CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The morning metro daily's print and online versions have headlines reporting the Census Bureau says "27%" of Cincinnati's residents live in poverty. But the Census Bureau never said that. It said 27% of Cleveland's residents live in poverty.
Suspicious minds might be tempted to think the newspaper deliberately fashioned a spinmeister headline so as not to reveal that Cincinnati had the highest poverty rate in Ohio. Would they be correct? Or was it just sloppy journalism? Without a change, the 27% number is going to be the figure that many search engines will find as they mine through news coverage of the U.S. poverty data.
The true and correct Census number for Cincinnati is higher, and is pegged at 27.8%. If the headline writer wanted to eliminate the decimal point, the proper move would have been to round the number up to 28%. The simplest rule of rounding as it is generally followed outside the Enquirer's newsroom is that one goes up --or down -- from the halfway mark. In this case, it would have been up from .5, because Cincinnati was at 27.8%. The error means the page 1-A headline in the Enquirer's print edition made this incorrect declaration in bold type: "Census: Poverty rate rises to 27% in city." In fact, the poverty rate exceeded that number.
To compound the confusion, the Enquirer did have the correct data in a chart and story accompanying the headline. Yet if one read that publication alone, there was no way to know which figures are correct.
So, which American big cities had 27% of their residents in poverty? As mentioned earlier, Cleveland. Also Miami, at 26.9% -- a number that rounds up to 27%. And St. Louis, at 26.8% -- a number that rounds up to 27%.