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Fuzzy facts and corrections

No doubt there will be a pompous, pedantic prat in a pub somewhere this lunch time boasting from his (it must be a he) corner bar stool that he got the Guardian to correct a serious factual error. Here is today’s lead paragraph in the Corrections and clarifications panel:

In yesterday’s front-page lead, Judge deals blow to Blair’s nuclear plans, we said that nuclear power accounted for “19% of UK energy”. We meant to say 19% to 20% of the UK’s electricity, as the pie chart on page 13 showed.

A simple and very slight rounding error at first sight and one that does not really matter. But the pie chart did not show 19% to 20% — it said simply 20%.

The trouble with handling this sort of complaint is that it is easy to dig yourself in more deeply. Look more carefully at yesterday’s paper and you will see the page 1 story said “19% of UK energy” while the graphics sidebar on page 13 offered information on “Britain”. Excluding Northern Ireland will probably give a higher figure .

It is safer when writing stories to say something like “nearly 20%”, “about 20%” or as British Energy, the nuclear generator says “around one-fifth”.

It is a waste of time for anyone to look into this more deeply but the pedant in me says that we should remember the difference between the UK and Great Britain.


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  1. James Whale says

    “It is a waste of time for anyone to look into this more deeply”

    Perhaps your blog entry may be the waste of time.

    Is there a difference between “UK energy” and “UK electricity”? If there isn’t, your piece is valid. So, ask yourself, does the UK use other sources of energy besides electricity (e.g. oil, gas, maybe coal)?

    Do they not teach reading proper at skool these days?