Correction: racism in the media?

Buried on page 32 of today’s Guardian newspaper (Feb 1st) is a rather major correction. Ostensibly it’s just that the figures used in a previous story were a little out of kilter, but in fact the correction reverses the whole angle of the original story – something no editor is keen on admitting. It’s a way of saying, ‘You know that story we did a while back – well we used incorrect information and came to dubious conclusions’.

Basically when writing about Met chief Sir Ian’ Blair’s comments about what he called institutionalised racism in the media’s coverage of murders, the Guardian had initially stated that 5,525 words had been written about the death of white lawyer Tom ap Rhys Price, and 4,443 about that of the Asian man Balbir Matharu. Not a massive difference, right?

But in the correction the Guardian points out that, “A more accurate count, based on articles specifically relating to the respective deaths, produced a result of 6,061 words for Rhys Price and 1,385 for Matharu.”

One wonders a) how the first set of figures were calculated, since they were clearly a count of words in stories not directly related to either death, and b) what that means for the Guardian’s implication that Sir Ian Blair’s argument about institutional racism is exaggerated based on its earlier set of figures? The latter of those, if my logic holds water, deserves to be given more coverage than a single paragraph correction on page 32.

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