Dear CNN

Dear CNN,

I know figuring out ways to fill airtime is hard.

I know you’re going to resort to ripping off other news organizations and muddle through giving them credit for those stories.

And certainly, this great opinion piece by the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins about horse racers breeding irresponsibly in search for speed beyond anything else is worthy of mention. The Gazette ran a copy of it this morning in the sports section.

But I have a couple of concerns:

According to several estimates, there are 1.5 career-ending breakdowns for every 1,000 racing starts in the United States. That’s an average of two per day.

That’s a crazy statistic, but it doesn’t need to be inflated. So no, Don Lemon, 1.5 is not “almost two” as you say. It’s 1.5. Even for extremely large values of 1.5.

And was it really necessary to drag an expert out of his California bed in the middle of the night so he could be interviewed on an east-coast morning show with a pitch-black racetrack behind him? Have you no sympathy?

3 thoughts on “Dear CNN

  1. Peter

    Although the statistic is not presented very clearly, there is nothing necessarily incorrect about it. There is an average of 1.5 breakdowns per 1000 racing starts. There is no information presented regarding the average number of racing starts PER DAY. It’s obviously more than 1000. Knowing the number of racing starts PER DAY would let you calculate the average breakdowns per day. By calculating backwards, I figure an average of about 1333 racing starts per day. I assume the authors of the study on which the numbers are based made this information available, but it was omitted from the article itself.

    Not having seen the CNN program, It’s difficult comment on Don Lemon’s statement. Did he say “almost 2 per day” or “almost 2 per 1000 races”? It makes a difference. The statistic as presented in the article may be unclear, but it’s not inflated.

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  2. Beeg

    You can blame the CNN guy for doing a lousy job of repeating what Jenkins wrote, but Peter is still correct. Let’s revisit what you wrote:

    “‘According to several estimates, there are 1.5 career-ending breakdowns for every 1,000 racing starts in the United States. That’s an average of two per day.’

    “That’s a crazy statistic, but it doesn’t need to be inflated. So no, Don Lemon, 1.5 is not “almost two” as you say. It’s 1.5. Even for extremely large values of 1.5.”

    You are inferring that there are 1,000 racing starts in the U.S. every year. It’s quite possible there are 1,333 – as possible as it is that there are 1,000, no? Now, if there were about 1,300 racing starts per year, both statements would be correct (well, within close spitting distance of correct) – 1.5 breakdowns per 1,000 starts and two per day.

    According to In Defense of Animals (http://www.idausa.org/facts/racing.html), about 800 horses die in races each year, which is actually more than Jenkins wrote, though I imagine nobody will condemn her for under-representing the actual figure.

    This claim is repeated in a PETA factsheet (http://www.peta.org/factsheet/files/FactsheetDisplay.asp?ID=65). Though it provides a list of references, it doesn’t cite in-text. Boooo!

    And who said they dragged anybody anywhere? Dude got to be on CNN! He was probably excited to be on, god knows why.

    Copy editing is fun!

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