, The Washington Post 3.23%. In its own report on the dégringolade, The New York Times, under the headline ““Circulation Plunges at Major Newspapers”, had this to say:

The New York Times, one of the few major papers whose circulation held steady over the last few reporting periods, did not emerge unscathed this time: its daily and Sunday circulation each fell 3.5 percent.

Is that so? Every other story I saw put the performance of the Times rather differently, noting a 4.5% drop in daily circulation and nearly 7.6% drop in the circulation of its Sunday paper. Whom do you believe? Now I begin to understand what the Times means by its motto: “All the news that’s fit to print.” What it means is all the news that Pinch will print (“Pinch” being the soubriquet of Sulzberger fils, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., the paper’s inadvertently comical publisher). Not all the news these days is bad.