Earlier this week the Daily Mail ran a story claiming four out of five new nurses are "FOREIGN".
But it turns out the claim was bogus. The real figure is more like one in five, according to a correction issued by the Health and Social Care Information Service (HSCIS).
The Mail's story relied upon a very misleading calculation whereby the net change in the number of nurses was divided by the number of overseas nurses hired. It failed to take into account the all important number of British nurses hired.
If they had done that they would have been left with a figure of around one in five foreign nurses and a front page that looked like this:
HSCIC has written to Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre to complain, stating:
"We are writing to express our extreme concern that the Daily Mail has chosen to use inaccurate figures on its front page for two days, despite clear Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) guidance that these figures are incorrect.Furthermore, you have resisted consistent approaches by telephone and email from the HSCIC media team, which explained the inaccuracies and requested a correction. The public have a right to know that the claim above is statistically unsound."
Business Insider has published an interesting review of how newspapers are fairing as they transition from the paper-based world they knew so well into a digital age which so clearly still flummoxes some of them.
The Guardian and the Mail lead the way with big numbers their reward for giving content away free, though questions will always persist about the sustainability and margins of a free model.
However, Business Insider is more concerned about the rest of the press pack. Of the Telegraph, it says "the entire organization is struggling with the transition to digital".
The Telegraph's metered paywall, which lets us have a few stories free per month before kicking in is a clumsy, neither-nor sort of measure, the logic of which I have struggled to understand since it was introduced.
The problem with it is that, by chance, I only seem to hit the paywall while in the process of clicking on something I can find for free elsewhere - a sports report, a piece of news from the wires or a piece of news written up from a press release. Any inclination to sign up is quashed by the fact I'll be able to get what I'm looking for elsewhere, for free.
If the Telegraph really wants to have a paywall which is triggered at a given point, it would surely be better served linking that trigger to types of content rather than just picking an arbitrary monthly limit. Give the commodity stuff away free, tag it to not trigger the paywall, but make people sign-up for the unique stuff. For example, I enjoy the political sketches of Michael Deacon but as he doesn't produce enough each month to trigger the paywall across the multiple devices I use to access the Telegraph website, I get to read it all for free. But Sod's Law says the paywall would activate as I clicked on, for example, the Telegraph's write-up of a Rightmove survey about the best places to live in Britain (St Ives, apparently). In that case I'd easily be able to find the article elsewhere:
The Times and The Sun meanwhile are toiling away behind their far less ambiguous paywalls. Business Insider is critical of the dramatic fall in online readers that the paywall brought about at both titles, but that drop will not have come as a surprise to News UK and the company remains very upbeat about the progress it is making. As reported last month, there are now 225,000 subscribers signed up to The Sun's digital offering, with the majority paying £7.99 per month. Though as an aside The Sun did this week launch a site covering the Millies - its annual awards for military service men and women - with articles which sit outside the paywall. However, News UK says this was a one off for the Millies and it has no immediate plans to put other content outside the paywall.
The bleakest prognosis is reserved for the Express which Business Insider reports is "losing the war on all fronts" with print sales in a similar decline to many of its rivals but web traffic that is considerably lower. In October this year, the Mail Online got almost as many people onto its website in a single day (14.4 million) as the Express managed in the whole month (16.4 million). The According to ABCe figures, the Express gets less than 10 per cent of the monthly traffic enjoyed by its nearest editorial neighbour.
The Express's response seems to have been an attempt to ape the Daily Mail's infamous 'sidebar of shame' with much of its online content but its efforts are clearly failing to pull in the same volume of readers.
The Mail on Sunday was displaying trademark outrage this weekend over BBC Radio 4's decision to pick Hilary Mantel's series of short stories, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, for Book At Bedtime. The paper described it as a "sick and perverted fantasy".
Which is odd, because when the Mail is trying to sell the book in its online store it describes it as a "brilliant collection of short stories".
Almost exactly 12 months ago the Express claimed experts had revealed that regular exercise, not smoking, keeping our weight down, cutting back on booze and having a healthy diet could cure dementia.
Wind the clock forward a year and the Express claims experts have revealed regular exercise, not smoking, keeping our weight down, cutting back on booze and having a healthy diet could beat dementia.
The only thing that seems to have changed over the past 12 months is these five common sense pieces of advice have changed from mere "steps" to become "golden rules".
