You know that “2 billion people” figure trotted out by lazy journalists as the claimed number of people who watched the other week’s royal wedding? (Here’s one of many from The Age, and here’s one of many from News Ltd, and here’s one from The ABC. There’s probably one in a Crikey newsletter, too, but they were mainly mocking the coverage.)

It seems a bit suss when you think about it, doesn’t it? Where did they get it from? Why is it never actually sourced from anywhere? 2/7ths the entire population of the planet? Really?

It’s even more dodgy when you look at the actual ratings in the UK:

Two billion people is 29.5% of the world’s population.

In the UK the wedding was watched by around 24.5 million people according to BARB, or 39.6% of the UK population.

Does anyone think for a moment that global viewing figures would be three-quarters the level of those in the UK itself?

Yeah, I’m sure six times more Indian viewers were glued to their sets for the English royals’ nuptials than for the 2011 India vs Sri Lanka cricket world cup final. And China – yeah, who could doubt that a huge percentage of their 1.3 billion population were tuned in?

We can’t wait to get into the British Royal Wedding fever!

I mean, seriously.

It’s hard to disagree with Gyfford when he points out how ludicrous it is that this sort of stuff gets published by “professional” news organisations:

Whenever real journalists complain that bloggers — mere amateurs! — couldn’t possibly do the work of professionals who have been through proper training, it’s exactly this kind of nonsense that permits you to stare at them, silently, before giving a little giggle and walking away.

There are lots of difficult and ambiguous things that anyone, professional or amateur, could understandably get wrong when reporting news. We all make mistakes and many things are complicated. But for all these very professional news outlets to repeat a “fact” that’s plainly wrong, without even attributing it to anyone, makes you wonder about everything they write.

It really does.

*Figure may be a wild exaggeration for dramatic/commercial effect