Mixing two things together in stories

One of the things which annoys me is when stories are made more sensational by combining two things together.

An example would be say there were 50 people killed and 8,000 people assaulted, and a story says “In the last year 8,050 people were killed or assaulted by criminals.

We get this in this Press story. The headline was:

Taxpayers fork out $550,000 for bash

Now journalists do not write the headlines. Sub-editors do. I saw the headline and my blood pressure rose. $500,000 on a function to launch the Christchurch blueprint would be an outrage.

The first para was:

A launch party and promotional material for the central Christchurch blueprint cost taxpayers more than $500,000.

Now do you see the issue. There is a big difference between the launch party and the actual costs of promotional material for the plan. The launch party should be modest, but considering the importance of the plan of course you are going to spend money on making sure people in Christchurch can access it and know what is proposed.

The lavish event held in July to launch the Christchurch Central Development Unit’s vision for the city included free beer, sparkling wine and canapes.

Lavish means extravagant. Now maybe it was. How much of the $500,000 was spent on it.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority () said yesterday that the $549,989 bill for the event included signage, an interactive 3D computer view of the blueprint, print material, information videos, the website, 3D modelling and animation, catering and technical support.

I don’t think 3d modelling of the plan is really related to whether a function is lavish.

“This is not a one-off cost for one night. The majority of material is still being used to promote the plan on an ongoing basis,” the spokesman said.

The event was defended by Cera chief executive Roger Sutton.

“We are trying to attract something between $5 billion and $10b of investment to Christchurch and I think we have to have a bit of razzle- dazzle for investors to take notice and come to our city,” he told Radio New Zealand.

So how much was for the actual function?

“It took place in the city council foyer. It is hardly like we hired out the Hilton.”

Not that lavish.

At the end of the day, I have no information on which I can make my own judgement as to whether the function was lavish. Sparking wine doesn’t make it lavish.

What would have been useful is a breakdown of the costs, with specific reference to how much was the food and drink bill. It may well be that the spending was on the high side. But I can’t tell from the story.

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