Biggest numbers best

A journalese rule is that the biggest possible number is the best number. For example, a political hack knows his statement,  “Thousands of Senator Blowhard supporters packed the hall,” will be run uncritically  by a sympathetic editor  who won’t bother to check out that the hall capacity is 100 at the most. Another example is the police propencity to break down their seizures into the smallest units. Thus, seizing 5000 bullets will get far better play than saying tha 100 boxes were seized. Smuggled cigarettes are best, since customs agents always report them as if they are sold by the piece. Sweden’s largest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, on Nov. 4, 2016, had a short story with the number in large red type as the headline:

cigarettes in a car

Now that’s a real haul. Far, far better than 395 cartons. The story included a prosecutor’s estimate that the state would have been cheated out of the equivalent of $16,000 in taxes if the cigarettes were sold. It would have been better if the reporter found a physician who could estimate how many cancer cases were prevented by getting those smokes off the street.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *