Monday, 1 October 2012

New Ombudsman for The Sun

Call it the latest step towards circumventing Leveson, or a sincere attempt to improve standards, but either way The Sun has a new complaints ombudsman.

The role will be filled by Philippa Kennedy, formerly of The Express, The Sun and Press Gazette.

This follows the role of 'readers champion' introduced when The Sun began its Sunday edition.

Ms Kennedy says that she wants to "play a part in restoring people's faith in British journalism."

According to Press Gazette, she said: "Reporters strive for accuracy but things can go wrong. What's important is how they're put right".

Of course any step based on the genuine intent to improve standards should be welcomed. But the proof will of course be in the pudding - or presumably in this case a currant bun.

I was among those who were cautiously hopeful when Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Mail and Mail on Sunday, introduced a corrections column and a dedicated corrections email address this time last year.

As this blog has shown, both titles ultimately treated the column like so many New Year fitness regimes - with superficial enthusiasm soon waning to obsolescence.

It is natural that as the day of regulator reckoning nears that newspapers take steps to get their house in order, to strengthen their hand against Lord Justice Leveson's eventual recommendations.

Which is why it won't be these words on which Ms Kennedy is judged, but the ones that appear in future correction columns.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Naked Harry pics: What would Michael Gove say?

With The Sun publishing those Prince Harry snaps and allegedly striking a blow for press freedom in the process, we might wonder what Education Secretary Michael Gove thinks on the matter.

After all, Mr Gove's defiant Leveson appearance was well received by the newspapers whose rights he purported to champion.

So what are we to make of his comments from 2008, regarding a different set of publications?

"We should ask those who make profits out of revelling in, or encouraging, selfish irresponsibility among young men what they think they're doing.

"The relationship between these titles and their readers is a relationship in which the rest of us have an interest."

He was of course talking about lads' mags such as Nuts. But his words have some resonance in today's context.

Reading back over Gove's comments years later it seems odd that he has gone from criticising one set of publishers for the negative social effects of their work, to championing the right to offend.

The two are of course not incompatible. He may dislike Nuts, Zoo and wish their content was otherwise, but he  did not call for them to be regulated.

It just seems that he can bewail the moral impact on society of one set of publishers yet refuse to pass judgement on the behaviour of another set.

Wonder when he will next return to this theme?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

You know when you've been quango'd...

What's a quick and easy way to look efficient at reining in Government spending? Scrap quangos, of course.

Everyone knows how much taxpayers money they waste, so the more scrapped the better, surely?

Well here's a great little wheeze: How about scrapping ones that don't actually cost much, or indeed anything, then citing these bureaucratic bargains as prime examples of past largesse?

Well, I hear you say, that would be a bit disingenuous to say the very least. Quite so, reader, but could this be what our Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has been up to?

Consider the following from his article yesterday.

"What we found were hundreds of quangos that should have been abolished or merged together. It’s hard to imagine why Ministers didn’t do this before. The more bizarre sounding bodies included the Darwin Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Packaging, the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines, and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Advisory Body – or WAB for short. All of those have gone."

Of course in time an FOI will find all we need to know about how much we save by scrapping said quangos. But for the time being, consider the following.

According to figures given in a written PQ, in the year 2010/11 both the Darwin Advisory Committee (scrapped Jan 2011) and the Advisory Committee on Packaging (Scrapped April 2011) had neither and employee nor a penny in funding between them. (Apparently they are listed as having no staff because they "utilise a minimal secretariat function provided by staff employed within the core Department.")

As for the Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines a PQ from 2007 explains that its chairman is unpaid, claiming only expenses for the four meetings a year. The Committee itself at the time of the PQ had no budget, although what costs there were were met out of the budget of Government Hospitality.

Which leaves the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Advisory Body according to Government estimates, they will save about £40,000 over the entire spending review period.

While I would like to know what gets claimed in the way of expenses on the Wine Advisory Committee, we may be looking here at a chunk of money that would barely pay a Cabinet Office Minister's salary for a year.

So just how many of the numbers being cut, are in fact cut price quangos? Here's a list of ones that I have found so far which ministers indicate will be 'cost neutral' (ie save nothing). There may be more, I just won't have time to cross reference the full list for a few days.

From Defra

  • Advisory Committee on Organic Standards
  • Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances
  • Zoos Forum
  • Veterinary Residues Committee
  • Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee
  • Pesticides Residues Committee
  • National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources
  • Farm Animal Welfare Council
  • Darwin Advisory Committee
  • Air Quality Expert Group

Here's a list of those that DCMS said had 'little or no cost'
  • Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships
  • Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites:
  • Legal Deposit Advisory Panel:

From BIS
  • Abolition of the Union Modernisation Fund Supervisory Board
  • Abolition of the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property
  • Hearing Aid Council
This is not to say the savings claimed are wrong. It's just when there is talk of losing 100 organisations in a 'Bonfire of the Quangos', it seems fair to say that in some cases we don't actually have that much money to burn.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Which newspapers most shape Today's headlines?

Now and then you hear talk of the BBC/Guardian agenda, how the news priority of the BBC and the Guardian are pretty much interchangeable.

This got me thinking. Has anyone measured this? Granted there are times, such as the Jeremy Hunt furore earlier in the year when it felt like there could some truth to this.. But do people who level this charge only notice when both go big on say, phone hacking revelations, but ignore the other more divergent days?

To try to find out, I devised a small, and probably pretty flawed experiment.

In short I kept tabs of what were the top stories on BBC, represented by the Today programme's top story and it's 8:10 interview slot, and compared this to the front pages of The Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Indy and Mail.

I chose not to include The Express, for had I done so comparing weather reports would probably have been more appropriate.

When the front page lead matched either of the items on Today it got two points, if it was anything else on the front page it got one point. This ran between the 6th and 25th of July.

I had planned to do this over a couple of months, but the Olympics has simply crapped it all up, so rather than letting my limited, limited data got to waste here it is.

As you see it is the Dailies Telegraph and Mail who come top, with the Guardian only taking the bronze medal.

What does this prove? Probably not a lot on its own, due to short time frame. Also as the Telegraph puts more stories on its front page, it probably has more chance of having a match up with Today.

The Mail however only tend to run one front page lead, so in theory would have less chance of scoring big, so this is perhaps the most intriguing result.

