The MSM: Much Less Accurate Than You Probably Thought

Over at Slate, they’re pointing out the results of a study on the accuracy of the MSM and how willing they are to make corrections. Honestly, the mainstream media didn’t do so well,

Maier’s study relied on data gathered from 10 metropolitan newspapers: the Boulder Daily Camera, the Charlotte Observer, the Detroit Free Press, the Grand Forks Herald, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Miami Herald (Broward Edition), the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Jose Mercury News, the Tallahassee Democrat, and the Wichita Eagle. Starting on an arbitrary date, researchers clipped from each newspaper every locally produced and bylined story from Page One and the metro, business, and the lifestyle sections until they had collected 400. The study culled no sports stories, opinion pieces, columns, or reviews. (For reasons I won’t go into here, only 200 news stories were gathered from the Free Press and 200 from the Inquirer, making for a total of 3,600 articles.)

The researchers then contacted a primary news source named in each of the stories and asked him to complete a survey about the accuracy of the piece. A news source was defined as a witness or participant with firsthand knowledge of the events described in the story. Only “hard,” objective errors alleged by the news sources were included, and the study assumed that the factual assessments of the news sources were correct.

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.

Most of the errors detected were relatively minor–an incorrect title or a wrong age. But this is small consolation given the preponderance of errors documented by Maier and the alleged failure of some newspapers to run a correction, even after being asked.

So, the MSM makes an enormous number of errors and then refuses to issue corrections when those mistakes are pointed out? But, I thought their legion of fact checkers and professionalism was supposed to be a large part of what set them apart from bloggers?

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