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Sunday, August 17, 2003
Future urban legend?
The New York Times points out a budding myth: despite what people are saying, it wasn't fifty million people who lost power in the recent blackout.
The number 50 million appeared as part of a news release issued late Thursday and again on Friday by the reliability council, which sets rules for managing the electrical grid.

"Approximately 61,800 megawatts of customer load was lost in an area that covers 50 million people," the statement said. "We cannot say with precision how many customers were affected at this time."

The statement did not say 50 million people lost power — indeed, it made clear that the total was unknown. But that number was widely reported as the sum of those plunged into darkness.
It calls to mind the "Super Bowl Sunday" domestic violence myth. A "fact" is reported once, and is repeated over and over again, by reporters whose goal is sensationalism, and whose idea of research is cutting and pasting from older stories. Good to see the Times, for once, not falling into this trap.

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