Patterico's Pontifications


Do L.A. Times Editors Read Their Own Paper??

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 9:39 pm

Sometimes you have to wonder. Let’s start with today’s article titled New police station lifts spirits in Boyle Heights. It boasts the following picture and caption:

Officers or Explorers

Note well the caption’s description of the individuals pictured as “Los Angeles police officers.” Uh, I don’t think so. That powder-blue uniform doesn’t look like any LAPD uniform I have ever seen . . . but it sure does resemble the uniform worn by LAPD Explorers, members of a youth program run by the LAPD:

LAPD Explorers

Here, by way of contrast, is a real LAPD uniform as modeled by outgoing chief Bratton:

LAPD Uniform

The article also says:

The new station will house about 300 personnel who will serve nearly 200,000 people over a 15.8-mile radius that covers Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and other neighborhoods.

Wow. A 15.8-mile radius? That would encompass a lot of other neighborhoods.

A 15.8 mile radius means a 31.6 mile diameter — and that makes for a heck of a large circle. The territory of Hollenbeck station, which currently occupies a rather small area in East L.A. (see this LAPD station map) would now take up most of the L.A. Basin, swallowing up the territory of a dozen or more other community police stations. Here is a very, very rough depiction of the territory that would be covered by such a colossus:

15.8 Mile Radius Visual


Again: I don’t think so. Irony alert: I checked my fourth-grade daughter’s homework tonight, and guess what one of the concepts was? You guessed it! the concept of a radius! (She got it right.)

Now we move on to a story titled L.A. still has a few free rain collection installations to dole out, which boasts this scientifically questionable passage:

Although rain barrels are available from a variety of manufacturers in a variety of sizes, the city chose a 55-gallon capacity because, when full, the rain barrels will weigh a relatively manageable 200 pounds.

Does a full 55-gallon barrel of water really weigh only 200 pounds? It seems rather unlikely, given that a single gallon of water weighs about 8.3 pounds. I tried this online converter which gave me a result of about 459 pounds:

Weight of 55 Pounds of Water

I don’t know; maybe they’re employing a different definition of “full” than the one you would think they meant . . . (Do they consider it “full” when it’s less than half full? I’m halfway serious here.)

My anonymous tipster points out that these concepts (the meaning of “radius” and the weight of water) are rather standard concepts for 4th or 5th grade. But then, Susan Carpenter (the author of the second article) is the sort of person who thinks it’s funny to call someone a “cunning linguist” — and that’s right around a 4th- or 5th-grade level of humor, isn’t it? So maybe it’s just too early in the year for the teacher to have gotten to these concepts.

By the way, I can’t possibly pass up the opportunity to quote the closing observation of my tipster’s e-mail:

Seeing this level of errors on the simple things, are we supposed to trust these people with foreign policy analysis, or other stuff that a 5th grader would not necessarily know?

Readers of this site, of course, already know the answer to that question.

P.S. I’m too busy to write the Reader’s Rep, but anyone who wanted to bring these three undeniable errors to the attention of the Reader’s Rep would likely score a hat-trick of corrections with a single press of the send button. Copy me on the e-mail if you send one:

72 Responses to “Do L.A. Times Editors Read Their Own Paper??”

  1. That is one ugly building.

    ManlyDad (060305)

  2. Ditto.

    DRJ (b008f8)

  3. Susan Carpenter also wrote a very naive article about a biofuels product, getting the math very wrong.

    She should stick to writing about motorcycles.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  4. You bloggers, without your layers and layers of editers, are soo stupid. Don’t you understand that the 55 gallons of water in the drums chosen by the city way less because the city chose them?

    A pound of concrete ways less than a pound of feathers, right? So the city’s choice obviously ways less.


    Americano (dccda5)

  5. Just having a little fun.

    Americano (dccda5)

  6. Although I think the building does look neat.

    Americano (dccda5)

  7. Yeah, the city chose the 55-gallon capacity drum because it is the most common, cheapest large-sized container of water you can get…


    Also, I would LOVE to get my hands on a sample of one of them, as it sounds like it might violate a patent held by the company that used to employ me…

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  8. Are we sure that is indeed an LAPD building? Did they at least get that right?

