A mistake I made in next week's column has be examining how and where I get my information. I wrote the column yesterday morning, about how breaking our oil addiction will help solve most of the big problems this country faces. In that version, I quoted a figure for oil imports for March I got from a Bloomberg article:
Imports decreased 2.9 percent, the most since December 2001, to $206.7 billion. Purchases of crude oil dropped, even as the average price for the month jumped to a record $89.85. The quantity of petroleum bought from overseas was the lowest since February 2007.
But last night I was looking at other materials showing we import about 13 billion barrels of oil a day. That's a lot of oil, but even at $125 a barrel, that doesn't add up to $206 billion a month. I sent out a correction to everyone right away, so hopefully disaster has been averted.
What the Bloomberg article meant to say was that $206 billion was the total of all imports for that month, not just oil. The wording of the sentence and the header above make it very confusing.
After some self examination, I found something interesting about my sources of information. When dealing with a major media source (NY Times, WaPost, etc.), you can argue about the slant or tone of an article, but their editing and fact checking processes usually mean that government facts and figures contained in them are correct. But just because the facts are correct, doesn't mean they are presented in the correct way.
I also tend to trust information that comes from conservative and business sources more than I do from liberal sources. Why? It's because I'm more likely to be challenged by conservatives, so tend to do a lot more double-checking of items I gather from liberal sources, just to cover my bases.
Then sometimes you just get a brain fart and screw things up. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the top income tax bracket was 33 percent. It's actually 35 percent. I was thinking of the bracket the Bush administration was pushing for with the tax cuts, not the rate that became law.
Everyone needs fact checkers to examine their work. When you work for a small company like I do, there's not a lot of fact checking, so it's kind of like walking a high wire without a net. Hopefully you all will help me in this regard.
Glenn Greenwald has a great post that all reporters should read. It talks about the Samantha Power quote that got her in trouble, where she tried to retroactively make it off the record. The UK reporter refused, which riled some US reporters.
Greenwald scolds American journalists for their tendency to give the powerful in this country a pass, which is been very damaging. Here is a sample:
The number one rule of the standard establishment journalist is to avoid offending the powerful because the more offense they give, the fewer favors the powerful will do for the journalists. Conversely, and by logical necessity, the more journalists please the powerful, the more favors the powerful will do for them. As Carlson put it: "People don't talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did." I can't think of any single dynamic that better explains what has happened the last eight years than that one.