So does this mean that accusations BBC-Guardian news empathy are baloney? Of course not, not on this data anyway.

But what we can say is that in terms of news priority, for three weeks in July, the BBC's flagship current affairs radio show echoed the priorities of right of centre newspapers at least as much as it did those leftie outfits.

I plant to run this again when silly season is well and truly over, so if you have any suggestions about how the methodology could be improved, do let me know.


Since that graph doesn't explain very much on it's own here is the working out. For brevity I have only listed secondary front page stories when they matched. A secondary any of the other reports which begin on the front page.

If you spot any errors, please let me know

6th July 2012

Today Top Story: Lords Reform
Today 8:10 GSK

Guardian:  1. PFI (0 Points)
Times:  Adoption (0 points)
Telegraph: Tests for 11 year olds (0 points)
Independent: Lords reform (2 points)
Mail: Megabus bombscare (0 points)

7th July 2012

Today top story: Social Care
Today 8:10 Megabus Bombscare

Guardian:  Lords reform
Times  Andy Murray/Wimbldeon
Telegraph: Social Care (2 points)
Independent: Libor
Mail: Andy Murray

9th Jul 2012

Today Top Story: Lords reform
Today 8:10 Andy Murray

Guardian: 1. Hacking 2. Murray (1 point) 
Times: 1. 2. Murray (1 point)
Telegraph 1. Pensioners 2. Murray (1 point)
Independent 1. Libor 2/ Murray (1 point)
Mail 1. Murray (2 points)

10th July 2012

Today Top Story: Shooting of policeman
Today 8:10: Lords Reform

Guardian: 1. City Lobbying 2. Lords reform (1 point)
Times Lord Reform (2 points)
Telegraph 1. Strokes 2. Murdered Policeman (1 point)
Independent Pensioners benefits to be cut (0 points)
Mail Police Officer shot (2 points)

11th July 2012
Today Top Story: Social Care
Today 8.10: Social Care

Guardian: Lords Reform (0 points)
Times Lords Reform (0 points)
Telegraph Social Care(4 points)
Independent Lords Reform (0 points)
Daily Mail Social Care (4 Points)

12 July 2012
Today Top Story Olympic Security/Troops
Today 8.10 Olympic Security/Troops

Guardian Olympic Security Troops (4 points)
Times Traveller 'slavery' family (0 points)
Telegraph  1. Flooding 2. Olympic Troops (1 point)
Independent Elderly care (0 points)
Daily Mail: MPs' free olympic tickets (0 points)

13 July 2012
Today Top Story Syria
Today 8.10 Death from thirst in Hospital

Guardian: Bahrai Arms Sales (0 points)
Times: Olympic Security (0 points)
Telegraph Iran Nukes intelligence (0 points) 2, Death from thirst in hospital (1 point)
Independent: OBR on migrants (0 points)
Daily Mail: Olympic Security (0 points)

14th July 2012

Today Top Story: G4S
Today 8.10 Road Death Figures

Guardian John Terry case (0 points)
Times Syria (0 points)
Telegraph 40mph limits on rural roads (linked to road death stats so 1 point)
Independent: Libor (0 points)
Daily Mail: Olympic Security (2 points)

16th July 2012

Today Top Story £9bn rail plan
Today 8.10 £9bn rail plan

Guardian Free Scientific research (0 points)
Times Olympic Security (0 points)
Telegraph : Was petrol price rigged? (0 points)
Independent: Olympic Brand Police (0 points)
Daily Mail: Sex convicts freed (0 points)

17 July 2012

Today Top Story G4s/Olympic Security
Today 8.10 Olympic sponsorship

Guardian: Olympic Security (2 points)
Times: 1. Poll 2. Olympics (1 points)
Telegraph: Population surge 2. Olympic Security (1 point)
Independent Olympics Security (2 points)
Daily Mail: BBC tax dodging

18 July 2012

Today Top Story Troubled families
Today 8.10 Troubled families

Guardian HSBC
Times HSBC
Telegraph Pension
Independent Ministers lobby for olympic cash
Daily Mail HSBC

19 July 2012

Today Top Story Co-op buys lloyds
Today 8.10: Syria

Guardian: Syria (2 points)
Times  Syria (2 points)
Telegraph: 1. Austerity to continue 
Independent Syria (2 points)
Daily Mail UK Flagship

20 July 2012

Today Top Story: Syria
Today 8.10: Olympics (Lord Coe interview)

Guardian Simon Harwood 2. Syria (1 point)
Times IMF House Price Warning
Telegraph Border Strike 2. Olympics (1 point)
Independent Harwood 2. Olympics (1 point)
Daily Mail Simon Harwood

21 July 2012

Today Top Story Milk prices
Today 8.10 Syria

Guardian: China nuclear plant bid
Times Batman killer 
Telegraph  Problem families
Independent: Olympic branding
Daily Mail Batman killer

23 July 2012

Today Top Story UKBA backlog
Today 8.10 Violence against women

Guardian: Yeo attack on Osborne
Times: Tax avoiders to be named and shamed
Telegraph Call to reform pensions charges
Independent: Tax avoiders name and shame
Daily Mail: BBC tells stars to dodge tax

24 July

Today Top Story: Eurozone crisis
Today 8.10 Eurozone crisis

Guardian: G4S
Times: Syria 
Telegraph Cash in hand row 2. Eurozone (1 point)
Independent 1. Syria 2. Eurozone (1 point)
Daily Mail: Cash in hand row

25 July 

Today Top Story: First Day of Olympic Events
Today 8:10 Olympic Strike/Security

Guardian: Brooks/Coulson Charges
Times: Hacking charges/ Cash in hand row
Telegraph: Cash in hand 2/ Olympics starts (1 point)
Independent: 1. Hacking Charges 2. Olympics (1 point)
Daily Mail:  Olympics Strike (2 points)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

DLA Dallying in The Sun

There was an unusual piece in Tuesday's Sun sticking up for those on a Disability Benefits. Well, sort of.

The author, Julie Thomas, a woman who lost her sight and also suffers from epilepsy, hit out at the small minority of people making bogus benefit claims.

She argued that those claiming Disability Living Allowance, a payment to help disabled people go about their lives whether in work or not, were being unfairly lumped in with those on Employment Support Allowance, the payment for those unable to work.

Incapacity Benefit, which was succeded by ESA, was open to abuse she argued, but it was wrong to tar those on DLA with the same brush.

In her article, Ms Thomas who claims both DLA and ESA stated: "Figures show that around 95 per cent of claimants for DLA are genuine. Part of that must be because it takes such a lot of effort to apply for it.

"Government ministers seem to want to lump DLA in with incapacity benefit, which is paid to those who are unable to work, and it seems the percentage of genuine claimants here is not so high.

"It’s important that these two benefits are not seen together. Disabled people must not be thought of as scroungers."

What was unusual is that the tone of the piece could scarcely be more different from a Sun piece from two days earlier.

Rather than a benefit requiring "a lot of effort" to receive, DLA was doled out to anyone "by simply filling in a form and there are virtually no checks to see if existing claimants are still eligible."

They mentioned that the DLA system costs £13 billion a year, they mentioned that £630 million is spent on people on the mend, they mentioned 21,000 claimants who have alcohol or drug and alcohol problems, and that claimants have trebled in the pas 20 years.

They also found room for a few paragraphs from Iain Duncan Smith branding the system "chaos".

Strangely, they didn't mention the fact that, to quote Ms Thomas DLA constitutes "financial support given to disabled people to assist them with their lives, including paying for technology to allow them to work."

In fact, they didn't mention at all that you could claim DLA while being in work at all.

Could the two pieces be related?

DWP feigning injury over benefits reporting

Simply incredible. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is reportedly* considering a complaint to Ofcom against Channel 4' Dispatches for unfair coverage of disability benefits issues.

Yes, the Department that for two years have been the source for so many misinformed newspaper articles about the issue are now complaining about bias.

Yes, the Department that have been warned by the UK Statistics Authority on several occasions about feeding figures that were "highly vulnerable to misinterpretation" or "not as clear as [they] should be."

Yes, the Department that was urged by the Work and Pensions Select Committee to do work harder to ensure "that unhelpful and inaccurate stories can be shown to have no basis.”

You get the impression that those who follow what the DWP does feel it has been at best negligent in ensuring fair coverage of people claiming benefits, which as it happens, the Government want to spend less on.

It is a situation that has led to regulator intervention against the newspapers that have passed on the information from DWP, in the form of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

So for the Department to play the victim of biased coverage is as devoid of credibility as some of the reports they have encouraged.

Of course the issue with this Ofcom debate will be one of political partiality rather than accuracy, given that the under cover Doctor in Channel 4's Dispatches was the Labour candidate for West Dorset in 2010.

Which will make it all the more galling if a complaint it made and upheld by Ofcom. Not that Ofcom should waive its rules just because of DWP's track record. Far from it, but it would be like Richard Littlejohn making a successful complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

If the rules were broken, so be it - you can't have rules that only apply when people we disagree with break them - even if it is hard to see that the DWP agenda is hardly more sinned against than sinned when it comes to unfair media coverage.

* Albeit in the Daily Mail

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Booze Britain statistics: Staggering, unsteady or falling?

Reports about us boozey Brits once again made the news yesterday.

But rather than dwelling again on the fascination such stories hold for the press, it is worth looking at the source of these reports.

Yes, the Department of Health (DoH) report cited by Dailies Mail and Telegraph does say that our 15-16 year olds are either close to or top of the alcohol 'league of shame' in Europe. That is that more than fifteen percent of 15 year old girls admitted to having had five or more drinks on one occasion in the preceding month. Or at least they were five years ago.

As Full Fact have already said. The figures themselves are more are less legit.

But what it also says, further into the document, and to less fanfare is the following:

"Survey data on drinking by 11-15 year olds suggests some reasons for encouragement, but with continuing concerns. While fewer young people are drinking, those who drink do have not reduced how much they drink."

Going back to the source they reference, namely the 2010 Survey of Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England, the news sounds even more positive.

"In 2010, 13% of pupils said they had drunk alcohol in the last week. This is lower than in 2009 when it was 18%, and continues the downward trend seen from 2001."

The Office for National Statistics takes it even further back saying the 2010 figure was the lowest since 1996.

However they stress that the 2010 figure may turn out to be an anomaly, but nevertheless the trend is still there. Due to a change in methodology there is no trend data available for actual amounts drunk.

This is not to suggest these figures debunk those from the report. We have no way of knowing how much our alcohol-inclined adolescents are drinking compared with ten years ago, but we do no that we apparently have more tee-totaling teens.

And of course the papers were well within their rights report one set of figures and not the other.

But rather than whining at this juncture, a special mention should be given instead a Times piece from last month.

It stated that although no one was really sure why, the nation overall "may actually be winning the battle against booze."

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Potentially the best episode of Leveson yet

Forget Murdoch, forget Cameron, forget even momentarily the revolving door of celebrities. Next week's Leveson Inqury session promises to be one of the most fascinating yet.

The journalist who reported that Lord Justice Leveson himself had threated to quit over Michael Gove's apparent attack on the Inquiry is expected to give evidence.

Part of this seems a little sinister: A Judge currently holding inquiry into press having the power to summon a reporter who wrote an unfavourable story to answer for his insolence seems a bit heavy-handed.

But then when you actually read what the report says, you have to wonder whether this threat to quit actually happened, and how the reporter will bat away accusations of spin.

Reading the story rather than the headlines, we see it is based on an unnamed Government insider saying they got the 'clear impression' Leveson was 'ready to resign' unless Gove stopped attacking the Inquiry. 

Needless to say a you can get an impression that someone is ready to quit without them saying just that. Particularly if you are an unattributed source for a story. 

Matters are complicated the very next unnamed source, who says there was a call made by Leveson to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, but no threat to quit. Who to believe?

I doubt there would be any question of revealing sources' identities, nor should there be.

But given that it report centres on a call made by Leveson himself to the Government, at least one party to that conversation will presumably be willing to give an account of it.

If this differs significantly from the Mail on Sunday, it will be fascinating to see how it pans out.

Hopefully a note was kept of the Leveson-Heywood phone conversation, otherwise it will be a case of accepting one person's word over another.

But assume for one moment that no threat was made, the report would be a text book example of how paper can report something inaccurate while giving the impression that it was.

