Saturday, June 22, 2013

Same Story - Different Facts

There was big news in the financial community this week as the prison term for former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling was reduced. There were a number of legal reasons behind the reduction and you can read about it at and, among others. These two articles are quite different in tone and focus but that is not the topic for today.  Nor is the reduction of the Skilling sentence. Rather it is about getting the facts and reporting them accurately.

There is a minor detail in each of these stories that is quite different. The Bloomberg story says one thing and the story says another. (Can you find it without looking below?) 

This small discrepancy makes me wonder what might be wrong in other stories we read. While a small thing, it was so noticeable that it changed what I planned to blog about today.

The fact in question: Bloomberg says Skilling lost his oldest son while incarcerated and Fortune says he lost his youngest son. While the death of any child is devastating for the parents,Skilling's tragic loss is not the at issue in this blog. Accurate reporting is.

By the time you read this, one of these sites may be corrected so I copied the pertinent sentences below so you could see them for yourself.
  • Prosecutor Patrick Stokes said that both of Skillings’ parents and his oldest son died while he was incarcerated, calling that “a tremendous tragedy.”(Accessed 6/22/2013 at 8:15 AM)
  • During the time Skilling has been in prison (he's now incarcerated at a low-security facility outside Denver), both his parents and the youngest of his three children have died. (Accessed 6/22/13 at 8:18 AM)
Most readers probably don't catch things like this because they don't read stories sourced from two news organizations one right after the other. They tend to have their favorites and read only those sites. 

I bring this to your attention as a reminder that we cannot believe everything we read, regardless of the source. We also must give our family and friends a little leeway if they cite a story that has facts that differ from the ones we read. The above examples are proof that "facts" can be wrong and it is up to us to confirm them before we believe them.

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