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Are they connected?

Dominic Ball | 11:40 UK time, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Closing down sale and empty alcohol bottles

I was sitting at my desk the other day when one of the producers pointed out that the alcohol figures we'd been expecting had just been released.

I looked up at my screen, anticipating a sharp spike in the number of people who'd died because of alcohol abuse. Stands to reason, I thought: recession, people losing their jobs, drinking to console themselves - the numbers are bound to be up.

r4_6oclock_news140.gifBut they weren't, in fact they were marginally down. Stands to reason, I thought: recession, people have less money in their pockets, can't afford alcohol.

Then I saw that the figures related to 2007 and I thought, stands to reason: the numbers were fairly stable, because they covered a period before the full-blown recession took hold.

However, there is another explanation - that the figures had nothing to do with the downturn. When a story as big as the economic crisis takes hold, there's a tendency to see nearly every other story within its context. But human behaviour, and by extension news, is driven by a myriad of motivations. There's a danger that we all start to view the world through too simplistic a prism.

Dominic Ball is editor of the Radio 4 Six O'Clock News.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm glad you are keeping a cool head on the crunch over there at the BBC.
    There is no doubt that the effects of the financial downturn are widespread and painful for many.
    But there is the risk that editors looking for a line end up lassoing any trouble under the crunch banner.
    As for more complex prisms Dominic can I suggest you install the following on your desk:
    A Pellin-Broca prism is a type of constant deviation dispersive prism similar to an Abbe prism. I'm sure that's complex.
    Perhaps not best to look through this after a few jars mind.

  • Comment number 2.

    Your thought processes are exactly those I have unfortunately come to expect from journalists - inventing causal links where there are none proven to be true.

    Of course 95% of your readers dismiss such tosh out of hand and read the next thing, but the 5% who don't can easily be mislead and set of a chain of reactions based on the assumption that the first lazy story was correct.

  • Comment number 3.

    Did I read somewhere last week that BBC radio has increased listeners numbers - "due to the credit crunch"?

  • Comment number 4.

    You mean the government scare campaign was telling lies?

    No way, I can't believe that!

  • Comment number 5.

    I'll drink to that!

  • Comment number 6.

    Just a note on the picture used to illustrate you blog.
    1. that is an awful, awful staged picture of alcohol bottles.
    2. Since when did Carling pay the BBC for advertising space? - get it down!

  • Comment number 7.

    Dominic, sorry to sound so cynical, yet the truth is I get weary listening/reading that various crime rate have gone down, only to days later read that the opposite was true.

    The BBC should share my disappointment with this type of media manipulation, and stop announcing statistics as fact before having them throughly checked out.

  • Comment number 8.

    During a fantastic days entertainment, courtesy of the snow, accompanied by my 3 and 5 year old daughters we endeavoured to build a snowman at my mothers bungalow.It was a bit disappointing to find that as previously commented on,it wasn't quite the right type of snow.I was quite disappointed at my own endeavours to build such a complicated structure.Non the less, my 5 year old was extremely happy with the outcome.We were able to attach the nose using a cherry, pierced by a cocktail stick and with the aid of two sprigs of holly from a nearby bush attached two ears. My mother Mary, to my dismay didn't possess a fresh carrot as she is normally quite well prepared for snowfall and ensures the freezer is well stocked with bags full of mixed vedgetables.She is a great fan of Iceland. Unfortunately the carrots are integrated well within the other veg.It is quite a while since i learned the technique involved in this type of build. I wonder if this sought of course is available as an NVQ, integrated with classroom assessment to further my maths and english to attain the necessary qualifications to continue my advancement in this trade.Due to my ignorrance of the technology available(obviously need a grammar and spellcheck course) i could perhaps interlink it with a computer course.I think i enjoyed it more than my kids.A good time had by all.Could the L.S.C contact me to let me know about course availability as i have previously been totally unaware of how i could access any of these courses to improve my skills and pass them on.Or is it a dying industry that is no longer supported due to Global Warming, and the profit and cost involved of such a course prohibitive unless you have unlimited and unrestricted access to taxpayers money. Could you please publish a contact number.