In the headline, the phrase 'Threat to Quit' is in inverted commas, so it is being presented as a claim not fact.

The first line is that Leveson "threatened to quit after he was publicly criticised by a Cabinet Minister, senior Government sources claimed last night [emphasis added]."

Again it is not being claimed that Leveson threatened to quit. Just that an unnamed source said he did.

Then we get the quote, which, as I said above, talks of an having an impression Leveson was 'ready to quit' not that he had explicitly threatened to quit.

Finally we get the other quote denying the threat was made.

So really the newspaper is just reporting a rumour of significant interest, but also including a denial of that rumour. Who could argue with that, or even say it was untrue?

The point is that it gives an impression that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Again assuming no threat was made, we get a story that gives the overwhelming impression that one was made, but without explicitly saying reporting that.

It's hardly a novel tactic, and certainly not the most heinous crime in newspaper history.

But now Leveson is the subject of a story and the author is being asked to account for it, it wil be intriguing to hear the explanation.

And yes, if there really was a threat to quit, I'm here for your derision.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The chilling atmosphere created by Leveson

With all the fuss about Lord Justice Leveson's reported 'threat to quit'** over Michael Gove's comments, it is worth looking again at the words that prompted this response.

The remarks in question were made by the Education Secretary in a speech to the press gallery earlier this year, when Mr Gove warned of "a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from !he debate around Leveson."

This idea that free expression could be stifled by the mere debating of Leveson rather than the imposition of his eventual recommendations, seemed a novel one at the time, but only with this latest row did I decide to look into what Gove meant.

Free speech has become the motherhood and apple pie of the Leveson inquiry - with no one declaring themselves to be opposed to it, and being seen as being against it is undesirable to say the least.

So it seems important we get some examples of this "chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression"?

After all, if the Leveson Inquiry, which I generally take to be a good thing, is said to have an impact which I generally take to be a bad thing, I would like to know more.

So too did the Inquiry. When they asked Mr Gove to expand on the remarks and give evidence. Mr Gove responded:

"In the conversations I have had with journalists and others in the last few months I have been struck by their feelings that there is a desire on the part of influential figures, politicians, lawyers and celebrities to use the debate around this Inquiry to inhibit free speech and journalistic investigation.
"I have been struck by the concerns expressed by journalists on a range of titles that such publicly expressed external pressure is all in favour of greater restraints on, or regulation of, the press, while the voices strongly in favour of press freedom have been restricted to journalists whose arguments could easily be presented as simple self-interest. For the benefit of the Inquiry I enclose an account of the relevant passages of my speech which I believe to be accurate."

But the notes from his speech offer no further evidence, nor was this specific point addressed in these terms during his appearance before the Inquiry.

So to be exact, the chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression is at present being demonstrated by journalists, well, expressing their view that the evidence given to the inquiry has been somewhat one-sided.

Not quite what I thought Michael Gove meant, however valid such views may be.

In fairness to Mr Gove he states in his evidence that his Press Gallery speech was done without notes so dwelling on his exact formulation of words could be overdoing it.

Yet since so many reports picked up this "chilling" line, one would presume if he had been misinterpreted, he would have said so by now.

One day there will be a debate about whether Leveson's eventual proposals threaten the free expression of views, but needless to say that debate will only kick off in earnest when we have those recommendations.

Only then will we be able to assess whether it is a case of chilling, deep-freezing or even microwaving freedom of speech.

**Blog post hopefully to follow on this point.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Mail on Sunday corrections: Quantity not quality

There I was, all set to write a quick follow up post to last week's piece on the Daily Mail corrections column, looking instead at the Mail on Sunday.

Given the figures I found, it would have said something along the lines of, 'Less marked decline in corrections, therefore perhaps less bad than Daily Mail. etc. etc'.

Then came yesterday's corrections.

In one we are asked to believe that by reporting how a freelance worker supposed mentioned a willingness to work nude on her CV, that they didn't mean to give the impression this women was willing to work nude.

Then we are asked to believe that reporters 'forgot' to mention that the reporters won an iPad, and iPod Nano and some flowers on the website rather than just a fishbowl as reported. (See Tabloid Watch for more)

Neither is credible, and it just goes to show that printing corrections is one thing, expressing sincere remorse that indicates lessons have been learnt is another.

But since I went to the trouble of totting up the figures, (again using this record of the corrections) and making the graphs, I may as well publish them.

Compared to the Mail, we can see not only that the decline is less steep, but also that there have been several weeks where the Sunday paper prints more corrections in a week than its Monday to Friday sister paper.

The only thing that stands out from the Mail on Sunday figures is that the weeks when no corrections are published have become a bit more frequent.

As I said about the Daily Mail, this could be because the paper is raising standards but, on the strength of what we saw yesterday,  I have my doubts...

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Most insincere newspaper correction ever?

Much has already been said about the slightly odd correction in this week's Mail on Sunday.

The paper apologises for wrongly claiming that a budding broadcaster, Stephanie O'Keeffe, struggled to read prepared scripts on shifts at Radio 5Live.

Regret is also expressed that the paper gave a misleading impression about the nature of Ms O'Keeffe's CV.

"Our report could also have been taken to suggest that Ms O’Keeffe obtained her BBC work by submitting a CV that contained her vital statistics and expressed a willingness to work nude.

"That was not our intention and we are sorry for any misunderstanding or embarrassment these errors may have caused."

The MoS may have taken down the article. But one of the benefits of people rehashing content all over the internet is that it is still available here.

Regarding the CV, the original piece stated: "But Ms O'Keeffe - whose CV includes skills as a model, lists her chest and waist measurements as 32in and 23in and even specifies that she is willing to perform nude - lasted only two shifts at radio station 5Live."
and continues:

"Ms O'Keeffe will not be returning to 5Live any time soon - but she will not be forgotten by colleagues.

"Her online CV, which features pictures of herself, has been circulated among staff after some of them downloaded it."

How exactly could the phrase "...and even specifies that she is willing to perform nude" not be intended to give the impression to readers as that this person was signifying to potential employers a willingness to undertake such work?

Does the paper takes its readers for fools? Oh.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The slow death of the Daily Mail's correction column

The Daily Mail's correction column is being killed off, or so the initial evidence suggests.

