LAT

Times doubles the size of Los Angeles in news stories *

* Update below

la-skyline-lao.jpgIn its first story last week (and subsequent ones) about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposing that the city issue a photo ID card to undocumented immigrants, the Los Angeles Times gave Los Angeles a whopping new population. This will come as a big surprise to the Census Bureau, which pegs the total LA population at around 4 million. But the Times states that Los Angeles is home to 4.3 million immigrants.

A handful of cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, issue identification cards to anyone who can prove residency, regardless of immigration status. Villaraigosa said it's time that Los Angeles — home to an estimated 4.3 million immigrants — joined them.

"It will be an official ID," Villaraigosa said in a recent interview. "It will be as strong an effort as San Francisco's."

You'd think such an illogical fact would be flagged by somebody. Instead, it got picked up on the wires and has been repeated around the world: that Los Angeles (a city of four million...) has 4.3 million immigrants. The Times has not attached any corrections to the original story, but it did repeat the error in a web story two days later: "...Los Angeles — home to an estimated 4.3-million immigrants..." The impossible fact appeared on the Times website again Tuesday in a story setting up a City Council's committee's first look at the proposal, which of course could only apply within the city of Los Angeles, not regionally.

A handful of cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, issue identification cards to anyone who can prove residency, regardless of immigration status. Villaraigosa said it's time that Los Angeles — home to an estimated 4.3 million immigrants — joined them.

Finally, after four days, in the web story that reported the results of Tuesday's committee meeting, a key but small change was made. I put the crucial change in italics:

"Villaraigosa said it's time that the Los Angeles metro area — home to an estimated 4.3 million immigrants — joined them."

So now the media statistic used is for the entire Metro area, population somewhere over 10 million. Better, though still a non sequitur in the story since the proposal only applies to the much smaller city of Los Angeles.

Now sure, a lot of regular people — especially foreign tourists and the very young — just assume everything they see out there is Los Angeles. Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Anaheim — it's all just Los Angeles to the novice eye. It's an easy mistake to make, if you just don't pay attention to your surroundings. But in the pages of the Los Angeles Times?

Oh yeah: The proposal cleared the first committee hurdle.

Wednesday update: The Times website has added corrections.

Photo of Los Angeles and more: LA Observed


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