Darts & Laurels

Sober statistics and misnamed killers

LAUREL to the BBC for debunking an incendiary TIME article chronicling “Africa’s rising rate of alcohol abuse.” “Africa has a drinking problem,” wrote Time reporter Jessica Hatcher in August, interviewing a slew of Nairobi-based advocates who warned of the need for more social programs. The problem is, Hatcher’s talking just about Kenya. Yes, Kenya is a country in Africa, but it is not representative of the entire continent, which, the BBC points out, has a per-capita drinking rate (6.15 liters) that is only slightly (.02 liters) higher than the global average, according to World Health Organization data. And that’s a worst-case scenario: The WHO doesn’t average in seven African countries—Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Djibouti, Morocco, Somalia, and Sudan—with large Muslim populations and thus severe alcohol restrictions. As the truth-wrangling site Africa Check points out, Africa’s drinking rate is actually lower than that of Europe (12.18 liters) and the Americas (8.67 liters)—those barbaric teetotalers.

DART to NBC and CBS for—here we go again—incorrectly naming the dead suspect of the Washington, DC Navy Yard shooting. Since speed-demon internet pace became the status quo, it wouldn’t be a catastrophe without a proper-noun bungle. This time the networks have a better scapegoat: A police official accidently released a name from an ID that was left at the scene. Let’s all say it together now: Don’t trust a Twitter; doublecheck your information.

Or you can take the advice of Dave Cullen, who deserves a LAUREL for a BuzzFeed post calling on the media to stop using the names of mass killers. “A mass shooting is a performance,” wrote the Columbine author. “Repeating the name of the of the shooter makes him a star.” Cullen advises news outlets to use the suspect’s name sparingly for 48 hours, then “disappear him” into euphemisms like “the gunman” or “the perpetrator.” The “media” response: *crickets*.

LAUREL to the Detroit Free Press for its excavation of how the city went from cash strapped to bankrupt. Along with a team of researchers, librarians, and designers, Freep reporters Nathan Bomey and John Gallagher sorted through about 10,000 pages of archived municipal records—which the paper is digitizing—and interviewed dozens of political officials to piece together a tale of 60 years of political mismanagement. Contrary to popular belief, Detroit’s financial woes aren’t attributable to a perfect storm, but to a slow trickle of hasty-minded leadership that padded out a flailing local economy with high taxes and a slew of policies that helped drive residents and businesses into the suburbs. Mistakes were made. “Over five decades, there were many ‘if only’ moments,” wrote the Freep.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Alexis Sobel Fitts is a senior writer at CJR. Follow her on Twitter at @fittsofalexis.