Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lazy Journalism from the UK's Guardian Newspaper

Lazy Journalism from the UK's Guardian Newspaper

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm an American, a former journalist, a current journalism professor teaching at The American University in Cairo (AUC).

One of the first articles I read this morning about the #AUCstrike was from The Guardian:
"Egyptian student protest hit elite Cairo university."

I quickly sent a tweet on Twitter that the article is/was poorly written and, in my opinion, is/was biased.

The article was written by Jack Shenker and has been retweeted all day. In his defense, Shenker sent me a few direct messages and tweets on Twitter addressing my issues with the article. NOTE: I'm working on a Storify about this.

However, someone took things a step further and conducted a bit more research than Shenker or his editors bothered to do. This is not my research, but I support the research below. Note to the Guardian: it's pretty simple: As a journalist and editor, you should do the basics: do some research, ask some questions and report the facts.

Report errors or inaccuracies:
Guardian UK...what a disgrace...
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: Where are the standards? - "Egyptian student protests hit elite Cairo university"

Poor journalism
1.  Enrollment at the American University in Cairo (AUC) is 5984.  Faculty number 383.  Staff numbers are around 700.  If the entire AUC community was on campus at the same time the number would be around 7000.  This is impossible... 
In Jack Shenker's article, he states that, "within a few hours thousands of students and staff at the American University in Cairo had joined the demonstration, bringing Egypt's most elite educational institution to a standstill." 
Pure rubbish.  It might have been in the hundreds.  To state that 1/4 to 1/3 of the entire university was involved in these protests is sensational, delusional and shows that Shenker was not present.
2.  The debate over the tuition increase of 9%:
USA - "Private College Tuition Increases 4.6 Percent for 2011-12; Institutional Student Aid Up 7 Percent"
USA - "The 12-month change in the all items index edged up to 3.8 percent after holding at 3.6 percent for three months." 
USA - Tuition increases outstripped inflation 4.6% to 3.8%.  In short, in real money terms education became more expensive. 
UK - "Proposed tuition in the UK to jump 300% for 2011-2012" 
UK - "UK CPI inflation rate rises to 4.5% in August" 
UK - Proposed tuition increases to outpace inflation 300% to 4.5%.  In short, in real money terms education becomes more expensive (much more...)
Egypt - The American University in Cairo raises tuition 9% 
Egypt - "Egyptian Inflation Slowed to 8.5% in August as Food-Price Increases Eased" 
Egypt - The tuition rate at the AUC almost matches the current inflation rate of 8.5%.  When the decision was made to raise the tuition to 9% in May 2011 the inflation rate stood at 11.5% 
3. Regarding the snipers (an extremely sensitive and potentially volatile topic).  You could have gone to the AUC website and did a search for "sniper" you would have found this article. 
WEB EXCLUSIVE: AUC President says use of Tahrir campus to fire on protesters 'illegal and unauthorized' 
4.  What school of journalism encourages the construction of statements such as, "On Tuesday, it emerged that striking university cleaners have been threatened with dismissal if they do not return to work within 10 days." 
Who is your source for this information? 
Abysmal reporting.  An absolute disgrace.  It's a difficult time in Egypt and poorly researched journalism absent of context does not help matters.

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At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Jack said...

Thanks for your observations - a response to them is here:


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