Meanwhile there remains no actual cure for dementia.
This blog has covered the Express's fondness for dressing up common sense health guidelines as "golden rules" and "cures" in the past. See 'The golden rules of common sense and déjà vu'.
On Wednesday Channel 4 News ran a hatchet job on a so-called 'hipster' cafe in London's Shoreditch which is selling imported breakfast cereals at upwards of £2.50 per bowl. Now the business owner has taken to Facebook to hit back at what he claims was a "completely unfair" attack.
The ''Cereal Killer' cafe has been pretty relentlessly mocked since its plans to sell bowls of breakfast cereal were first announced and clearly the Channel 4 News team were among those who thought it ridiculous. However, given they couldn't just run a report calling it absurd, they instead chose to challenge the cafe's owner on the issue of poverty in East London.
Channel 4 News reported:
"The business sells breakfast cereal from £2.50 a bowl, while one in every two children growing up in Tower Hamlets are living in poverty."
However you look at that statement those two things are unrelated, despite Channel 4's attempt to suggest there is a connection. Undoubtedly there is an awful divide between London's richest and poorest but laying the blame at the door of some hipsters who've been selling Cheerios for a week is more than a stretch.
In the video report the cafe owner, Gary Keery, shut down the interview on camera after becoming flustered by the line of questioning about poverty.
He was clearly ill-prepared for the interview, hadn't thought it through and handled it very poorly. But he can be forgiven for not expecting to be singled out for such a line of attack, when a pub around the corner is charging upwards of £6 for a pint for beer and a restaurant up the road has a £19 starter and a £32 main course on its menu, as well as bottles of wine for more than £1,000 on its wine list.
In fact, if the Channel 4 News team are going to start picking fights with any business charging over the odds for goods and services in and around East London they'd never report on anything else.
Keery certainly felt his business had been singled out unfairly. In an open letter to Channel 4 News, published on Facebook, he wrote:
"You obviously don't understand business if you think I don't have to put a mark-up on what I sell. It may be the poorest borough in London but let's not forget Canary Wharf is also in this borough but I am the one to blame eh? I still have to pay over the top rent for my premises and pay the 12 staff I have employed so I either have to make profit or I will be out of business. Maybe if I charged over £3 for a coffee and dodged taxes like some cafés - the reporters would leave me alone."
Keery also took the opportunity to point out that the reporter who visited his business didn't even pay for the cereal he ate while there.
"You didn't even pay me for the cereal which you could so easily afford... so I will send you a bill for the extortionate £3.20."
On the bright side, Keery should probably console himself with all the free publicity his cafe has been getting.
Of all the common tabloid journalese we are exposed to one of the oddest phrases, when you stop to think about it, is the one suggesting celebrities regularly embrace, kiss or go on dates with "strangers". Here's an example that caught my eye today (right).
Did Melanie Sykes really spot a stranger in the crowd and just embrace him? Was this man just minding his own business when Sykes set about him, entirely at random? And what was it about the man that made him so mysterious? How was he behaving? What dark secrets might his behaviour have been concealing?
Or is it just that the journalist had no idea who the man is and couldn't be bothered to find out?
After all, it seems possible that Sykes did know who the man is. It would certainly explain her familiarity with him. In fact I'd go so far as to confidently predict the man's identity was not a mystery to Sykes.
It's not every day you see the Daily Mail run a story which makes a cast iron case for increased immigration. But Tuesday's front page (right) is pretty unambiguous, even if the language is still typically 'us and them' and their motivation is to stop builders from overseas earning high salaries in the UK.
The Mail is incredulous that a scarcity of bricklayers in the UK means skilled immigrants are able to charge a reported £1,000 per week. The Mail's story makes a strong case for attracting more builders to the UK to plug the skills gap, reduce scarcity and bring down the cost of construction.
Perhaps the editor is having an extension built.
Or perhaps the paper is thinking of everybody else who would benefit from lowering the cost of building new houses and stabilising the house market. However, given that could ultimately be bad news for the kind of wealthy home-owners who normally argue in favour of lowering immigration, I'm sticking with the extension theory for now.
The Sun continued its increasingly bitter spat with Russell Brand on Friday with a front page declaring that 64 per cent of Brits don’t find the comedian funny and 68 per cent think he is a hypocrite. The findings appear accompanied by the headline "THE NATION SPEAKS", though the survey, conducted by YouGov, polled just 574 people.
