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Finance minister urges media to report Gov't statistics responsibly

Friday, September 07, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, says media practitioners, particularly those involved in delivering news and current affairs content, have a key role to play in how official government statistics are communicated to the public.

Speaking at a recent Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) media sensitisation seminar at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew, Clarke said that as the administration pursues Jamaica's development as a market economy, data and official statistics will become increasingly pivotal to the planning process.

“Those who are best able to interpret and best use them will have an advantage… and media practitioners… have a crucial role to play in, first of all, understanding these official statistics, and communicating them to the public,” the minister said.

He acknowledged that in an increasingly “fluid and fast-paced” news culture, there is pressure on and competition among media houses to creatively report on current developments, which could lead to miscommunication, particularly on economic data.

“The adjectives and adverbs… that we use around issues such as inflation [at times] become misplaced. So verbs like 'jumped' and 'plunged'… those kinds of sensational words that we use, sometimes, do not add to the public good,” he contended.

The minister suggested that official data should, ideally, “just be reported in a neutral way”.

“If you look at the international financial news channels… when [journalists] are discussing matters like inflation, the gross domestic product and unemployment [they are] having a rational discussion around the numbers,” he pointed out.

“At some point, we are going to have to transition to [such] an environment [and] I think competition is going to take us there, because news media will emerge [that] actually take these things seriously and have serious dialogue around [them],” he added.

The seminar, which was held under the theme 'Statistics and the Media – Why Understanding Official Data Matters', was aimed at assisting media practitioners to understand, interpret and present official data accurately.

It focused on the gross domestic product (GDP) and consumer price index.

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