This section covers unintentional misreporting
in the media significant mistakes, omissions, ineptitude,
etc as opposed to intentional propaganda/PR/spin (the
latter is covered in the Toxic Slime
Media horseshit or toxic slime?
Where there's no evidence to suggest intent to distort
(at whatever level journalistic, editorial, production,
commissioning, etc) the fallacious material falls into our
"horseshit" category. This doesn't necessarily
mean it's unintentional, but merely that there's no evidence
to suggest otherwise. Most media fallacies fall into this
If in doubt, we assume that media distortions are unintentional,
but there are a couple of grey areas:
Government/business propaganda reported by unwitting
journalists as "news". Are the journalists really
so unwitting, or do they just want to keep their jobs? It's
usually impossible to know. (Although sometimes the evidence
is damning, as in the case highlighted by The Center for
Media and Democracy [USA], which found that 77 television
stations "actively disguised" sponsored content
PR for General Motors, Intel, Pfizer, Capital One,
etc to make it appear as their own news reports. Source:
PR Watch, 6/4/06. http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary).
Systemically distorted (or "biased")
coverage. The grey area here is that it may be symptomatic
of genuinely held worldviews rather than of conspiratorial
intent to "slant" material. It might result from
institutional factors (eg training/education/job market) which
have little to do with conscious dissemination of propaganda.
Media horseshit database
One aim of Media Hell is to build a database of examples
of significant media errors, ignorance and ineptitude, hyperlinked
to our hierarchical fallacies database and our toxic slime
database. We think this will provide a useful resource. We
have large amounts of raw data that we're currently working
to incorporate into such a database. But we also need your
input. We want examples of significant errors, omissions,
unintentional distortions, etc, in media coverage (preferably
with source details). Please contact
Contacting journalists & editors
It's often worthwhile contacting those responsible for errors.
We've been sending emails and letters to journalists/editors
for over a decade. Many reply including the well-known
ones. There are a few points to bear in mind:
Be concise. A short paragraph or two at most.
Keep to the facts. Avoid over-assertion of opinion.
Don't address them as if they were the "enemy".
Avoid sounding like a stereotypical "strident
On clear-cut factual matters, they may acknowledge their
mistake. On matters of opinion/semantics, it's less likely.
The trick is to present a purely factual case, even on matters
which arouse your opinions.
We've provided numerous examples of emails to journalists
and editors (together with their responses, where applicable)
and we also include a list
of email addresses that you can use.
You might also consider emailing the letters pages in newspapers
(see our guide) or formally lodging
a complaint. We've had some success
with formal complaints on BBC news reporting but it
can be time-consuming overcoming the resistance to significant
of journalists >
Letters to newspapers (email