I am annoyed.  That’s a mild expression of the burning fury that accompanies reading something that is not only inaccurate but so wrong it verges on the dishonest.

I am unable to go into full details so I will take a more general approach.

With the speed of information approaching near terminal velocity the news cycle is closer to spin cycle making a furious amount of noise and generating a lot of insubstantial foam.  In most cases this is from the mouth as instant ‘hot-takes’, comment pieces and the blogs they compete with vie for page views, clicks and shares.

I get it.  As a mere blogger I am subject to my own deadlines, have no editor and have no pressures that real journalists paid for their toil and labour have to experience.

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I have already written about journalistic license here and here but this is different.  This goes beyond self promotion and into the realms of mendacity.

If there is a report about a court case or an employment tribunal then chances are that the judgment for that case is available online. This allows anyone to read the judgment in full and see how certain events or evidence is presented in context.

I suspect that many of the articles written about such cases will be written by non legal specialists. If not then even more brickbats are due for shoddy, lazy and dangerous misreporting.

I appreciate that not everyone is a lawyer or familiar with the legalese used in these judgments but there are many helpful law firms that produce summaries of these judgments and an army of helpful bloggers keen to educate and correct where they see misrepresentation of the law or tabloid froth over sentencing.

I can find all of this information in under 15 minutes. If you have time to write a 2000 word article or hot take in response to that article than you have time to do some basic research.

Useful rule of thumb tip! If you see an article on the law illustrated with a gavel then they probably don’t know what they are talking about (unless it’s an article on auctioneers).

Next!

I watched with alternating amusement and despair at the whirling carousel of nonsense that emerges with the publication of a piece of research. Even people who usually know better were blinded by confirmation bias and took what amounted to a copied and pasted press release at face value.

Within minutes the response articles and blogs came out to explain why this research only confirmed what we already knew. Each piece was a gentle nail into the coffin that had been so lovingly prepared for this day. The usual suspects climbed up on their mighty hobby horse steeds and charged into battle.

A few lone voices familiar with this type of research started to ask the questions that journalists should have asked. Did the main points in the press release match with the research? How many people did this research cover? How many of them were actually eligible in the first place? How representative was the sample? Did the results support the conclusion?

Within a matter of hours the research flaws were identified and the report stripped of its thin meat leaving only shiny bone. This skeleton was then hastily shoved into a cupboard for its passing to be mourned by some very sheepish corrections.

Some journalists are dismissive of the value of bloggers and their self published ways. They may take pride in the high journalistic standards of accuracy. I hope that if they feel that way then they are not responsible for this shoddy copy paste churnalism.

The Internet is not just home to fascinating case judgments and summaries but all sorts of useful materials to help people unfamiliar with the detail or nuances of complex areas have a better understanding.

This may seem picky but accuracy matters. Perceptions are important in shaping behaviour and attitudes. Presenting one side of a story in a way that is divorced from fact is dishonest and dangerous. Poorly presented statistics taken out of context stick in minds and may result in people making choices that aren’t right for them.

We deserve better.

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ethannevelyn
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