When bad data becomes good news

There are people who’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a degree in public relations, often the art of getting your client into a news story.

A waste of money, indeed, as we note today on World Doughnut Day, the latest trivia sucking up time in the country’s newscasts today. There’s power in sending free junk food to newsrooms.

All you really have to do is invent one of these.

Take some data from Google, add a map, and voila! You’re in the news.

“This map of America’s most commonly misspelled words is highly disturbing,” Sports Illustrated declared on its website this week in elevating bad data.

Of course, Minnesotans took delight in noting that Wisconsin is the most commonly misspelled word in Wisconsin.

Does anybody really believe that? Then explain how Massachusetts isn’t that state’s most misspelled word but license is.

Even the New York Times, which never misses the opportunity to make fun of the Upper Midwest, acknowledged the map is of some questionable accuracy.

As usual, xkcd does a brilliant job of explaining why today.

  • KariBemidji

    Every time I’ve seen this map this past week, I’ve thought: “Oh man. What’s going on in New Hampshire?”

    Silly maps = diversion from real, depressing news.

    • Rob

      Live Free or Die…arrhea! : )

  • MrE85

    It’s just a fun diversion. It’s not like making foreign and domestic policy decisions with bad data.

  • Zachary

    Most misspelled word in this blog post? Brilliant.

    Sorry Bob, had to bust your chops on that one! 🙂

  • Rob

    How hard can it be to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious right? Jeez!

  • Guest

    A) These are the most searched for spelling, not the most mis-spelled.
    B) How significant is thee most searched-for spelling compared to the second-most?

  • Postal Customer

    Anyone else getting suspicious of the excessive National Something Days? Especially when that something is something you buy?

    • Guest

      Nope, not at all suspicious…….I’m dead certain 🙂

    • Veronica

      Bob wrote about this last year. Let me see if I can find it.

    • Rob

      I think National Nothing Day would be cool.

      • Veronica

        That would be National Kant Day.

        • Rob

          The theme song for National Kant day could be Dylan’s “Beyond Here Lies Nothing.”

      • Zachary

        we could see if Metallica would Crown us a King on that day!

      • Jack Ungerleider

        That would coincide with the annual meeting of the International Association to Promote Apathy.

        • Rob

          Like I give a rip.

        • Jerry


  • Guest

    I recall a promoter had a very pretty girl deliver roses and a record with Rose in the title to radio stations. It got attention and mention.

    Post-it notes became wide-spread when they shipped freebies to executive secretaries, others saw them attached to documents coming out of the president’s office and so ordered a bunch for themselves.

    Boxes of Cream-of-Wheat cereal were shipped free to grocers along with their regular order just to encourage putting them out there for the customers.
    Never underestimate the power of a fun freebie 🙂

  • LieutenantLefse

    Bob, as a longtime fan of both your blog and xkcd, I’m unreasonably happy to see you are also an xkcd reader. Now if we could get Randall Munroe to reference NewsCut in a comic :).

  • Leroy

    My thought when I saw this map is who adds “how to spell” to their google search when googling the correct spelling of something?

    Can there truly that many people who don’t just Google the specific word in question?

    • Zachary

      Who googles to get their spelling answer anyways? I have a MS Word window up, and those squiggly red lines help me out. If I really can’t get it, I use a dictionary. Yes, a hardbound, dead-tree dictionary. I have my most common ones tabbed out and/or highlighted.

      • I do quite often. But I’m on Google all the time anyway. Just easier to enter a word the way I think it’s spelled and see what comes back.

        • Zachary

          makes sense if you are already using google. Google hates me, and the feeling is mutual – so I guess I am the outlier. Disqus seems to have a decent vocabulary, though.

      • Leroy

        Blech, so much page turning just to find a word. I use Google whenever the native spell checker in whatever program I’m using fails to identify the word I’m shooting for.

        • Zachary

          I am an awful speller to start with, and I grew up with a dictionary, so I’m comfortable using one. I like Word’s thesaurus – helps me figure out exactly which misspelled word I should be using.