Washington Post Ombudsman Not Very Good at Thinking Up Explanations

Andrew Alexander, the Washington Post’s ombudsman, is troubled by the newspaper’s mishandling of numbers. In his latest column, he wrote of the paper’s

numerical mistakes


Some involve faulty statistics. Others result from math errors. Many are inexplicable, such as last Tuesday’s A-section story that said new industry-wide health-care rules, “will affect about 180 Americans with private insurance” (it should have been 180 million). All damage credibility.

“Inexplicable,” like ”


,” appears to be a word that has a special private meaning for Alexander, a meaning unlike the


other people attach to it. Unless the Post’s ombudsman honestly cannot come up with an explanation for how a newspaper, in the process of composing and publishing a news story, could possibly have rendered “180 million” as “180.”

(Confidential to Andrew Alexander: what I’m trying to say is that maybe it happened because somebody accidentally deleted the word “million.” Ask around! Also maybe ask somebody why the version of the story now online says “180 million”

without any correction attached

. That could be an item for your

daily blog