Accuracy of news stories about which you had first-hand knowledge?

If there was ever an event or circumstance which was covered by print or television media, that you knew about first-hand, how accurate were the news reports? If they made errors, were they about specific, non-essential details, or did they fail in a more substantial way?

Mistakes are more interesting, of course, but “they got it right” posts would help with the accuracy of the sample, too.

Some of each. Eyewitnesses often relate different versions of the event, so it’s not surprising.

My hubby has been misquoted in the paper though. That’s maddening. He was talking to the reporter about a new kind of mosquitocide the City was using, and he made the comment that it was much less harmful to humans, that it would take a quart of it to be significant.

The reporter had him saying you could “drink a quart” of it with no harm. :smack:

I wouldn’t call it an event or circumstance, but when a general-media reporter reports on just about any subject I am more intimately acquainted with, they generally screw it up. It’s one of the reasons for my low opinion of journalists and my lack of trusting what they say.

I have seen a 1/2 hour TV show about a murder case I have a book on. Also, I know the chief detective of the case.

The 1/2 hour TV show (22 minutes actually) obviously could not go into any level of detail about any of the particulars of the case. The book, to me, seemed definitive. It was written by a newspaper reporter who had covered the case for over a decade, and he had access to virtually all the key players, except the deceased, of course. The book also had b/w pictures and to me seemed complete and accurate.

When I was talking to the detective, he indicated what was in the book to be accurate, but he indicated the book left out some significant details.

The police ‘bent’ the rules rather seriously in order to ascertain if there were other victims unknown to them at the time. (this was crucial, it would have been possible for other folks involved to be unaware of their exposure to a slow acting poison, and medical intervention might have saved lives) The writer omitted this detail to protect the integrity of the investigation, and future police work.

Additionally, the target of the plot, while unharmed, lost some family members. Her reaction to the crime and the killer, seems quite inexplicable and inappropriate if one does not know the full story of the case. This was left out of the book due to privacy concerns.

No kidding, and it’s not just journalists. It’s often a splash of cold water when The Daily Show does a segment on an issue I happen to know a lot about – “Ok, funny, but that’s really taken out of context; you’re riffing on this guy for something he didn’t actually say (or mean).”

A relative of mine “Beth” was hit by a car while [jay]walking across a busy street. (She was seriously injured but survived and was not permanently disabled.) The brief story in the local paper said that Beth had run into the street, and added that police were uncertain why she had done so. Beth’s mother was furious about this and said she almost wanted to sue, but she was busy enough dealing with hospital stuff that I don’t think she ever even called the newspaper to complain.

A couple of people I knew who’d read the story asked me if Beth had been running away from a mugger or something. And although no one was rude enough to ask flat out, I know the family also got some comments from people indicating that they thought it had been a suicide attempt.

However, eyewitness reports, Beth’s (limited) memory of the events leading up to the accident, and my knowledge of her usual behavior all indicate that she had just left a restaurant in the area and had been crossing the street at a normal pace but had carelessly chosen not to walk half a block to the nearest crosswalk.

I just remembered another one, a local TV news piece on teen smoking from when I was in high school. I was going out to catch the bus and a cameraman and reporter were there getting some footage of kids smoking.

On the report that aired, there was a shot of several scruffy “alternative” types blowing smoke at the camera, laughing, and generally looking like disrespectful little punks while the reporter did a voice-over.

But since I’d actually been there I knew that 1) the cameraman had been asking these kids to blow smoke at the camera, and 2) this particular group of kids wasn’t truly representative of the high school smoking crowd. They had been chosen to appear on camera instead of the group of (no joke) cheerleaders and football players in their letter jackets standing around and smoking just a couple of yards away. They were actually close enough that in the clip that aired one of the cheerleaders was visible, albeit out of focus, in the corner of the screen.

I remember reading two different stories that occurred locally that made it to one of the tabloids (Weekly World News, probably). They actually reported them straight up.

Unless I provide the press with all the materials myself, I find news stories almost always have errors or inaccuracies.

Recently I spent about half and hour giving a presentation at a public meeting. At then of the presentation, there was a brief,heated exchange, somewhat off topic, between myself and another at the meeting. The bulk of the news story and the headline were based on that last two minutes and not on the previous 30. . .

Last week there was a public meeting, with handout sheets, about some events scheduled for a special celebration to be held between June 29 and July 8, 2012. The handout sheet listed each activity and the date it would be held. The reporter wrote that the events were scheduled for “late July.” (Fortunately we have more than a year to get that corrected, but still. . .)

My wife was a reporter and an editor for one of the local newspapers. Reporting can be very tough. Two people in the same room will hear and report different things. Getting news secondhand from witnesses is even more difficult.

A really good reporter will try to get a variety of opinions on a subject, research background on an issue, double check facts, etc., but often deadlines are tight and there’s just enough time. In an effort to get the information to the public while it’s still news, accuracy suffers.

Back in 1969 when I was 12 my family traveled to Florida (where I now live), and we went to the outskirts of what was then Cape Canaveral to see the Apollo 11 launch. We had a travel trailer, and the night before the launch we joined the thousands–and I mean thousands–of other people camping out on the shores of the Banana River (I think it’s the Banana) awaiting the launch. All night long I kept looking through my binoculars at the rocket sitting there on the launch pad, imagining that it was headed to the moon. There was excitement all around all night, and it was the first night in my life that I stayed up all night.

