Hooray for News Math: 10=13

(With apologies to Tom Lehrer for the title.)

It seems that there are certain headlines, certain ideas or themes that are so compelling for some journalists that they will throw all of their critical thinking and basic research skills overboard and jump into it head first. You know the type of article I’m talking about: “Cat Called for Jury Duty” is a classic. Within hours, it’s been copy-pasted from newspaper to newspaper, even though the real story is much less interesting than it sounds (and in this case, a year late at that).

So the most recent one of these compelling headlines, appearing either yesterday or today on the joint occasion of New Year’s Day and the ongoing crisis,  appears to be some variation of “On Tenth Anniversary, Euro Sucks”. (Although for some reason, no one used that exact headline. I think it’s great.)

There are a lot of them, though. The New York Times did one: “No Fireworks for Euro as It Reaches the 10-Year Mark”. Deutsche Welle did one:  “Euro cash ‘celebrates’ tumultuous 10th anniversary”. France24 did one: “The rise and fall of the euro, ten years on”. Associated Press did one (and considering their influence probably caused the whole misunderstanding in the first place): “On 10th anniversary, euro takes blame for economy”. And so on and so forth.

So what’s the problem? Well, if there aren’t any celebrations on the anniversary, as many of the articles fasten on as a lede, that’s probably because the euro is actually thirteen years old, not ten. It was introduced as a currency on January 1, 1999. The physical coins and bank notes were released for circulation three years later, on January 1, 2002, which is of course what all these other articles are talking about. Perhaps a minor mistake, but it honestly does not inspire a lot of confidence in our news media that so many words can be written and published about the euro’s “tenth anniversary” without anyone apparently noticing.

(PS: I was tempted to classify this as a Euromyth, but it really isn’t. It’s probably more in the much broader category of ‘some journalists will copy-paste any damn thing without fact-checking’.)

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One Response to Hooray for News Math: 10=13

  1. Pingback: De nominibus piscium | Facts and Norms

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