Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is this a phony story? (Updated)

Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids tweeted this, which is how I found it:

"Advert for 'reliable workers' banned as discrimination..."

(Lenore has had an eagle eye out for British nannyism, especially for policies such as one that makes a silly assumption that all men are pedophiles.)

So I read the story from the Telegraph on the "banned" job advertisement. If I were the city editor who was handed that story, I'd be kicking it back to the reporter:

1) Spokespeople for something called "The Campaign Against Political Correctness" and for the job placement agency involved are never named. Now, maybe that's some weird British journalism convention. I think it's just sloppy reporting.

2) I get no sense that the job agency was pressed for more information about broader policies on job ads.

3) The story is completely fuzzy on exactly how the ad ran. First, the headline says it was "banned." Then the story says that the placement agency employee who "claimed that the job centre could be sued by unreliable people if they placed the advert ... told Ms Mamo it will remain on their website."

4) So was it banned or wasn't it? And if it did run, was the offending language included or not? Basic facts that simply should be there...aren't.

5) More to the point, the job agency spokesperson (again -- no name!?) -- seems to deny the whole thing happened (although she declines to discuss the specific incident): “Reliability is important to employers, as it is for Jobcentre Plus -- and we welcome ads seeking reliable applicants.”

I went looking at the job website to see if I could find the listing in question. I didn't. But I did find one that included "reliability" as a desired quality.

Something just doesn't smell right here. It makes me wonder if it's another case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story...

I just checked back on the story. I'm wishing I'd printed it out as I linked to it this morning, because it looks to me like some of it has changed. Some of the phrasing I saw and highlighted above now appears to be missing.

For the heck of it, I also Googled the words discrimination against unreliable and saw, predictably, that the story has lit up the intertubes. I have yet to find any skepticism toward it.

One element that appears to have not been clear before may be that the ad was allowed on the Web but not on a job board at the agency for walk-in clients. But the inconsistencies I noted earlier still exist.

Update No. 2
Oh frabjous day! I did find a skeptic -- after I added the word hoax to the string above.

Update No. 3
And another one!

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