It’s very easy to think that many things in this world happen due to cause and effect, as in many of the bogus readings we had this week. But the key here in all of the Slate articles is the distinction between causation and correlation.
After writing the story on the increase in attendance at Alachua County libraries, I was easily fooled by the economy being the causation of the increased attendance because of all the quotes in the story. People go and use the free entertainment, because it’s no hurt to their pockets. They use the free computers and free internet to look for work and fill out job applications. It’s easy to become easily deceived by all of this.
In the New York Times story on shoplifting, the Times cites several reasons to the “increase” in shoplifting, but none of the reasons are well thought out to truly be causes. They sound practical, but the statistics ran alongside these causes are not as supportive as they should be. Lastly, keeping sources confidential in the story rubs me the wrong way, as well. I can understand not naming an undercover security guard, but if you’re not qualified to talk as the source from the Mall of America was, point me in the direction of someone who can, and who can vie for the facts being discussed.
Each of the bogus stories has its flaws. But as copy-editors, we should always take a step back from the stories and truly examine the situation for the betterment of our publication’s credibility.