But my story is a side story to the launch. Right next to where we were parked was a blocked-off area maybe about the size of a football field. It soon became clear why authorities were keeping that area free. Martin Luther King had been assassinated a year earlier, and Ralph Abernathy had taken over his role, at least to my understanding. Limousines and Cadillacs started rolling up to the area, letting out people who then gathered in the space. Some of them started building a campfire, while others milled around talking. A horse trailer rolled up, and I got as close to it as I could (this area was roped off and they were keeping “regular people” out) and saw some mules in the back. Then an ABC news truck drove in, and people with cameras and microphones got out and started running around. One man had a megaphone, and I heard him tell the people in the clearing to sit around the campfire and sing “We Shall Overcome.” After about 20 minutes of arranging this scene, they did, and ABC filmed it. Then the ABC guy with the megaphone told the people to pretend they were sleeping around the campfire. Someone produced a parachute, and they people posed sleeping under it while they were filmed. Filming stopped, the parachute was rolled up, and the people started milling around again.

So a little while later a man who was camping near us told us to gather around his portable TV. The news was on all night, I think, or maybe it was the regular news broadcast–I don’t know. But they showed the staged singing and sleeping as if it was what the people were really doing. Apparently they had gathered to protest the government spending money on the space program instead of using it to fund programs for disadvantaged people. The next day the people gathered and, led by Abernathy, paraded through the area in what they called a “Poor People’s March.”

Information about this can be found about halfway down on this page:

So anyway, I was fascinated by all of this. I know what I saw was relatively harmless and wasn’t the point of the event at all, but ever since then I’ve looked askance at news stories and wondered how much was staged and how much actually happened.

I remember when Howard Stern first went to Sirius. There were all kinds of news stories that said something to the tune of: “Howard Stern hates satellite radio, failing miserably, wants to come back to FM radio.” Then there was a story about HS being censored on satellite radio.

This was all so comical because all these dumb ass reporters had to do was spend the $14 on a subscription and know that none of that could be further from the truth.

I’ve been astounded by mistakes in the New York Times (Global Edition) which is supposed to be one of the more reliable newspapers. I’ve seen mistakes in its science articles and mistakes in its coverage of Thailand.

N.Y. Times joined the chorus of almost completely-wrong coverage by Western media of last year’s “red-shirt” demonstrations. Finally, after their reporter (Seth Mydans) conflated the “yellow-shirt” activists (People’s Alliance for Democracy) with Thailand’s oldest political party (Democrat Party) – both have “Democra” in their names – the editors must have woken up and taken Mydans off, but he was back a few weeks later making more mistakes.

A friend of mine set her shed on fire a few months ago. It got about six lines in the local paper. They were all accurate… but it was much cooler to actually SEE the melted siding on her house.

My ex participated in a fluff-piece in a large circulation newspaper and they didn’t portray what he said honestly. Obviously it wasn’t a problem because it wasn’t serious news (or even just news) but it did make us wonder how much they embroider and manipulate other quotes.

It was an article on obsolete technologies and things that certain people maintain an interest in. They interviewed him because he collects old computers and they were asking him what other obsolete retro stuff he is interested in.
Their conversation went along the lines:
Reporter: So aside from old computers, do you have an interest in other things that have fallen out of fashion. Say… Lava lamps?
Ex: Lava lamps? Errr… no.
R: Fondue sets?
E: Fondue sets? No. What the heck’s a fondue set?
R: Beanbags?
E: Beanbags? No. No beanbags.
R: Those things are starting to make a comeback.
E: Really? Why?. No, I’m only interested in old computer technologies and preserving our computing history so it doesn’t end up being lost in landfill.
R: Laser disks?
E: Oh, I do have a laser disk player in my collection.
Wording in the article was something along the lines of "Ex talks about the retro technologies that are making a comeback. “Lava lamps, fondue sets, beanbags, laser disks.” he laughs. “Everything old is new again!”.

(It’s been more than ten years, so my recollection is probably less accurate than the article I’m trashing here, but that was the gist).

I am shocked that they didn’t trumpet the impending arrival of laser-powered fondue sets…

I was interviewed for a fluff piece about Dungeons&Dragons many, many years ago. I don’t think that they accurately quoted me on ANYTHING except for the fact that I also enjoyed painting the miniatures. I was either misquoted on everything else, or the reporter completely made up stuff and attributed it to me.

As with eyewitnesses, people’s memory plays tricks on them. I’ve worked as a reporter and had people tell me I quoted them wrong. Only problem is, I recorded the interview and transcribed their comments.

Back in December I interviewed a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I asked him if he would participate in any December 7 memorials or rememberances and he said no, he “never” marked the day. Two days later he was the featured guest at a Pearl Harbor memorial service.

One problem I often see with engineers and accountants is that their idea of accuracy is different than other people’s. If an engineer tells me something measures 25 millimeters and I write “slightly less than an inch” (or worse, “about an inch”) then, to the engineer, I am wrong, and worse, completely unconcerned with getting the details right.

I remember when my wife was involved in a labor dispute. After it was settled, both sides got together and compared notes. It was interesting to see what two different sides thought of each reporter’s accuracy, bias and thoroughness. They did agree that one reporter (a TV reporter, not print, by the way) seemed to screw the story up less than all the others.

I was in Normandy for the 65th commemoration of D-Day when a member of my tour group who was a veteran died. President Obama in his speech that day referenced his death stating that he died hours after visiting the cemetery, but we had arrived in normandy late at night and he died soon after. The speech was less than 24 hours after he died so I guess innacuracies and hearsay is possible – but hopefully he doesn’t get those types of mistakes on important matters :-\

I was on my local school board for 9 years. Many, many times I’d read the local newspaper accounts of our public meetings and find that the article was inaccurate at least in part. I often wondered what meeting the reporters really attended, because it certainly wasn’t the one I participated in. At the very least they would exaggerate.

Knoll’s Law of Media Accuracy: Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge. – Erwin Knoll, editor, “The Progressive”