Why Did NBC News Quote a Random Person Claiming the Price of Food Has Doubled?

Yesterday NBC News published a piece about the rising price of food written by Ben Popken. The article includes statistical data on rising prices. Near the beginning it cites government data on overall prices:

The monthly consumer price index, released Tuesday morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed a 0.6 percent increase in March, the largest one-month increase in nearly a decade. Over the past year, prices have increased by 2.6 percent overall.

Later it cites industry data on food prices:

Before the pandemic began, the national average for a pound of bacon in January 2020 was $4.72. By last month, the price had soared to $5.11, according to exclusive supermarket point of sale data from NielsenIQ. Ground beef is up to $5.26 a pound, from $5.02. Bread is up to $2.66 a loaf, from $2.44.

In between those two is this:

Outside a supermarket in Long Island, New York, John Kermaj said he has seen prices rise in just the past two months.

“We used to buy this stuff for $30. Now it’s $60,” he said.

He has tried to adapt when shopping for his family by buying only essential items and avoiding name brands, but that means skipping meat and fresh fish.

“Gotta be the pandemic,” Kermaj said. “Shortage.”

There is no explanation why that random person is quoted there. Assuming those amounts are accurate and they refer to a recent change, they would not be representative based on the stats provided in the article. What was the purpose of that? It seems like that should be a lesson for the journalist not to rely on anecdotes, but instead they thought that was relevant to run in a story at a major outlet and there wasn’t anyone else in the process who saw an issue with that.

What makes that odder is that the author of the story posted on Twitter that he was getting the coronavirus vaccine in another state, Maine, the day after the story was published (even though they listed themselves living in Brooklyn in their Twitter profile less than two months ago). There are two people listed as contributors to the story, one of them being Stephanie Ruhle, so maybe one of them went to a Long Island grocery store to get this quote that doesn’t seem like it was useful.

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