This week Full Fact been grappling with some strange goings on in the press.
A number of news outlets reported on a phrase supposedly used by the Bank of England’s governor Mark Carney in a speech on Tuesday: namely, that Brexit could usher in a ‘golden era’ or ‘golden age’ of free trade. This suggested, they said, that he had adopted a more positive view of Brexit.
The Sun went with ‘Yes we Carney: Now Mark Carney admits Brexit could spark golden era of free trade...’
The Times also included the phrase in an opinion piece, while the Telegraph used it in the subheading of their print edition.
Conservative MP Henry Smith even asked Theresa May a question in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday based on Mr Carney’s supposed promise of a ‘golden age’.
Here’s the thing: Mr Carney didn’t actually say it.
As we said in our factcheck, he didn’t use ‘golden age’ or ‘era’ at all during his speech. To be clear, none of the papers actually put quotation marks around the phrase — but they all used virtually identical wording to paraphrase what Mr Carney said. And to report the speech (which mostly covered warning signs of a global economic slowdown) in that way seems pretty misleading.
As the Telegraph pointed out in separate opinion piece they published, the speech mostly wasn’t about Brexit, and most of the press (including the Telegraph themselves…) focused on the last few remarks of Mr Carney’s speech which has been ‘widely interpreted as a shift to a more positive note on the possibilities of Brexit’.
We’re not entirely sure when the ‘golden age’ became part of the story (we think the Telegraph was the first off the mark). But still, three national newspapers somehow all reported it with the same very specific (and misleading) phrase.
And aside from the phrase itself, many of the reports left out the wider context of the speech — meaning many readers would have come away with a very skewed view of what Mark Carney actually said, because something he definitely didn’t made the biggest splash.
Accuracy is crucial, particularly when reporting on such an important and emotive topic. We urge the press to do better next time, please.