    It’s sort of a Target/Frank Gehry style. Odd.

    Patricia (c95a48)

  9. Chicago water weighs less than LA water because it is cleaner. Everybody knows that.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  10. What’s the over-under on the LAPD getting a bunch of angry letters from dirty hippies about their apparent army of child soldiers?

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  11. Subliteracy in Carpenter’s article:
    “Repurposed from containers that once stored pickles, olives or syrup, the plastic won’t leech, in case the harvested rainwater is used to grow food.”

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  12. Leviticus – It’s too bad they’re not pictured with sidearms. Then it would be 100%.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  13. Did they at least get that right?

    It’s an Ikea.

    “POLICE” is Swedish for “Pray to your impotent gods that we include all the needed hardware to assemble what you buy”…

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  14. Hey, wood can be a real water-moocher. At least plastic isn’t.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  15. Chicago, where they dump their sewage 30 miles into the lake and get their drinking water from 15 miles offshore.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  16. The real story is the city official who okayed the design of that building. Looks like the stock room of a shoe store.

    DCSCA (9d1bb3)

  17. A tower with false lanais looks like a “projects” structure. And, look. Pre-made rock graffiti.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  18. The Times once ran a story on a million megawatt geothermal plant.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  19. “So…if she weighs less than a barrel of water … she’ll float and … she’s a witch!!”

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  20. I agree with Americano. I think it’s a neat-looking building. It’s great that residents are proud of it.

    I also like how it writes “Police” in bold letters, rather than one of those toothless euphemisms (“Public safety” etc.)

    And the L.A. Times errors were inexcusable. Reporters and editors should at barest minimum know the standard uniform for their own cops. The big, goofy faux badges should have been one tip-off.

    Myron (e63c20)

  21. But she got better!

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  22. You guys just aren’t scientifically literate. You’ve heard of heavy water? This is “light” water. Not only do the hydrogen atoms in the water make the 55-gallon drums lighter, they also make your voice really squeaky when you drink it.

    Also, water stored in these drums have fewer calories than regular water.

    Hoystory (08dea2)

  23. On the off-chance that anyone else likes the design — or for anyone looking for a chance to further ridicule it, more photos and a description from the architect are here:

    Myron (e63c20)

  24. That’s the station????

    It looks like a giant dresser with a whole bunch of drawers ajar to varying degrees.

    Blacque Jacques Shellacque (76097c)

  25. But then, Susan Carpenter (the author of the second article) is the sort of person who thinks it’s funny to call someone a “cunning linguist” — and that’s right around a 4th- or 5th-grade level of humor, isn’t it?

    I’d say it’s more of a high school thing . . . 5th graders might know what cunnilingus is, but I doubt they know its proper name.

    Daryl Herbert (38e6a5)

  26. If they read their own paper they might accidentally get a look at a Hiltzik column. This would send them to the restroom trying desperately to wash out their eyes and drive the water bill through the roof.

    epobirs (60643b)

  27. I was struck by the phrase “rain events”:

    The city estimates there are roughly 18 rain events in L.A. each year . . .

    I remember when we called them “storms.”

    grs (b9e726)

  28. I dunno, only LA’s finest would be texting during a photo op like the girl on the left…

    Maybe she’s tweeting about the totally rad building…or about how it looks like a bunch of window blinds that got stuffed in a dumptster.

    Steve B (5eacf6)

  29. #3 Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R.:

    She should stick to writing about motorcycles.

    Good heavens, no!

    Motorcycles are an adult toy, in that they are inherently more dangerous than other modes of transportation. Letting her write about motorcycles would result in blood in the streets!

    Let her stick to writing about walking…although I suspect she would get that wrong as well. (edc268)

  30. /And yes, I know that she is the “motorcycle writer” for the LAT.

