Friday, September 05, 2008
"A spokesperson for Wenner Media, which publishes Us, says “it is completely false that we are losing 10,000 subscribers.” As for the 5,000 estimate, the spokesperson only said “that is false, too,” but wouldn’t comment further."That statement reminds me of an anecdote from law school:
A deadbeat ex-husband was brought before a Michigan judge for failure to pay alimony. He (naturally) claimed he didn't have the money. The wife blurted out, "That's a lie! He has $100,000 in a bank account in Cleveland."
The judge turned to the man and asked, "Do you have $100,000 in a bank account in Cleveland?"
"No, your honor."
"Do you have a bank account in Cleveland or anywhere else in Ohio?"
"Yes, your honor."
"How much is in it?"
"About $98,500, your honor."
Needless to say, the woman got her back alimony.
The point of the story is, of course, when the question contains too much detail, it's easy to give a technically truthful but misleading answer. Likewise when someone makes a statement that contains a precise number of any kind. People should keep that in mind, especially during election season.
The media are supposed to be smart enough to pick up on weasel words like this, and continue questioning until the facts are revealed, or the subject refuses to answer. From what I've seen, they're only that smart when they're interviewing Republicans and others who are "out of favor."