Last month, Anthony Reuben came to the end of an experimental 18 month contract at the BBC. His job had been Head of Statistics, and included training and advising BBC reporters on how to understand and present numerical issues. The end of his tenure was commemorated with a nice little profile at the Online Journalism blog.
Many stories that reporters get, he notes, are ‘big number’ stories which appeared to be striking but require the journalist to scrutinise further to establish whether the numbers really were striking when placed in context.
It is rather a pity Reuben didn’t stay in post for just a few weeks longer, then we might have been spared the dog’s dinner of a story which featured prominently on most BBC news broadcasts yesterday.
The headline, duly replicated in most newspapers, is captured here. “School sex crime reports in UK top 5,500 in three years.” As the broadcasts filled out the details, it was described as “a national emergency.” [Read more…]