Does the Irish Examiner check “facts” for their front page articles at all?

I already blogged about it in the Fluffy links ages back but I’m still looking into the terribly alarmist piece the Examiner did on the cost of Facebook to Irish businesses.

The headline on the front page of the Irish Examiner on Thursday 24th of January 2008 was “Facebook: Staff use costing firms €700m a year” yet the first few lines contradicted this by saying:

Workers are logging onto sites such as Bebo, Facebook and MySpace for at least 30 minutes a day — which adds up to a minimum of 10 hours a month or three weeks a year, according to figures released by IT security group Global Secure Systems (GSS).

Except that would be UK workers, not Irish workers. Ireland as the Examiner being a Cork paper should know, is not in the United Kingdom. The figures are here. They are based on a survey of 776 UK workers. Not Irish.

I checked with the company. Half of those surveyed were surveyed at Liverpool St. station in London and half via a website. No Irish people surveyed. (I had actually interviewed the guy from GSS about their survey but it never got printed in the end but I might stick up my notes on the blog instead.)

This is from the press release about the UK:

The poll was carried out amongst 776 office workers, who admitted to spending at least 30 minutes a day visiting social networking sites whilst at work, that’s a minimum of 10 hours a month which equates to 3 weeks of every year

It gets better, this is from the Examiner piece:

Facebook is Ireland’s most popular social networking site with close to 100,000 members. It targets people in the 25-35 age category.

Uhm, try Bebo and the million Irish on it. Try Facebook with the 224,820 people on it as of this morning. Even a simple Google search would get you those REAL facts. Actually no, stop, ever heard of the Irish Examiner? Oh that’s you guys, yeah, you reported Facebook had 131k users last October. You do read your own paper, right?

Hang on though, here are the Examiner facts on Bebo:

Bebo is aimed at the 13-24 age group and it has in the region of 60,000 members in Ireland.

Eh no, see where I pointed to above there. Yeah, you know, a million people. You rang Bebo and asked, right. Front page story, you’d be verifying all the facts right? Even a quick Google, no? If you did ENN might help you.

We get more wisdom:

MySpace is aimed at the over 35s.

You emailed Jay Stevens in the mySpace London office and asked him that? No? Want his number? Let me know.

Let’s get to this money issue though:

If we use the totally WRONG 100k figure from the Examiner:
700Million wasted means that the 100k on Facebook cost their companies 7k a year.
They (wrongly) say 30minutes a day. At 5 days a week. 49 weeks a year. (52- 3 weeks hols) gives us 367.5 hours, Edit: I really can’t add. is 122.5 hours minus 9 bank hols (4.5 hours) gives us 118 hours on Facebook per working year.

So that means that the Examiner is saying that we are costing an employer on average €19.28 €59.32 an hour? So 39 hours a week, 52 weeks a year means us Irish that use Facebook are being paid €120k a year. Nice. Some of ye got pay increases. Congrats.

I don’t think I’ve seen such shoddy fact-checking in a long long time. I’d fire my fact-checkers. I’d hire blind and dumb chimps instead. Anything would improve what you have. Even a blogger.

Update: Changed the figures because I can’t add or multiply!

18 Responses to “Does the Irish Examiner check “facts” for their front page articles at all?”

  1. Sinéad says:

    Front page news? Definite monkey work.

    Despite getting their facts wrong there always seems to be one of these “stories” floating around and I’m so so sick of them. Who cares if the Internet is making some people less productive? Those are the same people that before the dawn of the Internet would simply become distracted from their work by dogs with fluffy tails.

  2. What they haven’t accounted for is if they weren’t spending the 22 mins on facebook or whatever they’d be playing solitaire making rubber band balls or something else, no-one is productive for 8 solid hours in the knowledge economy, they’d go mad

  3. Branedy says:

    Based upon these ‘factoids’ we should block email as well, it’s costing millions of hours a day, I spend hours each day on email, when I’m not posting here that is 😉

  4. mj says:

    “They (wrongly) say 30minutes a day. At 5 days a week. 49 weeks a year. (52- 3 weeks hols) gives us 367.5 hours, minus 9 bank hols (4.5 hours) gives us 363 hours on Facebook per working year.”

