Beat the Press

Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting


No Correction on Mexican Growth at the Washington Post

To those following the issue, the Washington Post still has not corrected the error in its reporting on Mexico’s post NAFTA growth rate (“Mexican Deportee’s U.S. Sojourn Illuminates Roots of Current Crisis,” 4-17-06:A1). My April 18th post noted that the growth data reported in this article implied that Mexico had enjoyed an average GDP growth rate of 17.5 percent a year in the post-NAFTA era, which would be a world record. The IMF data show Mexico’s growth rate at a weak 2.9 percent.

While the Post has taken a strong pro-NAFTA position on its editorial page, I wrote and continue to believe that this error was an honest mistake. The failure to correct this error after it has been called to their attention is harder to explain. (I also noted a similar error on growth in the Post’s Sunday Outlook section, but we can give opinion writers more leeway.)

Since the Post will make an effort to correct misspelled names in wedding announcements, it is difficult to understand its refusal to correct a major error in a front page news article.


  • At 9:23 AM, Anonymous PH said…

    So you sent them a letter?

  • At 9:43 AM, Blogger Dean Baker said…

    yes, they have been notified (repeatedly).

  • At 10:31 AM, Blogger Charles said…

    I wonder if you have commented on another WaPo atrocity, the We Are Now All Above Average graph. A rightwing poster to our blog claimed that it showed that we were all becoming gloriously rich.

    Doing a full take-down would require me to spend more time than I have, but it seems to me that this graph cleverly manages to (a) forget that a greater percentage of Americans of working age are working, and (b) that the age of the working population has risen. I wouldn't be surprised if it has also used the PPI as the deflator, or used total compensation instead of wages, or some such other nonsense, since as I recall, median family income was dead flat from 1975-1995, got a nice bump at the end of Clinton II, and has been heading down ever since.

  • At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    At some point, these kind of 'errors,' especially if left uncorrected, must no longer be considered careless mistakes but rather examples of bias or propaganda.

  • At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    '...The failure to correct this error after it has been called to their attention is harder to explain."

    You are kidding, right?

  • At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have brief for the Post on this one but having spent some time in the biz, I think I can say--this is the kind of thing newspapers don't correct. Pressed to the wall, they would say, the arithmetic is accurate, and whether you use inflation adjusted or not is a matter of taste and I remember something from Econ 1A about how index numbers were artificial anyway.

    To expect to find a reporter who can add is to expect a lot.

  • At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry: "/no/ brief"

  • At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In addition to Dean's letter perhaps we too should email the reporter. If you follow the link to the article there is a link to email the reporter. I emailed the reporter a few days ago.


  • At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why do we expect foreign countries' GDP reports adjusted for inflation when ours aren't? Our numbers just came out as +4.8% for the quarter, is this adjusted for inflation? When we go back and review yearly performance, we just hear the totals, and assume inflation is low enough to not affect it much, since that's how it's been for quite a while. Thus with other countries they report the raw numbers, misleading though it may be.

    We seem to be getting to a point where our inflation is high enough to put a new light on our GDP numbers. Am I wrong or is this not being done?

  • At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know, still not trying to apologize for the Post--this might be a good time & place for a discussion of the difficulties with index numbers and whether and how and how much responsible press might deal with those difficulties.

  • At 10:18 PM, Blogger Dean Baker said…

    It is standard to report growth after adjusting for inflation. If growth was simply reported in nominal terms (without distinguishing real growth from inflation), then it would be impossible to determine whether an economy was growing or just experiencing inflation.


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