It was THIS big ... honest

It's not often that I venture into the murky world of misinformation on the Western Mail's letters page, but this peach of a letter from a certain D Matthews must certainly be one of the favourites for this year's award.

£125m for Welsh

SIR – I note with interest and amazement that Jane Hutt, the WAG Business Manager, has given preferential treatment to the Welsh language in her draft Welsh Assembly Budget proposal.

Why does promotion of the Welsh language have a capital budget of £125m? The Welsh Assembly obviously feels it is more important to get everyone in Wales speaking Welsh than looking after our health service, education, employment etc, which have all received cuts to their budgets.

How are we going to attract desperately needed new businesses to Wales when the Welsh Assembly are hell bent on insisting that Welsh should be our first language and that all businesses will have to use it, whatever the cost to them. What sort of Welsh Government do we have, that puts the Welsh language above all else in these times of austerity. Why would we want to want to vote to give WAG more powers, when they are already abusing the powers they have?

D MATTHEWS
Newbridge, Gwent

Western Mail Letters, 30 November 2010

Just one slight problem. The draft budget is here and we can see, on page 17, that the figure is not £125m but £125,000. D Matthews was only exaggerating by a factor of a thousand.

Well, make that two slight problems. The £125,000 is the figure for the current financial year. The proposal in the draft budget is for this to be reduced next year by £50,000 to £75,000 ... a cut of 40% in monetary terms, but of course more in real terms because of inflation.

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But perhaps the much bigger problem is that the Western Mail is so quick to print such demonstrably obvious trash. Any junior editor who had the slightest knowledge about Wales should have been able to spot the "mistake".

Unless, of course, it was an orchestrated part of the paper's anti-Welsh agenda as we approach the referendum next March.

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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

... another reason not to bother buying the Western Mail.

I sometimes think the editorial staff make these letter up when there's a slow news day.

(according to bt.com there is no D. Matthews in Newbridge Gwent ... though, that doesn't necessarily mean he/she doesn't exist either).

Owen said...

Can you imagine what the letter would've been like if they didn't print such bollocks? "Curtailing free speech", "persecuting the silent-majority", "Cymraegification".

Let them make such glaring errors, anything that makes the naysayers look a bit twp is welcome. I don't think we can expect a correction to be published though.

I don't believe the Western Mail is anti-Welsh, or has an agenda to that end. To their credit they are at least giving coverage to matters and events that would otherwise be ignored by our pathetic excuse for a media.

"Anti-Nat" might be a more accurate label, though they are more insidious than their, rather more lowbrow, Scottish "cousin", the Daily Record.

MH said...

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, Owen. But this isn't a matter of opinion, it's a matter of simple, glaringly obvious (at least to anybody that knows anything about government in Wales, if not the public at large) misrepresentation. The Western Mail should not have published it for that reason ... after all, they decline to print lots of other letters they receive for publication.

But, yes, it's another own goal for the No Campaign. And I'm more than happy to draw attention to it ... that's why I wrote the post.

Anonymous said...

Could you imagine the Times or Guardian printing a letter which inflated the cost of a Westminister budget by 100%?

No.

Says a lot about the common sense or knowledge of the WM staff.

I don't think it was part of an anti-Welsh agenda, or, at least only in so far as it follows the narrative of 'Welsh costs a lot of money' which some people will slot any story into without a second thought.

Macsen

Siônnyn said...

There are 2 - a Dorothy and a David in Newbridge on the electoral register (192.com).

As soon as I saw it I wrote to the editor, having had most of my letters published in the past, to point out that not only does this idiot fail to read figures, but then goes on to use it as propaganda for the NO campaign. BUYER BEWARE! there will be much more of this disinformation in the next few months!

Welsh Ramblings said...

I'm going to disagree guys, sorry. Honestly there isn't an anti-Welsh or even anti-nationalist mindset from the Western Mail. I read their website every single day and most of their papers. Their editorial line supports a "Yes" vote.

What there is, is an accuracy problem and a lack of understanding and confidence in Wales as a nation. The journalists are over worked and can't do proper research journalism, and it isn't their fault, it's because of staff cuts and the profit-chasing mismanagement by Trinity Mirror.

They won't have even checked the figures because it's a letter, it's the letter writer's opinion even if it is factually wrong.

People like Matt Withers come up with genuinely interesting and funny pieces, then David Williamson at least tries to look into stories.

My biggest problem is their headlines are usually ridiculous, untrue or misleading, and there's a weird tendency to compare Wales to England all the time. But that is a psychological condition that isn't confined to the Western Mail.

And before anyone says i've gone soft I frequently condemn the Western Mail over their shoddy headlines and lack of scrutiny of people like Peter Hain!

MH said...

I'm not sure it's worth trying to find out who D Matthews is, nor whether s/he is genuine. To me that seems rather too obsessive. But the more I think about it, it is clear that it cannot have been a genuine mistake. The person concerned must have read the document, but even if they had taken the 125 to be millions rather than thousands, they also made the allegation that this is what Jane Hutt was proposing the budget to be ... when it is obvious that the proposal was to reduced it by 50 to 75 (whether thousand or million). One mistake might be honest, but two mistakes demonstrate a deliberate intention to mislead.

As for the Western Mail's culpability, I accept this is a greyer area. I would simply say that the standards we have a right to expect from those in a business or profession are higher than we expect from an ordinary reader of a newspaper. The problem is that the ordinary reader might not know enough about the budget to question this, but a journalist should. I agree with Ramblings that some of the journalists they use are very good, but many are wet behind the ears. That doesn't matter (everyone has to start somewhere) provided there is always someone to supervise them. It didn't happen on this occasion, and for that reason I think the WM are at a minimum guilty of a lack of due diligence.

However there are some on the WM who undoubtedly have an anti-Welsh agenda (in the language if not also the nation sense) and I have heard that, with good timing, it is possible to get the more anti-Welsh stuff printed when certain people are in charge on a particular shift. That's not an accusation, for the WM is what it is ... and there are far worse examples of bad journalism out there.

As I said, I don't mind at all. Episodes like this provide golden opportunities to show the No Campaign for what they are. And if the duty editor concerned gets "the hairdryer" it will only help to keep the WM on its toes as the referendum and election get closer.

Cibwr said...

I think it is more simple than that, a contentious letter gets a reaction, people then buy the paper to see their reply or to follow the argument. Many papers even go so far as to fabricate letters to get a bursting postbag.

Anonymous said...

Interesting disucssion, and I don't think that it's a political issue. From my experience of reading the Western Mail's letters page (against my doctor's advice), there are quite a few letters that aren't factually acurate. I felt compelled to write when a letter was published concerning misinformation regarding abortion. In my letter, I suggested that editorial staff ought to be more careful in selecting content that enters the discursive arena and, for many people, established as 'fact'. This was ommitted from the published version, of course.

Anonymous said...

well as someone once infamously said "the bigger the lie..the more people will believe it".....but its vital that lies...or ill informed letter writers like this...are challenged and corrected...so this letter in the mail must be challenged and the true figure brought to the attention of the mail's dwindling readership!

I have just emailed a letter to the mail and i hope others are doing the same. Such inflated claims and downright lies are typical of what we can expect from true wales supporters in the run up to the referendum in march!

Leigh Richards

menaiblog said...

The WM as a paper isn't anti Welsh - it's just stupid, ignorant & superficial.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

I suspect that menaiblog's perspective is correct re. the WM's editorial position. The stuff they pick off the wire agencies is fine, but woe betide us if we have to depend on their Welsh news. Furthermore, their analysis really lacks gravitas, ergo Stupid, ignorant, superficial.

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