Friday, November 1, 2013

Journalistic Error

"A journalist makes himself the hero of a story. A reporter is only a witness."
--Jim Cleary (Deadline U.S.A.)

Whenever reading an article or watching a TV show that reports on topics that I know something about, I nearly always recognize errors in the covereage--often big ones. Sometimes the errors are misstatements of fact. Other times analyses or claims are presented that are easily refuted by reason or by evidence.

Generally, the more knowledgeable I am on a subject, the more errors I detect in journalistic coverage about that subject.

This leads me to question how much error is in media that I consume that I don't know much about...

Journalists face two problems that impair the accuracy of their work. One is that journalists often traffic in a range of topics. They can't possibly develop the depth of knowledge commensurate with specialists or masters in the fields that they cover.

Journalists are also subject to their personal biases that lead to filtering in data that fit their view of the world and filtering out data that do not. While this filtering may be unintentional and reflexive, it causes journalists to only see part of the issue or story.

To overcome these shortcomings, journalists might do things like hang with people with different ideological backgrounds in order to deepen knowledge and reduce filtering tendencies, but such remedial actions are often difficult to implement.

As such, people should consume media with the following proposition in mind: the more complex the topic covered by journalists, the greater the frequency and magnitude of journalistic error.

1 comment:

dgeorge12358 said...

Journalism: A profession whose business is to explain to others what it personally does not understand.
~Lord Northcliffe