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Inside The Globe

Public Editor Sylvia Stead responds to readers and gives a behind-the-scenes look

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Public editor: Sometimes the number just doesn’t make any sense Add to ...

Many of the corrections in The Globe and Mail are related to numbers. Reporters will get ages and dates wrong and it is difficult for an editor to check that.

And then there are mistakes that when you stand back, you realize that the number just didn’t make sense. So it’s not really a math weakness; it’s a question of logic.

So far this year, there have been 77 corrections related to a number, age, address, date, percentage, etc. Here are two of the math logic ones:

“An earlier version of this article misstated the loss that analysts expect Target will report on its Canadian operations. The expected loss is $800-million to $900-million, not $8-billion to $9-billion.”

“A Saturday Report on Business article on the Super Bowl incorrectly said advertisers are paying about $4-billion (U.S.) for 30 seconds of airtime on this year’s broadcast. In fact, the correct figure is $4-million.”

Some stories require great expertise so I was not surprised to see this correction: “In a Tuesday Report on Business article on narrow high-rises, the explanation on the allowable lateral force for buildings is misstated. The allowable lateral force is 17.5 milli-g’s, which equals 1.75 per cent of the pull of gravity, not 0.175 as published.”

Last week, we heard from readers about an advertorial feature on engineering that ran in the last few pages of the Report on Business. The advertorial copy was marked “Information Feature” and an “Engineering in Canada” Special feature and it was not written by Globe staff. In my view, it could and should be more obvious to the readers that it is advertorial and not editorial since a number of readers wrote letters to the editor pointing out a very strange math error and didn’t mention that it was advertorial copy.

The article said Canada “has actually been warming up over the last six decades by an average of 1.6 degrees Celsius each year…”

If you do the math, as Globe readers did, you will wonder how Canada’s temperature could increase by 96 degrees Celsius.

“Really? A temperature increase of 96 degrees Celsius in the last 60 years? I hadn’t noticed,” said one.

The advertorial is here online and its copy has been fixed.

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Follow on Twitter: @SylviaStead

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