Just make up the numbers

There is a serious problem with journalism. Throughout the Lonmin strike, local and international news repeated the R4,000 per month current wage for miners as fact. One or two people pointed out that this wasn’t in fact the case, but that shortly disappeared from the stories and the amounts all over the media (and in the mouths of miners) was R4,000 per month.

Which of course was never the total value of the package and was highly misleading.

The following two quotes from the news24 article reflect the truth.

Striking miners had accepted a pay rise of up to 22% and would return to work on Thursday, worker leader Zolisa Bodlani said earlier.

[…]

Rock drill operators would now get R11 078 a month before deductions, production team leaders R13 022, and operators R9 883.

In my world, R4,000 plus a 22% increase does not get to R11,078. The numbers quoted before were made up, irrelevant, hyperbole, misleading, just plain wrong.

Why don’t journalists rather just make up the numbers they want to use to make the story appealing. They’re as good quality as numbers that are accepted without challenge from certain-to-be-biaed sources.

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.