When announced to much fanfare by Paul Dacre back in October during the initial Leveson inquiry seminars, few knew quite what to make of the column.

Was this a sign that the paper had turned a corner, taking on the critics of its frequent lapses in accuracy? Or was this all for show, an attempt to give a thin veneer of credibility to largely unchanged practices?

We may not have the answer to that particular question, but the corrections column has been around long enough to assess how much it actually gets used. Below is the number of corrections printed per week in the Daily Mail, (as totted up using this site) since the launch of the corrections column until the end of May.

Since Christmas, a paper running six editions a week, has only printed more than five corrections across those six issues once. While the first week was characterised by a glut of corrections, the second week and all those since have been somewhat less candid by comparison.

To put it another way, in November - the first full month of the column - there were 12 editions without a corrections column. In April there were 19, and in May there were 20.

This in itself does not mean that the paper has abandoned any commitment to corrections. After all the paper could just simply be making less fewer mistakes, suggesting that the existence of the column has prompted the paper to raise its game.

Short of going through and factchecking every last line of the paper we don't really have much way of telling this. However it is worth noting that there has been no consistent decline (or increase) in the number of resolved complaints against the Daily Mail via the PCC.

Here is a graph of resolved complaints about the Daily Mail under Clause 1 of the PCC code, which deals with accuracy.

Yes complaints dropped off in February and March, but began to rise again in April and May, leaving us with no clear trend over the months in question - not that there are any particularly strong conclusions trying to measure newspaper accuracy this way.

Of course all this needs to be properly researched by someone who isn't doing it in their spare time. As it stands it raises important questions about how committed the publisher is to higher standards, which in turn has resonance with the issues currently being addressed by Lord Justice Leveson.

If any reforming zeal and commitment to higher standards displayed by a paper like the Mail shows signs of dissipating a few months down the line, can anything ever be done to make this passing enthusiasm a permanent feature of the press?

This is not to completely dismiss the Mail corrections column. The Sun, The Times, The Express, and so on don't have regular them, and The Guardian's is much further back in the paper.

While there is something laudable about having the column, the evidence that the Mail is committed to it as anything other than window dressing is so far lacking.


For some reason I can't work out how to upload the spreadsheet I worked on as a link in blogger.

If you know how please leave a comment explaining it. Also if you want a copy of what is a very crude spreadsheet, get in touch on Twitter.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

What is it with the Daily Mail and gay marriage polls?

Once again the Daily Mail has skewed its reporting of gay marriage polling.

On Friday the paper covered a survey commissioned by Catholic Voice canvassing the LGBT members of society for their views on gay marriage.

The headline claimed that just over a quarter of respondents said they would marry should the law be changed.

As covered on The Guardian's Reality Check & Full Fact, what the question actually asked was whether those surveyed would marry their current partner if the system changes. (see table 2 on page 3 of the report.)

The headline therefore is almost as silly as asking straight people if they think they will marry their current partner, and then presenting the findings as support for the institution of marriage in general.

This is just the latest in a series of headlines that have put a spin on what poll findings tell us about support for gay marriage..

Last year the paper claimed cobbled together a story claiming most Britons opposed gay marriage when a) the stats were from 2006 and b) the for/against split was 46% in favour 45% against.

After a complaint, the paper published a correction.

But in a similar vein the Press Complaints Commission received a complaint about another dodgy headline on the subject.

A headline in the paper claimed that another survey showed "most Britons" opposed gay marriage, when the percentage was 47 per cent.

Thankfully the Mail is free to take whatever view it likes on the issue of gay marriage, whether I or you agree with them is immaterial.

But taking a clear view on an issue and consistently putting an unsupportable spin on poll findings on the subject  is a different thing all together.

Is it too much to ask that whatever the post-Leveson regulation landscape looks like, publishers, while free to take sides, will at least have to do this within the hardly-constricting confines of the facts? 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Comedy: The collective noun of error

It may seem churlish to hone in on the Guardian's corrections column once again, particularly as I have previously said the paper is one of the best at making amends for mistakes.

However, this one I could not resist for pure amusement value coming as it did from a review of a performance of Shakespeare's 'Comedy of Errors'.
"The Comedy of Errors – review was corrected because, owing to an error in the Globe programme, the original wrongly named the actor playing Arsalan of Kabul. The programme incorrectly named Ghulamnabi Tanha, when it should have said Shakoor Shamshad."

It is not the only Bard-related balls-up this week. In fact this was the third day in a row Shakespeare has popped up in the column, featuring as he did on Wednesday and Thursday

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Is The Sun re-writing Health & Safety history?

Ah yes, The Sun. Today the paper backed Employment Minister Chris Grayling in his new drive to help bust Health and Safety myths. Couldn't agree more, etc.

But isn't this  the same publication which reported the story of 25 Firemen who apparently refused to save a seagull from a pond on account of "barmy health and safety rules" when the very myth buster they plug today said H&S was not a factor?

Why yes, yes it could.

I know the point they are trying to get across today is that Health and Safety nonsense does happen, it's just not the fault of regulations, but some anonymous and unquoted getalifes that use health safety as a justification for pretty much anything.

But to take such a position after publishing stories like the one above, when they specifically blamed the rules seems a bit of a retreat on the paper's part. (There could well be plenty more. Send me them and I'll add them in).

There is a subtle shift from 'It's the regulations fault' to 'It's the interpreters of the regulations fault', in the way all of the examples in the piece are cited.

Of course it's never good simply to be a whiner. The fact that The Sun not only ran a news piece and its main leader on this must count for something. 

After all, the Daily Mail which originally splashed on the seagull/fire brigade story, didn't find room for any 'mythbusting' at all.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The millions still to be spent investigating hacking allegations

It was hardly the box office stuff of recent weeks, but back in March London Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry.

You might remember the coverage of the session centred on the revelation that more was being spent on investigating claims of hacking (Approx £40 million) than the Met spends in one year on child abuse work (Approx £36 million, apparently)

Predictably this prompted 'More spent on hacking than child abuse' type headlines (more on those later), but curious about the £40 million figure I decided to take a closer look.

After a Freedom of Information request, the Met has now disclosed how much it spent on hacking in the last two financial years, and how much it estimates it will spend on the investigations in the years ahead.

