Student Rights research methods and a front page ‘typo’ in The Times

When journalist Nico Hynes used Student Rights report ‘Unequal Opportunity’ as the basis for a front page story in The Times he either didn’t understand or didn’t care what the group’s report was actually saying.

Student Rights was deeply methodologically flawed in boasting that it had found that “25%” of its sample of events were gender segregated. Any social sciences undergraduate, and many A-level students will tell you that taking a percentage of a pre-selected and therefore biased sample is wholly meaningless and therefore misleading.

But Student Rights did, and Hynes bought it. Perhaps because he assumed the Henry Jackson Society group were producing serious rather than ideological research, or didn’t read the report properly besides the 25% figures, the Times ended up reporting – wholly inaccurately – that a quarter of all Islamic Society events held in the UK in the past year had been segregated by gender.

When confronted about this on Twitter, Hynes claimed it had been a ‘typo’ and was corrected in the second edition of the newspaper.

I’m unsure of The Times print run but I suspect that a fair few thousand readers will have read the grossly misleading version so it is disappointing, if not surprising, that when the newspaper finally apologised for the error it was only a small correction on a back page.

It is interesting that they cited Student Rights as the source for the research on which the erroneous story was based, however. Perhaps they were pushing back subtly against Student Rights attempts to blame the media for the mistakes in reporting based on their work, and privately agree that Student Rights touting of the 25% figure rather invited journalists’ misinterpretation of their findings.


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