Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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23 August 2011

It is certain that not enough children are reading books if by that you mean that children aren’t reading as many books as adults and particularly their parents would like but a BBC report of a new National Literacy Trust survey rather exaggerates and distorts the evidence.

The main problem is that it is a survey of 8-17 year olds but the statistics quoted aren’t broken down by age. Naturally eight year olds (who may not even know how to read adequately) are going to be significantly behind and will make the figures look worse. Also, the headline for the story given on the BBC News front page is “Pupils ‘prefer emails to books'” – a quotation that appears nowhere in the report. In the news piece and executive summary of the report it says “text messages, magazines, emails and websites were the top leisure reading choices of young people” which implies that’s what they like to read most but in fact the survey just shows that it’s what they read most often.

Lastly, I noted that the journalist said, “more girls admit they read text messages, magazines, emails, fiction, song lyrics and social networking message boards and poems than boys” – why “admit”?!

22 August 2011
Filed under:Current Affairs (World),journalism at10:42 am

The pictures that have been circulating for several months of the DIY weapons put together by Libyan rebels tell a great story about the plucky underdog but when I read “@tim_libert: these are the DIY weapons that won Libyan civil war, courtesy of The Atlantic” I was a little stunned. As he noted himself a few minutes later, “Libya also had a LOT of western air support”. Indeed. And it is worth noting that that air support is still presented, officially at least, as being merely “enforcing a UN resolution to protect civilians“. Surely after 7,400 sorties that’s a rather inadequate figleaf for NATO action by now?

This is not to say that I have any way of judging how things really played out in Libya, that the Libyan rebels were not valiant fighters or that NATO is unjustified in intervening as it did – it’s just an observation that as with any war press coverage is inevitably subject to spin.