14
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A while ago there was a study that compared the amount of factual mistakes in Wikipedia to the amount of factual mistakes in Britannica.

Are there similar studies that count the average number of mistakes for mainstream news articles. If a newspaper writes that within a big article that Joe Smith is 42 years old, what's on average the probability that Joe is really 42 years old?

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  • 3
    I'd say that such a study would be meaningless, as it would have to involve both gossip mags where the likelihood is around 0% and respectable newspapers that actually do fact checking... – Lennart Regebro Mar 6 '11 at 19:47
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    I think the variance is going to be too large for there to be any real meaning to that "average probability". – mattdm Mar 6 '11 at 19:48
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    @Lennart: There no reason why a study should have to include gossip magazines and treats them the same way they treat respectable newspapers. – Christian Mar 6 '11 at 19:52
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    @Christian: Your criteria for a study is sloppy, that's what they're (rightly) complaining about. One could cross-reference a fact-checking project with survey results on trustworthiness to get a better picture. – James Cape Mar 6 '11 at 22:47
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    Every fact is true. It's just the factual claims that may not be. Spinsanity on Bowling for Columbine. – Andrew Grimm Mar 7 '11 at 12:11
17
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There is a published study called "A Question of Accuracy: How Journalists and Scientists Report Research on Hazards". They state in their conclusion

Two-fifths of the news stories we coded had one or more statements that were “substantially different” from statements in the original research report

I found another study looking at 14 daily newspapers in the US titled which found the following result

A survey of 4,800 news sources cited in fourteen newspapers provides a cross-market assessment of newspaper accuracy and the effect of errors on newspaper credibility. Sources found errors in 61% of local news and feature stories, an inaccuracy rate among the highest reported in nearly seventy years of accuracy research.

  • which comes as no surprise, as currently most mainstream "journalist" just get their news from Twitter and blogs, hence obvious hoaxes as "The (F)lying Dutchman" make it into mainstream media. – vartec Mar 27 '12 at 14:53

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