Like a family bringing some tired Christmas decorations down from the loft, the media have this week dusted down a festive favourite with claims that the traditional school nativity play is under threat from political correctness gone mad.
In recent years this story has become a Christmas tradition to rival carols, turkey, hangovers and newspapers complaining about the number of repeats on television.
The Times reports: "Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are being edged out of schools’ Christmas productions, with only a third performing the traditional nativity play this year."
The stats come from a poll by parenting website Netmums, backed up with some anecdotal evidence that may or may not confuse real life with the nativity scene in Love Actually which featured a family of lobsters.
The Daily Mail is certainly troubled. "The most popular Christmas play now staged in schools is an 'updated nativity' featuring characters such as aliens, punk fairies [and] drunk spacemen," claims the paper.
Obviously arguing over which made-up characters should or shouldn’t appear in a school play could seem an exercise in futility yet some papers return to this story every year. For over a decade the Mail has been telling us "schools have stopped putting on nativity plays", adding that it was done "out of a misplaced consideration for parents of different religions" and quoting angry grandparents calling it "political correctness gone crazy".
And that really seems to be the issue. The papers aren't expressing concern about a shortage of nativity plays. They probably realise most traditions from bygone times eventually have to change or disappear. They are really expressing concern about the country becoming a bit too "diverse" and if they can blame this for the diminished interest in nativity plays then they no doubt feel they can stir up a little anger among their readers.
The Mail of course is no stranger to this kind of "they come over here, ruining our Christmas" nonsense. For many years the paper tried to convince us UK councils were banning the word "Christmas", replacing it with "Winterval" - a story the Mail has since had to admit was not true.
David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun has apparently had a sit down with the Football Association this week to discuss the issue of Twitter and Vine users sharing goal clips, recorded straight from television.
Those videos pose a clear threat to The Sun's exclusive rights to Premier League goals clips, which News UK paid £20m for.
The Sun puts goal clips online within eight minutes of the ball hitting the back of the net. But Vine users are considerably quicker than that.
Dinsmore, who said "I don't think Vine existed when we first bid for the football rights", met with FA boss Richard Scudamore on Monday and told Scudamore "we have to sort this out"
Dinsmore said Twitter also has a role to play in helping media owners protect their rights. "Twitter has to step up, they own the platform," he said.
Dinsmore was speaking to bloggers and journalists at News UK's London headquarters, a meeting at which he claimed the paper had more than doubled its number of digital subscribers in the past year.
There are now 225,000 subscribers signed up to The Sun's digital offering, with the majority paying £7.99 per month. Quarterly and annual subscriptions account for just two per cent. The headline numbers have arrested the decline in total paid sales, driven by an eight per cent fall in paper sales, to just a two per cent drop overall, said Dinsmore.
There’s been a bit of a brouhaha brewing and occasionally haha-ing on Twitter over the fact BBC News hasn’t reported on a hashtag - #CameronMustGo - even though it was trending.
The Twitter hashtag has proved hugely popular with people pointing out what they believe to be the many and most pressing reasons Prime Minister David Cameron should go.
Thousands of critics have joined in.
But that doesn’t make it news.
There is a difference between something being right, or something being popular and something being newsworthy. The only things that are 'new’ are the hashtag and its popularity and to consider those newsworthy is a slippery slope.
It certainly shows a lot of people don’t like the Prime Minister and it reminds us that he’s made some bad and some unconscionable decisions in the eyes of a lot of voters. But that’s still not news.
Of course a lot of people dislike the Prime Minister. It’s easy to see why. And of course a lot of people dislike decisions he has made and want him to go.
But that's still not news. It's not even a reliable barometer of Cameron's overall popularity in the way an opinion poll, or even a petition might be, not least because among the thousands of genuine tweets are thousands of automated tweets sent by spam accounts which latch onto and artificially perpetuate any trending topic.
So understandably, BBC News hasn’t reported on this. It makes sense. It doesn’t mean the BBC is biased, as some are claiming, it means the BBC doesn't see it as newsworthy. At best this online campaign would be an aside to a more newsworthy story about the Prime Minister.
