Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fact checkers a waste of time and money

ABC's fact checkers give themselves a back slap about the work they've done since starting claiming over a 100 reports: Here are a few facts that put their tremendous efforts into perspective:

Time claimed to be working: 1 year#
First report published: 14 August 2013
Last Fact check report published: 17 December 2013
Actual days fact checking to 17/12/2013: 88* = 0.24% of 1 year

Number of stories (from the fact check website to 17/12/2013): Total: 94
Number claimed: "over 100 stories"

Staffing: 10
Estimated Cost: 10 Journalists at an average cost of about $150,000 each, plus admin costs and overheads @20% of salaries: Estimated Total annual cost of unit: $1.8M. Estimated cost for 125 days***= ($1.8M x 125/365) =$661,438.36

Number of stories per member of staff during period of operation: 94/10=9.4
Stories per staff member per working day = 94/10/88=0.11
Cost per story: $661,438.36/94=$7031.58

How accurate: Not Very... eg: ABC Fact Check unit's Palmer report riddled with errors

#From ABC Fact checkers own headline: The year that was: Fact, fiction and everything in between
*Working days (M-F) 14 August-17 December: 88 (less NSW Labour day-7 October)
**Wrong 23, Correct 26, inbetween 45. Excludes report about itself published ABC web site 26/12/2013
*** Total Days 14 August to 17 December


  1. Not to mention the FACT that what they choose to check is very selective. They have a pro forma for sending them fact checking tips which I have completed half a dozen times. They can't even muster an acknowledgement and they have never taken up a single suggestion even though I have provided conclusive referenced material proving what a particular politician or person in the media has said was factually incorrect. Of course on each occasion it was a left wing assertion which would have been proven incorrect. As an example the claim that 97% of the world's climate scientists agree that humans are causing dangerous climate change. This and various versions of this statement has been repeated ad nauseum on the ABC, in particular on 'The Drum', by ABC Journalist panellists, as well as other guest panellists including John Hewson. It has also been repeated on 'The Insiders'. That's just the instances I am aware of, but the 97% figure cannot be substantiated. I sent the ABC fact checkers the history of the claim and when it had been made that I was aware of, but it never got a run. You'd think that something so often claimed would be a really hot topic for the ABC Fact Checkers to follow up on. Instead they waste their time telling us Tony Abbott was wrong to say marriage was traditionally between a man and a woman because they found that Nero had a sham wedding to a boy and there are obscure references to other non traditional marriages.

    Here is an abbreviated version of what I sent to the ABC Fact Checkers on 8th Nov:

    Today on the ABC Drum John Hewson said 97% of Climate scientists are in agreement. We continuously hear politicians, journalists and activists refer to this 97% consensus among variously either scientists or climate scientists. In the telling it changes from the consensus being that they agree that humans are causing global warming or climate change, or that they are causing dangerous climate change, or that they agree we need to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. Now of course it can't be all of those things and I think it is about time someone set the record straight. Even President Obama is said to have tweeted “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.”

    He tweeted that after the publication of this paper: Cook, J., Nuccitelli, D., Green, S. A., Richardson, M., Winkler, B., Painting, R., et al. (2013). ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature.’ Environmental Research Letters, 8, 024024. The paper can be accessed here:

    However this appears to have been totally refuted with the following peer reviewed paper by reputable people published in a reputable peer reviewed journal:

    “The 97.1 % consensus claimed by Cook et al. (2013) turns out upon inspection to be not 97.1 % but 0.3 %. Their claim of 97.1 % consensus, therefore, is arguably one of the greatest items of misinformation that has been circulated on either side of the climate debate.”

    The following is an abbreviated version of the press release summarising the above paper. You can find the full content here: September 3rd, 2013

    So is there actually any proof that 97% of scientists, or climate scientists agree either that humans are causing climate change, or that humans are causing dangerous climate change, or that we need to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, and if so by how much?

    In other words if there is a consensus where is the proof and what is the consensus about specifically?

  2. Needless to say my application to become a member of the ABC Advisory Council was not accepted. Did you apply? I wonder if it is worth submitting an FOI request to see how my application was evaluated? Had they googled to see if I had made any adverse comments about the ABC in the past, or sent them complaints in the past (the answer is yes). Or did I not meet their diversity requirements - in that being a middle aged white guy immediately put me out of the running?


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