Here are the figures broken down by financial year for spending on Operations Weeting, Elveden, Tuleta and Appleton.*

What this shows is that the investigations won't be slowing down any time soon, with costs in 20/13/14 exceeding those of 2010/11 and 2011/12 combined.

But also worth noting here is the misleading impression created by the reporting of Kit Malthouse's figures.

If we accept the £36 million figure (sorry no FOI on that one folks) then it is obvious that even in the most expensive year of investigations the spend was still less than half as much as Mr Malthouse claimed went on child abuse work.

This is of course not to say that this makes the hacking investigation any more crucial/efficient/justifiable/etc. After all, judging the necessity of the spend of a police investigation in terms of its cost relative to child abuse work does not seem the soundest basis for policing decisions.

What it does show is once again, how easily newspapers can either get the wrong of the stick, or offer it to their readers, sometimes on purpose.

At least now there is more evidence, a correction will no doubt be forthcoming.

*Operation Weeting - police investigation into allegations of phone hacking by the News of the
Operation Elveden - police investigation, supervised by the IPCC, into e-mails received from
News International that allegedly show payments being made to police by the News of the World.
Operation Tuleta - a police investigation into hacking in general terms and so far involved
consideration of hard drives, and other documentation seized in historic operations.
Operation Appleton - The MPS response to the Leveson Inquiry.

(Summaries cribbed from here)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Guardian acts fast to clean up mess over Mandarin morale

Over the weekend, the normally somewhat dry Guardian corrections column contained a bit of a significant whoopsie.

Apparently a piece on morale in the Home Office had to be entirely re-written due to "multiple inaccuracies".

The piece, based on polling by Civil Service World which looked at how workers in Whitehall viewed their Departments, erred in several ways when it sought to portray the Home Office as most demoralised and then link this to the Brodie Clark debacle.

Over to CSW Editor Matt Ross, who had a letter published in Saturday's edition:

"Our research did not examine how "demoralised" or "discontented" civil servants are, nor did it assess how many civil servants departmental staff judge to be "incompetent". The Guardian appears to have confused the answers to various different questions, and repeatedly drawn unfounded conclusions. 
The article also links our findings to the Brodie Clark affair, on the basis that the survey reveals poor morale in the Home Office and a reluctance on the part of ministers to pursue innovative policies – but our survey didn't cover morale, and on readiness to take risks in the pursuit of innovation the Home Office came out close to the civil service average. 
The figures quoted in fact cover views of the barriers to "involving external stakeholders in policy development". 
Meanwhile, while we found Home Office officials were the most negative about their department's capabilities, the findings on the department's management of poorly performing staff fell within the average range.
The Ministry of Defence figures on the management of poor performance were also close to the average, and the results quoted relate to ministry officials' views on the capabilities which the department needs to improve: a higher than average proportion named "recruitment, retention, and performance management" as a priority for improvement. 
Our survey did not poll 14,000 civil servants, but 1,400. And I did not provide the quotes attributed to me: some of them seem to be versions of comments by Dave Penman, the FDA union's deputy general secretary, quoted in our own coverage of the survey findings."

So in all, quite a few errors. To be fair to the Guardian it is still the case that the Home Office was the only Department where more respondents felt their Department had "the capabilities required to better meet the challenges facing it", but after that it all gets a bit messy - particularly the quote attribution.

And to be super fair to the paper: how about that correction process? Within a matter of days we got a new article, a correction in the corrections column, and a letter from the wronged party.

The Guardian isn't alone in mangling poll results, and this most definitely isn't the most shocking case, but when sorting out the slip-ups, the paper is perhaps the only one enforcing what should be the absolute minimum in corrective action.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Is this the most misunderstood political statistic ever?

Some time ago, Ben Goldacre accorded a figure from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) the status of "the worst Government statistic ever created".

Sure enough, the woeful attempt at puffing up potential procurement savings means whoever was behind it should hang their head in shame.

But this week I was reminded of a figure which leaves me fuming every time I hear it misused. Given that it first surfaced almost two years ago I can only guess at what the cumulative effect on my blood pressure has been.

On this week's Question Time, the panel considered the funding cuts/staff reductions faced by forces.

Would not such cuts mean less bobbies on the beat and more crime on the street? Not according to Disabilities Minister Maria Miller.

Arguing that there was plenty of police spare capacity, she said:
"What matters is that we actually get more of those police out on the streets. At the moment we have got just one in ten policemen out fighting crime and the rest are stuck in back offices."

This has to be the most misused figures in Westminster of recent years.

In the way presented by Maria Miller it is plain wrong. It comes from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) who in a report in 2010 gave the Westminster this crucial bit of information. But as More or Less, Full Fact, and no doubt numerous others have highlighted, just because one in ten are on the street it does no mean that the other 90 per cent are pushing paper clips around the office.

The crucial thing is tat 100 per cent here means the total number of officers and PCSOs available to staff the Police's 24/7 operation. However cushy a deal you may think the police have, expecting them all to be available on the beat at all hours of the day, seems a tad harsh.

Some are off duty, some have days off, some are sick, some are in court, etc. Also, the Police have other things to do than be on the beat.

One of the biggest chunks taken out of the 100 per cent actually comes from police doing other stuff, and the examples given in the report are investigation and intelligence. Community policing and response may be important to voters, but surely there are other areas officers need to work in to fight crime?

The big problem is that when a half-stat like this gets into the echo chamber that is the public debate over policy, it really highlights how misconceptions get out there.

HMIC produced a report, which in fairness does question if police human resources are being employed in the most efficient way.

But then part the findings are summarised as "one in ten police are visible at any one time" this is seized on by a new Government looking to reform the police, and the press, then suddenly it is pretty widespread in an oversimplified form being cited by people who have little idea what it is based on or what it means.

Because of this, continues to get parroted by people who, in all likelihood haven't read the original report. They will have just heard/read the 'one in ten police on the street stat', and filled in the other 90 per cent with their own presumptions about how the police spend their time.

It just goes to show how just a little bit of misunderstanding (and for argument's sake we assume the misunderstanding is accidental) can distort figure into a rather potent trump card in the argument for the funding changes and reforms the police are facing.

After all, it is pretty potent. You would be hard pushed to find anyone who would argue that a 10-90 split of police time between busting street crime and filling in forms is desirable or efficient. Which leaves those using the stat in this way clear to put forward their remedy as something bound to improve what would be a shocking state of affairs. Were it true.

