Thursday, August 27, 2009...2:06 pm

Accuracy level of Guardian now a major concern for readers

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My first reaction on seeing this Guardian media headline –  “Literacy level of recruits now a major concern for media, report finds” – was: I know – I’ve said it myself often enough.
But then I read the story. The story says absolutely nothing about general literacy. 
It makes the following points:

  • The industry needs more skilled advertising and media sales staff
  • Freelancers need to be up to date on technology and multimedia
  • Games and other creative industries are reducing the talent pool for journalism
  • Publishing is a highly qualified industry (not highly skilled, notice), with 45% of workers having a degree

Yet it deals with all this under an opening paragraph saying this:

The literacy level of young recruits at newspapers and magazines is becoming a major concern, a training watchdog has warned.

No – it simply hasn’t warned us of this. Not according to this story, anyway. Where’s the evidence? Where’s the reference from the report? Where’s the quote from Skillset?
In fact, the only halfway relevant comment the story offers from the Skillset report is this: 

…traditional skills such as good writing, editing and interviewing were “becoming even more important so that customers are prepared to pay for high quality content”.

Which may or may not be true – there’s actually no clear cut evidence that “customers are prepared to pay for high quality content”, or pay for content at all.
Even if it is true, this comment doesn’t touch on literacy per se – this is talking about communication skills and style, which is a different, if related, thing.
What’s worse, this isn’t just sloppy, sloppy writing – it’s sloppy sub-editing too. Any sub worth their salt would have picked up on this and certainly given it a more accurate headline…


  • wartimehousewife
    August 30th, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    The problem is how to tackle it. My children are at a very good state school that prides itself on its standards. Yet I am constantly having to teach my 12 year old how to construct sentences, how to structure a letter, write an envelope, the difference between formal and informal style etc etc. They are not picked up on half their spelling and grammatical mistakes because modern teaching methods suggest that this is de-motivating to the child. You can’t break the rules until you know what they are and this is having a profound effect on individualism and skill in writing.
    This may sound like a silly question, but does one have to have an A’ level English to do journalism? And are they taught as a companion subjects?

  • If you mean does one need A-level English to do a journalism degree, it must depend on the teaching institution. So – not necessarily.
    By “companion subjects”, do you mean at A-Level? I have no idea. Journalism wasn’t taught as an academic subject in my day because, to be frank, I am older than rocks…

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