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Big number statistics and press release journalism

On Friday I was in the car from 7 to 9, so listened to two hours of the Today programme. I was getting increasingly irritated as the BBC's economics editor, Faisal Islam  was repeatedly played reporting on the news that the British Retail Consortium (BRC) had stated that a no-deal Brexit would result in £3.1 billion a year in tariffs on EU food. There was no analysis, just the big number and a couple of other shocking figures like a 57% tariff on the import (sic) of cheddar cheese.One of the main rules of good reporting of statistics is that you don't just give a big number, but that you put that number into context - and when dealing with a forecast, it's essential to explain the assumptions that lie behind that forecast.I looked on the BRC website and found the press release that contained all the information in the BBC's report. It also gave no context and no details of the assumptions. Worse, it gave no way to dig into the data behind the press release.One useful w…

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