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Archive for the ‘missing context’


Context phobia 418

Posted on April 22, 2019 by

Alert readers will know by now that there’s nothing the Scottish media – and the Scottish Daily Mail in particular – likes more than printing scary-sounding figures with no context whatsoever by which people could judge how big or small they really are.

Nothing’s changed today (other than a rather sneaky inset shot of an old story about a different statistic which misleadingly makes today’s one look like a big increase), so rather than bang on we’ll just fill in the blanks: ScotRail runs around 760,000 trains a year, so this year’s cancellation figures amount to about 3.5% of all trains.

Which is to say, around one time in every 30 that you go to get a train it’ll have been cancelled and you’ll have to wait for the next one, which on the average commuter line will probably mean 15-20 minutes.

Which is still a pain in the hole, of course, but if it’s such a high number ask yourself why the Mail is so pathologically averse to simply telling you what percentage it is.

We’ll see you again with these figures in a few weeks, folks.

Standard Wales Check 514

Posted on February 05, 2019 by

Alert readers will recall that earlier today we conducted one of our regular context checks for statistics misleadingly-incompletely reported in the Scottish press. But while those are like shooting fish in a barrel, there’s one thing that’s an even more reliable open goal for the website editor looking for content in a slow news week.

Ladies and gentlemen, once again we give you… Scottish Labour.

There’s absolutely nothing that happens in Scotland that Scottish Labour are happy with. Day in and day out they can be found putting the bleakest possible spin on any statistic for a dwindling audience of diehard supporters and Scottish journalists.

Something bad happened? SCOTLAND IS TERRIBLE AND IT’S ALL THE SNP’S FAULT. Something good happened? IT WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH AND IT’S ALL THE SNP’S FAULT. And the solution is always the same: let Labour run things.

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Context in numbers 79

Posted on February 05, 2019 by

From the Scottish Daily Mail today:

As readers will have come to expect, the article is entirely free of any figures by which readers could gauge whether 1000 was a high number or not. So as usual, we’ll have to do it for them.

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Quick context check 174

Posted on November 30, 2018 by

The front page lead of today’s Scottish Daily Mail:

As alert readers of this site will know, the Mail has a particular fondness for presenting statistics bereft of any context so that people have no idea how big or small they really are. So is 1,600 passengers a week receiving compensation for delays a lot or a little? Let’s find out.

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Ifs and buts and maybes 170

Posted on November 01, 2018 by

Alert readers may have noticed that for a non-holiday period, Scottish politics is a deathly quiet place at the moment. Papers are struggling to find anything to write about at all, and were beside themselves with joy this week when presented with the chance to fabricate a ridiculous “anti-Semitism” story about an obscure blogger criticising a trade union and fill several pages with hysterical fauxtrage over it.

The sheer dearth of anything happening whatsoever is typified by the Scottish Daily Mail’s front-page splash this morning.

It sounds dramatic – a potentially catastrophic en-masse exodus of Scotland’s doctors would certainly be a crisis. But anyone reading beyond the lurid headline will swiftly discover a rather less doom-laden reality.

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Quick perspective check 208

Posted on September 27, 2018 by

From today’s Scottish Daily Mail:

Sounds terrible. Let’s take a look in more depth at this rising tide.

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Regular context update 42

Posted on July 29, 2018 by

Large sections of the Scottish media today trot out Variant #26 of the fortnightly “NHS SCOTLAND CRISIS!” story, namely the targets for A&E waiting times. The BBC, for example, goes with this:

While the Sunday Mail runs a remarkably similar piece except with more Anas Sarwar.

And that’s all fair enough – it’s a legitimate news story. But what’s really odd about it is that both of the articles leave out what you might imagine would be a rather crucial piece of information.

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One story, two spins 78

Posted on June 27, 2018 by

Part 1: the story.

This year’s Scottish Social Attitudes Survey has found, yet again, that Scottish people trust their government in Holyrood vastly more than they trust the one in Westminster. The figures transcend party loyalties, with far more people saying they trust the Scottish Government than vote for the SNP.

Trust in both governments was down by five points, which meant the Scottish Government had lost 7.6% of its trust (66 down to 61) while the UK government had lost 20% of its trust (25 down to 20).

Now let’s see how two newspapers owned by the same company reported the news.

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To have and to have not 171

Posted on June 24, 2018 by

The Sunday Times puts some poll results in an interesting frame today:

And readers who’ve learned anything at all from this site over the last six years will be looking at that tweet and immediately wondering “what AREN’T we being told there?”

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Walking like a peasant 136

Posted on June 01, 2018 by

So this story is the front page of tonight’s Evening Times.

It’s a pretty slim piece deploying a Glasgow mother to attack the SNP-run city council over a recent increase in nursery fees, and it sounds like the new higher cost might be a pretty big deal to her.

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The provision of context 118

Posted on January 16, 2018 by

We’ve commented quite a few times in recent months about the Scottish media’s habit of running statistical stories rendered meaningless by the absence of any context.

The reasons for this aren’t necessarily sinister – sometimes journalists are just lazy or the full stats are hard to establish because like-for-like figures aren’t published – but usually it’s just a way to get an SNP BAD story out of isolated numbers which, if the full picture was presented, would render that impossible.

The above story from STV News today contains no furious rentaquotes from Labour or the Tories (at least not yet), so we should place it in the former category. Nevertheless, we do feel it’s our duty in a general sense to provide readers with the information that the Scottish media can’t be bothered to, so let’s do that.

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Under test conditions 293

Posted on September 06, 2017 by

One of the handiest things for truth-seeking political commentators (admittedly a rare breed) is that the three component nations that make up Great Britain currently all have different parties in government, so it’s always possible to measure the rhetoric of the main parties against their actions in the bit they’re actually in charge of.

So when Scottish Labour, for example, try to grab the credit for the SNP ending the public sector pay freeze by claiming that they’re “following Labour’s lead”, it’s a simple matter to look to Wales – where Labour run the Assembly – and note that the pay freeze there is very much still in place, with the Labour executive, unlike the Scottish Government, refusing to find the money to end it from its own budget.

(The same is true for many other policies the Scottish Government has implemented to fight Tory austerity, like free university tuition and mitigating the bedroom tax.)

And the Tories are no less hypocritical.

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