Why do newspapers use different figures for fatalities of Sept. 11 attacks?
An astute viewer of our front page collection from Sunday's best 10th anniversary coverage of 9/11 noted that at least three of the newspapers used different figures for the number of people who died as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Kim Scarlett writes, "The NM paper has 2,977, Fairbanks 2,819 and the Courier News 2,983. What is the correct figure?"
The Associated Press anticipated potential confusion, and in its stylebook issued special guidelines in advance of the anniversary. Here's what it says about victims:
Total: 2,977 as of July 25, 2011.
2,983 names will be listed on the Sept. 11 memorial, including six who died in the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing.
That explains why some newspapers used 2,977 and some used 2,983. Wikipedia's entry for 9/11 casualties also lists the number at 2,977.
But where did the 2,819 figure come from? I'm working on tracking that down. New York magazine used the same figure when it put the "official" number of fatalities at 2,819 as of Sept. 5, 2002. However, the magazine's new "Encyclopedia of 9/11" puts the current number of fatalities at 2,753, which is one more than the number of death certificates issued for the attacks as of 2005.