CALLER: "Your reporter didn't report that 90 percent of the people at the meeting were opposed to the project."
ME: "Where did that figure come from?"
CALLER: "OK, 70 percent."
Ah, the new math.
We rely on reporters covering meetings and gatherings to assess the mood of a crowd and its size and try to work that into their story. This, of course, usually is a judgment call based on the reporter's impressions and head counts.
The caller quoted above was upset because he didn't think our reporting of Tuesday's meeting on the proposed North Ogden public works facility accurately reflected the outrage of those in attendance. The issue is a political hot potato in the community.
The caller then came up with his own percentages. I told him that isn't how we arrive at estimates. We only report such measurements when there is some sort of tabulation.
When it does come to crowd size, we try to attribute an estimate to other sources such as police if we are dealing with large gathering such as a protest. When no such source is available, then the reporter comes up with an estimate.
As for the mood of the crowd and which way the majority of sentiments swing, journalists make their own assessment through their coverage of the event and comments from audience members.
In circumstances when readers have an observation that's different from a reporter's, I invite them to write a letter to the editor, which I offered my caller in this case.
PROPER PRONUNCIATION: The Associated Press has always added pronunciations for names in its broadcast copy. Now that newspapers disseminate information over a variety of media platforms, the pronunciations are included in stories intended for print, broadcast and Web. This means the pronunciation definitions occasionally get into our online stories.
In Utah, we have some strange pronunciations for place names, so Tooele has the added pronunciation of (TOO-ella) and Weber is (WEE-bur).
So how does AP come up with the pronunciations?
"The writers and editors figure that out. Usually it's just a part of the reporting process," AP regional director Jim Clarke said from his Denver office. "One trick I used to use for difficult names was to find someone with the same name, call them and ask how to pronounce it."
The pronunciations don't take into effect Utah's quirky idiosyncrasies, like not pronouncing some T's. Otherwise, Layton would be (LAY-un).
REPORTING IRONIES: Infamous polygamist Warren Jeffs was convicted of child sex abuse in the Tom Green County Courthouse in Texas. (Not related, but Tom Green is the name of another Utah polygamist who went to prison after being convicted on a number of different charges.)
Also, one of the Associated Press reporters covering the London riots was Jill Lawless. (That made for an interesting byline below the headlines.)
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.