Media Moves

Testy Copy Editor: Trump victory fuels confidence

February 27, 2017

Posted by Phillip Blanchard

Testy Copy EditorsTrump won. Consumer and small-business confidence surged. Now what?
Albuquerque Journal

Correlation is not causation. Although the election result has been “credited” with improving some measures of the economy, there is no objective proof of it. The headline states flatly that Donald Trump’s election was what caused increases in “confidence.”

This story exacerbates the fallacy by its dependence on a single source, a Wells Fargo economist.

The consumer “confidence” and “sentiment” surveys are intended to indicate what the public thinks will happen financially to themselves and the nation. The reports, then, are predictions about matters about which the respondents cannot know.

We are not statisticians, so we cannot make intelligent comments about the surveys’ methodologies. But we know, for example, that it’s pointless to ask people what they think will happen six months in the future. If the survey respondents could make such accurate predictions, they shouldn’t worry about their finances because they could make a killing in the stock markets. There is no indication that the survey administrators go back to the people they question to find out how predictions of their own financial status matched reality. And any on-target predictions would be coincidental.

Union Pacific











Bonus: The Journal’s photo, whose relevance to the story is mysterious.

New suburban Krispy Kreme churning out 57,000 doughnuts a day.

Carlos Larcada, president of Chicagoland Restaurants, LLC, which opened the Homewood shop Jan. 10, said he was prepared for the crowds that just seem to keep coming. … To meet demand, the Homewood shop has been churning out 200 dozen doughnuts an hour nonstop, he said. That’s 57,000 doughnuts a day in the heart of New-Year’s-Resolution January.Daily Southtown, Chicago
From the writer, Donna Vickroy: “Owner provided the figures. You can watch the doughnuts being made in the “theater” section of the store. Production line didn’t stop when we were there. Also, it made sense that production had been non-stop considering the 24-hour constant drive-thru business. But I did not count, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Ms. Vickroy’s confirmation method is honest but flawed. Fifty-seven thousand is a lot of doughnuts. Absent direct observation or another reliable method, it might have been best to leave the numbers out. Reporting that doughnuts are made around the clock – if they are — is probably enough.

All that is assuming it’s worthwhile to do the story at all. The opening of a doughnut shop isn’t the best use of a reporter’s time, even for a community newspaper.

Kraft headline




“Merge” or acquire? The story makes it pretty clear that Kraft Heinz was offering to buy Unilever, not merge with it. There is a difference, and the Times certainly knows it.

The SABEW Stylebook, by Chris Roush and Bill Cloud, offers good guidance:

When two companies combine to form a new company, and the shareholders of each company own about 50 percent of the new company. Rarely, if ever, are there true mergers, although companies will announce takeovers as “mergers.” Be careful when using this word. The more appropriate word often is acquisition or takeover.

The euro was designed to be irrevocable. It’s the “Hotel California” principle, as in the Eagles’ song: you may wish to “check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” – (Associated Press)

Only about about 100 Google references to a “Hotel California principle” that do not refer to the euro. It’s always a good idea to skip cultural references, especially when they require a historical memory that many readers lack. “Hotel California” is a 40-year-old song. It’s like referring to “It Looks Like Rain in Cherry Blossom Lane” in a 1977 story.
Phillip Blanchard is a former business editor at the Washington Post. Previously he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times and newspapers in upstate New York. He is founder of Testy Copy Editors. Email:

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