Hold That Headline and Get Me Rewrite

October 25, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Here’s a headline and first two paragraphs from a Reuter’s story today.

Obama lead on McCain
slips to 9 points

Sat Oct 25, 2008 1:05am EDT

By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama's lead over Republican rival John McCain fell slightly to 9 points, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released Saturday, the second consecutive day the race has narrowed.

Obama leads McCain by 51 percent to 42 percent in the rolling three-day tracking poll, which has a margin of error of 2.9 points. Obama led by 10 points Friday and 12 points on Thursday.

Does the press really know so little about statistics? Or is it just that they work on the assumption that change is more newsworthy than stability.

Here, thanks to Pollster, are several polls all taken in the same two or three days this week. You could pick any two and claim an ominious slip or optimistic gain for either candidate.

The trouble is, your story won’t get noticed as much if it has a headline like this.

Latest Polls Show Usual
Variation Due to Sampling Error

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