Friday, December 29, 2017

More one-sided MSM reporting on Austin PD retirements

Grits had earlier cited reporting by local journalists over projected retirements by Austin police officers in the wake of the city council rejecting their police-union contract as an example of the local press acting as a mouthpiece for proponents of the contract. The spin before the contract vote was that up to 300 officers could retire if the council didn't approve it, a number Chief Brian Manley amended to up-to-160 on the night of the city-council vote, after touting the higher number for weeks. 

Now, the real numbers are out and KXAN-TV has published the most misleading report yet, again without letting contract critics correct the spin. It turns out, only 33 officers are retiring this month before the new contract terms take effect, or about 5% of the highest, earlier estimates being touted in headlines and TV news stories. Reported KXAN in their lede:
The number of Austin police officers leaving the department spiked this month, nearly doubling the year’s total up to this point. 
At least 33 city police lieutenants, sergeants, detectives, corporals and officers have left the Austin Police Department this month in the wake of City Council’s decision to reject a new union contract two weeks ago. In the first 11 months of the year combined, 43 officers left the department.
So 76 officers will  retire this year, including perhaps a couple of dozen extra retiring at the end of the year because of the rejected contract. How should we judge whether this is significant? From Grits' earlier post on the topic:
So, since we can't expect local reporters to do it, let's go ahead and answer the question, "Is 25-50 retirements significant?" It turns out, according to the annual report from the Austin police officer retirement system (p. 133), 56 officers retired in 2016, and 71 retired in 2015. So even minimalist reporting, checking the most basic facts about the topic in easily accessible public sources, would show that these numbers of retirements aren't really a big deal at all.
From a statistical perspective, this is entirely within normal range, with just five more retirements than in 2015. Yawn!!

Yet at KXAN, this merits the headline, "APD sees big spike in retirements after council rejects new contract"! This, to me, seems almost like intentional bias, promoting sky-is-falling arguments from one side of a public debate while ignoring both data from public sources and credible alternative voices. Could they really be this bad accidentally? I guess it's possible, but ...

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