    And I don’t think it a good idea. (edc268)

  31. I’m just glad the feds are considering bailing out some major newspapers. Barack can really help with word re-definitions.

    Corwin (ea9428)

  32. I’d be glad to edit their paper for them but they would need to put me on the payroll. Let them fix their own mistakes like in any other responsible profession.

    I only buy a tainted product once. It’s a pity there are no Amazon online reviews for newspapers. It’s a good thing they don’t run a hotel.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  33. The building is … how to put it… stunning. Looks like a bunch of drawers that haven’t been pushed all the way in. I expect to see a pair of pants hanging over the side.

    sierra (4be1ff)

  34. Notice there is one police officer in the picture 🙂 (at the front door)

    The building looks like a place in Shanghai where you pick up morally-questionable women for an evening of excitement/bodily harm

    Lord Nazh (899dce)

  35. Patterico, you’ve made an elementary mistake. That converter only works for ordinary water. It even warns you right there that sea water is heavier than normal water, so its conversions won’t be correct. Well, as any fule kno, rainwater is lighter than ordinary water; it must be, or how could it fly up in the sky? Ordinary water sits in sinks and koi ponds and swimming pools, and doesn’t rise up into the air and form clouds and stuff. Rain water does, so it must be lighter; probably hollow or something. Which is why 55 gallons of it, plus the barrel, will only weigh around 200 lbs. Next time stick to lore and leave sighence to those who are doing reel good in Mrs Chapman’s class.

    Milhouse (c11a4d)

  36. Oh, and the new police station will indeed serve a 15.8-mile radius, or 784 mi2, an area that certainly covers Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and a whole lot of other neighborhoods. What makes you think it won’t? Ah, I know what you’re thinking, how can a mere 300 personnel cover such a large area? Well, those spiffy new light uniforms will help — there’s a reason they’re not wearing the standard dark uniform you picture Bratton in — but you missed the crucial piece of information: they will only be serving nearly 200,000 people in that area. The sign-up list is already mostly full, so if you want to get in on this exciting new service you’d better act quickly, because it’s first come first served, and once they’ve reached their limit you’ll be stuck with the old and inefficient dark-uniformed LAPD.

    Milhouse (c11a4d)

  37. Two points.

    I’ve been telling my friends for years now to judge the accuracy of news reporting on how well they do with proveable, easily verifiable facts. Like the weight of a gallon of water. They don’t do very well.

    And people in Texas and all over the Southwest have been collecting rainwater to use for irrigating gardens and washing stuff for years. I’m surprised that LA being basically an artificial city that has survived and grown based on stealing water from all over the West and is now seeking to destroy the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta to satisfy its thirst hasn’t been collecting on an individual basis for years.

    glenn (757adc)

  38. Math is hard.
    ‘Journalism’ , not so much.

    MSM Journalist (663f70)

  39. Wow. A 15.8-mile radius? That would encompass a lot of other neighborhoods.:

    Let’s see Area = pi*r^2, so (15.8)(15.8)(3.1416) = 784 square miles.

    The new station will house about 300 personnel who will serve nearly 200,000…

    784 square miles serviced by 300 “personnel” is 1 staffer for every 2.6 sqare miles (about the size of Altadena).

    1 square mile = 640 acres, so 784 square miles equals 501,760 acres.

    501,760 acres divided by 200,000 residents is 2.5 acres per resident.

    Wee! This is fun

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  40. Somewhere in the bowels of the LAT resides a copy of Poor Richards’ Almanac, which has never been read, or they would know that old saw:
    A pint’s a-pound the world-around!
    But then, probably nobody knows how many pints are in a gallon, either.


    AD - RtR/OS! (5b5739)

  41. These are metric pounds they’re talking about.

    So, subtract 32 and divide by two.

    JayC (876deb)

  42. The only thing missing from that picture is laundry drooping over all those whatchamacallits. So, when the light and dark shirts start hanging, the building will look even more like bad communist architecture.

