prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Accuracy of News Media

Posted by prof e on October 15, 2009

One of the most sacred tenets of journalism is under fire. Recent surveys point to disturbing trends with regard to perceived accuracy and demand for accuracy from our news media.

According to recent findings by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the public’s assessment of the accuracy of news is at its lowest level in more than two decades. Less than 30% of Americans surveyed believe that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate. That is a dramatic reversal from 1985 when 55% said news stories were accurate while 34% said they were inaccurate.

What may be more disturbing is the view, held by some, that consumers of web news prefer speed over accuracy.  According to consultants to The Columbus Dispatch, readers prefer getting the information sooner rather than later, even if it means that there is a greater chance that the information is inaccurate. These ideas–that readers want to be “part of the reporting process” and “over time, the truth will come out”–are at odd with one of the sacred cows of journalism.  The mantra has been repeated over and over…you’ve got to get it fast, but you’ve got to get it right. Does that mean that you wait to publish until you’re 99.9% sure of the accuracy of your story? That may depend on whether you want to be known for scoops or for consistently reliable information. If you’re an old-school journalist it may be that your commitment to accuracy is what sets you apart from the bloggers, citizen journalists, and advocates who are willing to take more risks.

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One Response to “Accuracy of News Media”

  1. Whitney Johnson said

    I definitely think that accuracy is a crucial component to the news,however recieving the latest news in a timely manner is also equally essential. For me personally I would like to recieve the news in a timely fashion but if that means recieving inaccurate information I would rather wait. To me that is very risky and that puts a lot of people in harms way. Being one of the reporters is dangerous enough, but then when you add inaccuracy to the equation, it just adds more feul to the fire. I guess this problem will probably never subside, and Ellen Goodmen put it best, as we learned in lecture on thursday, “In Journalism there has always beeen a tension between getting it first and getting it right.”

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