Friday, October 1, 2010

Junk Science At The New York Times?

The New York Times employs Wunderkind statistician and analyst Nate Silver, they also host the Freakonomics blog and those dudes are pretty good at mathematics too, so it makes me wonder how they managed to write an article as piss poor and error filled as this one: Crime Blotter Has A Regular: Yankees Caps. If you actually read the piece carefully you'll find that in the author's trolling of the crime statistics he's found, over the last 10 years, 100 instances of criminals wearing NY Yankees merchandise while doing their dirty deeds. Out of the tens of thousands of serious crimes committed in New York over the last decade he found a few score of people who wore New Yankees caps in, er, New York! And on this basis he writes his article? Does anyone even bother with journalism school anymore? I mean, seriously. The author doesn't actually tell us his rubrick for determining what a "serious crime" is and his link to the statistics is a dead one that takes you to back to the NYT website. The main claim of the piece is that NY Yankees caps have become some sort de facto of gangster uniform but this is not actually supported by the data. His information is statistically meaningless and all the inferences and subsequent suppositions he makes (Jay Z is to blame, Yankees fans are more violent than, say, hipster Mets fans) are pure junk science. Maybe Nate Silver, who used to work for Baseball Prospectus before joining the NYT, could take a look at his data and see if I'm wrong about this, but I don't think I am. To me this looks like another sneering piece of Yankee bashing which has long been the speciality of The New York Times. Of course the story was picked up and run without being checked by NESN in Boston...Sigh.