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Posts Tagged ‘Dow Jones Industrial Average

“Indeed, you won the elections, but I won the count”*…

 

Count

 

“There’s nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” snapped US coronavirus task-force leader Deborah Birx at a White House meeting earlier this month. According to news reports, Birx was frustrated at the agency’s tally of coronavirus deaths, as she and colleagues worried that reported numbers were up to 25 percent too high. However, if some people inside the Beltway think the counts are inflated, others think they’re too low—and the seemingly simple task of tabulating bodies has become an intensely political act.

It’s a bizarre situation, because in some sense, there’s nothing more inherently impartial than a tally of objects. This is why the act of counting is the gateway from our subjective, messy world of confused half-truths into the objective, Platonic realm of indisputable facts and natural laws. Science almost always begins with counting, with figuring out how to measure or tabulate something in a consistent, reproducible way. Yet even that very first rung on the ladder to scientific understanding is slippery when the act of counting gets entangled with money or power…

With contested vote tallies, concerns over Census data, and now the Covid-19 death toll, 2020 may mark the ugly climax of a long dispute: “The Politics of Counting Things Is About to Explode.”

And for a case study in why the terrifically-difficult underlying mechanics of “counting” lend themselves to politicization, FiveThirtyEight’s “The Uncounted Dead.”

* Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, quoted in the Guardian (London), June 17, 1977

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As we contemplate calculation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1896 that the Dow Jones Average made its first appearance in the Customers’ Afternoon Letter, the precursor to the Wall Street Journal.  It was named for two of the Letter‘s three reporters, Charles Dow and Edward Jones. It was originally comprised of 12 companies (now 30).  Although it is one of the most commonly followed equity indices, many consider it to be an inadequate representation of the overall U.S. stock market compared to broader market indices such as the S&P 500 Index or Russell 3000 because the Dow only includes 30 large cap companies, is not weighted by market capitalization, and does not use a weighted arithmetic mean.

300px-DJIA_historical_graph_to_jul11_(log).svg

Historical (logarithmic) graph of the DJIA from 1896 to 2010

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The Future of Journalism, Part (Deep) Six: Caveat Lector…

More and more frequently, across a broader and broader swath of the press, we’re seeing the wages of increased competition with decreased resources…  Sometimes it’s print or television news services simply transcribing (or in the case of video, lightly editing) P.R. material; sometimes, the “restraint” that keeps reporters from pursuing unpleasant topics with interviewees– celebrities, politicians, or athletes– in order to guarantee continued access.   Sometimes it’s the insinuation of a reporter’s personal opinions into pieces via a “some experts claim” quote; sometimes, the simple laziness that grafts unchecked Wikipedia text directly into the body of a story.  Journalism just ain’t what it used to be– or at least, it’s not what one remembers thinking that it should have been.

Happily, British coder, designer, tech maven, and all-round nifty guy Tom Scott has ridden to the rescue with Journalism Warning Labels.

Readers in the U.K. can grab an A4 13-by-5 sheet of stickers (they’re labelled as ’65 per sheet’ or Avery L7651), and print out this PDF template.  American readers can use the version that fits on Avery’s Letter-size 5160 labels (or equivalent).  And readers worldwide who consume their updates online, can head over to Eric Donovan’s Newscrud for “stickers” that can be applied to websites.

As we wonder what Ben Hecht would make of all of this, we might recall that it was on this date in 1896 that Charles Henry Dow established the Dow Jones Industrial Average, publishing it for the first time in Customer’s Afternoon Letter, the daily two-pager that was the precursor to The Wall Street Journal.  Of the original 12 stocks that made up the DJIA, only General Electric is still part of the Index.  (Others included such giants of yester-year as American Cotton Oil and National Lead.)  The Index opened at 40.26 (the dollar average of the dozen stocks it covered).  Within months it had dropped to its all-time low, 28.48, in the depth of the Panic of 1896.

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