The least comprehensible start of a news story – ever?

Orders placed with U.S. factories rose less than forecast in July, restrained by a decline in non-durable goods such as oil and food that masked a jump in demand for new equipment that was larger than previously estimated.

This is the journalistic version of TMI. You can’t get it all in the lede and it will only hurt if you try.

I will try to translate what I think was meant: The orders for stuff from US factories didn’t hit the July estimate because of a decline in non-durable goods like food and oil. That’s as much sense as I can get out of this and even that sense is dubious. Is it the production, demand or sales which declined? Whichever one allegedly masked a larger-than-expected increase in demand for new equipment. How do you mask a jump? Is there some stealth technology for statistics that masks an increase? Or maybe some masking agent such as is used by athletes wishing to hide steroid consumption?

If the purpose of the lede is to get me to read the rest of the story this one just got me to reach for the ibuprofen.

2 thoughts on “The least comprehensible start of a news story – ever?

  1. This is indeed a ghastly sentence.

    I think this is what he means:

    1. Factory orders fell short of estimates in July.
    2. Demand (and therefore orders) for new equipment was higher than forecast at some earlier point.
    3. But this increase in demand for new equipment was canceled out or offset by weak demand for non-durable goods such as oil and food.

    The sentence itself is awful. Even worse, however, is the writer’s careless use of “orders.” Is he writing about the volume or the value of orders — that is, boxes or dollars? Eventually it seems clear that he means dollars, although later on he writes about units in the discussion of auto sales.

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