I'm writing an article for a client that's partly about the growing use of internet banking in the UK.
When I asked the client if he had any figures illustrating the growth of online banking, he directed me to two recentish press releases.
The first press release was issued by Apacs on the 28th December last year, and says that 'over a third' of UK adults now bank online, with the 16-24 age bracket growing fastest.
The second release was issued 25 days later by Lloyds TSB, and says that 68% of UK adults now bank online, with the over-50 age bracket growing fastest.
Both stories were reported faithfully by the financial newswire Finextra, with no acknowledgement of - let alone attempt made to investigate - the gaping discrepancies evident therein.
It annoys me intensely that a lot of 'journalism' is actually just re-printing press releases about spurious surveys that miraculously support whatever it is the companies who wrote them are selling.
Next time you see some survey data in the paper, take care to note who sponsored or carried out the survey. If it's a company promoting an associated product, pay close attention to the small print, especially about how many and what sort of people were surveyed and what they were asked. Nine times out of ten* it will turn out to be statistically invalid, spurious bollocks.
I wish more journalists had the presence of mind to do the same.