Sinulog audience: do numbers matter?

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Monday, January 20, 2014


NEWSPAPER "A" reported the crowd that watched the Sinulog along the streets and from the grandstand was 2.1 million. Newspapers "B" and "C" reported 3.5 million.

“A" cited "police estimates" without naming the official/s who made them. "B" and "C" quoted police regional chief Danilo Constantino.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama disagreed with the "conservative" counts, saying there were more people this year than last year. Apparently, he frowned on the police estimate that reduces this year's crowd by .5 million from last year's 3.5-to-4-million estimate.

What the figures lack is the method in counting, which the stories didn't mention. The reporters didn't ask or didn't bother to include it.

The mayor didn't even guess. He said there was "a deluge of people" without giving any number.

But do numbers matter?

They must, given the fetish media gives numbers of people attending Sinulog festivities. If there's no interesting lead for the story, the number of attendees is often a convenient fall-back.

Despite what one hears about "lies, damned lies and statistics," numbers are useful in assessing an activity.

Sales figures

A plunge by less than a million won't alarm Sinulog organizers; there were recent calamities to blame for any shortfall. But any business manager would rely more on actual sales figures than any police-supplied number of Sinulog crowds.

Whatever the actual use, stats may fill various needs. Thus the advantage of getting the numbers right. Perhaps an independent group can make the count next time, scientifically and more accurately.

(paseares@sunstar.com.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 21, 2014.

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