If you’ve read Phoenix Real Estate Guy for any length of time, you will know I’m not exactly a “mainstream media” fanboy. The MSM’s tendency to write sensationalistic headlines and copy is annoying at best, and down right false and/or misleading at worst.
Yesterday was no different.
Two Associated Press writers, Derek Kravitz and Janna Herron, blew it in their article Home prices plummet in most big US cities (that particular link is to the Wall Street Journal copy of the AP article. You can also find it reprinted in the Washington Post, San Francisco Examiner, BusinessWeek, The Miami Herald and approximately 38,400 news sources according to Google).
In an email to their subscribers today (and in a blog post) the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) communicated that they had been misquoted in the AP article. The quote as published by the AP was:
In Phoenix, about 70 percent of all homes with a mortgage were at risk of foreclosure in January, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.
According to ARMLS, the 70 percent number was gleaned from their February issue of STAT ”“ the monthly Phoenix metro area statistics report that ARMLS publishes. In the February STAT, ARMLS said:
Of the 6,541 total sales in January, 70.2% (4,591) were distressed.
A “distressed sale” is a sale that involves either a short sale (the seller, with lender approval, selling the home for less than what they owe) or a lender-owned property (a home that has been foreclosed on and has reverted back to the lender).
Granted, that is a depressing statistic, but it is a FAR cry from “about 70 percent of all (Phoenix area) homes with a mortgage were at risk of foreclosure in January.” The number of closed distressed sales in a given month has nothing to do with the number of homes across the metro area that are at risk of foreclosure.
The AP blew it.
Maybe you’ll see a half-column inch retraction/correction buried 12 pages deep three days from now in some of the 38,000+ publications that printed the story.
Or maybe not.
What we have here is living evidence of several things:
- Humans make mistakes. And reporters are human (at least as best we can tell).
- Real estate statistics can be easy to goof up and misinterpret. Particularly if you are not used to reading, analyzing and interpreting them on a regular basis. Sometimes our odd vernacular is confusing ”“ to everyone.
- You can’t believe everything you read in the mainstream media (or anywhere else for that matter).
Some folks tend to dismiss “blogs” and “citizen journalism” as being inaccurate, biased and not worth the phosphors on the monitor you are reading. Many people place blind faith and trust into publishers like the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Associated Press. Their writers and editors are after all, trained professionals.
Both of these groups of people ”“ the blog haters and the undying believers of the mainstream press ”“ are on the far ends of the spectrum. The bottom line is, you shouldn’t place blind trust in any news medium. Read with a critical eye, question everything, and look at multiple sources when something seems suspect.
Oh, and cancel that subscription to the Wall Street Journal. You can get new Phoenix Real Estate guy posts by email, for free”¦