    PC14 (82e46c)

  43. #39, try reading comments before posting. I’ve already explained your error.

    #40, If Poor Richard really wrote that then he was a moron too, and might well have worked for the LAT. A pint isn’t a pound, even in America, where it is 16 fluid ounces, and thus heavier than 16 ounces avoirdupois; and it certainly isn’t a pound in the rest of the English-speaking world, where it’s 20 fluid ounces! (Not that the rest of the world uses these archaic measures any more.)

    Milhouse (c11a4d)

  44. Except, at 8.3-lbs/gallon, the rule-of-thumb that a pint’s a pound is correct since there are eight pints to a gallon measure. You have to remember that these little witticisms were made up in the Dark Ages; you know, before digital scales and measurements for specific gravity.


    AD - RtR/OS! (5b5739)

  45. Comment by Milhouse — 9/22/2009 @ 11:06 am

    #39, try reading comments before posting. I’ve already explained your error.

    Yeah – like I’m going to read all the comments. Be thankfull I didn’t avert my gaze as I quickly scrolled past yours.

    So what’s the “error”?

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  46. Comment by TakeFive — 9/22/2009 @ 10:23 am

    I defy anyone to find a “community” with the City of Los Angeles that has a population density of 1 person per 2.5 acres.
    These numbers (in the LAT) are complete BS!

    AD - RtR/OS! (5b5739)

  47. The “error” was the assumption that they would service everyone in that area.

    The joke is that you have to sign up to be protected… get it?

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  48. Los Angeles . . . has a population density of 1 person per 2.5 acres

    The real density is 32 people per 2.5 acres, which means that’s wrong by a factor of 32. That’s also 8,205 persons per square mile.
    Citizens per square mile involves more calculations.

    Official Internet Data Office (551c17)

  49. This is what happens when affirmative action and divirsity dominate your hiring, retention and promotion policies. You get complete idiots who have one and only one skill: they don’t alienate other liberals.

    smarty (eed5d4)

  50. #44, you don’t need digital scales and measurements for specific gravity to know that a pint, which is 20 fluid ounces (except in the USA) is not going to weigh even approximately a pound. Nor do you need digital scales and measurements to know that a US fluid ounce is slightly but noticeably bigger than an ounce avoirdupois, and that when comparing even a US pint to a pound that difference will be 16 times bigger. Whoever made up that little rhyme was a provincial ignoramus much like the LAT’s alleged fact-checkers. And much like you, since I’ve already explained this but your eyes obviously just glaze over as soon as they encounter words like “avoirdupois”.

    Milhouse (c11a4d)

  51. #45, having been told that your error has already been explained in the comments, if you’re still too lazy to read them then it’s your fault.

    Milhouse (c11a4d)

  52. Milhouse, you seem ignorant of the fact that fluid ounces is a volumetric measure, and that ounces avoidupois is a measure of mass.

    So I don’t think you should be telling anyone else about errors …

    SPQR (26be8b)

  53. BTW, Milhouse, speaking of your ignorance, the imperial gallon was once defined as the volume of ten avoirdupois pounds of water at room temperature.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  54. Dear Mr. Milhouse:
    If, as the example posted states, a gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds, and (in the United States, where this blog is) a U.S. gallon contains 128 fluid ounces, and a U.S. pint contains 16 fluid onces; then, one U.S. pint of 16 fluid ounces will weigh approximately 1.0375 pounds, or one-eighth of the weight of one fluid gallon (of water).
    BTW, even the Brits have gotten away from Imperial gallons, and other nonsense when they were jerked into the modern world via the Metric System and the Common Market (now EU), though I am quite positive that (just as there are here) you can find a few moss-backs who steadfastly resist any new inovation.

