New Statesman: The Age of Lies

Many politicians, desperate to stay in power, lack the courage to ask voters to make tough choices – often tax hikes or reductions in services. Many rely on catchy soundbites and clichés, and titles of specific pieces of legislation are often contrary to what bills purport to do. The media is tasked with holding political leaders accountable, analyzing the legislation and policies against campaign promises. Sometimes, a single interview can ruin a political leader’s career, and increasingly politicians counter by attacking media reports as fake news or biased; others avoid the press altogether. Writing for New Statesman, Mark Damazer recommends that journalists develop skills in math and statistics: “The good newspapers and the broadcasters have correspondents who can – and do – understand the context in which statistical argument takes place. They know the difference between a big number and a not-so-big number, the difference between an aggregate spending figure and spending per head of population, the difference in importance between a one-month figure and a trend – and a trend that does not change much over time.” He praises fact-checking sites and speedy corrections. Journalists cannot accept political leaders’ brisk comments and instead must provide context, crafting questions that force politicians to confront the ramifications of their proposals. Failing to understand the math behind public policies increases mistrust for government and contributes to declining democracy. – YaleGlobal

New Statesman: The Age of Lies

Journalists must develop skills in math, statistics – to analyze policy proposals and counter politicians who mislead with sound bites and clichés
Mark Damazer
Thursday, May 25, 2017

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Mark Damazer is Master of St Peter’s College, Oxford, and was the controller of BBC Radio 4 from 2004 to 2010.

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