Friday, April 21, 2006

Correcting journalists

Comment to the European Tribune site:

Re: FT journalists

I'm the eurotribber who wrote to Simon Briscoe (Statistics Editor at the Financial Times), specifically I referred to the fact that in the Financial Times for 1th April, there were two articles and an editorial which all used the 22% figure (with minor variations) for French youth unemployment, with no qualifications.

The review of his book gave credit to an academic - often unsung heroes who give a lot of free help and advice to journalists and others (I'm an ex-academic):

"I followed up the reference given, and was kindly supplied with recent figures by the source quoted in the book, Monica Threlfall of Loughborough University [ m.threlfall at lboro.ac.uk ].

Youth unemployment 2002

Participation in labour market: UK 62.5%, France 36.9%

Unemployed ratio/population: UK 6.8%, France 7.0%

Unemployed rate/labour force: UK 10.9%, France 18.9%

As Briscoe says, having so many young people in employment [higher education?] is arguably a policy success for France, and a success the UK government is anxious to emulate, with a target of getting 50% (up from the current 40%) of young people into third level education by 2009."

http://plus.maths.org/issue35/reviews/book2/index.html

I also wrote to the BBC, the Guardian and to The Independent's correspondent in France, John Lichfield, about the uncritical use of the 22% figure. No response from the latter. But Ashley Seager, Guardian Economics Editor replied saying:

"I had in fact looked into the issue of French in further education and was informed by several experts that the ILO figures I was quoting adjust for those kinds of things. I also think that if French youth unemployment were genuinely as low as the Briscoe piece claims, the French government would have jumped on those figures long ago. "

I put the latter point to Briscoe, who commented:

"I suspect they either "blindly" took the standard data off the ILO or other website and looked no further or perhaps they needed to portray their situation as a crisis in order to hope to get through an unpopular policy?"

http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2006/4/20/12054/3629

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