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A qualified but incomplete thanks to Gregg Easterbrook’s editor at Reuters

Dear Reuters editor:

Thanks for reading my blog and correcting the erroneous numbers in Easterbrook’s column from the other day.

I’m pretty sure you got the corrections from my blog because in your corrections you used the exact same links that I posted. I think your readers will like that you gave links to the sources of your numbers.

But I’d appreciate if you cite me! It’s considered polite to credit your sources rather than just copying over numbers and links with no mention of where they came from. Unlike Easterbrook, I’m not expecting to be paid for this material but I’d still like to be thanked.

(See the last paragraph of this post by Felix Salmon for more on the desirability of linking to your sources.)

Also, since you’re correcting the article anyway, maybe you could go back and change this sentence too:

But don’t sell Huntsman short because he is low in the polls – Obama had been at that point, too.

As I noted earlier,

As of 14 Oct 2011, Gallup gives Huntsman 2% support among Republicans. That puts him behind the leaders: No Opinion and Mitt Romney (tied at 20% each), Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachman. Rick Santorum is ahead of Huntsman, for chrissake. Google that, pal!

What about Obama? How was he polling in October, 2007? He was in second place with 21% support (compared to Hillary Clinton at 50%). So, yeah, anything could happen—but there’s a big difference between 21% and 2%.

Finally, you might want to follow another one of the links on my blog post and explain to your readers that the idea that Obama might lose in 2012 is not new, that political scientist Doug Hibbs floated the idea (with supporting evidence) several months ago.

I know this is a lot of editing, but now that you’ve started, why not finish the job?

Yours etc.,

Andrew Gelman
Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science
Columbia University

P.S. You might wonder why this bothers me so much. First, the mistakes appeared in Reuters, which I think of as a news organization that tries to get its facts right. Second, electoral politics is one of my areas of research and it bugs me when people get things wrong. I don’t want to start a side career pointing out that “something is wrong on the internet” (as xkcd put it), but now that I happened to notice this one, I’d like to follow it up.


  1. Paul says:

    I thought that there were plenty of predictions that the winner of the 2008 election would lose in 2012, and as soon as Obama won, they became predictions that Obama would lose in 2012. For example:

  2. You should be paid when Reuters (a rich organization!) uses your work.

    • In this case, he could use a Creative Commons license in which reproduction of the blog’s content by for profit corporations would have come cost. However, I don’t think that facts and links can be copyrighted…


  3. Gabe says:

    Love that this was filed under Zombies.

  4. Chris Beeley says:

    I love your “something is wrong on the internet” posts. I wish they could be your whole career! (nothing against your actual career, obviously, but it doesn’t make for such genius blog posts).

  5. Dave Backus @ NYU says:

    That may be the future of the media. The question is what we can do about it.