Some people are good at counting numbers of people in a grid and then extrapolating that to the larger size crowd. If you try that, you will often find a smaller number than your initial estimate, says public editor of The Globe and Mail

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

So, just how many people were at two recent events in the country? The short answer is, it depends on a rough estimate and who is doing the estimate.

One reader was annoyed that a story on a poll mentioning Ford Fest said hundreds of people showed up to get free food and shake hands with the Toronto mayor.

The story of the event itself said thousands showed up.

Which was true? Well, because you cannot really count a moving crowd of people, especially in a public park, the estimate was in the eyes of the reporter.

“You’d have to be a moron to not acknowledge that there were thousands there. Thousands is more than a few hundred,” the reader said. “I actually walked there just to see how many would turn out for this event. I was shocked. … Sad to see biased journalism in today’s world. Thanks to social media, like YouTube in this case, I and others can see who is telling the truth and who is fabricating facts.”

Here is the link to the YouTube video of Ford Fest.

I was not at the event, but if you look at the video, there could be either hundreds, as a conservative estimate, or thousands, as a more generous one. One obvious example: 1,999 is hundreds and 2,000 is thousands.

It is not a question of “fabricating,” as the reader suggests, but trying to give your best guess. Some people are good at counting numbers of people in a grid and then extrapolating that to the larger size crowd. If you try that, you will often find a smaller number than your initial estimate.

To continue reading this column, please go theglobeandmail.com where this was originally published.


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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.