    AD - RtR/OS! (5b5739)

  55. Looks like Milhouse might want to sign up for some more classes at the adult school.

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  56. Aren’t newspapers supposed to be written at a fourth grade level? But even so, the LAT doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

    kimsch (2ce939)

  57. You’re all missing the point. A 55-gallon drum of water weighs exactly what President Obama says it does…

    MD in Philly (d4f9fa)

  58. It’s almost getting too easy to catch the Los Angeles Times, eh, Patterico?

    (You have to love the way he elegantly delegates the task of writing the Readers’ Representative to his commenters.)

    Official Internet Data Office (551c17)

  59. Well, this does explain the water shortage.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  60. If water-on-the-brain was a usable commodity, the LAT would be a world-class resource.

    AD - RtR/OS! (f05962)

  61. So, has anybody heard back from those clowns?

    Richard Aubrey (fcae47)

  62. Richard,
    The Times has published a partial correction to the police station story:

    Boyle Heights police station: A caption in Sunday’s California section, accompanying a photo and article about the opening of a Boyle Heights police station, misidentified Explorer Scouts in the photo as L.A. police officers. —

    The part about the 15.6 mile radius has not been corrected. I guess the LA Times editors are still struggling with the difficult concept of radius.

    Perhaps they can get tutoring from Patterico’s daughter.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  63. As many regular posters here know, I was once a working journalist and I know a few who still toil in that field.

    I can tell you that they’re not “dumb” in the sense that they’re stupid. They’re “dumb” in the sense that after more than 15 years of Internet access, they still believe they won’t be held accountable for dumb errors.

    And, to be fair, sometimes I’m as dumb as they are.

    But what chaps me is that when they are called on the carpet for their errors, they still trot out lame excuses and highlight their layers of fact-checking.

    Then they declare you can’t believe what you read on the Internet because they have these multitudes of “fact-checkers” who make sure no errors reach the dead-tree-and-ink editions of their daily output.

    And, good Lord, I won’t even go into the MSM ignoramuses that populate the video corridors of the East and West Coast. As when they try to claim they didn’t know what “teabagger” means. (See NPR). If they’re that naive, maybe they shouldn’t be reporting on national and international affairs at all.

    I honestly believe that newspapers would still be viable if they didn’t think their audience — their readers — are imbeciles.

    But, they simply cannot get over an ingrained paradigm: What they do is “good.” Of course, the reason they can’t is because they are indoctrinated in the liberal cause.

    And it almost goes without saying that the whole point of being a liberal is that you know better than anybody else what’s “good” in all things.

    Ag80 (592691)

  64. OT: James Taranto got in a nice little dig at Newsweek’s makeover in his column today.

    . . .Also not Newsweek, a liberal opinion magazine, which published a piece recently titled “The Case for Killing Granny.”

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  65. I guess the LA Times editors are still struggling with the difficult concept of radius.

    Understandable… Math is hard… 😉

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  66. ag800
    I used to go around with the pros at Pressthink, until I got banned. I think Rosen has quit, anyway.
    You’re right. A journo thinks that he’s right. Anyone who disagrees is a nutcase. Therefore, any disagreement is from nutcases. You don’t need to pay attention to nutcases. Therefore, you don’t ever make any mistakes. Or if you do, they’re only important to nutcases. So you don’t really need to worry about the mistakes.
    At one point, a paper, NYT iirc, got the Purple Heart as a “Purple Star”. A couple of vets–me and another guy–tried to point out why this was a bad thing. Stupid. The pros took the position that knowledge of such obscure military arcana is not to be presumed among the civilian population, including journalists. So, although it was an error, it was not a blameworthy error.
    They had a lot of that.
    So I disagree. They really are dumb.
    Then there was the NYT piece telling us that 51% of American women are unmarried and like it. The hint, says Lileks, is the implication “when I am old I shall wear purple” and presumably frequent indie bookshops in the Village.
    To get that number, they started with fifteen-year-old girls who, whatever their views on marriage, usually aren’t married because it’s bloody illegal. Most high school girls aren’t married, but that doesn’t tell you much about their views of the institution of marriage. Widows were counted, the inference being that the death of hubby was a mere detail and their unmarried state told us they liked being unmarried. To get over the half to 51%, they used married women whose husbands were deployed.
    It took, as Lileks pointed out, four reporters to put this together.
    You can’t do this stuff by accident.
    You can do it, as you point out, if you think you won’t be busted. Then you can do it on purpose.

