Analysis: Numbers

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The Herald Sun's article about the recent floods in Japan uses numbers in several ways.

Many approximate counts of people who have been told to evacuate are reported, such as the 400,000 total people "ordered or advised" to leave their homes. That count then narrows down to region and then prefectures.

The number of landslides that occurred and houses damaged were also listed, as well as the number of casualties, centimeters of rain that fell in three days, and the centimeters of rain that fell per hour on Friday.

Many of the numbers are very overwhelming, and frankly too specific and unnecessary to include in this story. With all of the listed numbers of evacuation in regions that I'm not sure even Australians have heard of, the reporter would have been better off converting those numbers into percentages so the reader can get a better idea of the scope of the evacuation.

For example, saying that in the Fukuoka prefecture 78,600 people were ordered to evacuate has no real meaning to anyone who doesn't know the population of Fukuoka. If there were 80,000 residents, that would be far different than if there were to be 500,000 people in that region.

Had the reader used math to find the percent of the populations were ordered to evacuate, this story would have much more impact.

Sources of the numbers are fairly clear, citing Kyushu's local media and the Fukuoka prefecture spokesman. Otherwise, "officials said" is used, being more vague as to where these approximations and numbers actually came from.

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This page contains a single entry by grove276 published on July 15, 2012 11:45 PM.

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