Pick a number, any number…

The Gloucester County Times, a small newspaper in New Jersey, reported earlier this week that a local postal worker was under investigation for mail theft. Today the paper got a little more mileage out of the story by editorializing about it. It’s the kind of slightly sanctimonious thing that newspaper editors are good at- most postal workers are honest, but one bad apple spoils it for everyone, etc., etc. Replace “postal workers” with “cops”, “priests”, or “football coaches”, and you can run the same basic piece over and over again.

Until, that is, you get to the last line:

While the vast majority of postal workers are honest, any lack of confidence in the mail can only worsen the postal service’s estimated $905 billion financial hole.

$905 billion?

Did I miss something? The most recent financial results show the USPS’s year to date loss from actual operations as $627 million. Million, not billion. And even if you throw in the arbitrary PAEA charges, the paper “loss” only reaches $10 billion.

So how did the paper come up with a “hole” of $905 billion?

I’m guessing that somehow someone confused the recently announced estimate of the year to date total federal budget deficit, which just happens to be $905 billion, with the USPS budget deficit.

It’s a pretty big mistake, but you have to remember that newspapers are in a situation very similar to the one facing the postal service. Declining revenue, competition from the Internet, etc. And just as the USPS has been eliminating what it considers “non-essential” services, newspapers are also getting rid of things they don’t think are important any more.

Like fact-checking!

via Editorial: ‘Inside job’ not good for post office | NJ.com.