In coverage of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) newly-proposed standards to lower methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, several major media outlets uncritically quoted oil industry officials who claim that the new rules are unnecessary because the industry is already effectively limiting its emissions. By contrast, other outlets mentioned a new study by the Environmental Defense Fund showing that methane emissions are far higher than official estimates, part of a body of evidence that undercuts the industry's claim.
While watching Fox News and listening to conservative talk radio you've likely been bombarded with advertisements urging you to buy gold. Heck, maybe you've even seen Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy encouraging you to invest your hard earned money in the precious metal:
Not to rain on Liddy & Co's parade, but as Columbia Journalism Review's Ryan Chittum notes, gold didn't actually hit a record:
In fact, gold only hit a nominal record of $1219 on Tuesday. If you adjust for inflation, which you must, it's still a whopping 47 percent below the real record, which was hit more than three decades ago at an inflation-adjusted $2309. In other words, the FT is full of it.
This is part of a broader problem in the press. I've written about how the media rarely adjust stock prices for inflation, which has the effect of misleading investors into thinking returns are better than they really are.
Why does this happen? Well, for one thing, a lot of journalists are innumerate and a lot don't know much about history. But for another, darker reason: it's an easy story. A reporter and editor will inevitably draw better play for a piece if it's about a "record" than if it's about how gold is simply up a few bucks. That incentivizes journalists to sex things up at the expense of the truth. This is hardly a phenomenon limited to numbers-based stories.
The bottom line is simple: These stories are misleading. Don't mislead your readers.
For more on this story, be sure to read Will Bunch's look at its ties to Glenn Beck and his audience.
The Drudge Report ran the headline "West Virginia country folk keep distance from Obama: 'I heard he's a Muslim ...' " in linking to a Financial Times article. The article quoted a West Virginia resident stating, "I heard Obama is a Muslim and his wife's an atheist." But Obama is, in fact, not a Muslim. While the article characterized the rumors of Obama's religion as "unfounded," it did so 12 paragraphs after quoting the "I heard he's a Muslim" assertion and did not report that the Obamas are both Christians.