Papers Now Apparently Just Printing Any Old Crap

Back in November 2006, when we undertook our first Paper Round analysis, one of the very first stories I read was a front-pager, in a “quality” daily, which purported to alert the nation to the problem of employee fraud but was based entirely on quotes from a man who solved this self-same problem for a living. This story was free (I think) advertising, deceiving the reader by masquerading – as the main front page story, no less – as news.

Today, on the Luas, I came across something similar on the Metro front page. The story, headed, “Sick Staff Caught Out On Facebook”, claimed that “two thirds of Irish workers have had their knuckles rapped after employers discovered their real reasons for skiving by snooping on their pages on the social networking site”. Various other factoids were related in the following paragraphs, all provided to Metro by one Alan Price, of Peninsula Ireland, “a leading employment-law firm”.

This style of story has become familiar to me since I first encountered it; the platonic ideal would be a headline “Hard Water May Cause Cataclysmic Washing Machine Nightmare” over a story whipped up out of quotes from “leading hard water solutions experts, Calgon“. It can be thrown together in about five minutes, out of whatever press release has last arrived into the hack’s email account, and requires no reporting or writing whatsoever. This particular story, with its catchy reference to “The Facebook”, which The Kidz seem to like so much, was a natural for the Metro. Distressingly, it was a natural for the Irish Times and Irish Examiner too.

I am long past being surprised that the broadsheets’ abase themselves before every “consultant” or “expert” with a few statistics that he just pulled out of his hole. Still, today was a new low, because, as more alert readers will have noticed right away, the statistics are absolute nonsense. That nobody in either newspaper had the basic intelligence to notice this, or worse, that they did notice it, and went to print anyway is a depressing notion, if not a surprising one. We are being asked to believe that two thirds of the Irish workforce, which numbers 2,108,500 according to the CSO, not only have Facebook accounts, but allow their employers access to their profiles. Not only that, but these people, all 1,412,695 of them, have all been mitching off from work. Further, every single one of them was caught and disciplined by their employer after a crafty look at their Facebook accounts. To which I reply, with some confidence: “No, you idiots, no they weren’t”, adding, in a weary but affronted tone “what sort of fools do you take us for?”

The story is untrue on its face, but for the sake of completeness, Facebook themselves claim 307,040 Irish users. Though I am no mathematician, that seems to me quite a bit less than the one and a half million odd skivers cited by the “leading employment law firm” in the story. The “leading employment law firm” bit is clearly another unquestioning cut-and-paste from the same press release, because according to the Law Society, there is no such law firm as Peninsula Ireland. A quick google shows that Peninsula specialise in surveys with patently unbelievable findings. Earlier this summer, they announced that “three out of four Irish men in the workplace experience sexual harassment from women, but are too afraid to complain to their employer”. The press was happy to print that for them too. Here’s their website. Bookmark it, and save yourself the price of a newspaper. You’ll still feel dirty inside, but at least you won’t get ink on your hands as well.


  • Suzy Byrne says:

    Fergal I heard the spokesman for the company yesterday (English chappy – speaking HR Law rubbish about stuff that doesn’t happen in a lot of Irish companies like re-entry interviews) and my bullshit detector was on high alert.

    I sort of wondered about how they could access peoples profiles and status messages if they weren’t friended etc. Also the numbers of people interviewed and how they did the interview.

    They spoke to 600 employers and over 1000 employees – generally regarded as a good sample size – ah come off it – that would have cost a huge amount of money to do.

    This is classic PR puffery, taught by bad PR companies. ‘Do a survey about something and plug company name as many times as you can…’

  • Fergal Crehan says:

    My only surprise was that the Indo didn’t run the story too. Though while looking for it, I came across this survey-based doozy.

    “Sexism = success: A new study shows that chauvinists and feminists earn more than their more moderate thinking counterparts”

    This is lazy-minded and objectionable in about three different ways all at once.

  • fustar says:

    Crusading stuff Fergal. Plus funny – with the Calgon.

    Talk Radio is bursting at the seams with this kind of shit too. Dubious statistics. Even more dubious facts about social trends deduced from said statistics. Dubious experts discussing the whole shebang and describing it as either a) a crisis that needs urgent attention, or, b) further indication that “society” is going mad and vanishing down the toilet.

    It’s like Brass Eye – without the laughs…

  • Conor Healty says:

    Are we that pessimistic? They are not lawyers but a law consultancy according to there website. They didnt interview everyone in the country so its only reflective of those surveyed? They say they have 22,000 clients and include Chelsea Football Club and Oxford and Cambridge University? Well thats what they said when I rang up there sales department. Maybe its creative but I wouldnt mind a bit of what they have if they can get clients like that

  • Fergal Crehan says:


    Why did you bother ringing up the sales department when you could just have walked down the corridor? If you are going to defend your employer in the guise of an impartial observer, you shouldn’t do it from a Peninsula computer.

  • […] decided not to publish it, figuring the territory had already been covered. Then I got this lovely comment. Of course, it would be petty and childish to do the post, just to annoy them. But hey, […]

  • Marguerite Bolger says:

    Its a shame that such blogs appear to be not as independant or unbiased comment as i thought, the big issue with Peninsula appears to be that they are your competitor in the area of employment law?? Could the editor be none other than Simon McGarr of McGarr Solicitors? Similiar posts too! Well at everyone wins PR for alL!!

  • John Derkavitz says:

    This is not an impartial blog on reading the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.