16 August 2007

Why Newspapers Aren't Worth Buying

Reign of Error

Maier, an associate professor at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication, describes in a forthcoming research paper his findings that fewer than 2 percent of factually flawed articles are corrected at dailies. [my emphasis]
The results might shock even the most jaded of newspaper readers. About 69 percent of the 3,600 news sources completed the survey, and they spotted 2,615 factual errors in 1,220 stories. That means that about half of the stories for which a survey was completed contained one or more errors. Just 23 of the flawed stories—less than 2 percent—generated newspaper corrections. No paper corrected more than 4.2 percent of its flawed articles.
Obviously, a newspaper can't publish a correction until it learns of its error. But the studied dailies performed poorly when informed of their goofs. Maier found that 130 of the news sources reported having asked for corrections, but their complaints elicited only four corrections.
UPDATE: Confessing Errors in a Digital Age
It’s important to understand why newspapers have tended to fall short on their perceived commitment to correct what they got wrong the first time around. And in a time when anybody can easily post—and pass along—news and information online (usually without an editor’s scrutiny), the need is greater than ever to set in place a coherent system of correcting errors—despite the digital practitioners’ assurances about the Web’s inherent self-correcting nature.
Also see the figure at the bottom of page 7 of the Mongerson report (pdf).
2006 Medill Mongerson ReportOur motivation for asking these questions came from a desire to learn how many journalists regularly report on errors and fabrications in the news (the central theme of the Mongerson Prize) and to put the extent of such reporting in context with other coverage. But as the chart on the right shows, very few respondents say they have experience investigating and reporting either of those issues.

The Mongerson Prize for Investigative Reporting on the News was discontinued in 2006.
An Anthology of Journalism's Decline

No comments: