The Rise and Fall of Facts

Colin Dickey:

In his 1964 Harper’s Magazine article on fact-checking, “There Are 00 Trees in Russia,” Otto Friedrich related the story of an unnamed magazine correspondent who had been assigned a profile of Egyptian president Mohamed Naguib. As was custom, he wrote his story leaving out the “zips”—facts to be filled in later—including noting that Naguib was “such a modest man that his name did not appear among the 000 people listed in Who’s Who in the Middle East” and that he elected not to live in the royal palace, surrounded “by an 00-foot-high wall.” The editor then sent the article to a fact checker in Cairo to fill in the zips. No answer came and, with the deadline looming, the editor, fuming, rewrote the story so the facts weren’t needed. A week later, the magazine received a telegram from the fact checker:

Am in jail and allowed to send only one cable since was arrested while measuring fifteen foot wall outside farouks palace and have just finished counting thirtyeight thousand five hundred twentytwo names who’s who in mideast.

Friedrich’s anecdote reveals the great truth of fact-checking: while facts are sacred to writers, readers, and, above all, editors, they are sometimes more work than they’re worth. The importance of fact-checking—particularly when it comes to inconsequential detail—is based on the long-held theory that if you’re fastidious about the little things, the reader will trust you with the big things. But the history of fact-checking suggests that too often, the accumulation of verifiable minutiae can become an end unto itself.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 


The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.