There are people outside this country who still suppose the Times is a serious paper. For their benefit — and just because it’s fun — here’s something I wrote for the CT this afternoon.
The national census data on religion came out two months ago, when the Guardian gave it a big spread. Jonathan Petre couldn’t then get a story into the Telegraph but squeezed a Sunday for Monday out of it on December 13th. The next day the Times gave the job to someone called Stephanie Marsh. She wrote that “There are fewer Roman Catholics living in the North East than anywhere else, at just 0.03 per cent of the population. The South East has the highest percentage of Roman Catholics, at 0.4 per cent of the population.”
It’s true this is exactly what the Census spreadsheet says. In fact, it makes some even more sensational claims: that there are, in all the North East of England, only 951 Roman Catholics and seven Anglicans; there are only 577 Anglicans in London. Obviously, Ms Marsh didn’t realise that “Anglican” means Church of England, or she’d have had an even better story. According to these official government figures, there are more Satanists (1,525) than Anglicans (1,134) in England and Wales. Why spoil such a wonderful story by reading the question on the census form?
This asked people to declare if they were “Christian (including Church of England, Catholic, Protestant and all other Christian denominations)”. 37,046,500 people did so. Of these, at a reasonable guess, five million are Roman Catholic. What the figures in the Times story show is size of the minority of Christians who, like Ms Marsh, found the census question difficult to understand.
Any reporter can make a mistake: but subeditors are there to keep mistakes this ludicrous out of the paper. It wouldn’t happen on the Mail. That must be the elusive difference between a “compact” and a “tabloid”.