Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Time and again, journalists give us numbers that are completely out of line and provided in such ignorance that it is patently obvious they know not what they are talking about.

Spoiler alert – this will lead to climate change at the end, so if you want to jump to there, just go ahead.

On Saturday morning, I opened an issue of the “Hometown Stations” from Lima, Ohio. This site is a compilation of stories from the TV stations around and in Lima. I am particularly interested in it at this time because all news media in that vicinity this weekend are focused on Wapakoneta. And, no, it is not because that is the hometown of Neil Armstrong.

On Sunday, President Trump is going to visit the site of a new paper mill in Wapakoneta, being built by Pratt Industries. I know a little bit about this project. In fact, I was just there on Thursday, Sept. 19 (invited to stay until Sunday, I declined; I have been to these shark feeding frenzies before).

As the banker’s engineer on this project, I attested to the veracity of the capital budget two years ago. Since then, I, and two of my colleagues who happen to live in Highland County, have visited this site every month, starting in March 2018, to monitor safety, schedule, budget, overall progress and general adherence to the plan I certified two years ago.

The facility is nearly done and will start up on or around Oct. 1. We have watched it go from a soybean field to the most modern 100-percent recycled paper mill in the world in a mere 18 months (a record construction schedule).

Now, back to the story in the “Hometown Stations.” It says the following, “…But we’re learning more behind the reasoning for President Trump’s visit on Sunday. A White House official says this is all because of a promise Anthony Pratt made two years ago. In 2017, Australian businessman Anthony Pratt, owner of Pratt Industries, committed that he’d invest $2 million into the United States…”

I have worked as a consultant for Mr. Pratt’s company in the United States since November 1993. I have monitored the construction of five paper mills for him (Conyers, Ga., Staten Island, N.Y., Shreveport, La., Valparaiso, Ind.) and now Wapakoneta. Additionally, I have worked on other, smaller projects for him and his companies.

I have done this for a myriad of well-known banks and investment funds. I have a little street cred in this particular area. The quote of $2 million is so laughable. The correct number, for this time frame, is $2 billion and the promise involves more properties than just the mill in Wapakoneta. By the way, the $2 billion investment in all the properties in the plan is nearly complete.

So, whatever journalist wrote this article was only off by a factor of 1,000.

Recently, there has been a dialogue in Hillsboro concerning the possible tax revenue from a new hotel. The numbers promulgated by the politicians are as wild as the one I just described above. Some people have not been able to keep up with the math coming out of the mayor’s office.

A couple of years ago, there was a move in journalism schools around the country to drop the one simple math class formerly required of journalism majors. A chorus of hallelujahs went up from the students of that time.

Really? In a world becoming more and more complex we want to turn out journalists that can’t tell you what order to solve a simple problem like this: 4 + 5 x 7/8? Forget about statistics, regression analysis and other mathematical tools essential to understanding the modern world, and, here, I have said it: climate change.

The math is beyond them, so they blindly write down what anyone tells them and report such matters as fact, as if they knew what they were talking about. And readers blindly believe it, for it was in the (name your favorite big-name paper).

Perhaps in this digital world, the pressure is so great to get the story in print that there is no time to check the contents. This must be the case.

We know there are plenty of biased journalists out there feeding us their opinionated claptrap. It just so happens their math skills are revealing how ignorant they are.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.