Call this a textbook example of how some in the media cast things in the worst possible light.
On November 14, the three major network newscasts made their routine monthly downbeat foreclosure report, based on RealtyTrac foreclosure data. RealtyTrac has become the go-to source by the news media for foreclosure data.
But on that night, one network (ABC) interpreted the data differently from the others about Stockton, Calif., the city with the nation's highest foreclosure statistics. "NBC Nightly News" and "CBS Evening News" reported 1 in 31 homes were in foreclosure and ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" reported 1 in 49 homes were in foreclosure.
According to RealtyTrac's Rick Sharga both numbers were "technically" correct, but the ABC report used the number for "unique household" – making its report more accurate.
"The NBC number was based on the number of total foreclosure filings compared to the number of households," Sharga told the Business & Media Institute.
On the other hand: "The ABC number was based on our ‘unique households' count, which covers the number of properties which received at least one filing during the period. Since there are always more total filings (since some households get more than one during the period), but a static number of households, the foreclosure rate will vary depending on which count you use."
The distinction between unique homes in foreclosure and foreclosure filings was not stated in any of the three reports.
Sharga also told BMI the rankings are "remarkably similar" depending on if cities are ranked by "unique filings" or "foreclosure filings."