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Category: Facts

Journalism: “Oregon ranks high in rising rate of natural disasters”

Journalism: “Oregon ranks high in rising rate of natural disasters”

The news headline says Oregon ranks high in natural disasters, which the text explains, is wildfires in the State.

This claim comes from a press release from a small, little known online Internet insurance sales web site. This type of press release is put out in hopes of garnering free publicity – and it certainly worked for them – in large part because the media, like all of us, is more likely to succumb to a fear-based scary headline.

However, if we practice factfulness and look at the long term trend in Oregon fires we see that a small rise at the right end of the chart has been translated into a crisis and a catastrophe. The chart above is the official chart from the Oregon government’s Fire Statistics page, and shows actual acreage burned and total fires burned in Oregon since 1911.

The slight increase at the extreme right edge is the basis for the scary headline. By leaving out all historical context and by focusing on large percentile increase in a tiny number at the right edge of the chart, the media creates unwarranted fear and hysteria in viewers.

Journalism: “Fears of economic recession could derail the holiday shopping season – MarketWatch” – Social Panic

Journalism: “Fears of economic recession could derail the holiday shopping season – MarketWatch” – Social Panic

A month ago, the media gave us scary stories that “Fears of an economic recession could derail the holiday shopping season”. Actual sales rose by +3.4% year over year, even with a shopping season that was six days shorter than the prior year. Unfortunately, mindless speculative “news” is used to fill up air time and web page time with something new.

Busted: “11 teens die a day from texting and driving”

Busted: “11 teens die a day from texting and driving”

An Internet meme says “11 teens die each day from texting while driving”. This claim, however, is false. In 2017, an average of 6 teens died each day from all vehicle accident causes. Cell phone usage falls within the distracted driving category. According to the government, distracted driving accounts for 9% of all crashes – therefore, cellphone usage is even less than this.