Numbers to back claims about “SEAL-mania”?

I am often on the look-out for news stories that relate to data analysis and interpretation that I can then use in my Statistics and Social Research classes. Here is an example of the AP reporting on “SEAL-mania”:

Stumpf is one of a growing number of Americans putting themselves through grueling fitness programs modeled after Navy SEAL workouts as interest in the elite military unit has soared since one of its teams killed Osama bin Laden. Everyone these days seems to be dreaming of what it’s like to be a SEAL, know a SEAL or at least look like one.

Book publishers say they cannot order the printings of the memoirs of former SEALs fast enough, while people are dialing 1-800-Hooyah! like mad to get their hands on T-shirts emblazoned with the SEAL insignia and sayings like: “When it absolutely, positively must be destroyed overnight! Call in the US Navy SEALs.”

Awe over the covert operation is even putting the city of Fort Pierce, Fla., on the map for vacation destinations. The city’s National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum — the only museum dedicated to the secretive SEALs — has been flooded with calls from people planning to visit.

But nothing short of joining the SEALs offers a more true-to-life taste of their toughness than the workout places run by ex-Navy commandos.

There may actually be an uptick in interest in Navy SEALS (apparently Disney and others are interested) but the story gives us little actual data to support this. We are told about some books, t-shirts, calls to a museum, and an increase in interest in workouts but no hard numbers to go by. In fact, the story seems to revolve around this tentative sentence: “Everyone these days seems to be dreaming of what it’s like to be a SEAL, know a SEAL or at least look like one.” I am skeptical about claims about “everyone.” The story could at least cite Google trend data (a big spike occurs in early May when searching for “SEALs”) or Twitter trend data (another big spike). These may not be ideal data sources but at least they provide some data beyond broad claims. If a media source wants to make a causal claim (Navy SEALs participation in the Bin Laden raid has led to “SEAL-mania” among Americans), then they should provide some better evidence to back up their argument.

(Another odd thing about this story is that the rest of it is about SEALs workouts. It almost seems as if there was some copy about these workouts waiting to be attached to a larger story and this raid presented itself as an opportunity.)

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