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Department of Imprecision

This Washington Post story, “Slain Journalist’s Family Files $20 Million Lawsuit,” repeats a too-common failing: citing the amount demanded by lawyers who’ve filed a lawsuit as if the number means anything at all. It means basically zip. Lawsuits can ask for any amount of money.

Lawyers put in big numbers, often to attract press attention. (This case had already attracted attention, given the murdered man’s job as a New York Times reporter and the unfortunate circumstances of his death.) When journalists publish the amounts demanded, and even turn them into headlines, they do no journalistic service.

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