Half of Newspaper Articles Contain One or More Errors

A soon to be released study by the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication will report that almost half of the articles published by America's daily newspapers contain one or more factual errors, and that less than two percent end up being corrected.

Of course, as Glenn Reynolds wrote of this news, "This research won't surprise many blog-readers."

Maybe so, but regardless of one's view of media, the numbers reported by Slate Wednesday are nonetheless shocking (emphasis added):

The average newspaper should expand by a factor of 50 the amount of space given to corrections if Scott R. Maier's research is any guide.


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.

How disgraceful. Name one industry that is allowed to make errors 50 percent of the time and correct them less than two percent.

I'd be out of business if I operated my company so incompetently, and would have a long line of attorneys looking to sue me. How 'bout you?

Journalistic Issues
Noel Sheppard's picture