What’s more, anybody with a shred of interest in the BBC or quality journalism should be proud of this fact. Cameron would probably be the first to cheer if BBC News ran a report about a hashtag trending – even one about him. Cameron has made no secret of the fact he dislikes the BBC and is keen to undermine it at any opportunity. If the BBC started to undermine its own credibility it would merely save him a job.
I've been unable to keep up with events surrounding the Rochester and Strood by-election this week without imagining them as scenes from The Thick Of It (with apologies to the original writers). This contains language some readers may find offensive:
Nicola Murray: "Malcolm I Tweeted a picture of a house and a white van for Christ's sake, can't we keep a little perspective!"
Malcolm Tucker: "Perspective! As in showing whether things are near or far away? That's a good fucking idea because right now I wish you were fucking far away. Like on Mars! Though you'd probably find a fucking Martian with some tacky fucking space-gnomes out the front of his intergalactic council house and take the piss out of him too!"
Nicola: "But Malcolm I just thought..."
Malcolm: "Well there's a fucking first! How did that feel using muscles you've never used before? If you want to think, join a fucking think tank where you can't do any harm! I do the thinking, you do the nodding and smiling and the not-fucking-tweeting-pictures-of-voters-houses."
Olly Reeder: "White Van Dan's house. That's what they're calling him now."
Malcolm: "Who is calling him White Van Dan?"
Olly: "The Sun. They've signed him up."
Malcolm: “White Van Dan-fucking-tastic! Well done Nicola, you managed to insult a self-writing headline. You could at least make the bastards work for it! So come on Olly, what's their White Van Plan with Dan Dan the White Van Man who's about to flush Nicola's career down the White Van pan?"
Olly: "They're taking Dan and a white van full of flags to Nicola's house with a camera crew to demand an apology."
Malcolm: "Well that's fucking lucky because we've got loads of those. I've got an apology for an MP right here, drowning in an apology for a news story. And I've got an apology for a political party pissing away its chances of winning a general election that should have been the easiest win since fucking Mugabe awarded himself another term, because of the apology for a twat in Number 10 and his apology for a shambling clusterfuck of a government. Which one do they want first? Because frankly they're welcome to the whole fucking lot of you!"
Olly: "Email from Glenn. White Van Dan has written a 'Danifesto' for The Sun."
Malcolm: "A Danifesto? Of course he fucking has! And I bet it's a nasty mess too."
Olly: "Pretty much. Glenn says it's not been well thought through at all."
Malcolm: "It's not been thought through? It's by somebody who put his name to a fucking 'Danifesto'. Of course it's not been thought through. But Dan Dan The Half-Baked Plan doesn't have to think things through. He's getting paid to stand there holding a fucking flag with a Sun logo on it. A fucking metal pole could do that job. But it doesn't make us any less fucked."
Polling organisation YouGov has launched a ‘Profiler’ service which slices and dices all the information it holds on its panel of survey respondents, such as what newspaper they read, to provide detailed consumer profiles.
For example, YouGov has more than 3,000 Sun readers on its survey panel and by cross referencing that detail with everything else that might differentiate them from their peers, the data tells us they are more likely to be dog-owning, Vauxhall-driving men from East Anglia in their 40s who like pork chops, enjoy darts and horse racing and think "UKIP are just saying what everybody else is thinking". (They also look a bit like a short David Walliams according to the illustration which accompanies YouGov's dashboard of information.)
Meanwhile, based on data on more than 9,000 Guardian readers, YouGov is able to tell us Guardian readers are more likely to be a well-off bunch of London-based leftie cricket fans who enjoy cycling to Waitrose to buy ethically-sourced antipasti, braised endive and fair trade aubergine parmigiana.
Which sounds about right.
And what about Daily Mail readers? The data tells us they’re more likely to be right-wing women in their 60s who live on the south coast, like Cliff Richard, Downton Abbey and Marks & Spencer and think "this country is going to the dogs".
Telegraph readers are rich, Volvo-driving old men trying not to get vichyssoise soup or lobster down their Charles Tyrwhitt shirts, while Daily Mirror readers are apparently more likely to "think the world is controlled by a secretive elite", in between shopping at Aldi and watching Coronation Street.
Express readers eat Morrisons meat pies, live in Yorkshire and describe themselves as occasionally intolerant while readers of the Daily Star like ice cream and boxing. Independent readers are a youthful bunch and Metro readers think they're funny and spend more time than most looking at ads on buses and bus stops.