On accuracy in the news

I just watched a video on Charlie McDonnell's second youtube channel, Charlieissoboredlike, in which he discusses an article about him in the Times.  I think he means the London times, but I'm not sure. The general theme of the video is, there was an article about him in the Times, and nearly everything in the article was sort of vaguely wrong.

I'm sure plenty of people are happy to dismiss this sort of thing just because it's about a youtuber, and the internet doesn't really matter,* but it's my not-entirely-unfounded opinion that this is pretty much the standard of truthiness across print news media.

I don't read a lot of news about things I don't already have much knowledge about, because I don't trust mainstream news to inform me about things.  Instead, if I want to know the gist of an issue, I check Wikipedia, and if I really care, I'll read a few blog posts on either side of the issue and maybe look for an infographic or some youtube videos.  It gives me a nice splash of information, and highlights the agreed-upon facts and the areas of contention between the sides of  an issue.

But I do occasionally notice news about stuff I do pay attention to: webcomics, science, atheism, internet media, protests... and, reliably, it's wrong.

I don't think this is an incident of the stuff I tend to be interested in.  I think it's a basic fact of the structure of print journalism.  I think reporters are encouraged to only gain the bare minimum of comprehension of a subject to produce the minimum word count, because they're expected to familiarize themselves with such a broad variety of topics, so many of which just don't make sense to fit into anyone's beat.

A newspaper can't have a reporter on the 3D printing beat.  It doesn't make sense for a newspaper to hire someone whose job it is to be intimately familiar with 3D printers.  And even if someone on staff happens to be, there's no guarantee that, on the rare occasion an assignment about 3D printers comes up, it'll go to them to write.

And there's no immediate method for correcting the article if the author gets it wrong.

And there's no visible, connected forum (like a comments thread) with which to discuss the inaccuracies in the article if they do exist.

And if the paper does decide to try to correct its error, that information shows up in another, completely disconnected point of output.

It's for these reasons and many more that print newspapers are structured to be organically prone to wrongness at a vastly higher rate than blogs as a news source.

Here's the Charlie video referenced:

*Go to hell, you insufferable bastards.