Our new series of micro-articles deals with the newly everyday occurrence of the modern media simply changing what a word means. Today’s word is “rise, or “increase”.
Our latest entry in New Speak is actually our first, it was this specific article that inspired the section, butsomehow breaking news and the turning cycle of life kept knocking it to the back of the queue.
It’s a year old now, but nonetheless, I still think it’s important as a picture-perfect example of just how deceptive mainstream news headlines can be.
On January 8th 2021, Sky News tweeted this headline:
BREAKING: The coronavirus R number in the UK has risen to between 1 and 1.4, according to SAGE estimates.@SkyNewsAdele has the latest.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 8, 2021
BREAKING: The coronavirus R number in the UK has risen to between 1 and 1.4, according to SAGE estimates.
Do you remember the R0 number? I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t, it was the trendy stat during year 1 of the pandemic, but there feels like a long time ago now. Its popularity sort of fell off, I don’t know why, but I’m guessing some market research found people weren’t responding to it.
Anyway, if you watch the video, you’ll see that the headline claiming the R0 number has “risen” is somewhat…inaccurate.
What the reporter actually says is that the R0 number has “increased” from 1.1-1.3 to 1.0-1.4.
The eagled-eyed among you have likely noticed that this number is not an actual “increase”, it’s a potential increase, maybe. It’s actually pretty much literally the exact same number, or might even be a decrease.
“Rise” and “increase” mean to “go up” or otherwise become larger. They do not mean “to perhaps go up, maybe go down and pretty much stay the same”.
That is how dishonest the news cans be, they can report a number that is pretty much exactly the same as having changed.
Never, ever, believe a headline.