You very rarely get useful stats about online newspaper readership, so we were quite intrigued by this snippet on tonight’s BBC2 Scotland documentary “Paper Thistle”, about the 200th anniversary of The Scotsman.
We don’t know what the numbers are or how brief the period was, but Wings’ average traffic is higher now than it was in 2014, while we suspect The Scotsman is moving in the opposite direction. For a single-issue website to be anywhere even in the same ballpark as a two-centuries-old broadsheet news brand with scores of full-time writers and production staff and a daily newsstand presence is a remarkable thing indeed.
We might start doing classifieds and sport just to see what happens.
It’s a well-known fact, of course, that 87% of all statistics are made up. But as this site regularly observes, if you’re the Scottish opposition and media there’s no need to invent fake ones when you can twist the real ones to present an image completely at odds with the reality.
The Sunday Times today has some fine examples of the craft of massaging figures for the purposes of deception. It carries two separate scare stories on the NHS, both of them using figures which aren’t based on any sort of news, but on opposition spin on existing stats. One comes from the Tories, under a dramatic headline:
The banner is pulling a classic trick – the £685m figure is actually the total sum spent in a decade, not the single year that most people would assume (since there’s no good reason to measure spending in decades, so headlines usually don’t do it). But remarkably it’s just about the most honest thing in the paper’s health coverage today.
While normally the Unionist media deploys the ever-reliable blunt sledgehammer in its tireless war against Scotland controlling its own affairs, it’s also occasionally capable of more subtlety, slipping in a sneaky stiletto of a lie in passing. Take this piece from today’s Mail On Sunday:
The thing is, that’s not how currency reserves work.
We’ve never been all that convinced by the political strategy of parties angrily pointing out their rivals have supposedly broken their manifesto promises once in government. After all, since by definition the complaining party was very probably opposed to the policies in question, shouldn’t they be delighted if they haven’t been enacted?
It’s even weirder if the opposition was the REASON the policies didn’t get enacted. It’s incredibly bizarre to vote something down (as the Unionist parties did repeatedly to the SNP minority administration of 2007-11 when it brought its manifesto pledges forward), and then huff at the governing party for the fact that you outvoted them.
But today the Scottish Tories have found an intriguing new twist on the wheeze.
This week a Scottish journalist told us ruefully that over the festive holidays, all parties send the newspapers “Christmas boxes” comprising a load of ready-made and pre-chewed garbage stories, each embargoed to specific days, for them to run in the news desert between Boxing Day and January 3rd with no further effort required.
(This year’s crop had been particularly dismal, our source revealed.)
It seems, though, that the media plans to continue the practice all year.
With the constitution looking set to dominate Scottish politics for the forseeable future (and certainly until the Brexit process is concluded, if and when that ever happens), Labour in Scotland finds itself unenviably located in the middle of a grisly medieval execution, being torn apart as its limbs are wrenched from their sockets by the horses of the SNP on one side and the Ruth Davidson No Surrender Party on the other.
No matter how many times the regional sub-department of UK Labour tries to rehash and reheat the worn-out promise of “more powers”, “Home Rule”, “federalism”, “devo super ultra megamax extreme” or whatever meaningless undefined term it’s using this week, it’ll be seen as a cowardly betrayal by one side and a hollow lie by the other, and as views polarise Labour’s hopeless middle-of-the-roading will see it steamrollered like the Lib Dems were at the last UK election.
And the prospect seems to have driven Scottish Labour quite mad.
We weren’t going to dignify the utterly absurd media stushie over a tweet by Glasgow MSP John Mason yesterday with any coverage because it was too cretinous to even bear thinking about, but this from today’s Daily Record was just too good.