  • Comment number 9.

    Bedtime arrives and we have our normal routine of Play time or Storytime.Choice;Story or Play.The democratic choice tonight was Bingo.A simple but fantastic way of connecting colours ,days of the week and five a day essentials nutrients;ie apples,fruit juices ,broccoli.You get the drift(bit like the snow).We have been astonished at my 5 year olds development since starting school recently.She likes to be the bingo caller.I can't keep up with her due to my inability to see colours.The three year olds attention span isn't quite as good and decided to build a house with some cushions. After much frustration she cried for help, which although temporarily diverting mine and my eldests attention away from our competitive game(she likes to win) we some how managed to engineer quite a nice little dwelling using some fantastic walking aids used to create a roof.The door collapsed ,but hey,it amused her.We found ourselves with a new announcer.My ultra competitive girlfriend.She announced herself the winner with a full house with the very last card out of the bag.Puzzled my daughter asked why mummy had won when all the cards had been used and we hadn't all won at the same time. I thought we must have lost some counters but as it happened we hadn't.Quick as a flash my daughter accused her of cheating but after a small amount of discussion she announced that mummy hadn't cheated but had continued playing while we helped her sister.She hadnt really cheated but we laughed at the idea of the corruption easily made possible when your attention is diverted whilst helping others. Anyway shes throwing me out tomorrow.Another victim of freedom of speech and ignorance.She thinks i'm mad and need to give her some space because of my obsession with what connection this might have with real life.A valium might calm me down as well as a few seroxat to deal with the impending depression.Oh and a bed in a institution if there are any left.The council might find me a flat if i agree to RETRAIN.God Bless us all.Especially the needy and homeless

  • Comment number 10.

    A friend of mine, who is a bit of a dab hand with stocks and shares and earns herself quite a wedge dealing on her home computer, rang me late on Monday concerned about my portfolio interest in a snow-making company in Katanga. We argued long and hard. "Its the recession", she said. "No its the snow fall" I countered. "The company is not solvent" she said. "Well its got a loan from an exceedingly well know UK high street bank" I countered. "Exactly" she said.

    And then I read this blog, and I was enlightened. The scales dropped from my eyes (they hadn't weighed anything for years anyway), and the Vodka had immediate impact. "Hic" I said to myself (nobody loves someone who drinks on their own), "this blog is onto to something. None of us know anything. We are all just making it up as we go along. We can say anything we like, hic, and no one will ever know whether it is true, false or just plain indifferent. " My monologue continued for several hours but I have copyrighted my findings and so I will not be publishing on this outlet, no sirree. Needless to say I have found the answer to everything, anything, or absolutely nothing at all. My findings fit every possible permutation known to this planet, indeed the whole universe and even, dare I claim, beyond it.

    I just do not understand why no one else has discovered my amazing revelations before me, hic. What goes down must come up is just active imagination at work. I am on my third bottle of vodka and I am so close to discovering the minutiae of the earth that is usually beneath my feet. There are so many secrets in this threadbare lawn just waiting to be discovered and explored. Is it feeling depressed because of the recession or because I have just collapsed all over it?

  • Comment number 11.

    And to prove my point in my previous post, I now give you this direct from the BBC

    Anyone else starting to think this government are a bunch of liar's?.

  • Comment number 12.

    "....they were marginally down...."

    Isn't marginal a catch all word? In statistics speak it should mean "no significant difference" because the result is within the possible error field for the sample.

    But "marginal" is one of the new media key words. Taken from the corporate finance sector where margins ARE important, however small, and applied erroneously to something totally unrelated like crime statistics, the media are profligate with its abuse.

    Perhaps your bosses need to get a handle on the fact that "new crime stats" doesn't always mean a story in the offing. Even better perhaps your bosses need to get out a bit more amongst the ordinary citizens and ask them what it feels like to be at the end of a knife or a gun.


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