Numbers don’t lie…or can they? Interesting case of Illinois’s tax increase

In 2011, the state of Illinois increased its state income tax rate from 3% to 5%. One could communicate this by saying that people will be paying 2% more of their incomes to state taxes which doesn’t sound all that bad since Illinois increased its rate rate 2%. Or you could say that Illinois increased its state income tax by 66% which sounds catastrophic and is also correct because you’re changing what the number actually is referring to. Increasing from 3 to 5 is an increase of 66% (or 66.6% to be more accurate with a bar over the last 6 but I don’t know how to do that on a keyboard). People would react to the news differently depending on how you communicate even though both could be considered correct.

Here are two different sites reporting the story. Notice how the choice of language and numbers changes the feel of each story even though they are both reporting the same news.

Podcast: Radiolab: Outside Westgate

“In the wake of public tragedy there is a space between the official narrative and the stories of the people who experienced it. Today, we crawl inside that space and question the role of journalists in helping us move on from a traumatic event.

NPR’s East Africa correspondent Gregory Warner takes us back to the 2013 terrorist attacks on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Warner reported on the attack as it happened, listening to eyewitness accounts, sorting out the facts, establishing the truth. But he’s been been wrestling with it ever since as his friends and neighbors try not only to put their lives back together, but also try to piece together what really happened that day.”

I made a shorter version of this podcast to play in class:

For Air Crash Detectives, Seeing Isn’t Believing

“The investigators say there is no evidence in the wreckage or on the flight recorders of an in-flight fire or explosion. A plane breaking up in flight, as this one did, might in its last moments produce flashes of fire from engines ripping loose, but the idea that the plane caught fire is a trick of memory, they say.”

MSNBC’s Maddow Shows ‘Piss Christ’ But Not Latest ‘Charlie Hebdo’

“On April 18, 2011 Maddow and her network had no difficulty showing and discussing the “Piss Christ” photo by Andres Serrano after it was destroyed in a museum in France by protestors upset with the image of a crucifix submerged in urine.”