When the news only reports on the news

You may have noticed by now that I get a lot of my news from the Internet, and one disturbing trend that I’ve noticed lately is that it seems like a very large proportion of news stories that are published are actually just reports that another news agency reported on something, and it seems like hardly any real investigation or fact checking is going on.

Maybe the idea is that when you start a report with, “[Some Newspaper] is reporting that [So and So] is saying [such and such],” it absolves you of having to do any fact checking. After all, if you get something wrong, you can just claim that you were reporting what someone else reported! Is there any such thing as journalistic integrity anymore?

A big problem with this is the way the media will quickly latch onto a story and repeat what someone else has said — misinformation is often being fed under the guise of authority to an unsuspecting public who rightly assumes that someone should be checking all the facts before they make it to air.

Last night’s Colbert Report made fun of TV news coverage of a supposed CDC report stating that beer pong spreads herpes. Sensationalistic coverage about this supposed CDC report was spread to multiple sources without anyone bothering to check if such a report actually even existed (it doesn’t). This is a breakdown of journalistic integrity on many levels:

A related problem is one in which news outlets report basically straight off of press releases, without doing any fact checking of their own. This seems to happen especially often with health and safety related studies. Sometimes when you take a closer look at the actual study you find that these press releases are overhyped or even downright misleading. But who cares when scare tactics are so great at boosting ratings, right?

Press releases are not news, they are basically commercials. The Junkfood Science blog is pretty much dedicated to exposing this sort of misleading media reporting when it comes to food and health related issues, it’s worth checking in on, every once in a while.

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