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Less is more

More evidence that official numbers can't be taken at face value. Sopranos ratings fell from last season, sort of:

The total viewer figure fell by 1.3 million from the September 2002 fourth-season debut, although HBO explained yesterday that a change in how Nielsen Media Research reports the network's rating negatively impacted the numbers. According to an HBO spokeswoman, Nielsen had formerly lumped in HBO's viewers with those of HBO's suite of digital networks. The practice ended in January.
Nielsen ratings are, of course, trivial, but the larger point isn't: the media imbues statistics from any official-sounding source with a mystical aura of meaningfulness -- witness the latest claim from the Centers for "Disease" Control about deaths from obesity, and the credulous reporting thereof. And then the general public, which has no reason to doubt, parrots the media.


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