New Year's resolution #4: I will link to my sources

30 December 2013

Poll after poll shows that there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes how far we trust politicians and journalists.

Yet still we find both groups asking us to take their word for things instead of helping us trace them back and make our minds up.

Unsourced claims can take off despite nobody being able to say where they come from. We still don't know where the claim that there are 10,000 slaves in the UK today comes from, despite it featuring in most national newspapers and from the mouths of a number of politicians.

However accurate the original figures, at the end of a chain of claims often there's a version that just doesn't stack up.

One MP stood up at Prime Minister's Questions to ask: "What does the Prime Minister have to say to women across the country who are working full time and whose disposable incomes have fallen by an average of almost £2,500 since his Government came into office?"

In fact the figures he quoted weren't about disposable income at all, as a party spokeswoman confirmed to us when we chased it down.

A link to the original source could have helped him avoid the mistake but now it's out there and, as we said in our first New Year's resolution, oddly there's no corrections column for backbench MPs so it will stay on the record.

The craze for infographics hasn't helped. Instead of links, often they give you either nothing to go on or something so vague as 'Source: Office for National Statistics'.

The figures in this graph are wrong but we had to rely on the Labour party telling us what they had done before we could work that out.

2013 saw Full Fact launch Finder, a tool which connects you to hundreds of reliable sources of information in a matter of a few clicks. We hope that in the new year, this might encourage more politicians and journalists to point their readers in the direction of the sources they use when making their claims — and when they don't, we hope it'll be easier to work out what's going on without their help.

Check back tomorrow for our fifth suggested New Year's resolution.

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