Monday, September 26, 2011

And This Is News Because.......?

Every time the Football Badgers play at Camp Randall Stadium, the local media – print and electronic – report the exact number of people who were ejected or arrested at the game.  The number is usually around 25 or 30.  The media don’t report this number for Badger Basketball games or Hockey matches at the Kohl Center; nor for the UW womens’ softball games at Goodman Field on the UW Campus; or, for that matter, the intercollegiate golf matches at University Ridge or the volleyball matches at the old Field House.

But, like clockwork, the morning after the football game, the news radio station in town and the local TV news stations parrot the numbers, taken from the official news release of the UW Police, I’m sure.  The Wisconsin State Journal ran about two column inches on the official drunken/disorderly count on page 5 of this morning’s paper.

For the mathematically challenged (certainly including me), let’s use easy-to-work-with numbers, and assume that 40 people were ejected or arrested at a typical football game.  Since Camp Randall holds about 80 thousand people, the total number arrested/detained/ejected/taken to detox is 0.05%.  In other words, not statistically significant.

99.95% of the fans at Camp Randall were NOT arrested/ejected/taken to detox.  And the actual percentage is lower, if you add in the thousands who just mill around the stadium, and the hundreds of ushers, security personnel, concessions stand workers, and media types who infest the area on game-day.

Do the statewide media report such a figure after every Packers or Brewers or Bucks game?  Of course not, but I’ll bet a week’s pay that the Green Bay and Ashwaubenon Police and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department would tell you the percentages are similar at a typical Packers game at Lambeau Field.

I think the reason(s) the local media report this figure as if it were news is simply that years ago, when the Badgers Football team sucked and lost all the time, it was more entertaining to report the number or arrests than the number of points scored – and the “tradition” has continued.

Why the University Police continue to provide this number to the media is a deeper mystery; if I were Barry Alvarez, I’d have coffee with Chief Riseling and ask her nicely to discontinue the practice.  Of course they have to keep official records, but spoon-feeding them to the media is another thing.  (Here come the e-mails and comments from my many newsie friends yelling “freedom of information”.)

When/if the number exceeds the norm (as it well may next Saturday when Nebraska comes for its first game at Camp Randall, and it’s A NIGHT GAME which means all-day-all-night drinking), it may qualify as news.

But to merely parrot the number after every home game seems pointless, and, well, not “newsy”, even if it is “truthy”.


  1. 40 divided by 80,000 is 0.0005. To convert that to a percentage you need to move the decimal point two places to the right. So 40 divided by 80,000 is 0.05%, which is still very small and doesn't invalidate your argument.

    Thank you for letting me nitpick.

  2. Freedom of information! How will I know where the hooligans are if the media must sort through police data to report it?

    I never realized before that the papers don't report arrests for other Badger events. What'd be interesting is to see how many drunk/disorderlies were reported on non-football weekends, maybe.

    But I think what you're describing here is "One small reason why people no longer bother getting the morning paper." They don't bother asking why they report these things, or provide any insight. They just reprint various press releases.

  3. But Tim, if the paper didn't "report" this important news, what would most radio news people have to read to their listeners?

  4. Anon. #1 - Thank you. Figures corrected.

    Briane P: Agreed!

    Anon. #2 - I get your point (and get it very well). When I would steal from the State Journal during my career, I would at least attribute the story, as professional ethic demands. As I listen today, I still hear outright theft that isn't even credited/attributed.

    However, when it comes to Badger football arrests, if your media organization registers with UW Police, they deliver the numbers to your e-mail inbox. No lifting from print is necessary. (Or lifting from the print entity's website, which is also rampant.)

  5. Context, Tim, context. And culling. If we used the percentage argument - and that is as vulnerable to misdirection as any other, which you surely know - then one arrest for murder at the game should not be reported because 79,999 people didn't murder any one. Arrests got two graphs because that is all they were worth. Now, if we could only get video from the suites . . .
    And yes, as soon as someone in power tells me "that isn't news," my antennae go up. Vigilance is watching what doesn't happen, too.

  6. George H. - Point taken. I just think it's tedious, and the don't report the drunken/ejection/detox stat for any other sport.

  7. Tree and forest. A classic. In real life, most of the time we don't know anything unless somebody tells us about it. I don't think anyone gave a damn about drunks at a football game until they started tearing up the bleachers and throwing them over the top and out of the stadium, seriously injuring people walking by outside. The cops have a sophisticated spotting procedure in place to nip those, and I think they are quick to pull that bust because of past injuries to innocents.

  8. I've read some good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot attempt you place to create such a fantastic informative site.

    Feel free to visit my web-site; france travel brochure

  9. I read this post completely concerning the
    difference of newest and preceding technologies, it's amazing article.

    Feel free to surf to my web blog vakantiewoningen frankrijk huren

  10. Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea
    shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She placed the shell to her ear and
    screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to
    tell someone!

    Also visit my blog; luxe vakantiehuisje frankrijk

  11. This website definitely has all the information and
    facts I wanted concerning this subject and didn't know who to ask.

    Feel free to surf to my site; luxe vakantiehuizen

  12. Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins
    to safeguard against hackers? I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've worked hard on.
    Any recommendations?

    Also visit my homepage ... huisje frankrijk huren

  13. It's really an informative and well described post. I appreciate your topic for blogging. Thanks for sharing such a useful post.