The headline reads: "Pound drops as figures reveal 'unsustainable' current account deficit.
Yes, that deficit is a national disgrace, given it's a Conservative Chancellor who has failed abysmally at his task of reining it in. But this is not about the failure of our political class to get a grip on events.It's about our media and its failure to handle the most elementary numerical data, providing textbook examples day in, day out, of how NOT to present and interpret statistical data.
So how much has the pound dropped as a consequence of Chancellor Osborne's lax management of the nation's finances? How does it compare with the 50% drop in the value of the Russian rouble against the dollar this last year (yup, 50% no less)? Is it 5%? Or a mere 1%? Read on, and prepare to be underwhelmed.
Here's the key sentence in the article under that headline:
The sentence (highlighted in my yellow) reads: "The news sent the pound down to $1.555, having opened at $1.559".
Visual aid? Just in case the reader is incapable of visualizing a decrease of 4 parts per 1559... stand by for a truly cretinous graph (with apologies to cretins everywhere, most of whom are probably streets ahead in cognitive skills relative to the Telegraph's financial journalists and sub-editors):
Just look at the way that vertical y axis has been expanded, so as to run from 1.555 (minimum) to 1.561 (maximum) thereby magnifying tiny differences in exchange rate, fully within the range of day-to-day variation - being a change of just 0.257%. I repeat: a mere 0.257%. That's about one quarter of one percent.
Look too at the time scale, running from 22 December (yesterday!) to 23 December (today). What an abortion! What a total travesty of statistics.
Just a one-off? Just a momentary lapse on the part of the Telegraph? Nope. A more egregious example certainly, but in no way atypical. This kind of mindless treatment of numerical data has been appearing on the Telegraph with ever-more growing frequency over the last year or so. Why? Are its journalists and sub-editors really so innumerate? Maybe, maybe not. What seems probable is that any kind of sloppiness is tolerated in the interests of click-bait journalism. That's despite the fact the the Telegraph is now behind a paywall, at least after the first 20 free clicks. That's not all. It's one of those sites that freezes one's laptop for a minute or more while it retrieves data on one's internet activity via its cookies. Shoddy and disreputable. They do it because it's technically possible. Never mind right and wrong.
2015 may well be the year when this blogger waves goodbye to the UK's more obnoxious MSM sites, the Telegraph especially, and returns to reading books.
Postscript: Here's a screen shot of tomorrow's Telegraph, courtesy of Sky News:
There's a new headline, lower left:
It reads: "Christmas holiday makers suffer as pound takes another dive."
Garbage. The pound has been in gentle decline against the US dollar for many months. Nothing exceptional or newsworthy has happened in the last 24 hours.
Here's the BBC's chart showing sterling's decline against the dollar over the last 3 months:
Repeat: nothing exceptional has happened recently.
Update, Wed, 24th December
Have just spotted this comment under the article - from a kindred spirit.