Wednesday, February 24, 2021

4698 Big Numbers


 America has just hit half a million Covid deaths.  A tragic figure and one that probably would have been smaller at this point had the White House not lied to us about the pandemic’s severity.


We in the business of reporting the news have this obsession with benchmark numbers, which usually are too large or ungainly to grasp. So here is some perspective.


500-thousand is about the population of Atlanta.  Can you imagine everyone in there losing their lives over the course of about a year? Chances are, you can’t.  It’s too big a number over too large an area for the typical human to imagine.


Here’s another.  If you lined up 500,000 feet of Toyota Corollas in a massive traffic jam, you would need about 33,000 of them.  If you had half a million gallons of water, it would fill up most but not all of an Olympic sized swimming pool.  You could buy half-a-million McDonald’s hamburgers if there were no tax on them. Or 666,000 Hershey Bars. Or 125-thousand copies of the National Enquirer.


The point is these big numbers don’t mean much.  Here are some others:

--60 Home Runs in one baseball season.

--Seven Superbowl rings in ten years.

--4500 Big Macs per minute.


The important figure to you depends on how many deaths have there been among your friends, family and neighbors? How many Big Macs did you eat for lunch? How many times did your little league kid’s bat connect with a thrown ball this season?


But we can’t report that stuff. We try. We do little stories about a 100-year-old nun in France who survived a bout with Covid. Or how long it took to get through the drive-through line at Wendy’s.  These items make an impact. But we still need those huge incomprehensible numbers.


Why?  Is this something the media force on us? Or is it just easier to talk about?  Are these numbers important to us or do they just make it easier to ignore?


President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic package?  Who can visualize a figure of that size? We could present perspectives as we just did with the half-million deaths. Would that help? Would your mind’s eye be able to see a wall of two trillion one-dollar burgers?  Of course not.  It’s hard enough to get through the camping song “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” or seven million Texans standing in their kitchens boiling pots of water after the recent cold and snowstorm.


If someone can come up with an alternative, there are 50-thousand reporters waiting for your solution.  And ten thousand editors.  And three readers.



Remembering Fern Karen Mullen Baptista, friend, neighbor, reader and relentless comment poster on the Facebook page of this blog.  Fern passed away this week after a brief illness. She is survived by her husband Tom, her son Josh, two sisters and a brother. And by hundreds of friends who appreciated and admired her loving art and her loving heart.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Any Questions?

© WR 2021


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