Monday, November 26, 2012

Silliness Insider

Publish first; ask questions later.

UCLA is a very safe campus located in a famously low-crime area of Los Angeles. You wouldn’t know this from a story on the website Business Insider that runs under the misleading headline, The 25 Most Dangerous Colleges In America.

The story puts UCLA at the top of the list. That erroneous claim came as a shock at UCLA, especially to the officials who report crime statistics to the FBI every year, as do most campuses. They knew immediately that the story was way off.  It got us wondering how Business Insider could get it so wrong.

It turns out that what Business Insider reports as "crimes on college campuses" is not that at all.  The statistics used by the website use crime reports taken by University of California police based at UCLA. Problem is, UCLA police take crime reports from a wide area: the campus itself, the neighboring residential and business districts of Westwood, West Los Angeles and beyond, and from UCLA medical centers and clinics around Los Angeles County, which has a population of more than nine million people. The statistics cited by Business Insider paint a picture of a much larger urban area than just the campus.

Westwood, where UCLA is located, consistently ranks as one of the communities most free of crime in all of Los Angeles County.  The Los Angeles Times publishes analyses of serious crimes and, for the latest six-month period, notes that Westwood has one of the region's lowest rates of violent crime – 186th out of  209 communities mapped, many of them small rural enclaves.  That’s the reality in UCLA’s neighborhood...

One of the contemporary problems in journalism today is that it's easy to get access to all kinds of data and publish them - thanks to the Internet - without knowing what they mean.  A shocking headline can go viral and attract "eyeballs" to your website, so the temptation is to publish first and ask questions later.

Anyway, perhaps Business Insider might ask Inspector Clouseau to investigate further:

No comments: