Daily Brushback: What is Newsweek trying to say?

Today’s question is for Jon Meacham, Managing Editor of Newsweek.

LP: Mr. Meacham, on page 29 of your May 30 issue, you included the graph that’s reproduced here. Since the article and accompanying graphics all dealt with the growth of the US Latino population and their political influence, I took it to indicate that by the year 2020, Hispanics would comprise 60% of the US population. When it became clear that this figure wasn’t accurate, I showed the graphic to two colleagues, both journalism professors. One is a Ph.D. with over 20 years of newsroom experience, and the other is an investigative reporter who won one Pulitzer and was nominated for eight more. Both of them agreed: the chart says that Latinos will comprise 60% of the US population by the year 2020.

Since this isn’t even close to being factually accurate (depending on how we do the math, you were off by 30 years and over 100 million people), we can only conclude that despite being as well-resourced as any news magazine in the country, you produced a visual that was extremely misleading. Would you take a few moments to explain for us what it is that your graphics department meant to communicate with that chart?

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2 comments

  1. Perhaps a 60% INCREASE from 1979? The graph seems to chart a rise in population, which as Latino’s do not comprise 60% of the population, the next logical guess would be, by studying the relationship of the data to the graphics of the chart..an observation of the rate of increase in the population.

  2. I tried to imagine it as a growth rate chart of some sort, and it may be. Even if that’s what it is, it doesn’t let Newsweek off the hook. It’s a graf illustrating something, not a guess-what-this-is game…..
    I’m still pretty mad at myself for not jumping the problem sooner. I guess I was half asleep when I first saw it….

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