What this figure does at a stroke is undermine any attempt to have a more informed debate about how to reform the police to cope with tighter funding. Which is a shame because while this figure may have been twisted, the tone of the HMIC report is still that there IS room to make a more efficient police service.

While the aforementioned DCLG figure has all the hallmarks off a number cooked up by advisors to grab unsupportable headlines, this HMIC one is different.

This speaks more to the problem of the chinese whispers effect in political debate, and a willingness to cite figures without checking them, just because they conform to an outlook you in the most part have already - and this is a much more pervasive and harder to tackle problem.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The quotes that don't make the headlines...

Warning that UK 'may never fully recover if Greece exits Euro: Top forecaster says Britain would face long recession'- The Guardian front page headline, May 19 2012

"[Office for Budget Responsibility head Robert] Chote said there were so many uncertainties around what might happen with Greece and the eurozone that trying to produce firm predictions was not "particularly helpful". - The Guardian, May 19 2012

For the avoidance of doubt here are the rest of Chote's quotes in the piece:

"The head of the UK's OBR said the deepening crisis in the eurozone could force him to tear up his forecasts, made only two months ago, that Britain would post modest growth of 0.8% this year.

"The concern is that you end up with an outcome in the eurozone that creates the same sort of structural difficulties in the financial system and in the economy that we saw in the past recession, and that has consequences both for hitting economic activity in the economy, but also its underlying potential," said Chote.

With economic output in the UK still 4% below its peak level when the recession began in early 2008, the prime minister and the governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, have expressed concern in recent days about the vulnerability of Britain to the eurozone.

Chote said he was particularly concerned about the possibility that a second deep recession would leave permanent scars. "That means not just that the economy weakens and then strengthens again – it goes into a hole and comes out – but that you go down and you never quite get back up to where you started."

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sucked in by the Ministry of Defence black hole?

On Monday pretty much every news outlet reported that the Ministry of Defence has managed to close a £38 billion black hole.

Strangely, what they didn't do was report anything about how this blackhole was worked out and how the MoD had got it down.

Of course in short news bulletins there is only so much space. But it came as a surprise to see papers not getting to grips with it, and instead accepting it as a given.

The problem is that when the MoD started bandying about this £38 billion figure they couldn't be too specific about where it came from.

Neither Full Fact nor Channel 4 Factcheck were able to get to the bottom of it - indeed they uncovered estimates from the National Audit Office which conflicted with them.

Liam Fox while he was defence secretary claimed hat the £38 billion hole would open up if defence spending remained level in real terms. The NAO said this would only happen is spending was maintained in cash terms over the same period. Quite a divergence.

Even Chair of the Defence Select Committee said that the Minister of Defence had "been using this figure of £38 billion without there being any great degree of clarity.”

This is not to say it is bogus, It just bugs me that questions were asked about the figure when it was first trotted out. these questions were not answered, and now everyone is using it, like there's nothing to worry about.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Mail, Marmite and what we mean by raising standards

The Daily Mail? Newspaper of the year?! Lifetime achievement award for Littlejohn?!?

The legions of Mail haters across the country will have been aghast to learn that their bette noir had beaten The Times and The Guardian to the London Press Awards gong.

Despite reams written about the paper's dodgy presentation of information lacklustre corrections process, the paper has been recognised by the industry.

In March the Mail also received the Newspaper of the Year award from the Society of Editors.

But both awards mean would be press reformers need to think about the implications.

Much as some people might like to think that the paper - and Mr Littlejohn - are a laughing stock credibility-wise, they are clearly not to everyone.

When the Mail is applauded rather than attacked we should be asking why, rather than instead questioning the planetary origins of people praising the paper.

After all neither I, nor in all probablity you, are a typical reader of a mid-market or tabloid paper. 

London Press Club compared Richard Littlejohn to Marmite, and in the context of the debate about press standards, holds true for the Daily Mail.

As a big Marmite fan, I wouldn't take kindly to the haters forcing the company to 'raise the standards' of the recipe, for argument's sake by reducing the salt content. While I wouldn't suggest a yeast extract has the same potential to sway politicians and public opinion as a national newspaper, anyone seeking to change either of them has to find a response to an argument that goes something like:

'So you don't like Marmite/The Daily Mail. Fine, don't buy it, and quit trying to ruin it for the rest of us.'

People in favour of reform to press regulation that would tackle inaccuracies and distortions need to consider that even under a perfectly reformed system they will probably still not like the Daily Mail. Just like a low-salt Marmite might be a better bet health-wise, but it isn't going to it make it any less divisive a toast topping.

The point is this: Reform won't or shouldn't change any newspaper out of all recognition.

Some of the things that the Mail gets praised for, influence, readership, strong identity, etc are not inseparable from distortions and inaccuracies that get printed.

If you don't like the Daily Mail because it often takes right wing positions, it will probably still often take right wing positions under any reformed system.

If you don't like the Daily Mail because it runs a lot of negative stories about, say, immigrants, regulatory reform will probably not stop this. So long as the stories are accurate (net migration is quite high after all) its an editorial judgement as to whether this is portrayed as a good or bad thing for the country. Lots of people feel immigration is an important issue for the county, and perhaps newspaper coverage fans this, but I don't see how regulation can make the Mail roll out the welcome mat for  immigrants.

The paper will probably also go on saying the criminal justice system is too soft and that welfare spending is too high.

If you don't like it because it campaigns for policy changes, this will probably not change under a reformed regulatory system. While I personally dislike the influence of this populist campaigning from newspapers why shouldn't a publisher be able to do this? The answer is tougher ministers not tougher regulations.

Clearly, there are practices that need to be cut out. The dodgy headline not supported by the text of what an article says, (aka 'the caveat in paragraph 19') and clear cases where the facts of a case have been significantly distorted - for example the health and safety gawn mad stories that turn out to be bogus would hopefully die a death.

However there are others where if the story had been toned down a little the paper concerned could still have worked itself into a lather of indignation without also getting its facts wrong. Much as I disliked the reporting, could a newspaper not get just as agitated about a third of incapacity benefit claimants being found fit for work as when pretending it is two thirds or more?

