Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vox has an editing problem

Vox aspires to "deliver contextual information more cleanly, clearly, and regularly." It was founded by Ezra Klein, who substantially built his career at the Washington Post through vigorous, factual reporting on the Affordable Care Act.

So one would expect Vox to be particularly careful about the facts in its reporting on Obamacare, right?

This is how Vox initially covered changes in the uninsured under Obamacare. It takes about two seconds to recognize the problem: if "we got 7 million rather than 8 million" signups for Obamacare, that means the CBO's projection was an overestimate, not an underestimate. What actually happened is that we got 8 million rather than the 7 million the CBO originally predicted.

Today, it happened again:

Same topic: changes in the uninsured. And another simple mistake: Vox claims that Kansas is "The one state that managed to have its uninsured rate increase". But look at the actual map, and it identifies three: Kansas at over 2%, Virginia and Iowa at less than 2% but greater than 0%.

Are these mistakes just in my head? Nope - look articles one and two and you'll see that both mistakes have been corrected. And that's great! But I have two concerns.

First, every Vox byline includes an "updated" timestamp. This is a great way to establish credibility that a lot of blogs use - it's demonstrates to readers that they aren't trying to quietly slip in changes (controversial or otherwise) under the radar. But in both cases, Vox didn't actually indicate that they updated their blog. So instead of establishing credibility, Vox's timestamp affirmatively tells readers that no changes have taken place when they actually did.

How do I know this? Because I requested the changes! Here is where I pointed out the first mistake to Vox; here is where I pointed out the second mistake. In both cases the "updated" timestamp is the same as the timestamp on the Vox tweet I'm replying to - that's because they never actually updated the article's timestamp after they made the change.

The second problem: if your contribution to journalism is delivering "information more cleanly," you've got to get that part right the first time. If you just took material from Gallup and HuffPo, accidentally made it more difficult to understand, and only ended up clarifying it after help from Twitter, what exactly have you accomplished? I'm a big fan of both Klein, Yglesias and Kliff (who did the map article), but come on dudes