    Richard Aubrey (77956f)

  67. Richard Aubrey,
    I’ve read Jay Rosen a lot and like him on media and technology, but there’s no doubt he’s isolated inside the leftist bubble (a mirror image of what leftist jounos say about conservatives). Inside that bubble, the views of your peers become the standard by which you measure the outside world. As Rush said the other day, such leftists don’t even know they’re biased, like a fish doesn’t know it’s wet.

    As an example, any leftist reading this will be taken aback by my approving reference to El Rushbo. However, an approving reference to Bertha Lewis or Jane Hamsher wouldn’t cause them to bat an eye.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  68. Brother Brad.
    You’re entirely too charitable.
    These guys make stuff up which they know to be false. They do it on purpose. They lie. They complain when they get busted.
    It’s more than a bubble-like view of the world and facts and so forth.
    It’s the determination to “make a difference” by whatever means necessary.
    It’s only secondary that they are as ignorant as a box of hammers. What is fish/wet like in their case is that they don’t know how little they know.
    The determination to lie is entirely separate.
    The other bubble thing is, I suppose, the habitual belief they aren’t getting busted very often.

    Richard Aubrey (a9ba34)

  69. Richard,
    Oh, I don’t think my fellow journalists would say I’m too kind. But I get your point. There is an especially insidious, Orwellian movement among left-wing journalists to redefine their bias as truth-telling. And with left-wing profs, including many in J-schools, the indoctrination starts at the student level. That movement needs to be constantly exposed and attacked. Journalists need to be shown how to connect the dots between their profession’s fallen reputation, public distrust and biased, inaccurate reporting. They need to be shown that being used by the left works against their own professional interests.

    In short, journalists need to be as wary of leftist opinion-writers like Ezra Klein as they are of Karl Rove.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (a320fb)

  70. More Brother Bradley, in the personal and meta sense, and less douchebaggery is always a good thing.

    JD (2f79db)

  71. #69 Brother Bradley:

    In short, journalists need to be as wary of leftist opinion-writers like Ezra Klein as they are of Karl Rove.

    LOL! Which one would you rather buy a used car from?

    As Ag80 comments above,

    And it almost goes without saying that the whole point of being a liberal is that you know better than anybody else what’s “good” in all things.

    But it really does need to be said, that the Left is NOT good~good intentions do not at all make up for the bad outcomes that have been perpetrated against the rest of us. These include hundreds of millions of dead in the last century, more dying of easily preventable disease daily (in Africa, because “green” is first, and foremost, racism) and more dead to come in our own country as a result of people being denied the fundamental right to access health care as they choose.

    Ain’t nothing good about the Left. (edc268)


    I wouldn’t go so far as saying there’s nothing good about the left. The left is a necessary part of the national political debate. And in past decades, the left has energized civil rights movements, which have done a lot of good.

    What’s unhealthy is the left’s chokehold on major institutions, suppressing dissenting thought. Academia, especially the social sciences, is a prime example of this enforced conformity, and resultant intellectual sterility.

    Journalism is somewhat better off, because market and technological forces have ripped apart the MSM monopoly. So the MSM is desperate. Perhaps some of its lefties will be desperate enough to actually try re-connecting with readers, instead of indoctrinating them.

    And as for Ezra Klein, he’s an opinion writer who for some reason is taken seriously as an authority on reporting. Karl Rove doesn’t have that pretension.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (a320fb)

  73. […] In a single day, the paper managed to confuse LAPD officers and LAPD Explorers (members of a youth program); confuse the concept of a “radius” with that of a circle’s area; and misstate the weight of water by over 50%. They soon corrected the error about Explorers and officers. […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Patterico’s Los Angeles Dog Trainer Year in Review 2009 (e4ab32)

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