Despite knocking on a bit, I try to keep up with current affairs and am always on the lookout for new facts that will enhance my general knowledge and understanding of what’s going on around me.
In last Thursday’s Star my attention was drawn to a letter about World Plant Milk Day, no, me neither! I’ll just skip over the assertion that by choosing plant milk ‘animals are spared tremendous suffering’ and home in on the ‘fact’ that ‘almost a quarter of Britons choose vegan milks’… Really? Precisely where has this gem of a fact come from? This is not a rhetorical question, by the way, as I would love to know which independent research organisation came up with this one and how extensive the survey was. Or could it possibly be that the research was conducted by the author of the letter within her own household and the result then projected to the other 60-odd million of us?
I know that by bringing this issue to light it is not, in itself, of earth-shattering importance but I am concerned that as consumers of news, many people will just glibly accept such preposterous assertions as genuine facts, just because ‘they read it somewhere the other day’. More seriously, mainstream media, such as the BBC and commercial channels, bombard us with totally unsupported or, at best, very distorted ‘facts’ based on surveys. For example, only a few weeks ago, BBC Look North assured us that 25% of school-age children in Yorkshire were going hungry at lunchtime during the school holidays. This nugget was a result of a food bank survey of kids is one of the most deprived areas of Bradford… but as if by magic, all the children in the county are affected.
Quite rightly there are clear rules and legal boundaries about what can be published about companies and individuals and I have no wish to impose such restrictions to, in any way, limit freedom of expression but I think that all media outlets, particularly print media, should at least challenge their contributors to support spurious-sounding statistics before being published.