    Actually, at 30 minutes a day, the maximum hours per year on Facebook would be 183 (in a leap year).

    So if I was accessing FB (and not during work hours and costing the company 7K, it would be 7000/183 = 38 euro an hour! Holy carp!!!!

  5. Damien says:

    Changed my figures. They don’t agree with yours though MJ, how did you calculate yours?

  6. Salubri says:

    The average Joe Soap is on 21(+) days a year. That’s not 3 weeks as your working week is 5 days.

    I think normally working days in a year is calculated as
    (52*5)-(9 bank hols + 21 Hols) = 230

    At 1/2 an hour a day thats 230/2 = 115 hours a year.

    For 100,000 people that’s 11,500,000 man hours a year.

    €700,000,000 pa for 11,500,000 man hours is €60.87 per hour.
    (That’s cost to the employer – less 14% ER PRSI = €53.39 is how much people are making. I want a raise!)

  7. Sabrina Dent says:

    “Update: Changed the figures because I can’t add or multiply!”

    Well, fine; at least you fact check!

  8. Andy C says:

    When I started out as a radio journalist in a local station 10 years ago, The Examiner was legendary in the newsroom even then for it’s fact-checking, or lack of it! It was one of the first things the Head of News warned me about!

    If there was a local story that we hadn’t picked up on in The Irish Times or The Irish Independent, we could quite happily re-write it and broadcast it. If the story was in the Examiner, it was a case of approach with extreme caution as it was guaranteed to have a number of mistakes in it.

    It continues to this day in the station where I produce, with a journalist colleague of mine having to field numerous angry calls after she used an Examiner story one dull weekend!

  9. Katie says:

    I have a photo taken on wednesday august first 2007 of the irish times and the examiner’s front pages. It was about some new census figures.

    the times reads:

    “Increased birth rate and life expectancy boost population”

    the examiner reads:

    “Population crisis looms over late motherhood”

    News is as dependable as what Mary-next-door-who-loves-some-drama says!

  10. valueireland says:

    Interesting observations! I’ve had similar issues with the Examiner and their fact checking for a story based on my website in the past.

    Timely and related comments from Roy Greenslade here today –

  11. Does anyone actually read the Irish Examiner anyway? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it for sale.

  12. You will have to look long and hard to discover a daily newspaper in Ireland that still retains fact checkers as part of the shifts working to produce the major sections of the papers.

    In many parts of the world, fact checkers were let go across the media empires in the early 90s. The void left behind helped cultivate the cargo cult journalism we now pay to read.

  13. Anthony says:

    Another fire and brimstone sermon from the preacher of journalistic integrity. Well done.

  14. Simon McGarr says:

    Bernie is correct. It would be interesting to see if any of the papers employ anyone in the role of fact checker any more. Mostly, the defence of the reader against a journalist making mistakes is their editor’s superior general knowledge.

    In a story like this, where novel figures are being cited, I can’t imagine there would be much chance of them being challenged.

  15. Branedy says:

    Fact checks are for wimps 😉

  16. Anders says:

    The €60 an hour is the cost to the company, not the salary. It’s probably not far off what an employee costs if all the overheads are taken into consideration. Overall I’d say that article is probably more or less correct but it seems a little simplistic to just measure facebook and myspace.

  17. john says:

    I remember that this story was in the Daily Telegraph and so they basically lifted it from there and obviously tried and failed to fiddle with the figures to make it relevant to Ireland.

    I think the Evening Herald ran with something similar.

    Lazy journalism at its laziest…a slow news day, not many staff and not much time to do anything I suspect.

    There’s a piece on this week’s Press Gazette website about a week in the life of a journalist on a UK regional daily newspaper and it’d make anybody cringe.

    And yet there’s still tens of thousands of teenagers who want to do media degrees at uni.