Higher standards shouldn't mean stopping the Mail from being the Mail, or the Sun from being the Sun. Perhaps there might be more of a change to be witnessed on the currently unregulated Daily Star and Daily Express, but I'm only speculating.

Detractors of any of these papers should consider whether if the things the things they want to stop that newspaper doing can really be turned into universal maxims governing what the press can and can't do.

Defenders of the popular press highlight the important job such publications play in communicating current affairs to the man on the street.

Great. But why speak up for this role of informing the masses by defending a publication's ability to spread inaccurate information, and resist/bury corrections?

If readers believe what they read in their newspaper (and in 2008 67 per cent of Mail readers did) then it is vital the information is accurate. If few readers trust a paper (in the same poll only 29% of Sun readers did) what does the paper have to lose by trying to boost its credibility?

Unless you believe that inaccuracies are an integral part of the tabloid and mid-market press, surely a paper that keeps its identity but has more credibility in both they eyes of the readers and the snipers is surely a good thing?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Met reply, unmet deadline, met with frustration...

Last month I expressed doubts about the presentation of some figures given to the Leveson Inquiry about the cost of the police investigation into phone hacking.

London Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse told the inquiry that at an expected total cost of £40 million the cost of police work and hacking and related investigations was costing more than the annual budget to tackle child abuse.

The comparison was a flawed one, contrasting as it did the total cost of a multi-year police investigation with a single year budget for another type of crime fighting.

But nevertheless the predictable thing happened and newspapers seized on the outrage-ready 'more spent on hacking than protecting children' headline.

Before I rattled off a complaint to the dear old Press Complaints Commission I thought I would at least try and get a bit more information from the Met on where this £40 million figure came from.

I asked, by way of a Freedom of Information request, for a year-by-year breakdown of previously incurred costs and projected costs for the forthcoming year(s). That way the cost could be compared against the annual figure for child protection to see in what year, if any the comparison was valid.

Sadly the Met seem out to spoil such investigation, or at least slow it down. The response to my request stated they are seeing whether the info is exempt from FoI request.

So a year by year breakdown of a total amount that is already a matter of public record is potentially exempt from the FoI?

Tis but a little bit of extra detail behind Mr Malthouse's figure, so why do they even need to consider it - and use up another month in the process?

Hmmm. I say again: Hmmm.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Am I stupider than the Department for Work and Pensions?

Something about last Sunday's Sun has been bothering me all week.

Over the weekend the paper ran a piece detailing not only the vast sums being paid in housing benefit but cited evidence showing recipient numbers were on the up. According to the report there had been a 76% increase in people receiving over £20,000 per year.

But it isn't the rights or wrongs of the payments that has been on my mind, but where these figures came from.

Of course, they probably came from the Department for Work and Pensions. But keep in mind this a place with previous on cherry picking stats for the press to send out a message of extravagance, fraud and idleness about the benefits system. Strangely these numbers would be given to the press, but not published for wider scrutiny.

This got so bad that in 2010 the Department was warned about "serious deficiencies" in the way it fed data to the press.

While the string of stories didn't stop, DWP did at least make a little archive of these tempting, tabloid ready morsels (or ad hoc analyses as they call them) for the rest of us to see.

Which brings us this week. Normally whenever a story like this comes up, my first port of call is the ad hoc analysis page.

But this time no briefing on housing benefits could I find. Same story in the most recent housing benefit bulletin, likewise the Parliamentary answers and Freedom of Information log turned nothing up, even if there was one closely related set of figures.

What is going on? Have DWP lurched back into their murky old ways? Surely they would not be foolish enough to do what they had previously been chided for?

Indeed perhaps I just can't find the data in question, and it is me who is at fault.

If I am missing a obviously placed stats release I will acknowledge the egg on my face, if not the DWP have some questions to answer.

So who is being stupid? Me or the DWP?

It's probably not a binary choice...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Roy of the regulators: What should the PCC do about Hodgson harranging?

The furore over today's Sun page has rumbled on throughout the day. Not only was the FA narked enough to let their displeasure be known to the red top, but according to reports, the issue has been raised with the Press Complaints Commission.

To be honest when I saw the page I was hardly enraged enough to dust off my pitchfork and head to Wapping. But nevertheless a few points on the reaction it prompted:

Is this in any way a breach of the Code?

Looking at the PCC Code it's hard to see where a breach has occurred.  Clause 12 states:

"The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability."

But I sincerely doubt even the most sympathetic complainant would class an apparently inability to pronounce the letter 'R' properly as a disability.

Even if there was a code covering mockery of funny ways of talking, the PCC also has a third party rule, which essentially says that only the subject of stories can pursue complaints. They do waive this rule for things like basic points of factual accuracy, which this is not.

Good as it is to see Sun readers (assuming they were readers) taking action to let the paper know that they thought that the coverage was in bad taste. But it is hard to see the PCC doing anything, since the Commission could never be accused of being over-zealous.

Is any remedy really worth it?

Even if action were in the offing, what kind of response could there be that would not heap further scorn on Hodgson?

I strongly believes that when paper gets it wrong, a printed correction/clarification/apology is the absolute least the paper should do, so it is funny to come across a case where this doesn't seem the best way forward

Every time I heard defenders of the PCC argue that corrections can't be the solution in every case, I dismiss it as mere bluster to let publishers off with offering pitiful offers of corrective action like amending the online archive that few people will read again.

Even though the PCC complaints are not coming from the new England manager, nor has there been any indication of him being that bothered, an apology risks making him look like a thin skinned wimp even if he didn't care.

But as it stands, the reaction against The Sun seems to have got people more on Hodgson's side. Is there really any more that can be done that wouldn't turn this good will turn into a sympathy vote?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

How wrong does the ONS get its initial GDP figures?

After the Times' criticism of the Office for National Statistics for releasing an early estimate of the GDP data, that the newspaper didn't like, it is worth looking at how off these first releases tend to be.

Check out this graph

For the most part, the orange line is lower than the blue line, meaning there probably is some scope for the the figures to be revised up by the 0.2 percentage points. This would then mean that there would not have been two quarters of 'negative growth' or a recession to you and me.

Although somewhat amusingly, on of the few points where the initial estimate was higher was the one which prompted that gushing Times leader I flagged up in the last post, about how we had avoided double dip recession.